Philosophy in Public Life

Priyadarshi Dutta *

Philosophy in Public Life
India's struggle for freedom was animated by humanistic philosophy
Gandhi invested the political struggle with quintessentially Indian ethos

The UNESCO instituted the World Philosophy Day in 2005 to be observed on the third Thursday of November. This year the day falls on November 17. What was the need for dedicating a day to a discipline believed to be divorced from reality? "Philosophical reflection is above all a call to humility, to take a step back and engage in a reasoned dialogue, to build together the solutions to challenges that are beyond our control", says Irina Bokova, the UNESCO's Director General. She adds "The greater the difficulties encountered the greater the need for philosophy to make sense of questions of peace and sustainable development".

Philosophy, the UNESCO maintains, belongs to everyone, everywhere, who cares for it. Therefore the international body leads the World Philosophy Day but does not own it. Philosophy might be viewed in two different ways. At one plane, it is speculative rather than empirical. It believes in discovering the intangible order of things.

It peaks into spirituality. It is for individual edification, satisfaction and understanding of things. But at another plane it is about engagement with human civilization. It is about moulding the future of civilization by discovery of some sublime principles. "My purpose is to exhibit philosophy as an integral part of social and political life: not as the isolated speculations of remarkable individuals", says Bertrand Russell in his classic A History of Western Philosophy.

This year is the 140th year of American Declaration of Independence (1776). The Declaration disavowed the divine right of kings, which George III, the then monarch of Britain clung to. It brought common people into the foreground of history. It is an argument in favour of democracy and equal rights for all citizens. Bereft of this uplifting philosophy, America's war of independence might have reduced itself to crude military campaign against the British.

The document, drafted by Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), abounds in original political philosophy. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends,
it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government,
laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form,
as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness".

Our own struggle for freedom was animated by humanistic philosophy. "This was no crude demand for the ending of foreign rule and the elevation of self chosen leaders absolute authority, such as we have seen in other emergent countries. This was a genuine dialectic argument about the nature of freedom, the character of nationhood, the obligations of individuals to society", observed the late Oxford historian Hugh Tinker.

The intellectual discourse that marked freedom movement guided India's course to become an inclusive democracy. India was the first nation to implement universal adult franchise in 1951-52. Some were even skeptical of its wisdom, in a nation with literacy rate of meager 16 percent. But it could not have been any other system, given our freedom movement was fought in the name of everyone, high and low, rich and poor, men and women. The universal adult franchise, like democracy itself, was thus the outcome of the philosophy of freedom struggle.

It is a pity that India's ingenious schools of philosophy got caught in time warp. The Sankhya, Yoga, Nyay-Vaisesika, Purva Mimansa, Uttar Mimansa and Vedanta are considered six orthodox systems that upheld the Vedas. Buddhism and Jainism were considered heterodox systems. Though all of them were rich in content, they did not inspire any political evolution unlike what we see in the West. Therefore we see no political evolution in medieval India, which might have modernized India without British intervention.

But in the 19th century, in colonial India, Vedanta and Buddhism emanated as gospels humanity and universalism. Swami Vivekananda spoke of the glories of Vedanta and Buddhism in the West. They were projected as remedial answers to needs of the epoch. Yoga, originally a school of philosophy, is now fascinating the world. Instituting the 'International Day of Yoga' (June 21) in 2015 should reinforce our attention to Indian holistic philosophy.

Gandhi changed the rules of the game in politics. When he arrived on the scene a century ago, the national leaders were actually following western assumption of state, nationhood and political destiny. The more enthusiastic nationalists wanted to establish that Indians had a history of military and political superiority like the Europeans.

Those who gave an alternative perspective based on Indian ideas like Rabindranath Tagore and Ananda K. Coomaraswamy were not men of masses. It was Gandhi who with his ideas of Satyagraha, Ashram, Charkha, Khadi, Daridra-Narayan Seva, Swachhata (Cleanliness), Ram Rajya, Hartal, Sarvodaya, Prarthana (Daily Prayer), Go-Raksha (Cow Protection) invested the political struggle with quintessentially Indian ethos. He created a different political idiom. While one might disagree with his policies, one could not deny the uniqueness of his approach.

The debate whether philosophy is for self-elevation or service of mankind might remain. It could actually be both. It is only when we elevate ourselves can we create a better socio-political discourse. Philosophy can build a public discourse based on reason and empathy rather than force and strength.

* Priyadarshi Dutta wrote this article for Imphal Times
This article was posted on November 18, 2016.

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.

