About the Book
This book, a Festschrift for Professor S.A. Shaida and dealing with matters close to his heat, brings together a wide spectrum of essays written by scholars from philosophy, social sciences feminism, literature and religion; and engages with some of the most fundamental themes in the domains of existence, experience and ethics. The first section represents different interrogations of the autonomous individual existence postulated by modernity. Each of the essays here attempt to broaden the ground of existence by highlighting aspects of its ‘underside’: the mental, the ‘insane’ aspects of mind, the experience of pre-selfconscious self, the history of autonomous individual before its invention in modern Europe, and such other forms of existence as ‘you’ and ‘we.’ The essays in the second section discuss experience, more specifically artistic experience, which constitutes an important facet of human existence the discussion centres on aspects of the debate between purists and realists in aesthetics, that is concerned with the heightened level of experience, the next section deals with issues of ethics and moral philosophy and engages questions of universalism, liberalism, objectivism, fact-value dichotomy, phenomenology of values and so on. The last section traverses the ground of inter-religious interaction and dialogue.
The uniqueness of this volume lies in its multidisciplinary space of articulation and would be of considerable interest to teachers and students in the history of philosophy, religion, social sciences, aesthetics and literature. The methodological ground learned by most of the papers could lend a further critical edge to contemporary studies of the modern disciplines.
About the Author
A. Raghuramaraju has a research degree in philosophy from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. He presently teaches at the University of Hyderabad, having had an earlier stint at the Goa University. He has also been a Fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. He publishes in the areas of social and political philosophy, bio-ethics, contemporary Indian philosophy, and critiques of the Enlightenment.
To his innumerable students, friends and admirer, Professor Sultan Ali Shaida is a personification of ‘Sweetness and Light.’ They have found in him a flower of liberal education at its best that spreads its fragrance wherever it goes. This volume is a token of affection and gratitude they feel towards him for not only his pedagogical abilities and academic competence but also for the values he stands for as a socially sensitive individual. It is my pleasant task to say a few words both about the volume and the towering personality to whom it is dedicated.
Professor Shaida is a keen student of philosophy as well as literature and has published in these areas books and papers both in English and Urdu. An active student leader at Aligarh Muslim University with sympathy towards the Left movement in politics, he was later inducted into the Communist Party of India as a party member (a ‘ticket holder’ in common parlance). Subsequently, his social and political commitments and preferences moved him towards philosophers such as Sartre and Marcel. After his studies at AMU, he started teaching at Zakir Hussain College (formerly, Delhi College) of Delhi University and completed his Ph.D., in Ethics under the guidance of Professor S.S. Barlingay on Naturalistic Fallacy. In 1975, he shifted to IIT-Kanpur. Interaction with the students and teachers of science and technology apart from those of humanities and the vibrant academic activities at IIT-Kanpur, made him overcome his nostalgia for Delhi. He got used to this new ambiance. He has earned the respect of all who have come into contact with him. The ever-increasing circle of friends and students has found in him an embodiment of sobriety and warmth.
He was a U.G.C. National Lecturer in Philosophy during 1984-85. He is on the editorial board of Indian Philosophical Quarterly and Aligarh Journal of Islamic Thought. Professor Shaida was also in the panel of Taraqqi-e-Urdu Board and Bureau for Promotion of Urdu, Ministry of Education, New Delhi.
In his official capacities, he has always been patient, polite and accommodative. At IIT-Kanpur, he held several posts. He was the senate nominee on the board of Governors; Head, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Chairman, Council of Wardens. While in service he went to Malaysia where he held the post of Professor at the International Islamic University, Kuala Lumpur, from February 1989 to December 1992. Professor Shaida superannuated from IIT-Kanpur on June 30, 1996.
Professor Shaida’s major philosophical concerns have been in the areas of Existentialism, Aesthetics, Literature and Ethics. The volume concerns the themes of his abiding academic interests. As he always argued for inter-religious dialogue, the volume has in its Section IV three special essays on this subject.
It may be pertinent here to recall the academic space inhabited by Professor Shaida, and in the process to broaden the context of the volume. The Indian Institutes of Technology have played an important role in education in the post-Independent India. IIT-Kanpur has the unique distinction of having a large faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) from its inception. In India, perhaps, it is only in the IITs that the humanities sand technology departments are situated very close to each other. The Department of HSS at IIT-Kanpur continues to have an ambivalent relation with the dominant technological ethos of the IITs. The two important components that have shaped this ambivalence are: (i) the point of view which accepted the physical science methodology and, following positivism, oriented the humanities and social science courses along the lines of physical sciences; and (ii) the point of view which highlighted the fundamental differences between physical sciences and humanistic studies. This latter stream quite often implied a forceful critique of positivism both within natural and humanist studies. Those belonging to this stream offered courses such as sociology of knowledge, Indian Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Marxism, Gandhism, Phenomenology and Existentialism. This stream has largely remained non-positivist, even anti-postitivist and brought into the discussion more complex issues surrounding both individual and collective existences. Professor Shaida belongs to this non-positivist stream and the essays in this volume too share his perspective.
