Sunday, August 23, 2015

"Gettier" Intuition Across Cultures

No doubt many of you will have seen this by now, but for those who have not:
Noûs has just published a truly amazing study on this topic by a team of experimental philosophers (Machery, Stich, Rose, Chatterjee, Karasawa, Struchiner, Sirker, Usui & Hashimoto), and I think this new study gives us a much better understanding of the relevant empirical facts. The researchers presented two different Gettier cases to participants in the United States, Brazil, India and Japan, yielding a total sample size of 521 participants.

I post this because it is relevant to earlier conversation on the relevance of experimental philosophy for comparative philosophy and Indian philosophy. In particular, Anand Vaidya writes, reflecting on the relationship between the three,
Thus: If the question is: how should classical Indian philosophers modify their practice and research in light of these ideas and new ways of engaging things? I would say: don’t worry. Nothing here changes classical Indian philosophical practice. However, if the question is: Can classical Indian philosophers contribute to a new enterprise that will help present important ideas from the tradition to the public and to other parts of academia? I would say: absolutely.

And on experimental philosophy informing comparative/Indian philosophy, Stephen Phillips notes in the comments:
Similarly, what people say about Gettier problems in Delhi or Hong Kong does not seem to me to be nearly as relevant for a philosophic theory of knowledge as the pramANa theories of classical thinkers, which were ironed out over generations. Probably intuitions about perception or inference or testimony as possibly erroneous would emerge in the course of contemporary interviews, and indeed one can find non-factive usages in the epics and elsewhere in Sanskrit literature. But, to speak about NyAya, philosophers had their intuitions shaped by a theoretical inheritance upon which they then built, intuitions that came to restrict an understanding of genuine perception, inference, and testimony to that which is true. A contemporary theory of knowledge needs to heed such educated intuitions if it is not to be hopelessly ethnocentric but not the uneducated intuitions reported by anthropologists.

Perhaps readers who have read the article (I have not yet) might have something to add to this discussion?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Ethics in classical Indian Philosophy

In light of Stephen Harris' review of Christopher Framarin's book, Hinduism and Environmental Ethics and Elisa Freschi's discussion of Amod Lele's article about Śāntideva's metaphysical and ethical thought, I'd like to pose a question. This question has been posed on the Indian Philosophy Blog in the context of political philosophy but not, as far as I can tell, for ethics. The question is, in two parts:
(1) Is there Indian ethical philosophy (normative ethics and/or meta-ethics) and (2) which primary texts would you use to introduce it to students?

As most readers of this blog will know, the first part of the question is answered in the negative by B.K. Matilal (among others). Matilal argues that while Indian texts are concerned with moral issues in a practical sense, "...morality as such was never discussed in these texts." (See his "Moral Dilemmas: Insights from Indian Ethics.") Now, plenty of secondary literature like the aforementioned Hinduism and Environmental Ethics has taken up the challenge to elucidate the ethical arguments more or less implicit in Indian philosophy. However, what primary texts (in good translation) does one set alongside of the usual figures--Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Mill, Foot--in philosophy courses? Does selecting texts like the Mahābhārata and Bhagavad Gītā send the message that Indian philosophy has no systematic ethical reflection? Or does it put pressure on the notion that ethical philosophy must look a certain way? And how do you think about "ethics" in classical Indian philosophy?
Finally, another solicitation for syllabi. If you are teaching a course which addresses (even in part) ethical inquiry in Indian philosophy and you'd like to share your syllabus, send it to mdasti (AT) bridgew (DOT) edu so we can put it on the Indian Philosophy blog.
Comments turned off here. Please participate in the conversation over at the Indian Philosophy Blog!