Friday, 30 December 2011

Is metempsyhosis 'cheap talk'?

This is a link to Joanna Jurewicz's paper speculating on the presence of a doctrine  of metempsychosis in the Rg Veda.
She gives an interesting treatment of  the familiar 10.16.5-
5 Again, O Agni, to the Fathers send him who, offered in thee, goes with our oblations.
Wearing new life let him increase his offspring: let him rejoin a body, Jātavedas.
(Giffiths trans.)
 basing herself on the work of the Sri Lankan antropologist, Gananath Obeyesekere who stresses the ubiquity of the concept of reincarnation in 'small scale' societies and the manner in which it shores up ethnicity and diachronic identity.
However, in my view, the opposite point might, in the Hindu context, be more usefully be made- viz. reincarnation is systematically sublated, ethnicity is systematically sublated, diachronic identity is sublated, by something arising out of  the potential for Universalization that exists in a transactional view of the world.

The Vedic funeral is of particular interest because it shows how- as in the modern Economic theory of externalities- no transaction is between two parties alone, all partake of it and all are thereby transfigured. What is conserved is symmetry properties of the system as a whole and it is this conservation alone that makes it meaningful to speak of karma and dharma.
In Judaism, similarly, the concept of ibbur- that is 'partial incarnation'- has the effect of conserving halachah (the law) even by halachah vein morin kein (the law which if known forbids the action it otherwise enjoins).

Does bodily resurrection at the eschaton, give flesh to a 'costly signalling' halachah whereas is it the case that ibbur is just a cheap talk variant?
Similarly, does the notion of samadhi imply that karma kanda is a 'costly signalling' Yoga while Raja Yoga is just cheap talk?
Yes, in my view, if cognitive linguistics is correct. No, if language, as something which has evolved, is in essence reverse mereological.

3 comments:

  1. My feeling is that the 'costly signalling' theory of religion has passed its sell by date. I suppose what you're getting at is recent stuff re. cheap talk as evolutionarily more interesting and 'meta' in the mechanism design sense. But I don't see that approach as having much to do with illuminating Vedic belief systems.

    More interesting, is the pervasive Upanishadic concept of the Sakshi (witness) and the question of whether, like the Abrahamic notion of the Shahid (martyr meaining witness)this too evolves, in some sense, out of the equation of death with sacrifice- an oblation to the Lord.
    Incidentally, Prof. Obeyesekere did a documentary for Granada back in the 70's on Skanda worship in Sri Lanka. I wonder if a copy of it exists somewhere on the net?

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  2. sorry forgot to add this link- http://www.anth.uconn.edu/faculty/sosis/publications/ritualalcortasosis5.pdf
    what's your take?

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  3. @Rajiv- thanks for the link.
    I guess what I'm doing is making a lazy equation between phenotypal plasticity and cheap talk and between genetic canalisation and costly signalling.
    Is Cognitive linguistics, Evo Devo consistent, or, indeed,its canonical expression? If so, I think it will tend to show metempsyhosis as cheap talk irrespective of which Religion it looks at.
    If not- I mean if it is nonsense to be both Evo Devo yet discourse within a Cognitive linguistic framework- then nothing is said about Religion but something is said about Mereology as the 'natural' way to think about thoughts.
    http://people.socsci.tau.ac.il/mu/danield/files/2010/07/Plasticity-and-canalization.pdf
    On the other hand, maybe I'm just talking bollocks. I really don't know.

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