Was Matilal utterly stupid? He was a Professor of a shite subject- so the pro tanto answer must be yes. But Matilal attended the Calcutta Sanskrit College which had a navya nayaya theory of 'tatparya' or 'intention'. Moreover, intuition as 'synoida' would have a buck-stopper or 'witness' in the 'nirnayaka' interpretation. Bearing this in mind, Matilal was merely as stupid as his profession required him to be- nothing more or less, pace Nicolas Bommarito & Alex King who write-
Matilal argues against cultural relativism, which he characterizes essentially as the view that there are no cross-cultural moral standards.
If so, Matilal is foolish. Cultural relativism says that a person's beliefs and practices should be understood based on that person's own culture. A Cultural relativist can believe that there are 'natural' or 'non arbitrary' moral standards while affirming that no existing culture has evolved sufficiently to have adopted such standards. Equally, a person may believe that 'moral standards' are hypocritical nonsense while also affirming that culture doesn't matter in the slightest. Only economic motives explain behavior. As for beliefs, they are strategic solutions to Newcomb type problems.
He bases his objections on two principles. The first he calls the Impossibility of the Individuation of Cultures (or IIC).
Which is foolish. We 'individuate' cultures all the time. People refer to me as an uncultured swine. By contrast, they consider other members of my family to be courteous and refined.
Real cultures, Matilal thinks, are not “dead watertight compartments”;
nobody said they were. We differentiate Smith from Jones though neither is dead or watertight. Indeed, Smith may now have a kidney Jones very generously donated to him.
rather, they flow into each other.
Jones is bumming Smith. So what?
The second principle is a relatively familiar one. It says that, if relativism were true, we would have to call the intuitively worst moral offenses morally right, as long as the offenders behaved according to the norms of their own culture.
This is nonsense. We would only have to do so if that is what our culture required us to do. But that's not how cultures work. Ours is always best while other cultures are about nasty furriners bumming each other incessantly.
The best we can do is to call them wrong “from our point of view”.
Only if that is what our culture requires of us. A cultural relativist is welcome to belong to a particular culture- or none at all if he don't got no friends and was brought up by wolves or Republicans.
Matilal calls this the Repugnant Consequence (or RC).
What's so repugnant about not incessantly passing judgments on furriners wot bum each other incessantly because they don't know any better?
Matilal distinguishes two species of cultural relativism, which he calls soft relativism and hard relativism.
Matilal had an obsession with 'rigid' vs 'flaccid'. As I get on in years, I am beginning to understand why.
Both claim that there are no cross-cultural moral standards.
Neither necessarily does. It depends on their own culture which may consider making claims of an obviously inutile sort to be the conduct of a boorish pedant whose place is well below the salt.
He sometimes puts this in terms of mutual incommensurability: there is no fact about whether one culture’s standards are superior to another’s.
There is an uncorrelated asymmetry. That's all that is required for a bourgeois strategy to be eusocial.
So both forms of relativism share an anti-realist metaphysics of value.
Not necessarily. Anyway, any anti-realist ontology can always be recast in realist terms by the introduction of virtual particles.
They are differentiated by their epistemic claims.
Not if they don't make epistemic claims- which only boorish pedants do because teaching rich kids makes you stupider than God intended.
According to soft relativism, the moral standards set in a culture different from one’s own are nevertheless still intelligible or comprehensible.
But, within any culture there will always be certain shibboleths or mysteries which remain unintelligible or are incomprehensible. If this were not the case, Universities could guarantee to turn out alumni who have so mastered a specific culture as to be able to produce literary and artistic works instantly recognizable as rivalling that of that culture's greatest poets and sages.
According to hard relativism, moral standards in different cultures are mutually incomprehensible.
But, the way acculturation proceeds in any culture is in one recognizing that there is a grading principle within it and not comprehending how to rise in grade till, without knowing how, one suddenly finds one has indeed ascended.
The hard relativist thinks that the moral standards of a culture different from our own are forever foreign objects, untranslatable into our own concepts or paradigms. On such a view, this mutual unintelligibility underwrites the mutual incommensurability. We cannot rank one culture’s moral standards against another’s because we cannot even get the two to be talking in the same terms.
But this also applies within a culture. Eliza Doolittle was very smart. Thus she could become a cultured lady. Sadly, no Professor Higgins could turn me into a darker complexioned version of Her very Gracious Majesty the Queen- Gor' bless 'er.
Matilal’s two main targets are the sophisticated versions of relativism endorsed by Bernard Williams and Gilbert Harman. Before really addressing these, though, he first dispenses with a form of relativism that Williams calls vulgar relativism.
