Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.
 

RE: [TheHeathenInHisBlindness] Indian Secularism

Expand Messages
  • Balu
    Dear Matthew, Jakob has already responded to your post from one of the angles of our research programme which shows that we too are concerned about answering
    Message 1 of 9 , Sep 24, 2009
      Dear Matthew,



      Jakob has already responded to your post from one of the angles of our
      research programme which shows that we too are concerned about answering
      what troubles you: “why this kind of account keeps repeatedly cropping up”?
      As his post tells you, we need to give a rich and complex answer to this
      concern but, as you well know, the answer one gives to a question depends on
      what the question is and how it is formulated. In my post, I do not want to
      repeat his answer but will try to do something else: answer your misgiving
      that “dismissing her (Shabnum) as someone who does not think seems a bit too
      easy”. That is to say, I want to go deeper into the claim of my earlier post
      that Shabnums and Meera Chandokes of this world do not think but merely
      talk. In other words, is it possible to identify the problems with their
      accounts (that explicates more clearly why I say that they do not think) in
      such a way that it is susceptible to some sort of solution? If, indeed, we
      can show that such people do not think and we can show that their mistakes
      have some cognitive roots, then we can also provide additional explanations.
      In such a case, our answer would be richer and more complex than any other
      available at the market place.



      1. Here is the first charge: they talk about certain domains of human
      endeavour as though they do have knowledge of these domains, whereas they do
      not know anything about that domain. I will first explain this charge before
      talking about the implications.



      Consider one of the most common argumentative (and cognitive) strategies
      that many people in the social sciences use, when they want to criticize
      some position or the other. This consists of challenging the truth of the
      premises in an argument in order to show that (a) they disagree with the
      argument; (b) one could legitimately challenge the truth of the conclusions
      thereby; (c) in doing so, they are advancing knowledge of the subject
      matter. (This takes many forms and I give you three illustrations out of
      indefinitely many: Shabnum does it in the citation that Jakob used in his
      first post; Achin Vanaik used this in the Rethinking Religion in India
      conference while he spoke of a ‘logical theory’ in the domain of
      International Relations; Sweetman uses this in his published article in a
      journal to say that I am wrong because I presuppose Protestant Christianity
      as the model of religion to draw the conclusion that Hinduism is not a
      religion. I suggest you look at all three to discover how wide-spread and
      familiar this argument is. How often have you not heard people’s argument
      being dismissed on the grounds that one does not agree with their premises
      or assumptions or presuppositions?) As you can see, people use the following
      notions: ‘premises and conclusions’; ‘truth and derivation’; ‘drawing
      conclusions from certain premises’. All of these are studied in Logic and
      this constitutes the subject matter of formal logics.



      If you read the first chapter in a book on ‘Introduction to Logic’ or attend
      the first class in the first year of a logic course, you learn about these
      notions. Almost one of the first things you learn is this: there is a
      fundamental asymmetry in the transmission of truth and falsity from premises
      to conclusions. Truth is transmitted from premises to conclusions but
      falsity is not; falsity is transmitted from the conclusion to premises but
      truth is not. (In both cases, we assume that valid rules of logical
      inferences are used.) That is to say, if your premises are true and you use
      valid rules of inference, then your conclusion is also true; if your
      conclusion is false and you use valid rules of inference then at least one
      of your premises is false. However, the other way does not hold: you could
      have false premises and yet draw true conclusions. The falsity of your
      premise does not make your conclusion false or the truth of your conclusion
      does not make all your premises (or even one of them) true. This is the
      nature of drawing conclusions in deductive logics. Because this is the first
      thing you learn in your logic course, I have also formulated in a simple
      language.



      So, when people like Shabnums of this world enter the domain of logic (they
      are, after all, arguing using notions from formal logics), you expect them
      to know this. If they do not, they should not argue or criticize. They are
      not ordinary citizens who are arguing in a café but pretend to be
      intellectuals who are producing knowledge about the world. In the former
      case of café discussions, we can overlook logical mistakes; after all, it is
      the beer that talks. In the latter case, we cannot. These people are public
      intellectuals and teachers; they form young minds and influence public
      policies. So, we expect them to know what they are talking about. It is
      their duty and obligation as well. But they do not know: they think they are
      being ‘logical’, when they commit mistakes that a freshman should not. How
      fit I am to be a teacher and an intellectual if I talk about matters studied
      in Physics without knowing anything about Physics? What would my ‘expertise’
      in Physics amount to, when it transpires that I do not know the first lesson
      in physics?



