Last Edited: Thursday, April 05, 2007 03:45 PM -0500 /  Last Updated: Thursday, April 05, 2007 03:45 PM -0500

[This 'guest-room' was launched on 9th Jan 2004 to provide an autonomous space for Joe to make available not only his own rapidly growing collection of essays but also his sustained dialogues (suitably edited for this homepage) with interlocutors at various other forums devoted to Western Philosophy. Wherever relevant, background notes on the featured interlocutors and on the specific article have also been provided. You may find additional personal details, where relevant, in the provided links to the svAbhinava Friends homepage. Joe may have also added his own, hopefully measured, comments on the main argument. The first personal pronoun 'I' refers henceforth to Joseph Martin - Sunthar]


Mediating the opposites - East Meets West: Philosophy as Cultural Critique & Remedial Dialogue

Historicism - East and West (Problematizing God's interventions in History)

Buddha, Shankara & Abhinavagupta: is there a 'logic' to evolution of Indian philosophy

This thread begins with Sunthar�s intervention on 15 Dec. 2001 in an ongoing controversy at the Indic Traditions list as to whether ancient Indian civilization was �world-negating�, followed by another intervention on 21 Jan 2002 in a subsequent debate over whether it is �tolerant�. Though there were many participants representing various positions and individual nuances, the technical nature of some of the considerations introduced resulted in their being transformed into a sustained exchange between Nanda Kumar and Sunthar. It expanded rapidly to cover other specifically doctrinal issues that raised fundamental questions that need to be satisfactorily answered regarding the purpose, nature, scope and evolution of Indian philosophy. This is why these separate though intertwining threads below have been consolidated in the chronological sequence of the posts into a single dialogue.

What is 'rationality'? primitivism, philosophy and semiotics (2001)

"Sparked of by my inadvertent use of the term 'pre-rational' (within 'square quotes') to describe certain key aspects of Hindu tradition, this thread�with the participation of Rajiv Malhotra, Sangeetha Menon, Don Salmon and Matthijs Cornelissen�provided the occasion to 'unpack' many of the presuppositions and prejudices hiding within the term 'reason'. Rehabilitating the 'primitive' mythico-ritual mode of apprehending the world within philosophical discourse itself, by resorting to semiotic, is crucial for a full appreciation of Abhinava's thought. I have followed up with numerous posts on deciphering the iconography of Ganesha, etc., that have been the object of bitter controversy largely on account of such misunderstanding."

Catherine Chalier

[Catherine was 'transferred' here from the Friends of the Visuvalingams page on 09 Jan 04]

 Christian Bouchet

[Christian was 'transferred' here from the Friends of the Visuvalingams page on 18 Jan 04]

With a French 'aggregation' (competitive exam qualifying him to teach in the university), Dr. Christian M. Bouchet has been working for the last 20 years on the lucid dream to which had devoted his state thesis (1994), which he completed under the direction of Prof. Michel Hulin, who taught Indian and Comparative Philosophy at the Sorbonne. To complete this research, he devised in the 1980s methods of inducing oneiric lucidity that have allowed him to train, in a sustained manner, a hundred or so individuals in the practice of lucid dreaming. Nietzsche's 3 deadly truths - the sovereignty of becoming; the fluidity of all concepts, types, and kinds; and the lack of any cardinal difference between man and animal - has fostered the notion of an 'esotericism' predicated on an underlying 'nihilism' that would have been knowingly disguised and suppressed by the ancient (pre-Enlightenment) philosophers beginning with Plato. Such a 'transgressive' understanding of (not just social) order in Eastern religious thought was however typically orientated towards a supra-human 'transcendence'. By attempting to restitute the claims of an underlying autonomous consciousness within (post-Enlightenment) Western psychology, Christian's researches into and theorization of the 'lucid' dream holds the promise of a middle ground for a fruitful encounter between the seemingly opposing perspectives.

