Monday, January 25, 2021

The Eternal and the Temporal

Man’s body is temporal but his soul is eternal, and his mind is the bridge between the temporal body and the eternal soul. The coexistence of the temporal and the eternal is the underlying reality of the universe. The manifest universe is temporal, while the unmanifest prime author of the universe is eternal. Man can gain empirical knowledge by studying the temporal, but to meet his spiritual needs, he must speculate about the eternal through philosophy and religion.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Decline of Conservative Politics

When you apologize for an injustice, you take responsibility for that injustice. The conservatives have been brainwashed into apologizing for their history, their culture, their nationalism, and even their economic and political success—and now they bear on their shoulders the guilt for every social and political injustice in the world. Thus encumbered with the weight of myriad injustices, they are full of guilt, which has robbed them of their moral sense and made them politically dysfunctional. They can still express their outrage in articles and books, and in the social media, but they are incapable of direct political action. They cannot fight against the liberals (the new nihilistic left); they can only rant against them. They realize that their conservative agenda can never be implemented because liberalism is in control of every cultural and political institution—and the conservatives have nothing except their proclivity to rant against the liberal establishment. In 2016, they elected Trump as president not because they wanted a reformer (they have lost faith in political and economic reforms), but rather because they wanted a president who would berate the liberal establishment day after day by tweeting against them.

The Creation of the Universe

One of the teachings of the Vedas is that the Brahman, who is the ultimate principle and mover of the universe, does not dwell in the universe; rather, the universe dwells in him. Thus the Brahman does not create the universe, he becomes it—creation is not an act; it is an expression of the potentiality of the divine. The ancient Jewish texts preach a similar dictum—they say that God is the abode of the universe, but the universe is not the abode of God.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

The Autonomous Kantian

The Kantian man does not consent; he is governed by the categorical imperative (moral law) that he gives to himself. To be rational, Kant says, is to be autonomous (free), and to be autonomous is to possess the ability to give yourself the categorical imperative. In the Kantian moral system rationality comes first—rationality leads to the state of being autonomous or having a free mind, and this, in turn, enables a man to accept and strictly observe the categorical imperative. Thus in Kant’s moral theory, the rational man is independent and moral; irrationality implies an unfree mind and the potential for immorality.

Thoughts on Freedom and Slavery

Man creates a nation and depending on the political character of the nation, man is either free or a slave. The concepts of “freedom” and “slavery” come into existence after people come together to create a nation. Just as the period of “night” grants relevance to the period of “day,” the existence of a nation (an entity that has the power to enslave) makes the concept of freedom relevant to us. We would not have known what freedom is, if we didn’t have the experience of the nations where people exist as slaves. The idea of slavery is a precursor to the idea of freedom—the desire for freedom is born in the mind of men who have endured the degrading experience of slavery. People living in the free nations are not concerned about freedom; they take their liberties for granted, as something that has always existed and always will.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Tolstoy on the French Revolution

All human actions, even the quest for reason, liberty, and atheism, have unintended consequences. The idealistic French philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment, who hectored their countrymen to fight for a utopia of reason, liberty, and atheism, were the intellectual architects of the bloody French Revolution. Therefore, I say, one must beware of the philosophers who talk about reason, liberty, and atheism—they might be the breeders of violence and chaos. Here’s Tolstoy’s description of the French Revolution and its aftermath (in the epilogue of his novel War and Peace): “At the end of the eighteenth century there were a couple of dozen men in Paris who began to talk about all men being free and equal. This caused people all over France to begin to slash at and drown one another. They killed the king and many other people. At that time there was in France a man of genius Napoleon. He conquered everybody everywhere that is, he killed many people because he was a great genius. And for some reason he went to kill Africans, and killed them so well and was so cunning and wise that when he returned to France he ordered everybody to obey him, and they all obeyed him. Having become an Emperor he again went out to kill people in Italy, Austria, and Prussia. And there too he killed a great many.”

The Beauty of Silence

To gain higher knowledge and wisdom, we need to turn away from the world which is full of noise. The ancient Hindu texts insist that “mauna,” which means silence or abstinence from speech, is necessary for study, contemplation, and meditation. In Western philosophy, Kierkegaard has written some really good lines on the beauty of silence. Here’s a passage from his book For Self-Examination/Judge for Yourselves: “The present state of the world and the whole of life is diseased. If I were a doctor and were asked for my advice, I should reply: ‘Create silence’. Bring men to silence. The Word of God cannot be heard in the noisy world of today. And even if it were blazoned forth with all the panoply of noise so that it could be heard in the midst of all the other noises, then it would no longer be the Word of God. Therefore, create silence.”

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Kant on the Acceptability of Half-Truths

Kant has preached in his moral theory that lying is forbidden and that always speaking the truth is a categorical imperative (moral law). In his essay, “Truthfulness and Lies: What Can We Learn from Kant?” Alasdair MacIntyre examines Kant’s notion of radical truthfulness and notes that speaking half-truths in extremely difficult circumstances is allowed under the Kantian moral system. Kant himself used a half-truth to outmaneuver King Friedrich Wilhelm II and the royal censors who were accusing him of disparaging religion in his writings. The censors demanded that Kant should make the pledge that henceforth he would refrain from writing on religion. To assuage the King, Kant made this statement: “As your Majesty’s faithful subject, I shall in the future completely desist from all public lectures or papers concerning religion.” In his essay, MacIntyre quotes Kant as saying that when he made the statement to the King, he knew that the King was old and frail, and not likely to live for too long; when the King died, Kant regarded himself as free of the pledge, since his pledge was made “as your Majesty’s faithful subject” and was valid so long as the Majesty was alive. Thus, Kant could resume writing on religious issues.

The Mahabharata on the Power of Time

“You should not sorrow for that which was bound to happen. Those who are wise do not feel sorry over fate. Even with the greatest wisdom, that which is ordained will happen. No one can transgress the path that has been laid down. Time brings existence and non-existence, pleasure and pain. Time creates all elements and time destroys all beings. Time burns all subjects and it is time that extinguishes the fire. Time alone is awake when everything is asleep. Time cannot be conquered. Time walks in all elements, pervasive and impartial. Knowing that everything, past, present and future, is created by time, it is not appropriate that you should be consumed by grief,” says Sanjaya to console the blind King Dhritarashtra who is burning with grief over the death of his sons in the great battle between Kauravas and Pandavas that took place at Kurukshetra (The Mahabharata; Section: “Anukramanika Parva”; Bibek Debroy’s translation)

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

MacIntyre: Human Beings as Storytelling Beings

Human beings are storytelling beings—their lives are a narrative quest. In his book After Virtue, Alasdair MacIntyre writes: “I can only answer the question ‘What am I to do?’ if I can answer the prior question ‘Of what story or stories do I find myself a part?’” A teleological character can be discerned in every lived narrative, but this does not imply that the life’s purpose is fixed by an external authority; MacIntyre notes that teleology and unpredictability can coexist. He writes: “Like characters in a fictional narrative we do not know what will happen next, but nonetheless our lives have a certain form which projects itself toward our future.” Every life is a narrative quest which aims to reach a certain end, and when a man faces a crossroad, then he moves in the direction in which he thinks he will make a sense out of his life’s narrative. When we make moral choices, we are not exerting our will; we are interpreting the narratives of our life. MacIntyre points out that as an individual, a man cannot identify the good and exercise the virtues—men look at their life as a whole, and they examine the narratives in which they feature. He offers the example of a German who believes that since he was born after 1945, the Nazi crimes are not his moral responsibility. This stance of the German, MacIntyre says, represents a moral shallowness, since it is based on the presumption that the self can be detached from its social and historical narratives. MacIntyre’s narrative account is antithetical to the individualist doctrine. The individualists think that they are what they choose to be, whereas MacIntyre posits that moral reflection requires that I must examine my social and historical narratives.

Civilization: The Bridge Too Far

A civilization is not an end in itself; it is a means for the creation of another civilization. When a civilization reaches its highest or lowest point, it is driven by the forces of nature to cross the bridge built over an infinite abyss of oblivion. If the bridge breaks, the civilization descends into the abyss and disappears forever, but if the bridge holds, and the civilization makes it to the other side of the infinite abyss of oblivion, then it transforms into a new civilization, one that is a higher or lower version of the original civilization.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Aristotle on Politics and Good Life

The modernist notion that the politicians should keep aloof from the issues of morality and good life is antithetical to the ancient notion of politics—Aristotle says that the aim of politics is to create opportunities for good life (a life of virtue) in the city-state. In Book 3 of Politics, he writes: “Any polis which is truly so called, and is not merely one in name, must devote itself to the end of encouraging goodness.” I believe, Aristotle is right—a good life is possible only in a nation which is home to people of good character; so the focus of state has to be on building character. “Before we can [investigate] the nature of an ideal constitution,” Aristotle writes in Book I of Politics, “it is necessary for us first to determine the nature of the most desirable way of life. As long as that is obscure, the nature of the ideal constitution must also remain obscure.” Thus, for Aristotle, the purpose of politics is cultivation of virtue (good character), and the purpose of the constitution is to sustain a desirable way of life. The conception of good life is aligned to the conception of justice.

