Wednesday, April 28, 2010

An individual in Sri Aurobindo's estimation can even become a free, perfected semi-divine man

Analytical positivists, namely, Bentham, Austin, Kelsen and Hart believe in the separation between law and the ideology of law. However, for jurists of Historical, Sociological and Realist schools, the study of the different branches of learning, like philosophy of law, ethics and economics, etc. is inevitable for the proper understanding of law.
The reason why western positivist thinkers could not appreciate our legal philosophy is well explained by Sri Aurobindo. He observes:
"The dignity given to human existence by the Vedantic thought and by the thought of the classical ages of Indian culture exceeded anything conceived by the western idea of humanity. Man in the West has always been an ephemeral Creature of Nature only, or a soul manufactured at birth by an arbitrary breath of the whimsical Creator and set under impossible conditions to get salvation."4
An individual in Sri Aurobindo's estimation, and rightly so, ... can even become a free, perfected semi-divine man, muktasiddha.... His spirit can become one with God.... His nature can become one dynamic of power with universal Nature or one Light with a transcendental Gnosis.5
The aim or end of law was to create conditions so that people could come out from their limited egos and move towards real perfection. It is said, "Anarchy is abhorred, not only for the physical havoc it may cause to people but for its effect in impeding their efforts to attain mukti."6 A legal order not taking note of this invisible fourth dimension of human personality (as described by Sri Aurobindo) is not only non-Indian in nature but also incomplete and inadequate as it does not satisfy the aspirations of the people and fails to give them guidance in making life worth living above crude animal existence. Now, when India is free, absence of will to revitalise our ancient legal philosophy on our part would be dangerous to the entire humanity. The positivist western mind finds it difficult to give this conception the rank of a "living and intelligible idea."7
Ethical and intellectual enrichment of personality through the practice of strict discipline—dharma ensured social harmony, as well as political, economic and legal structure. Socio-legal structure paves the way for balanced development of personal liberty. The law codes of ancient India in order to achieve this aim or ideal classified the society into four varnas to serve the political and economic requirements of collective life. Sri Aurobindo's observations are of special worth in this connection:
For the real greatness of the Indian system of the four varnas did not lie in its well-ordered division of economic function; its true originality and permanent value was in the ethical and spiritual context which the thinkers and builders of the society poured into these forms. This inner content started with the idea that the intellectual, ethical and spiritual growth of the individual is the central need of the race.8
Thus, the lawgivers prescribed certain rules of discipline or dharma for each member of the society according to his capacity and requirements.
In modern times kama and artha (desire and wealth) are expanding at the cost of the other two i.e. dharma and moksha. The thrust of the whole socio-legal system in modern times is to regulate desire and wealth without caring for their nature and impact on social life. [Sri Aurobindo: The Foundations of Indian Culture, (1972), p. 98. Return to Text Ibid., pp. 98-99. Return to Text K.V.R. Aiyangar: Some Aspects of Hindu View of Life According to Dharmasastra, (1952), p. 176. Return to Text Manu, X, 99. Return to Text Sri Aurobindo: The Foundations of Indian Culture, (1972), p. 113. Return to Text 
*Assistant Professor, NALSAR University of Law, Justice City, Shameerpet, RR District, Hyderabad 78. The author pays his sincere gratitude to his guru, guide and philosopher Professor S.D. Sharma, Chairman and Dean, Faculty of Law, Kurukshetra University, Kurukshetra (Retd.), who instills in the author the interest to study in depth the principles of ancient Indian legal theory and compare the Indian theories of law with the Western legal theories. This article is an attempt towards the same. Return to Text]

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Kant claims that true history begins with the Greeks

As Kant, Hegel and other Western philosophers have asserted, the Western tradition, for which white European culture becomes the surrogate, is the standard for determining whether a nation has a culture or could possibly become cultured and civilized, and thus enter into world history.
Kant, paving the way for Hegel, claims that true history begins with the Greeks and that non-Greek peoples are validated only through contact with the Greeks.  On Kant’s estimation, the (non)histories of non-Greeks are simply “terra incognita,” an amorphous X, lacking (Western) form and thus unable to appear as intelligible.  He then turns to the Jews to illustrate how a nation may enter a state of historical and cultural recognition.
This happened with the Jewish nation (volk) at the time of the Ptolemies through the Greek translation of the Bible, without which one would ascribe little credibility to their isolated records.  From that point forward (if this beginning has been properly ascertained) one can pursue its narratives.  And thus with all the other nations (Völkern).[6]
In his lectures on the philosophy of history, Hegel takes up this same line of thinking; however, in order to justify his position, he provides an elaborate narrative in which Geist’s presence or absence indicates whether a nation has historical, cultural or socio-political significance.[7] One might go as far as to claim that the mother’s remark to Fanon has its own genealogical history which is consonant with the Western philosophical tradition; her awareness of this history matters little.  Approached in this manner, echoes of Hegel’s depiction of Africans as cannibalistic can still be heard in the child’s cry, “Maman, the Negro’s going to eat me”.[8]
All of these discourses—whether philosophical, pseudoscientific, or everyday chatter on a public train—comprise the many pieces of Fanon’s “black” self, woven together by the white other.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Religion continues to make competing claims on the public sphere and public morals

