The Bhagavad-Gita and Mokshdharm sections of the Mahabharata contain several valuable passages explicating the principles of Samkhya which is described as the one system of liberation through knowledge. Even the approximate date of the Mahabharata is impossible to determine, but most modern scholars place the epic in the fourth or fifth century B.C. In his 1901 book The Great Epic of India, Edward Washburn Hopkins notes that Kapila, the legendary founder of Samkhya, is the only founder of a philosophical system known to the Mahabharata; Kapila is described a “supreme seer, identical with Agni, with Shiva also, and with Vishnu. Kapila is said to have received his wisdom from Shiva.” The Mahabharata accepts that Kapila’s Samkhya system is devoid of belief in a personal supreme god, but the epic uses his authority to uphold the systems founded by other gods and teachers—many of the teachers are described as Kapila’s disciples. There are several verses in the Bhagavad-Gita in which there is discussion of the difference between the Samkhya and the Yoga systems. In one of the verses, it is noted that there are three kinds of Yoga: samkhyayoga (liberation through knowledge and solitude), dhyanayoga (liberation through self-discipline and meditation), and karmayoga (liberation through righteous action). From this verse, it might be inferred that Samkhya was once seen as the original form of Yoga—dhyanayoga and karmayoga are part of the Yoga System.
Saturday, September 19, 2020
A religion’s theological texts embody the moral and cultural principles that majority of the people in a nation use to self-regulate their life. If the religion loses its sanctity and becomes irrelevant, the nation is deprived of moral and cultural standards—after that it cannot survive. Reverence for the theological aspects of religion is necessary because theology encompasses the entirety of a people’s history, their past, a past which stretches back by centuries and even thousands of years—no people can walk into the future without firmly placing their foot on their theological past.
Friday, September 18, 2020
The word “Veda” is derived from the Sanskrit root vid, to know; thus, it might be inferred that three thousand years ago, the Vedas referred to the important knowledge that was available to the people of that period. The Vedic teachers seem to have realized that the material world is not the creation of a conventional god but of an omnipotent and omnipresent author who is undivided, timeless, and motionless—they give this author the exalted title of Atman or Paramatman, the great soul, or living principle of the universe. Since the living principle cannot be grasped by the human mind, they preached, we must contemplate the finite portions of its infinite energy. That is what they were trying to do when they developed gods for natural phenomena—so there are sun gods, fire gods, wind gods, rain gods, and a multitude of other gods but they are all instances of the same Atman or Paramatman being contemplated in portions that are finite and comprehensible to the human mind. Max Muller uses the term “henotheism” to describe the Vedic practice of contemplating the living principle in the form of multiple deities.
The Samkhya is perhaps the only system of philosophy in the world which appears to doubt the existence of god but accepts revelations—it venerates the Vedas as revealed texts which are eternal and whose authority is beyond doubt. The school holds there are three kinds of evidence or instruments of knowledge: perception, inference, and the testimony of the Vedas. But if the existence of god is in doubt, then whose revelations are the Vedas, which Samkhya recognizes as an instrument of knowledge? Max Muller is among the scholars who believe that it’s wrong to see Samkhya as an atheistic philosophy—he notes that while Kapila, the legendary founder of Samkhya, said that the existence of god cannot be proved by human beings and that god is an impossible conception, he does not expressly state that god does not exist. Also, the Vedas themselves preach that the material world is the outcome of a natural process and its existence does not prove or disprove the existence of god.
Thursday, September 17, 2020
In the eighteenth century, when the East India Company arrived in India, the Hindus had no memory of their philosophical heritage and they had little awareness of their common culture—they had a plethora of festivals and rituals, but they didn’t have the philosophical sensibility and the historical knowledge to connect the festivals and rituals with the Hindu philosophies which were originally developed between two thousand and four thousand years ago. With a significant part of the country being under the Islamic kings, there was no incentive for anyone in the country to launch an intellectual investigation into the past. It is a humbling thought that the rediscovery of ancient Hindu philosophies was accomplished in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries by the intellectual giants from another continent, Europe: Friedrich Max Müller, Ralph T. H. Griffith, Charles Wilkins produced the first translations of the Vedas and the Gita; Henry Thomas Colebrooke, William Jones, and James R. Ballantyne have made major contributes to Sanskrit literature; Arthur Schopenhauer tried to use the teachings of the Upanishads to expand Kantian philosophy; then there is the work of German Indologists like Theodor Aufrecht, Richard Garbe, Hermann Jacobi, Paul Deussen and others. In the field of Vedic literature, the knowledge of the Europeans was far superior to the knowledge of their Indian counterparts till the middle of the twentieth century. The Europeans originated the intellectual structures and methods which are still being used for translating, interpreting, and analyzing the texts of ancient Hindu philosophy.
“But figure his thought, when Death is now clutching at his own heart-strings, unlooked for, inexorable! Yes, poor Louis, Death has found thee. No palace walls or life-guards, gorgeous tapestries or gilt buckram of stiffest ceremonial could keep him out; but he is here, here at thy very life-breath, and will extinguish it. Thou, whose whole existence hitherto was a chimera and scenic show, at length becomest a reality: sumptuous Versailles bursts asunder, like a dream, into void Immensity; Time is done, and all the scaffolding of Time falls wrecked with hideous clangour round thy soul: the pale Kingdoms yawn open; there must thou enter, naked, all unking'd, and await what is appointed thee! Unhappy man, there as thou turnest, in dull agony, on thy bed of weariness, what a thought is thine! Purgatory and Hell-fire, now all-too possible, in the prospect; in the retrospect,--alas, what thing didst thou do that were not better undone; what mortal didst thou generously help; what sorrow hadst thou mercy on? Do the 'five hundred thousand' ghosts, who sank shamefully on so many battle-fields from Rossbach to Quebec, that thy Harlot might take revenge for an epigram,—crowd round thee in this hour? Thy foul Harem; the curses of mothers, the tears and infamy of daughters? Miserable man! thou 'hast done evil as thou couldst:' thy whole existence seems one hideous abortion and mistake of Nature; the use and meaning of thee not yet known. Wert thou a fabulous Griffin, devouring the works of men; daily dragging virgins to thy cave;--clad also in scales that no spear would pierce: no spear but Death's? A Griffin not fabulous but real! Frightful, O Louis, seem these moments for thee.—We will pry no further into the horrors of a sinner's death-bed.” ~ Thomas Carlyle, in The French Revolution: A History
The phenomena of aristocracy is perhaps derived from the ancient legends. The characters in Valmiki’s Ramayana, Vyasa’s Mahabharata, and Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey are purely aristocratic. The immortal gods and goddesses, the mortal kings and queens, and even the commoners, who populate these legends, are fully aware of the code of aristocracy or nobility.