A Supernova?

When a star goes supernova, it obliterates the existing world and makes space for a new world to eventually emerge. The star of the USA, it seems to me, is about to go supernova. I hope I am wrong.

The Two Categories of People

The liberal intellectuals and politicians divide the people of their country into two categories: the useful idiots and the natural enemies. If you are not the natural enemy of the liberals, then you are their useful idiot.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Monsters, Barbarians, and Civilization

“There is much filth in the world; that much is true. But that does not make the world itself a filthy monster.” ~ writes Nietzsche in Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The world is what it is, an amoral platform which is itself untouched by the activities of men. A few people in the world are the monsters, most are not. The good people have the choice—to out-monster the monsters or be devoured. History regards the people who aspire to out-monster the monsters as the barbarians, but it is always the barbarians who stand at the rise of a civilization, and it is always the statesmen, philosophers, and utopians who preside over the decline of a civilization.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Philosophy and the Vedic Tradition

The tradition of the Vedas is traced to Brahma, the original creator and mover of the universe. That is why the Vedas are called apauruseya, which means impersonal or authorless; most Hindu schools of philosophy accept the Vedas as svatah pramana or self-evident means of knowledge. Since Brahma created the Vedas at the same time when he created the rest of the universe, this text is timeless and has been available in every era in the history of the universe. In my opinion, from this traditional account of the origin of the Vedas, it can be inferred that all philosophical knowledge is as old as humanity itself. There are no original thinkers in philosophy; every good philosopher is inspired by the common knowledge which the humans have been accumulating since the time when the first humans appeared on earth. Individual philosophers will present their philosophical thought in their own words, they will develop their own original arguments, but the thought and the wisdom is much older, it is common knowledge.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Kant on the Relation Between Freedom and Morality

Immanuel Kant notes that man exists in two spaces—one physical, the other mental. He calls the mental space the realm of intelligibility, which, he argues, grants man the power of autonomy (freedom) and the potential to be moral. Thus while the material world creates deterministic outcomes or bondages for man, the mental world creates autonomy, which is the necessary condition for accepting a moral way of life. Man has the potential to be moral because, by virtue of existence in the mental space, he has free will. Since man exists in both the spaces, his life is a battleground of the concerns that are purely material and the ones that are purely mental—man constantly confronts the gap between what is (the material facts) and what ought to be (the perfectionist mental notions). Another important argument that Kant makes is that it is not possible for a man to give up his freedom, since freedom is a natural or biological feature of the mental space—in his own mind, a man is always free to think or not to think, and even if a man opts to become a slave, he is free in the sense that he is exercising his natural autonomy to make the choice of being enslaved. Kant accepts that freedom and morality are not the kind of things that science can prove or disprove. The laws of science are applicable only in the physical and biological space and not in the mental space.

On Empathy for One’s Culture and Tradition

Empathy for one’s culture and tradition is the key to gaining freedom from the past and charting a new future. Those who despise their culture and tradition are overwhelmed by the baggage of history. Their mental resources are squandered in hatefully obsessing about the deeds of their ancestors and historical events, and they become filled with loathing for themselves, their countrymen, and their nation’s culture. All kinds of negative thoughts dull their mind and it becomes impossible for them to move in the direction of a future that is free of the past; thus they remain a prisoner of the past, the one that they despise.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

The Conservative Way: Peace and Stability at any Price

A civil war or revolution is not the conservative way. Conservatism was founded in eighteenth century Britain as a reaction to the great violence of the French Revolution. The British conservatives wanted to have a political system in which there is no risk of a revolution or civil war and peace and stability is guaranteed—they opted for the conservative model which, based on the teachings of Edmund Burke, works by finding a compromise between the demands of the political groups, who demand adherence to tradition, and those who demand rapid transformation. It is against the conservative DNA to rebel; no matter how hard they are pushed, the conservatives will try to find a compromise to prevent any political situation from getting out of control and destroying peace and stability. The British conservative model has worked quite well not only in Britain but also in the USA and several other countries where conservative movements have germinated—countries like Canada, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Germany, Sweden. Since the eighteenth century there has not been a single large-scale revolution or civil war in any country with powerful conservative presence. The conservative idea of having peace and stability at any price has probably played a seminal role in saving the world from a nuclear holocaust, between the 1960s and 1991, when the USA was engaged in a cold war with the Soviet Union. The cold war was not allowed to become hot because the USA, in this period, was wholly conservative—the Americans made all kinds of compromises with the Soviets to ensure that the cold war remained cold; they never did anything that would incite the Soviets to launch a nuclear attack. If the USA of this period had been as leftist as it is in the twenty-first century, then it is possible that the leftist hotheads would have allowed the cold war to become hot, resulting in large parts of this planet being turned into a nuclear wasteland.

The Creation of Dharma (Justice)

The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, in the verse 1.4.14, describes the creation of dharma, which is righteousness and justice. Here’s a translation of the verse:

“Yet, he [the Brahman, the prime author of the universe] was not flourishing. So he created on himself another excellent form, which is the form of dharma. This dharma is the power and duty of the kshatriya class (ruling class) and hence there is nothing better than dharma. Through dharma, a weak man might overcome a strong man, as one does through a king. That which is dharma is the truth. Thus it is said by those who speak the truth: “He speaks dharma” and “He speaks truth”—both statements have the same meaning.”

This verse denotes the supremacy of rule of law. All kings (all kshatriyas who enjoy political power) must be subordinate to dharma. The Brahman was concerned that the kshatriya class, being fierce, might become unruly and start oppressing the masses. That is why he created the excellent form of dharma which would motivate the kshatriyas to serve as the righteous and truthful defenders of rule of law. Dharma enjoins the powerful to use their power for the good of everyone by implementing the divine law. 

Satya (truth) and dharma (righteousness and justice) are organically related. When there is dharma, there is truth; when dharma fails, there is a regime of adharma (injustice) and asatya (lies).

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The Left in America, Europe, and Asia

The American left is a unique phenomenon in the sense that it is an elitist kind of left; it is inspired by the ideas of the Frankfurt school and other neo-liberal thinkers, and is led by millionaires and billionaires. The elitist left is not ideological, it is moved by nihilistic and feudal tendencies; for them culture is a myth, and the masses are serfs. They preach socialism, multiculturalism, and environmentalism, but their privileged lifestyle is funded by the revenues from capitalist oligarchies—they exercise monopolistic control over the digital industry, the arts and entertainment industry, the mainstream media, and the academia. The leftist movements which acquired power in Eastern Europe and large parts of Asia in the twentieth century were the Bolshevik left. After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Bolshevik left mutated into the fascistic left. In Western Europe and India, the Fabian left dominated politics until the 1980s; after the 1980s, the Fabian left has been overtaken by the environmentalist and the American-style elitist left.

Kant’s Moral Theory: Deontology and Autonomy

Immanuel Kant grounds his moral theory in deontology, but he is not preaching subservience to the commandments. He talks about autonomy, but he is not preaching the anarchist type of total freedom. In Kant’s moral philosophy, deontology and autonomy go together. He holds that it is your duty to obey the moral law (categorical imperative) only if you have the autonomy to be the author of that categorical imperative. Once you have authored the categorical imperative (accepted it) as the right way, it becomes your duty to obey. The man who adheres to a categorical imperative, does it because it is a categorical imperative of his own choice. In the Groundwork to the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant writes: “The dignity of man consists precisely in his capacity to make universal law, although only on condition of being himself also subject to the law he makes.” Kant holds that when we choose our own categorical imperative, we make the choice not as individuals but as rational beings, or the men who participate in, what Kant calls, “Pure practical reason”—the will to act with autonomy (independently) is the same as the will to act in accordance to the categorical imperative. This ensures that all rational people opt for the same categorical imperative and the society enjoys the benefit of a common code of morality.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Man and The Becoming Universe

Nothing is eternal, everything is changing, becoming a new thing—the universe itself is a becoming. Since man lives in a becoming universe, he has to accept change as the fundamental principle of existence. His body, his mind, his culture, his nation, his ideological preferences, his notions of the past and aspirations from the future are constantly changing along with the elements of the material world around him. Everyday he is a new person; everyday he discovers a new material and mental state. The presocratic thinker Heraclitus rightly said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.”

