Hegel would have danced with Glee


By

Dr. Sorab Sadri
Director
Bharati Vidyapeeth University's
Institute of Management and Entrepreneurial Development
Erandawane Campus, Pune-411 038
 


Two devout Christian scholars have charted two separate paths to arrive at logical solutions. The first,
(I will consider), is Rene' Descartes, a mathematician by training, and as we all know, gave the first formal proof of logic in his masterpiece The Meditations. Aiming to reach totally secure foundations for knowledge, he began to attack all his erstwhile beliefs with sceptical doubts. What was left was the certainty of his conscious experience and with it of his (own) existence. He posited a form of linear reasoning, which began, with a set of syllogisms ending in a conclusion, the whole of which being called an argument. Basically, a syllogism is a form of reasoning wherein a conclusion is drawn from two given or assumed propositions (premises). He stated that a middle or common term is present in both premises and it may even be invalid and is not present in the conclusion. He began by stating dubito ergo sum, (I doubt therefore I am) since the beginning of all inquiry and hence knowledge is doubt. He went on to posit his famous cogito ergo sum, (I think therefore I am), since our consciousness and self-realisation determines who (we see) we are. He ends his thoughts with sum res cogitans, (I am a thinking being), thus justifying the veracity of his argument. In mathematics an argument is an independent variable determining the value of a function. For Descartes it symbolised either a reason advanced or the reasoning process itself.

The moral brigade in India (unwittingly and invariably) uses the Cartesian argument. The proponents doubt the bonafides of a given action or scholarship think and believe that their own position or interpretation is correct and justify it by saying "we are right" as the religion or the custom or the belief system has (somehow) ordained us to say so.  'The hell with freedom of thought guaranteed by the Constitution; if we do not like it we shall create a ruckus and the docile / insecure / accommodative government will fearfully ban it.' Salman Rushdie suffered in Satanic Verses because some clerics misunderstood his brilliantly authored book and the Government of India did not want to rock the vote bank and taking the lead promptly banned it. David Laine and the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) suffered a similar fate at the hands of the moral brigade for Sivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India more recently. To secure the vote bank, the Maharashtra Government raised its ante and banned the book ex post facto. Years ago Dom Moraes could not publish his book since it carried a picture of the Parsee Tower of Silence and the self styled interpreters of Zoroastrianism made quite a song and dance about it.  Thank heavens people like Prahalad Kakkar and Soli Sorabjee stood up and the Indian judiciary did not let the cause of scholarship down this time around. Fatwas of course will come thick and fast from the disgruntled moral brigade on all sides of the ideological spectrum (mostly from the right wing, the conservatives and the clergy). The level of social consciousness of the populace will no doubt determine the efficacy of these fatwas.

The not so recent craze was Mandira Bedi's sari flaunting the national tricolour below the knee! In other countries people use the national flag as a bikini. Are these foreigners any less patriotic or are they being disrespectful to their country or their flag? I seriously doubt it. Then why is all this brouhaha I wonder. Is it the moral brigade in a political garb that we see? All I have to tell those "whose sentiments were hurt" by the lady's sari is: for Heaven's sake please leave that lady alone! Concentrate on more important social issues like unequal distribution of wealth and incomes or the uneven development of communities and sectors. And if you feel that Indian (Hindu) culture is not liberated enough please start either wearing a burkha (to hide your ignorance) or visit Khajurao temples (to open up your conscious self).  In either case you will (hopefully) learn something about your own self.

Now we come to Georg Frederick Wilhelm Hegel (probably) the greatest German philosopher who walked the face of the earth. Immanuel Kant had in his masterpiece Critique of Pure Reason, and then in Critique of Practical Reason attempted to classify the world leaving behind an essential dualism (a) nature opposed to spirit (b) object opposed to, and (c) the outer world composed of isolated unrelated substances. He created the real world where he placed human beings and the metaphysical world where he relegated God. It fell to Hegel's lot to reduce this duality to unity and he did this with majestic scholarship in The Philosophy of History. He posited a broad doctrine of freedom and saw two tendencies co-existing within objective social reality. Hegel saw this freedom through (a) unity of opposites (man usually marries a woman, a beautiful lotus blossoms in a dirty pond) and (b) viewed reality through contradictions (some are fair as others are dark; some are beautiful as others are ugly and some are tall as others are short). He consequently developed the dialectic further. The fact that the great Karl Max found Hegel standing on his head and proceeded to put him back on his feet is another matter altogether, so we shall pass it by.