(title unknown) from Continental Philosophy by Farhang Erfani
In the final decades of the twentieth century, the “great books” of postwar French theory transformed study in the humanities in the Anglophone world. These books were all, in one way or another, transdisciplinary in character. Yet their reception has primarily taken place in an array of specific disciplinary contexts, isolated from a broader understanding of the intellectual dynamics, forms, significance and innovative potential of transdisciplinarity itself. This conference aims to redress this situation. Each speaker will reflect on the transdisciplinary functioning of a single concept in French thought since 1945, with respect to a founding text, a particular thinker or a school of thought.

Weekend Linkend from An und für sich by Anthony Paul Smith
The age of globalization confronts the observer with more ironies than certainties. It was once assumed that the growth of modern institutions – democracy, capitalism, science – would be attended by a series of mutually reinforcing social processes, most notably secularisation, rationalisation and disenchantment. Not only has the global spread of these institutions proved patchy and uneven, religious movements and belief systems have doggedly refused to assume the private status once thought to be their natural destiny. In both the West and the wider world, religion continues to make competing claims on the public sphere and public morals. Developments like this have been accompanied by conceptual critique and innovation. Increasingly, traditional accounts of modernity are seen as Euro-centric and prescriptive, while there has been renewed interest in the question of political and civil religions and the more general relationship of the political and the theological.
Aims and agenda
The aim of this conference is to take stock of these transformations in the context of what is often referred to as a ‘post-secular’ age comprised of ‘multiple modernities’. Its agenda is emphatically interdisciplinary and welcomes scholars from the fields of history, sociology, cultural studies, theology, and others. In the same spirit, the conference adopts a broad, abundant understanding of the term ‘sacred’ to encompass not only formal religious worldviews, but also that which, in whatever fashion, disturbs, complicates, and perhaps abolishes, the distinction between the sacred and the secular. Accordingly, it is just as much interested in manifestations and logics of re-enchantment and resacralization, as it is of desecularisation understood as the persistence and revival of traditional religions. In sum, the aim of the conference is to rethink the equation of modernity, secularity and disenchantment, and to explore the various conceptual and historiographical perspectives through which we might better understand the present. 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The term New Age was used in this context in Madame Blavatsky's book The Secret Doctrine, published in 1888.[4] A weekly journal of Christian liberalism and socialism titled The New Age was published as early as 1894;[5] it was sold to a group of socialist writers headed by Alfred Richard Orage and Holbrook Jackson in 1907. Other historical personalities were involved: H. G. WellsGeorge Bernard Shaw, and William Butler Yeats; the magazine became a forum for politicsliterature, and the arts.[6][7] Between 1908 and 1914, it was instrumental in pioneering the British avant-garde from vorticism to imagism.
After 1914, publisher Orage met P. D. Ouspensky, a follower of G. I. Gurdjieff, and began correspondence with Harry Houdini, becoming less interested in literature and art, with an increased focus on mysticism and other spiritual topics; the magazine was sold in 1921. According to Brown UniversityThe New Age "... helped to shape modernism in literature and the arts from 1907 to 1922."[8]
Popularisation behind these ideas has roots in the work of early 20th century writers such as D. H. Lawrence and William Butler Yeats. In the early to middle 1900s, American mystic, theologian, and founder of the Association for Research and Enlightenment Edgar Cayce was a seminal influence on what later would be termed the New Age movement; he was known in particular for the practice some refer to as channeling.[9] Former Theosophist Rudolf Steiner and his Anthroposophical Movement are a major influence. Neo-Theosophist Alice Bailey published the book Discipleship in the New Age (1944), which used the term New Age in reference to the transition from the Astrological Age ofPisces to Aquarius. While claims of racial bias in the writings of Rudolf Steiner and Alice Bailey were made,[10] Steiner emphasized racial equality as a principle central to anthroposophical thought and humanity's progress.[11][12] Any racial elements from these influences have not remained part of the Anthroposophical Society as contemporary adherents of the society have either not adopted or repudiated these beliefs.[13][14] 
Another early usage of the term, was by the American artist, mystic, and philosopher Walter Russell, who spoke of "... this New Age philosophy of the spiritual re-awakening of man ..." in his essay "Power Through Knowledge", which was also published in 1944. Carl Gustav Jung was an early articulator of the concept of the Age of Aquarius.[15] In a letter to H. G. Baynes, dated 12 August 1940, he wrote in a passage concerning the destruction of the temple of Karnak by an earthquake in 26 BC: "1940 is the year when we approach the meridian of the first star in Aquarius. It is the premonitory earthquake of the New Age."[16]