The Pendulum of Politics

History tells us that politics is like a pendulum; it always seeks to find a balance by engineering an equal and opposite reaction to every political action. Those who take extreme political action today for usurping political power should do so with the knowledge that by the implacable law of nature an equally extreme reaction is bound to follow. Those who strike at Caesar are shown no mercy by Augustus when he arrives.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

The Isha Upanishad and the Spirit of Vairagya

The Isha Upanishad, also known as the Isavasya Upanishad, is the fortieth chapter (last chapter) in the Vajasaneya Samhita of the White Yajurveda. It contains eighteen mantras which describe the wisdom and state of bliss that can be attained through vairagya which is the method of living a fruitful life while being detached from material things. By liberating man from material bonds, vairagya brings freedom from fears, suspicions, jealousies, angers, frustrations, and insecurities—a man with sprit of vairagya pays heed to the teachings of the scriptures and venerates the divine. Our lust for material things, blinds our senses and deludes our mind, making the scriptures unintelligible to us and the divine invisible to us, but this problem of blindness and delusion can be conquered by inculcating a spirit of vairagya . 

The Isha Upanishad rejects both schools of thought—one which holds that man can achieve liberation by following the path of worldly duties and knowledge, and the other which holds that man can achieve liberation by following the path of renunciation and bhakti (devotion). It preaches that the two paths are complimentary and not contradictory, and that liberation is attained by a method that is a combination of the two paths. Since man and the material world are part of the same divine, the pursuit of knowledge and the fulfillment of worldly duties is not hindered by renunciation and devotion. Man can easily traverse the two paths, if he accepts that worldly glory and success come from the divine and makes efforts to attain the spirt of vairagya

The Upanishad gets its name from the first word of its opening mantra:  

ॐ ईशा वास्यमिदँ सर्वं यत्किञ्च जगत्यां जगत् ।
तेन त्यक्तेन भुञ्जीथा मा गृधः कस्यस्विद्धनम् ।।

(Translation: All this, all that moves in this moving world, is pervaded by God. Therefore find your bliss in what has been renounced, do not covet what belongs to others.)

The eighteen mantras in the Upanishad can be placed in five broad categories: the first category consists of the mantras one to three; the second consists of mantras four to eight; the third consists of mantras nine to fourteen; the fourth consists of mantras fifteen to seventeen; and the fifth category consists of the final eighteenth mantra.

The purport of the first mantra is that enjoyment is possible to a man who detaches himself form material things while continuing to perform his wordy duties. Once we realize that everything in the world, including our own self, is pervaded by the divine, the feeling of being detached is easier to develop. The second mantra states that the path of knowledge is for the seers, and for others, there is the path of action—the essence of this mantra is that liberation is attained when one performs one’s worldly duties with the spirit of vairagya, or with the notion that every action is in the service of the divine. The third mantra states that those who fail to follow this path, the path of vairagya, become the slayers of their own self and are mired in pain and darkness. 

The mantras four to eight shed light on the transcendental and immanent nature of the divine. The divine is eternal and ephemeral; it is inherently immutable, while overtly being in a state of constant change. The mind is the fastest thing in the universe, but the self, which is the divine in us, is faster since there is no place where the divine is not present. The fifth mantra offers a series of contradictions: “It moves, it moves not; It is far; near it is; It is within all this, outside it is.” The contradictions are indicative of the difficulties that the human mind faces while trying to describe the ultimate reality, since the ultimate reality transcends all categories of thought. 

The mantras nine to fourteen deal with the problem of ignorance—they preach that the cure for the problem of ignorance is wisely performed actions. Work (actions) without wisdom push the spirit into darkness, and the pursuit of wisdom and neglect of work pushes the spirit into even greater darkness. The benefits are accrued to those who maintain a balance between work and wisdom. The mantras fifteen to seventeen exhort man to discover and glorify the divine that exists inside him. The mantra eighteen is a payer to the divine for blessing and assistance for self-development: “O Agni, the god who knowns all; lead us on the auspicious road to prosperity. O Lord, who knows our every deed, take away our deceits and sins. We offer you our prayers.” 

The Ihsa Upanishad addresses the needs of those who desire liberation but are not in a position to renounce the world—it does not exhort us to give up and become indifferent to the world; it teaches that a life of bliss is possible to those who fulfill their worldly duties while being in a spirit of vairagya. The ancient sages, who compiled this Upanishad, realized that man’s life can never be free from worldly duties—even the man who becomes a sanyasi (religious mendicant) continues to owe certain duties to the world, though in his case, the duties are ritualistic and religious. The man, who is not a sanyasi, must continue to perform his worldly duties while following the path of dharma (morality)—this can be achieved by living with a spirit of vairagya.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Orwell's Proles and Free Society

The speed at which the social media space is being purged is stunning. Some of the biggest social media accounts (those with hundreds of thousands of followers) are no longer visible. If they are purging on such massive scale now, then what will they do after January 20? In his novel 1984, George Orwell declares, “If there was hope, it must lie in the proles.” Orwell knew that the intellectuals, politicians, celebrities, journalists, and big businessmen are unlikely to move a finger for the cause of liberty and free speech—since they benefit from their closeness to the establishment and seldom suffer any oppression, they have little incentive to fight. Liberty and free speech are the rich man’s talking points, his ways of virtue signaling, and the poor man’s (prole’s) fight.

Man, God, and the Universe

Man, who is the intelligent life of the universe, is created to serve as the mediator between god and nature. His true purpose is to use his wisdom and enterprise to complete the task of god’s creation—thus, man is a partner of god; he is the particularization of god’s creative energy.

Friday, January 8, 2021

To Create a Monumental Disaster, You Need People of High IQ

In a 2009 article, Thomas Sowell writes: “There is usually only a limited amount of damage that can be done by dull or stupid people. For creating a truly monumental disaster, you need people with high IQs.” Sowell has a good point. High IQ does not mean genius; it does not mean wisdom; it does not mean great knowledge; it does not mean better work ethic; it does not mean higher moral standards; it does not mean better political sensibility. IQ is the measure of a man’s reasoning capacity. People of high IQ are quicker in answering questions and making predictions—this makes them eligible for professions in mainstream media, big legal firms, PR Agencies, multinational corporations, academic institutions, and government bureaucracies. But they tend to be narcissistic; they are convinced of their own brilliance and they want to think for everyone. Whenever they are put in a position of power, they develop a totalitarian mindset; they become reckless and insist on following their own mind which they are convinced is brilliant. The problems of the world, however, are far too complicated to be solved by a single mind or even a few minds—howsoever brilliant these minds might be. Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Hitler, and Mussolini were people of high IQ—they were convinced of their own brilliance; they were convinced that their policies would lead to a perfect world order.

The Whataboutism of the Libertarians

Libertarianism in the twenty-first century has metamorphosed into whataboutism. When you talk to them about any political problem created by the leftists and liberals, they will respond with a counter-accusation against the conservatives or by raising an entirely different issue.

The Isha Upanishad: Action and Wisdom

Here’s a translation of the verse nine of the Isha Upanishad: “The ones who worship avidya, enter blinding darkness; those who delight in vidya, enter darkness that is even deeper."

Avidya refers to the life of karma (actions which lead to the fulfillment of worldly obligations), while vidya refers to the knowledge that one gains from a study of the scriptures. This verse rejects the dichotomy between avidya and vidya, or between the life of action and the life of wisdom. Avidya is necessary for wisdom; man cannot achieve wisdom until he has attained the worldly experience that comes from the struggle to perform the actions which lead to the fulfillment of worldly obligations—to attain a higher level of existence, he must begin by consummating the duties of the lower levels of his existence. Likewise, vidya is an essential prerequisite for karma—a man lacking in vidya, finds it difficult to make moral choices. 

Those who engage solely in actions (work), and pay no attention to intellectual pursuits, enter into darkness. While those who engage solely in intellectual pursuits become detached from reality and are lost in an ersatz world of their own rationalizations—they enter into a greater darkness. Intellectual pursuits are of little value, if man is lacking in the will to take actions which lead to the fulfillment of his worldly obligations. Thus the Isha Upanishad rejects the views of both schools: the school which preaches that good life is intellectual, and the one which preaches that good life is materialistic—and preaches that a good life is a combination of both, intellectual pursuits and materialistic pursuits.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

The Fate of Lucifer and Liberals

Lucifer was once an angel who lived in heaven, but he got corrupted and fell, and became the Devil. Similar is the fate of the liberals—in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, they were the classical liberals who wanted to create an earthly heaven of knowledge, liberty, and man’s rights, but in the twentieth century, they got corrupted and fell, and they became the acolytes of the communists and fascists.