On Professor Shaida’s superannuation, it was decided by his friends and students to bring out a volume. A venture of this kind could not have succeeded without the constant support and encouragement of many. I would like to acknowledge Professor Shaida, who played a role of a catalyst - remaining outside yet facilitating - for his help whenever I needed. The contributors to this volume have not only positively responded to my request to contribute an essay but also promptly sent them making it easier for me to process this volume for publication. For this, I am indebted to them in more than one way. I particularly want to express my sense of gratitude to P.R. Bhat, Bhargavi V. Davar, Sasheej Hegde and K.S. Prasad, for their valuable suggestions in preparing this volume. They have carefully read some of the papers and suggested modifications. They were always available to me whenever I needed help.
I also thank Margaret Chatterjee, Bijoy Boruah, A. Ramamurthy, Amitabha Das Gupta, S.G. Kulkarni, Nizar Ahmed, Dinesh Srivastava, Goutam Biswas, M.A. Moid and many others who extended their help and made important contributions. I cannot forget the help that my students - Gautam Satapathy, Bala Ganapati - extended to me in typing and proof reading the manuscript. Finally, I thank D.K. Printworld (P) Ltd., New Delhi Particularly its Director Sri Susheel K. Mittal for publishing this festschrift.
It was a pleasure editing this volume. Never feeling alone. I found myself in the company of friends whose cordiality and concern were reminiscent of Professor Shaida. I join my contributors in wishing Mrs. Zeb Shaida and Professor Shaida a life of joy and bliss.
The sheer diversity of topics represented in this volume to honour Professor S.A. Shaida, present a challenge for any editor to grasp the reach (and the limitation) of the discussions. Though the essays can be organized in different combinations, I shall present here, by way of introduction, one such possible combination. In doing this, I have extracted internal patterns available amongst the various essays; and also have at times and when necessary brought extraneous relations to hold the diversity of the material in this volume together. The larger philosophical context of this volume is its attempt to implicate critically the horizon of modernity. The postulation of an autonomous individual marked the beginning of the project of modernity. This project initiated by Rene Descartes has two fundamental features, namely, what it excluded and what it included. Yet another important feature of this process is the logic of exclusion and inclusion. This project, at least in its initial stage, excluded from its domain all that is given in culture and society, thus inaugurating a discontinuity between modernity and the pre-modern. It accepted the notion of individual defined as exclusively constituted by (and constituting) the cognitive elements, instrumental rationality, objectivity and universality. This acceptance seems bereft of any reference to the non-cognitive aspects, such as emotions, context, history, culture and tradition.
The essays in this volume present:
(i) Different critiques of this autonomous individual’s existence, its notion of agency, and suggest alternatives by highlighting other aspects, existence as ‘you’ and as ‘we’.
(ii) They highlight the place of experience, particularly the aesthetic experience,
(iii) Further, they critique, within the ethical domain, the notion of rationality, objectivity and universality. They also present other modes of justification, such as context-laden justification, and argue for the possibility of a dialogue between different contexts.
(iv) And lastly, they bring back into discussion the religious domain in a revised form, particularly highlighting the need and the imperative for setting the terms of inter-religious dialogue.
The volume is divided into four sections.
Section I, entitled Existence: ‘I’, ‘You’ and ‘We’, represents different interrogations of the autonomous individual existence postulated by modernity. Each of the essays attempt to broaden the ground of existence by highlighting aspects of its ‘underside’: the mental, the ‘insane’ aspects of mind, the experience of pre-self-conscious self, the history of autonomous individual before its invention in modern Europe, and such other forms of existence as ‘you’ and ‘we’.