  • Teinem Luira Phanit @Ukhrul #1 : Gallery
  • PM Narendra Modi @Imphal #1 : Gallery
  • Candle Light for Pravish @Delhi: Gallery
  • RTE taunts Kamuching: Mapithel Dam
  • Please dont become slave to any holy book
  • Pravish's Parents meet HM Rajnath Singh
  • Assam Rifles celebrates Cheiraoba
  • Job requirements @SKY Hospital
  • Nursing opportunity across Europe
  • The Killing Fields :: News Timeline
  • Education: addressing the core issue
  • Call to amend the Army Act
  • MoUs inked to boost tourism in NE
  • Sajibu Cheiraoba Chingkaba #1: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sports @Kakwa: Gallery
  • Human right intimidated by SF: Amnesty Intl
  • Bikers rally to spread awareness on Cancer
  • TB survivor resolves to make TB-free ..
  • State Level World Kidney Day
  • Course in Comparative Literature at NEHU
  • Candle Light at DU for Pravish Chanam
  • PS issue stands as litmus test for CM
  • Cheiraoba Chak Katpa #1 : Gallery
  • Premier League coaches train : Gallery
  • Culturals @ Republic Day #3 : Gallery
  • Draft Asian Declaration: right to justice #4
  • Radhakumar's Atoppa Sansar Amada #2
  • Prevention of cruelty to trees
  • Premier League coach train NE participant
  • GoI may sign agreement without NSCN(K)
  • Manipur celebrates New Year with gaiety
  • Zeliang denies involvement in terror funding
  • Shopping: Sajibu Nongma Panba #1: Gallery
  • Stall @Science Congress, MU #1: Gallery
  • Sajibu Cheiraoba (Meitei New Year)
  • Saving Nambul: Convergence of view
  • Job @ PR Enterprises, Khurai
  • National Institute for Locomotor Disabilities
  • Seminar on 'Conflicts in South Asia'
  • Luck matters; but not always
  • On completing one year in office
  • Spectacle distribution at Loktak Station
  • DGAR visits Manipur on his farewell visit
  • PM at Science Congress @MU #1: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Water & color #3: Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • A tribute to Stephen Hawking
  • Draft Asian Declaration: right to justice #3
  • Effect of a Sleepless Night :: Peom
  • Psychology at MIT School of Vedic Sciences
  • So near yet so far
  • Naga CSOs walking with JCILPS
  • Vegetables grown @Thanga #1: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Fancy Dress Contest: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sport @Khagempalli #2: Gallery
  • Truth of Life :: Poem
  • Celebration of womanhood
  • HQ IGAR (S) celebrates 15th Raising Day
  • Jet Airways for more flights for NE
  • Publicity doing good, Garbage filth continue
  • Other issue overriding education: Class XII
  • Wortam: The Rising Young Mashangva
  • Eidi Ethantani by Eyoom :: Review
  • OMCT : UA on harassment of Ranjeeta
  • Mass destruction of opium poppy cultivation
  • Career options in printing press
  • IBSD launches hi-tech facility for farmers
  • Bangalore Yaoshang - Cheiraoba Thabal
  • Quality over quantity
  • What will the PM have to say ?
  • Zeliang gets fresh summon from NIA
  • Lui-Ngai-Ni @Longmai (TML) #4 : Gallery
  • Nengneingah, Lungkhambou :: eMing
  • Yaoshang Water & color #2: Gallery
  • Draft Asian Declaration: right to justice #2
  • BJP led Govt, not flunk in first year
  • Demand handing of Pravish case to CBI
  • PDA Govt claims false credit: NPF
  • Feminism & Path to Women's Liberation
  • Word of caution from Ibobi: BJP to listen
  • Yaoshang Cooking Contest #2 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Mei Loukhatpa #4 : Gallery
  • Radhakumar's Atoppa Sansar Amada #1
  • Nigol :: Poem
  • List of Portfolios : Nagaland Govt
  • Clarify: Report of Zeliang summoned by NIA
  • Academic Programs offered by PHFI
  • Cong speaks: Changes expected in future
  • One year under the BJP: Significant but..
  • Students @ Class X Exam #2 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sport @Khongman: Gallery
  • Draft Asian Declaration: right to justice #1
  • Cry Of A Dying River...21 :: Peom
  • Manipur-Nagaland border disputes
  • Not a word on beauty on Women's Day
  • Women Religious Tour reaches New Delhi
  • Yaoshang Mei Loukhatpa #3 : Gallery
  • Chirom Indira- Nari Puraskar Award: Gallery
  • Human Rights Defender intimidated by Army
  • Rooftop Solar Power Plants: Gallery
  • Home stay for nature tourism in Manipur