Evil is More Powerful than Good

To stir flame in others you need fire inside your mind, but the evil people have more fire in their mind than the good people—this is why, the fire of evil is higher, stronger, and widespread in most nations, and the light of good is tiny, feeble, and isolated.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

The Sons of Prajapati and the Problem of Evil

Evil exists in the world because the good people are fewer, younger, weaker, less wise, and less decisive than the evil people. This state of humanity might be in accord with God’s plan. There are verses in the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad which claim that Prajapati, the creator God who emanates from the supreme cosmic spirit, first created the demons, who were old, strong, and many, and then he created the Gods, who were young, weak, and few.

Here’s the translation of the verse 1.3.1:

“Prajapati gave rise to two classes of descendants: the Gods and the Demons. The Demons were created first and were the elder ones, the Gods were the younger ones. The two classes struggled with each other to gain mastery of the universe. The Gods said, “Come, let us overcome the demons at the sacrifice through the Udgitha.”

The insight that I gather from this verse is that the Gods are not only younger, they are also fewer and weaker than the demons. This is a reflection of the state of humanity—the Gods (the good people) are always fewer and weaker than the demons (the bad people), and the Gods generally arrive on the scene after the demons have created great chaos, bloodshed, and destruction. The struggle between the Gods and the demons, between the good and evil, never ends, but in most conflicts, it is the demons (the bad people) who win. 

The real meaning of this verse is different from what I have just said: 

The Gods and the demons in this verse are the organs, speech, and the rest of Prajapati—these are inclined towards material things or spiritualism, towards good or evil. When they are inclined towards the good as preached in the scriptures, they are the Gods, and when they are inclined towards the evil and go against the teachings of the scriptures, they are the demons. The distinction between the Gods and demons is a distinction of values, not of beings.

The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad: The Birth of “I” and the Human Race

The Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, in the first three verses of the Fourth Brahmana in section one, describes the birth of the conception of “I” with the development of self-awareness in the first man of the universe (the purusa)—this event is followed by the creation of the first female, and then through the union of the first male and the first female, there is the rise of the human race. Here’s a translation of the verse 1.4.1 which talks about the rise of the purusa: 

“In the beginning this (universe) was only the self in the likeness of purusa. Looking around the purusa could see nothing else except himself. He spoke his first words, “I am.” Thus at that moment the name I was born. From that moment onwards, it became a tradition that when anyone is addressed, he first says, “This is I” and then he might speak of the other name that he might have. Since before all this, he burnt every evil from everything, he is the purusa. Whoever knows this, verily, burns up all those who wish to be before him.” 

When the purusa, who is described in the Vedic and Upanishadic texts as Hiraṇyagarbha or Prajapati, utters the words, “I am,” it seems that he is committing an act of duality—for to say, “I am,” is to be aware of the existence of something that is not I and to be aware of the boundaries of one’s ego. But nothing else is in existence except the purusa—he is all that exists; he is the universe—that is why the verse talks about the burning of all those who wish to be before him. There cannot be anything before or after him, since the universe is contained inside him. 

The verse 1.4.2 describes the first emotion that the purusa feels—this is the emotion of fear:

“The purusa was afraid. Thus the tradition began of the people who are alone feeling afraid. Then the question entered his mind, “Since there is nothing else other than I what am I afraid of?” His fears departed, since there was nothing in existence of which he could be fearful. Only when something other than the I exists that there might be a cause for fear.”

The verse 1.4.3 talks about the second and third emotions that the purusa feels, the feeling of loneliness and the desire for a companion—it also describes the birth of the second person, the female form:

“He did not feel happy since he was lonely. Thus the tradition began of people who are lonely feeling unhappy. He yearned for a second person who could be his companion. He made himself large and assumed the posture of a man and woman in tight embrace, and then his self split into two parts: one part was the pati (husband) and the second part was patni (wife). This is as Sage Yagnavalkya used to say, “In this respect, we are like the one half of a single person, or like one of the two halves of a split pea.” Thus the purusa had the companionship of his wife and through their union the human beings were produced.”

The verses which follow in Brhadaranyaka Upanishad’s Fourth Brahmana of section one describe the birth of other creatures of the universe and the establishment of the moral and political systems which will enable the human beings to create a society where they can live righteously. On a side note—the notion of the human race evolving from a first man who is androgynous was popular in Ancient Greece. In his dialogue Symposium, Plato talks about the androgynous male who splits into two and mates with his other half to produce the human race.

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

The Decline of the Middle Class

The people in the democratic nations can be divided into three classes: the rich, the poor, and the middle class. The three classes are locked in a struggle for political dominance and each class uses a different method to advance its political interests. The rich class advances its political interests by lobbying, and by funding and bribing the politicians, intellectuals, academics, and journalists. The poor class consists of the rabble; they use violent and nonviolent protests to advance their political interests. The middle class does not have the financial muscle that the rich class possesses, so they cannot engage in funding, bribing, and lobbying; since most of them are farmers, professionals, and small businessmen, they are not interested in organizing protests which will shut down the economy—the only way that they can advance their political interests is by airing their grievances in the mainstream media and by voting in elections. If the mainstream media and the electoral process are corrupt and incompetent, the middle class has no way of making itself politically relevant—they become powerless, and the nation becomes a salve of the politicians and intellectuals who are owned by the corrupt rich and the ignorant poor.

The Wisdom of Solomon

In the ancient Jewish text, the Book of Wisdom, also known as the Wisdom of Solomon, the central theme is wisdom, which the text presents as god’s gift to mankind. The text is addressed to the rulers of the earth who are exhorted to be wise and righteous. In one of the passages, the immanent wisdom in righteous men is described in these words: “For she is a breath of the power of God; And a clear effulgence of the glory of the Almighty.” This means that wisdom is a godly potency which enables righteous people to have better understanding of their world so that they might make better choices in their life.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Ayn Rand’s Disregard of Wisdom

In Atlas Shrugged, a novel of eleven hundred pages, Ayn Rand uses the word “wisdom” just eight times, and she uses the word “reason” more than a thousand times. Her obsession with“reason” and disregard of “wisdom” is also clear in the novel's Part Three, Chapter Seven, “This is John Galt Speaking,” which, her followers insist, is of Biblical significance since it embodies the crux of her philosophy. In this chapter, the novel’s protagonist, John Galt delivers a non-stop sixty-page sermon which is aimed at presenting his (Rand’s) view of the myriad philosophical problems which are destroying the world. But Galt uses the word “wisdom” only once during his sermon and he uses the word “reason” more than ninety times. Why doesn’t Galt talk about the importance of wisdom? Why doesn’t he say even once that good philosophy and science are quite useless in the hands of the unwise and immature? Did Rand view reason as more critical than wisdom? Did she believe that a man lacking in wisdom can use reason effectively? Did she believe that the world could become a better place without the presence of wise people? One of Rand’s eight usages of the word “wisdom” in the novel is for describing Galt’s superlative mind—in Part Three, Chapter Two, “The Utopia of Greed,” she writes: “I’ve always thought of him as if he had come into the world like Minerva, the goddess of wisdom who sprang forth from jupiter’s head, fully grown and fully armed…” This description of Galt as a man who has appeared in the world fully grown, fully armed with best knowledge and values is important, because it offers an insight into Rand’s flawed view of the ideal man—she regarded Galt as the personification of the ideal man, she used to insist that men like him exist, but she was convinced that an ideal man would develop knowledge instantly, that he would not need years of study and practical experience to sharpen his thinking. The conception of “wisdom” is missing not just in Rand’s novels but also in her essays and lectures. She was probably a fine fiction writer, but she had a naive view of man and society; she had no conception of the crucial role that wisdom plays in helping men to make the right choices. She could not teach her followers to be wise—she could not teach what she herself didn’t know. The school of objectivism that she founded is not some kind of a “promised land” that her followers believe it to be; rather, it is a magnet for the unwise.


