Re: Translations, Or Travesty of Traditions?
- Dear Jayant,
Your posts are beginning to worry me: not because of their barely
concealed barbs or the thinly disguised sarcasms, which might or might
not be read into your postings, but because of where you think that my
research group is heading or ought to head towards. Since it is
possible that others might think the same way you do, a restatement of
our purpose appears to have become necessary.
1. The basic goal of my research and my research group is to lay the
foundations for the sciences of the social. Anything else that we
might or might not to do en route to this destination is not only
secondary but also strictly subordinated to this goal.
2. Our choice of questions for research is determined predominantly by
the progress of the research itself. Other questions are taken up only
3. To the extent me and my research group are involved in society, it
is driven by both the nature of our research and our engagement to
goals which transcend personal ambitions and career-oriented choices.
4. Even here, our primary focus is India. The NRIs in the United
States are of secondary (or even tertiary) significance to us. You
seem to read too much into the importance of the Princeton workshop,
which you so kindly organized, and into Jakob's current visit to the
United States. We are not doing what you call an "outreach" in the US,
anymore than we are recruiting people or raising finances for our
long-term goals there.
5. While willing to share the results of our research with anybody who
is interested in our research, neither their form nor their content is
determined by contingent social and cultural circumstances like the
positions of the NRI parents in the US or the problems of the second
or the third generation children there. I am glad to notice that I am
currently where the NRI parents were some 15 years ago but I notice
too that these two journeys have differential impacts on our knowledge
of culture and human beings. I prefer my way of working to those of
the NRI parents because mine leads to hypothesis, testing and theory
formation. Outside of lamentations, I hear no other substantial echoes
from the travails of the NRI parents.
6. Where our research questions touch the concerns of the NRIs
tangentially or coincide with their own experienced problems, there we
are willing to pause and think along. While such attitudes express
more than mere human decency, they definitely does not define our
interests as though it involves becoming some kind of think-tank that
makes policy recommendations to the harried NRI parents about their
second or third generation children. They have survived fine without
us so far and I am sure they will continue to do the same in the future.
7. These and similar cognitive attitudes define our participation on
this forum, which Arun Gupta so thoughtfully set up sometime ago whom
I have never had the good fortune of meeting. We are neither out to
score "intellectual points" nor to "win people over" (as you more or
less phrased it). I leave all discussions about `how to win friends
and influence people' to those more competent than I am in these
matters and to those to whom such things matter. They matter not a
whit either to me or to my research group: we will defend our
theoretical stances reasonably, cogently and with intellectual honesty
and passion. Truth about the world matters to us; in fact, it matters
more than anything else. Everything else is strictly secondary to this
8. While you are free to write whatever you feel like writing, I would
suggest that you keep the above points in mind when you post, if you
want me or my research group to respond to your postings in the
future. I do not mind having coffee-shop talk every now and then with
people; but I have neither the inclination nor the patience to do
nothing else but have coffee-shop rows with people.
> Does it require a theory that describes both fish and mammals and theDifferences, and similarities, between two entities do not settle
> differences between them?
whether these two entities are of the same structure or not. For
instance, Christianity and Islam are different: are they religions?
Christianity and Judaism are similar in some ways: are they religions?
You cannot answer these questions by endlessly describing these
entities or by describing the differences between them.
The interesting question: how some entity is different from all other.
One, and the only, way of answering this question is: to find a set of
differences between this entity and all other kinds--from toilet paper
to nail polish via apples. This set of differences determine the
structure of that entity. Then, you can claim, my hypothesis about the
structure of that entity is "one that has this set of differential
markers." This hypothesis does not automatically become a theory,
because one has to show how this hypothesis about the structure solves
some interesting cognitive problems. After solving them, they lead to
different set of problems, in the process of solving which, one put
forward additional hypotheses, so on and so forth.
> If yes, is a theory required to describeOne can put forward a hypothesis about what makes Indian culture
> both religion and non-religion cultures? - a theory that describes how
> different kinds of cultures emerge and change?
different from the Western one. If one can solve cognitive problems
using this hypothesis, we can claim that "this" theory has solved this
problems, and has generated another set of problems. These problems
and solutions to them circumscribe what a theory does; after all, this
can be told only after one has solved some problems.
> Is that what wasOne does not need a theory to criticize a theory not in the sense that
> proposed as a starting point in the Heathen, Chapter 11? And is that
> what is required to be able to critique Hawley / Narayanan etc? -
> without which a sustained criticism cannot be mounted?
criticism is disagreement, but in the sense that either such a theory
has anomalies--both empirical and theoretical or such a theory answers
ill-formed questions, or such a theory explains false explananda, and
The only way to replace a theory is to put forward an alternative
theory that does better than the one it replaces.
You can read Hawley and Narayan's book, find what they presuppose,
what they assume, whether their assumptions are true, or whether their
assumptions are derived from a theory whose truth-value is
questionable, or whether they have explained in non adhoc fashion the
facts they purport to explain. More importanly, Hinduism is a
theoretical entity, the way Princeton University is. You do not see a
university: you see a bunch of buildings, streets, people roaming on
the streets. Same with Hinduism: one doesn't see a Hinduism, but
selects some phenomena(facts) as being manifestations of this entity.
Follow these steps, you can become a better reviewer, instead of
citing 'sources' that disagree with Hawley's position: that is,
evaluate whether they produced knowledge, instead of whether their
claims are consistent with your beliefs, and so on.