February 21, 2015

True democracy remains an elaborate charade

This day in 1902, Jagadish Chandra Bose prevailed over his opponents. Aravindan Neelakandan
Even to this day the attack on Bose continues unabated – for exactly the same reason: prejudice and hatred. Meera Nanda’s attack on J.C.Bose in her ‘Prophets facing backwards’ (2006) is a classic example: ...
Far from being ‘disproved’ during his own lifetime, the discoveries and generalizations that Bose made regarding the plant behavior are today receiving much attention. For example, the uniquely Bose-idea that all plants employ electrical signaling as a means of transmitting information about the environment around them, today receives a great support from plant electro-physiologists. Plant electrophysiology is a well-established branch of bio-physics. With regard to the above statement of Bose, Shepherd notes that ‘in 2011 it is understood that most and perhaps all plant cells are excitable, responding to stimuli such as heat, cold, wounding, touch and changes in extra-cellular osmotic pressure with electric signals’. Far from a hindrance to science Vedantic background of Bose provided him a philosophical tool that allowed him to overcome the dualist debate that often prejudiced the scientific pursuit. V.A. Shepherd says in conclusion: ...

Why #Gharwapsi  is not about religion or ideology - Sriram Sivaraman
Institutions help in ordering our social intercourse in a manner that provides the least amount of inconvenience to the majority. Concepts like boundaries, maps, concept of time, clocks, money, wealth, and religion help in standardising experiences and serve as templates to straighten out things that seem out of control. We all have our set of institutions. A set of abstractions. Our home.

Knowledge of what reality is embedded in the institutional fabric of society, and every individual is therefore, bound to have his/her own home. Knowledge – involving concepts like perception, communication, and reasoning – is person-specific and impressionistic as well.

Abstractions like culture, ideology, ethics and morality and most of our elaborate sets of exercises and sub-conscious rituals are termed sane or become socially acceptable only when it helps the majority cling on to its ideas and comforts to provide a future that seems to be under control. A common home. It is also the reason why the idea of true democracy is endearing but remains an elaborate charade. The knowledge or information thus gained helps one feel secured, gives a sense of power over the environment or satisfies the need to control as many variables as possible. Can we ever consume information without distorting it with our ideas or notions and perceive it as it is without any biases? If we cannot, aren’t we all sowing seeds of violence and intolerance every day without realising it?

Institutions also help in classifying and labeling every possibly conceived thought or object in manner that most of us can understand or relate to. While it has proved useful to us in many ways, one cannot help but ponder over the ever widening gap that it has created in terms of us relating to the physical world. Every conscious activity has, therefore, become a means to strengthen or reinforce our ideas, our home in the pretext of something else.

Blog: Should #history be taken seriously? - Sriram Sivaraman
Most historians agree that history, as an academic subject, faces methodological and interpretative challenges. For any field of study, symbols remain essential. They standardise experience and remove ambiguity. The system of symbols we’ve adopted - language – cannot symbolise finer human experiences and the other unknowns that arise during the course of our social intercourse. The variables we control are small in number compared to the ones that we face in the guise of problems. As a result, conditioned responses always seem inadequate in the face of new problems. Language, as a template to symbolise every conceivable thought, is fast proving inadequate. Our quest to invent, discover, be creative and break new barriers will always face this problem.

Institutions are born out of frustration when there is a perpetual need to symbolise every experience or create templates. These templates go on to become institutions that are often, as history suggests, hijacked by opportunists. As a result, history, to a large extent, sets the value systems of a society. Our reactions to how virtuous or iniquitous an action is, is largely based on this very conditioning. The fact that each religion has its own set of moral, ethical, objective view of things serves to illustrate the point.

Knowledge is bound only by the templates we have adopted – a lens through which we try to get a peek into the universe that has far more variables and unknowns than we can possibly process or imagine. As a result, intellect is only a measure of one’s ability to manipulate or rationalise thoughts based on the different symbols she/he has acquired.

It might be even that history itself is a social institution. As I had written in my post, new social institutions are built on the basis of old ones, often failing to see the need to reconsider their validity in the present context; or the idea of them being merely abstractions which, with every step blurs the boundary between our subjective reality and the rhythms of the physical natural world.

Similar to all other social institutions, history has always been and will remain a refuge that promises a sense of comfort and security to the majority or a vehicle that's waiting to be hijacked.

The Anchoring Effect: How The Mind is Biased by First Impressions -

Why It’s hard to change your mind: <- bias="" confirmation="" p="" the="">

Tonnes of Indian Political philosophy: it’s everywhere in formal Indian philosophy. First, I’m operating with a pretty standard account of political philosophy: questions pertaining to the legitimate use of force. Political philosophy so understood is different from (but related to) ethics. Certainly you find these issues discussed in literature outside of formal philosophy. It has been noted that there seems to be at least two schools in India: the real politik school of the Arthashastra, and the Moral Realist schools (e.g. the Mahabharata) that ties the legitimate use of power to ethical (dharma) considerations.
As Olivelle argues, there is an early layer to the Artha Sastra that seems to be more strictly on the political considerations of the king, while a later part is made consistent with Dharma sastric concerns. But, in fact, we should see this in a thoroughly post-modern way – just as feminists have argued about the personal being the political, and Foucault saw the political in the inscription of power more generally – and think of political thought in India within a much wider context of texts on power of any sort.
So, what I am suggesting is both that the West itself in medieval times has political thought presented in much the same way as you would find in India, through instruction and narrative rather than reasoning; and that the complex and fluid presence of the governmental notion of the political in wider contexts in India should make us not so much query the presence of political thought there as to extend our understanding of political thought – in fact, in much the way various post-modern thinkers have it.
Hi Amod
Thanks for raising this fascinating issue! So far my understanding about our tradition is concerned , this Question calls for a revisit of some of the turning points of the history of developments of Indian Thought – some salient features of development of Indian Knowledge dynamics .
The Life Divine by Sri Aurobindo is the most comprehensive book as an entry point to Indian Philosophy. Many older philosophical strands, though sophisticated, bear serious deficiencies and Sri Aurobindo offers a modern Ontological framework incorporating Evolution. The book has countless references to earlier concepts and schools by way of allusions and comparisons useful for the new entrants. Secondary literature available on the book are also diverse as well as interdisciplinary. [TNM55]

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