IQ is not everything, but it is not nothing either; it plays some role in the life of an individual, and the average IQ of the population plays some role in the quality of life in a nation.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Stoic Logos Spermatikos

Heraclitus is the first Greek philosopher to use the term “logos” to describe the principle of order and knowledge. The Greek philosophers who followed him have used the term in their own ways. For the Sophists, “logos” is the term for discourse. Aristotle too uses “logos” for discourse, but he calls it “reasoned discourse” or persuasion. But in the hands of the Stoics, the term “logos” acquires a metaphysical overtone—they talk about the logos spermatikos, which is the seed logos that pervades all inanimate and animate matter. In human beings, the logos spermatikos is the element of the divine principle which sees everything, not in parts, as human senses and human reason do, but as a whole of the truth and reality. The Ancient Hindu philosophers of the Vedic age used the concept of Supreme Brahman (which is the prime author of the universe) to describe a cosmic phenomena similar to the Stoic logos spermatikos.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Gudapada, Shankaracharya, And The Māṇḍūkya Upanishad

Assigned to the Atharvaveda, the Māṇḍūkya Upanishad consists of twelve terse mantras which discuss the problem of ultimate reality. Since the ultimate reality transcends the categories of time, space, and causation, it is incomprehensible to the human mind; to make the subject of ultimate reality comprehensible, the Māṇḍūkya Upanishad uses the syllable “Aum” (the aksara OM) to examine the divine principle on which the cosmos has been created. The Upanishad begins with the declaration: “The syllable OM is all this [whole of cosmos]. To explain further: what is called past, present and future is all just OM. Whatever else there is, beyond the three times, that too is all just OM.” This means that the four dimensions—past, present, future, and the fourth dimension which transcends time—are subsumed in OM. 

The second verse of the Upanishad says: “All this is brahman. The self is brahman. The self has four feet.” In the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth verses, the four feet of the self are described as the four states of consciousness: wakeful state, dream state, deep sleep state; and the state of being radiant with knowledge of the inner self. In verse seven, further explanation is given of the radiant fourth state of consciousness. The verses eight to twelve provide an insight into the fourfold etymological root of Aum, which consists of four symbols: A, U, M, and the fourth being free of all elements. The verse nine says that the first symbol “A” represents the waking state, and denotes the aspect of obtaining or attaining one’s desires. The verse ten says that the second symbol “U” is related to the term “utkarsa” which means rising up—the one who knows this ensures that no one in his family is lacking in the knowledge of the brahman. The verse eleven says that the third symbol “M” denotes creating and erecting or merging and dissolving—to know this is to create all this and dissolve all this. The last verse in the Upanishad, the verse twelve, talks about the fourth, element-less symbol, which is inviolate, gracious, and without duality (advaita). 

The Māṇḍūkya Upanishad relates the symbols A, U, M, and the one that is element-less with the four types of soul: “A” denotes the Vaisvanara soul, the experiencer of gross things; “U” denotes the Taijasa soul, the experiencer of the subtle; “M” denotes the Prajna soul, the experiencer of creating and erecting or merging and dissolving; the element-less symbol denotes the Turiya soul, which is the supreme self. Through its depictions of the four modes of consciousness and the four types of souls, the Upanishad shows that the fourth type of consciousness and soul is the basis for the other three types. If Prajna is taken as a representation of Isvara (the Supreme God), then it can be inferred that the supreme mind which dwells in the deep sleep stage is responsible for keeping all things in a condition of becoming. 

The brevity of the Māṇḍūkya Upanishad makes it difficult for readers to comprehend its philosophical wisdom. To explain its doctrine, Gudapada, the teacher of Sankaracharya’s teacher, wrote the Māṇḍukya Kārikā, which consists of 215 verses, divided into four chapters: Chapter One (29 verses), “Agama Prakarana (Traditional Doctrine); Chapter Two (38 verses), “Vaitathya Prakarana” (The Illusoriness of Self Experiences); Chapter Three (48 verses). “Advaita Prakarana” (Non-duality); Chapter Four (100 verses), “Alatasanti Prakarana” (The Quenching of the Firebrand). The first chapter examines the problem of reality as described in the Vedas and the next three chapters expound the same truth by means of reason. The Māṇḍūkya Upanishad and the Māṇḍukya Kārikā are the classical texts for the Advaita (non-dualist) Vedanta school of Hinduism. In his commentary on Gudapada’s Kārikā, Sankaracharya says that the Māṇḍūkya Upanishad contains the essence of all the Upanishads; it represents the totality of the human experience. The appeal and influence of the Māṇḍukya Upanishad has undoubtedly been enhanced by Gudapada’s Kārikā and Sankaracharya’s commentary on the Kārikā

It is impossible to accurately date the Māṇḍūkya Upanishad, but some scholars believe that it could have been developed before Buddha or in the time of Buddha—which means that it can be placed in the fifth or sixth century BC. There is controversy regarding Gudapada dates too. It is generally accepted that he flourished in the sixth century AD; this date has been proposed by scholars like S N Das Gupta who posit that since Gudapada has mentioned the word “Buddha” in his texts several times, he must be a Buddhist thinker and must belong to a period after the Buddhist teachers Asvagosa, Nagarjuna, Asanga and Vasubandhu. On this basis Sankaracharya is placed in the eighth century AD. But other scholars place Gudapada in the third century BC, and Sankaracharya in the second century BC. Swami Nikhiananda is of the view that when Gudapada uses the word “Buddha,” he is not referring to the traditional founder of Buddhism, rather, he is talking about the knower of truth which is one of the meanings of the word “Buddha”. Nikhilananda holds that there is nothing in the Kārikā to connect Gudapada with Buddhism—moreover, Sankaracharya in his commentary on the Kārikā,  notes that Buddha has not taught that the essence of ultimate realty is non-dual. 

The content of an Upanishad is not to be judged by its title, but the word “Māṇḍūkya” (Sanskrit: मण्डूक) has some interesting flavors which are worth examining. This Sanskrit word can have several meanings like “frog,” “a certain breed of horse,” and “spiritual distress,” but many scholars are of the view that “frog” is the right etymological root for the word “Māṇḍūkya” in the title of the Upanishad. So for what possible reason did the sages who compiled the Māṇḍūkya Upanishad paid such a great homage to the frog? 

The unique thing about the frogs is that they hibernate in mud and water pools for several months every year. During this period they remain in isolation, far from other creatures, they do not indulge in any physical activity; since all their bodily desires are suppressed, they do not eat or drink, they do not lust for companionship, even their breathing is controlled. When their period of hibernation is over, they emerge from the secluded space and start croaking their message. The ancient sages equated hibernation of the frogs with a life of seclusion and contemplation. They developed the notion that even the human beings can minimize their material desires and the actions of their body and turn their focus on developing wisdom and spiritual values. A sage is typically a man who departs from the crowded towns and villages and goes to the secluded mountains where he leads a frugal life and studies, meditates, and develops his philosophical thoughts—in a sense, such sages are hibernating. When they achieve true enlightenment, they return to the world and share their wisdom with the deserving ones.

The Māṇḍūkya Upanishad teaches that wisdom can be achieved through focussed and undistracted action—but to achieve this kind of mindset, a certain level of seclusion is necessary. Pranava, which is the exercise of meditating on the sacred syllable Aum (OM), is recommended by the Upanishad. Gudapada and Sankaracharya have preached that enlightenment can be achieved by following the teachings of the Māṇḍūkya Upanishad—the stage of enlightenment is called “turiya”, this is the stage when the mind transcends the world of material things and becomes one with the brahman, the radiant prime author of the universe.

Friday, January 1, 2021

T. S. Elliot in Little Gidding

“For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning."

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Plato’s Demiurge, Aristotle’s Prime Mover

There is a difference in the way Plato and Aristotle philosophize about the divine principle which creates and maintains the universe. Plato says that the original creator of the universe is a world-architect, while Aristotle says that the original creator is a world-mover. In his dialogue Timaeus, Plato uses the word “Demiurge” to refer to the god who designs and builds the universe from the preexisting chaos. In Physics and Metaphysics, Aristotle argues that the prime mover is the first uncaused cause of the universe. Plato’s cosmology is grounded in architecture and craftsmanship, and Aristotle’s in motion and action—this implies, in my opinion, that Plato is inclined towards idealism, and Aristotle towards materialism.

