Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Some money, some mantras, some management

Lakshmi B. Ghosh
The Hindu, Tuesday, Jul 12, 2005

Much before they learn to master the boardroom mantras for success and win business with the right moves and counter-moves, Delhi University's commerce students can now take a lesson in self-realisation as well. With the University making it compulsory for its colleges to offer Philosophy as a concurrent subject in the restructured new B.Com (Honours) course, the most popular commerce course on the campus will no longer be just about getting the numbers right but also a chance to master the path to nirvana. Although Philosophy was available to students as a subsidiary paper in some colleges until last year, the restructured programme now makes it mandatory for all colleges to offer the course in the second year. Students will still have a choice to opt for any of the other choices offered by their college, but with all students finally getting the option, teachers are hoping that the students will realise the need to not just learn how to make money but also the stress-free way to enjoy it.

"It is a great move because students will learn the importance of self-realisation. Money is not the ultimate end. So students who have been learning accounting and business management will now also learn about life management, time management and, most important, spiritual management. Philosophy is an integral part of most top MBA courses. And it may be good for the students to start early,'' says Rachna Sharma, who teaches the subject at Hans Raj College. From the Bhagvad Gita to Vedas, Upanishads to Satyagraha and Non-Violence to Buddhist and Jain ethics, Paper No. XV -- Introduction to Philosophy -- is also being seen as an important tool to help students deal with the high stress that the subject is known to impart.

To be taught as a concurrent subject in the second year of B.Com (Honours), Philosophy was earlier a subsidiary paper in the second year and has now become a compulsory subject for students of the course. The change comes with the introduction of the restructured B.Com (Honours) programme last year, with Business Ethics being the new entrant in the first year. According to teachers, a majority of the students often did not opt for the subject earlier because they did not see the need for Philosophy in the Commerce stream. "Most MBA programmes teach the Gita or other aspects of Indian Philosophy. It has become increasingly necessary for students stepping into the commerce field to also learn the art of handling stress. The choice is now up to the students and we are hoping that many will now go for the option so it adds to their life later,'' says another teacher.

Finding Design in Nature

New York Times: July 7, 2005

EVER since 1996, when Pope John Paul II said that evolution (a term he did not define) was "more than just a hypothesis," defenders of neo-Darwinian dogma have often invoked the supposed acceptance - or at least acquiescence - of the Roman Catholic Church when they defend their theory as somehow compatible with Christian faith. But this is not true. The Catholic Church, while leaving to science many details about the history of life on earth, proclaims that by the light of reason the human intellect can readily and clearly discern purpose and design in the natural world, including the world of living things. Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not. Any system of thought that denies or seeks to explain away the overwhelming evidence for design in biology is ideology, not science.Consider the real teaching of our beloved John Paul. While his rather vague and unimportant 1996 letter about evolution is always and everywhere cited, we see no one discussing these comments from a 1985 general audience that represents his robust teaching on nature:
"All the observations concerning the development of life lead to a similar conclusion. The evolution of living beings, of which science seeks to determine the stages and to discern the mechanism, presents an internal finality which arouses admiration. This finality which directs beings in a direction for which they are not responsible or in charge, obliges one to suppose a Mind which is its inventor, its creator." He went on: "To all these indications of the existence of God the Creator, some oppose the power of chance or of the proper mechanisms of matter. To speak of chance for a universe which presents such a complex organization in its elements and such marvelous finality in its life would be equivalent to giving up the search for an explanation of the world as it appears to us. In fact, this would be equivalent to admitting effects without a cause. It would be to abdicate human intelligence, which would thus refuse to think and to seek a solution for its problems."
Note that in this quotation the word "finality" is a philosophical term synonymous with final cause, purpose or design. In comments at another general audience a year later, John Paul concludes, "It is clear that the truth of faith about creation is radically opposed to the theories of materialistic philosophy. These view the cosmos as the result of an evolution of matter reducible to pure chance and necessity." Naturally, the authoritative Catechism of the Catholic Church agrees: "Human intelligence is surely already capable of finding a response to the question of origins. The existence of God the Creator can be known with certainty through his works, by the light of human reason." It adds: "We believe that God created the world according to his wisdom. It is not the product of any necessity whatever, nor of blind fate or chance."In an unfortunate new twist on this old controversy, neo-Darwinists recently have sought to portray our new pope, Benedict XVI, as a satisfied evolutionist. They have quoted a sentence about common ancestry from a 2004 document of the International Theological Commission, pointed out that Benedict was at the time head of the commission, and concluded that the Catholic Church has no problem with the notion of "evolution" as used by mainstream biologists - that is, synonymous with neo-Darwinism.
The commission's document, however, reaffirms the perennial teaching of the Catholic Church about the reality of design in nature. Commenting on the widespread abuse of John Paul's 1996 letter on evolution, the commission cautions that "the letter cannot be read as a blanket approbation of all theories of evolution, including those of a neo-Darwinian provenance which explicitly deny to divine providence any truly causal role in the development of life in the universe." Furthermore, according to the commission, "An unguided evolutionary process - one that falls outside the bounds of divine providence - simply cannot exist." Indeed, in the homily at his installation just a few weeks ago, Benedict proclaimed: "We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary."Throughout history the church has defended the truths of faith given by Jesus Christ. But in the modern era, the Catholic Church is in the odd position of standing in firm defense of reason as well. In the 19th century, the First Vatican Council taught a world newly enthralled by the "death of God" that by the use of reason alone mankind could come to know the reality of the Uncaused Cause, the First Mover, the God of the philosophers. Now at the beginning of the 21st century, faced with scientific claims like neo-Darwinism and the multiverse hypothesis in cosmology invented to avoid the overwhelming evidence for purpose and design found in modern science, the Catholic Church will again defend human reason by proclaiming that the immanent design evident in nature is real. Scientific theories that try to explain away the appearance of design as the result of "chance and necessity" are not scientific at all, but, as John Paul put it, an abdication of human intelligence.