Because it was a form of relativism which used to expose its buttocks to him saying 'you are shit, you are.' He'd reply, 'Mum, do you have to be so vulgar more especially now your daughter-in-law, Shirley is in Callaghan's Cabinet?'
Vulgar relativism claims that (1) we ought to tolerate other cultures’ moral perspectives, since (2) terms like ‘right’ just mean ‘right for a given society’ – in other words, ‘right for them’.
Nothing wrong with that if we also tolerate them guys living among us or else feel as strong desire to take over their territory.
Matilal here simply defers to Williams’s own refutation of vulgar relativism, one that contemporary readers will likely recognize. In saying (1), we implicitly endorse a universal, nonrelative moral claim, namely that we should tolerate the views of other cultures.
No. We may only be implicitly endorsing a utilitarian thesis- e.g. if we want smart peeps to live among us, let them keep up their own traditions- e.g. not eating their first born
But (2) bars us from endorsing any non-relative moral claims.
No it doesn't. The fact is, any society which keeps doing stupid shit will go extinct. Nature itself doesn't tolerate cultures which make it normative to eat all your babies.
So the view looks incoherent. The version of relativism that Williams defends is more restricted. For Williams, there are two ways in which cultures confront or come into contact with each other.
Williams was real smart. He could count up to two.
There are real confrontations and notional confrontations.
A real confrontation can be notional and notional confrontations can get real very very quickly.
A real confrontation occurs when one culture’s moral system is a real option for members of another culture.
This is foolish. Williams came of a stock which had completely wiped out members of other cultures who happened to be living on land on which White people could thrive.
And a moral system counts as a real option for someone when they could adopt that system and “not engage in extensive self-deception”,
Extensive self-deception is a feature of cultured living. The fact is people only invite me to dinner parties because of my uncontrollable flatulence. Yet I have to deceive myself this is not the case because otherwise I'd turn up wearing adult diapers rather than a dinner jacket.
“retain their hold on reality”, and perhaps even make retrospective sense of their conversion. What Williams means here is not at all clear,
it is clear enough. The man's wife was a politician. He'd had to suffer through dinner parties featuring gormless donors.
but that need not distract us, as this is not the point that Matilal takes issue with. What is important is that, if one culture’s system is not a real option for members of another culture, then those two cultures can confront one another only notionally.
But all confrontation has a notional component- even if it is wholly imaginary.
As examples, Williams offers the moral systems of bygone eras: Bronze Age chiefs
whose code was similar to that of Gangland Godfathers
and medieval samurai,
upon whom the Yakuza model themselves
as well as traditional societies whose systems and ways of life are incompatible with current, irreversible technological advancements.
They are perfectly compatible provided some innovation and adaptation is permitted.
Whatever exactly counts as a real option, those moral systems are simply inaccessible to us.
Only in the sense that all moral systems are inaccessible to those who hold them.
Finally, it’s only in the context of notional confrontations that we face relativism.
But there is no confrontation unless there is a notion of confrontation. I angrily confronted the door which was refusing to open for me because it was under the impression that I was drunk. But the door didn't think it was confronting me at all. It was incapable of having any such notion.
When two cultures can really confront each other rather than merely notionally confront each other, we aren’t pushed to relativistic conclusions.
A convenient doctrine if you belong to a race which, in the recent past, had committed genocide on distant continents. However, most young British people today feel that in the 'real' confrontation with indigenous peoples that occurred, some of their own ancestors acted wickedly.
Williams writes that it is only in real confrontations that the language of appraisal – good, bad, right, wrong, and so on – can be applied to [the other moral system]; in notional confrontations, this kind of appraisal is seen as inappropriate, and no judgments are made.
He was wrong. When Britain had to confront the Luftwaffe, it didn't bother with moral appraisal. It concentrated on getting the technically inferior Spitfire into the air in numbers that overwhelmed the Messerschmitt.
He calls his view the relativism of distance.
It was foolish. On the other hand, he'd actually flown Spitfires during this stint of National Service.
Matilal counts this view as a form of relativism because two moral systems that can only notionally confront each other are incommensurable, that is, we cannot think that one is better than the other.
Sure we can. We do so all the time when we amend laws or do 'mechanism design'.
Furthermore, he counts it as a form of soft relativism, since Williams nowhere claims that systems that allow for only notional confrontation must also be mutually unintelligible.
Because one can have a notional confrontation with a door that refuses to open for you coz it thinks you are drunk off your head- which is a total lie coz, for religious reasons, I have always been a complete teetotaler.
