pramANa (was Re: [Advaita-l] Re: Women and Vedas)

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at
Wed Apr 12 00:50:18 CDT 2006


You make quite valid points re: mathematical axioms, scientific hypotheses 
and verbal (or in general, all human) cognition. In one sense, this 
discussion points out the difficulties in finding appropriate translations. 
That is precisely why I keep emphasizing that to truly understand, we need 
to engage our tradition on its own terms, without imposing modern 
expectations on it, be they scientific/mathematical or 

I would also suggest that we take into account the history and etymology of 
the English words we choose when translating Sanskrit terms. After all, till 
recently in history, when mathematical thinking about formal axiomatic 
systems was not highly developed, axioms were assumed to have truth value 
and meaning!

I would also argue that hypothesis testing is, to a certain extent, implicit 
in mImAMsa-vedAnta epistemology. Of course, there are no explicit 
discussions of what makes a hypothesis valid based on its refutability, a la 
Popper. On the other hand, if we understand "prAmANya" as corresponding to 
truth-value, that any given cognition is svataH-prAmANa and parataH-apramANa 
comes close to the modern scientific notion about validating hypotheses. 
There is similarity in that vedAnta also has a place for experience, but 
that is where the similarity ends. Another difference comes in the fact that 
mImAMsa-vedAnta thought applies to Sruti, while modern scientific hypotheses 
do not. So, we should not be really concerned about (and in fact, also why 
we must resist the temptation for) saying that such and such statement in 
Sruti is scientifically valid.

Coming to verbal cognition, science, in this case, biology, would go a step 
beyond linguistics and make the point that even recognizing words and 
meanings are contingent upon neurons firing in one's brain, stimulated by 
the pixels we see on the screen or by the ink in a book, or for a 
traditional setting, by the pressure differences that underlie the sounds of 
words. However, as for how this relates to fundamental human consciousness, 
I would say that the scientific jury is still out on that.


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