The universe we find ourselves in is full of surprises which test the human desire to understand and control. The human predicament is marked by an inner urge to see through the infinite experiences of innumerable objects, to weave a story around the surprises and try to make sense of them. Philosophy, science and religion are but several aspects of that basic human instinct. Swami Vivekananda says, “. Life will be a desert, human life will be vain if we cannot know the beyond. It is very well to say: Be contented with the things of the present; the cows and the dogs are, and all animals and that is what makes them animals.… man is the only animal that naturally looks upwards; every other animal naturally looks prone. That looking upward and going upward and seeking perfection are what is called salvation, and the sooner a man begins to go higher, the sooner he raises himself towards this idea of truth as salvation. It does not consist in the amount of money in your pocket, or the dress you wear, or the house you live in, but in the wealth of spiritual thought in your brain. That is what makes for human progress, that is the source of all material and intellectual progress, the motive power behind, the enthusiasm that pushes mankind forward.” (Swami Vivekananda, The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol. 3, p. 3)
The search for the theory that would help explain the events of the world and our inner lives, its discovery and the subsequent disillusionment are all part of the human civilizational journey. Several civilizations and cultures, and also different folks from within the same cultural landscape, find themselves at different points of that journey. Everyone will not take the same route. The diverse experiences that originate in those diverse journeys enrich each other. A journal is such a platform where travelers from different trains meet and share their worldviews.
We are happy to publish Philosophical Papers: Journal of the Department of Philosophy Volume-14, March 2018 (UGC enlisted). The contributors in the present volume have discussed several issues from diverse perspectives in philosophy. We are thankful to the contributors, the esteemed members of the editorial board, and all colleagues of our Department for their valuable suggestions for the publication of this journal. We are thankful to our Honorable Vice-Chancellor, the Finance Officer (Officiating), and the University Press, without whose support the publication of the journal would not have been possible.
Subhra Nag in her paper ‘Feminist Ethics: Reconsidering Ethics from Feminist Perspective(s)’ does a re-reading of the traditional ethics from a feminist viewpoint, taking into consideration the now quite lengthy debate within the different kinds of feminism. The feminists attempted to question the notions of impartiality and universality in earlier ethics. What to do with the mainstream ethical theories as well as how to position feminist ethics are also important matters in the feminist handling of the issue. The contribution of feminist ethics need not be confined only to women's issues but need to have a bearing upon the practice of ethics as such. Universal ethics that allows diverse voices to be heard is a path that many feminists adopt.
Aditi Dasgupta in her paper traces the early years of B. R. Ambedkar and the Marxist movement and helps us to understand the dilemma that each of them was facing during the nationalist movement for freedom in India. Ambedkar was concerned for his community and the pain of casteism that it had to suffer and the Marxists were interested in improving the situation of the working class, and both these concerns were not priorities in the nationalist movement. Gandhi had his views regarding caste, being against untouchability but not letting go of the division. Dasgupta points out following Ambedkar that Gandhi’s inability to go with supporting a complete breaking up of the caste system was a way for him to not antagonize the caste Hindus. She sees caste as an earlier specimen of the class dynamics. She also engages with Ambedkar’s reading of Marxism and his reservations. Ambedkar was especially concerned with the lack of importance to individual efforts in Marxism. Dasgupta thinks that the fears and reservations of Ambedkar were misplaced to some extent, although admitting that the lack of caste sensitiveness in the Marxists has been reflected in their inability to make inroads in the northern states in post-independence electoral politics. Dasgupta, in the end, argues that in fact, the Marxist intellectuals can be the bearers of Ambedkar’s vision.
Anirban Mukherjee in his paper ‘The Challenge for Education and the Practice of Philosophy’ argues for the extension of philosophical practice to educational processes and training. He contends that education for the future is challenging, as the future is unknown and the project of conceptualising an ideal world is an ongoing one. Hence, education to be useful needs to prepare the present generation to deal with uncertainties and alternative perspectives. These are capabilities that philosophers possess as part of their training. Hence, the tools of the philosophers should be made a regular part of the general training of all students.
Generally, it is believed that Determinism is a rich and varied concept. Jordan Howard Sobel in Puzzles for the Will: Fatalism, Newcomb and Samarra, Determinism and Omniscience classifies at least ninety varieties of what determinism could be like. When it comes to think about what deterministic laws and theories in physical sciences might be like, the situation is much clearer. There is a criterion by which we can judge whether a law is deterministic. A theory would then be deterministic just in case all its laws taken as a whole were deterministic. In contrast, if a law fails this criterion, then it is indeterministic and any theory whose laws taken as a whole fail this criterion must also be indeterministic. Koushik Joardar in his contribution tries to define determinism from the Greek perspective to the contemporary period. What he attempts to show is that determinism has the capacity of self-correction and it entails laws whether moral or legal. Thus, it reflects the normative sensitivities of the agent. The moral is not reducible to the legal. But what is legal has moral overtones.
