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Books > Philosophy > Philosophers > Varnadharma, Niskama Karma and Practical Morality: A Critical Essays on Applied Ethics
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Varnadharma, Niskama Karma and Practical Morality: A Critical Essays on Applied Ethics
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Varnadharma, Niskama Karma and Practical Morality: A Critical Essays on Applied Ethics
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From the Jacket

This book provides a bold, original and critical analysis of some basic concepts of Indian ethics, lifting them up from their regional roots to a general philosophical level, along with illuminatingly creative analysis of some practical issues of moral living. Professor Prasad shows, on logical grounds that a varnadharma cannot be both natural and obligatory, the prescription of acting justified, acting desireless action justified, acting desirelessly itself cannot be a duty, the concept of jivanmukti is inapplicable, etc. In respect of ethical practice, he argues with fair amount of rigour and originality, for moral anger and forgiveness as a conditional virtue, basing secularism on the primacy of the ethical, and preferring a morally good professional to one who is good as a professional or as a person. His plea for legitimacy of profit in business and non-hyperactivism in applying ethics throws useful light on business ethics.

His down to the earth approach makes the book a work on applied ethics and his conceptual openness make it one on the basics. Its simple style makes it useful not only for students and teachers of philosophy but also for general readers with interest in Indian philosophy and culture.

About the Author

Rajendra Prasad, educated at Patna University and University of Michigan, retired from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur where he held the chair of the Senior Professor of Philosophy and Head, Department of humanities and Social Sciences. He has been a Fulbright/ Smit-Mundt Fellow, a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow, thrice a National Lecturer of the UGC, a National Lecturer and Senior Fellow of the ICPR and, until recently, a National Fellow of the latter, Professor Prasad has been General President of Indian Philosophical Association, Akhil Bharatiya Darsan Parishad, and Indian Philosophical Congress. His publications include Darsana Sastra Ki Ruparekha, Regularity, Normativity and Rules of Language, Karma, Causation and Retributive Morality, Aesthetics, morality and Jivanmukti, and Ends and Means in Private and Public Life. Besides he has published numerous scholarly papers in several learned journals in India and abroad. He has edited the journals Indian Review of Philosophical and Darsanika Traimasika, and is currently a co-editor of Indian Philosophical Quarterly and Paramarsa.

 

Preface

The concrete shape this volume has taken is almost exclusively due to an extremely respectful invitation, early this year, to me from Professor Prafulla Kumar Mohapatra, Coordinator of the U.G.C. Special Assistance Programme in Philosophy, Utkal University, to accept a visiting assignment and deliver a series of lectures in his Department of Philosophy. Because of my stay at Muscat in the early part of1998, the lectures were delivered in October- November, 1998. The volume contains the materials covered in those lectures with some modification and reorganisation of their content. It was Professor Mohapatra's gentle but insistant persuasion to give the volume in a publishable form at the earliest to him which did not let me delay its completion. My most affectionate thanks to him and good wishes for a still more creative career in philosophy. I am also thankful to his colleagues and post-graduate students for having reacted very constructively to the lectures.

The volume is a work in applied ethics, though the titles of some of the chapters may not bear on their faces any sign of being a piece belonging to this field. Even the classical Indian concepts discussed here have been analysed and assessed from the point of view of their applicability. A normative concept, or theory, to be viable, must be applicable to real social situations. In fact, metaethical distinctions too must be applicable in their own zone, and a few of them are of use even in some morally sensitive situations, as has been shown in the concluding chapter.

Over the problems discussed in the volume I have been thinking for some years, of course, in instalments and in a few cases I have also been making drafts and redrafts. Some of the groundwork was done in the period of my National Fellowship offered by ICPR for which I am thankful to the latter.

The methodology of the entire work is that of conceptual analysis. I have discussed classical Indian views, on the topics covered, in a philosophical, or logical, manner, and taken classical works as human, and not divine, documents, which can be evaluated as any human document can be. I have been critical of classical views and believe that to criticise a view is to show no disrespect to its propounder. It is rather to pay one's philosophical respect to him. I also believe that only after looking critically into classical views we can build on them, or with their help, any new conceptual or normative structure. We have not so far used classical Indian ideas creatively because almost all writers on them have been mostly reportive and not critical or reconstructive.

My primary motivation in examining classical views and concepts in Part I is to ascertain how far they can be used to provide us meaningful guidance in living a morally good life in today's world. It is my conviction that a logically indefensible or incoherent normative theory or concept cannot do that. In Parts II and III I have tried to analyse, and take a stand on, some substantive ethical issues, again, from the point of view of the applicability of the basic ethical concepts relevant to them.