Wednesday, September 16, 2020
The Samkhya and Yoga are two of the oldest metaphysical and soteriological systems of the Hindu tradition—their classical versions were developed between 2400 and 3000 years ago. Both systems are practical in their motivations, in the sense that they do not seek truth as an end in itself but as a means of liberation and fulfillment. They seek release from suffering which is the general condition of human existence—the suffering, they hold, is the result of metaphysical ignorance, lack of self-discipline, and adverse material conditions. The essential difference between them is that in Samkhya, the emphasis is on gnosis (metaphysical knowledge and solitude are the means of acquiring liberation and fulfillment), while in Yoga, the emphasis is on ascesis (liberation and fulfillment come through self-discipline and asceticism). Some historians of Indian philosophy (Surendranath Dasgupta and others) have conjectured that Samkhya was originally theistic but it became atheistic at a later stage under the influence of Carvaka and Pancasikha. But Max Muller believed that the Samkhya system is theistic because it admits in some form or other the existence of an Absolute and Supreme being. On the Yoga system there is no controversy—it has remained theistic throughout.
If there is teleology in history, it’s perceptible only in retrospect. The cultural, political, and economic consequences, which seem inevitable several decades or centuries later, are invisible to the people who happen to be the central players in the political battles of a particular historical period. Edmund Burke said in 1770: “The generality of people are fifty years, at least, behindhand in their politics.”
Tuesday, September 15, 2020
“The Indian Empire was born like the child of an inexperienced unmarried girl, that is to say, without any design to found it, or even awareness that it could come into existence, or any admission of its legitimacy,” writes Nirad C. Chaudhuri in his book Clive of India. It is certainly true that the British people (of the eighteenth century) were politically, intellectually, and morally unprepared for having a vast Empire in India. When the activities of the East India Company, whose mandate was limited to developing an infrastructure in India for carrying out a profitable trade, led to the rise of an Empire, the intellectual and political establishment in Britain reacted with great anger and hostility. The British anti-imperialistic attitude was born before the British Empire in India took its final shape. In his notes, written between 1841 and 1843, Alexis de Tocqueville says that the East India Company founded an Empire two-thirds the size of Alexander the Great’s conquests while going against the orders of the British government.
Why did providence send the British imperialists to India? This is the question that Bankim Chandra Chatterjee seeks to answer in his landmark 1882 novel Ananda Math. He was a nationalist (often regarded as the founder of Hindu nationalism), but in his novel (and several of his essays) he asserts that the Hindus should refrain from fighting the British, who are doing us a favor by being here. Since we, the people of India, have forgotten the art of teaching ourselves, we must get our learning from other countries. The British are good teachers, he suggests, and we are learning from them the lessons that we have not learned for centuries—the British are teaching us the virtues of nationalism, patriotism; they are rekindling in us an interest in the Hindu religious and philosophical texts of the past. In Ananda Math, a group of Hindu sannyasis form a militaristic organization to free their country, but after many battles in which both sides suffer losses, the realization dawns on them that they are not serving the interests of their country by attacking the British. In the novel's final chapter, a character says that it’s written that the British should rule this country before there can be a revival of Hindu culture.
Monday, September 14, 2020
Isvarakrsna’s Samkhyakarika is the important source of information on the Samkhya system; he is generally placed in the fifth century A.D., because the Samkhyakarika was translated into Chinese between A.D. 557 and A.D. 567. But the Samkhya system is much older—Chanakya’s Arthashastra, which is dated to B.C. 300, has references to the Samkhya, Yoga, and Lokayata systems.
The other Hindu systems — Nayaya, Vaisesika, Mimamsa, and Vedanta — came after the Samkhya, Yoga, and Lokayata were systematized.
There are striking similarities between Samkhya and Buddhist systems—for instance, both systems react against the Vedic sacrifices, ritualism, and belief in god; they preach that life is a web of pain and ignorance, and liberation (salvation) can be attained through knowledge; they reject self-torture and have an emphasis on becoming and change. The Samkhya position on Kalvalya (the ultimate raja yoga which stands for "solitude", "detachment" or "isolation") is similar to the Buddhist nirvana.
The ancient texts on systematic Samkhya are no longer extant and most references to sage Kapila, the historical founder Samkhya, are mythological, but the unity in the Samkhya system indicates that it can be the work of one philosopher. Since the name of the birthplace of Buddha (Gautama) is Kapilavastu, it’s believed that this is the region where sage Kapila did his work.
The British are the greatest migrants of the modern age—they began the modern trend of migrating for economic reasons. In his book Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World, historian Niall Ferguson writes: “Between the early 1600s and the 1950s, more than 20 million people left the British Isles to begin new lives across the seas. Only a minority ever returned. No other country in the world came close to exporting so many of its inhabitants.”
Art is created by the winners. In most great works of painting and sculpture, which are inspired by the contest between rival kingdoms or cultures, it’s the victors who are shown slaying the losing side. There is, after all, no dearth of paintings and sculptures in which the great heroes are shown slaying the lions and other magnificent beasts, but there are hardly any in which the beasts are slaying the heroes.
