G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

H. P. Lovecraft: "What a man does for pay is of little significance. What he is, as a sensitive instrument responsive to the world's beauty, is everything!"

Werner Herzog: “We are surrounded by worn-out, banal, useless and exhausted images, limping and dragging themselves behind the rest of our cultural evolution.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

Monday, May 30, 2011

Tabula Rasa: Dnyaneshwar, Chales Addams, Hindi films

Steven Pinker's "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature" is my favourite book.

It's a spirited attack on "tabula rasa" models of the social sciences.

Tabula rasa is the epistemological theory that individuals are born without built-in mental content and that their knowledge comes from experience and perception.

Are individuals borne without built-in mental content?

Read Dnyaneshwar (ज्ञानेश्वर) on the subject.

"जे विवेकग्रामींचां मुळीं । बैसले आहाति नित्य फळीं । तया योगियांचिया कुळीं । जन्म पावे ॥ ४५१ ॥

मोटकी देहाकृती उमटे । आणि निजज्ञानाची पाहांट फुटे । सूर्यापुढें प्रगटे । प्रकाशु जैसा ॥ ४५२ ॥

तैसी दशेची वाट न पहातां । वयसेचिया गांवा न येतां । बाळपणींच सर्वज्ञता । वरी तयातें ॥ ४५३ ॥

तिये सिद्धप्रज्ञेचेनि लाभें । मनचि सारस्वतें दुभे । मग सकळ शास्त्रे स्वयंभें । निघती मुखें ॥ ४५४ ॥

ऐसें जे जन्म । जयालागीं देव सकाम । स्वर्गीं ठेले जप होम । करिती सदा ॥ ४५५ ॥

अमरीं भाट होईजे । मग मृत्युलोकातें वानिजे । ऐसें जन्म पार्था गा जे । तें तो पावे ॥ ४५६ ॥

आणि मागील जे सद्बुद्धि जेथ जीवित्वा जाहाली होती अवधि । मग तेचि पुढती निरवधि । नवी लाहे ॥ ४५७ ॥

तेथ सदैवा आणि पायाळा । वरि दिव्यांजन होय डोळां । मग देखे जैसीं अवलीळा । पाताळधनें ॥ ४५८ ॥

तैसें दुर्भेद जे अभिप्राय । कां गुरुगम्य हन ठाय । तेथ सौरसेंवीण जाय । बुद्धी तयाची ॥ ४५९ ॥"

("Just as light spreads out all around before the rise of the sun, so ominiscience weds him in his childhood without waiting for him to become a youth. Then the intelligence and all the lores acquired in the previous birth attend upon him and all the scriptures issue from his mouth. This yogi takes birth in such a noble family. destring which the denizens of heaven murrer prayers, perform sacrifices (451-455) and sing praises of this mortal world like bards,

Then he acquires the wisdom which he had attained at the end of his previous birth. Just as a fortunate person born with the lags foremost is able to discover, by applying antimony to his eyes, and underground treasure, in the same way his intellect is able to grasp abstruse philosophical doctrines without receiving insttruction of a teacher.")

Now, one mayn't believe in rebirth. But there is no denying "the intelligence, all the lores, the wisdom" one is borne with.

Clearly Dnyaneshwar rejects Tabula Rasa.


"Pinker argues that modern science has challenged three "linked dogmas" that constitute the dominant view of human nature in intellectual life:

* the blank slate (the mind has no innate traits) — empiricism
* the noble savage (people are born good and corrupted by society) — romanticism
* the ghost in the machine (each of us has a soul that makes choices free from biology)[1] — mind/body dualism"

Hindi cinema has often- almost every second movie- tackled themes related to 'tabula rasa'...Birth, bringing up, twins/siblings separated at birth...

Look at the picture below.

Straight out of Hindi film's plot? Mallifert twins, after separating at birth, accidentally meet at Patent Attorney's office.

Look at what they have brought along. The same product!

(I can imagine what they will do next. Embrace each other crying and singing a song- "Yaadon Ki Baaraat Nikali Hai Aaj Dil Ke Dwaare. Dil ke dwaare...")

Artist: Chales Addams, The New Yorker, May 4 1981