The project of modernity has championed the establishment of an autonomous ‘I’, the self. The ‘cognitive self’ postulated by Descartes reduced everything to the self. This reduction is both the strength and the weakness of this formulation. The essays in this section, while critiquing the attendant reductionisms, point out the other important aspects within ‘self’. Margaret Chatterjee’s essay provides a comprehensive introduction to the section by presenting three forms of human existence, existence as ‘I’, as ‘you’ and as ‘we’. The recognition of existence as ‘you’ alongside existence as ‘I’, enlarged the field of existence; positively facilitated a better understanding of existence as ‘I’; and further helped in avoiding the possible danger of ‘I’ from relapsing into solipsism. However, this recognition and the acceptance of inter-subjective domain did not pay enough attention to another important form of existence, that is, existence as ‘we’. The author, drawing insights from the Jewish texts, argues for the need to recognize the importance of ‘we’ and its corollary the cultural and communitarian social space to facilitate a more realistic grounding of ‘I’ and ‘you’.
Amitabha Das Gupta argues against the contemporary approach to mind especially the physicalists’ who reduce mind, i.e., the ‘subjective conscious mental states’ to mere neurological states. In this context he seeks to arrive at a conception of what mental states are through the study of what mental states are not. While Das Gupta discusses the reductionism from outside, Bhargavi V. Davar in her essay explicates the internal reductionism within the contemporary philosophy of mind where mind is reduced to rationality, health and sanity, thus discarding the socially constructed ‘mental illness’ as an aberration.
The fourth essay by Sasheej Hegde accepts the fact that self is the agent of knowledge and representation, and even the critique of knowledge. He, however, argues that any discourse about ‘self’ which does not ask critical questions about its own representation of history remain radically acritical.
Informed by this criticism of self by itself, Hegde lays bare different episodes of self: experience of self before the emergence of a self-conscious subject of experience; delineation of a philosophy of reflection, and so on. While Hegde points out the need to look at the history of self, critical of itself, A. Raghuramaraju in his essay points out a more distant place in history. He highlights the contribution of the medieval period to the emergence of modern self and its rights. He concedes that rights are born in the modern period, however, the author highlights the medieval period’s contribution to human rights.
From these critiques of the reductionistic notion of an autonomous self, ‘I’, we move to another related theme, namely, the need to have the notion of ‘you’. The two essays discuss the need to recognize ‘you’ in our understanding of ‘I’. Ahmed Nizar in his essay discusses how the self, ‘defined as interiority in inconceivable without something exterior with which it is conceptually coupled’. Arguing along the same lines, Prasenjit Biswas elucidates the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas. Levinas makes the understanding of ‘you’ as a necessity for the understanding of ‘I’. The author situates this inquiry beyond the Husserlian attempt to arrive at unifying consciousness and the Heideggerian project of transcendental being.
Section II, entitled Experience, discusses the experiential domain; more specifically the artistic experience which constitutes an important facet of human existence. There are two essays that reject the two extreme positions in aesthetics, namely, that of purists and realists. Purists argue for the autonomy of art and the realists reduce art to facts. Bijoy H. Boruahs’ essay instead advocates an alternative and suggests that, perhaps the mimetic virtue of art in the scheme of human life is such that neither pure aestheticism… nor documentary didacticism,…truly determines the connection between art-life and real-life.
The essay by Rekha Jhanji too draws our attention to the interdependence between life and art, particularly to the fact that artists draw sustenance from the experience of life situations, and by creating works of art they help others “to understand life and to come to terms with its manifold dimensions”.
While the above two essays discuss the relation between art and reality, the following essay by B.N. Patnaik rejects the popular view that miscommunication is the ‘reverse of communication’. The author explicates some of the essential aspects of the concept and analyses two stories of Milan Kundera, The Hitchhiking Game and Edward and God.
The other two essays in this section discuss aesthetics in Marxism and in the philosophy of G.E. Moore, respectively. S.S. Barlingay in his essay argues that the aesthetic notions such as ‘good’ are invariant across different theories. He asserts that “aesthetic problems will not be different if Marxism is accepted”. For Barlingay, at most, these differences are merely in emphasis or in degree and not in kind. The other essay by Hasna Begum highlights the much neglected normative aspect in the writings of G.E. Moore. In this context, Begum explicates a special notion of spiritual existence often characterized by him only negatively, and discusses the relation between good and beauty, ethics and aesthetics. From an aesthetics that is concerned with the heightened level of experience, the next section deals with ethics, which is largely about the disciplining experience.
Section III, entitled Ethics, critically rallies around the ethical and methodological issues related to the modern concept of the autonomous individual. Universalizability and universality are the two important ideas associated with the modern concept of man. This eventually meant the rejection of any significance to ‘context’, particularly to the varying social contexts. There are two essays that context this eventuality. The first essay by P.R. Bhat criticizes the theory of absolute universalism and even the modified version by A. Gewirth, namely, the ‘principle of generic consistency’. Instead, Bhat argues for the need to accept the universalism (of Kant and not Kantisans) which “does not deny the social groups their rights.” He calls this as ‘linguistic universalizability’. The second essay by Satya P. Gautam concedes the contribution of liberalism in liberating the Western societies from the control of tyrants and priests. However, he argues that the universalistic stance adopted in the liberal political theory fails to take into account the concrete conditions such as gender, class, race, and ethnicity, conditions that produce and reproduce the privileges and oppressions. This failure, Gautam alleges, has grossly widened the gap between ideal principles and their actual practices.
