Truth and method in Indology, III

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at ONLINE.NO
Tue Jun 2 09:25:48 UTC 1998

>However, I also wrote:
>>But I would like to get such a list from an Indian student or scholar trained
>>at and connected with an Indian university, and focusing on Indology and Vedic
>Nevertheless, let me mention a single point: further research in the direction
>pointed out in your recent book The crux of chronology: statistics and
>Indology: a study of method (Oslo 1997) will be of great value for a
>methodologically improved Indology. In addition to the almost universal
>chronology question, the many authorship-issues in Indology could be tackled
>with the help of statistical tools. A recent, partly problematic yet
>interesting attempt in this direction in the thesis van der Geer, Leiden 1998:
>the bhAsa-problem.

I have a comment concerning the use of statistics in Indology. I personally
think they could be very useful, but: If we want statistics to be useful we
have to reconsider the traditional scholars way of work. There are today two
potential models:

1: A single scholar slaves for years analysing texts and then run them
through various statistical packages in order to evaluate them. George
Biber, an American working in the field, summed up this model in the
following manner:

        you work for two years analysing data
        you spend 30 sekonds running them through the computer
        you spend the next two years evaluating the results.

Not a very economical method when Indological research is concerned,
considering the vastness of the literature.

2: You attack the problem as a team. 10 - 20 - 30 or more persons spend a
year analysing data (tagging). You run them through the computer. Two or
three people with specialist competence in statistics and Indology spend
half a year evaluating the results.

I think I can guarantee that this procedure would produce interesting and
valuable results, 1) because you can analyse much more data, and 2) because
you can draw on specialised expertise from various fields.

But notice: Model 2 explodes the traditional work style of the philological
scholar and turns him into an ordinary team member, working in the way
research is conducted in industry and large-scale science projects. So where
do we get the funding, and where does our academic merit go?

If we stick to the individualist way of working, we'll may never come much
further in some fields.

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
0674 Oslo

Tel: +47 22 32 12 19
Fax: +47 22 32 12 19
Email: lmfosse at
Mobile phone: 90 91 91 45

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