      2. Invariably, such tremendous but unforgivable ignorance goes hand-in-hand
      with contempt for the subject matter of logic. I do not know whether Shabnum
      has expressed this; but it is implicit in any case. I have heard claims like
      the following from precisely these kinds of pundits: ‘I do not do
      logic-chopping’; ‘The world does not follow your rules of logic’; ‘I totally
      reject Aristotelian (or bourgeois) logic’; ‘what we need is less ‘or-or’
      reasoning but more ‘and-and’ thinking’ and so on and so forth. In and of
      itself I do not mind such death-defying acts; however, I do have problems
      with the fact that it is sheer ignorance that talks here. Those who talk
      like this or embody such attitudes are legion; social sciences are full of
      pompous ignoramuses like these. Here, the problem is this: why is such a
      dismissive attitude ingrained among social scientists? Answering this
      question gives us some handle on Chandokes and Shabnums of this world as
      well.



      3. To some extent, this attitude is a part of the contempt for theories.
      Most social scientists are incapable of producing theories and hypotheses of
      the required kind. They think that all these domains consist of mere
      ‘opinions’ and that one cannot produce knowledge about human beings,
      cultures and societies. Consequently, any opinion is as good as any other
      opinion: after all, everyone of us knows what ‘culture’, ‘religion’,
      ‘politics’ etc are all about. So, what matters what one says? This attitude
      to knowledge, which characterizes post- world war social sciences
      (especially under the influence of the US), is also shared by Shabnum. To
      understand this wide-spread dismissal of the importance of theory and the
      possibility of producing knowledge would also enable us to understand the
      Chandokes and Sahbnums of this world.



      4. And then, there is also an equally abysmal ignorance about theories of
      meaning, reference and language. Yet, this does not deter them talking about
      ‘meaning’ and ‘historical contexts’, ‘language and society’ and such like.
      The number of times I have heard intellectuals saying, ‘I totally reject
      Aristotelian notion of truth’ or ‘I reject the correspondence theory of
      language’ is indefinitely many. Of course, these people did not know what
      they were talking about in each of these cases. So, this way of ‘rejecting’
      all kinds of things they know nothing about characterizes Shabnums of this
      world as well. Here too, my objections are the same. In an increasing
      fashion, it appears as though the only (and supreme) qualification to become
      an intellectual and social scientist seems to be ignorance and not
      knowledge. We need to understand this process as well.





      So, I could go on, but I will stop here. When I say, therefore, they talk
      but do not think, I am not explaining why they say what they say: I am
      merely characterizing what is it that they do. Let us first find out what
      they do, before we explain. I hope I have gone some distance in allaying
      your misgiving in the process.





      Friendly greetings



      Balu







      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Balu
      Dear Matthew, I sent the post too early without adding another paragraph. I would have formulated differently if it was included in the earlier post. You raise
      Message 2 of 9 , Sep 24, 2009
        Dear Matthew,



        I sent the post too early without adding another paragraph. I would have
        formulated differently if it was included in the earlier post.



        You raise the possibility that her use of words are ad hoc attempts "to
        gloss some set of historical processes or social relations which she prima
        facie sees". You also further raise the question that "it is also possible
        to say that secularism in India means that we have a theocratic state that
        decides on the religious rights of its citizens. Is it possible that this is
        the kind of historical context that she is talking about?" And that she
        might think that this is unique. Here is my answer.



        1. Speaking of prima facie appearances is of importance for us either to
        identify a possible problem or in assessing the solution. For instance, it
        is the prima facie appearance that sun revolves round the earth, but this
        appearance is not an explanation in itself, even though it was considered
        one for a long time. This appearance is either a problem to solve or a test
        for the adequacy of a theory that claims the opposite. In this sense, it is
        not an issue for "interpretation"; this is so, among other things, because
        the world is not a 'text' consisting of sentences that require
        interpretation; (Of course, many use it as a metaphor and speak of nature as
        a text and mathematics as the language in which such a text is written. I am
        not discussing such metaphors here.) Consequently, one cannot provide some
        kind of 'gloss' to historical processes. In this sense, I am not willing to
        entertain your suggestion at one level.



        2. At an another level, I am a bit surprised by your formulation. I am
        surprised because I assume that you have read our text on secular state and
        religious conflict that was published in The Journal of Political
        Philosophy. There, we give body to what you say about 'theocratic state' and
        make it less generic. We argue that the western liberal states accept the
        theological meta-position that religions are candidates for truth. We
        suggest too that the Indian state rests upon this assumption. If this is
        what you mean by 'theocratic state' (this is such a woolly word, why do you
        use it?), then, yes, India is a theocratic state. But, unlike the way you
        make Shabnum think, this is true of the West as well: this situation does
        not make the Indian state unique; it is continuous with liberal democracies
        in the West. So, if Shabnum notices this 'fact' about the Indian State as
        something unique, she knows precious little about the histories and theories
        of the secular states in the West. In that case, should she not try to
        educate herself before writing on this?