Sunday, September 13, 2020
A tree grows tall and strong if the soil in which it has germinated is suitable. The trees of “liberty,” “free markets,” “republicanism,” and “scientific approach to the world” have grown tall and strong in the West because the soil of the western civilization is suitable for such trees. The ancient religious and philosophical movements in Hinduism—the Vedic age, the Samkhya system, the Nyaya system, the Buddhist system, and others—had immense potential but after 900 AD, there was a decline in their ability to enthuse the people. The Hindus got lulled by a peaceful approach to life; they never developed the militaristic tendencies or the desire to conquer other nations. The unsavory truth is that the lust to get rich by taking control the land and wealth of other nations is a trigger for civilization. Military campaigns inspire the people to exert themselves: they develop strategies for rapidly transporting troops and feeding them, they innovate to create new weapon systems, they build new infrastructure, and they make political advancements—thus they make their civilization great.
The preacher of a new ideology has to decide how his ideology will interact with the existing ideology of the nation—should the old ideology be obliterated, or should a compromise be worked out between the old ideology and the new one? In the early decades of the twentieth century, the Bolshevik revolutionaries decided to obliterate the Tsarist and bourgeoise order for establishing a new communist system. The neo-progressive and fascistic movements, which are currently fighting to acquire power in several democratic countries, have a Bolshevik mindset—with these movements too no compromise is possible; they will keep fighting till they have acquired total power.
Saturday, September 12, 2020
The western civilization believes that “knowledge is power.” But the Hindu civilization’s view of knowledge is shaped by the Samkhya system developed in the Vedic age (about three thousand years ago)—the Samkhya philosophers preached: “Knowledge is liberation.” While the western people share their knowledge with each other and use it to make rapid progress in the world, the Hindu people neglect the world—they keep their knowledge inside themselves with the aim of using it for the attainment of personal liberation or salvation. The idea that “knowledge is power” is more conducive for making progress in the world than the idea that “knowledge is liberation.”
Every civilization is a confluence of the three magnificent cosmic energies: the constructive, the preservative, and the destructive. The constructive and the preservative energies are opposed and distinct from the destructive energy. When the sum of creative and preservative energies is greater than the destructive energy, the civilization remains in existence, but when there is fall in moral standards, the destructive energy becomes greater than the sum of the other two energies, and then the civilization falls. The history of a civilization is an account of the duel between its creative and preservative energies on one side, and its destructive energy on the other side.
Friday, September 11, 2020
Most people do not know the wisdom and knowledge that can be found in their books of mythology and religion; if they knew, they would not be attracted to the superstitions and false rituals propagated by the modern atheistic philosophies. I am not saying that what the mythologies and religions have preached three thousand or four thousand years ago are appropriate for the people in every age, including our own time—while the wisdom in the mythologies and religions is timeless, their teachings have to be calibrated to the moral and spiritual requirements of the modern age.
Just as the origin of the giant oak tree is in the tiny acorn, the origin of the human civilization lies in the most uncivilized (primitive) kernel of humanity—which is the people of the Stone Age. The hunter-gatherers of the Stone Age are the kernel from which, over countless millennia, the giant tree of human civilization has developed.
Thursday, September 10, 2020
If the human civilization is compared to a giant fruit bearing tree, then the ancient mythologies are definitely the tree’s roots which tether humanity to the rich soil; the religions are the tree’s trunk which supports the system of the tree’s branches, leaves, and fruits; the actions of all humans and the chance events are the tree’s branches which take sections of humanity into random directions; the philosophical theories are the tree’s leaves which convert the light of the sun, or human experiences and learning, into wisdom; the scientific, technological, and social advancements are the tree’s fruits.
Who is the author of the basic moral norms that most human beings tend to accept? The answer is that the moral norms have not been written—they are ageless and authorless; they are the outcome of the common human experience stretching back to the time when the first humans appeared on this planet. Moral principles, the useful ones, always bear a special identification mark which most humans, even the hunter-gatherers of the Stone Age, are able to identify on their own. We may not know the moral principles, but we know how to live the principles. The problem with modern philosophers is that they think that man cannot have a moral theory until the philosophers write it.
Wednesday, September 9, 2020
A society that is not founded on the moral values which only a religion can provide cannot save itself from moral decay. The modern philosophers will argue that the principles of morality can be provided through an atheistic philosophy, but since the eighteenth century, when the atheism became a powerful force in politics and morality, all experiments for grounding a society’s moral values in atheistic philosophy have failed. There are two problems that any atheistic moral theory faces: first, such a moral theory is nothing but a religion without theological tradition (eg., communism and welfare liberalism); second, unless such a moral theory is backed by brute political power, people are not inspired to follow it.
Every success that a nation achieves, contains the seed of its downfall. Prosperity can breed complacency and poor work ethic. High technology can breed breakdown of social systems and end of privacy. Military campaigns can breed subversion of culture. High life expectancy and better law and order can breed a mindset that yearns for total protection. An individualistic culture can breed nihilism and alienation. The desire for liberty and free markets can breed a utopian vision of “total freedom” or anarchy. Easy availability of avenues for high education can breed indoctrinated young barbarians.
Tuesday, September 8, 2020
History tells us that that progress has never been achieved without barbarity, ruthlessness, passion, and ambition. Nietzsche has addressed the matter in Thus Spake Zarathustra. He writes: “War and courage have done more great things than charity. Not your sympathy, but your bravery hath hitherto saved the victims. “What is good?” ye ask. To be brave is good. Let the little girls say: “To be good is what is pretty, and at the same time touching.” They call you heartless: but your heart is true, and I love the bashfulness of your goodwill. Ye are ashamed of your flow, and others are ashamed of their ebb.”
If you want certainty, go to religion; if you want arguments, go to philosophy; if you want facts, go to science; if you want promises, go to politics; but if wisdom and the truth is what you want, there is nowhere to go, for “your wisdom, your truth” exist inside your own mind and in your own experiences.
Monday, September 7, 2020
A liberal society does not teach its youth the values of morality, hard work, and facing life bravely. The concepts “moral,” “hardworking,” and “courage of life,” are unintelligible to the liberal intellectuals and politicians who are convinced that any aspiration for high personal and social standards is a sign of a racist, sexist, misogynist, and conservative mindset—their intellectualism and politics is aimed at corrupting the youth by condoning all kinds of immorality, encouraging laziness through false erudition and dependency on the welfare state, and establishing the notion that facing life bravely is unnecessary when the police state is there to provide protection.
