[INDOLOGY] In the meantime astrophysicists ... was: Re: Against the petition against Prof. Pollock

Jan E.M. Houben jemhouben at gmail.com
Sat Mar 5 00:12:32 UTC 2016

The extent to which philology is an exact science depends mainly on the
philologists themselves.
Since the disagreement depends centrally on two diametrically opposed
readings of one and the same text it will forever be easy to decide whether
the proposed interpretation was *correct* or not (and whether or not
signatories have joined an *andhaparamparā*), independent of the number of

In the meantime astrophysicists, dealing with problems a little more
complicated than understanding a few pages in simple english,  gave a
beautiful example of international cooperation and solidarity -- clearly
with the aim of obtaining further funding in their respective countries ...
see this article co-signed by ca. 1000 (!) professional researchers
representing 133 different institutions in many different countries:

Better to turn around half-way than to err completely: it may still be
possible to withdraw one's signature if it was put without careful

Jan Houben

NB the finally unsuccesful petition was *launched* by computer scientist
Ganesh Ramakrishnan of IIT Bombay, neither a sanskritist nor a philologist.


Directeur d’Études

Sources et histoire de la tradition sanskrite

*École Pratique des Hautes Études*

*Sciences historiques et philologiques *

54, rue Saint-Jacques

CS 20525 – 75005 Paris

johannes.houben at ephe.sorbonne.fr



On 27 February 2016 at 16:52, Dominik Wujastyk <wujastyk at gmail.com> wrote:

> I discovered yesterday that there exists a petition
> <https://www.change.org/p/mr-n-r-narayana-murthy-and-mr-rohan-narayan-murty-removal-of-prof-sheldon-pollock-as-mentor-and-chief-editor-of-murty-classical-library>
> launched by Prof. K. Ramasubramanian that asks for Prof. Sheldon Pollock to
> be removed from his editorial leadership role with the Murty Library.
> The argument against Pollock is based on the idea that, "he has deep
> antipathy towards many of the ideals and values cherished and practiced in
> our civilization." The most prominent evidence given to support this
> assertion is a quotation from a 2012 lecture that Prof. Pollock gave at the
> South Asia Institute in Heidelberg, titled, "What is South Asian Knowledge
> Good For?"  Prof. Ramasubramanian states that Prof. Pollock "echoes the
> views of Macaulay and Max Weber that the shastras generated in India serve
> no contemporary purpose except for the study of how Indians express
> themselves."  Unfortunately, Prof. Ramasubramanian has not correctly
> understood these passages in Prof. Pollock's paper, nor the meaning of the
> 2012 lecture as a whole.
> Prof. Pollock cites Macaulay and Weber as पूर्वपक्ष positions to his own,
> opposite view.  Prof. Pollock presents Macaulay and Weber as examples of
> the worst kind of misunderstanding of Indian wisdom.  He does this in order
> to build his own argument that there is a deeper knowledge in India than
> Macaualy or Weber realized, the knowledge that is the "South Asian
> Knowledge" of his title.  This is the knowledge of the Indian शास्त्राणि,
> the Indian knowledge systems that Prof. Pollock is defending.
> Prof. Ramasubramanian then cites a passage in which Prof. Pollock says,
> Are there any decision makers, as they refer to themselves, at
> universities and foundations who would not agree that, in the cognitive
> sweepstakes of human history, Western knowledge has won and South Asian
> knowledge has lost?  ...That, accordingly, the South Asian knowledge South
> Asians themselves have produced can no longer be held to have any
> significant consequences for the future of the human species?
> In this passage, Prof. Pollock is *criticising* the administrators of
> western universities who do not give proper recognition and value to Indian
> knowledge systems, and only view India as a place to make money or to make
> practical applications of knowledge systems of the West.  Again, this is
> the पूर्वपक्ष.  Prof. Pollock's central argument is that the special,
> unique knowledge systems developed in India, mainly recorded in Sanskrit,
> are of great value, and that this fact is not recognized by "universities
> and foundations" who, like Macauley and Weber, think that Indian knowledge
> systems have been superseded by Western ones.   Prof. Pollock's point of
> view is that the शास्त्राणि , representing South Asian Knowledge, are
> precious, worth studying, and still have much to offer modern cultural
> life.  On pages six and seven of his lecture, he gives the examples of
> व्याकरण and the theory of रस as forms of knowledge that were developed to a
> uniquely high degree in early India, and that still have the power to
> enrich thought today.  On the subsequent pages, he begins to make the even
> more difficult argument for finding modern value in even more
> internally-oriented Indian sciences such as मीमांसा, अलङ्कार  and
> नाट्यशास्त्र.
> The larger point of Prof. Pollock's article is that the institutions of
> higher education in America and elsewhere have found it difficult over the
> last fifty years or more to develop institutional structures to support the
> study of *Indian* knowledge systems, and that the South Asia Institute in
> Heidelberg is a model of success in allowing those who develop knowledge *about
> *India to work in harmony alongside those who deepen their appreciation
> of the knowledge that was developed *by *India.
> It would be possible to make similar arguments for the other evidence
> referred to by Prof. Ramasubramanian, e.g., Prof. Pollock's 1985 paper on
> the character and importance of शास्त्राणि, of South Asian knowledge
> systems.  In that paper, Prof. Pollock says that, "Classical Indian
> civilization, however, offers what may be the most exquisite expression of
> the centrality of rule-governance in human behavior" and that śāstra is "a
> monumental, in some cases unparalleled, intellectual accomplishment in its
> own right."  One could discuss this paper further.  But to cite it as an
> example of a criticism of India is the opposite of the truth.
> It is regrettable that Prof. Ramasubramanian has misunderstood Prof.
> Pollock's views by 180 degrees.  Prof. Pollock is a champion for the same
> values of Indian culture as Prof. Ramasubramanian.  That is why Prof.
> Pollock devised and brought into being the Murty Classical Library.
> Many people have signed Prof. Ramasubramanian's petition, presumably
> without having read Prof. Pollock's work for themselves, or having failed
> to undestand it.  The damage done by this misunderstanding is likely to
> last a long time, and hamper the efforts of Prof. Pollock and others who
> seek to bring the glory and subtlety of ancient Indian knowledge to the
> attention of the modern world.
> --
> Professor Dominik Wujastyk* <http://ualberta.Academia.edu/DominikWujastyk>
> Singhmar Chair in Classical Indian Society and Polity
> Department of History and Classics
> <http://historyandclassics.ualberta.ca/>
> University of Alberta, Canada
> _______________________________________________
> INDOLOGY mailing list
> INDOLOGY at list.indology.info
> indology-owner at list.indology.info (messages to the list's managing
> committee)
> http://listinfo.indology.info (where you can change your list options or
> unsubscribe)

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <https://list.indology.info/pipermail/indology/attachments/20160305/070fb010/attachment.htm>

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list