Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Jan Westerhoff

Jan Westerhoff was trained as a philosopher and orientalist. He is currently lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Durham, UK.

Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka, his study of one of the greatest philosophers of ancient Asia, has just appeared from Oxford University Press. He has just finished a popular book on Buddhist philosophy and cognitive science entitled 12 Examples of Illusion which is due to come out later this year.

A few days ago I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
Beyond the Limits of Thought by Graham Priest.

One of the world's finest philosopher's writes about what happens when we push our thoughts to their limits and beyond: we reach contradictions, and interestingly enough these contradictions turn out to be true! Examples of this can be found throughout the history of philosophy, in Kant, Hegel, Wittgenstein, Heidegger, and Derrida. Priest writes in a clear, precise, and extremely readable style and is guaranteed to enlarge the bounds of your thought too.

The Indian Clerk by David Leavitt.

I did not just pick up this book because it is set in my old college. This fictionalized account of the meeting between G.H. Hardy, Fellow of Mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge (and author of A Mathematician's Apology) and Srinivasa Ramanujan, a self-educated accounts clerk from an Indian backwater and mathematical genius succeeds in giving a superb description of the adventures of mind in a mysterious atmosphere of melancholy and tragedy.

The Language of the Gods in the World of Men: Sanskrit, Culture, and Power in Premodern India by Sheldon Pollock.

For the Greeks mathematics was the perfect science, for the ancient Indians it was grammar. This massive account of the history of Sanskrit charts the fate of this language supposed to be of divine origin and will even tell you why the study of Sanskrit grammar was politically relevant. Not for the faint-hearted but definitively worth the effort.

Le Sanctuaire du Gondwana by Yves Sente and André Juillard.

As soon as it comes out I shall be reading this volume: drawn by the fabulous duo Yves Sente and André Juillard, this continuation of E.P. Jacob's adventures of Blake and Mortimer promises to have everything it needs: mysterious tribes, spies, a cup of tea and a lost civilization...
Visit Jan Westerhoff's website, and learn more about Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue