Sunday, 31 October 2010

Interviews on hermeneutics

Keith D'Souza, SJ, professor of philosophy at St Pius X Seminary, Goregaon, Mumbai, and I were interviewed twice at the IGNOU seminar on Philosophy and Distance Learning. The first was a video recording meant largely for undergraduate students; the anchor was Prof. Gracious Thomas, HoD Social Work, IGNOU. The second was a live telecast, with a live audience and Dr Babu Emmanuel, SVD, Spokesperson CBCI, as anchor.

I realize I have to brush up my Schleiermacher and Dilthey, and also Deconstructionism.

Dr Annie Kunnoth, recently returned from Paris with a PhD on Paul Ricoeur, and currently teaching at the Jamia Milia University, Delhi, pointed out that for the last 20 years or so, Schleiermacher is not considered as the 'father' of modern / universal hermeneutics. I guess she was pointing out to what people like Grondin (and Greisch, she said) are saying, that universal hermeneutics was proposed already in the previous century, by rationalists like Dannhauer, Chladenius and Meier. The plea fell on deaf ears; Ast and Schlegel know nothing about this attempt, and so Schleiermacher can make the claim to be the first to call for a universal hermeneutics.

Annie also 'objected' to or perhaps corrected my mention of friendship as a condition for attainment of truth. Not friendship, she said, but respect. Friendship is interpersonal, and cannot be expected in a collaborative search for truth; respect, instead, can and must be demanded. Whatever: but the group is an important element in the question of objectivity / truth in hermeneutics / interpretation. I think I remember Ricoeur saying that dialectic is the royal road to truth. Lonergan' functional specialty dialectic is designed to be done in group. That is one emphasis that he can surely bring to the hermeneutics debate.

What was a strange sensation was to find that 'objectivity' and 'truth' was not seen as much of a problem by Keith. In fact, coming to think of it, he never once mentioned historicism during all our discussions, and certainly not in the recorded / live interviews. Yet that was the great problem facing the historicists - especially Dilthey. And that was, according to many, Heidegger's great contribution: the demolition of the problem: don't try to get out of the hermeneutical circle of your historicity, just get into it properly. Which Gadamer put in his famous formulation, that prejudices, far from being hindrances to truth, are the only means we have to truth. Effective history as the only way to truth. And effective history as more being than consciousness - another thing that Keith did not seem to want to emphasize.

So what was the way to truth / objectivity for a Ricoeurian like Keith? Understanding (from Gadamer); explanation (from Ricoeur - basically, use of the 'lower blade' methods such as form and redaction criticism); application (a la Ricoeur - in the more traditional sense of 'application' to some problem, relevance, rather than the "If I cannot apply I do not understand" of Gadamer - if I don't have a question, if the text does not answer my question, there is no understanding at all).

Then again, from Habermas, four aspects: the statement must be understandable (logical criterion of meaningfulness); it must be true (objectivity - a matter of 'explanation'); it must be truthful (I should not want to deceive; I must tell the truth); it must be right (there must be respect; no manipulation).

All fine. I prefer to summarize these in terms of the proximate criterion in grasp of the virtually unconditioned - with the absence of further relevant questions, as well as evidence, as the key moments; and authenticity as the remote criterion, where authenticity is at least triple layered: intellectual / philosophical; moral; religious.

But probably both Keith and I were rather 'uncontroversial'. I wonder what would have happened if the postmodern / deconstructionist questions had really arisen. But then one has to take a stand. Does Derrida proscribe all talk of truth as will to power? One simple tack is to simply disagree.

ACPI Encyclopedia of Philosophy

The ACPI Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2 vols), ed. Johnson J. Puthenpurackal, OFM Cap and George Panthanmackel, MSFS, was released on 23 October 2010 by H.E. Cardinal Telesphore P. Toppo, Archbishop of Ranchi, at Father Agnel School Auditorium, Gautam Nagar, New Delhi, in the presence of a number of dignitaries, including Justice Sree Markandey Katju of the Supreme Court of India, Dr Cyriac Thomas, Member of the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, Dr Maulana Wahiduddin Khan, Islamic Scholar and Padma Bhushan Awardee, Mr John Dayal, Chairperson, Minority Commission of INdia, and Prof. Gracious Thomas, Coordinator, CBCI Chair, IGNOU.

