Hans Henrich Hock

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Hans Henrich Hock (born September 26, 1938) is Professor Emeritus of Linguistics and Sanskrit at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Quotes

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  • The expression róma prthivyâh (1.65.8) ‘the body-hair of the earth’ ‘the plants’, suggests that the metaphor of tvac- as the ‘skin’ or surface of the earth was well established in the poetic language of the Rig-Veda.
    • quoted in Philology and the historical interpretation of the Vedic texts, in: Bryant, E. F., & Patton, L. L. (2005). The Indo-Aryan controversy : evidence and inference in Indian history. Routledge.
  • Early Sanskrit literature offers no conclusive evidence for preoccupation with skin color. More than that, some of the greatest Epic heros and heroines such as Krisna, Draupadi, Nakula and ... Danayanti are characterized as dark-skinned.
    • in his paper in Aryan and Non-Aryan in South Asia, quoted in Elst, K. (2010). The saffron swastika: The notion of "Hindu fascism". I.263
  • A few things can be established with certainty, others with a good degree of likelihood, and yet others remain entirely uncertain.
    • Writing about the astronomical evidence in the Vedas
    • quoted in Philology and the historical interpretation of the Vedic texts, in: Bryant, E. F., & Patton, L. L. (2005). The Indo-Aryan controversy : evidence and inference in Indian history. Routledge. page 297 . quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2007). Asterisk in bharopiyasthan: Minor writings on the Aryan invasion debate.
  • “When there is sufficient context for interpretation, we find that the notions can at least equally well be read as an ‘ideological’ distinction between the ‘dark/black’ world of the dāsas/dasyus and the ‘light/white’ world of the āryas.”
    • (Hock 1995/2:154) quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2018). Still no trace of an Aryan invasion: A collection on Indo-European origins.
  • He even-handedly takes up three Aryan Invasion interpretations and three Indian Origin interpretations from the Vedic texts, and cautions us at the very outset (HOCK 2005:283) that “the passages in question and their interpretation do not provide cogent support for the hypotheses they are supposed to support”, while reasonably conceding that “this does not mean that either of the two theories is therefore invalidated. It merely means that the evidence in question is not sufficiently cogent to provide support for the respective hypothesis and therefore must be considered irrelevant. First of all, neither hypothesis rests solely on the evidence here examined; and it is in principle perfectly possible that other evidence can show one hypothesis to be superior to the other”. He even reasonably concedes the possibility that “any new evidence or better interpretation would, in true scientific spirit, be able to overturn the so far victorious hypothesis”, or that “in principle none of the currently available evidence stands up under scrutiny and that nevertheless, one or the other hypothesis was historically coreect, except that the evidence in its favour has not been preserved for us”. ... And in his conclusion to the article, he writes: ”Personally, I feel that most of the evidence and arguments that have been offered in favor either of the Aryan In-Migration hypothesis or of the Out-of-India are inconclusive at closer examination” (HOCK 2005:303).
  • He emphasizes an approach where truth is the “ultimate goal”, but “truth is always conditional, to be superseded by better evidence or interpretation of evidence” (HOCK 2005:282).
  • The aim should be not to “forestall all dissenting voices”, but (a) to “invite meaningful debate”; (b) “to invite the scholarly challenges and ensuing debate that can lead to better insights and closer approximation of the truth”; (c) “to go beyond what can be grasped at first contact, and as a consequence of having to defend perceptions against competing views, to investigate matters more thoroughly”; (d) to “approximate truth more closely”; (d) to “go beyond initial impressions and beyond the validation of preconceived interpretations”; (e) to “embrace the scientific approach of being transparent and vulnerable – transparent by being open to verification in terms of providing supporting evidence and discussing potentially conflicting evidence, and vulnerable by being open to challenge and potential falsification“; (f) “to evaluate the very different perspectives that are current and thus to reach beyond the differences in perspective, ideology or bias” (HOCK 2005:282-3).
  • He also expresses his opinion about the Vedas that “whatever their original and/or secondary purposes may have been, they were not intended as data bases for latter-day historians”, and suggests that “whatever historical evidence they contain, therefore, can only be gleaned by a careful, philologically well-grounded reading of the lines – and between the lines – of the texts” (HOCK 2005:303).He emphasizes the need for “other” and “better” evidence (than astronomical references in the Rigveda) “to establish a date for the Rigveda” (HOCK 2005:303) and (than isolated words in the Avesta) to determine “historical movements in the Indo-Iranian linguistic territory” (HOCK 2005:295).
  • Best of all is his classic ending, declaring his honesty and openness: “Throughout I have endeavored to live up to the desiderata outlined at the beginning, namely being transparent and vulnerable – transparent by providing supporting evidence that is easily available to verification, and vulnerable by being open to challenge and potential falsification. As I stated at the outset, this, I believe, is the only way that we can establish a common ground for those working in Vedic studies. Without this common ground there is nothing to evaluate the many conflicting theories without either questioning each others’ motives, or saying ‘Trust me, trust me’. As I tell my students: If people merely say ‘Trust me, trust me’, don’t trust them, don’t trust them. And as to questioning each others’ motives, it is good to note that people as different in their motives as Elst and Zydenbos have stated on the Indology List that what really counts is the evidence and its interpretation – even racists and communalists can come to correct results if their evidence and their methodology are correct (however much we may deplore their ideologies and biases)” (HOCK 2005:303-4).
  • “Indo-Europeanists must exercise caution, lest they unwittingly support ideologically motivated agendas”!
  • “….the ‘Sanskrit-origin’ hypothesis runs into insurmountable difficulties, due to the irreversible nature of relevant linguistic changes [….but….] the likelihood of the ‘PIE-in-India’ hypothesis cannot be assessed on the basis of similar robust evidence” (HOCK 1999a:2), and that “The ‘PIE-in-India’ hypothesis is not as easily refuted as the ‘Sanskrit-origin’ hypothesis, since it is not based on ‘hard-core’ linguistic evidence, such as sound changes, which can be subjected to critical and definitive analysis. Its cogency can be assessed only in terms of circumstantial arguments, especially arguments based on plausibility and simplicity” (HOCK 1999a:12).
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