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Religion is the single greatest influence in the world

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, dizzying scientific and technological advancements, interconnected globalized economies, and even the so-called New Atheists have done nothing to change one thing: our world remains furiously religious. For good and for evil, religion is the single greatest influence in the world. We accept as self-evident that competing economic systems (capitalist or communist) or clashing political parties (Republican or Democratic) propose very different solutions to our planet's problems. So why do we pretend that the world's religious traditions are different paths to the same God? We blur the sharp distinctions between religions at our own peril, argues religion scholar Stephen Prothero, and it is time to replace naÏve hopes of interreligious unity with deeper knowledge of religious differences.
In Religious Literacy, Prothero demonstrated how little Americans know about their own religious traditions and why the world's religions should be taught in public schools. Now, in God Is Not One, Prothero provides readers with this much-needed content about each of the eight great religions. To claim that all religions are the same is to misunderstand that each attempts to solve a different human problem. For example:
–Islam: the problem is pride / the solution is submission
–Christianity: the problem is sin / the solution is salvation
–Confucianism: the problem is chaos / the solution is social order
–Buddhism: the problem is suffering / the solution is awakening
–Judaism: the problem is exile / the solution is to return to God
Prothero reveals each of these traditions on its own terms to create an indispensable guide for anyone who wants to better understand the big questions human beings have asked for millennia—and the disparate paths we are taking to answer them today. A bold polemical response to a generation of misguided scholarship, God Is Not One creates a new context for understanding religion in the twenty-first century and disproves the assumptions most of us make about the way the world's religions work. God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World--and Why Their Differences Matter

Monday, April 12, 2010

A vitalism sans the prefix dark

Though I’d argue that any great work in any field must inevitably have something strange about it, I’m tempted to give the 20th Century prize to Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, which I was just leafing through again in the office the other day. Some of those examples are bizarre enough to be Kafka scenes.

Tariq Ramadan explains his attraction to Nietzsche in Monthly Review.
TR: You know, many people misunderstand this, because they think that I was coming to Nietzsche because he was very critical towards Christianity, and that, as a Muslim, I was very happy when he said, "God is dead." It's exactly the opposite, in fact. I read Nietzsche for other reasons. I read everything that was published. I had to do this. I wanted to add to the concept of suffering in Nietzsche's philosophy, which was Nietzsche as a historian of philosophy. Because he was, as Heidegger said, the last metaphysician. And he took a very strong and critical look at everything which was coming out of the Western tradition. But he was distorting Socrates, Hegel, and even Schopenhauer and other scholars.

I am rather attracted to Ben Woodard’s ongoing theorization of a weird nature, complete with slime mechanics, dark vitalism and other matter(s) over at Naught Thought. At many points his work converges with the metaphysical framework that I spent my PhD elucidating, albeit with the sacred/goddess taken out. I find it particularly intriguing in its usage and synthesis of Schelling and others, plus its tropes of a nature that is unheimlich, wild and ontologically strange. I tend to diverge, though, on the topic and usage of nihilism. […] 
Ben’s version of vitalism just doesn’t seem to warrant the description of dark in this cosmological framework, except in the sense of some dark, Kali-like mother who is both fecund but also remarkably destructive. Fair to say that I may have misunderstood the nature of Ben’s nihilism, but it seems more plausible to me to posit a cosmic natality – as a metaphysical principle – wherein vitalism is the crystallising, emananting and processual spread manifesting itself through/as infinite space-time bubbles/universes. This would be a vitalism that propagates worlds without-end and certainly does not seem to warrant the prefix dark. Now, of course, whether one can specify metaphysically what this vitalism means in more detail is where Ben’s work gets interesting. I just don’t happen to get the nihilistic edge of his work in progress.

The conventional view of Karma is that of a rigid, ethical, mechanical and almost revengeful law of Nature which brings rewards for good deeds and punishment for evil actions. We are told that the individual who commits evil today will suffer in some future life while the good person is suffering right now because of some evil act done in a past life. This definition seems unconvincing at times because it does not explain the many anomalies seen in real life. In his works, Sri Aurobindo presented a more flexible and panoptic model of Karma. He observed that Nature is not rigid or revengeful but subtle and liberal in her application of law, working through multi-faceted principles to achieve her aims. This article is a distillation of his thoughts.