The encyclopedia is the  fruit of the very hard work of the two chief editors, assisted by a board of sectional editors who include Keith D'Souza, SJ, Augustine Thottakara, CMI, Kuruvilla Pandikattu, SJ, Stanislaus Swamikannu, SDB, Vincent Aind, Saju Chackalackal, CMI, and Ivo Coelho, SDB.

The two volume work contains 422 entries, more than 80% of which were contributed by members of the ACPI and staff of various Christian institutions all over the country. Very handsomely brought out by ATC Bangalore, the encyclopedia is a pleasure to the eye.

Among Indian Christian thinkers, the following are included: Swami Abhishiktananda, Robert De Nobili, Richard De Smet, (Mother Teresa), Raimon Panikkar, Brahmabandhav Upadhyaya. Missing: J. Putz, Pierre Johanns, J. Bayart, G. Dandoy, R. Antoine, P. Fallon... the whole 'Calcutta Jesuit School of Indology'. But that is largely my fault: I could not whip up an article in time for the publication, and perhaps the matter was difficult to come by. I am very glad that De Smet and Thomas Stephens (strangely listed under 'T') found their way in, though.

A milestone for the ACPI which was "conceived in 1975 and born in 1976 at Aluva (Kerala)" under the guidance and inspiration of the late Fr Richard De Smet, SJ, and the initiative of Dr Albert Nambiaparambil, CMI.

Our warmest congratulations to Johnson and George, and to the whole ACPI!

For a Divyadaan angle (besides the sectional editors), here is a breakdown:

Joachim [sic] D'Souza: Neo-Scholasticism
Jose Alapurackal: Bhagavad Gita
Nelson Falcao: Stephens, Thomas
Ashley Miranda: Conscience; Duty; Justice
Robert Pen: Communication; Media (in India); Rumour
Ivo Coelho: Analogy; Critical Realism; De Smet, Richard; Foundationalism

For a Salesian angle, besides the above, see:

John Alexander
Thomas Anchukandom
Edwin George
Sahayadas Fernando
Joy Kachapilly
Jose Kuruvachira
Jose Kuttianimattathil
Arnold Mahesh
Jose Maliekal
Joe Mannath
Joe Tony Previnth
Rinoy Joseph
Stanislaus Swamikannu
George Thadathil
Tomy Augustine
Dominic Veliath
Swami Vikrant
Wilson Jose

Violence and its Victims: ACPI vol. 11

The 11th volume of the ACPI proceedings is finally out: Violence and its Victims: A Challenge to Philosophizing in the Indian Context, ed. Ivo Coelho (Bangalore: ATC, 2010). Rs 300.00. 

The book was released together with the ACPI Encyclopedia of Philosophy at a function on 23 October 2010 at New Delhi. 

Wonderful and memorable year for the ACPI. 

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Collected Works of Lonergan in Italian

Information about the Italian Collected Works. 
Lonergan, Bernard J. F.
TitoloOpere di Bernard J. F. Lonergan
PubblicazioneRoma : Città nuova
Descrizione fisicav. ; 22 cm.
Titolo uniformeCollected works of Bernard Lonergan.
Comprende 2: Conoscenza e interiorità
 3: Insight
 5: Comprendere e essere
 10: Sull'educazione
 12: Il metodo in teologia
NomiLonergan, Bernard J. F.
Polo SBN di Cosenza / Biblioteca Nazionale di Cosenza

Lonergan's economics and laissez-faire

“Lonergan found seriously wanting, as universally valid advice, the policy of laissez-faire for government (conventionally linked with the names of Marshall and Walras, even though this may never have been the explicit intention of either) and thrift and enterprise for individuals. For Lonergan this policy was based on assumptions of equilibrium theory that did not integrate a grasp of diverse and highly contingent equilibria appropriate to different phases of an expanding economy. Thus, the presupposition of the automatic movement of the market toward equilibrium tended concretely to result in liberal capitalism’s exploitation and oppression of the workers that Marshall, too, wanted to resolve through economic intelligence. As Lonergan stressed repeatedly, thrift and enterprise are the correct behaviour when an economy is undergoing the vast widening and deepening of capital formation. As soon as capital formation levels off, and a new phase of widening and deepening the standard of living ought to begin, raising workers’ wages and extension of their credit balances, for instance, might be more responsible courses of action than thrift and enterprise.” [Frederick G. Lawrence, Patrick H. Byrne, Charles C. Helfing, Jr., “Editor’s Introduction,” Bernard Lonergan, Macroeconomic Dynamics: An Essay in Circulation Analysis, Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan 15 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1999) xlvii-xlviii.] 

