How Do We Know What We Know? – Sutra I-7

May 20, 2012 | XSutras, Yoga practices, Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, Yoga teaching  | 0 comments

Today I read what I consider to be a good post on a good blog site called …I realised that the idea of writing something that might sway a conspiracy theorist is pointless.  I already know they are not swayed by hard evidence, why should argument make any difference at all?  If you argue against the existence of a conspiracy, the theorist will simply decide that you are part of the conspiracy, or simply a dupe of the conspiracy.

Something bothered me after reading this paragraph. The argument that all conspiracy theorists are unswayable is inferred, I imagine, from the writer having met a number of them. But, I don’t  generally like the idea of generalising as it’s hard to prove that in any group of people, all of them will behave the same way. I suppose it niggles that I get pigeonholed from time to time:

Direct observation is the best way to comprehend the truth of things, but it’s not necessarily convenient at all times (oh how we love Dr. Google!).
I’ll paraphrase the Sutra translater, T.K.V. Desikachar, where he writes:

When available information from direct experience (through our senses) is inadequate or incomplete, other faculties, such as logic and memory, may enable more complete comprehension.

What we humans do when direct knowledge is not possible is we refer to reliable authorities, such as written texts or a trusted individual, to receive indirect comprehension. This is all described by Patanjali in a category of thinking:

Pratyaksa-anumana-agamah pramanani

Valid cognition [is based on] perception, inference and testimony.*
Using all the above faculties is how we can understand places, people and concepts, but also how we can form interesting opinions and maybe even win debates.
*The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, translation and commentary by Georg Feuerstein.


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