Matilal presents two worries for this view. First, he argues that it’s unclear why we should think that any moral system is not a real option for any culture. We can’t literally go back and be Bronze Age chiefs. But surely that isn’t all that Williams means. He seems to be saying something stronger, such as that some cultures are so conceptually or socially distant that only notional confrontation is possible. But why think that we couldn’t, for example, disavow our modern technologies and opt for life in a traditional society? The only barriers to this are practical (if there actually aren’t any such communities left) or epistemic (if we don’t know enough about its moral system). Aside from these philosophically uninteresting senses in which bygone cultures are inaccessible, there’s no further sense in which they are. Moreover, any living culture is a real option for any other living culture. No actual culture is a windowless monad perfectly sealed off from the rest of the world. This is Matilal’s IIC principle, the Impossibility of the Individuation of Cultures.
There is no principle here. There is merely loose talk. For any particular purpose, anything at all can be individuated well enough. This is also why Witlesstein's private language argument fails.
His second objection provisionally grants that some cultures can only confront each other notionally but denies that this entails their mutual incommensurability.
because nonsense entails nothing. The fact is, culture is itself a notion. Any predicate applied to it is notional.
First, it is question-begging to suppose that such cultures couldn’t apply non-relative standards to each other.
One 'non-relative' standard involves the existential predicate. If the thing doesn't exist we can't be sure it might possibly have done so or will do so.
Moreover, this supposition conflicts with the linguistic data: we do in fact apply appraising language when talking about bygone moral systems. We say that slavery was wrong, for example, and that our current system is better.
Unless were are African patriots who realize that the slave trade helped African kingdoms maintain their independence from the likes of King Leopold's rapacious minions.
And if we deny this, we must face RC, the Repugnant Consequence.
Why not face the true Repugnant Consequence which is that studying or teaching Philosophy makes you as stupid as shit?
Matilal then turns to Harman’s relativism, according to which our judgments (and statements) about how people ought to act or which actions are wrong are relativized to groups that have formed agreements or have come to understandings with each other.
This is descriptive of what actually obtains.
Harman offers a few examples, involving Martians, a band of cannibals, a mob-like group called ‘Murder, Incorporated’, and Hitler. Harman thinks that, whatever we might say of members of these groups – that they behave unjustly, that it is a bad thing for them to go around killing others, even that they are evil – we fall short of saying that they ought not kill others or that it is wrong for them to do so.
We too avail of a right to self-defense. Uncorrelated asymmetries give rise to eusocial bourgeois strategies. Why do you wipe your own bum but not go around wiping the bums of everybody? The answer is that your bum is yours. That's an uncorrelated asymmetry.
Such statements strike Harman as sounding very odd because such agents are “beyond the motivational reach of the relevant moral considerations”. They are simply beyond the pale – creatures that we, in some deep way, just cannot make sense of.
Unless we read John Maynard Smith and understand why Professors of Moral Philosophy only wipe their own bums not those of all who stand in need of such services.
There are three objections Matilal offers here. First, he thinks that Harman, like Williams, unfairly represents the linguistic situation. We hear people call Hitler’s and the mob’s actions wrong all the time.
No we don't. We only give a hearing to people who say nice or useful things to us.
More importantly, though, Matilal argues that Harman runs afoul of both IIC and RC.
But so does Matilal himself. He has no way of individuating Harman's claim and thus can come to no conclusion about it.
Harman’s choice of Martians is telling.
I suppose he means 'a class of beings with whom we can't come to any agreement'. But there may be a 'Schelling focal' solution to a coordination or discoordination problem. That's all that is required. Agreement is otiose and doesn't actually exist in any actual society. There is only Schelling focality.
As others have more recently argued, it’s hard to know what to make of these bizarre cases. It’s not clear how reliable our linguistic or metaethical intuitions concerning them are. This is because real cultures are not hermetically sealed things,
but they may have a Kripkean rigid designator. That's all that matters.
and imagining cultures this way will not, Matilal thinks, be philosophically revealing.
Philosophy reveals that philosophers have shit for brains.
In order to get Harman’s relativist intuitions we have to imagine cases of Martians, that is, literal aliens, or else “monsters (Hitler), mentally deranged or impaired persons (Murder, Inc), or subhumans”. In short, these cases implicitly try to circumvent IIC.
No they don't. If cultures can't be individuated, nothing can. It is enough for a sentence to have a reference for IIC to be circumvented.
But real cultures do flow into each other, and no culture is so sealed off that we have no moral purchase on it.
We don't know that. There may be people who can say that I am really uncultured relative to the rest of Britain or Tamil Nadu but nobody can say if I am not really cultured according to some other lights.
