The Problem of Subjective Theories

A reader wrote…

“I am reading with great interest your writings related to Mr. Phadnis. I have not read his blog in full but plan to. What I note from bits and pieces I read is that he (Mr. Phadnis) runs from one opinion to another without any consistency. As if he discards something when not good for his opinion and accepts someone’s opinion when good for his thinking”

My Response….

Although I sympathize with the reader and I also agree that Shri. Phadnis may not be following a consistent methodology, I want to emphasize that the problem is hardly limited to Shri. Phadnis. The problem is wide spread, beyond Shri Phadnis, beyond Mahabharata research and beyond history research.

I will encourage curious readers to read ‘Truth, Rationality, & The growth of knowledge’ by Sir Karl Popper (one may google it to access it, I suppose).

Those who want to read blog of Shri Phadnis, the link is here

Objective Theory

I have written in the past, in brief, about the idea of objective truth, i.e. truth as correspondence to the facts.

The difficulties in understanding this objective theory seem to have, according to Popper, two sources:

(1) The combination of an extremely simple intuitive idea (correspondence to the facts) with a certain amount of complexity in the execution of the technical program to which it gives rise.

(2) Widespread but mistaken dogma – a satisfactory theory of truth should yield a criterion of true belief. — of well-founded, or rational belief.

This dogma underlies the three rivals of the correspondence theory of truth.

Subjective Theories

(1) The Coherence theory – which mistakes consistency for truth

(2) The Evidence theory – which mistakes ‘known to be true’ for ‘true’

(3) The Prgmatic or instrumentalist theory – which mistakes usefulness for truth.

They are subjective in the sense that they all stem from the fundamental subjectivist position which can conceive of knowledge only as a special kind of mental state, or as a disposition, or as a special kind of belief, characterized, for example, by its history or by its relation to other beliefs.

These subjective theories of truth try to define truth in terms of sources or origin of our beliefs, or in terms of our operations of verification, or of some set of rules of acceptance, or simply in terms of the quality of our subjective convictions.

I will end this note by quoting recent blog article (in full) of Shri Phadnis (again, only as an illustration). I will highlight in bold those passages which provide good illustrations of the subjective theories mentioned above. I will leave it to readers to identify which is which.

Recent blog article of Shri Phadnis follows:

“KrishnaShishtai Timeline Contd.

I deliberately omitted all astronomical references in the narration so far. The story without them, as you can see, is complete, consistent and logical. I mentioned that Krishna took Karna with him when he left Hastinapur. The event is described in the Text in an indirect manner, Sanjaya telling the Kurus, what he heard. It is quite likely that Krishna never told Karna that he was Kunti’s son! If he did and Sanjaya somehow came to know of it and told the Kauravas, it was no longer a secret. In that case everybody except the Pandavas came to know the secret! Would Krishna betray Kunti’s trust in this manner even if Kunti had told him the secret? As stated in the text, Yudhishthira came to know of the secret from Kunti herself, after the war was over! And he blamed her for not telling this earlier. Nobody blames Krishna for keeping it secret.

Maybe, Kunti had never told the secret to Krishna or if she did,he kept it to himself. Kunti alone had tried to persuade Karna but failed. Maybe, the whole dialogue between Krishna and Karna on this subject never took place and is interpolated later to whitewash the image of Karna as a true friend of Duryodhan! May be, the interpolator inserted it in a clumsy manner in the mouth of Sanjaya! Quite likely, Krishna did talk to Karna but only about the evils of the war between brothers and tried to persuade him to convince his friend Duryodhana to be reasonable but when Karna did not budge, sent the message to meet on Kurukshetra for war! All this of course has nothing to do with tithis and Nakshatras except for the last part of the dialogue.

Enter the researchers! They start analyzing the astronomical references. It is mentioned in the text that Krishna left Upaplavya on Revati nakshatra. Then, after the talk with Karna, before departing, Krishna says, ‘After seven days, there is Jyeshthaa amavasya. Jyeshthaa’s Diety is Shakra so it is Shakra amavasya, let us start the war on that day’.

