WHY PHILOSOPHICAL STUDIES MATTER


Kashmir Magazine

Dr Javid Ahmad Mallah

On the third Thursday of November each year “World Philosophy Day” is observed to strengthen people's commitment to philosophical studies and wisdom by fostering philosophical praxis, analysis, research, and studies on major contemporary issues. It also raises awareness about the importance of philosophy and its utility. World Philosophy Day is introduced by UNESCO in 2002 to honor philosophical reflections, deliberations, and discoveries around the world. It is a day to invite people to the realm of high thinking and thought process, and inspire people for discussions, and debates on the growing challenges of society. On this occasion, I would like to address some serious issues concerning the negligence of philosophy in teaching-learning institutions of Jammu and Kashmir. As a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Philosophy Association, it is my painful duty to address the unfair and unprofessional attitude of the Kashmir university administration and present authorities of Jammu and Kashmir Higher Education that deliberately delayed and neglected the introduction of philosophical studies. It is highly disappointing and unfortunate to see the widely respected science (philosophy) is being treated unfairly whereas the disciplines that have taken certain portions of philosophy as that of education, sociology, and history B.ed M.ed and so on are being emphasized and promoted. Philosophy despite being the backbone of humanities and the heart of mental and moral science is avoided. Even a few departments in the Kashmir University have already displayed banners of philosophy and offering philosophy courses whether it is Iqbal Institute of Art and Philosophy or Center for Asian Studies but alas neither philosophy nor philosophy experts is found there. In the past, our valley was rich in philosophical gems and literature. Kashmir Shaivism, the philosophy of Lal Ded, Shiekh Noor-din Wali, and so on is an example of Kashmir's intellectual fertility. Kashmir even today has accommodated great philosophical minds and scholars but unfortunately, in the post-modern age, they lack a proper platform to engage themselves with deep philosophical studies and research. We have also a large number of pass outs each year who want to pursue higher studies in philosophy but all the universities and maximum colleges of the valley have closed doors on philosophical studies. It is to be noted that closing the doors on philosophy means closing the doors on logic, argumentations, moral and critical thinking. The present piece tries to highlight the utility of philosophy in contemporary times as well as reflects on the limitations/lacking in absence of philosophy.
Philosophy is a very vast area of work where a lot of questions are asked and systematic and logical answers to these questions are sought. This makes philosophy a dynamic activity as well as the expression of the deep inquisitiveness of the human mind, ever restless and full of curiosity. No doubt there are other manners and methods (for instance, science) of satisfying curiosity, but philosophy is the earliest and oldest of them. It has the merit of being co-extensive with human culture and civilization. Philosophy began when the first human being asked a ‘deep question’ and it will continue to be as long as such questions are asked. Hence, philosophy is the quest for knowledge as it is known etymologically as the “love of wisdom”. Love in this context must be understood as a strong desire for knowledge whereas wisdom is the correct application of knowledge. Thus, philosophy in this sense could refer to human’s strong desire for knowledge and its correct application.
Philosophers in the past attempted to understand the world through the aid of reason without appealing to any dogmatic, superstitious tradition or authority, religion, or revelation. This approach is itself a new, extraordinary, and one of the important milestones of human thought and development. This philosophical activity keeps philosophizing at the highest pedestal. Philosophers from the beginning were encouraging people to think independently and use their reason too. They were the first teachers who make people think and allow them to develop their own body of knowledge, urge them to discuss, debate, argue, and put forward their ideas without necessarily agreeing with them. This intellectual engagement is revolutionary in terms of mental development, rational thinking, growth in knowledge, and understanding.