        In other words, it appears to me that we are not oblivious to the concerns
        you raise. We are not only aware of them but have also taken some steps in
        going some way to answer these concerns. I wonder why you do not see this.





        Friendly greetings



        Balu_._,___



        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • m.john@lse.ac.uk
        Dear Balu and Jakob, Thanks very much for your detailed and instructive replies. I stand corrected. Having glanced through Shabnum s book a few hours ago I
        Message 3 of 9 , Sep 24, 2009
          Dear Balu and Jakob,

          Thanks very much for your detailed and instructive replies.

          I stand corrected. Having glanced through Shabnum's book a few hours ago I must say that its claims left me baffled and I can see why you say that the book is thoughtless and inconsistent in its assertions.

          I also now see that I was trying to figure a way to save unconstrained assertions about secularism and its supposed historical contexts which was foolhardy.

          Yours,

          Mathew




          ________________________________

          From: TheHeathenInHisBlindness@yahoogroups.com on behalf of Balu
          Sent: Thu 24/09/2009 09:20
          To: TheHeathenInHisBlindness@yahoogroups.com
          Subject: RE: [TheHeathenInHisBlindness] Indian Secularism




          Dear Matthew,

          I sent the post too early without adding another paragraph. I would have
          formulated differently if it was included in the earlier post.

          You raise the possibility that her use of words are ad hoc attempts "to
          gloss some set of historical processes or social relations which she prima
          facie sees". You also further raise the question that "it is also possible
          to say that secularism in India means that we have a theocratic state that
          decides on the religious rights of its citizens. Is it possible that this is
          the kind of historical context that she is talking about?" And that she
          might think that this is unique. Here is my answer.

          1. Speaking of prima facie appearances is of importance for us either to
          identify a possible problem or in assessing the solution. For instance, it
          is the prima facie appearance that sun revolves round the earth, but this
          appearance is not an explanation in itself, even though it was considered
          one for a long time. This appearance is either a problem to solve or a test
          for the adequacy of a theory that claims the opposite. In this sense, it is
          not an issue for "interpretation"; this is so, among other things, because
          the world is not a 'text' consisting of sentences that require
          interpretation; (Of course, many use it as a metaphor and speak of nature as
          a text and mathematics as the language in which such a text is written. I am
          not discussing such metaphors here.) Consequently, one cannot provide some
          kind of 'gloss' to historical processes. In this sense, I am not willing to
          entertain your suggestion at one level.

          2. At an another level, I am a bit surprised by your formulation. I am
          surprised because I assume that you have read our text on secular state and
          religious conflict that was published in The Journal of Political
          Philosophy. There, we give body to what you say about 'theocratic state' and
          make it less generic. We argue that the western liberal states accept the
          theological meta-position that religions are candidates for truth. We
          suggest too that the Indian state rests upon this assumption. If this is
          what you mean by 'theocratic state' (this is such a woolly word, why do you
          use it?), then, yes, India is a theocratic state. But, unlike the way you
          make Shabnum think, this is true of the West as well: this situation does
          not make the Indian state unique; it is continuous with liberal democracies
          in the West. So, if Shabnum notices this 'fact' about the Indian State as
          something unique, she knows precious little about the histories and theories
          of the secular states in the West. In that case, should she not try to
          educate herself before writing on this?

          In other words, it appears to me that we are not oblivious to the concerns
          you raise. We are not only aware of them but have also taken some steps in
          going some way to answer these concerns. I wonder why you do not see this.

          Friendly greetings

          Balu_._,___

          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]





          Please access the attached hyperlink for an important electronic communications disclaimer: http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/secretariat/legal/disclaimer.htm

          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • kannan7s
          Dear Balu and Jakob, Thank you! I happened to check the Heathen group today after a long break and was treated to this instructive and entertaining thread. I
          Message 4 of 9 , Oct 9 8:03 PM
            Dear Balu and Jakob,

            Thank you! I happened to check the Heathen group today after a long break and was treated to this instructive and entertaining thread.

            I might add that the use of the term 'secularism' now reminds me of the coke bottle in the movie, "The gods must be crazy."

            For those who have not seen this 20+ year old film, it is the story of a tribe of Bushmen in the Kalahari finding a coke bottle (thrown out of an airplane by a pilot) and incorporating it into their lives. The coke bottle, while being a strange object at first, is soon put to many uses. Being hard, it is used to split open and smash large roots; it is useful in making music by blowing air at its mouth; it is useful in curing snake skins by rubbing skins against its smooth cylindrical surface; its round mouth is useful in making circular decorative marks, and so on.