A philosophy movement cannot be sustained by only intellectual concepts; it must also have the power to arouse emotions and drive people with passion. The intellectuals who think that they can change the world by solely their intellectual concepts (libertarians, existentialists, objectivists, and others), even if they wear the badge of realism, are out of tune with the realty of human psychology and history. In human beings, reason and intellectualism are subservient to passions and emotions.
Sunday, September 6, 2020
Power and protection are the two powerful desires that people have. The two desires cannot be entirely separated even in an individual, but by and large the people who covet power and those who covet protection exist in different groups in a society. The desire for power is generally found in the people who are confident, intelligent, and strong, while the desire for protection is found in those who are demoralized, ignorant, and weak.
Aquinas is the founder of theological philosophy (that is how I see him). The world’s first philosophers were the preachers of religion, and religious philosophy precedes secular and atheistic philosophy by several millennia. Theological philosophy, however, is something different—it seeks to offer a rational or scientific explanation of the world while upholding the fundamental tenets of religion and culture. In his Summa contra Gentiles, the unfinished but massively popular Summa Theologica, and other works, Aquinas tried to show that religion is compatible with the rational elements in Aristotelianism, and gave birth to a new philosophical tradition of theological philosophy.
Saturday, September 5, 2020
A closed system of philosophy does not change willingly, and if it’s ruled by a confederacy of dunces (unwise and bureaucratic people), then it becomes all the more incapable of noticing its errors, examining new knowledge, reacting to new philosophical developments, and answering the questions posed by their detractors. Thus they become destined to fester within the walls of their closed fortress—they decline in isolation until all trace of them is extinguished.
Friday, September 4, 2020
Every philosophy movement begins as a rebellion against the status quo, but when it matures it is taken over by a bureaucracy of intellectuals, politicians, and activists who keep themselves relevant by developing their version of the status quo.
Thursday, September 3, 2020
The concept of natural rights is a metaphysical fiction invented by two kinds of philosophers: the high level philosophers who are competent but mystical, and the low level philosophers who are utopian but childish. Man’s rights are not natural—they are hard-won. The politicians, farmers, businessmen, workers, political activists, and some intellectuals have won rights for humanity by fighting numerous political battles in the last one thousand years. Political action has a far greater role to play in the creation of rights than the philosophizing of the intellectuals.
What can be said of a tree is also true of a philosophy: the emergence of new branches and twigs, and the sprouting and shedding of leaves do not create a new tree—likewise, superficial changes do not create a new or original philosophy. Too many philosophers these days try to claim the title of an original thinker, even though their work consists of minor tinkering with the ideas of the great masters of the past.
Wednesday, September 2, 2020
The moral vocabulary that most modern philosophers, since the eighteenth century, have been promoting is not morally neutral—they use the words like “reason,” “individualism,” “progress,” “atheism,” “liberty,” “liberalism,” “objective,” “subjective,” and even “good,” “evil,” “truth,” and “certainty” to project a certain kind of worldview. But when the normative premises are being assumed in the concepts, the moral philosophy must become the driver of nihilism and political corruption in society.
Tuesday, September 1, 2020
I consider Theodor Mommsen’s History of Rome to be a more convincing account of the Roman age than Edward Gibbon’s History of Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Unlike Gibbon, Mommsen does not develop his history with a bias towards the Enlightenment notion that the Roman Republic was better than the Roman Empire and that the rise of institutionalized religion (christianity) led to the Empire’s decline and fall—Mommsen demythologizes the Roman Republic and shows why the Roman Empire was not just inevitable but also necessary for the survival of Roman culture.
Today I finished reading the volume three of Mommsen’s History of Rome, in which he describes the Punic Wars and the contest between Carthage’s Hannibal and Rome’s Publius Cornelius Scipio (Africanus). Mommsen views Hannibal as a general of great genius who commanded such devotion that even in the worst of times his troops never deserted him. But Mommsen is not kind to Scipio, who, he says, was motivated by the ambition of proving himself to be the primus inter pares among all Romans. Scipio was victorious and Hannibal was defeated, and Rome, in the words of Mommsen, subdued the East “as the tempest overpowers the ship that has no one at the helm.”
The end of Hannibal and Scipio came in the same year: 183 BC. Soon after his defeat at the Battle of Zama, Hannibal had been on the run to save himself from his Roman pursuers—one day he noticed that his house was surrounded by assassins, and he killed himself by consuming poison. Scipio spent his final years on the coast of Campania; he was disappointed because he felt that the Senate was not acknowledging his military success. He was only fifty-three, but he had become a bitter man. In his will, he instructed his relatives that his remains should not be buried in ungrateful Rome.
Moral concepts are not universal, they are not timeless, and they are not unhistorical. From the history of philosophy, we learn that moral concepts gain relevance from the culture in which they are founded, and they have a history. To regard moral concepts as universal, timeless, and unhistorical is the hallmark of an absolutist and utopian mind.
Monday, August 31, 2020
“Does Moral Philosophy Rest upon a Mistake?” is the name of the 1912 paper by H. A. Prichard. Moral philosophy has assumed the task of providing a reason or justification for holding that something which we value as our duty, but in his paper Prichard tries to prove that the demand for such a reason or justification is untenable. To defend his position, he makes two arguments. In his first argument, he notes that people may try to justify the view that something is their duty by showing that what is their duty is essential to their pleasure, or conducive for some good, but if pleasure and some good are the ultimate goals then people are not treating whatever they assume to be their duty as their duty. In his second point, Prichard appeals to the things of which we are supposed to be conscious and notes that since the apprehension of duty is automatic, it cannot be supported by reason and what is not supported by reason must be amoral.
“A swinish multitude”—by his use of this phrase, Edmund Burke has conveyed his low opinion of the men who become part of mobs and indulge in great violence to force society to accept their political agenda. In his Reflections on the Revolution in France, Burke writes: “Along with its natural protectors and guardians, learning will be cast into the mire and trodden down under the hoofs of a swinish multitude.” Burke’s use of the phrase “a swinish multitude” caused great controversy in his time and the radical politicians and intellectuals saw this as an attack on the underprivileged.
