Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sri Aurobindo or why you cannot escape (as much as you want) philosophy


By Sri Aurobindo Ghosh 

Aurobindo (1870-1950), perhaps India's foremost "modern" philosopher, wrote profusely on a multitude of topics and themes. His idea of integral nondualism is very attractive and controversial:

Aurobindo holds that reality in its inmost essence is non-dual, non-verbal, and non-conceptual. That is to say, indeterminable and logically indefinable, yet reality is accessible to direct experience on the non-verbal level, to the penetrative insight of spiritual intuition born of the integration of human personality.  Non-dual reality is beyond the scope of categories including that of number (?). Strictly speaking, monism, unitarianism, trinitarianism, pluralism, etc., are just different human ways of intellectual comprehension of the various aspects of reality. Caveat: Is Aurobindo's own nondual integral philosophy not just another way?

For Aurobindo, even monism (which utters a profound truth in proclaiming the fundamental unity of existence) commits the rationalistic fallacy of identifying reality with a conceptually formulated principle or intellectual scheme. Monism interprets the essence of reality in terms of the concept of the One, a determinate logical or dialectical structure, or a sum of well-defined powers and qualities.

Nondualism is opposed to such identification of reality with a determinate principle of unity. Either the conceptually formulated One as "infinite substance" of Spinoza  (scroll down for the definition), or the absolute idea of Hegel, represents only a particular metaphysical standpoint, a specific rationalistic way --one among many ways-- of comprehending the nature of reality. According to nondualism (advaita), reality is beyond one and many, beyond substance and quality, beyond cause and effect, and beyond any rigidly conceived thought structure. So, reality is not to be equated with any conceptual formulation or logical construction, or system of words and symbols.

The problem is how do you avoid categorization? Aurobindo seems not to see that identification or miss-identification is a necessary condition of any  worldmaking. What do you think?