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Post-modern philosophy

REASON, DIALECTIC AND POST-MODERN PHILOSOPHY — Indian and Western Perspectives: Raghwendra Pratap Singh — Editor; Om Publications, 1643, Sector 29, Housing Board Colony, Faridabad-121008, Haryana. Rs. 600.

THE BOOK under review is the proceedings of the national seminar organised by the Jawaharlal Nehru University in collaboration with Centre for Studies in Civilizations, New Delhi, containing 16 important themes like, issues concerning modern and post-modern philosophy, the intellectual traditions of India, different perspectives on the one, two and the many, cognitive relativism, identity, infinite narration, critical theory, subjectivity, post-modernism and Advaita and Buddhism.

Eminent scholars like Prof. D. P. Chattopadhyaya and Kapil Kapoor, have contributed to this volume. The two themes that are widely discussed by philosophers both in the East and the West are the notions of reason and dialectic, which of course, are questioned by the post-modern thinkers.

The editor has written three papers discussing the problems connected with dialogue and dialectic, post-modernism and critical theory. Post-modernity is a critique of modernity and modernism examines concepts like foundationalism, essentialism, and teleology whereas post-modernism rejects all of them.

Socrates developed dialogue as a philosophical method, which is subsisted by dialectic in Kant and Hegel. The critical theory emerged as a reaction to Kant and Hegel, thus making critical theory a negative dialectic.

In his short interesting paper "The intellectual traditions of India", Prof. Kapil Kapoor very rightly explains the need to locate us in the great heritage of India.

Culture, he says, is a set of codes and civilisations is a set of institutions, which are founded on those codes. For example, democracy is a culture code whereas Parliament is a civilisation code. Buddha, by shifting the mind from ritual to reason, brought a revolution in the intellectual tradition of India. Western philosophy had moved from Plato to Marx, i.e., from idealism to materialism whereas Indian philosophy had moved in the opposite direction i.e., from Carvakas to Advaita, says the author.

Prof. Chattopadhyaya, chairman of the Centre of Studies in Civilizations, has written a paper on "One, two and many: many perspectives" which is thought provoking. The author is well known for his scholarly writings in both Indian and Western philosophy.

According to him, everything has many aspects, thus allowing many interpretations. He examines the role of language, freedom and thought in understanding culture.

A critical view of post-modern philosophy in the context of knowledge is attempted by Saral Jhigram. Post-modernism rejects the indubitability of any form of knowledge.

The author challenges the post-modernist cognitive relativism. Similarly in Sushant Kumar Mishra's paper, the role of identity in post-modern narrative is discussed. The post-modern narrative has certain features like, transgression of time, space and reality. It is in search of seduced, transgressed and di-hierarchical identity. Bhagat Oinam's paper is a study of the relationship between reason and moral values. Rationality, according to the author, is not only futuristic but also judgemental.

A look into Nietzschean reason and logic is undertaken by R. Sugathan. He examines nihilism and irrationalism in Nietzsche and tries to present an affirmative philosophy of his.

The importance of narration is the central theme in Franson Manjali's paper. Historians like Hayden White define narration as a mode of verbal representation, natural to human consciousness. Rorty and Lyotard used it against scientific epistemology.

We understand our lives in terms of the narratives. Margit Koves' paper elucidates the relationship between Georg Lukacs and the Frankfurt School. They have some common areas of interest like the First World War, the rise of Fascism, the anti-Fascist struggle, and Stalinism, but differences lie in areas like the political action, aesthetics and historical and ontological materalism.

An attempt to compare Advaitic spirituality with post-modernism is made by Rajesh Kumar Jha. He believes that the spirituality of Advaita is a response to post-modern scepticism.

The three steps of Advaitic discipline, namely, "Sravana, manana and nididyasana," may reflect the modernist, post-modernist and the intuitive stages of reason, claims the author. This point is a debatable one.

Sudarsan Das says that if one wants to displace rationality one has to argue rationally. He concludes that the enlightenment rationality is still in force in spite of the attempt made by the critical theorists and the post-modernists to replace it.

The notion of subjectivity in Sartre's works is the focus of study in Jayanti Pryadarshini Sahoo's paper. It makes a comparative study of Sartre's subjectivity with that of Descartes, Kant, Husserl, Heidegger and Morley Ponty.

The final paper of Hari Shankar Prasad approaches Buddha and Nagarjuna from the post-modern background. Post-modernism and Buddhism are neither totally incommensurable nor totally commensurable.

The book presents a clear picture of post-modern philosophy. It has two main objectives, namely to understand the role of reason and dialectic and also to see its relation to post-modern philosophy.

What is interesting is that it achieves these objectives by examining the issues, both from Indian and Western perspectives, for which the editor as well as the contributors must be congratulated.

This book is a treasure for those who are keen on knowing the post-modern turn in philosophy.


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