Advaita Vedanta and the Philosophy of Science

DVD and Commemorative Volume of the proceedings of the International Conference on 'Contribution of Advaita Vedanta to Humanity' are available online.
DVD: chinfo.org/ConferenceDVD
Advaitamrtam(Commemorative Volume): chinfo.org/Advaitamrtambook

Session on 'Advaita Vedanta and the Philosophy of Science' was conducted during the 'International Conference on Contribution of Advaita Vedanta to Humanity' on 20th November 2015.
Chairperson: Dr. P. Venkat Rangan, Vice Chancellor of Amrita University, Coimbatore
Speaker: Dr. K. Ramasubramanian, Professor at IIT Bombay in the Cell for Indian Science and Technology in Sanskrit.

The phenomenal success that was gained in explaining as well as predicting a variety of phenomena (both terrestrial and celestial),
impelled some scientists to believe that the laws of science (discovered in specific contexts) were immutable and in principle could be extended to have universal validity. However, when scholarly investigations in the philosophy of science started emerging in a big way—questioning the very nature of scientific theories and the theoretical tools invented to set forth the theory—the scenario started slowly changing. It was soon realized that the theories as well as the laws put forth, though tested many a times and not falsified (within a certain domain), all of them could not be taken to be eternally valid or all-pervasive.

Notably, the moment we enter into the `intangible' domain—the behaviour of the individual quantum systems—it throws a formidable challenge to provide a `rational explanation' for the choice that nature makes, let alone the phenomena happening at the cosmological scales of the universe. Also, when it comes to answering more intricate questions such as, ‘Who am I? Why did I come into existence? Is the world in which I dwell eternal? Is the connection between me and the world eternal? What's the nature of this connection? Can it ever be severed by some mechanism, and if so how? What is happiness? What is existence?’ and so on, which bother human beings as much as the questions related to the external world, the natural or physical sciences, they remain clueless. It is here that Advaita Vedanta comes to the rescue, and attempts to address these questions, among many others.

It is also interesting to note that the question that modern physicists are attempting to answer today: ‘What is That knowing which, everything else is known as well?’, is the same that Advaita Vedantins posed themselves several millenia before, though in completely different contexts. This question, notwithstanding the investigations of thinkers of all civilizations of all times, still remains alive, approached but never possessed. During this lecture, the panel will try to articulate some of these aspects, besides talking about pluralism in science—a new position in the philosophy of science which seems to have been advocated in Advaita Vedanta too, without of course making its position self-defeating.

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