Saturday, March 5, 2016

The sentence as freedom

[This was presented at the Seminar on Bhartṛhari and Wittgenstein, Sahitya Akademi, Dec 1994, and published in its proceedings volume. Those of us who root for approaches to ancient Indian writings that are in tune with the dispensation now in power are hereby invited to respond to my intervention as critically as they wish.]

0. Only a sūtra is possible as a starting point. Middleman: a Saussure who says (roughly) word-signs are unfree (socially given) expressions that speakers freely combine into sentence-chains, ”free expressions”, read in the light of K.C. Bhattacharya’s free expression The Subject as Freedom.

1. For Bhartṛhari, it is in the sentence that words join forces to sparkle in the vākya-sphoṭa spark. Such sparkling partakes of the nityatā ‘invariance’ of śabda ‘Shabda’. This nityatā is free from the contingent mortality of this or that concrete embodiment. Partaking of such freedom sets us free. Only so can we post-Saussureans re-read Bhartṛhari’s reading of tradition’s Sphoṭa. Wittgenstein helps us unpack such freedom.

2. Wittgenstein facing the sentence (young Wittgenstein facing the pictorial sentence and mature Wittgenstein facing the active sentence verging on Austinian and other pragmatics – the young Wittgenstein of semantics and the mature Wittgenstein of pragmatics, to point to the unregenerate tangential derivatives of his undivided enterprise) seeks a nonsubjective orientation for sentencing. He wants Sentence not to stay shackled under Speaker’s illocutionary Ego. He refuses Ego’s proprietary rights over meaning/ validity. He states this refusal as “Wittgenstein denies the (relevant kind of) autonomy of mind”, thus seeking to free meaning from the web of personal desire.

3. As intertextual readers, our project is to steep our Wittgenstein in our Bhartṛhari. The content of a text, then, is not what it contains; privacy is proprietary; no essences please, we’re texts. Rather, a text’s content is that nitya detextual-adtextual flow which brings into play neither subject-matter or referent, nor speaker, nor speech act/ acts/ drama, but flowing memorability, availability, producibility. Content is what carries over in retellings that we visualize in the light of an invariance-maximizing Translation which we know is counterfactual.

4. It is easiest to steep our Wittgenstein in our Bhartṛhari if we aesthetically reground both. Start at Wittgenstein’s spiel (as language game, and as dramatic mature recasting of young Wittgenstein’s bild); recast play as acting, as theatre; move to the rasa of apprehension of drama-content via spark as catharsis giving access to the yathārtha ‘real’ (invoked in the “yathārthaṃ jñānaṃ” definition of pramā). These moves work only if Wittgenstein and Bhartṛhari are both read as raising the question of content against a background of yathārtha as sustainable reality. They use varying reality-criteria, which add up. Young Wittgenstein’s criterion stresses truth. Mature Wittgenstein’s criterion seeks the complete rasa of actual action (i.e.: What cannot be appropriately said in a visualizable context cannot signify at all). Even young Wittgenstein’s truth was relative to a larger living. Bhartṛhari’s criterion for reality, the brahman as āsvādya ‘tastable’ rasa, goes well with all this.

5. Bhartṛhari does, unlike Wittgenstein, assume a Self and the appearance of essences in Self’s inwardness. But Bhartṛhari’s I is a non-proprietary I, siddha in its capacity for valid judgment and taste. Wittgenstein cannot take that route. The mind his times have to offer is a merely instrumental immature I, eager to own, to annex, to exercise intellectual property rights, to profit. Hence Wittgenstein’s no-mind path to public validity, like Buddhism’s no-self path to knowledge/pramā (pramā is neutral between knowledge-of-truth and apprehension-of-rasa). Can our period earn its way back to the visualizability of a Bhartṛhari-Self?

6. Proposed formal procedure for a Bhartṛhari-steeped rereading of Wittgenstein: we postulate a mind in a state of partial power tempered by active abdication i.e. systematic-but-partial renunciation of power in order to welcome the truly-now. One opens up completely to the truly-now in the moment of instinctively moving away from the ways of the dead system, reaching for a truth committed to the moment and to its dramatis personae, a truth that gives meaning.

