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metaphysics and ancient indian philosophy

“Because, however, their explanations for the unseen forces underlying the visible universe do not correspond to those of modern science, we moderns refer to their systems as metaphysics, as opposed to the mathematically provable laws of physics. This brings us to the second major point of difference between the ancient Indian philosophers and modern-day theoretical physicists. The latter use mathematics, a universal notation system whose signifiers—numbers, equations, algorithms, and so forth—remain constant and transparently equivalent to that which they signify, no matter where or when that language is being written or read. Not so for the Indian philosophers, whose language of expression was Sanskrit, a “perfected” (this is the meaning of the word) language to be sure, but a far less precise mode of expression than the language of mathematics. This is what made commentaries so vitally necessary: in order to demonstrate that the axioms of a given philosophical system were valid, the technical language of those axioms had to be analyzed in hair-splitting detail. For this reason, commentators were also attentive to Indian theories of language, of the power of words to represent reality—or even to (re)create reality, as in the case of the Vedic mantras. Nonetheless, this language-based format has made ancient Indian philosophy terribly fragile, protean, and difficult to grasp for modern-day interpreters. As we saw for the simple definition of Yoga in the last chapter, the translation of terms whose meanings have changed over time is a daunting task. This is also why I compared the work of commentators and scholars to the practice of judicial review in the American legal system. Metaphysical positions that were set forth in words rather than mathematical formulas are more like legal precedents than the postulates of theoretical physics.

linked mentions for "metaphysics and ancient indian philosophy":

  1. Clippings from “The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali: a Biography” by David Gordon White
    A comprehensive guide into Hindu texts in the beginning of the Chapter 2 Ramachandra Chaudhari became Mahatma Ramchandraji Maharaj, cosharer of the