Some of the ideas presented in chapter V appeared earlier in my 'Aurobindo on Reality as Value' (JICPR, IX/1, 1991) in which I held a position very different from the one held here. Similarly, some of the ideas of chapter X appeared in my 'Applying Ethics: Modes, Motives and Levels of Commitment' (Ibid., XIVl2, 1997, my General Presidential address to the Seventieth Session of Indian Philosophical Congress). In the present work, too, I have not stuck to the position I held there, and the change in this case is drastic. I am thankful to the editor of JICPR for not objecting to my using them in this work.

Before I conclude, I would like to sincerely thank Utkal University authorities, particularly those connected with DSA, and Messers D.K Printworld, New Delhi for publishing this volume. I also thank my friends Professors KS. Murty, Daya Krishna, D.P. Chattopadhyaya, P.K Sen and Bhuvan Chandel for having given me the support which one friend can give to another. My ex-student Prof. Ramesh Chandra and his wife, Dr. Vijayalakshmi, have been of immense help to me not only in academic matters, but also in many other ways to my family. My affectionate blessings for both of them and the dear kids.

CONTENTS
  From the General Editor vii
  Preface ix
 
Part I
Some Basics of Indian Normative Ethics
 
1 Varnadharma as Natural and Obligatory 3
2 Prescription of Niskama Karma: Moral or Non-moral? Teleological or Deontological 33
3 Jivanmukti: Problems of Normativity and Instantion 69
4 Dreamless Sleep as Empirical Analogue of Jivanmukti: How Much Appropriate 103
5 Commonly Presupposed identity of Reality and Value: Aurobindo's Renovated Characterization states and Examined 121
 
Part II
Ethics in Practice
 
6 Inculcating Secularism: the Buddhist Way 137
7 Inculcating a General Dharma: Forgiveness as Moral Cement: Wronging, Rupturing and Rejoining Social Relationships 151
8 Ethics in Professional Practice: Being a Good Professional, a Morally Good Professional, and a Morally Good Person 204
9 A Problem Area: Business Ethics and the limits of Applied Ethics 236
 
Part III
The Background Conceptual Framework
 
10 Acknowledgement, Application and Morally Justified Violation of a Moral Principle 261
  Bibliography of the Author's Works 290
Sample Pages

















Varnadharma, Niskama Karma and Practical Morality: A Critical Essays on Applied Ethics

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From the Jacket

This book provides a bold, original and critical analysis of some basic concepts of Indian ethics, lifting them up from their regional roots to a general philosophical level, along with illuminatingly creative analysis of some practical issues of moral living. Professor Prasad shows, on logical grounds that a varnadharma cannot be both natural and obligatory, the prescription of acting justified, acting desireless action justified, acting desirelessly itself cannot be a duty, the concept of jivanmukti is inapplicable, etc. In respect of ethical practice, he argues with fair amount of rigour and originality, for moral anger and forgiveness as a conditional virtue, basing secularism on the primacy of the ethical, and preferring a morally good professional to one who is good as a professional or as a person. His plea for legitimacy of profit in business and non-hyperactivism in applying ethics throws useful light on business ethics.

His down to the earth approach makes the book a work on applied ethics and his conceptual openness make it one on the basics. Its simple style makes it useful not only for students and teachers of philosophy but also for general readers with interest in Indian philosophy and culture.

About the Author

Rajendra Prasad, educated at Patna University and University of Michigan, retired from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur where he held the chair of the Senior Professor of Philosophy and Head, Department of humanities and Social Sciences. He has been a Fulbright/ Smit-Mundt Fellow, a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow, thrice a National Lecturer of the UGC, a National Lecturer and Senior Fellow of the ICPR and, until recently, a National Fellow of the latter, Professor Prasad has been General President of Indian Philosophical Association, Akhil Bharatiya Darsan Parishad, and Indian Philosophical Congress. His publications include Darsana Sastra Ki Ruparekha, Regularity, Normativity and Rules of Language, Karma, Causation and Retributive Morality, Aesthetics, morality and Jivanmukti, and Ends and Means in Private and Public Life. Besides he has published numerous scholarly papers in several learned journals in India and abroad. He has edited the journals Indian Review of Philosophical and Darsanika Traimasika, and is currently a co-editor of Indian Philosophical Quarterly and Paramarsa.

