Absolute Space and the Structure of Consciousness in Advaita Vedānta Philosophy

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The paper examines the analysis of the fundamental structure of consciousness as developed in Śaṅkara's Advaita Vedānta philosophy, and compares this highly influential Indian view with a predominant analysis in the Western tradition, viz., the Phenomenological theory of consciousness developed by Brentano and Husserl. According to the Phenomenological account, all mental states are intentional, and hence consciousness must always be directed toward some object. In sharp contrast, Śaṅkara holds pure, undirected consciousness to be fundamental, while consciousness of a particular object is a secondary mode. In expositing the contrast between these two accounts, I draw on deep structural parallels that characterize the Newtonian versus Leibnizean theories of physical space. Śaṅkara's notion of pure consciousness is highly analogous to the classical Newtonian conception of absolute space, and this conception provides a powerful and illuminating model of the Indian view. In contrast, Husserl’s notion of intentional consciousness closely parallels the Leibnizean relational account of physical space.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationDynamics of Culture
PublisherNew Delhi: Param Mitra Prakashan
Number of pages32
ISBN (Print)818597070-X
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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