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August 2020

Update Alex Watson

Here is an update from Alex Watson (currently on leave). Though COVID upended some of his planned research activities, he also has some good news to share!

Conferences and Workshops during COVID

I was supposed to be attending six conferences/workshops this year (in Thailand, Vienna, Boston, Canberra and two in Korea). Owing to corona virus, 3 of these were postponed by 12 months, 2 switched to online, and a decision about the final one is pending. The first online one took place at the end of March and beginning of April. This was an annual Sanskrit reading workshop, in which scholars from around the world come together in the Thailand to read texts of Buddhist Philosophy. If it had taken place in Thailand, as usual, it would have lasted 10 days. Since participants were stuck at home this year, with few other commitments, we were able to keep reading for 3 weeks. As the corona news got worse and worse each day, our daily Sanskrit reading sessions, during which we never discussed covid, felt rather like the orchestra playing as the Titanic sank!

With the help of one of the leading Sanskrit scholars in the world, Professor Harunaga Isaacson of the University of Hamburg, I led participants through a section of the Nyāyamañjarī (‘Blossoms of Reasoning’, c. 890 CE) concerned with the question of whether our perceptual experience of the world weighs in favour of, or against, the Buddhist view that everything we experience is momentary.

Paper on Mīmāṃsā accepted for publication

I just had an article accepted by the Journal of Indian Philosophy, entitled ‘Four Mīmāṃsā Views Concerning the Self’s Perception of Itself’.  Though I am not primarily a scholar of Mīmāṃsā, I have been working on editing and translating a Nyāya text in which four different theories are given concerning what is happening when the self perceives itself.  They are not attributed to named opponents in the Nyāya text, but I found evidence enabling me to identify the proponents of all four, namely the Vṛttikāra, Kumārila, Umbeka and Prabhākara: all Mīmāṃsā authors.  It has not yet been noted by scholars of Mīmāṃsā that this tradition had four different models of self-perception, so the article outlines the four, clarifies the differences between them, discerns the historical and logical relationships between them, and hypothesizes pressures that constituted the need for the creation of the newer models, i.e. perceived problems with the earlier models, which the proponents of the newer models saw themselves as overcoming.

Update Kranti Saran

I have had a busy and productive Spring semester and summer. In January I gave an invited lecture sponsored by the Indian Council for Philosophical Research at the Indraprastha College for Women; in February I gave a paper at Ashoka’s conference on Prof. Anil Gupta’s magisterial “Conscious Experience” (organised by Prof. Rosenhagen) arguing for the merits of a philosophical position Gupta overlooks. Then the pandemic struck (but not because of the conference!). I gave two general audience webinars in April and June which you can view here and here and I’ve spent the summer writing up the second of those talks into a paper, which I will complete before the semester begins.

Update from Raja Rosenhagen

Together with two colleagues–Rachel Fedock, who is a Senior Lecturer and Honors Faculty Fellow at Barrett, The Honors College in Arizona, and Michael Kühler, Assistant Professor at the University of Twente, Netherlands, and “Privatdozent” (roughly equaling Associate Professor) at the University of Münster, Germany–Professor Raja is co-editing an anthology entitled “Love, Justice, and Autonomy: Philosophical Perspectives.”

The plan to co-edit a book on this topic had grown out of a joint panel the three organized at the SEP-FEP Joint Annual Philosophy conference, held in August 2016 at Regents University in London, and it is now finally coming to fruition. The anthology will be published with Routledge. In the first week of August, all the contributions were sent to the publisher and it is now only a matter of time for it to come out. The penultimate version of Professor Raja’s own contribution can be found here.

July 2020

left: profile pic; right: Professor Snyder during his departmental talk on “A New Puzzle Concerning the Acquisition of Number Concepts” last year.

This Monsoon semester, Eric Snyder joins the Department as an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Ashoka University. He earned his Ph.D. at Ohio State University. Before coming to Ashoka, he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy at LMU. His primary interests intersect the Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Mathematics, Linguistic Semantics, Logic, and Philosophy of Mind. He is currently involved in three book projects, one concerning the meanings of number words and their implications for the Philosophy of Mathematics, one with Richard Samuels and Stewart Shapiro concerning the nature and content of number concepts, and another with Stewart Shapiro concerning plurals and paradox in natural language. A common theme in all of these projects is how our best empirical science, especially linguistic semantics and cognitive science, may fruitfully inform questions of central philosophical interest.