Christoph Schönborn, the Roman Catholic cardinal archbishop of Vienna, was the lead editor of the official 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Thus Spake Zarathustra

Friedrich Nietzsche [1844-1900]
Translated by Thomas Common

"Go not to men, but stay in the forest! Go rather to the animals! Why not be like me—a bear amongst bears, a bird amongst birds?” “And what doeth the saint in the forest?” asked Zarathustra. The saint answered: “I make hymns and sing them; and in making hymns I laugh and weep and mumble: thus do I praise God. With singing, weeping, laughing, and mumbling do I praise the God who is my God. But what dost thou bring us as a gift?” When Zarathustra had heard these words, he bowed to the saint and said: “What should I have to give thee! Let me rather hurry hence lest I take aught away from thee!”—And thus they parted from one another, the old man and Zarathustra, laughing like schoolboys.

When Zarathustra was alone, however, he said to his heart: “Could it be possible! This old saint in the forest hath not yet heard of it, that GOD IS DEAD!”

When Zarathustra arrived at the nearest town which adjoineth the forest, he found many people assembled in the market-place; for it had been announced that a rope-dancer would give a performance. And Zarathustra spake thus unto the people:

I TEACH YOU THE SUPERMAN. Man is something that is to be surpassed. What have ye done to surpass man?

All beings hitherto have created something beyond themselves: and ye want to be the ebb of that great tide, and would rather go back to the beast than surpass man? What is the ape to man? A laughing-stock, a thing of shame. And just the same shall man be to the Superman: a laughing-stock, a thing of shame. Ye have made your way from the worm to man, and much within you is still worm. Once were ye apes, and even yet man is more of an ape than any of the apes. Even the wisest among you is only a disharmony and hybrid of plant and phantom. But do I bid you become phantoms or plants?

Lo, I teach you the Superman! The Superman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: The Superman SHALL BE the meaning of the earth! I conjure you, my brethren, REMAIN TRUE TO THE EARTH, and believe not those who speak unto you of superearthly hopes! Poisoners are they, whether they know it or not. Despisers of life are they, decaying ones and poisoned ones themselves, of whom the earth is weary: so away with them!

Once blasphemy against God was the greatest blasphemy; but God died, and therewith also those blasphemers. To blaspheme the earth is now the dreadfulest sin, and to rate the heart of the unknowable higher than the meaning of the earth! Once the soul looked contemptuously on the body, and then that contempt was the supreme thing:--the soul wished thebody meagre, ghastly, and famished. Thus it thought to escape from the body and the earth. Oh, that soul was itself meagre, ghastly, and famished; and cruelty was the delight of that soul!

But ye, also, my brethren, tell me: What doth your body say about your soul? Is your soul not poverty and pollution and wretched self- complacency? Verily, a polluted stream is man. One must be a sea, to receive a polluted stream without becoming impure.

