Philosophy For All
It does not do well to discard the epistemological explanations to various occurrences. To ignore it would be to do so at one’s own peril. Humans can live in a society only by having an understanding of the nature of that society. Political theory and philosophy argued Rajeev Bhargava, an eminent political theorist was a valuable area. It helped to reason systematically and ethically about some of the social and political problems faced by modern, pluralist societies. He rightly maintained that political theory and philosophy should not be seen as being esoteric and largely irrelevant to the enduring problems of our times.
Realistically, political philosophy also makes us comprehend that human beings will behave badly despite their innate goodness. A philosophical explanation made functional, therefore, gives rise to various answers to roughly the basic struggles every society faces.
A Swiss political thinker belonging to the eighteenth century, Jean-Jacques Rousseau made an appeal to the human heart. Although a man of contradictions, a testament to “fine art, foul artist”, his ideas formed an immense force that questioned the status quo. Rousseau’s importance emanated mainly through his critique of the Age of Enlightenment (or The Age of Reason from Seventeenth Century to the beginning of the nineteenth century in Western Europe). Its virtues, he claimed were actually destructive to human goodness.
“Man is born free, and yet we see him everywhere in chains”
Machines and industries have enslaved mankind. He highlighted the misfortunes of civilisation. According to him, the primitive man was more at peace than the civilised man, as the latter had developed social inequalities and unequal distribution of wealth. Rousseau’s critique of civilised folk is not that they are civilised as such, but that the form of their civilisation is perverse. Material progress was not to be confused with freedom, he envisaged.
The human element inherent in Rousseau’s ideas can be interpreted to evaluate the complexities of the twenty-first century, the age of information. One could approximate that commercialization and social media have tarnished human feelings. The world is fast-paced. There is a steady deterioration of virtues such as tolerance, kindness and empathy. ‘The world at your fingertips’ as it is said, is, in fact, the world very cold and distant. Popular movements like the selfie movement (Selfie with Daughter) have become tools of communication and responses to social distress.
I am not saying if it is a good or a bad cause. I am only questioning the genuineness of feelings and care expressed through social media. Surely, the benefits of social media for good causes have been plenty and have worked miracles. However, a genuine interest to stay politically conscious has been replaced with excessive memes that provide temporary laughs, ending the debate then and there.
To quote Harlan Ellison,
“You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion.”
Lack of human element is extended to the society — offline too. There is a visible lack of empathy, a consideration for the victims while dealing with cases of rape, and journalism is often made up of clickbait and sensationalism.
Is what has been generated on the internet been trickling down to the bottom layers of the society? The minority communities remain alienated from the mainstream debates, leading to a skewed understanding. There is a need to make the essential texts accessible, and simple to comprehend.
In international relations, Memorandum of Understanding (MoU’s) and treaties to resolve nuclear, land or water disputes neither see the light of day nor reflect the deeper emotional and temperamental reality of the issues. Countries focus on their own self-interest and act in ways calculated to raise themselves above others. An ideal situation would involve and embrace people and ideas from all strata of society. Many resolutions ignore the human element and rarely observe a conglomeration of all the stakeholders affected, like the civil society, human rights and environmental activists. I am dreaming about a wholesome involvement of participants.
Heart Vs The Brain
Similarly, in the pursuit of academic knowledge, many students opt for streams which make them marketable in the digital age, while overlooking Humanities, Arts and the Social Sciences. Paul Myers, in an article rightly dismisses the perception that subjects like Mathematics, Science, Technology and Engineering need not be cold, dry or passionless. To quote him,
As sciences, technology and computing become ever more powerful forces in the world, it is important that the people are ethical and bring in the human attributes that are central to a liberal arts education. We need thinkers, visionaries and creative minds. As the technology industry grows — and with it, employment opportunities — we need more candidates who are rooted in thought and fewer who can simply carry out a task.
Functional philosophy is the call of the hour. Stopping short of only reading philosophy is a bad practice; to make sense of existing chaos, the aspects of reality and thought must be in harmony. Debate, reasoning and discussion play a leading part in realising that, and texts all around the world, including the tribal regions, need to be made simple (keeping the core elements intact) and accessible to all.