Along with universality, the concepts such as rationality and objectivity form the cluster with important over-lappings, which again rally around the modern concept of the autonomous individual. The essay by Jagat Pal feeds off an interesting instance in R.M. Hare’s ethical philosophy. Hare does not derive rationality from objectivity, which he rejects, but derives it from universalizability. Universality, defined as resting on the notion of consistency, is related in Hare to phrastic elements and not to the neustic elements. Phrastic elements, unlike neustic elements, don’t determine by themselves the rightness or the wrongness of any contradictory judgements. Discussing a related issue, Vanlalnghak, in his essay rejects the view that value can be derived from the fact. Without claiming that facts are divorced from values, he argues that there is a link between the two but that it is not of a logical kind. As morality deals with real life situations, the author recommends the need to adopt analogical reasoning, where we move from fact to fact and draw some moral conclusions.
Deviating from the critique of context-free universalism, and the rejection of using deductive logical models in discussing real life moral issues highlighted in this section so far, the following two essays take us away from this framework. The first essay by V.T. Sebastian rejects the location of values either as objective or as subjective. He, working within the phenomenological framework, argues for the need to locate value within the life-world context in which ‘I’ turns to the ‘thou’, and ‘I’ and ‘thou’ joined together as ‘we’ become the originator of all social and cultural values. This life-world is not merely an objective world but it is accessible for interpretation. The culturally constituted value, according to the author, provides a better understanding of morality. The second essay in this direction by Pabitrakumar Roy takes us further away from the modern framework (in which even phenomenology is a non-reductionistic part) and towards two non-modern thinkers, namely, Plato and Gandhi. Roy distinguishes the two modern schools, Kantians and Utilitarians, who accepted ‘act-centred’ ethical theories against the ‘agent-centred’ ethical theories of both Plato and Gandhi. He lists the limitations of ‘act-centred’ ethical theories and highlights the importance of ‘agent-centred’ ethical theories.
Section IV, entitled Ethics Applied to Religion, has three essays, each discussing different aspects of inter-religious interaction. The first essay by Asghar Ali Engineer rejects the view of the rationalists who associate religion with dogmas. While accepting the presence of dogmas in religion, Engineer, however, maintains that these are contingent and constitute aberrations of the religious discourse. He, through the use of the distinction between ‘norm’ and ‘context’, explains away various historical aberrations and dogmas as contextual, hence contingent, and not normative. For him, normatively all religions, though they may highlight different virtues - Hinduism - Non-violence; Christianity-Love; Islam-Justice; Buddhism-Compassion - are all complementary to each other, He specifically analyses the developments within Islam and Hinduism, and shows how communalism between these communities is politically motivated and not originally founded. The second essay by Syed Vahiduddin too highlights the importance of diversity, particularly religious diversity, and suggests that the plurality of faith [is] not…a curse but…a necessity born of the human situation.
One-sidedness in religion leads to fanaticism…[and] only a superficial view can see in the encounter of religious irreconcilable hostility.
While Engineer clears the ground for a dogmaless religious discourse and inter-religious complementarity, Vahiduddin highlights the importance of religious diversity and inter-religious interaction. The last essay of the volume by Goutam Biswas provides a clear methodology to implement inter-religious dialogue. In this context, Biswas closely analyses the very concept of dialogue. This clarified notion of dialogue proceeds and ‘over passes’ language: it starts from experience, proceeds through the language, and reaches beyond language. Biswas asks, “How is inter-religious or intra-religious dialogue possible?” He examines the three approaches of - Phillips, Hick and Friedman - and concludes that Friedman’s idea of ‘touch stone reality’ rightly answers the dilemma of religious particularism verses religions universalism.
Thus, the volume relates the three main topics, existence, experience and ethics. In this context, the essays identify the limitations of the major definitions of the modern self, the enlightenment notions such as rationality, objectivity and universality. Different alternatives are suggested to overcome these limitations. The uniqueness of this volume lies in its multi-disciplinary space of articulation. Further, I think the methodological ground cleared by most of the papers could lend a further critical edge to contemporary studies of the modern disciplines.
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