Sunday, August 30, 2020
“But people tell me that these men are simply old, cold, boring frogs, which creep and hop around people as if they were in their own proper element, that is, in a swamp,” writes Nietzsche in On the Genealogy of Morals—he is criticizing the English psychologists (the utilitarians) who were preaching that the word “good” was first applied to altruistic actions since such actions are socially useful. Nietzsche notes that the word “good” was first used in Ancient Greece by the noble, mighty, higher-ranking and higher-thinking people whose way of living was in stark contrast to everything plebeian, low-minded, weak, common, and vulgar. Fundamentally, Nietzsche is in the right.
The great moral philosophers in England in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were pro-England and they mostly preached in favor of the status quo (Locke, Berkeley, Hume, Smith, Burke, and others), whereas, in France and Germany during the same period, the great moral philosophers were anti-France and anti-Germany (Voltaire, Montesquieu, Kant, Rousseau, and others) and they mostly preached against the status quo. During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, England attained great economic and political success—the industrial revolution led to an unprecedented growth in its economy and it became the empire on which the sun never set; France and Germany in this period remained mired in a multitude of political and economic problems. Even in the twentieth century, England has fared better than France and Germany. The lesson to be learned from this is that a nation in which the moral philosophy is dominated by nationalistic philosophers has a better chance of making progress.
Saturday, August 29, 2020
Society is not the aggregate of existing individuals, as the individualists claim. The existing individuals are the inheritors of the society which has been created by the struggles and aspirations, achievements and failures of the past generations. Hegel’s entire philosophy is meant to elucidate that history of philosophy is at the core of the moral and political values of a nation—the critique of moral and political theories goes hand in hand with the political and economic struggle to transform society. To a significant extent our life is determined by the moral and political values, and the historical baggage, that we have inherited from the past.
Immanuel Kant is the founder of the modern conception of reason and morality. He can be seen as the supreme representative of the Enlightenment since he believed that through the use of reason, and reform of the political and cultural institutions, a society can be perfected, and he sympathized with the French Revolution. He believed, as did most Enlightenment thinkers, that the French Revolution would lead to the rise of a liberal, peaceful, and just society not just in France but across Europe. He preached that universal moral principles, which do not depend on the social order, are possible. He valued independence of mind and regarded paternalism as the worst form of tyranny—and he thought that reason and universal moral principles were the key to freeing the human mind. He was convinced that there would be perpetual peace among Republican nations founded on rational moral and political principles. But the failure of the French Revolution and the problems that Germany has faced in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries suggest that Kant’s view that a good Republican society can be founded on reason and universal moral principles is a mirage—social order and principles of morality are the outcome of a historical, cultural, religious process over which men in any generation have limited control.
Friday, August 28, 2020
Paradoxically, the people with a rational mode of thinking are often the believers in the most outrageous irrationalities. This is because the more rational people are, the more susceptible are they to the irrationalities which come packed in a language that might seem scholarly and profound.
In the present crippled state of western politics and culture, the ideas of racism, sexism, minority rights, climate change, misogyny, and global pandemic have become the mirage that bewitches those westerners who have become so alienated, weak, and effete that they regard the entire western heritage of philosophy, science, discoveries, explorations, and military conquests as an intolerable burden.
Thursday, August 27, 2020
If a culture does not regularly rebarbarize itself in intervals of five or six decades (the lifespan of a generation), then it usually dies. Rebarbarization is important not only for strengthening the institutions by weeding out the weak and corrupt elements from high positions in society but also for taking the culture to the next level of dominance. In his article, 'Wimps Versus Barbarians,” Thomas Sowell writes: ”Whether on college campuses or among nations on the world stage, if the battle comes down to the wimps versus the barbarians, the barbarians are bound to win.” My point is that a culture needs good barbarians to fight the bad barbarians.
Despite the economic and technological progress that we have made, our mindset has not changed much in the last three thousand years. The only change in human beings that I can detect is that the yahoos of the ancient and middle ages have become the houyhnhnms of the modern and postmodern periods.
When water becomes stagnant, the scum rises to the top; the same thing happens when a society becomes stagnant. The advanced nations, which were the drivers of the progress in the world in the last three hundred years, have become stagnant in the twenty-first century, with the result that scum has risen to the top of their society and has throughly corrupted their intellectual, artistic, political, and geopolitical agenda.
Wednesday, August 26, 2020
There are several geographical regions where the people are lacking in the intellectual and moral vitality and are utterly incapable of developing a high civilization. Their problem cannot be solved by economic and political reforms, for no amount of democracy, liberty, and free markets can improve the fortunes of a nation that is devoid of vitality. There are very few geographical regions where the vitality to create a high civilization can be found.
“In ancient times it was necessary to be either anvil or hammer,” wrote Theodor Mommsen in the third volume of the History of Rome. But I am a bit more grounded than Mommsen; I believe that what he has said is true for the modern times as well; in fact, it’s true for all times. The clash of civilizations is the fundamental driver of history—this clash is a natural system by which history weeds out the weak civilizations (the anvils) and promotes the ones that are strong (the hammers). Even for human beings, the anvil or hammer analogy is valid—it’s the hammers among men who win, while the anvils among men are generally the losers.
Tuesday, August 25, 2020
Monday, August 24, 2020
A work of history is an abortion in the womb of the past—a historian does not merely report on the past; he tries to abort other versions of the past, and give birth to his own version. Many historians (mostly liberals and leftists) give birth to versions in which the past is denigrated, because they know that when people learn to denigrate their past, they become lifelong supporters of the liberal and leftist causes. Fortunately, the world has historians in whose works a better version of the past can be discovered.
There are several historians whose works I like; if I am asked to name my top five historians, I will give the following names:
David Hume (The History of England)
Edward Gibbon (The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire)
Thomas Macaulay (The History of England)
Theodor Mommsen (History of Rome)
Nirad C. Chaudhuri (Thy Hand, Great Anarch!, Clive of India)
Here’s a definition of “axiomism” (a term that I have coined): The conviction that the philosophical opinions that I hold (or my favorite philosopher holds) can never be wrong, because my opinions are axioms which do not need to be established through scientific evidence or defended by philosophical arguments and can be accepted as the ultimate facts which are self-evident. In the twentieth century, several philosophical movements contracted the intellectual disease of axiomism.
