the gods

Edwin F Bryant efb3 at
Thu May 29 06:55:59 UTC 1997

Dear Louis, 

	Well, I suppose it might be interesting to consider the
religious affiliation (or non-affiliation) of those who "jumped in to
defend Howard", provided this were juxtaposed with the same from those
who jumped in to censure him.  Perhaps some sort of psychological pattern
could then be discerned which might correspond to the various outbursts
on both sides.  But, personally, I'm not about to start second-guessing
anyone's religious beliefs or lack thereof (especially as its not clear
to me why that would be any of my business). As far as I was concerned, it
seemed to me that you were interpreting Howard's statement
as "professing scholarly neutrality" (which it wasn't) and had then gone
out of your way to suggest that he himself is not a "neutral scholar" due
to his particular religious affiliations.  However, I agree that the term
"hopeless logical positivist" is philosophically judgmental, so since you
say you were reacting to this, then fair enough.  Let's move on with no
hard feelings.   

	In general, and in response to Phillip's question about revealing
one's bias, I have no problem with personal religious or irreligious 
revelations if a person chooses to offer them. Personally, I find this
useful, since I would rather read the exegesis of a critical Buddhist
text from a Buddhist (especially if he/she was also schooled in the
methods, conceptual structures and language of critical scholarship), than
by someone who is not compelled or influenced by the logic of a Buddhist 
point of
view. In an ideal academic world--especially a post-modern one which has little
time for absolute truth claims--it would be useful if everyone revealed 
his/her own relative perspective (especially when embarking on an 
interpretative religious project) so that the reader can be aware of the
formative influences permeating the author's point of view. But, in
reality (and even though everyone knows that pure objectivity is a myth) 
when it comes to issues of religion, people can get very judgmental and
touchy, as history clearly reveals, and as Phillip's anecdote underscores.
Hence, it must be left up to the individual to chose to disclose his/her
religious bias/orientations or not.

	This leads to a related issue: When does a scholar have the right
to reveal someone else's religious bias or orientations?  Obviously (and
perhaps this will be of interest to Greg Downing, who might be
wondering what happened to his innocuous question to this list, if he has
not given up on us), if Max Muller states that: "this
edition of mine...the Veda../will hereafter tell to a great extent on the
fate of is the root of their religion, and to show them what
the root is, is the only way of uprooting all that has sprung from it
during the last 3000 years", then this is relevant information that the
researcher might want to suggest the reader keep in  mind when considering
the Vedic interpretations of Max Muller.  

	But if an author choses not to reveal his/her religious bias one
enters into
a much greyer area.  Most scholars would probably agree that if a piece of
scholarship is dripping with religious over/undertones, even if implicit,
then it is fair game to attempt to contextualize the author. But, in less
obvious instances, it seems to me that one must be wary of encroaching on
a persons private domain, or of adopting an ad hominem level of critique.
And if even implicit religious perspectives are not reasonably obvious,
then a person's religious orientations are no more relevant to their
scholarship than their sexual orientations might be.  But now I'm stating
the obvious.

	Regards,  Edwin Bryant

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