Ajai R. Singh MD

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A peep into man's histority (Contd. VI)



We said earlier, in Section I, that we should not hoist our personal needs and likings on to our philosophizing, while cognitions cannot but be hoisted. But then if you were to question if our cognitions can ever be totally separated from our likings and our needs, we must agree that they cannot. The same question is put somewhat differently when Chattopadhyaya asks at the end of one of his recent articles: "one wonders whether one can actually suspend one's valuation while dealing with 'value-facts'" (Chattopadhyaya 1988; 125). This is in response to a concept of Sociology that says: "the only clear and indubitable sense in which sociology can be value-free is that in dealing with value-facts the sociologist should never suffer his own valuations to intrude into or affect his presentation of the valuation which are registered in the facts themselves" (Maclver and Page 1971; 617). This raises the important philosophical problem of neutralizing the effect of human valuation which are needs and likings based, on valuefacts that need objective articulation free of observer bias, as entities in themselves, and bereft of subjectivities and its defects. This of course is the major concern and driving force of all the rigour that goes into scientific methodology and experimental design; and not without reason is it the major preoccupation of most scientific researchers today.


Be that as it may. We must confess that in what follows we shall give only a partial, and therefore unsatisfactory, answer to the question we posed earlier. But if the answer is partial and unsatisfactory, it is not exactly worthless. To reject a partial answer just because it is not whole is an application of universal principles out of context. It distorts perspectives. A partial answer can be reje­cted only if it precludes a total one, or after we achieve a more comprehensive one. When we call a partial answer unsatisfactory it is because it must goad us on to develop a more complete one. In fact, this dissatisfaction is precisely the driving force for all thought articulation from time immemorial. It must make us realize that no final answers have ever been possible in any human endeavour. This is what distinguishes cognitions worthy of our philosophizing from those motivated by emotional needs and likings. For, if the former allow us to accept, it is the latter that tempt us to reject answers purely because they are partial. Here is a shining example of such of our likings and needs that need to be divested from our cognitions.


There is also a second point. If someone were to ask after reading this whole communication that what it has essentially involved is precisely an analysis of concepts (which therefore vindicates the position that philosophy is nothing but the analysis of concepts), we must grant there is truth in it. But we must know this again is only a partial truth, and was never really in dispute as one. What we have sought to point out is precisely that it is partial, albeit relevant in its own way. But this relevance is not to the exclusion of others that can be equally relevant. Again, to point out its partial relevance is not to reject its thrust—it is in fact to highlight it moreso. It must seek to establish its legi­timate domain and its parameters, and point out those reference points where its intervention remains relevant and where it becomes irrelevant, where it need intersect with other approaches and where preserve itself from, or inte­grate itself with, others, and where depart from them altogether. In this is the fruition of analysis itself.


So, when we said earlier that our needs and our likings cannot ever be really separated from our cognition, what we meant thereby was that it cannot ever be totally separated. But one of the most significant aspects of the further­ance of man's thinking is not this realization as much as the attempts to neutralise its unhealthy influence. This is precisely the reason why emotiona­lity is anathema to a reasoned debate, as much as is hair-splitting, which is but a manifestation of this same emotionality albeit more acceptably garbed. This again is precisely the reason for some not only to reject both but swing to the other extreme altogether when, to obviate the fruitlessness of debate, they seek to undermine the worth of debate itself. And in retaliation the defenders of reason not only protest this overthrow but seek to upturn authority's apple-cart. In all such activities, emotional support seeking and need fulfil­ment is involved doubtless. But it garbs itself in the manner of different cogni­tions. To unveil this would be no mean endeavour. This is the task we lay for our philosophizing when we seek those moments in our thought processes that stress the reference-points, the intersecting issues and relevant or irrele­vant departures we talked of earlier. The moment we concern ourselves thus, we cognize and attempt to avoid the undesirable effects of conation. Though this process is never infallible, it becomes the means to forward the cause of that resolute enquiry which we—that means both the reason and authority baiters—-must indeed identify as the crux of what we recognize as our app­roach. Here the endless controversies over means start sounding like the quibblings of the five blind folded men who identified the elephant according to their own predilections, their needs, and moreso their likings. It is our cognition that can remove the blind fold of such partial viewings. This is probably the endless search and constant refrain of philosophizing down the ages which manifests in its stress on the holistic approach as integral to proper understanding. For partial approaches are most amenable to partialities, and attempts at holism automatically involve the fullest and widest possible expanse of a framework or gestalt that human cognition can grant, or is


capable of. In essence, then, to concentrate energies neither on the search for master-tools nor on the furtherance of any of the partial approaches to the exclusion of the other—mark the word exclusion here—becomes the prime cognitive enterprise of a philosopher. This must only spawn such robust en­quiry as forwards the goals of the understanding of concepts that best articu­late the entire gamut of human thought and activity, as much its processes as its aims, and also their ends. And if it be true that when needs combine with motives they form biases, it is equally true that this cognition itself is the first important step in eschewing biases, their ulteriority, and the consequent cramping effects of all the three—our needs, emotional motivations and our biases. It is when the positive thrusts of our needs are linked to the cognitive apparatus and enterprise of man, that biases are neutralised, a common ground for a dialogue between warring ideologies can be laid, and a polarisa­tion or consensus, whatever, achieved. This of course has the risk of putting some 'professional' philosophers out of employment, but it need not really. It will only weed out aspects of their philosophizing that camouflage as strong-points but in reality only cramp their growth; and such camouflage is not only self-willed, it is often something of which one is blissfully unaware. This bliss can be unveiled by peering into the motivations behind one's own con­templations as well as the motivations of others like-minded. This would lay bare the pathway traversed till date and show such that are appropriate for the future even as one weeds out the thought-leeches and egoistic-parasites that are spin-offs of yesteryears; and moistens and fertilizes the soil for a fresh, vibrant germination, today and tomorrow. It is the misfortune of today's professionalism that it should have gravitated to become an articulation of needs when in reality it should be an articulation of objectives. If this is a travesty, it is probably only a manifestation of such corruption of thought processes as finds echoes in most endeavours of the man of this age. To over­come this and break out of this vicious cycle will be no mean task, we can assu­re you. There will be many simperings, many howlings, for sure; and it will be difficult to assuage the laments of some who develop an identity crisis thereby. We anticipate these. But they will as surely abate over a period of time. And when philosophers have exercised their emotions to the full, we hope they settle down to the less glamorous and more painstaking task of actualizing themselves, as their branch.


History's Challenge to Philosophy




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