Sunday, August 23, 2020
Saturday, August 22, 2020
Don Quixote was one of Karl Marx’s favorite books. Marx believed that the important lesson that Quixote had to learn was that not every social order is equally compatible with knight errantry—it is certainly incompatible with the bourgeoise world order in which, Marx saw, the last vestiges of chivalry being ridiculed and shunned. In Capital, Marx writes: “This much, however, is clear, that the Middle Ages could not live on Catholicism, nor the ancient world on politics. On the contrary, it is the mode in which they gained a livelihood that explains why here politics, and there Catholicism, played the chief part. For the rest, it requires but a slight acquaintance with the history of the Roman republic, for example, to be aware that its secret history is the history of its landed property. On the other hand, Don Quixote long ago paid the penalty for wrongly imagining that knight errantry was compatible with all economic forms of society.”
Aristotle defines politics as a practical science, but was he aware of the practical political realities of his time? He was living in Athens, in a time of tumult, but he does not talk about the threat to Athens from Macedon. In his work on political theory, Politics, Aristotle mentions Macedon twice, both times in a non-political context. Where did his loyalties lie: Athens or Macedon? He had lived and worked in Plato’s Athenian Academy for more than twenty years, but left Athens in 343 BC to become a tutor to the prince of Macedon, Alexander. Four years later, in 339 BC, Athens was conquered by King Philip II of Macedon. How did Aristotle feel about the conquest of Athens? Did he support the Macedonian takeover of Athens or did he oppose it? Plato, who is often seen as an idealist, in contrast to Aristotle’s earthiness, displays a better awareness of the political realities in some of his dialogues than Aristotle does in his own works.
Friday, August 21, 2020
Man’s rights, without common power and good constitution, are nothing more than the musings of philosophers, just empty words, which have no strength to secure man’s life and property. Where there is no common power and common constitution, there can be no conception of man’s rights and injustice. The Great Leviathan, when it's founded on a good constitution, is the fountainhead of man’s rights.
As the power of the state grows, the power of moral principles decline because the government enacts new laws and implements new restrictions which impinge upon the alternatives between which the people have to exercise their moral judgement for making their choices. When everything is regulated, nothing is moral.
Thursday, August 20, 2020
The people of the twenty-first century seem convinced that their way of life will survive forever—they don’t know that they have already been “cancelled” by history. I think of a line from Virgil’s Aeneid: “fuimus Troes, fuit Ilium et ingens gloria Teucrorum.” (We Trojans are no more, Ilium is no more, nor the great Glory of the Teucrians.) This line occurs in the tragic speech of Panthus, the priest at the temple of Apollo. On learning about the fall of Troy, Aeneas, the son of the Anchises and Aphrodite, and the lieutenant of Hector, picks up his arms and rushes to the battle—on his way, he encounters Panthus who is fleeing with his grandchild. When Aeneas asks why he was fleeing, Panthus delivers his tragic speech. Aeneas was one of the few Trojans to survive the war—he travelled to Italy and settled near Rome, where his descendants, Remus and Romulus, founded an empire; thus, according to this legend, the Romans are the descendants of the Trojans. The Britons too are descendants of the Trojans, since Britain was founded by another descendent of Aeneas, Brutus of Troy, who became Britain’s first king.
The people in a nation have two alternatives: either they can identify themselves by their race and religion, or by their history and nation. If they don’t identify by either of the two alternatives then their community is ripped apart by the forces of pathological liberalism, individualism, and multiculturalism and turned into a heap of dry sand which the wind scatters in all directions. History of the last four hundred years tells us that those nations have made progress where the individualism and liberty of the people was rooted in a common identity: for instance, England in from the middle of the seventeenth century to the middle of the twentieth century; the USA from the nineteenth century to the 1960s; Japan from 1950 till today; South Korea from 1965 till today. Even in China, a communist country, a sense of common identity has led to better outcomes.
Wednesday, August 19, 2020
The first requisite to happiness is that a man should be naive and ignorant. A man of intelligence and knowledge has little scope for being happy—because he is aware of too many problems and he thinks too much about the lost opportunities to solve these problems.
They are no man—the socialist sons of Marx;
Proletariat is the best, they say, bourgeoisie the worst;
They have no tails, but it’s marvelous to see,
These creatures swinging from tree to tree,
Preaching that in the Marxist utopia everything is free,
And the monkeys have total equality.
Philosophy lives and dies in abstract thinking. If you have no capacity for abstract thinking, then you cannot make progress in philosophy, but if your entire worldview is founded on abstract thinking, then your philosophy will be rationalistic and utopian. Therefore, while navigating the river of philosophy, a philosopher must keep his feet planted in two boats simultaneously: one foot in the boat of the real world and the other foot in the boat of abstract thought.
Tuesday, August 18, 2020
The essence of Platonic politics is that all political systems are flawed; in the Republic, five types of regimes are examined—Aristocracy, Timocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy, and Tyranny—and flaws are found in all of them. The essence of Aristotelian politics is that the nature of the regime is inconsequential; as long as the kingdom is stable, and a leisured life of metaphysical contemplation for the intellectual elite is possible, the regime can be tolerated. When Plato becomes the tutor of the tyrant of Syracuse, he makes heroic efforts to get the tyrant to accept his moral and political ideas, but his efforts cannot make a dent in the wall of political reality—Plato’s suspicion of all types of regimes is an outcome of his failure in Syracuse. After Plato’s death, Aristotle is asked by Philip II of Macedon to become Alexander’s tutor, but Aristotle accepts the job without any philosophical and political agenda—there is no evidence that Alexander learned any moral and political theory from Aristotle.
