A Qualitative Approach to the Psychology of Three Self-conscious Emotions from Sanskrit Poetics by Mr. Shankar R

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

National Institute of Advanced Studies

Indian Institute of Science Campus




Title: A Qualitative Approach to the Psychology of Three Self-conscious Emotions

          from Sanskrit Poetics

Candidate: Mr. Shankar R

        School of Humanities

Advisor: Prof. Sangeetha Menon

Date:  Tuesday, 11 June, 2019

Time:  11:30 am

Venue: Lecture Hall, NIAS

Abstract: This thesis represents a coming together of the fields of mainstream psychology, Indian psychology, emotion studies, Sanskrit poetics, Indian philosophical systems allied to Sanskrit poetics (especially the Samkhya system), and Sanskrit literature to foster an understanding of asūyā, garva, and vrīḍā – three mental states listed, described, and illustrated through vignettes by Sanskrit aestheticians. Though one of the objectives of this thesis is to study these mental states by juxtaposing them with their corresponding psychological categories, namely, the self-conscious emotions of envy/jealousy, pride, and shame/guilt/embarrassment, a more important objective is to understand them in their own right. Towards achieving this latter objective, the thesis delves into Sanskrit poetics and allied Indian knowledge systems not only for extracting documented textual information on asūyā, garva, and vrīḍā but also for evolving three interrelated indigenous models that facilitate understanding of mental states in general and applying the models to analyze three traditionally supplied vignette verses that illustrate asūyā, garva, and vrīḍā as they are communicated to the audience through specific literary characters.

Among the three models alluded to above, model 1 looks at mental states in isolation: To understand a mental state is to have information about its antecedent stimulus and consequent response. Model 2 regards mental states as meaningful in their dynamic interrelationship with other mental states. The schematic representation of this interrelationship can be termed ‘mental state signature’ – a new concept introduced in this thesis. According to model 3, the most context-sensitive of the three models, to understand a mental state is to understand the character possessing it, particularly his/her personality type and personality-related life-goal. The mental state signature of a character remains more or less stable as long as his/her life-goal remains stable. Mental states such as asūyā, garva, and vrīḍā assume importance in this model as indicators of a character’s personality type and life-goal. Put differently, the occurrence or non-occurrence of a mental state in a given character, its occurrence in him/her from exposure to specific antecedent stimuli, and the unique consequent responses through which he/she expresses it correlate with the personality type to which he/she belongs. Primary characters, such as the hero and the heroine, can be conceived of as prototypes that possess a stable personality and life-goal. In contrast, secondary characters, such as the anti-hero, may be non-prototypical with fluid personalities and life-goals. Real-world individuals are more like secondary than primary, characters. Model 3 has implication for an indigenous form of therapy in which individuals can gain information about their life-goals by becoming aware of their mental states (reduced to the experiences of pleasure/displeasure) and such information can be used enhance their mental well-being through goal modification. 

All are invited to attend

Lecture Hall, NIAS