Integrity is a concept that is so oft-used that most of the times we assume that it is a very admirable one, a clearly understood notion and that it is always in accord with morality. However, a survey of literature that came up in the last couple of decades in analysis of this concept and a little ponderance over the issue make us think that it is not so as it appears to most of us to be. Rather the concept is a very complex one, susceptible to many interpretations and even always does not go hand in hand with morality. When we try to analyse the concept to get into its core all these features come to the forefront. It is interesting to find that even some interpretations go against our common-sense expectations. Jyotish C. Basak in his contribution cites the example of Bernard Williams whose writings fuelled the debate on integrity in the contemporary period. Following his writings he finds a number of philosophers stepped in to explore the notion as a result of which a vast literature has come up and it immensely helped him to illuminate the concept of integrity.
L. Bishwanath Sharma in ‘The Concept of Dharma in the Bhagavad Gītā’ deals with how Gītā can guide one towards moral fulfillment and tries to unravel the moral message of the great work. The concept of dharma is central to this text. Dharma is presented as that which sustains the society and is imperative for all. He draws attention to how dharma is related to one’s abilities and results in the flowering of the potential inherent in one. The welfare of one is linked to the welfare of all, lokasaṁgraha. To achieve that through the path of dharma, one must act from one’s own ‘station in life’.
Ngleknao Ramthing in ‘Do Business Corporations have a Conscience?’ has raised an important question regarding the moral responsibility of business entities. Linked to this is the issue regarding moral agency and moral rights of such organisations. But do they have a conscience? There is an inherent difficulty in imagining corporates as intentional like individuals or treating them as persons. Ramthing points out that there is also a view that as corporations have goals and strategies, they should also have a conscience. The decisions of the corporation are an agglomeration of that of the individuals and hence, the individuals become the bearers of the responsibility and choice. He refers to the view of Velasquez who holds that the individuals within the corporate have to be held responsible for the corporate actions, for it is they who determine the actions of the corporate. However, Ramthing argues that the corporations, though just legal entities, have to hold a certain responsibility for their actions, and the organization has a greater continuity than the members of that corporation who may have defined actions at some point of time and then moved on.
Swagata Ghosh in ‘Cognition and Consciousness: An Analysis of the Nature and Possibility of Knowledge in Sāṁkhya Philosophy’ provides a detailed study of how knowledge is understood in the Sāṁkhya system taking into consideration the views of Vācaspati Miśra and Vijñānabhikṣu. Knowledge as transformation, cittavṛtti, is located in citta and hence, is internal. Ekapratibimbavāda and anyonyaprativimbavāda are discussed at length and the paper provides an extremely lucid exposition into the debates regarding the issue of consciousness and self- reflexivity in knowledge formation.
Anumita Shukla and Mayank Bora in their paper ‘Alethic Relativism and Faultless Disagreement’ deal with faultless disagreement (FD), taking different attitudes towards a statement such as ‘Liquorice is tasty’. They mention Kölbel as holding that this is because of a ‘relativism about truth’ or Alethic Relativism (AR). They deal with how to accommodate a genuine and faultless disagreement from an immersed perspective. With indexical relativism, of course, FD will vanish. The reader again could look at it from his/her normative perspective or a dissociated perspective (DP). They try to show that from a DP there can be an FD. There is a thorough discussion of Kölbel and Boghossian relating to this issue.
Anureema Bhattacharyya in her paper ‘Review of Ethical Naturalism as a Form of Cognitivism and Realism’ deals with the issue of how ethical naturalism fits in with cognitivism and realism. She starts by explaining the different meanings of naturalism in ethics but confines her discussion to the sense in which ethical judgements include ethical terms, which in turn can be defined in terms of factual terms. There is a difference between subjective and objective naturalism. There are certain problems with individual subjective naturalism, general subjective naturalism and interest theory of naturalism. She objects to regarding subjective naturalism as cognitive in character. Objective naturalism which bases our approval or disapproval in the nature of the object to make us tend towards such reactions also has its problems. The tendency view which focuses just on the tendency aspect is more liable to be cognitive in character. Spencer’s evolutionary naturalism falls prey to the desire to understand morality in terms of evolution which is difficult to verify. She concludes by showing how the theories of naturalism relate to realism.
