The impact of our studies

Wed Nov 9 12:02:59 UTC 1994

J.B. Sharma says:
> Unlike the contention of Richard Hayes, it does matter what leading
>scholars of South Asia may have to say about South Asia.

This I would not deny, and I realize there are people on this list
who do study South Asia and say things about it. My comments were
not intended to refer to them. Rather, I was thinking more of people
like myself whose principal concerns are with philosophy and the
Sanskrit language, not with South Asia or the people who live there.
The subject that I study is ideas, and it has been my experience that
ideas are not offended when people study them. It has also been my
experience that philosophy has remarkably little impact on human beings,
so studying philosophy is something one can do without having much of
an affect on anyone, with the possible exception of a small handful of
others who derive some pleasure from thinking. Similarly, it seems
to me that one can be interested in Sanskrit as a language without
having the least interest or concern in the people who wrote it or
read it, in about the same way that one can be interested in mathematics
without being concerned with the mathematicians themselves. There is
nothing necessarily lifeless or dry about this approach, and it is not
naive, I would contend, to think that there is nothing even remotely
political about the study of Sanskrit qua language.

In reply to Ashoka Aklujkar's concerns about a moderated list, the
purpose of moderation is not to censor anyone, but simply to keep
discussions on topic. This task does, it must be admitted, require
an exercise of judgement, but knowing "where to draw the line" is
something we do all the time as seminar leaders, chairs of panels
at conferences, editors and so on. Drawing lines is what most of us
do for a living, so we should not be too afraid of it.

Richard P. Hayes                              cxev at
Associate Professor                                Associate Member
Faculty of Religious Studies                     Dept of Philosophy
             McGill University  Montreal, Quebec

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