Edward Moore

Edward studied philosophy at New York University and (orthodox) theology at Columbia University before beginning his doctoral program at St. Elias School of Orthodox Theology. He is a scholar of Late Hellenistic Philosophy, and has published and lectured widely on topics and figures such as Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Origen of Alexandria, Plotinus, and St. Maximus Confessor. Edward also serves as Area Editor of Late Hellenistic Philosophy for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and is an active member of the International Society for Neoplatonic Studies. In mid-August 2004, he successfully defended his dissertation, "Origen of Alexandria and St. Maximus Confessor: A Critical Comparison of their Eschatological Doctrines," upon which he was invited to accept the position of Dean of Faculty at the Philosophy Department of the Seminary, which has since been published in 2005.

Edward Moore and I met on the �ontologicalethics� Yahoo group (where I also met Sunthar and Gary Moore). The discussions here were, for the most part, a cut (perhaps 2 cuts and a half!) above the discussions on almost all other Yahoo philosophy lists. What attracted me to Edward, besides his obvious intelligence, was his interest in the metaphysical esoteric (esoteric Christianity and Neo-Platonism) and his seeming attempt to understand the Christian God as a �god that dances� as Nietzsche would have said. This �dancing god� of Edwards, of course, may only be a hallucination on my part and he may well disown it. [Joseph Martin]

"The revision of Origen's philosophical theology by St. Maximus the Confessor resulted in an eschatology involving the replacement of the human ego by the divine presence. In this study, I will examine the theological developments that led to this loss of a sense of human freedom and creativity in the face of the divine, tracing the influence of Origen's eschatology through the Cappadocian Fathers, Evagrius Ponticus and others, up to Maximus. This will allow me to show the manner in which Origen's humanistic theology was misunderstood and misinterpreted throughout the Patristic era, culminating in the anti-personalistic system of Maximus. Special attention will be paid to the development of Christian Neoplatonism, and how Christian contacts with the pagan philosophical schools came to have a profound effect on Eastern Patristic theology and philosophy. The final section of this study will suggest some ways in which the history of Patristic eschatology - especially Origen and Maximus - may serve as a fruitful source for contemporary theologians who are concerned with issues of personhood, creativity, and existential authenticity." [Editorial Blurb at]

Jonathan Garb

[Jonathan was 'transferred' here from the Friends of the Visuvalingams page on 09 Jan 04]

Joseph Martin

My interest in philosophy has always swirled around the questions:  what does philosophy do? What are its effects on its readers, on the culture in which those readers live? To get to the bottom of this, I did a close reading of Beyond Good and Evil on my Nietzsche Yahoo! list. I am very interested in Plato, Machiavelli and Nietzsche. I am also interested in all of the philosophers from Parmenides to Leo Strauss. It is just that, whoever I read, I always find myself returning to those three. I am also very interested in the crisis of modernity, the crisis of nihilism. The way out of this nihilism is not initially belief, all belief will be gobbled up by the ever-spreading nihilism, but rather the way out is to make nihilism devour itself. In a sense this is what I understand Nietzsche to be doing. There is no going back, there is no going around, we can only go through it. On the other side of nihilism, there and only there, we will find another belief.

Mohammad-Réza Fashahi

[Mohammad was 'transferred' here from the Friends of the Visuvalingams page on 12 Jan 04]