Welcome, Professor Snyder – we are excited to have you!

Professor Dixon returns! 

Our faculty member Scott Dixon, after having spent two years in Hamburg, Germany, will return in the Monsoon semester. He will hit the ground running, teach Metaphysics and the FC Mind and Behavior in the Monsoon, Philosophy of Science and Topics in Advanced Metaphysics  in the Spring. Here is what he has been up to:

“I’ve been a Kit Fine Fellow at the University of Hamburg for the last two years, thinking mainly about issues related to grounding (metaphysical explanation), mereology (parthood), and the nature of properties, relations, propositions, facts, and states of affairs. It was great getting to know everybody there, and receiving their excellent feedback on my work. I also wrote up the entry on David Lewis for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy during my time in Hamburg. You can check it here. Excited to be back!”

Professor Dixon

Welcome back home, Professor Dixon!

Summer teaching

The Summer Term 2020 starts on July 6th. In it, two faculty members from the Philosophy Department will offer one course each:

Aditi Chaturvedi will offer the FC Mind and Behavior, her TF is Abbas Bagwala (see here). 

Here is her course description:

The idea of a human nature is an extremely powerful one but what we mean by ‘human nature’ often passes unanalysed. In this course we will study a range of contemporary philosophical debates around the idea of human nature. We will look at debates in a range of fields including political science, anthropology, biology, psychology, medicine, and robotics. Some of the questions we will consider:

  1. Is there such a thing as ‘human nature’ or is it a social construct?
  2. What is the role of the idea of human nature in political discourse?
  3. Does biology give us grounds for believing in a universal human nature? Does anthropology?
  4. Is there a single, universal human nature or are there many human natures?
  5. What role does the notion of ‘normality’ play in discussions of human nature?
  6. What role do race and gender play in discussions of human nature?
  7. What distinguishes human animals from non-human animals and robots? What are the ethical implications of this purported distinction?

“Covid-19 has thrown all kinds of challenges our way, but some of these challenges can also allow us to grow as educators. Teaching an asynchronous class this summer promises to be an pedagogical adventure – it’s uncharted territory, but that makes it all the more exciting! I’m also hoping to use some of these techniques in flipped classrooms whenever facs-to-face classes resume.” 

Professor Chaturvedi

Professor Raja is teaching PHI-2715 Philosophy of Love, with Reetika Kalita as TF and Aadya Singh as UGTA (see here).

Here is his course description: 

This course is taught asynchronously on Canvas. We will meet via Zoom during the assigned slots, but attending these meetings is not mandatory (they will be recorded and will be very useful to watch, however). All the material will be on Canvas and your tasks will be to engage in discussion on graded discussion boards, to submit weekly reflection pieces, to take weekly quizzes, and to work on a creative project

We will read some Western texts on love and friendship with a smattering of Eastern sources. Examples are Plato, Aristotle, Simone Weil, Iris Murdoch, Troy Jollimore, Arina Pismenny, Jesse Prinz, and a number of other contemporary authors (Eastern sources are being sourced still, but there are a number of interesting candidates – from material on Chinese Philosophy, via Śāntarakṣita, to Ranganathan on Love and कुछ कुछ होता है [Kuchh Kuchh Hota Hai]). The stimulus material gathered includes of course readings, but also documentaries, podcasts, interviews, radio features, and short films [in EnglishHindi, and Telugu (subtitled, of course)].

We will think about what love and friendship are, what their value for us is, how our perspective changes if we follow Iris Murdoch and Simone Weil in taking seriously the thought that love, that extraordinarily difficult realisation that something other than oneself is real, is (or involves) just attention, about whether love is really an emotion or rather something else, and how love relates to reasons (“Do we have reasons for love?” – “Does love provide its own reasons?” – “If so, what kind of reasons? Does “Why do you love me?” have a good answer?).

“The course on Love and Friendship I taught for the YIF in May/June was so much fun – the TFs and I thoroughly enjoyed it! We will try to make this one, which has some overlap, even more fun – and more accessible also. Much looking forward to this course and am very excited to see that about 50 students from various departments signed up for it!”

Professor Raja

June 2020

Professor Martin becomes Mentor for ALMA MAG

Professor Clancy just joined ALMA MAGAZINE, alumnus Yuvraj Nathani’s linkedIn Magazine as a Mentor. Congrats to Professor Clancy and to our almunus Yuvraj Nathani on  doing exciting work in the area of online publishing!