Manoranjan Mallick made an attempt to explore Wittgenstein’s notion of use theory of meaning in the context of the ongoing debate between the Classical Wittgensteinians and the New Wittgesnteinians. Classical Wittgensteinians have been finding the divide between Wittgenstein’s early and later works quite significant for understanding his writings. The a priori logical structure of language in the Tractatus gets replaced in later writings by a posterior method of assigning meaning by looking into the working of language. This shift, for classical Wittgensteinians defines the divide between the early and the later Wittgenstein. Contrary to the classical readings, new Wittgensteinians propose a post modernist reading of Wittgenstein’s writings. They hold that there is important continuity between Wittgenstein’s early and later works. Highlighting the notion of meaning as use New Wittgensteinians see a clear thematic continuation in Wittgenstein’s early and later works.
Value-theoretic terminology is diverse. Traditionally, “intrinsic value” is understood as synonymous with the idea of being “valuable as an end”. Thus, philosophers use a number of terms to refer to such value. The intrinsic value of something is said to be the value that thing has “in itself,” or “for its own sake,” or “as such,” or “in its own right.” Extrinsic value is value that is not intrinsic. The questions whether, nature has intrinsic value, and whether all value require an evaluator is raised in the traditional environmental ethics. These questions are raised between nature objectivists and value subjectivists. The former presupposes that nature is intrinsically valuable, while the later holds that it takes an evaluator to ascribe value. Sashi Mohan Das made an attempt to find out a collaborative and discursive process to account for those dual ways of proving intrinsic value in nature from the contemporary environmental philosophers’ view.
Balaram Karan in his paper ‘Gandhi’s Views on Varṇa-Vyavasthā in India: Some Reflections’ deals with the problem of caste discrimination and how Gandhian explorations in this area can help us understand the problem and find a possible way out of it. He dwells on the distinction between the varṇa system and the caste system, and how even Gandhi held that one should stick to the calling, livelihood as determined by varṇa although he did not believe in any hierarchy among the varṇas. Hence, he thought of the caste system, which embodied that hierarchy, as a perversion of the varṇa system. The fallout of the caste system gets expressed in the idea of purity of some varṇas and the practice of treating some people as untouchable to protect the purity of the ‘pure’ ones. Gandhi fought against the system of untouchability and thought of it as an abuse of the varṇa system. Karan goes on to state how Gandhi has a favourable stance towards the varṇa system and argues that the suggestions of Gandhi are difficult to accept.
Soma Sarkar in her paper ‘Tagore’s Educational Thought’ explains how Tagore included a vision of cosmopolitanism in his education system. The paper describes the atmosphere in the Tagore family in the early years of Rabindranath as liberal and seriously concerned with the issue of education. Rabindranath in his initial years was drawn to nationalism, but realizing its limitations, gradually shifted towards a cosmopolitan attitude in educational practice. She refers to the writing and lectures of Tagore including his novels to show how his view of education was moulded by his socio-political views and his vision of India.
Kabita Roy in her paper ‘Transcendental Method’ explicates the concepts of the transcendental, transcendental method and transcendental argument in Kant. ‘Transcendental’ in Kant means the ‘conditions of knowing’ and ‘transcendental method’ includes the transcendental arguments. Roy explains in the paper how Kant uses the transcendental argument to counter the sceptic’s challenge and that of the different kinds of idealism as well as to situate human cognition. In this context, the different kinds of deduction are enumerated upon.
Prostitution is now identified as a trans-national issue requiring global solutions in relation to its regulation and legislation, but the question of what constitutes a properly feminist response remains a matter of dispute. Ongoing conflicts within the feminist circles over the meanings of sexuality for women, combined with the United Nation’s acknowledgment of women’s rights as human rights, have produced divergent conceptions of prostitution as a legitimate target of governmental intervention. Feminists contends that prostitution constitutes a form of violence against women and hence a violation of human rights. Priyanka Hazra in her contribution tries to show that prostitution still remains socially constructed as a crime with the prostitute as either a criminal or a victim. She tries to conclude that feminists on both sides agree that contempt and stigma have adverse side effects on prostitution and still prevalent in the 21st century, and will continue as long as prostitution is socially constructed as a crime.
The moral theories that have come up in modern times and especially in the West are indeed very sophisticated postulations. However, Indian thinkers in ancient times though did not speak in terms of these sophisticated theories; they developed some code of conduct for rulers, other administrators as well as for the common man. Adherence to these codes of conduct was the primary requirement for rulers and also for others. Joly Roy in her venture delineates some codes taking clues from some ancient texts - Arthaśāstras, Dharmaśāstras, epics and Nītiśāstras.