© 2019 by Shyam Ranganathan

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ETHICS

Ethics, moral philosophy, and especially theoretical ethics, constitutes a major focus of my work. Here, my work as a historian of moral philosophy from around the world, especially and including the European, Chinese and Indian traditions, is influenced by the solutions I discovered while trying to make sense of the botched study  of Indian Ethics. 

My published writing on ethics has a South Asia focus as South Asia is a colonized philosophical tradition, where problems of scholarship abound and the solutions are salient.   

My current work includes applying my findings concerning how to learn about moral philosophy from around the world to practical problems of sorting out moral controversy. 

I argue that ethics is objective, and not reducible to cultural expectations. My thinking and work on ethics exploded for me when I came up with the distinction between explication and interpretation. Interpretation is explanation of something by way of what one believes. Explication employs deductive reasoning to derive from perspectives, theories about controversial matters, and then identifies the topic as what competing theories in a controversy disagree about. 

Interpreted, the options of ethics appears like the beliefs of famous exemplars. Explicated, I noted that we arrive at four basic options that provide differing perspectives on the Right or the Good. In addition to Virtue Ethics, Consequentialism and Deontology,  Yoga/Bhakti presents itself as a fourth, basic option, the opposite of Virtue Ethics. Publications to date that cover this include my Introduction to the Bloomsbury Research Handbook of Indian Ethics.  

Thinking explicatively also reveals that the origins of interpretation reside in the linguistic account of thought, which has Western and Chinese origins, but is foreign to the Indian tradition. The alternate model, Yoga, allows us to approach cultural artifacts like language as resources for engaging in philosophy, and not as frames for the possible answers. The famous Moral Twin Earth experiment is shown to be a function of a cultural quirk and is underdefended as it assumes the linguistic account of thought that fails the kind of cross cultural test that the Moral Twin Earth thought experiment embarks on

The upshot is that Yoga shows how moral propositions are not reducible to cultural perspectives, and moral facts are in the offing. More on that soon.