Is Shakra amavasya same as Kartik amavasya? The researchers assume so. If the month was Kartik, moon would have been in Krittika on the full moon day. So on the coming amavasya, moon and sun will be in Jyeshtha. (Devata for Jyeshtha is Shakra so it is Shakra Amavasya). So on the day of Krishna Karna dialogue, moon must be seven nakshatra back i. e. in Purva Falguni. If Krishna started on Revati and on third day the Shishtai took place it was on Bharani. From Bharani to Purva F., for 8-9 days, where was Krishna?
There is no explanation of the gap. So the researchers claim that Krishna must have been in Hastinapur only for all those un-accounted days! Doing what and staying where? No trace what-so-ever in the text.

I have a basic question here. Is the story as told in detail more important that the astronomical mentions? Which must fit which? Should the story be twisted to match the Nakshatras etc.? Why?

Consider the many problems and possibilities.

1. All those mentions of Nakshatras may have been interpolated much later for all we know.

2. Was the month really Kartik? On what grounds? Was the system of naming month as we name them now, established at that time? Not possible. How a month got a name at that time? Our current system of naming a lunar month is based on ‘movement of Sun through the Rashis. A transit of sun fixes the name.’ This system is obviously a very much later adaptation, only after Rashis arrived on the scene in India. There were no Rashis at Mahabharat times. What then, was the system for naming a month at Mahabharata time? It is not known.

3. Only other system for naming a lunar month that I know of, is that of naming the month by the name of the nakshatra where the full moon of that month was. (Twelve month names now in use link with twelve specific Nakshatra names). Was this the system in use in Mahabharat times? There is no such mention in Mahabharat itself. With introduction of Adhika Masa (Or masas) this method is really not fool proof. With 27 nakshatras and twelve months to name, more often than not, full moon will be in other than ‘one of the chosen 12!’ Also it will work satisfactorily with Purnimaadi month as the Nakshatra will then be noted on first day and name of the month decided. My main point is there is no certainty about the method in vogue in Mahabharata Time.

4. Adhika Masas further complicates the matter. In the whole of Mahabharata there is only one place where system of Adhika Masa then prevailing is explained. Bhishma says that ‘to match lunar months and the year, two (unnamed) extra months are required to be taken after every 58 lunar months’. This was a simple but effective method. It is also logical that this simple method must have ruled for long, until some elaborate method, for deciding when to take a single extra month, (after 29 lunar months, generally), was established. When did some such a system come in use and what was the system? Not known. The current method of naming a month, based on Sun’s transit from one Rashi to next, obviously came very much later, only after Rashis came in the picture in India. What is the guarantee then that the month of Krishna Shishtai was Kartik as we understand months now?

5. Krishna says the coming amavasya is a Shakra amavasya. Now Shakra is the Devata of no less than five Nakshatras! Chitra, Vishakha, Jyeshtha, Dhanishtha (Vasava also means Indra) and Shatataraka. So out of these five, which was the Nakshatra on the next amavasya day? Can we claim Jyeshtha with certainty?

6. Mahabharat text very rarely mentions month names. (Chaitra, Vaishakh etc.) What are mentioned are ऋतु. When Pandavas lost the dyuta and went for vanavas or when Arjun appeared on the field to fight with Kauravas at end of Adnyatvas, what is mentioned is ग्रीष्म. It is probable that the current month names were not even in vogue then. The Text says Krishna started from Upaplavya शरदान्ते, हिमागमे. The mention of Rutu is clear and reliable.

With all these problems of month names, Nakshatras and tithis, speculation about Krishna idling in Hastinapur for 6-7 days is meaningless and un-called-for.

What can be read from the Krishna Shishtai story is only that, a)Krishna started from Upaplavya after Autumnal Equinox, (शरदान्ते, हिमागमे), i. e. after the rains were over, and b)In a few days thereafter, (some 20-25 days after Autumnal Equinox ), the war broke out.”


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