            A coke bottle can be a very useful object, even if it is not a known object.

            Similarly, the term 'secularism' appears to be rather "useful" to Indian intellectuals even if it is not known what 'secularism' (the object) is. Like the coke bottle, it seems to be useful in making circular decorative marks.

            In the movie, a quarrel erupts among the tribe members over the use of the versatile coke bottle because the gods, in their short-sightedness, had sent only one coke bottle; and everybody wanted to use it. It seems the quarrel over 'secularism' is similar: various intellectuals want it to mean different things and are stretching its meaning in different directions.

            I hope your research has been productive over the summer.

            With regards,
            Kannan
          • jakobderoover
            Dear Kannan, Nice one. Maybe we should call the secularist intellectuals cokebottlestretcherwallahs from now on? Hope all is well on your side too. Yours Jakob
            Message 5 of 9 , Oct 10 3:42 AM
              Dear Kannan,

              Nice one. Maybe we should call the secularist intellectuals cokebottlestretcherwallahs from now on?

              Hope all is well on your side too.

              Yours

              Jakob


              --- In TheHeathenInHisBlindness@yahoogroups.com, "kannan7s" <kannan7s@...> wrote:
              >
              >
              > Dear Balu and Jakob,
              >
              > Thank you! I happened to check the Heathen group today after a long break and was treated to this instructive and entertaining thread.
              >
              > I might add that the use of the term 'secularism' now reminds me of the coke bottle in the movie, "The gods must be crazy."
              >
              > For those who have not seen this 20+ year old film, it is the story of a tribe of Bushmen in the Kalahari finding a coke bottle (thrown out of an airplane by a pilot) and incorporating it into their lives. The coke bottle, while being a strange object at first, is soon put to many uses. Being hard, it is used to split open and smash large roots; it is useful in making music by blowing air at its mouth; it is useful in curing snake skins by rubbing skins against its smooth cylindrical surface; its round mouth is useful in making circular decorative marks, and so on.
              >
              > A coke bottle can be a very useful object, even if it is not a known object.
              >
              > Similarly, the term 'secularism' appears to be rather "useful" to Indian intellectuals even if it is not known what 'secularism' (the object) is. Like the coke bottle, it seems to be useful in making circular decorative marks.
              >
              > In the movie, a quarrel erupts among the tribe members over the use of the versatile coke bottle because the gods, in their short-sightedness, had sent only one coke bottle; and everybody wanted to use it. It seems the quarrel over 'secularism' is similar: various intellectuals want it to mean different things and are stretching its meaning in different directions.
              >
              > I hope your research has been productive over the summer.
              >
              > With regards,
              > Kannan
              >
            • Mayank Shekhar
              Interesting analogy! The end of the movie is also interesting (wise people in what they decide to do with it) - to drop the bottle off the end of the world!
              Message 6 of 9 , Oct 10 9:46 AM
                Interesting analogy! The end of the movie is also interesting (wise people in what they decide to do with it) - to drop the bottle off the end of the world! (if my memory serves right).
                 
                Very unlike the secularism where they want to keep it so that the chaos may continue.
                 
                Mayank


                --- On Sat, 10/10/09, jakobderoover <jakobderoover@...> wrote:


                From: jakobderoover <jakobderoover@...>
                Subject: [TheHeathenInHisBlindness] Re: Indian Secularism
                To: TheHeathenInHisBlindness@yahoogroups.com
                Date: Saturday, October 10, 2009, 6:42 AM


                 





                Dear Kannan,

                Nice one. Maybe we should call the secularist intellectuals cokebottlestretcher wallahs from now on?

                Hope all is well on your side too.