Hegel's logic or dialectic was fundamentally circular in contradistinction of Descarte's linear argument. The original thought was an idea, the most powerful thing (taking the queue from Voltaire). The opposition to it, as Hegel argued in Phenomenology was natural and finally (he prophesied) there would be a conclusion that is socially acceptable. In time this socially acceptable view would generate its own opposition and the cycle of thought (and action) would continue.  Man, (the Bible says), was made in the image of God so for Hegel man was the original idea or thesis. Communal strife (man abusing his wife, wife beating the child, the child kicking the dog and the dog biting the neighbour) was the form which opposition to the original idea took and this was antithesis. This community had to be managed and Hegel's answer was the modern republic, the ultimate perfection that was his synthesis. As explained above, the thesis-antithesis-synthesis was a perpetual and cyclical phenomenon. We cannot forget that the republic of Thomas Hobbes was replaced by Abraham Lincoln's democracy.

Democracy has been famously defined by Lincoln at the Address given at the Gettysburg War Cemetery as the 'government of the people by the people and for the people'.  In a retarded peripheral capitalist economy we need to ask 'which people"?  This is because practicing democracy on an empty mind and an empty stomach, (and we have plenty of those), is often an unrealistic ask.

Let us now take the Indian Constitution that is the foundation stone for our democracy, the rights of man and the division of powers, as a case in point. Our Constitution is a truly brilliant set of ideas, systems and procedures with commensurating rights and duties, conceived by great minds like Bhim Rao Ambedkar and Bhulabhai Desai. Hallowed ideas were shelved in the name of political expediency when lesser mortals became lawmakers. Unwittingly and ill advisably successive political leaders have used it to create a micro-nationalism through the linguistic division of states and a macro-racism though a perpetual reservation policy. Be that as it may, the separation of powers between legislature executive and judiciary, though often brittle, is still holding out admirably. (The era of emergency under Indira Gandhi was an unfortunate aberration and can be safely left out of this brief argument). Corruption, (defined as a deviation from the accepted norm), has not blunted the society entirely and we still have a few good men around who can and do make the difference.

However let us not forget that the Constitution also creates a unity of opposites by bringing all religions under the banner of secularism. Yet it sees reality in contradictions, when sixty years after we gained our political independence, we still have a religion and caste based (rather than income based) reservation-quota policy! It is bemusing that politicians defend this while laying claim to secularism. Hence the first part of the Hegelian vision is actualised.

Now we come to the Hegelian dialectic of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. It is well known that political, social, cultural and economic decisions are taken with the vote bank in mind. Common good and with it the common man is sidelined at best and his interests are consigned into the trashcan of social history at worst. The thesis prior to 1945 was a unified India, which we now call the Indian sub-continent. The antithesis after 1947 saw the creation of India and Pakistan from the earlier geophysical mass. This antithesis continued up until 1971 when Bangladesh was created and liberated from Pakistan. Then we had the synthesis, with the creation of the ASEAN.

How long and how well this new synthesis will last is moot point. I opine with the benefit of foresight, that what happened in 1947 and the resultant disintegration of an undivided India in the light of what is happening today was a good thing after all. Beginning with Jawaharlal Nehru and the eviction of Kashmiri Hindus from the homeland, the policy of appeasement has continued unabated reaching ridiculous heights. What is happening, for instance, in Uttar Pradesh is alarming. The Muslims still want to be treated as minority in spite of the growing numbers and demographic volumes.

Let me posit a contra factual hypothesis. Had India been undivided, the populace from Bangladesh and Pakistan with the Indian Muslims would have perhaps swamped the polity and socio-economic policies (following the idea of appeasement) would have made the Hindus a minority in their own country! The Hegelian synthesis would have become the new thesis for pseudo-secularism awaiting perhaps a (violent) antithesis to continue the cycle. Perhaps new Jihadi holocausts against the smaller minorities like the Parsees, the Jains, the Bohris, the Bahaiis and the Christians could have happened! Since Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life that has tolerantly assimilated cultures and peoples from all over through time immemorial. Hence the very idea of a Hindu holocaust is an oxymoron.

Papa Hegel looking down on Mother Earth from Heaven, (for he was a devout Christian), would be dancing with glee when he would occasionally train his celestial binoculars on India, (after a tipple that he liked), and if only because this is one country that has proved the old philosopher to be indubitably correct after all.
 


Dr. Sorab Sadri
Director
Bharati Vidyapeeth University's
Institute of Management and Entrepreneurial Development
Erandawane Campus, Pune-411 038
 

Source: E-mail February 5, 2008

          

Articles No. 1-99 / Articles No. 100-199 / Articles No. 200-299 / Articles No. 300-399 /
Articles No. 400-499 / Articles No. 500-599 / Articles No. 600-699 / Back to Articles 700 Onward
Faculty Column Main Page