Last, Harman effectively attempts to avoid RC by allowing that we can call a figure like Hitler evil –
if we get paid to do so- or gain some other benefit- sure.
it’s just that we can’t call his actions wrong
He ended up eating a bullet. His actions were wrong. Don't declare war on the US of A. Don't fight the Russians on their own soil during Winter. Flatter the French. They make marvelous cheese.
or say that he did things that he ought not to have done. But in giving up these latter claims, Harman still says something quite repugnant.
Stick with 'judge not lest ye be judged' or else 'answer a fool according to his folly'.
Matilal’s insights about culture draw on
the fact that Culture (Samskriti) is a Samskar- i.e is conventional and lacking any deep ontological property. Still, there is a 'vigyan' such that all doctrines (matam) are observationally equivalent. Perhaps there is 'aashrav' of karma-binding particles which are merely virtual. Who knows? Who cares? Just don't sleep with your Guru's wife- more especially if your Guru is me.
an important concept from classical Indian philosophy, the Buddhist notion of emptiness (in Sanskrit, śūnyatā). Matilal draws on this idea in claiming that it is impossible for any culture to be completely isolated and self-reliant.
But Buddhist sunyata implies kshanikavada- momentariness. Every thing is isolated and self-generated. That's why only intention (cetana) matters.
Emptiness is most closely associated with the Madhyamaka school of Buddhism and its founder Nāgārjuna (~150–250 CE), who makes frequent appearances in Matilal’s writings.
But, hopefully, not in his toilet. Apparitions of that type are a leading cause of constipation.
Nāgārjuna famously claimed that everything is empty. But what does that mean? Being empty does not mean simply not existing; emptiness is not to be understood as nothingness. To be empty is to be empty of something. The mug on my desk is empty of coffee but not of air. In the context of Buddhist philosophy, what all things are empty of is a static and independent nature (in Sanskrit, svabhāva).
Nope. They lack a kinetic or dynamic nature. That's where Jainism scores. But low IQ peeps like me are perfectly content with devotional Buddhism or Hinduism or Sufism or ecumenical Christianity. In matters of Faith, it is us cretins who are privileged. Sadly, we often get into confrontations with our door which has somehow got the idea that I get drunk at the pub. I don't. I only go there to hold philosophical conversations with people- till they punch my head repeatedly.
One way that a thing can be empty is temporal. Think of the spoke on a bicycle wheel.
It is where it belongs. Don't stick it up your bum.
Though it may seem to be a singular object, it is really a collection of particles organized in a certain way.
but not, sadly, for the purpose of being stuck up your bum.
So to say that it has no static essence
is meaningless if the predicate 'no static essence' is incompossible.
isn’t just to say that it is, for example, slowly corroding or turning to rust. There is no spoke to corrode, a spoke just is the relational interplay between the particles that make it up.
Nor is there anyone to speak or to hear or to feed Buddhist monks who therefore starve to death or else have to get proper jobs.
What appears to us as the spoke rusting is just the particles that make it up changing their relations.
Nope. The relations stay the same. The particles undergo oxidization.
There’s no thing that went from shiny to rusty.
Only no things exist.
But there is also another, non-temporal way in which the spoke is empty.
No there isn't.
Even at any instant, it exists only relationally.
in which case it isn't empty. Nothing is relational to what is no thing.
To be a spoke is to have a kind of relational identity, one that is dependent on other things.
but not in the instant and, because there is nothing before or after the instant, anywhere else.
What it means to be a spoke is to play a certain role in a wheel and in a bicycle.
But this also the meaning of everything which isn't a spoke in the bicycle including that meaning or meaninglessness.
And what it means to be a bicycle is to play a certain role for humans, to ride around and travel places.
But that's not what it means to be my bicycle. There are lots of people like me who make New Year's resolutions and buy bikes and then let them rust away in the garage.
So a spoke, to be what it is, depends on its relations to other things, on its place in a larger content.
Which is how come my bike has turned into an ornamental fish tank. It wants to improve its relations to other things- especially fish.
This, according to Madhyamaka philosophy, is true of everything: spokes, the particles making it up, bicycles, people, toads, helium, even emptiness itself.
Not to mention its own doctrine.
Everything depends on everything else to be what it is.
Unless it doesn't and quits Skool to get a proper job.
This is not to say that Matilal fully endorses this Buddhist view.
Nor is it to say that he isn't a gerbil. All things that are are gerbils.
You can, however, see the influence of this idea of emptiness in his discussion of culture.
You can see that his head was empty of everything except shit.
Just as a spoke is a constantly changing collection which depends on other things
some other things
to be what it is, so too do cultures. So we find Matilal taking Bernard Williams to task for assuming that cultures interact like billiard balls, as independent things that occasionally crash into each other.