Introducing philosophy and exploring new ways to increase the accessibility of philosophical teaching and learning would be a collaborative initiative towards building inclusive societies. Progress in science and technology is necessary for a certain aspect of reality but it is dangerous if our societies will be dominated by scientists and engineers in the sense our societies lack a moral compass. Without ethics, no other science can tell us whether something is right or wrong, moral or immoral, good or evil. It seems every domain of human life without a moral compass is dangerous as Prof. Syed Farid Al-Atas observes ‘a society without scholars and thinkers in fields such as literature is a dangerous society Science”. Furthermore, he adds, ‘Science and technology are not able to give a person an ethical position on any matter. This can only come from the discipline of philosophy. It shows a profound need for philosophy in contemporary times not only because of its practical implication in the branch of ethics but because of its profound significance in other important branches as well. In this regard, philosophical platforms need to be established and advanced courses in philosophy should be emphasized in teaching-learning institutions not only for the individual’s intellectual and moral development but for the betterment of the society at a larger level.’
It is believed that philosophy liberated the world from the overloaded superstitions and dogmatic beliefs. In Greek, a group of people started thinking rationally, critically, and morally. Therefore, Greek represents the beginning of philosophy and development of human thought with the urge, for the search of truth and inquiry, into the nature of things that aroused in a rationalist movement. Philosophers from Socrates to Noam Chomsky are the best examples in the philosophical world whose writings have shape human thought and influence literature throughout the world. The writings of great philosophers are studied in world universities and teaching-learning-institutions. Thus, there is no justification to isolate philosophy as ‘the queen of all sciences’.
In our societies today we observe that humanity is overwhelmed by encounters of violence, hatred, intolerance, and so on. It seems that in the absence of rational apprehension, ethics, and ‘value education’ such elements keep our societies disturbed. The introduction of philosophy is important to engage our new generations with the thought process; the questioning-examining activity will be helpful to counter our contemporary problems. We also need to pay attention to the questions of authentic and inauthentic modes of living and examine the wrongness of human actions and behaviors in every sphere of life. Even though we do need to train our students to ask all sorts of questions in different areas of knowledge? Asking questions is one of the important tasks of philosophy. Arguably another important task of philosophy is ‘critical thinking’ which is one of the important needs our societies lack today in the absence of philosophy. Critical thinking is one of the most valued ability to think critically that students must learn. The ability to think critically helps not only the students but also academicians and employers to solve problems and exercise effective decision making.
Having said that our stakeholders should realize the value of philosophy. It was Bertrand Russell, a great analytical philosopher, who said, ‘The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through the life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation or consent of his deliberate reason.’ Furthermore, there is no point in denying the significance of the philosophies of Gandhi, Ambedkar, Iqbal, Tagore, Hobbs, Rawls, and so on. These great minds have extensively shaped human thought world literature.
Philosophical thinking and wisdom can be one of the important paradigms to restore the needs of our times. One wonders, why philosophy in India particularly in J&K is less privileged than other disciplines like Fine Literature, History, Education, Sanskrit, Sociology, Political Science, Urdu, etc. One may ask then, what is the point of keeping philosophy away?
In today’s world, humanity seems polarized; philosophy entails the truth and values which need to be propagated to humanity. This is needed to make people broadminded and expand their ability to have discussions and dialogues in this deeply polarized age. However, one fails to understand why this important discipline has been neglected? I want this haunting question to get heard and responded. Furthermore, I believe that authority is meant to promote assistance to fulfill certain genuine demands and resolve serious issues. If it failed to exercise responsibly, justly it becomes oppressive and promotes a destructive climate that does not allow people to grow and creates a climate of mistrust and hostility which further leads to corruption and similar other elements. Todays philosophy is advanced philosophy. It is neither confined to abatract thinking nor cut paste of historical facts rather it is a dynamic rational, analytical, and critical engagement. it is sailing with the mind of the learner towards broader intellectual horizons. We know that some coutch potatos attempts to isolate philosophy. We also know that philosophy has liberated the worst suprsitious people/caltures in the past and it will certainly demage ignorance if its present enemies too.

Author

Dr. JavidAhmad Mallah
Teaching Philosophy at GDC Kulgam