So: not blanket laissez-faire, but: the concrete players in the economy are the individuals; strategic advice is given by the practical economist; the government's role is to lay down the rules of the game, and to make sure they are obeyed. 

The advice recommended: thrift and enterprise during a surplus expansion; benevolence during a basic expansion. An anti-egalitarian distribution of income during a surplus expansion to ensure that the savings rate increases; an egalitarian shift during a basic expansion to ensure that the expansion takes place or continues to take place. 

Again: maximization of profit cannot be the ruling mantra. The anti-egalitarian distribution is valid only for the surplus expansion, and the pure surplus income of the rich is meant not for their own comfort and pleasure, but for reinvestment. This distribution has to come to an end, in favour of a more egalitarian distribution, otherwise the basic expansion will not take off or continue. 

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Lonergan on economics: For a New Political Economy

After having gone through chapters 5-8 of Shute, I felt I had to get some matters clear, especially regarding the trade cycle, so I began dipping into Lonergan himself, For a New Political Economy. Delighted that I am able to more or less keep up with him, and he is certainly much clearer than his interpreters, at least, that is my first impression. But then having read the interpretations is already to be factored into the 'clarity' and 'ease' with which the original is opening up....

I wrote something to Viplav Kambli about a piece on inflation that he sent me yesterday - advice on how to invest at a time when inflation cuts into fixed deposits. He wrote back briefly, and I wrote back trying to outline how Lonergan might understand inflation as not primarily an economic phenomenon, but as a phenomenon linked to the production process. I realized in the course of writing that there is much more that I have to become clear about.

I have to keep in mind, first of all, Lonergan's use of the method of approximation. The pure cycle, with its 3 or 4 phases (capitalist, materialist, cultural, stationary) is a first approximation. The trade cycle is the beginning of a second approximation: what happens when pure surplus income is misunderstood by capitalists, or by governments, or by labour and labour unions. In his economics manuscripts, Lonergan does not go into the third step of the approximation, the step of healing or redemption: that is reserved for his later work, and is necessarily theological in his perspective.

But it is a nice feeling when, going through FNPE, the famous baseball diamond diagram becomes clearer....

One of the questions that I have to tackle: why the theorem of continuity? I think Lonergan says that this theorem is valid, as elaborated in chapter 5, only in the static phase. In chapter 6 he generalizes it. But: what is the point of this theorem?

Another question: why the normative proportion? And what is the significance of the consequences drawn? “It follows that the profit motive is subject to decreasing returns.” [FNPE 54.]

At any rate, Lonergan clearly critiques the profit motive of capitalism: it works very well in the capitalist phase; it works less and less well in the materialist phase when surplus ratio is decreasing; it has no leverage at all in the static phase when S is zero; and it works less well in each successive stage of economic development. [FNPE 56.]

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Arthos' The Inner Word in Gadamer's Hermeneutics

Just received for review John Arthos' The Inner Word in Gadamer’s Hermeneutics (Notre Dame, Ind: University of Notre Dame Press, 2009). Wonderfully brought out, a pleasure to see and feel. As Pradeep Sebastian says: "The book is a physical object. And I see it as a work of art, where binding, typography, edition matter." (The Groaning Shelf, Hachete, cited in Suresh Menon, "A Modest Miracle: The Groaning Shelf is a stylish, cultural landmark communicating one man's passion to a larger audience," The Hindu, Sunday, 3 October 2010, p. 2.)

To his credit, Arthos notes that De natura verbi intellectus is possibly spurious, even though Gadamer regarded it as a genuine work of Aquinas. 

Again, interestingly Lonergan’s Verbum and The Way to Nicea are cited in the Bibliography, though not in the (very short) Index. Fred Lawrence is not, however. 

Pickstock is mentioned in the book (p. ??), though neither in the Bibliography nor in the Index.