Those who refuse the sword must renounce the sceptre—in ancient times, this principle was widely accepted. But those were the times of simple politics. We live in a complicated age—an age when political movements appear suddenly and unexpectedly and start demanding total power, but the source of their power is never clear: Is sword their source of power? Is it ideology? Is it the size of their mob? Is it the nature of their political agenda? The source of their power, I believe, is a mixture of all four—these movements wield not just the power of the sword, or the power of using their mob to inflict violence on their rivals, but also the power that they derive from their blind devotion to their ideology and their political agenda.
Monday, August 17, 2020
Aristotle defines man as a rational animal—in his essay, “An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish,” (Chapter 7, Unpopular Essays), Bertrand Russell responds to the Aristotelian notion by invoking a list of human irrationalities and follies. Russell writes: “Man is a rational animal—so at least I have been told. Throughout a long life, I have looked diligently for evidence in favor of this statement, but so far I have not had the good fortune to come across it, though I have searched in many countries spread over three continents. On the contrary, I have seen the world plunging continually further into madness. I have seen great nations, formerly leaders of civilization, led astray by preachers of bombastic nonsense. I have seen cruelty, persecution, and superstition increasing by leaps and bounds, until we have almost reached the point where praise of rationality is held to mark a man as an old fogey regrettably surviving from a bygone age.” Russell is right in calling men irrational because he is judging their actions by rational standards and when Aristotle defines man as a rational being he too is invoking the rational standards. Russell is, therefore, not rejecting the Aristotelian definition of man.
Liberty and free markets are not the magic wand, a wave of which will make a nation prosperous; there are several nations in which there is hardly any economic regulation, primarily because their economy is too meager to be worth regulating—these nations are the world’s most backward places where people live in hellholes inflicted with poverty, disease, and crime. A nation might have liberty and free markets, but the people will not be able to take advantage of these values if they are lacking in intelligence, honesty, knowledge, moral principles, ambition to excel, and work ethic.
Sunday, August 16, 2020
Plato is the conservative; Aristotle is the revolutionary. In his dialogues the Gorgias and the Republic, Plato tries to identify and judge the existing ethical and political systems, but in both dialogues, Socrates and his interlocutors are unable to judge which system of ethics and politics is the best. Aristotle’s focus in the Nicomachean Ethics and the Politics is not on identifying and judging but on creating a society in which people experience eudaimonia (happiness). Plato does not draw a clear connection between ethics and politics, but Aristotle insists that politics follows ethics—in the Aristotelian corpus, the Politics follows the Nicomachean Ethics and both works are concerned with the practical matter of enabling people to live with virtue and happiness. In his theory of forms, Plato says that the good is unhanging and transcendental, but Aristotle rejects this idea—he posits that the good, in the sense that it appears in human language, and, in the sense in which it’s desired by men, cannot be transcendental; it must be of this world, something that can be reached by human efforts. Plato aims to explain the existing system; Aristotle aims to overthrow the existing system and create a better system.
The twenty-first century will be the first century in three thousand years to record a steep decline in human population—perhaps this century will herald the beginning of the end for our species. In this universe, there is no mercy for creatures that have lost their will to survive; the fate of the dinosaurs awaits us if we can’t rediscover that instinct which Nietzsche calls “the barbaric (romanticist) will to power (survival).”
Saturday, August 15, 2020
The religious movements are more influential and long-lasting than the philosophical movements. The appeal of the philosophical movements never extends beyond the intellectual and political circles in one or two nations, and they become obsolete within a generation. But the religious movements like Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and others have survived for several millennia—they have had a massive impact on the culture and politics of not only the nation where they were founded but in many other nations. Since the eighteenth century, powerful atheistic movements have arisen in different parts of the world, but the religious movements continue to be young, energetic, and full of zeal for maintaining their influence.
History is not meant to be read as a story of the past events; it is meant to be read philosophically, in the sense that it offers perspectives on the rise and fall of cultural and political institutions and on the religious and moral thought which once enabled large groups of people to identify with each other and cooperate for establishing and defending political communities (city-states or nations).
Friday, August 14, 2020
The individualists think that they are outside Aristotle’s definition of man; they think that they don’t need to be part of a political community (culture and nation) to survive and thrive.
Revolutions are of two types: first, the revolutions in which the system of government is transformed and a new regime comes to power, but no harm is caused to the cultural institutions and the peoples civil liberties; second, the revolutions which entail not only a fall of the government but also a destruction of the cultural institutions and the peoples civil liberties. The American Revolution of the eighteenth century was of the first type, while the French Revolution of the eighteenth century and the Bolshevik Revolution of the twentieth century were of the second type. The conservatives (from the time of Edmund Burke) support the first type of revolutions and oppose the second type. Burke, for instance, was a supporter of the American Revolution and an opponent of the French Revolution.
Edward Gibbon and Edmund Burke were contemporaries, but they didn’t see eye to eye on political matters. Gibbon, inspired by the atheistic thought of the French philosophes, was an enthusiastic supporter of the French Revolution and the Jacobin cause, whereas Burke stood for a conservative worldview and was a trenchant critic of the French Revolution and the Jacobins. After 1790, when it became clear that the French Revolution was a colossal failure, as Burke had predicted, Gibbon tried to dissociate himself from the French philosophes by claiming that his atheism was inspired by the work of Conyers Middleton and not the philosophy that was driving the French Revolution. He became an admirer of Burke’s work—in a letter to Lord Sheffield (5 February 1791), Gibbon wrote: “Burke's book is a most admirable medication against the French disease, which has made too much progress even in this happy country. I admire his eloquence, I approve his politics, I adore his chivalry, and I can even forgive his superstition.”
Thursday, August 13, 2020
History transforms the past, instead of merely explaining it. When a historian writes a work of history, he develops a new view of the past. The most honest account of history is a half breed between what really happened, and what events and situations of the past the historian has considered and what events and situations he has ignored. There are as many versions of the past as there are works of history.
Liberty is a good thing, but the demand for total liberty is a conspiracy to push society into nihilism and lawlessness which are usually a prelude to the establishment of a new tyranny. Those who become part of movements which demand total liberty miss one essential feature of liberty: the concept characterizes freedom within the limits of not only human psychology and human body but also the good cultural and political traditions; it does not characterize freedom from everything. No man can ever be so free that he is free of his mental capacities, skills, just obligations, gender, sexuality, and those traditions of his ancestors and the laws of his society which make his life worth living. To demand freedom from everything is as ridiculous (or vile) as demanding freedom from gravity.