Lo, I teach you the Superman: he is that sea; in him can your great contempt be submerged. What is the greatest thing ye can experience? It is the hour of great contempt. The hour in which even your happiness becometh loathsome unto you, and so also your reason and virtue.

The hour when ye say: “What good is my happiness! It is poverty and pollution and wretched self-complacency. But my happiness should justify existence itself!”

The hour when ye say: “What good is my reason! Doth it long for knowledge as the lion for his food? It is poverty and pollution and wretched self- complacency!”
The hour when ye say: “What good is my virtue! As yet it hath not made me passionate. How weary I am of my good and my bad! It is all poverty and pollution and wretched self-complacency!”

The hour when ye say: “What good is my justice! I do not see that I am fervour and fuel. The just, however, are fervour and fuel!”

The hour when we say: “What good is my pity! Is not pity the cross on which he is nailed who loveth man? But my pity is not a crucifixion.”

Have ye ever spoken thus? Have ye ever cried thus? Ah! would that I had heard you crying thus! It is not your sin—it is your self-satisfaction that crieth unto heaven; your very sparingness in sin crieth unto heaven! Where is the lightning to lick you with its tongue? Where is the frenzy with which ye should be inoculated?

Lo, I teach you the Superman: he is that lightning, he is that frenzy!--
When Zarathustra had thus spoken, one of the people called out: “We have now heard enough of the rope-dancer; it is time now for us to see him!” And all the people laughed at Zarathustra. But the rope-dancer, who thought the words applied to him, began his performance.

Zarathustra, however, looked at the people and wondered. Then he spake thus:

Man is a rope stretched between the animal and the Superman—a rope over an abyss.
A dangerous crossing, a dangerous wayfaring, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous trembling and halting. What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal: what is lovable in man is that he is an OVER-GOING and a DOWN-GOING.

I love those that know not how to live except as down-goers, for they are the over-goers.
I love the great despisers, because they are the great adorers, and arrows of longing for the other shore.
I love those who do not first seek a reason beyond the stars for going down and being sacrifices, but sacrifice themselves to the earth, that the earth of the Superman may hereafter arrive.
I love him who liveth in order to know, and seeketh toknow in order that the Superman may hereafter live. Thus seeketh he his own down-going.
I love him who laboureth and inventeth, that he may build the house for the Superman, and prepare for him earth, animal, and plant: for thus seeketh he his own down-going.
I love him who loveth his virtue: for virtue is the will to down-going, and an arrow of longing.
I love him who reserveth no share of spirit for himself, but wanteth to be wholly the spirit of his virtue: thus walketh he as spirit over the bridge.
I love him who maketh his virtue his inclination and destiny: thus, for the sake of his virtue, he is willing to live on, or live no more.
I love him who desireth not too many virtues. One virtue is more of a virtue than two, because it is more of a knot for one’s destiny to cling to.
I love him whose soul is lavish, who wanteth no thanks and doth not give back: for he always bestoweth, and desireth not to keep for himself.
I love him who is ashamed when the dice fall in his favour, and who then asketh: “Am I a dishonest player?”—for he is willing to succumb. I love him who scattereth golden words in advance of his deeds, and always doeth more than he promiseth: for he seeketh his own down-going.
I love him who justifieth the future ones, and redeemeth the past ones: for he is willing to succumb through the present ones.
I love him who chasteneth his God, because he loveth his God: for he must succumb through the wrath of his God.
I love him whose soul is deep even in the wounding, and may succumb through a small matter: thus goeth he willingly over the bridge.
I love him whose soul is so overfull that he forgetteth himself, and all things are in him: thus all things become his down-going.
I love him who is of a free spirit and a free heart: thus is his head only the bowels of his heart; his heart, however, causeth his down-going.
I love all who are like heavy drops falling one by one out of the dark cloud that lowereth over man: they herald the coming of the lightning, and succumb as heralds.
Lo, I am a herald of the lightning, and a heavy drop out ofthe cloud: the lightning, however, is the SUPERMAN.—

Monday, July 04, 2005

Truth of philosophy is of a mere theoretical value unless it can be lived [13.108]

Both the logician and the philosopher are apt to forget that they are dealing with words and words divorced from experience can be the most terrible misleaders in the world. Precisely because they are capable of giving us so much light, they are also capable of lighting us into impenetrable darkness.

Sri Aurobindo
Complete Works: 12.11