This book is a festschrift. It is meant to acknowledge and honor the quality and volume of work done by Prof. Margaret Chatterjee as a teacher of Philosophy and as herself a philosopher of wide repute. The essays that make the present work are of course not a study on her writing. Nor are we aware of the extent to which she could be said to share the views expressed by the learned contributors to this volume the views expressed by the learned contributors to this volume. But this we know for sure that the disciplines to which the essays relate namely philosophy religion and art are all alike her major interests.
Perhaps the title of the work could have served its purpose even without the words are and religion for the essays are all by and large philosophical Prof. Chatterjee too is known mostly as a philosopher of art and religion. But those of us who have been her students or colleagues and so a little closer to her than other know well that her interest in art and religion is not merely academic. She has in fact been a performing musician and a music critic for the statesman for a number of years and it is perhaps the poise of a living faith that has enabled her all along to keep to the post of duty even in the darkest moments of personal suffering.
Prof. Chatterjee has taught philosophy with distinction at the University of Delhi for about thirty three years barring brief periods of teaching in Santiniketen and the USA and her stint as Director of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study Shimla Since her retirement from the University of Delhi She has been teaching and researching in Canada and England. After almost a lifetime of teaching philosophy in India Prof. Chatterjee is now distinguishing herself as a bridge builder between different philosophical and cultural tradition. What has enabled her to contribute substantially to a widespread give and take in the fields of philosophy and religion is her vermiform competence as writer lecturer and participant in national and international seminars. Participation in about twenty philosophical conferences abroad more than thirty lectures at different centers of learning including the prestigious Teape lectures. The concept of spirituality at the university of Cambridge in November 1984 president ship of the international society for metaphysics editorial consultancy for five well known journals including religious studies and JICPR and above all authorship of more than seven philosophical books and about seventy five published papers these are only a part of the unremitting academic activity that has made Prof. Chatterjee very widely known as a philosopher.
In an exercise undertaken at the request of one of the contributors to this volume she expressed a keen desire to attempt a philosophic interfusion of the transcendental the empirical and the ontological. To this must be added her irrepressible social concern which is reflected in some of her books lectures and articles on Gandhi. As far as Indian Studies are concerned Prof. Chatterjee has sought to explore the life worlds of which in her view the conceptual formulations in texts are mere fragmentary glimpses. This specific orientation is visible not only in her academic writings and reports of her participation in seminars but also in her introductions and epilogues to several volumes published by the Indian Institute of advanced Study Shimla under her directorship.
Of the many books authored and edited by Prof. Chatterjee two better known ones are Gandhi’s religious Thought and contemporary Indian Philosophy Series II brought out by George Allen & Unwin in their Murhead library Series of philosophy works (1974). The latter is a dual achievement. It is one the one hand an effective projection of a part of contemporary philosophical thinking in India to a world wide readership and on the other hand it distinguishes Prof. Chatterjee as an editor for the earlier volume of contemporary Indian Philosophy was edited by Such eminent philosophers as Dr. S. Radhakrishnan and Prof. J.H. Muirhead.
Philosophical thinking in India today specially in the areas of metaphysics phenomenology art and religion is indebted noticeably to Prof. Chatterjee and so she deserves this honorific volume but though the impulse which brings it into being originally related only to her the book itself may be expected to benefit many because of the richness of its content provided by eminent scholars to whom we as editors are deeply beholden.
The articles that make this volume are all alike scholarly. Besides they deal with different subjects. This may be expected to ensure a wide and varied readership. But hardly any reader is likely to find every essay of equal interest and as editors we think it necessary to highlight in brief the more striking emphases of each article so that the reader may be helped in focusing attention on essays that suit his individual taste.