Here is the link to the linkedIn post and here the lovely picture that went with the announcement. 

May 2020

YIF Teaching

Professor Raja will be teaching a course on Love and Friendship this month to the YIF Fellows, for whom this will be their last term. Reetika Kalita and Aadya Singh (see here) will support him as his TFs. Here is the …

Course Description:

In this course, we will look at approaches to love and friendship both in philosophical texts and in various forms of artistic expression. As we do, we ask: What is love? What is (true) friendship? Should love and friendship be important to us? What are they good for? Are there reasons for love, are we obligated to love anyone, and does love create special obligations?

This course will be conducted online and asynchronously on Canvas. This means that for the most part, instructor, TAs and students don’t get together at the same time. That does not mean that we don’t interact. Quite the opposite, we will have online discussions in which we discuss readings, short films, and present and evaluate creative projects. Some room for face-to-face conversations via Zoom or Google Meet during part of the time-slot allotted to the class will be provided as well.

Course Objectives

  • learn about a selection of classical philosophical approaches to love and friendship
  • reflect on the nature of love and friendship and their importance
  • reflect on the normative characteristics of love
  • hone constructive discussion and peer-review skills
  • connect and bring to bear creative skills on class material

March and April 2020

YIF Teaching

Professor Clancy is teaching a class on Morality and the Good Life in the 7th Term of the YIF, with Reetika Kalita as TF (see here).

The course starts March 30th and ends mid-May.

Here is the course description: 

In this course we will briefly survey the history of moral philosophy as it has developed in the Western tradition, with some reference to the Confucian and Buddhist traditions. Moral philosophy as we will study it is about three thousand years old, and every discipline you can think of—physics, psychology, biology, political science, economics, mathematics, etc. – began as a subset of philosophy more broadly. As recently as the nineteenth century most academic disciplines were still studied in philosophy departments—that’s why a Ph.D. is a “doctor of philosophy” – and most of the early pioneers in philosophy discovered or invented such basic principles and techniques as the scientific method, calculus, close observation as a method of knowing, that all human beings should be treated as equals, and many others.

Philosophers ask all sorts of questions. We will be studying the history of some of those questions—and some of the answers and attempted answers. What is the good and goodness? Is there such a thing as objective morality, or is morality just the sort of thing we all agree about? Do we know ourselves? What makes a true belief true? Is killing animals wrong? Why or why not? What about killing people? What makes a professional life a good life? What is the meaning of life, anyway? Most of our questions will focus on the nature of living a good life, and finding meaning in one’s personal and professional life. Our class discussions will include both discussion of the readings and what members of the class have learned in their own lives about moral quandaries and how to recognize and to solve (or partially resolve) those quandaries.

We will be spending a lot of time talking and thinking about ethical problems, and especially those ethical problems that have occurred or may yet occur in our professional lives. This course will use our discussions and examinations of ethical issues and theories as a way of helping you to think about philosophical problems and philosophical methods more generally.

“The YIFs are fantastic! Nothing like teaching ethics to a bunch of young professionals who bring their dilemmas, their experience and their expertise to the classroom.”

Professor Clancy

Professor Niko Strobach from WWU Münster, Germany, visits Ashoka

Professor Niko Strobach, Professor for Logic and Philosophy of Language, comes to Ashoka to spend a week on campus (and some more time in Delhi afterwards). He comes as representative of our partner University in Germany, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, will give a Philosophy talk on March 4 on “A German Fairy Tale as a Key to Wittgenstein’s Tractatus”, will give a presentation to our students on studying in Münster, and will also visit Professor Raja’s 10-participant ISM on Modal Logic Systems and Many-Valued Logical Systems to give a guest lecture on Temporal Logic.

Here are a few impressions:

February 2020

This month, on Valentine’s weekend, Ashoka hosts its first larger international Philosophy Conference. Generously funded by the University, organized by Professor Raja, supported by Manasi Thaken, speakers from the US, UK, Germany, Serbia, Korea, India, and Israel come together for three days to discuss Prof. Anil Gupta’s recent book – Conscious Experience – in a series of talks that Prof. Gupta will then respond to in the end. Here is the link to the conference website: and here the cover of Professor Gupta’s exciting book:

The conference takes place at the IIC Delhi and there will be a shuttle bringing students from the campus to the venue an back. All students of Professor Raja’s Topics in Perception class have read significant parts of the book and will join the conference as informed audience to be immersed in frontline research and debate.

Study at Ashoka

Study at Ashoka