‘Quality of teaching philosophy at undergraduate and postgraduate levels very poor'

Blaming the ‘almost complete isolation' of philosophy from all academic disciplines for the loss of philosophical moorings in the intellectual environment, a two-member Review Committee on the Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR) has suggested the setting up of a separate council for the promotion of research in humanities, including philosophy, and subsequent merging of the ICPR into it.

The committee, comprising Mrinal Miri and Rajeev Bhargava, in its report, said philosophy's rejuvenation may well begin with its coming into interactive proximity with literature and other disciplines, including history, literature and literary studies, linguistics, political thought and anthropology.

The ICPR was established in 1977 by the then Union Ministry of Education (now Human Resource Development Ministry) as an autonomous organisation designed to bring back the entire tradition of Indian philosophy to its pristine and original form and provide required impetus to nurture and promote new thinking through its intensive programmes of research.

‘Performance disappointing'

Pointing out that the performance of the ICPR in the past five years or so had been extremely disappointing, the committee report said part of the reason for this lay in the very “poor quality'' of philosophy teaching at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels leading to woefully inadequate philosophical research. “One would have expected that the ICPR would appreciate the seriousness of this basic issue and invest some of its energy in addressing it. Unfortunately, this has not happened and this must count as a significant failure of the Council.''

Referring to the rich intellectual past of the country, the report has said that the most important part of philosophy's responsibility is to bring itself to bear upon the understanding of the human condition and this could be done only in the company of disciplines whose intellectual labour has made a substantial difference to our understanding of ourselves such as history, literature, political thought and anthropology.

Call for critical review

Calling upon the ICPR to immediately undertake a serious critical review of the status of philosophy teaching and research in the country, the committee said in the absence of such a review it would not be possible for the Council to fulfil its responsibilities. The Council does not have any credible mechanism for monitoring its research promotional programmes and needs to set up credible monitoring committees consisting of serious scholars as members for the purpose.

Further, the government should consider taking steps towards making the selection process of the chairman and members of the Council transparent and credible. The setting up of a collegium of eminent academicians for this purpose may be an effective first step. Distinguished philosophers of Indian origin (some of whom might have retained their Indian citizenship) who hold senior teaching positions in European and American universities must be considered for nomination as members of the Council. “The participation of such scholars will make an enormous difference to the quality of its performance,'' the report noted.

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