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Is Space Created?: Reflections on Śaṇkara's Philosophy and Philosophy of Physics

From: Philosophy East and West
Volume 60, Number 4, October 2010
pp. 517-533 | 10.1353/pew.2010.0003



Here the concept of "space" is discussed from two different streams of thought: (1) the view held by Advaita Vedānta, as expounded by Śaṇkara, and (2) the view that emerges from the ongoing debates in modern philosophy of physics. The emphasis is on addressing the following question: is space created or not? To set the necessary backdrop for a better appreciation of the debate that evolved within the Indian tradition, we first examine how the Vaiśeṣika and Sāṃkhya schools of thought unfold the concept of ākāśa in relation to their metaphysics. We then carefully analyze a section of Śaṇkara's Brahmasūtrabhāṣya (BSB II.3.1–7), wherein the creation of ākāśa is discussed at great length. The second part of this essay attempts to highlight the ongoing struggle among physicists to arrive at an understanding of the nature and origin of space, with reference to the general theory of relativity and quantum field theory. It ends with a critical reflection on parallels and differences that come forth from the study of Advaita Vedānta and modern physics.

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