Turtles (and elephants) all the way down?

Dominik Wujastyk wujastyk at GMAIL.COM
Sat Apr 3 08:03:39 UTC 2010

There is an excellent recent essay on this by Prof. Christopher Minkowski.
""Turtles All the Way Down? Tradition and Experiment in Cosmological
Reasoning."  I'm afraid I can't tell you right now where it is published.
There's a nice discussion of the generl
in Wikipedia.

Dr Dominik Wujastyk
Institut für Südasien-, Tibet- und Buddhismuskunde
Universität Wien
Spitalgasse 2-4, Hof 2, Eingang 2.1
A-1090 Vienna
long term email address: wujastyk at gmail.com
PGP key: http://wujastyk.net/pgp.html

On 2 April 2010 09:21, Jan Westerhoff <westerhoff at cantab.net> wrote:

> Dear Colleagues,
> in his "Essay Concerning Human Understanding" (1:391-92 of the Dover
> edition) John Locke mentions an Indian who, "saying that the world was
> supported by a great elephant, was asked what the elephant rested on; to
> which his answer was, a great tortoise. But being again pressed to know
> what gave support to the broad-backed tortoise, replied, something, he
> knew not what."
> I am wondering what the source of that cosmological theory is. (In more
> contemporary versions involving a variety of scholars, including Bertrand
> Russell and William James this has metamorphosed into an elephant
> supported by a downward infinite series of turtles). I am aware of the
> notion of the turtle-king (kuurmaraaja) supporting the world, as well as
> of that of a set of four (according to the Raamaaya.na) or sixteen
> (according to the Amarako.sa) elephants doing the same, but I have been
> unable to trace any Indian authority describing a stacked elephant-turtle
> support.
> I would be most grateful for any suggestions you may have!
> Yours
> Jan Westerhoff
> ***************************
> JC Westerhoff
> Department of Philosophy
> University of Durham
> 50 Old Elvet
> Durham DH1 3HN
> United Kingdom
> www.janwesterhoff.net
> westerhoff at cantab.net

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