Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Praamaanya, Prakaasha & PK's parrhesia

The theory of Prakaasha deals with how we can know what is in our consciousness as well what portion of that consciousness constitutes 'knowledge' falsifiable or otherwise. The related theory of Praamaanya inquires into the origin and apprehension of the truth of that knowledge. Svatah (lit 'from inside')-Praamaanya theorists agree that that truth of an item of knowledge has the same origin and is apprehended simultaneous with that knowledge- a strange doctrine, prima facie, since knowledge may be ab ovo speculative, oneiric, or, indeed, florid and figurative in a manner essentially fugitive from Truth, though some later event, experiment or external authority may reveal it to be purely alethic.
One workaround, that of the Prabhakara, is to make Truth a purely instrumental criteria. What works is 'true', what doesn't is 'error'. However, the desirable property of not relying on Memory but independently manifesting its object, or apprehending something not apprehended before, which is sought for Praamaanya, is lost thereby. Two methods- one Platonic, the other Occassionalist- exist to repair this lacuna and, as a practical matter, we are welcome to tune into the Sufi-Bhakti synthesis from any point on the spectrum thus defined.
Another approach, that of the Bhattas, is to consider 'jnaatataa' (knownness) as an imperceptible activity of an inferential type operating on something otherwise subliminal and not the subject of Praamaanyaa theory.However, this raises in acute form the question as to how such 'knownness' could be 'svatah'- i.e. arise at the same time and from the same cause as that which it qualifies? We may think we mistake a rope for a snake till the snake bites us. Apprehension and the truth of apprehension surely can't be simultaneous? Once way round this is to simply recast Knowledge claims as being of a Bayesian, Statistical nature. To do so, however, is to encourage us to consider ourselves citizens of a Multiverse. Suddenly, the Yoga-Vashista gains salience. We are the Bhikshu who dreamed he was a King who dreamed he was an Apsara who dreamed she was a doe in the forest who dreamed she bit off Walt Disney's head for killing Bambi's mum. All woke from their dream to find they were all each other. At this point, Yeats goes and sits at the feet of Mohini Chatterjee or some other such Chatter-box and starts translating the Gita. We can quit reading him and go order a round of Guinness with a Jameson chaser.
My own ancestral Vedantism, however, re-opens the question of how empirical truth can be 'svatograhya'- i.e. apprehended as such intrinsically and at the same time as cognized. The workaround here is facile. The subject is always false or sublatable in a long series asymptotically approaching her own 'true' self itself qualified as the 'sakshi' or unimpeachable witness.

Let us take an everyday example. I walk into the bar at the local Hilton and have a few pints. I see a young chap who went to Modern School on Barakhamba Road and go over to ask which year he matriculated. His initial hesitancy is removed when I explain that I'm an alumnus of St. Columba's and, in my day, our two schools enjoyed a friendly rivalry. On hearing my surname he becomes friendly and goes off to get me a drink leaving me with his lovely lady wife who, it turns out, is a fellow Tambram.
I am astonished when I hear that she too attended Modern School, though she quickly explains she met her older husband at Wharton.
I say to her 'Akka (elder sister) why you are telling me such a shameless lie? From his face, I could immediately tell your husband attended Modern School. It is a scientific fact that people who go to Modern have penis like physiognomy. Your face, on the other hand, is beautiful. Why you are punching and slapping me? OMG, how did nice lady like you learn such filthy type Tamil abuse words!'
Anyway, I went and hid behind her husband who was a U.P bhaiyya some twenty years younger than myself. He said 'Darling, please don't hit this fellow with your naked hand. Everyone knows St. Columba's boys have their arse where face should be. Chee, chee- kindly go and wash with dettol!'

Anyway, we have a couple of drinks while lady is in the powder room. I say 'Yaar, Shahrukh Khan is from St. Columba's. Shehkar Kapoor went to Modern.' 'How do you think Shah Rukh got his start?' he shoots back. 'After Kapoor Sahib was finished with him, Shah Rukh's features became almost human.'
Suddenly I realized that this brawny U.P bhaiyya, with the characteristic penis like face of a Modern School alumnus, was gazing upon my moon like visage in a lascivious and lustful fashion. Where was his wife when I needed her? Just I giggled nervously, paid for the drinks, and quietly slipped away.

Pop Quiz
Q 1. The author gained two types of knowledge simultaneously- viz. that a person had a penis like face and that he must have attended Modern School, Barakhamba road.  Is this a valid instance of 'svatograhya' empirical knowledge?
a) Yes. Having penis like face is an intrinsic property of Modern School alumni. Apprehending a penis like face was the origin and also the truth maker for the knowledge that the dickhead in question was indeed from Modern School.
b) No. His wife also attended Modern School. She did not have penis like face. Thus the truth-maker for 'x attended Modern School' can't be  'svatah-praamaanya', i.e. intrinsically provided and must therefore be, if at all, 'paratah-praamaanya'- i.e. arising from an external authority, experiment or event.
c) The question is framed in an impredicative manner and is therefore undecidable. The truthmaker for 'x is a valid instance of 'svatograhya empirical knowledge' can not itself be empirical because svatograhya is intrinsically self-referential. Nor can it be otherwise for that begs the question.
d) Of course it is completely valid! Abishek Bacchan went to Modern.  Just look at that horrible thing growing out of his neck. Enough to scare anybody straight. Even Karan Johar.

This is a picture of Aamir Khan before he worked with Abhishek in Dhoom 3.

This is him now.
Case closed. Q.E.D


Shankaracharya of Dwarka has condemned the movie PK. Was it because Aamir spoke out openly (parrhesia) against fraud perpetrated in the name of Religion? Not at all. The Shanakaracharya, jailed during Quit India, has never condoned fraud of any type because it destroys the Nation.
Still, it may be that Aamir relied upon some paratah-praamaanya argument or authority inadmissible for a Vedantin.
 Having watched the movie, I am the 'sakshi' - that too PK- possessing 'svatograhya' empirical knowledge that such is not the case.
Acharyajee possesses not just Praamaanya shakti- ratocinative power- but also intuition of underlying Prakaasha truth. Yet it is not decent to mention the fact that there are hordes of these Modern School alumni with huge penis like faces roaming around. Acharyajee shows great 'upaya kausalya'- tact in instruction- such that by condemning the effect he warns against the truly too-horrible-for-words cause- viz. deleterious consequences of spending any lengthy period of time in proximity to Abhishek's horribly throbbing phallus of a physiognomy.
Bacchan Sahib should have sent his son to Nainital. How much grief we would have all been spared, say what you like the boy can act, had he done so!

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