  • Moodle: A learning management system
  • You can't stop small newspapers ...
  • BJP show in NE State: The backroom boys
  • Moldhin Chan: A Thado-Kuki Folktale #2
  • Yaoshang Nakatheng Chatpa #2 : Gallery
  • Mapithel Dam, Thoubal River & Tumukhong
  • Yaoshang Mei Loukhatpa #2 : Gallery
  • Time for "Nokphade" to go global
  • Campaign on International Women's Day
  • War between Left & Right has begun
  • Poppy plantation, destruction & missing link
  • Yaoshang Halankar #1 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Water & color #1: Gallery
  • Harassment of Ranjeeta (HRA) by Army
  • Women's positions need to change
  • The Weeds :: Poem
  • We now know gold was created in space
  • Issues of women's rights should be priority
  • Protection of paddy land Act
  • Thabal Chongba @Khurai : Gallery
  • Bor-keina race @Yaoshang Fest : Gallery
  • Front Page Photo 2018 #1: Gallery
  • Tanushree @Elecrama Startup Award: Vote
  • Indian Science Congress in MU: Act East?
  • Fulbright 'pathways' for college leaving class
  • Job @ St. Stone Medical Devices
  • Army jawan martyred in Bongjai IED blast
  • National Integration Tour for Women
  • AR conduct Yaoshang sport festival
  • Condemns rising vendetta politics in NE
  • Yaoshang Sport - Marathon #1: Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sport @Keishampat #2: Gallery
  • NERIST Director post vacant since 2014
  • Dynamic Startup 3.0 at MIMS, MU
  • NDPP Legislature 1st Meeting at Kohima
  • 8th Theatre Olympics at Guwahati
  • Yaoshang Cooking Contest #1 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Sport @Keishampat #1: Gallery
  • Sentinel Cup Equestrian #5 : Gallery
  • Translating inclusion into seclusion is..
  • Condemns land acquisition of muslim
  • News erroneously portraying Zeliang
  • Report: Shillong Lajong vs East Bengal
  • Yaoshang Sport @Khagempalli #1: Gallery
  • LGBTQ Yaoshang Sports Meet #1 : Gallery
  • M. Shenbangpu : Akademi Award 2014
  • Tribe: A concept in a state of crisis
  • Neiphiu's NDPP-BJP alliance stakes claim
  • Digital footprints: Blueprints for detection
  • Rio refutes news about 'Naga Peace'
  • Yaoshang Mei Loukhatpa #1 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Nakatheng Chatpa #1 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang with Governor : Gallery
  • Black holes that are neither holes nor black
  • Lingaraja Temple- Lord of Three Worlds
  • Study helps hill student make up lost day
  • Yaoshang Mei Thaba : Gallery
  • Saroi Khangba #3 : Gallery
  • Chirom Indira: Highest Civilian Honour
  • Rejoinder to "MCPCR in dire straits"
  • Poppy destruction: The new norm ?
  • Stop harassment of Urikhimbham
  • Sadar Hills District Demand :: Timeline
  • Understanding the origin & essence
  • Call to reduce Yaoshang days: Make it 3
  • 8th AMWJU Sports Meet : Gallery
  • March Calendar for Year 2018 :: Tools
  • Yaoshang Thabalgi Sen Khaiba #2 : Gallery
  • Stop this shaming of menstruation
  • Yaoshang Greetings from BJP Manipur
  • Self-conscious manhood: Find true self
  • Parl Secy: To be or not to be ?
  • Holi colours can cause side-effects
  • Equality matters
  • Creating nuisance on the roads
  • Lui-Ngai-Ni @Longmai (TML) #3 : Gallery
  • Cultural @ Republic Day #2 : Gallery
  • Nonsense is Sense : Guv's attention invited
  • Protection of Human Rights: Resolution
  • Protection of Human Right Defender: Meet
  • Mapithel dam chapter before NGT
  • GOC 3 corps calls on the Governor
  • Gangnam style is better
  • From boycott call to verbal duel: NPF, BJP
  • Festival of Colours to Sports Festival
  • Food Processing Training @Oinam : Gallery
  • Time to ban malicious Moreh products
  • Cry of a Dying River - 20 : Poem
  • Training prog on Food Processing at Oinam
  • One year - now a doomsday ahead..
  • Thought on full five days of Yaoshang
  • Loree Kaju Luita Phanit #3 : Gallery
  • Yaoshang Thabalgi Sen Khaiba #1 : Gallery
  • Lui-Ngai-ni Token Celebration at Chadong
  • Sannaroisingee Numit 2018 : Gallery
  • Students @ Class X Exam #1 : Gallery
  • AoNna tEnaba :: Seireng
  • Thanga Keithel : Gallery
  • Indo-Naga Talks 2017 :: News Timeline
  • Temples of Manipur : Gallery
  • Singcha Wuya Won @Kamjong #5: Gallery
  • Recipients of Akademi Awards for 2014
  • Old Manipuri Movie #1 :: eRang Classic