But crashing billiard balls exchange some particles. So do cultures.
As someone with a multicultural background,
i.e. the guy did not always take a lota of water with him in order to shit in the fields.
Matilal saw clearly that though the atomistic, billiard ball way of seeing things might be useful, it isn’t how reality works:
Reality can't find work in India so it emigrates.
But in practice, in today’s world, cultures and sub-cultures do flow into each other, interacting both visibly and invisibly, eventually effecting value-rejection and value-modification at every stage.
Sadly, this isn't the case. Nobody thinks people like me combine Western and Eastern culture. They are merely grateful if I don't take to shitting in their gardens.
This shows the vitality of cultures, which are like living organisms, in which internal and external changes are incontrovertible facts.
Very true. The cat flows into me when it sits on my lap. That is why I spend a lot of time trying to clean my own arse with my tongue.
To be clear, Matilal does not explicitly claim that cultures are empty, but the lesson is similar. His choice of metaphor is telling; he pictures cultures as liquids flowing into each other.
In Indian culture, a swan's wing can separate water from milk. But nobody trusted the 'doodhwallah'.
Cultures, like liquids, are dynamic, changing entities with vague borders. Thinking of ‘Indian’ or ‘Italian’ culture as something singular, static, and independent, as something with a non-relational essence is a mistake.
No it isn't. You can make money gassing on about Indian or Italian culture. Nobody will pay you to pretend Italian culture is actually Chinese.
Not only do they change over time, but they are deeply relational, intertwined and dependent upon other cultures in ways that are subtle and difficult to see.
because they don't exist.
Views about cultures that ignore these facts are doomed to fail
yet no such view has failed yet.
because they treat a complex living thing as if it were a fossil.
this is more especially true if you are trying to add a hefty gang-bagger to your fossil collection. Still, if you shoot the fellow in the head repeatedly, your views of culture are not doomed to fail. Indeed, you could become rich.
Matilal uses this insight to highlight how philosophers wishing to see cultures as static and independent must lean heavily on semi-fictionalized examples of past cultures and science fiction.
They don't have to lean on shit. They can just gas on about 'essences'.
These artificial examples of cultures with independent essences are then generalized, giving the illusion
to whom? Guys who want that illusion for some purpose of their own. It is the purpose that matters.
that all cultures work this way. One need not accept Nāgārjuna’s more radical metaphysical stance to see this, though it can help illuminate Matilal’s lesson: real-life cultures just don’t work that way.
But Mahayana Buddhist culture did work that way in Tibet- till the Dalai Lama was forced to run away.
denial of relativism, it may be unsurprising that Matilal endorses
a version of moral realism, according to which there are universal moral facts.
You can always find an existence proof for them- but they may be inaccessible.
Matilal does not, however, consider other views that have become commonplace in contemporary metaethics, views like speaker subjectivism,
Whitey be debil!
why evaluate what is a priori false? That's not a theory, it's a reason for not getting out of bed.
which forbids itself any reference
Instead, he contrasts cultural relativism with what he calls singularism, the view that there is only one set of moral standards for everyone,
there is no necessary opposition between the two. Our culture is the right one. Those whom God hates are born into other cultures. Even good foreigners are constantly bumming each other.
and introduces his rival view, pluralism, in terms of this contrast.
But 'singularism' can be 'plural' by subscribing to a type theory.
He characterizes singularism (sometimes calling it monism) as the view that there is only one set of moral standards to which everybody should conform, and it is possible to discover this singular standard of universal morality through rational means.
But rationality is a movable feast. Nothing prevents a relativist from saying that his own culture was especially chosen by God or represents a privileged frame of reference for some pseudo-scientific reason.
Like soft and hard relativism, singularism consists of both a metaphysical and epistemic thesis.
Only if you hold them down and shove those theses up their arse while they scream their lungs out.
it posits a set of standards that apply to everyone, making it a view sometimes called absolutism in contemporary parlance. Epistemically, it claims that this set of standards is rationally accessible to us all. In essence, if we each thought about morality long enough and clearly enough, we would discover the universal moral truth of the matter.
Sadly, mathematical logic has moved on greatly. Such truths may not be accessible even at the 'end of Time'.
He has in his sights arch rationalists, and in this he follows fellow pluralist Isaiah Berlin, who characterizes singularism in the following way:
first, that all men have one true purpose, and one only, that of rational self-direction; second, that the ends of all rational beings must of necessity fit into a single universal, harmonious pattern . . .; third, that all conflict, and consequently all tragedy, is due solely to the clash of reason with the irrational.
This is a wholly arbitrary characterization. Why not say 'singularism involves shitting into your hands and flinging your feces about.'