The Complex Foundation of Primitive Societies

The primitive societies were not simple; the Stone Age cultures were built on a complex foundation of systems of beliefs and norms of behavior. The notion of supernatural forces predates religious theory; practical politics predates political theory; the codes of morality and acceptable behavior, predate moral theory; spoken language, predates the rules of grammar, syntax, and vocabulary; creation of various forms of art, predates the theory of aesthetics. Theory does not precede action; in most cases, the theory of any subject is developed centuries or even several millennia after the subject has been acted upon and turned into a fundamental feature of human existence. Every philosophical idea is developed in a social and political context which is a creation of the men of action.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

A Brief Picture of Man’s Journey From Objectivity to Subjectivity

Objectivity is the natural condition for all creatures on this planet, including man. The pre-civilizational man was naturally objective; he lacked the power to introspect and examine the essence of his being; the outside world was all that he could sense. It is not clear how the first mythological stories got created, but these stories inspired the rise of all kinds of cults and quasi-religious movements, which, in turn, led to the formation of the first tribal communities and then the city-states. The first philosophical theories were born in these primitive tribal communities and city-states. Now man’s mind was being torn between the objective and the subjective. Along with the outside world, there was a second world that he could sense. This was the wondrous world inside him, the world of his being. He was now capable of introspecting, rationalizing, judging, and, in the case of some men of advanced intellect, doubting what their senses were telling them about the outside world. Through the conflict between objectivity and subjectivity, man’s mind kept developing and, over a period of thousands of years, he became capable of creating modern civilization.

The Dating of the Ancient Hindu Texts

The surprising thing about the massive corpus of ancient Hindu texts consisting of the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Puranas, the Mahabharata, and much else is that they cannot be dated by using the conventional historical methods. Can it be that these texts were intentionally created in a way which ensures that they do not contain any significant historical landmarks through which they can be dated? Even the names of the creators of these texts is unclear. In his 1899 book The six systems of Indian philosophy, Max Muller writes, “Whatever may be the date of the Vedic hymns, whether 1500 B.C.E. or 15,000 B.C.E., they have their own unique place and stand by themselves in the literature of the world. They tell us something of the early growth of the human mind of which we find no trace anywhere else.”

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Western Metaphysics and History

The history of the western civilization cannot be understood without an examination of the history of western metaphysics. It is paradoxical but profoundly true that the western nations have stagnated and declined in the times when western metaphysics has moved towards achieving certainty (a realist view of the universe), and they have been full of energy and made great progress in the times when doubt (skepticism) has been the trend in western metaphysics.

On Derrida’s Reading

In a 2003 documentary film called Derrida, the film’s director Amy Ziering Kofman asks Jacques Derrida, “Have you read all the books in here?” (She is referring to Derrida’s personal library.) Derrida’s answer: “No, only four of them. But I read those very, very carefully.”

Who Decides Whether a Philosophy is Open or Closed?

Is the work of a philosopher “open” or “closed”? The answer to this question is the business of the reader, and not of the philosopher and his acolytes. It is the reader who decides, whether the philosophy that he has read is open, which means that it has the potential for further exposition and expansion, or closed, which means that its intellectualism is irrelevant for posterity. In a free society, with a culture of independent thought, every reader will be able to make his own assessment—some might decide that the philosophy has the potential for further development and they might devote themselves to the task, while others might take a different stance. The verdict on any philosophy is never final; as long as the philosophy is still being read, it will continue to evoke all kinds of reactions from readers. Controversy, arguments, expositions, and denunciations constitute the fuel which keep the fires of a philosophy blazing.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Machiavelli on Savonarola, the Unarmed Prophet

Girolamo Savonarola started his movement for religious purity in the last decade of fifteenth century in Florence, a city-state that had prospered under the rule of the Medici family. Encouraged by the initial response that his sermons received from the Florentines, he was convinced that he could use the peoples anger against the religious and political establishment to acquire power in Florence and rest of Italy. But first he had to drive the Medici out of Florence. To weaken the Medici, Savonarola declared a war on their greatest achievement: art. He declared that the art that the Medici were patronizing—many of which consisted of female and male nudes—was a sign of Florentine decadence and debauchery. His followers started rampaging through houses, museums, and gardens for the debouched art that Savonarola had condemned—the climax of the anti-art movement came on 7 February 1497, a day known as the “bonfire of the vanities”. In the center of Florence, Savonarola’s followers burned works of art, literature, and things like mirrors, cards, dice, musical instruments, luxurious garments, and ornaments. But the “bonfire of the vanities” was to be the climax of Savonarola’s political career—he was excommunicated by the Pope on 12 May 1497 and after that the people of Florence turned against him. He was executed on 23 May 1498. Machiavelli, in chapter six of The Prince, says that Savonarola failed because he was an incompetent, ill-prepared and unarmed prophet, unlike Moses, Cyrus, Theseus, and Romulus. Machiavelli writes: “If Moses, Cyrus, Theseus, and Romulus had been unarmed they could not have enforced their constitutions for long—as happened in our time to Fra Girolamo Savonarola, who was ruined with his new order of things immediately the multitude believed in him no longer, and he had no means of keeping steadfast those who believed or of making the unbelievers to believe.”

Faust and the Devil

When Faust, an intellectual based on Goethe, makes a pact with Mephistopheles (an agent of the devil), he knows what he is getting into; he knows that in exchange for Mephistopheles’s aid in achieving his earthly passions, he is giving up his soul (agreeing to serve the devil in hell). There is a great deal of wisdom in Goethe’s play—Faust can be seen as a microcosm for most intellectuals who will eagerly sell their soul, their intellectualism, to the devils of destructive politics, just so that they might achieve their ambitions and passions, and give vent to their earthly prejudices. The pact between the intellectuals and the devil is a fundamental feature of history.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

The Search for the God of Atheists

The western atheists, armed with Enlightenment intellectualism (which smacks of scientism) and Jacobin revolutionary zeal (which seeks to spill rivers of blood for creating a utopia), abandoned god in the eighteenth century, and since then they have been trying to find someone that they can put in god’s place. In the eighteenth century, they tried Voltaire, Rousseau, and Robespierre; in the nineteenth century, they tried Hegel, Marx, and Engels; in the twentieth century, they tried Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin. But these human gods failed to serve as a replacement for the god of paradise. Now we are in the twenty-first century, and the atheists are still questing for an answer to the eighteenth century question: “Who will occupy the space vacated by god?”

On The Five Kinds of Liberals

There are five kinds of liberals in this world: useful idiots, hypocritical idiots, immoral idiots, elitist idiots, and lying idiots.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

The Decline and Fall of Hollywood

In the twenty-first century, there has been a fundamental change in the perception of Hollywood—the twenty-first century film stars create the impression of being fundamentally hypocritical, coarse, incompetent, and ugly; they are no comparison to the stars of the twentieth century, who created the impression of being fundamentally aristocratic, moral, talented, and beautiful. There cannot be good film stars if society is lacking in good viewers; it seems that the moral and intellectual standards of the viewers in twenty-first century have fallen so low that they have developed an appetite for tripe—apparently, they love to watch the flow of garbage on their TV screens and in cinema theaters. But Hollywood is no longer offering entertainment to people of my tastes; I find most movies and TV serials unbearable.

The Nature of Philosophy

Ninety percent of the good philosophy is translation, exposition, expansion, or refutation of the philosophy of the great philosophers of the past. A learned philosopher would know that the edifice of new philosophy stands on the giant shoulders of the past philosophers, and he would accept as his first duty the task of interpreting the works of those philosophers who precede him in the areas of philosophy that are of significance to him.

Friday, December 18, 2020

The Subtle Coup d’état of 21st Century

The time when tyrants used to seize power by taking control of a nation’s military and police is long gone; the coup d'état of twenty-first century does not happen with the intrusion of armed troops, tanks, and fighter planes into the capital city. Now, if you want to seize power in a nation, you take control of its mainstream media; its academia; its big businesses which operate in critical areas like healthcare, art, banking, and digital services; its local community organizations; and its key bureaucracies. In this kind of coup d’état, the transfer of power to the invading political faction happens in a subtle and underhand way, and most people, even those in the government, do not realize, until it is too late, that their way of life is being stolen.

Wisdom is Wiser than Technical Philosophy

Wisdom that comes from practical experience is far more important than technical philosophy which comes from rationalizations and abstractions. Much of twentieth century philosophy is a failure because it is too technical and lacking in practical wisdom. The irony of the twentieth century is that in this period, probably for the first time in history, the non-philosophers, the men of action, started appearing wiser than the philosophers.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Intellectuals and Barbarians: Poison and Medicine

The boundary between medicine and poison is tenuous. The Ancient Greeks used the term “pharmakon” to describe both medicine and poison—closely aligned to “pharmakon” is the Greek term for ritual sacrifice of human victims: “Pharmakos”. In the pharmakos ritual, the Greeks would sacrifice human victims to provide a healing touch (medicine) to their society in the time of a great calamity (famine, plague, civil war, or invasion). The poison-medicine analogy can be used for the intellectuals and barbarians. The intellectuals believe that with their ideas they are protecting (healing) society from the poison of barbarism, but the boundary between intellectuals and barbarians is tenuous. Most intellectuals are barbarians in disguise, and many of those whom they brand as the barbarians are the real intellectuals. History tells us that every great empire is forged by people of barbaric passions and energy, and the decline of a great empire happens when it becomes stable and prosperous and the over-educated and pampered (intellectualized) progeny of the barbarian founders inherit the empire.