7. The Popper cycle of falsification and theory revision, though in its neatness it exemplarily instantiates active abdication and may be useful as a pedagogic aid to readers who otherwise find this concept obscure, is too neat to be a seriously usable prototype. What we can retain from it is the idea that the continual enlarging of the inductive base forces revisions and that to revise is to accept at least some measure of defeat. One non-neat prototype for active abdication is chatting, as in exchanging news. What’s New? Only a new item can be perceived as knowledge. Only in the context of new-activation of knowledge as learning-teaching can cognition continue to be available to its locus and thus recharge itself as yathārtha, real cognition. The teacher in such a prototypical example clearly does not own the teaching. Nor does the teacher’s or parent’s generation own the learner’s or child’s generation. The basic learning scene is that new people learn from the total context, which includes teachers quite saliently, but obviously they do not learn from humans (or animate beings) alone. This is how real learning takes place. Now, it is only what real learning shall reassemble that counts as a structure that is sustainable through transmission, i.e. valid. To teach is to show what is valid (recall the special resonances of “show” in Wittgenstein on saying vs showing). The context of learning is also the context of re-seeing. Every valid seeing has to also re-see; hence active abdication as an essential feature of a publicly accountable, non-proprietary mind. This is where the mind learns how to suspend its ego-quality of the thirst for victory, for power, for scoring points.

8. Bhartṛhari and Wittgenstein both want a language whose meanings as validities are independent of intention-as-desire at a personal level. Their sphoṭa responds to the call of the active impulse (praiti). The intention (abhiprāya) is static. The praiti is dynamic in that it seeks a dṛṣṭi/vision which simultaneously appeals to kāma (primary fun), to artha (secondary dealings at one conscious remove from fun), to dharma (tertiary rules of games and other rule-domains at two conscious removes from fun), and, circularly and cyclically, to dṛṣṭi (called mokṣa insofar as vision sees itself as a zeroary freedom to do an Escher between removes of consciousness/ perception). Thus praiti alone is truly niṣkāma, non-lusting. To seek vision is to overcome property-lust and to be independent of the proprietary mind Wittgenstein distrusts. Wittgenstein smells a rat; only if you get rid of that smell does the Self become Bhartṛhari-available for rasa-tasting right up the point of the brahman-taste, a simple point of cuisine.

9. To return to the last part of 3, freedom as in vision/dṛṣṭi characterizes a true, undistorted flow of content from texts (detextual) and into texts (adtextual). Such freedom transmits, in that it reproduces faithfully, the way creatures breed true, but without reference to any arbitrary cloning faith in contingent devas ‘gods’ or vedas ‘scriptures’ whose haloes wax and wane. The brahman one wants to taste is the invariance of authentic self-transmitting life, textually manifested as handing-down/ transmission/ tradition through the full ambience of performing arts holding up the mere word; the brahman has nothing to do with a clutching fundamentalism. Only when you taste such a brahman do you perceive its reality. Those who lack the taste have the equivalent option, Buddhist mode, of a rigorous switching off of (denial of serious reality to) certain contingent personal desires which oversituate content and thus restrict the flow. But on neither reading should one hypostasize the Flow. The point is not to turn the Star Wars egoic cliché “May the Force be with you!” into a pseudo-philosophical greeting that takes the form “May the Flow be with you” and pretends to symbolize the overcoming of ego. Those who seek meaning gradually learn the art of renouncing the specificity of worship.

[21.viii.1994 text, revised 11.x.1994, presented December 1994,
Published in Sibajiban Bhattacharya (ed.) 2002, Word and Sentence: Two Perspectives: Bhartṛhari and Wittgenstein. New Delhi: Sahitya Akademi. 63-66, on the whole superbly proofread, but the sentence “But on neither reading should one hypostasize the Flow.” went missing in that version.]


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