                Yours

                Jakob

                --- In TheHeathenInHisBlin dness@yahoogroup s.com, "kannan7s" <kannan7s@.. .> wrote:
                >
                >
                > Dear Balu and Jakob,
                >
                > Thank you! I happened to check the Heathen group today after a long break and was treated to this instructive and entertaining thread.
                >
                > I might add that the use of the term 'secularism' now reminds me of the coke bottle in the movie, "The gods must be crazy."
                >
                > For those who have not seen this 20+ year old film, it is the story of a tribe of Bushmen in the Kalahari finding a coke bottle (thrown out of an airplane by a pilot) and incorporating it into their lives. The coke bottle, while being a strange object at first, is soon put to many uses. Being hard, it is used to split open and smash large roots; it is useful in making music by blowing air at its mouth; it is useful in curing snake skins by rubbing skins against its smooth cylindrical surface; its round mouth is useful in making circular decorative marks, and so on.
                >
                > A coke bottle can be a very useful object, even if it is not a known object.
                >
                > Similarly, the term 'secularism' appears to be rather "useful" to Indian intellectuals even if it is not known what 'secularism' (the object) is. Like the coke bottle, it seems to be useful in making circular decorative marks.
                >
                > In the movie, a quarrel erupts among the tribe members over the use of the versatile coke bottle because the gods, in their short-sightedness, had sent only one coke bottle; and everybody wanted to use it. It seems the quarrel over 'secularism' is similar: various intellectuals want it to mean different things and are stretching its meaning in different directions.
                >
                > I hope your research has been productive over the summer.
                >
                > With regards,
                > Kannan
                >



















                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • vnr1995
                The book Heathen mentions a couple of similar analogies. 8.1.1 disputes about blackholes 8.1.2 MacIntyre s example There is a fundamental dissimilarity
                Message 7 of 9 , Oct 16 10:01 AM
                  The book Heathen mentions a couple of similar analogies.

                  8.1.1 disputes about blackholes
                  8.1.2 MacIntyre's example

                  There is a fundamental dissimilarity between Indian thinkers and those in
                  the West. Even though many western scholars in religious studies dispute
                  about what religion is, whether one can provide a satisfactory 'definition'
                  of religion, theologians and theologies don't engage in such disputes: for
                  them, it is God's gift.


                  Post #2175 would be helpful as well.





                  On Sat, Oct 10, 2009 at 9:46 AM, Mayank Shekhar <shekharmayank@...>wrote:

                  > Interesting analogy! The end of the movie is also interesting (wise people
                  > in what they decide to do with it) - to drop the bottle off the end of the
                  > world! (if my memory serves right).
                  >
                  > Very unlike the secularism where they want to keep it so that the chaos may
                  > continue.
                  >
                  > Mayank
                  >
                  >
                  > --- On Sat, 10/10/09, jakobderoover <jakobderoover@...> wrote:
                  >
                  >
                  > From: jakobderoover <jakobderoover@...>
                  > Subject: [TheHeathenInHisBlindness] Re: Indian Secularism
                  > To: TheHeathenInHisBlindness@yahoogroups.com
                  > Date: Saturday, October 10, 2009, 6:42 AM
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > Dear Kannan,
                  >
                  > Nice one. Maybe we should call the secularist intellectuals
                  > cokebottlestretcher wallahs from now on?
                  >
                  > Hope all is well on your side too.
                  >
                  > Yours
                  >
                  > Jakob
                  >
                  > --- In TheHeathenInHisBlin dness@yahoogroup s.com, "kannan7s" <kannan7s@..
                  > .> wrote:
                  > >
                  > >
                  > > Dear Balu and Jakob,
                  > >
                  > > Thank you! I happened to check the Heathen group today after a long break
                  > and was treated to this instructive and entertaining thread.
                  > >
                  > > I might add that the use of the term 'secularism' now reminds me of the
                  > coke bottle in the movie, "The gods must be crazy."
                  > >
                  > > For those who have not seen this 20+ year old film, it is the story of a
                  > tribe of Bushmen in the Kalahari finding a coke bottle (thrown out of an
                  > airplane by a pilot) and incorporating it into their lives. The coke bottle,
                  > while being a strange object at first, is soon put to many uses. Being hard,
                  > it is used to split open and smash large roots; it is useful in making music
                  > by blowing air at its mouth; it is useful in curing snake skins by rubbing
                  > skins against its smooth cylindrical surface; its round mouth is useful in
                  > making circular decorative marks, and so on.
                  > >
                  > > A coke bottle can be a very useful object, even if it is not a known
                  > object.
                  > >
                  > > Similarly, the term 'secularism' appears to be rather "useful" to Indian
                  > intellectuals even if it is not known what 'secularism' (the object) is.
                  > Like the coke bottle, it seems to be useful in making circular decorative
                  > marks.
                  > >
                  > > In the movie, a quarrel erupts among the tribe members over the use of
                  > the versatile coke bottle because the gods, in their short-sightedness, had
                  > sent only one coke bottle; and everybody wanted to use it. It seems the
                  > quarrel over 'secularism' is similar: various intellectuals want it to mean
                  > different things and are stretching its meaning in different directions.
                  > >
                  > > I hope your research has been productive over the summer.
                  > >
                  > > With regards,
                  > > Kannan
                  > >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  > ------------------------------------
                  >
                  > Yahoo! Groups Links
                  >
                  >
                  >
                  >


                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.