"Born in 1945 in Tehran, the son of an editor and autodidact theologian, whose faith was more important than his own son, I was brought up amidst Koranic verses that I learnt by heart and the theological discourses of my father who translated, prefaced and published the works of great Shiite thinkers (masters) such as Sadough, Hilli and Fayz K�ch�ni. The year 1960 was a decisive year in my life. Kennedy was elected President of the United States and the silence that reigned in Iran since the coup d'�tat of 1953 was broken and liberal opposition parties began their semi-clandestine activity. It was from this epoch that I was confronted with the first philosophical, sociological and political questions: What is power? What is the Scientific Revolution? Why are there triumphant and vanquished peoples? What is liberty? Why is the third world plunged in intellectual and economic misery, etc. Some years later, I discovered new horizons: Machiavelli, Locke, Rousseau, Comte, Darwin, Marx, Freud, Spencer, Einstein, Lenin, Russell, Sartre, whereas I had settled my accounts with neither Zarathustra nor with Avicenna. In me, intellectual and political militantism were confounded. In 1968, at the initiative of Al-e Ahmad and B�h�zine, the 'Association of Iranian Writers' was created. It was considered a subversive and illegal organization by the courtesans of the monarch. If I'm not mistaken, I was one of the youngest, if not the youngest of the founder-members of this association. But I was always in search of answers to the philosophical questions posed. I published everywhere. In the liberal weekly Ferdoussi, in the liberal magazine N�guine, in the leftist magazines like Tch�p�r and Sahar, the editor of which was the young poet Gol�sorkhi and finally in the magazine Djongu� Esf�h�n published by the partisans of Sartre. Another important point: despite my attachment to philosophy, I could not rid myself of literature and sociology. In me, the poetical, the philosophical and the sociological were one: from Sophocles to Stendhal, Melville, Tolstoy, Ibsen, Blake, Yeats, through Marx, Nietzsche, Unamuno, Bergson, Gurvitch and Althusser, not forgetting contemporary thinkers of the third world." [pp.12-13] [p.14>] "While I searched for satisfactory answers across philosophical, literary and sociological works to fundamental philosophical questions [p.15>] such as being, liberty, the meaning of history, progress, knowledge, etc., I progressively had the feeling that the Koranic revelation and Greek reason were incompatible, finding themselves on opposite poles. On the other hand, I had the feeling that there ought to be a direct relation between the defeat of philosophy in the East, philosophy in the Greek sense, and Eastern theocracy (theocratic despotism in China, theocratic aristocracy in India, theocratic monarchy in Persia and the theocracy of the Semitic peoples). This feeling appeared in me at the beginning of 70's, developed and gradually became a certitude. But the proofs that would demonstrate this idea could be brought together only through a comparative study of Western and Eastern, and in particular Islamic, thought. In other words, to understand Avicenna and Averroes was impossible without understanding Aristotle, Plato and Thomas Aquinas. The Songs of Zarathustra were not only the starting point for my researches in philosophy, but also the title of the first chapter of my first published work: Intellectual and social development in Iran. I was aware of the importance of the Avesta regarding the passage from the nomadic to the urban mode of life, that is to say, the passage from an archaic conception of the world to the discovery of the 'supreme principle' as Hegel said. My aim was to try and bring to light the weaknesses and strengths of this heritage." Aristotle of Baghdad: from Greek Reason to Koranic Revelation (Paris: L'Harmattan, 1995; ISBN: 2-7384-3738-9), translated by Sunthar V.

Nandakumar Chandran

Sumi Sivaratnam

SUMI (Sunthar's niece) left Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) to resettle in Australia. She completed her doctorate in the classics on Plotinus in June 2004 and obtained her degree in October of the same year. She has taught Sanskrit and enjoys playing the sitar. The following 2 articles were published in Dirk Baltzly, Douglas Blyth and Harold Tarrant, eds., Power and Pleasure, Virtues and Vices (Prudentia, Supplement 2001, ISBN: 0-9582211-5-4).

Sunthar Visuvalingam

Sunthar settled in in Benares in 1972 with the intention of studying Indian philosophy and religion,  particularly Ved�nta, from a traditional perspective. However, he has always retained his interest in Western philosophy that he also took for his BA at the Banaras Hindu University. His interests expanded to psychology, aesthetics, anthropology and semiotics, and these investigations converged on his doctorate on Abhinavagupta's Conception of Humor (1983). His primary motivation in 'philosophizing' since has been to rethink Indian traditions in the context of contemporary knowledge and civilizational impasse through the prism of Abhinava's legacy in the domains of religion, philosophy and the performing arts.