- Advaita Epistemology and Metaphysics: An Outline of Indian Non-Realism
Chakrabarthi Ram-Prasad deserves praise for Advaita Epistemology and Metaphysics: An Outline of Indian Non-Realism, a book on the core area of Advaita Vedānta philosophy, written in an analytical and comparative style, choosing contemporary Western philosophy as his canvas. George Thibaut's translations of Vedānta commentaries were supplemented by the writings of Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and others, who followed the style of history of philosophy in their works. But the brand of Western philosophy that served as the background for them was perhaps limited to Hegelian and Neo-Hegelian philosophy. Many later philosophers, notably Krish-nachandra Bhattacharya, Rashbihary Das, G. R. Malkani, T.R.V. Murti, and T.M.P. Mahadevan, followed an interpretive style in their writings on Vedānta, mostly confining themselves to systems of Indian philosophy. After India achieved independence, a new era began for analytical research in Indian philosophy, led by Daniel Ingalls, J. N. Mohanty, Bimal Krishna Matilal, and Arindam Chakrabarti, although their work is mostly confined to Nyāya, Buddhism, and Vedānta. Following their model many others in India and abroad have been doing important work mainly in the areas of Nyāya and Buddhism but rarely in Vedānta. The credit goes to Chakra-barthi Ram-Prasad to have been able to produce a full-length book on Advaita Vedānta written in a thoroughly analytical style that transcends geographical barriers in philosophy.
The book contains an Introduction and four sections. In the Introduction we get an idea of the project Ram-Prasad has undertaken. By "Advaita" he means the philosophy that Ś an.kara argues for in his commentaries on various Upaniṣads and on Bādarāyaṇa's Vedāntasūtras. It is not Ram-Prasad's aim to give an exposition of this philosophy in the style of historicist-philological exegesis, but rather to give an innovative reconstruction of Advaita on the basis of the views of three philosophers of the school interpreted in the light of the views of prominent philosophers of the West, although the book is firmly anchored in the Indian tradition. A distinction is made in Advaita between soteriology and philosophy. The Upaniṣads declare that brahman is the ultimate reality. Brahman is, however, identical with ātman, and ātman is again identical with ji¯va. That there is a self cannot be denied, for one who denies is the self itself. This self is undeniable because it is reflexive in nature. Self, understood in this sense, is identical with brahman. ji¯va, which is conceived as suffering consciousness, is only a particular exemplification of this brahman-ātman. Every ji¯va is thus individuated ātman. The goal of liberation for an individual is nothing other than the attainment of the de-individuated state. Not only ji¯va but also the [End Page 264] world, according to Advaita, is ultimately brahman, although the world is independent of ji¯va and its cognitional states. The de-individuation of ji¯va and the reducibility of the world to brahman do not get ready acceptance in human consciousness. On the matter of such a realization, s´ravaṇa or teachings from the texts stand in need of aid from manana or philosophical reflection. Ram-Prasad has argued for a philosophy of Advaita that is not incompatible with its soteriological goal, although his interest in developing this philosophy is autonomous in character.
Ram-Prasad calls the brand of philosophy that he develops in this book "non-realism." It holds that the object of experience is not what it appears to be. The object appears in experience as an "other" to cognition. According to realism, the object is really so and is elementary to reality. But according to anti-realism the object is not elementary and is reducible to cognition and hence is only a construct. Advaita metaphysics is neither realistic nor anti-realistic. Ram-Prasad argues for this philosophical position on the basis of his interpretation of some leading philosophers of...