Sunday, 27 January 2013

Umaswati on right cognition

Is 'right cognition' necessary to achieve Moksha? Surely 'right faith' gives rise to the right cognition by itself? So, is Umaswati's dictum merely a copying of other Indic traditions or else a meaningless rhetorical flourish?
Suppose the following
1) There was an ancient discrete maths tradition for the kind of O.R problems bound to arise in the management of wealthy Monastic orders.
2) Umaswati's early date puts him at the center of that discrete maths tradition which uses finite operations of a cellular automaton type and included Monte Carlo based cross entropy type methods.
In that case the thermodynamic conception of the 'heat death' of the karmic universe, which his work suggests to us, faces the problem we identify with the Third Law- viz. It is impossible for any process, no matter how idealized, to reduce the entropy of a system to its zero point value in a finite number of operations. Indeed, for the Jain novel with its intricate 'matching' of karmically obstructive acts between reciprocal agents, the problem of 'geometrical frustration' arises in an acute and psychologically compelling way. 
One way out of the dilemma posed by such 'strange attractors', for Economics, is to assume Muth rational expectations. In this case something is added to 'right faith' viz. a particular type of cognition whose adaptive fitness is by no means obvious. Since the Jain system forbids substance to act directly on substance, whether for weal or woe, the possibility of correlated equilibria, arising from strategic public signalling by a benevolent omniscient being, is, I think, ruled out. (Unless birth-determining karma particles condemn you to the  duties of your jati- as in the Gita- but this ISN'T Jain doctrine- i.e. no public signal exists, anyone can become a Jain, even women can become Acharyas and Arhats.) So, the solution concept here has to add something- viz. 'right cognition'- which, plausibly, all beings in a repeated game might stumble upon.
However, the sort of 'right cognition' able to do the work Umaswati requires of it is no longer tied to a particular Universe but is heavily involved in counter-factual induction across, not Stallnacker-Lewis type 'closest possible worlds', but the logically impossible or in-compossible worlds which densely interpolate them.  
The reason for this is because karma is treated as something real, a particle that binds itself to the jiva and purely mental acts are subject to karma. Furthermore, there is no restriction on travel to other Universes such that karmic consequences arise including even the maximal consequence of gaining Omniscience. What is interesting about this point of view, for us, is that it is by no means apparent that possible worlds have any means of knowing if they are logically possible till they run the whole program, so to speak. Had we been brought up on discrete maths, rather than calculus, this would be the natural way to conceive things. Of course, if information about possible worlds is compressible, this argument fails and something like Tim Maudlin's metaphysics would be 'natural' for everyone to subscribe to. But, surely, that remains an open question. Does this means there is no method of discriminating 'genuine' Stallnacker-Lewis worlds from logically impossible worlds such that a weak ordering metric obtains?
Looking at things from the point of view of physical rather than Information theoretic entropy, i remains a fact that we don't know if the world we're living in will always comply with entropy. Lewis argued that we can and do think of 'divergence miracles' such that two worlds, identical till something happens at time t, diverge greatly there after but that a 'reconvergence' miracle is implausible. Lewis confessed he didn't know how this asymmetry fitted with that of physical entropy.
Adam Elga has an argument against Lewis based on the fact that entropy can reverse but that this not robust to a very small change in initial conditions. Thus, a 'reconvergence miracle' can't be ruled out and Lewis's proposed asymmetry can't be relied upon. 

In Jainism, the exact ontological status of Time remains a subject of debate. Ordinarily, it is considered a substance (dravya) and thus possesses modal possibilities or alternatives (paryaya) which function in a characteristically dynamic way, reminiscent of the world of discrete maths, cellular automata, Conway's 'Game of Life' and the surprises they throw up, rather than the abstract and featureless world of Euclidean geometry.
In this context, Umaswati has a special importance as the Sage most closely associated with the notion that all souls achieve kevalya and thus the eternal cycles of Time become empty of significance for an eternity much much longer than that of mere Time.
In an earlier post I adverted to the subtlety and psychological insight attaching to his notion of karmic obstructors. It seems to me, that this has a bearing on his theory of 'right cognition' as well.
 Jain ontology, by reason of its distinctive features, repays study but, it seems to me, when explicated by a great Sage, its phenomenology enriches a common Indic imaginative Lebenswelt in a manner singularly adapted to create a meaningful dialogue with contemporary Philosophy..

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