Monday, November 30, 2009

Some objections i raised during a discussion with someone on the importance of Hegel and his "survival" in the contemporary philosophy. If there is any Hegelian reading this, i would like to know how Hegelians respond to these queries.

When you talk of the Hegelian philosophy surviving the vicissitudes of time, and still manifesting its truth even being ingrained into the philosophies that attempted to refute Hegel, which component of his philosophy are u referring to? I am sure you are not referring to his Idealism [which Stanford Encyclopedia describes as '...Hegel is seen as offering a metaphysico-religious view of God qua "Absolute Spirit"...] Hegelian Idealism is said to have been refuted by the analytical philosophers in the start of the 20th century; even Marx didn't accept it. So the Idealistic part of Hegel came to a dead end. Lets see the concept of Hegel's State. It doesn't matter if Hegel's conception of State is as tyrannical or totalitarian as Russell/Popper would have us believe, but the point is no one believes that anymore. Even Marxist conception of a government is far from that of Hegel's. So that too is a historical dead-end.

I assume the part of his philosophy that you think is valid is the Dialectics. Now, i have certain objections against it, which i will mention.

1. It attempts to give a God's eye view of the whole human intellectual process, while being a product of human mind itself, it too should be subject to dialectical change (by its own account) and hence not be immutable.

2. It says that the development of all human knowledge is dialectic in nature. But i believe many examples can be found to the contrary. For instance, the ancients believed that sun revolved around earth. Copernicus showed that it was wrong, that earth revolved around the sun. Forgive me, but i fail to see any dialectical progression in this. The geocentric view was refuted, it didn't not form any synthesis or any such thing with the heliocentric theory. It did not continue to exist in the scientific knowledge as dialectics would have us believe. Consider another example. Big Bang Theory verses Steady State Theory. Steady State was refuted; Big Bang accepted. End of story. No synthesis, no dialectics.

3. Dialectics propose that there is an ultimate Truth towards which scientific knowledge is moving. This conception of Truth in science has long been obsolete since the works of Popper and Kuhn. There is no ultimate metaphysical Truth that science can achieve.

4. A special focus of Hegel's dialectics has been history. Now, there are instances where merging of cultures can broadly be seen as following a dialectic pattern but otherwise i do not believe it can be treated as historical law. For instance, what would be the dialectical pattern seen in the history leading to the partition of subcontinent? Russell wrote abt it "It was an interesting thesis, giving unity and meaning to the revolutions of human affairs. Like other historical theories, it required, if it was to be made plausible, some distortion of facts and considerable ignorance."

5. The idea of history following a pattern is not unique. I am sure this concept was present among the Greeks too. First of all, it is subject to debate whether it is so. Even if there are such laws, then they should be discovered by the scientific method rather than being derived theoretically from a metaphysical philosophy. And furthermore, if any such 'laws' are discovered, then they would be subject to the same risk of being disproved by future historical events, just like any scientific theory is at the risk of being disapproved by future observations. Then there is the issue of history's objectivity. If history can never be objective, then how are any grand historical laws to be derived from it?

6. And as far as Hegel surviving in PoMo is concerned, let us consider Foucault. Foucault was highly critical of all philosophies which proposed that history can be neatly mapped out based on some law with a God's eye view. "Foucault's archeologies tend to identify discontinuities in history, and he insists that his cultural analyses are specifically directed against all notions of teleology or assumptions of transcendental vantage points." [Stuart Sim, One Hundred 20th century philosophers] This is a clear cut denial of Hegel's concept of history, and i cannot see any way in which it can be distorted so as to be in conformity with Hegelian view of history.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

by Awais Aftab

Episode 3: The Prophet

“You have thirty minutes to solve this math test,” May Magdalin went around the class, handing out the question paper to first grade students, as they settled down in their seats.

“Kids, they are so cute,” she almost sighed as she looked at them, fumbling with the cross hanging around her neck. Little saints. She had just found out last week that she was pregnant, and was very eager at the prospect of being a mother.

“Pauline! Don’t look at Peter’s answers!” she said aloud as she spotted her craning out her neck. And then she saw Thomas behind her, staring intently at his page, hand and pencil frozen as if in mid-movement, facial expression reflecting anticipation. Sensing something odd, she walked up to him.

“Tom, are you okay?” She bended, and asked gently.

He looked up at her, an intensity in his eyes. Light came in from the window behind his head, creating a momentary simulation of a halo around him, titillating her Christian heart.

“Why aren’t you writing?”

Tom replied with prophetic assurance, as if it was the most natural thing to say, “I am waiting for the voices to tell me the answers.”

May, stunned, could only breathe out, “Jesus...”

Aati: No wonder i am drawn to you! You're the Saint of Doubt, and i'm Doubt itself ;)

Friday, November 6, 2009

My comments on a post 'Drawing Room Talk' written by Uni on her blog. Please read the post first before reading the comments.


If I were a guy, I would surely not subject any female on the planet to such idiocy.

My sentiments too :)

I don't think there is any other 'foolproof' way. I have tried to think a lot about it. But if we posit an essentially segregated society, in which there is little male-female interaction (which would make dating unlikely and frowned upon, and which is what, i presume, you want), then there remains no other way for a family looking for a girl to go and see the girl they have heard about. Obviously, no family would just accept any girl without even meeting her. So, in the setting of an arranged marriage, there has to be some sort of a "meeting". The only question then remains of the manner in which it is conducted. But if the mother in law wants a particular type of wife for her son, then she has the right to question the girl in order to judge the presence or absence of those characteristics she wants in her daughter in law. She is not there to make friends, remember. She is looking for a daughter in law. And by actually entertaining the visits of such a rishta-seeking lady, the girl and her family is tacitly giving the boy's family the approval to be examined in this degrading manner. So, in my view, such a "sight-seeing" becomes almost impossible to avoid in the context of an arranged marriage.

The cases in which it doesn't happen like this is when a marriage happens within a family between two cousins, or between two family friends. There is no "sight-seeing" because the families already know each other. Or when the boy and the girl are already familiar with each other to some extent by virtue of being college mates or something like that, but this latter thing is more of a mixture of love-marriage-arranged-marriage, and not a pure arranged marriage happening in the context of gender segregation that had been assumed.

The thing that can be done is to make the girl's role more active. In this typical sight-seeing, the girl is meant to be purely passive, as if she is on display. If the girl's role in the rishta process is more active, then she won't just be a decoration piece... she can direct the conversation on her own terms, and refuse to take any shit from arrogant old ladies looking for their ideal daughter-in-law. So, perhaps the best advice for girls from me would be, excuse my language: Take no shit. But given how our society expects girls to be submissive and polite and silent, that might just be the biggest offense a girl can commit.

I personally don't want an arranged marriage for myself, and i have a positive view of dating. But well, that's just my personal preference :) Those who want an arranged marriage for themselves, please go ahead.

Monday, November 2, 2009

WhileISleep by Anton101
on deviantART

The drawing says:

While I sleep
I dream only of you
Of love
And your kiss

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