A metaphysics of living systems: theYōga-Vāsis.t.ha view
TheYōga-Vāsistha is a rich and complex philosophical ‘poem’ (kāvya) of epic length, written in classical Sanskrit by an unknown author some time between the 6th and 13th centuries CE, probably around the 7th century. It is notable for its eloquent praise of self-effort and enquiry or analysis, and for its severe disparagement of the notion of fate. It views consciousness as (a) characterizing all living forms (including plant and insect life), (b) being atomic, and (c) analogous to the emergence of waves and whirlpools in water; it therefore grapples with what today would be called the problems of reductionism and emergentism. Notions of the survival of the fittest, and of a dynamic process of creation and loss, are expressed with characteristic force. The paper presents a selection of verses (in an English translation) setting forth these views, and a brief analysis of their implications.
Volume 45, 2020
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