Rejecting singularism makes Matilal sound like a relativist.
whereas actually the guy just didn't want to be the target of Isaiah Berlin's flung feces.
Though we won’t cover all of the details here, it’s worth noting that he argues that not all divergence is the result of irrationality. Sometimes it is the result of completely reasonable, understandable diversity of moral opinion. In fact, Matilal is keenly concerned to take seriously the fact of moral diversity. It’s this seriousness that leads him to pluralism.
It was okay for Radhakrishnan to fling his feces about. But when Akeel Bilgrami does it, it's so not cool.
Pluralism holds that there are multiple, potentially incompatible, moral standards.
It can hold what it likes except my penis.
Still, it’s possible that some are better, i.e., to be prioritized, over others. In other words, Matilal accepts a certain amount of diversity of moral standards but denies that this commits him to relativism.
Sadly, relatives is the reason most Indians want to emigrate. But there is no escape from that type of relativism. Wherever you go, you will find some Mamaji who will suddenly turn up on your doorstep with a marriage proposal to a nice sanskari girl with an astonishing resemblance to a camel.
He takes diversity to be compatible with an underlying moral realism. This metaphysical picture may sound a bit like W.D. Ross’s view.
Though the Indians arrived at it through Navya Nyaya linguistic analysis. The 'tatparya' intention is associated with 'the good' but there is some lack in it such that a separate consideration of what is right arises.
For Ross, there is a listable plurality of goods, and these different goods are not reducible to one another.
save for some specific purpose.
We can even think of Matilal’s standards as continuous with Ross’s goods (justice, non-maleficence, etc.).
but they are hermeneutic or purely linguistic, not ontological in any way.
However, Ross thinks that there is always, in each situation, a particular right thing to do. Matilal disagrees.
The good is multiply realizable. Considerations of right are secondary and arise by some lack or unrealizability in the intention.
First, Matilal leaves it open that these different standards or goods are simply incompatible.
for some purposes, they may be.
That is, there might be cases where we cannot comply with all of the standards or realize all of the varying goods.
But only for the same reason that we can't say everything while speaking correctly.
Second, Matilal leaves it open that these different standards or goods cannot be prioritized – that they are incommensurable.
but can always be made so for some particular purpose.
So he thinks that we might be unable to fully realize all of the plural goods, and that we might furthermore be unable to even weigh the different goods against each other.
Why do it if it doesn't pay to do it?
By contrast, while Ross thinks it doesn’t make sense to prioritize the goods in the abstract, he thinks that they can be properly ordered in any particular situation.
which is true enough. The Szpilrajn extension theorem explains why.
In these ways, Matilal’s form of pluralism is more thoroughgoing than Ross’s.
If it existed- but did it? Why not admit that Matilal was in a linguistic, not ontological, tradition?
Matilal doesn’t claim that moral standards definitely are incompatible. Instead, he leaves these possibilities open. This brings us to Matilal’s epistemic thesis, which unfortunately is not always clear.
Unless you iz Hindu and know about tatparya and how, by God's grace, a 'nirnayaka' can always clarify or certify what is intended.
He generally sounds quite skeptical about compatibility and commensurability, denying that there is any way to determinately rank moral standards.
Save by God's grace which may be operating in even a cretin like me.
But even though we might never be certain about our rankings, they are (justifiably) important to us.
Or not. Generally not. Adolescents may spend a lot of time ranking supermodels they want to sleep with. Then they get married and find the thought of cuddling with anybody else laughable or repugnant.
That said, he does offer an account of how we come to know the different particular moral standards, as well as how we can come to know the universal moral standards. Given all this, it’s still not clear how exactly we should understand his pluralist account. Fleshing it out will be the job of the rest of the chapter.
The rest of the chapter is tedious shite. See for yourself-
Matilal’s pluralism appears in an incipient form the Indian notion of dharma.
Only if you are as stupid as shit. Matilal was Ind-fucking-ian. Any dharmic notion of his must build on some highly developed dharmic notions. How the fuck could he have a doctrine anterior to, or an incipient form of, stuff he learnt in his mother's lap and then at Sanskrit College?
The term dharma is one of the most important in Indian philosophy; it is also one of the most complex, having many, many meanings.
It has a rigid designation for Europe. The Greeks translated it as 'eusebia' which is the Latin 'pietas'. Dharma has the sense of pious upholding which, by metonymy, can extend to what has been ordained to subsist by its own conatus or 'svadharma'.
Built on a root meaning to hold up or to support, it sometimes means teachings or instructions; this sense is typically capitalized in English, as when people write about the Buddhist Dharma. It is also commonly used in a metaphysical way, referring to something like instantaneous experience events.
