Jesse Berger: Is Sarvajñatā Synthetic or Gestalt?

Jesse Berger

PhD Student, Philosophy of Religions

“Is Sarvajñatā Synthetic or Gestalt? Kundakunda, Cantor, and the ‘Inaccessibility’ of the Absolute” 

Wednesday, October 17, 12:30 PM, Swift 200

“Although operating within very different religious and conceptual frameworks, the Jain mystic Kundakunda and the mathematician Georg Cantor contended with similar a priori problems concerning the relationship between the limited, relative purview of human knowledge and the singular, independent nature of the absolute. I argue that they solved these conceptual problems in their respective religious frameworks with strikingly analogous forms of reasoning. More precisely, both thinkers demanded an independently existent, transcendental absolute to render consistent their own respective systems of thought, a position that depended upon resolving the formal quandary of ‘inaccessibility’: i.e., the inability for any sequential, determinate objectifications to ever sum up – viz., a mereological “synthesis” – to the simultaneous comprehension of a genuine absolute – viz., a holistic “gestalt.” Though one thinker adhered to a quasi-Vedāntic form of Jainism, and the other was a devout Roman Catholic, both discovered that the sequential features of human cognition precluded access to the kind of simultaneous knowledge that the absolute must comprehend. In other words, both thinkers grasped a priori why we can never reach a genuine ‘absolute’ perspective from ‘the-bottom-up’, as a mereological sum of the kinds of objective knowledge-facts that figure into our limited, relatively conditioned epistemic states. The absolute must exist in an entirely independent and, from the standpoint of sequential knowledge, paradoxical mode of being – a pre-established totality that is also somehow not relationally determinate, an overarching perspective that pervades all relative perspectives, but is itself not representable in any collection or sum of these perspectives (even an infinite number.)”

Refreshments will be served

The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is committed to maintaining itself as a fully accessible and inclusive workshop.  Please contact Workshop Coordinator William Underwood ( in order to make any arrangements necessary to facilitate your participation in workshop events.

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