Krishna’s First Line in the Mahabharata

Krishna speaks his first line in the Mahabharata in the Adi Parva (Swayamvara Parva) section—the venue is the royal palace where Draupadi’s svayamvara (the ceremony in which a girl of royal bloodline and marriageable age selects her husband from a group of eligible suitors) has been organized. To test the skill, strength, and divine powers of the contestants at the svayamvara, King Draupada, Draupadi’s father, has arranged a device in which a fish revolves above a pool of water. The contestants must string a steel bow, and, while looking into the pond where a reflection of the revolving fish is visible, shoot the fish in the eye with a steel arrow. The one who manages to accomplish this superhuman feat wins Draupadi’s hand in marriage. The five Pandava brothers have arrived at the ceremony disguised as Brahmin priests. When all the contestants fail to string the steel bow and hit the target (or have been disqualified for being lowborn, like Karna), one of the Pandava bothers, Arjuna, picks up the steel bow. He strings it with ease and with gaze fixed on the reflection in the pond, he shoots the steel arrow, which hits the target, the fish’s eye. The kings, princes, demigods, and saints who have arrived at the svayamvara are infuriated to see that a man, who is attired like a Brahmin priest, has managed to accomplish the feat at which all of them have failed. They blame King Draupada for humiliating them by allowing an unknown Brahmin priest to be the winner of the svayamvara. They rush forward to kill him. But to get to King  Draupada they have to pass through the Pandava brothers. 

Here’s an excerpt from the translation of the verses which describe the struggle between the Pandava brothers and their rivals at Draupadi’s svayamvara:

“Then the monarchs with gloved fingers and upraised weapons rushed in anger at the Kuru princes, Bhima and Arjuna, to slay them. Then the mighty Bhima of extraordinary achievements, endued with the strength of thunder, tore up like an elephant a large tree and divested it of its leaves. And with that tree, the strong-armed Bhima, the son of Pritha, that grinder of foes, stood, like unto the mace-bearing king of the dead (Yama) armed with his fierce mace, near Arjuna that bull amongst men. And beholding that feat of his brother, Jishnu of extraordinary intelligence, himself also of inconceivable feats, wondered much. And equal unto Indra himself in achievements, shaking off all fear he stood with his bow ready to receive those assailants.”

At this point, Krishan speaks his first line in the Mahabharata. He is addressing his brother, Balarama, who is pointing out Bhima and Arjuna:

“And beholding those feats of both Jishnu and his brother, Damodara (Krishna) of superhuman intelligence and inconceivable feats, addressing his brother, Halayudha (Valadeva) of fierce energy, said, 'That hero there, of tread like that of a mighty lion, who draweth the large bow in his hand four full cubits in length, is Arjuna! There is no doubt, O Sankarshana, about this, if I am Vasudeva. That other hero who having speedily torn up the tree hath suddenly become ready to drive off the monarchs is Vrikodara! For no one in the world, except Vrikodara, could today perform such a feat in the field of battle. And that other youth of eyes like unto lotus-petals, of full four cubits height, of gait like that of a mighty lion, and humble withal, of fair complexion and prominent and shining nose, who had, a little before, left the amphitheatre, is Dharma's son (Yudhishthira). The two other youths, like unto Kartikeya, are, I suspect, the sons of the twin Aswins. I heard that the sons of Pandu along with their mother Pritha had all escaped from the conflagration of the house of lac.' Then Halayudha of complexion like unto that of clouds uncharged with rain, addressing his younger brother (Krishna), said with great satisfaction, 'O, I am happy to hear, as I do from sheer good fortune, that our father's sister Pritha with the foremost of the Kaurava princes have all escaped (from death)!’"

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

On Good Philosophy

The treasures of good philosophy have to be defended, not against the simple masses but, rather, against the philosophers. Excess of arguments by the philosophers destroys good philosophy, and so does excess of reticence by the philosophers. Good philosophy does not consist only of knowing what people could have done and perhaps should not have done, but also of knowing what they have actually done in the past and why they failed or succeeded.

The Divine is Compassionless

The man who expects the Divine to be compassionate is a sinner who expects the Divine to break His own laws. The notion that the Divine is compassionate is a rumor propagated by the morally degenerate and theologically ignorant religious authorities who want to gain power by selling compassion to the gullible and frightened sinners. The Divine is not compassionate; His standard of justice is immutable. Chance events are possible, but miracles are not.

The Secret Global Society of Liberals

There exists a society of liberals (progressives) with powerful branches in all the major nations throughout the world, and the secret purpose of this society is to spread the rumor that liberalism (progressivism) has a powerful branches in all the major nations throughout the world.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Fall of Modernity (Umberto Eco’s Words)

“In the past men were handsome and great (now they are children and dwarfs), but this is merely one of the many facts that demonstrate the disaster of an aging world. The young no longer want to study anything, learning is in decline, the whole world walks on its head, blind men lead others equally blind and cause them to plunge into the abyss, birds leave the nest before they can fly, the jackass plays the lyre, oxen dance. Mary no longer loves the contemplative life, and Martha no longer loves the active life, Leah is sterile, Rachel has a carnal eye, Cato visits brothels, Lucretius becomes a women. Everything is on the wrong path.” ~ Umberto Eco’s description of fourteenth century Europe (in his novel The Name of the Rose). Eco's words can easily be used to describe the dilemma of modernity—decades of easy life has imbued people in the major democracies with the notion that the good times will last forever and that it is their birthright to live in a free, prosperous, and stable society; this has turned them into children and dwarfs; they are no longer capable of being handsome and great, and the fate of their civilization is uncertain.

On Socialism’s No Exit Clause

The problem with socialism is that after living for a few years in a socialist country, you suddenly change your mind. “I wish to go back to the chaotic free market ways!” But you can’t—socialism comes with a no exit clause. You can’t exit from socialism until you, and others like you, are ready to fight a civil war, which, history tells us, is rarely successful.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Definition of a Philosopher

I define a philosopher as a man who is moved solely by the desire for the truth, and by the suspicion—which inculcates in him wisdom and the humility which comes with wisdom—that the truth is not what appears to him at this moment.

Media’s Reverse-Midas Touch

Midas had the ability to transform anything he touched into gold. But the mainstream media has a reverse-Midas touch; whatever story they touch transforms into a pile of lies and propaganda.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Veda Vyasa and the Writing of the Mahabharata

Sage Veda Vyasa is the most prolific thinker, complier, and composer in ancient Hindu theology and philosophy. He classified (“vyasa” means classified) the four Vedas; this explains his name Veda Vyasa. He is the composer of the epic Mahabharata; according to traditional accounts, his composition of the Mahabharata contained 100000 verses, but the extant editions of the Mahabharata do not contain that many verses—the critical edition of the Mahabharata, developed by the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI), contains around 89000 verses (excluding the Harivamsa). After finishing the Mahabharata, Veda Vyasa became engaged with compiling the eighteen Maha Puranas which contain 400000 verses. Another name of Veda Vyasa is Krishna Dvaipayana—the term “Krishna” in his name indicates that he was dark skinned, and the term “Dvaipayana” indicates he was born in an island (“Dvaipa” means island). 

In some versions of the Mahabharata, it is stated that since Veda Vyasa was intimately acquainted with all the characters in the epic, he was asked by Lord Brahma to write the story. Vyasa said that the story was long and complex, and he would require the assistance of a scribe. Lord Brahma then suggested the name of Lord Ganesha. But Lord Ganesha said that he would accept the task on one condition: Vyasa would have to dictate without any break. To ensure that his composing of the verses would match the speed of Lord Ganesha’s swift writing, Vyasa put forward the counter-condition that Lord Ganesha would write only after he grasped the meaning of the verses. After every few verses, Vyasa would throw a difficult verse and in the time that it took for Lord Ganesha to grasp its meaning, Vyasa would compose the several new verses in his mind. This explains why the Mahabharata verses are a mix of easy and difficult ones.