Only under kshanikavada. In that case everything is instantaneous because there is no future or past- there is only this bare and empty moment illumined by the lightning flash of the intention.
The term also has an important normative sense, referring to social, ritual, legal, and moral obligations. There are many distinctions made within this sense, but here we will focus on one that distinguishes two different levels of obligation.
ordinary and special- sadharan and vishesha. Uncorrelated asymmetries means there's one person- e.g. the guy who owns the property- who is special and who must be treated differently, or must act differently, from ordinary folk.
One level is contingent and specific; these are called viśeṣa dharmas, literally particular or individual dharmas. ... which are contrasted with universal duties, known as sādhāraṇa dharma. Literally meaning general or common dharma, these are obligations that apply to all people everywhere. As you might imagine, what exactly is included in this category is a substantive ethical question.
For whom? Only the nirnayaka or 'buck stopper' who decides or certifies what was intended or should be intended. The substantive question which is resolved when what obtains as de dicto is deemed de re.
It commonly includes things like telling the truth, not stealing, and not hurting others. These apply to everyone regardless of their job, social role, or relationships. As we’ll see, Matilal has this in mind when he talks about the ‘basic moral fabric’ – general obligations that are not relativized to any particular person or place.
These are niyams which are positive- be clean, content etc.
It’s not that sādhāraṇa dharma is real and viśeṣa dharma is not, nor do viśeṣa dharmas always reduce to sādhāraṇa dharmas.
But can be made to do so by the nirnayaka.
Many Indian philosophers assume that there are multiple distinct types of value.
Indians assume all philosophers are shit.
Naturally, there are disagreements about whether different values can conflict and, if they can, which ones override others.
There are disagreements where there is scarcity- i.e. where not everything everyone wants can be done. But meaning arises only in the same way. Otherwise any statement can mean everything.
The classic example of this comes from a critical scene in the Bhagavad Gītā, a part of the much longer epic called the Mahābhārata. In it Arjuna, the best archer in the world, finds himself looking out over a battlefield just before the fighting is about to start. Because of a complicated web of promises, he must fight against his relatives and teachers.
No. Arjuna has two choices. Either be an agent- in which case he takes orders from the guy whom he thinks is his eldest brother- or else he could be an autonomous principal. The duty of the agent is to do what he is told. But an agent can decide to be a principal and do whatever the fuck he wants.
Arjuna experiences intense inner conflict.
Why? The answer is he knows his side will win and his Guru and 'Grandsire' and lots of cousins will be killed. How does he know? After all, his Guru and 'Grandsire' have the boon of immortality- though they can lay down their lives by their own wish. There is no conflict here whatsoever- unless Arjuna, by supernatural means, is certain of the outcome and, what's more, this is 'common knowledge' which Krishna shares.
As a warrior and as royalty it is his duty to fight. On the other hand, he also feels the more general duty to avoid bloodshed.
This is nonsense. The guy has been doing nothing but shedding blood- like the Vyadha (butcher) in the Vyadha Gita. Indeed, the two Gitas are 'dual' but the Vyadha deals with the duty of the principal while the Bhagvad deals with the duty of the agent- who, in this case, happens to be a Vaishnavite theist.
These are known as satya, asteya, and ahiṃsā respectively. 24 Matilal (1991a/2002, 255ff.).
Matilal was as stupid as shit. Satya means truth. A warrior is welcome to change occupation and become a farmer or an ascetic. That's the truth. Asteya just means not stealing. It is irrelevant in this context. Ahimsa means non-harming but, in an Occasionalist Universe- which is what the Vaishnavite inhabits- only God is an efficient cause.
For an overview see the discussion in Perrett (2016, 29ff.) of what he calls ‘Value Pluralism’ in Indian philosophy.
It is stupid shit.
Though his focus is on the puruṣārthas, the four main goals in life (morality, wealth, pleasure, and spiritual liberation) the point about a plurality of values is the same. Spoiler alert: Arjuna’s charioteer is the god Kṛṣṇa, who convinces him that he should fight after all. Matilal often wrote about this famous scene, particularly in the context of moral dilemmas.