 

Preface

The concrete shape this volume has taken is almost exclusively due to an extremely respectful invitation, early this year, to me from Professor Prafulla Kumar Mohapatra, Coordinator of the U.G.C. Special Assistance Programme in Philosophy, Utkal University, to accept a visiting assignment and deliver a series of lectures in his Department of Philosophy. Because of my stay at Muscat in the early part of1998, the lectures were delivered in October- November, 1998. The volume contains the materials covered in those lectures with some modification and reorganisation of their content. It was Professor Mohapatra's gentle but insistant persuasion to give the volume in a publishable form at the earliest to him which did not let me delay its completion. My most affectionate thanks to him and good wishes for a still more creative career in philosophy. I am also thankful to his colleagues and post-graduate students for having reacted very constructively to the lectures.

The volume is a work in applied ethics, though the titles of some of the chapters may not bear on their faces any sign of being a piece belonging to this field. Even the classical Indian concepts discussed here have been analysed and assessed from the point of view of their applicability. A normative concept, or theory, to be viable, must be applicable to real social situations. In fact, metaethical distinctions too must be applicable in their own zone, and a few of them are of use even in some morally sensitive situations, as has been shown in the concluding chapter.

Over the problems discussed in the volume I have been thinking for some years, of course, in instalments and in a few cases I have also been making drafts and redrafts. Some of the groundwork was done in the period of my National Fellowship offered by ICPR for which I am thankful to the latter.

The methodology of the entire work is that of conceptual analysis. I have discussed classical Indian views, on the topics covered, in a philosophical, or logical, manner, and taken classical works as human, and not divine, documents, which can be evaluated as any human document can be. I have been critical of classical views and believe that to criticise a view is to show no disrespect to its propounder. It is rather to pay one's philosophical respect to him. I also believe that only after looking critically into classical views we can build on them, or with their help, any new conceptual or normative structure. We have not so far used classical Indian ideas creatively because almost all writers on them have been mostly reportive and not critical or reconstructive.

My primary motivation in examining classical views and concepts in Part I is to ascertain how far they can be used to provide us meaningful guidance in living a morally good life in today's world. It is my conviction that a logically indefensible or incoherent normative theory or concept cannot do that. In Parts II and III I have tried to analyse, and take a stand on, some substantive ethical issues, again, from the point of view of the applicability of the basic ethical concepts relevant to them.

Some of the ideas presented in chapter V appeared earlier in my 'Aurobindo on Reality as Value' (JICPR, IX/1, 1991) in which I held a position very different from the one held here. Similarly, some of the ideas of chapter X appeared in my 'Applying Ethics: Modes, Motives and Levels of Commitment' (Ibid., XIVl2, 1997, my General Presidential address to the Seventieth Session of Indian Philosophical Congress). In the present work, too, I have not stuck to the position I held there, and the change in this case is drastic. I am thankful to the editor of JICPR for not objecting to my using them in this work.

Before I conclude, I would like to sincerely thank Utkal University authorities, particularly those connected with DSA, and Messers D.K Printworld, New Delhi for publishing this volume. I also thank my friends Professors KS. Murty, Daya Krishna, D.P. Chattopadhyaya, P.K Sen and Bhuvan Chandel for having given me the support which one friend can give to another. My ex-student Prof. Ramesh Chandra and his wife, Dr. Vijayalakshmi, have been of immense help to me not only in academic matters, but also in many other ways to my family. My affectionate blessings for both of them and the dear kids.

CONTENTS
  From the General Editor vii
  Preface ix
 
Part I
Some Basics of Indian Normative Ethics
 
1 Varnadharma as Natural and Obligatory 3
2 Prescription of Niskama Karma: Moral or Non-moral? Teleological or Deontological 33
3 Jivanmukti: Problems of Normativity and Instantion 69
4 Dreamless Sleep as Empirical Analogue of Jivanmukti: How Much Appropriate 103
5 Commonly Presupposed identity of Reality and Value: Aurobindo's Renovated Characterization states and Examined 121
 
Part II
Ethics in Practice
 
6 Inculcating Secularism: the Buddhist Way 137
7 Inculcating a General Dharma: Forgiveness as Moral Cement: Wronging, Rupturing and Rejoining Social Relationships 151
8 Ethics in Professional Practice: Being a Good Professional, a Morally Good Professional, and a Morally Good Person 204
9 A Problem Area: Business Ethics and the limits of Applied Ethics 236
 
Part III
The Background Conceptual Framework
 
10 Acknowledgement, Application and Morally Justified Violation of a Moral Principle 261
  Bibliography of the Author's Works 290
Sample Pages

















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