Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Umaswati & Neale's slingshot

Suppose there is some proposition which everybody would agree was purely factual. On analysis, would we expect to find that this proposition is a part of just one big super-Fact?
In philosophy, what are termed slingshot arguments, appear to militate towards this conclusion- a very old one, which, in Jainism is attributed to Lord Mahavira- viz. 'whoever grasps one thing in its entirety, grasps all things'. The underlying notion here is easy to grasp. Everything is subtly connected to everything else so a 'true' fact about one thing turns out to be an Ariadne's thread which leads us to every other 'true' fact of the Universe. Since you are part of the Universe, it would be enough for the project 'know thyself' to yield at least one 'true fact' for you to be on your way to pontificating on everything under the sun.
 What happens if 'facts' aren't once-and-for-all statements but rather self-subsistent dynamic systems?.
Since Jainism has a dynamic conception of substance (parinami dravya) such that a sort of 'evolution' from insentient to sentience continually occurs, it was possible for it to embrace a sort of heat death for the Universe such that all beings eventually enjoyed 'kevalya' undifferentiated omniscient-bliss for a truly infinite eternity after some inconsequential and purely momentary infinity of striving- or the illusion of striving- on this earthly plane. One corollary was that Jainism had a sort of 'scientific' rationale for fantastic adventures- e.g. teleportation to a 'bliss universe' so as to gain an omniscience not available down here at this time- and that it gave impetus to the Novel as a literary form. The other side of this coin was a renewed interest in fact driven disciplines- Medicine, Astronomy, Metallurgy, comparative Linguistics- in a manner that turned Jain monastic centers into catalysts of 'Knowledge Based' Psychic Capital formation across the breadth Classical India.
Similarly, in Nineteenth Century Europe, for at least some neo-Hegelians, it came to be the case that grasping one factual thesis would be enough to reconstruct the entire family tree of a dialectic process stretching both forward and backward in Time. Thus for the anatomist J.P. Muller, the Malthusian or catastrophic element in Darwinism was of no account. Facts about an organ were all he needed. Similarly the Marxist project was associated with turning' facts' about factory work in 1840 into an ineluctable family tree describing all possible History for everybody and at all times.

Essentially, the notion I'm seeking to articulate is that 'slingshot arguments' or the intuition that 'facts' are  collapsible and nested truths, while encouraging a particular sort of, 'pattern cladist' or 'ideal type' analysis- we may describe this as a sedulous ergodics of  process-less phase spaces- though, on an analogy with Sraffa style theory, apparently militating for Psychic Capital formation, nevertheless carried the seeds for something wholly stultifying and unwelcome. For Jainism, it was the idiocy of Caste and the fetishizing of Ahimsa. For J.P Mueller's intellectual heirs, it was the noxious doctrine of 'Race Science'. For Marx, it was the relegation of 'Dead' Capital to a Vampiric 'repugnancy market'.

In this context, Stephen Neale's work on the slingshot- which shifts the focus of attention to the trade off that must always arise in a complex system between precision ('fine graining') and significance (predictive power) as in Zadeh's Law of Incompatibility- provides some valuable footholds for our reading of Umaswati so as to  restore syadvad to us as having a genuine soteriological, rather than casuist, function.
In this context,  I had previously thought 'right cognition' might be expounded w.r.t the theory of repeated games- but this involved me in either committing to a Tim Maudlin type metaphysics or getting stuck with actual karmic rebirth in various Universes- whereas, Neale's clarifications and the literature it has given an impetus to is far closer to the sort of debate from which Umaswati's work arises- it's just we don't have the lecture notes and working papers- and so a better alternative is to stick with logic and refine our notion of the manner in which the 'karmic obstructor' is the logical 'internal opponent'- i.e. rather than turn a philosophical debate into an adventure story in parallel dimensions, or make game theory do work it isn't fit for, the better approach would be to go back to one's own homework assignment on syadvad logic- which consists in working out how to be less of an all round shit- but this time without a meretricious crib downloaded from the always irrelevant Internet.

No comments: