The metaphysics of Ramanuja and Bowne
Lazarus, Frederick Kumak
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This dissertation is a comparative study o~ the metaphysics o~ Rimanuja and Bowne. The following points summarize the positive results of the investigation. 1. Both thinkers shy away from everything abstract in their philosophic heritage and concentrate on those ideas of their predecessors which emphasize the centrality of the self. 2. They are concerned to do justice to experience in all its aspects, and to this end they employ a method which may generally be characterized as synoptic. 3. In their epistemologies both thinkers hold that knowledge, if it is to be trusted, must be provided with a metaphysical ground, so that the theory of knowledge for them is closely related to the theory of being. In the last analysis it is God who is the guarantor of the possibility of knowledge, just as God's unfolding in the world is the basis of the dynamic character of knowledge. In Bowne the point is expressed in his insistence that human knowledge is not a passive reflection of the world, but involves an activity underlying which is the divine activity. To Ramanuja all finite knowledge depends on a passage from the indeterminate to the determinate, an activity which distinguishes as it unites, and both the distinctions and the unity are expressions of the divine mind in the process of its unfolding. 4. The two philosophers agree that the starting point of natural knowledge is sense experience, and agree further that at the sense level, as at all other levels, mind or consciousness is the constitutive principle. With regard to what is involved in the cognitive relation, they are at variance, Ramanuja appearing to hold a presentative theory and Bowne a representative theory. For both philosophers the self is fundamental not only metaphysically but epistemologically. 5. In their metaphysics the two thinkers are agreed in their rejection of the idea of pure being as an empty abstraction. They insist that being is not an inert substance, but a process of activity. Being is causal, a system of dynamic relationships. Most significantly of all, both thinkers conceive of being as a conscious subject. 6. Central to Ramanuja's and Bowne's conception of the world is the notion of the self. They emphasize the self as knower, and agree that the self is the basis of the unity of knowledge. They also ascribe causal agency to the self, and insist that, while the finite self is within the comprehension of the supreme self, it is yet autonomous and free. 7. For Ramanuja as well as Bowne, the world comes into being as a result of the activity of God. Further, they agree that the will of God continuously manifests itself in the world, and that the world is under His constant superintendence. What transpires in the world can only be understood in terms of a divine plan and purpose. Indeed, it is this teleological character of the world which is its most pervasive and deepest feature. 8. The differences between Ramanuja and Bowne are as follows: In contrast to Bowne's epistemological dualism, Ramanuja holds to a presentative theory according to which what we know are not mental surrogates which stand for the objects known, but the objects themselves. Further, While agreeing with Bowne that the mind contributes categories of its own to knowledge of the object, Ramanuja assigns, as Bowne does not, ontological status to space and time. Again, unlike Bowne, who takes an empirical view of the self, Ramanuja's view may be characterized as mystical, that is, he does not emphasize as Bowne does the substantial otherness of the self from the infinite. Finally, the freedom, which both thinkers are concerned to emphasize, is for Ramanuja not so much freedom of the will as the freedom or consciousness.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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