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Beyond the Manifest

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By Amir Suhail Wani

Modern philosophical worldview with its nomenclatural diversity has pushed the human mind further and farther into trajectories of abstraction. The ideological extravaganza clad in tricky rhetoric denies any possibility of metanarrative, but simultaneously bombards the human mind with an infinitude of narratives. This irreconcilable dualism has rendered our intellectual tradition plundered, and made us survive on decaying ideological carcasses. Bonaparte is reported to have said, “I died because of too many doctors”; our state of affairs is no different. Ours is a state of ideological multiplicity which culminates into dread. The jargon of authenticity, and authenticity of authenticity ad infinitum, is going to render us intellectually bankrupt. There is such an impending gloom hovering over our intellectual horizon that multiplicity is in a continuous process of devouring the originality. Accepted, that truth in its process of manifestation assumes a multitude of forms, but to throw a mind open to all these forms without proper appreciation for this diversity, has created an aura of ideological inundation. It is believed that, loosely speaking, philosophy stands on the substructure of its contemporary science, though at times it may break away here and there from accepting scientific norms in its quest for ultimate realities, but the correspondence between philosophy and the science of any age is undeniable. Our contemporary scientific landscape has been dominated for the last hundred years by Quantum theory, which in its philosophical overtones favours uncertainty, chaos, subjectivity and perspectivism. These scientific notions have their philosophical equivalence in trends like existentialism, deconstruction and postmodernism.

 

The transition of epistemology and ontology from expansion of human understanding to its limitation has proved to be most grievous crime committed by pundits of Western philosophy. Philosophy, in the post renaissance era operated under the influence of science and this led philosophical methodology to be characterised by same shortcomings as were inherent to the science of the times. In placing entire emphasis on the sensory faculties of man, the philosophers of this era paid no attention to the rational and spiritual facilities of man. Hegel, Kant and others of their species metamorphosed the landscape of western philosophy which later had its repercussions of widest and worst possible nature. From what one can know the nature of question was now changed to what one cannot know. From what one can understand the emphasis was laid on what one can perceive by mere sense organs. Locke thought that the role of philosophy was not to extend the boundaries of knowledge but precisely to limit it. This limited epistemology and consequently bounded ontology constricted and constrained the trajectories of human imagination. Human mind, with its sensory, rational, imaginative, intellectual and spiritual possibilities of understanding is intrinsically infinite. The infinity of human imagination is not circumscribed by the finitude of human physicality. Man’s quest for infinity with all its possible implications finds its satisfaction in the perception of God, the institution of sacred and the concept of divine. Despite his physical finitude, man is infinite in terms of his rational and spiritual dimensions. Despite the fact constraints of space nullify his quest for physical infinitude and constraints of time defy his quest for eternity. But man, blessed with sensual, rational, cognitive, and spiritual faculties has devised means of conquering this finitude of time and space. Religion, with its overtones of spirituality and metaphysics is man’s response to his quest for eternal and literature with its all diverse manifestations is man’s response to his yearning for infinite.

Philosophy has reached a stage where one comes across notions like “morality as cultural relativity”, “gender structured language and its consequences on reality imaging”, and sometimes irksome theories like “reality as a social construction”. This is to say that philosophy has learnt not only to criticize concepts, but to dissect its own soul as well. But one is afraid to accompany a philosopher in this process of dissection. Though all these perspectives are healthy in their own right as long as their postures reflect a quest for reality (if there’s any), one must not lose insight of the fact that, any philosophy that weaves ideological fancies and recedes far from the realm of pragmatic human affairs, may survive well as an academic discourse, but it may never inspire humans to scale higher altitudes of life in living. These philosophies may survive the textual worth, but may fail to transform into living text; whether it is a presupposition of philosophy to become living text is an issue much debated in pragmatic, analytic and continental philosophical traditions. But in the east, this philosophical enquiry presents a quagmire of lesser degree to populace, for we share “the heritage of tradition”. The traditional itself is a touchstone reliable enough, that we can assuredly test the verity of any philosophical idea on this touchstone before incorporating it into our cultural corpus. The tradition includes in its lap: the old wisdom, religious inspirations and cultural constructions, and all of them are to be equally favoured to arrive at a comprehensive picture of life and the Universe that we live in.

(The author is a freelance columnist with bachelors in Electrical Engineering and a student of comparative studies with special interests in Iqbaliyat & mystic thought. He contributes a weekly column for this newspaper that appears every Monday. He can be reached at: [email protected])