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
In Plato’s Symposium, there is the description of a drinking party to celebrate Agathon’s victory in a dramatic competition. The partiers compete with each other in making speeches about the nature of love. A man called Aristophanes presents his theory of love by narrating a myth about the origin of the human race. At first, he says, the humans had four arms, four legs, and so on—they were like two humans of our time fixed to each other, and they possessed enough strength and competence to challenge the hegemony of the gods. To outclass the humans, the gods split them two—thus the “half-creatures,” the humans with two legs, two arms, and so on, came into being. From that point of time, the men, who are transformed into the half-creatures, have been lusting for the other half of their body; they try, ineffectively, to satiate this lust through sexual love of the opposite sex. When man loves a woman, or a woman loves a man, he or she is, at a subconscious level, trying to love the lost half of his or her own body. In his speech, Socrates talks about what he has learned from the priestess Diotima—according to Diotima’s doctrine, love is never satisfied with anything in this world, because nothing in this world can be good—you have to make an ascent from the particulars of this world to the abstractions of the world of Forms to discover the good.
Tuesday, August 11, 2020
The Western Roman Empire fell in 476, but the fall did not lead to the end of Roman influence in Europe; under the barbarian rulers, the Roman culture continued to thrive. The Eastern Roman Empire survived till 1453, but soon after it fell, all trace of its culture was eradicated. The culture of the Western Roman Empire survived the barbarian takeover, because the barbarians were devoted to the Roman way of life; the Eastern Roman Empire, on the other hand, was vanquished not by barbarians but by an organized religion—the religion of Islam. The Ottoman Turks (along with the Persians and Arabs), who defeated the Eastern Roman Empire, established an Islamic kingdom, which, in some form, continues till this day. In the sense of culture, the Western Roman Empire never fell, whereas the Eastern Roman Empire’s fall was total.
PS: In volume five of his History of The Decline And Fall Of The Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon says that the Latin Crusaders and the Ottoman Turks led to a “double fall” of the Eastern Roman Empire.
The concept of man’s rights is intelligible only against the background of a certain kind of social order. If there is no social order, the concept of man’s rights is incoherent. The universe does not recognize man’s rights—the existence of a social order or a nation is a necessary condition for the concept of man’s rights to become coherent.
Monday, August 10, 2020
The creatures in this world can be divided into two categories: the hunters and the hunted—this holds true for humans as well. Men are either preying on other men or they are the prey; they are either the wolves or the sheep. The sense of reason that the men possess adds a layer of complexity to their needs—an animal is motivated by the desire for food, sex, and shelter; the interests of men, on the other hand, is fuelled by their lust for power, pleasure, and property. The ultimate avenue for acquiring power, pleasure, and prosperity is politics which is generally dominated by men who have mastered the art of pandering to the vices of the wolves and the fears of the sheep to get what they want.
Creating a nation of liberty and free markets is one thing, and asking and answering philosophical questions about liberty and free markets quite another thing. Philosophy is not politics; it’s not action; it’s essentially an after-the-event activity—it can be used to explain the nature of liberty and free markets, but it cannot be used to create a nation which enjoys the values of liberty and free markets.
Sunday, August 9, 2020
Being an amoralist is not the sign of irrationalism; a man of reason can be lacking in moral sense, while a mystic, who is generally regarded as an irrational person, might be a staunch moralist. The choice of moral principles, in most human beings, is pre-rational or pre-reason: people pick up their basic moral ideas between the ages of two and five when they are too young to make use of their faculty of reason. Amoralism, on the other hand, is the conscious choice of a rational adult—to deny the moral ideas that you picked up as a child, you need to use your reason. This is why, nihilism (a social manifestation of amoralism) infects only the intellectualized sections of society; the people who have no exposure to philosophy and art are able to avoid nihilism.
Marcus Aurelius, the stoic philosopher and Roman emperor, stands at the beginning of the middle ages, and Machiavelli, the diplomat and classical realist philosopher and historian, stands at the end of it. The distance between Marcus and Machiavelli, of about 1300 years, is known as the Middle Ages. In history of philosophy, the Middle Ages do not get even a fraction of the attention that is given to Ancient and Modern philosophy, because, when philosophy took an atheistic turn in the eighteenth century, it became obligatory for the philosophers for suppress the achievements of the Middle Ages when religious institutions were the driving force in philosophy, science, art, and politics.
Saturday, August 8, 2020
When people are consumed by fear of the worst and start preparing for it, they are playing a dangerous game, which will inspire their political rivals to redouble their efforts for ensuring that the worst gets unleashed—the nation’s politics becomes a battleground between those who want to preserve political and economic stability and those who want to bring society to its knees. In such a situation, the less extreme elements never have any chance against the more extreme elements; the advantage is with the side that is willing to unleash the worst.
In his review of Sartre's novel Nausea, Camus describes what makes the great novelist: “A novel is never anything but a philosophy put into images. And in a good novel, the whole of the philosophy has passed into the images. But if once the philosophy overflows the characters and action, and therefore looks like a label stuck on the work, the plot loses its authenticity and the novel its life. Nevertheless, a work that is to last cannot dispense with profound ideas. And this secret fusion between experiences and ideas, between life and reflection on the meaning of life, is what makes the great novelist.”
Friday, August 7, 2020
History tells us that “expansion” and “expression” march hand in hand. The nations which are successful in “expanding” their frontiers, by military, economic, and diplomatic measures, generally excel in “expression”—they are overflowing with intellectual energy and they “express” themselves in great works of art, literature, history, philosophy, and theology. But the communities which remain confined to their own geographical area, and rarely try to conquer new territories, tend to become intellectually stagnant: they have no art, no history, no literature, no philosophy, and no theology. The ability to conduct brutal military campaigns is conducive for intellectual activities (as long as the military campaigns are successful and the empire is politically stable).