Because the man had shit for brains but had to make out to Whitey that he was a savant of some ghastly heathen sort
So we find him writing: The situation is this: As a human being, as a loving member of the royal family, he feels that the killing of a grandfather and other relatives is bad; but as a kṣatriya [member of the warrior caste] he is told that it is his sacred duty to fight and kill – a classic case of moral conflict, which tends to inspire moral skepticism. (1989b/2002, 14)
This is hilarious! Prince William, as a human being, as a loving member of the British Royal Family, feels that killing the Duke of Edinburgh is wrong- more particularly if it involves chopping off his head and shoving it up his rectum. But, as a European Royal (i.e. a member of the caste descended from reigning European monarch), he is told- by some cretinous Matilal or Bhattilal- that it is his sacred duty to fight and kill and decapitate and shove his gramps' head up his rectum. This is not a classic case of moral conflict. It is stupid shit. What writing nonsense of this sort inspires in Indians is not 'moral skepticism'. It is utter contempt for Professors of Moral Philosophy.
A full understanding of the scene would require contextualizing it in the much longer epic.
But Matilal was too stupid to do so. He didn't realize that a Gandharva had given Arjuna the boon to see anything he wanted to see in the manner he wanted to see it. But Arjuna didn't take the boon so it was unvested- asvamika svatva. But, due to 'vishada' Arjuna himself became 'asvamika'- i.e. not in control of himself- and so the boon vested temporarily but such that Arjuna's tatparya was under the regulation of Krishna as nirnayaka.
What is important for our purposes is that Matilal reads this scene as demonstrating a case of a genuine moral dilemma.
When what it actually is, is great drama, great poetry. It simply isn't true that Arjuna would have suffered any reproach if he, like Krishna's elder brother Balram, had quit the battlefield taking with him a plough, on one shoulder, and, on the other, a big pot of wine. Alternatively, he could have become an ascetic. The drama of the Gita arises because Arjuna's true eldest brother, Karna, wants the battle to go ahead though it can only do so if Arjuna does not know he is the true eldest brother. By a series of dramatic turns and twists, the Gita shows how the providential outcome is achieved.
The conflict is not merely apparent
there was no fucking conflict. This is a superbly plotted, highly dramatic, poem.
and the values in question cannot be satisfactorily reconciled. He finds that accepting the possibility of such a case does not threaten moral realism.
What threatens realism is the fact that we know shit about reality.
highlights that values and duties must be flexible and dynamic but nevertheless real.
Why not say, vampires and werewolves must be flexible and dynamic but nevertheless real? In this way, one can be a vampire while being a mail carrier while moonlighting as a werewolf who never actually wolfs out but just delivers pizza.
To see why, it is helpful to look to his discussion of metaethics itself.
Metaethics must be flexible and dynamic and do the fucking washing up. Otherwise, it and its bum-chum, Ethics, will be dropped from the curriculum.
Matilal’s discussion of the Mahābhārata reveals a deep sympathy to the relativist’s recognition of moral diversity.
But Matilal stopped short of giving it a pity fuck. That's what we should focus on. Stupid savants can reveal deep sympathy for cretinous shite but that does not mean they necessarily put out.
So while he doesn’t think that diversity proves relativism, Matilal thinks the relativist gets some important things right.
if by 'important things' you mean useless nonsense- sure.
Recall that on Matilal’s pluralist picture, there are multiple potentially incompatible moral standards,
Only to the same extent that they are actually perfectly compatible. That's the problem with pluralism. The thing is anything goes because dialethia is on the table.
a fact we see revealed in Arjuna’s dilemma.
There is no dilemma. Arjuna want's theophany as the gratuitous gift of the God and that's what comes to pass. One may as well speak of Spiderman's dilemma in that if he doesn't get bitten by a radio-active spider he can't be a web-slinger.
How this could be compatible with realism, however, is not obvious.
The answer, obviously, that vampires and werewolves and values and everything else should be very flexible and dynamic and thus, though wholly imaginary, yet perfectly real.
To elucidate his view, he draws on the notions of sādhāraṇa dharma and viśeṣa dharma, which he compares to Stuart Hampshire’s “two faces of morality”. For Hampshire, morality admits of a rational side and a less-than-fully rational side.
Whereas the two ass cheeks of morality display heart and soul respectively.
The former side is broadly continuous with singularist views, such as the familiar Kantian view on which morality is both rational and absolute.
by arbitrary stipulation- sure.
The latter side involves those aspects of morality that are contingent: historically, geographically, and perhaps in other social ways.
so there is 'hysteresis' or path dependence. But analysis can reveal the underlying ergodics. This must focus on uncorrelated asymmetries to get to the 'bourgeois strategies' which are eusocial. That's the whole story here. Philosophy can only shit on what Econ has clairified.
This side of morality is typically not fully articulated and may not be fully articulable,
Paetian 'residues and derivatives' ae as articulable as anything else.
whereas the rational side is at least articulable.
No. Our math isn't good enough. It may never be. Till then all we can have is a tatparya for nirnayaka- if that's the sort of waste of time we are into.