Comparative linguistics

Roland Steiner steiner at MAILER.UNI-MARBURG.DE
Tue Mar 28 11:09:09 UTC 2000

On 27 Mar 00, at 13:14, quoting some remarks of Robert Zydenbos Sam Garg wrote:

> >Indology is largely, but not only philology
> >philology is superior to archaeology (leave aside other disciplines) in
> >understanding history
> Indology = philology and philology superior.  No wonder the fight to get on
> the Indology 'shelfspace' gets so fractious!
May I explain in a few words? Philology has to do with human
language, and that is the simple reason why the object of
philology _in principle_ (that does not mean in each and every
case) has more to say to us than other non-linguistic objects
because speaking and writing is the most natural way of mutual
understanding among human beings, at least in more complex
situations. The "superiority" of philology is not a matter of
methods and/or philologists (versus archeologists, scientists,

> Philologists, however, do not intend relinquishing an inch of said
> shelfspace.
What is the meaning and the consequence of such statements?
Even if there were philologists who "do not intend relinquishing
an inch of said shelfspace", they would not be acting as philologists
in these cases. Let us say: a "biologist" refuses to read any journal on
chemistry. Would this be an argument against science as science? The same
if a "physician" states that "everything is (a form of) matter and
energy" (for example!) believing (metaphysically) that "everything" is
To simplify, or to make it easier (than it is): Each field of human
investigation has its own objects defined and limited by its own methods. A
philologist or a scientist who speaks about things or objects
which are not covered by his specific methods, does not speak
as a philologist or a scientist. Sometimes it may happen that a
philologist, an archeologist and a scientist seem to speak about
the same thing using the same word(s), but meaning quite different things.
However, among us rational beings it need not be said that each method or
way of investigation which helps in clarifying or improving the
understanding of a certain object is undoubtedly welcome (for example, the
dating of material objects). But the  decision whether and in which way
something can be seen as an aid for one's investigation, is up to the
competent researcher, i.e., one who "defines" this specific object
(according to his/her method).

>> Many lay critics, also on this list, for some reason
>> believe that the human sciences are stagnant and rigid.
> Not the human sciences but, certainly, the all too human
> scientists certainly can appear that way.
Without further argumentation, data, and information in the
course of the investigation "probable" remains "probable", "likely"
only "likely", "perhaps" only "perhaps", etc. Some problems arise
if author A says that XY is "not completely impossible", author B
(on the authority of A) writes that XY is "possible", author C (on
the shoulders of B) states that XY is "likely", whereas D
("quoting" C) declares, that XY has been proved. I think that D
certainly will not appear stagnant and rigid.

> Last, but not least, malign the critics.
In our context the only interesting question is whether the critique
is justified or not, and, even more interestingly, why.

> Given the vast Indology universe built upon philology, all I can
> say is that Vishnu must have incarnated as a philologist recently
> and had one of his 'universe out of a navel dreams'!
Too much honour, but may be true. Unfortunately not a suitable
topic for philologists. Any theologians out there?

No insult intended!

With kind regards,
Roland Steiner

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