The Two Types of Racketeers

A nation is subverted by two types of racketeers: the racketeers of politics and the racketeers of intellectualism (academics, journalists, and celebrities). The boundary between the two types of racketeers is unclear—they are the birds of same feather and always flock together.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

The Immanentization of the Past

Hegel saw it before anyone else: by chronicling the past, history plays a role in the rise of ideologies, theologies, and mass movements which tend to immanentize the past in various ways. The cultures with a rich tradition of historiography—like the western civilization, for instance—are home to more powerful ideologies, theologies, and mass movements than the cultures which have failed to adequately chronicle and analyze their past. But the standard of western historiography has been declining since the 1950s and now it is in a pathetic state—this is the reason why the two powerful pillars of modern west, America and England, have been slipping since the 1950s. In 2020, they seem to have totally lost their sense of history and with it their ethical and political values; their politics is being ripped apart by utopian leftism pulling in one direction and conservative populism pulling in the other. America and England have already fallen, but they continue to pretend that they are still at the top of the world.

The Fearsome Mainstream Media

There is no doubt that the mainstream media is warlike, polemical, fearsome—most of the popular journalists are not impartial reporters; they are the frontline fighters for the political and financial establishment. Their real job is to conceal the  establishment’s misdeeds from the eyes of the public and disseminate the establishment’s propaganda. Those who rely solely on the newspapers and TV to keep abreast of current events know nothing except lies and propaganda.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Vampires and the Political Cabal

The vampires feed on the blood of normal humans but they get vaporized in sunlight; they can hunt and thrive only in the darkness. The counterpart of the vampires in the real world is the cabal of corrupt politicians, crony capitalists, and nihilist intellectuals—they too feed on the blood of normal humans and they too thrive in the darkness, when there is lack of transparency. Sunlight is the mortal enemy of the vampires, and transparency is the mortal enemy of the cabal. The vampires cannot stop the sun from rising, and so during daytime, they hide indoors, in caves, forests, or their castles, but if the members of the cabal win in the elections, they gain the power to destroy transparency by subverting the freedom of the people and corrupting the legal and administrative systems. The vampires are not real; the cabal is a reality in every nation.

The Quest for Mathematical Philosophy: Descartes, Spinoza, and Kant

Descartes and Spinoza reposed great faith in mathematics—they believed that by following the mathematical method, philosophy would achieve its “historical destiny” and provide the certain answers to the philosophical questions which have been with mankind since the ancient times. Kant desired to follow the path of Descartes and Spinoza—though he did not use the mathematical method, he was hopeful that mathematics, science, and philosophy could come together in a “historical singularity” which would create a knowledge revolution. He believed that through mathematics and science, the scope of philosophy could become limitless and infinite possibilities could be created for mankind. 

In his Preface to the Second Edition of his Critique of Pure Reason, Kant writes: 

“In the earliest times to which the history of human reason extends, mathematics, among that wonderful people, the Greeks, had already entered upon the sure path of science. But it must not be supposed that it was as easy for mathematics as it was for logic in which reason has to deal with itself alone to light upon, or rather to construct for itself, that royal road. On the contrary, I believe that it long remained, especially among the Egyptians, in the groping stage, and that the transformation must have been due to a revolution brought about by the happy thought of a single man, the experiment which he devised marking out the path upon which the science must enter, and by following which, secure progress throughout all time and in endless expansion is infallibly secured.”

In the same paragraph, after a few sentences, he writes: 

“A new light flashed upon the mind of the first man (be he Thales or some other) who demonstrated the properties of the isosceles triangle. The true method, so he found, was not to inspect what he discerned either in the figure, or in the bare concept of it, and from this, as it were, to read off its properties; but to bring out what was necessarily implied in the concepts that he had himself formed a priori, and had put into the figure in the construction by which he presented it to himself.”

Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Ancient Problem of Universals is Irresolvable

While the problem of universals become a major issue in the Middle Ages, the controversy on this subject has been raging since the Ancient times—it stems form the conflict between three positions: realism, nominalism, and conceptualism. In the late Middle Ages, the realists saw themselves as Platonic-Realists, but in the twentieth century, they started using the label of Aristotelians. Philosophy has benefitted from the rise of nominalism in the Middle Ages—the nominalist ideas of Roscellinus, Abelard, and Ockham played an important role in pushing philosophy towards scholasticism, which in turn has led to modern thought. The conceptualism school came of age in the early Modern period when it was accepted by most major philosophers: Descartes, Locke, Spinoza, Leibniz, Berkeley, Hume, and Kant. Kant, for instance, defines his position as transcendental idealism, which considers the universals as ideas in man’s mind. Each of the three positions, realism, nominalism, and conceptualism, has spawned sub-schools which have contributed to the development of philosophical thought. Each side considers itself as the fount of reason, logic, and science and brands the other sides as irrational, illogical, and unscientific. I am biased towards the realist school (Platonic-Realism or Aristotelianism), but the truth is that problem of the universals is irresolvable. There is simply no way of proving or disproving the existence of entities which are indifferent to language and are beyond the limits of constructivist capacities of the human senses and mind. In Hindu philosophy, the universals have been debated since the Vedic age (between 600 BC and 1500 BC)—the Vedas and the Upanishads contain several verses on why we consider some objects as certain kind of objects. The six Hindu schools of philosophy—Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mīmāṃsā and Vedanta—have arguments on various realist, conceptualist, and nominalist positions.

Heidegger’s Fundamental Question

Heidegger’s book “What is called thinking?” is based on a lecture course that he gave in 1951 and 1952. He was looking at the problem of thinking since the 1920s—in the book on which his reputation stands, Being and Time (1927), the fundamental question that he tries to answer is: What is it to think? In my opinion, he fails to answer this question. The question is unanswerable, because it is not possible to comprehend the process of thinking when the self itself is identified through the process of thinking, and the process of thinking is the sole method of gaining knowledge. To know what it is to think, man must first transcend the process of thinking and find another way of identifying his own self and gaining knowledge—but this is not possible.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

The Philosophers and Their Methods of Philosophizing

Philosophers use various methods to express their philosophy; the dialogue is the oldest method, used by the ancient Greek thinkers like Socrates and Plato. Aristotle does not use the dialogue method—his philosophy comes in the form of lecture notes; several works of Hegel and Heidegger too are in the form of lecture notes. Parmenides and Lucretius use the poetic method; Descartes and Spinoza use the mathematical method; Augustine uses the autobiographical method. In the modern period, some philosophers have devoted years, or even decades, of their life to develop a system of philosophy— Kant’s three Critiques and his works on ethics constitute a philosophical system; Hegel has produced systematic philosophy through multiple works; Schopenhauer devoted much of his life in producing a single work of systematic philosophy, The World as Will and Representation; Sartre’s Being and Nothingness too is a work of systematic philosophy. Cicero, Aquinas, Bacon, Machiavelli, Leibniz, and Rousseau have produced long essays and books, but their work is not systematized—the same is the case with the works of philosophers like MacIntyre and Strauss. Seneca, Aurelius, Voltaire, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and to some extent Russell, Wittgenstein, Camus, Derrida, and Foucault have philosophized through long and short essays, short stories and novels, and collections of aphorisms. Several incomplete philosophical works have become massively influential: example, Plato’s Critias, Pascal’s Pensées, Marx’s Capital, Heidegger’s Being and Time.

Kant’s Notion of Transcendental Apperception

What we presuppose to know a thing is not known to us as a thing; in other words, the presuppositions of empirical experience are not empirical—they are transcendental. Immanuel Kant’s view of the mind is based on his notion of transcendental apperception, which is not the same as his transcendental idealism. Apperception is the mind’s capacity to judge according to rule; without apperception, perception cannot happen; the act of perception runs parallel to the act of apperception. To perceive a thing, the mind must make a judgement based on certain rules—this is the act of apperception. Transcendental apperception is the mind’s ability to tie together all experience; it implies a unity of the self; the self itself appears as a thing that can be perceived as other things outside the self. Transcendental unity of apperception represents the junction at which the perception of the self and the perception of the things undergo a synthesis—the synthesis is made possible by the categories which unite the self and the things that are being perceived. (Kant uses the terms “unity of consciousness” and “unity of apperception” interchangeably and it seems to mean that a man is consciousness of not just one experience but of many experiences.) Without transcendental unity of apperception, knowledge would be impossible, since we cannot be aware of even the passage of time, an attribute which lies at the root of all experience, and thereby, all knowledge.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

The Pitfalls of Total Freedom

The liberal and libertarian anarchists demand “total freedom”—freedom from all legal, moral, and political constraints. But to be free from everything is to be alienated from the national culture and be a nothing, and a man who is a nothing can have no values; he cannot have freedom as a value and he is easily enslaved. Thus the liberal and libertarian ideology of “total freedom” has nothing to do with freedom as a value. Rather, it’s an ideology of total enslavement, or fascism and nihilism. Freedom is of value within the framework of a national culture; if it’s made to transcend the nation culture, then it ceases to be a value and becomes a fascistic and nihilistic force which leads to the degradation of all values (legal, moral, and political).