Some of the essays however are likely to interest one and all. The opening one by R. Bal Subramanian is one such article. The problem of peace is of universal concern. But is it enough in this context to care only for what can be done on the outside say by widening the extent of cooperation between groups and nations in respect of non proliferation of the means of destruction? Is it not equally if not more important to care for the mentality and attitudes of the average man of those in particular who think and behave venomously? It is the importance of question such as these that lends value and relevance to Bal Subramanian’s erudite essay, peace through Self Integration and social integration. The essayist does not merely say that the outer states of disquiet or peace are traceable ultimately to what we are in our thinking and attitudes but argues in the light of some authentic Indian philosophies and practitioners of religion how our very distinctive nature as human beings both permits a play of destructive impulses and calls for their disciplined quiescence. Once we are thus disciplined outer accord will be almost ensured. Regulation of outer factors will still remain necessary, but then it will take effect easily.
Argument, however, is not the only strength of the essay. The author is careful also in explaining some concepts. ‘A renunciant is in the world, but not of the world’; self-integration is integration not merely of the self, but I the self, so that the voluntary practice of some comprehensive disciplines is essential; and manonäsa is not literal destruction, but only purification, of the mind (or cittasuddhi). The major emphases of the article, all alike developed through insightful references to authoritative texts and men of religion, may be listed thus: a disciplined mind as the immediate source of peace; man’s being as a complex of matter and spirit, personality (therefore) as rational, moral and (in principle) the ‘ultimate standard of value’; and the basic alternatives of a selfless and selfish life.
The essay that follows, André Mercier’s ‘On Inter-Subjectivity, Friendship, and Godliness’, is not only penetrating and scholarly, but delightful. The author begins by stating, quite clearly, the conclusion he aims at: ‘no genuine inter subjectivity without friendship, no genuine friendship without inter subjectivity, both under the pledge of a divine Being’. The forthrightness grips attention; and the impact is kept up by the challenges that follow. Is man merely a subject rather than a person? Is not credo ergo sum as defensible an assertion as cogito ergo sum? Is not love the prime motor of much more in human affairs than mere thought? If yes, does not a person become more important than a mere subject? One can hardly say no; for ‘love is a relationship between persons, never between subjects’.
Argument, indeed, is everywhere seen to buttress Mercier’s questionings. How can objectivity be defined as the agreement of all? Is it not common knowledge that a single being can very well act and think objectively without seeking the agreement of all (and that). . . on the other hand, a consensus may well reign among people . . . who do not adopt an objective attitude, but a subjective one. .
As for the positive points that the essayist makes, some of them are powerful theoretical irritants, and so call for a close look at all that the author says. Thus, see the following: there is no such thing as genuine philosophy of religion, just as there is no genuine theology of thought, i.e. ‘religion of philosophy’
any radical secularization of poetry amounts to the latter’s decay and ruin…
love is not a value, for it is never the object of a judgment…
to be free consists in acknowledging and accepting that one is not free…
But the most substantial part of the essay is provided by the author’s treatment of inter subjectivity. And it is in this context that we come across a remark that provides some clear warrant for the production of this volume: Traditionally, . . . inter subjectivity has not been examined by any thinker or school in a suitably all-encompassing manner, nor in a purely formal nor mundane manner—with one exception I believe: by the one to whom this volume and my own modest contribution are dedicated.
But, we are happy to add, another such remark also opens the next essay, ‘The Threefold Linguistic Intra-Subjectivity’ by Raimon Panikkar:
Margaret Chatterjee has cultivated a philosophical reflection which moves on the borderlines between art, phenomenology and religion. This gives to her writings the power of something alive and new. In fact, one of the most urgent tasks of philosophy today consists in rescuing philosophical meditation from the strictures of pure rationalism without abandoning, of course, the exigencies of reason.
‘Reason’, in the last sentence of the extract cited, is to be taken as reasonableness, as adequacy of concern; and ‘pure rationalism’ as the attitude of being exclusively committed to the ‘it is’ form of awareness, its other two forms being: ‘I am’ and ‘Thou art’. From here the essayist sets out to argue, with admirable sense, that ‘we cannot reduce all human experience to any one of. .. These single schemes of intelligibility, nor to one single sphere of the real’. Indeed, how can we? ‘The complete formula “S is P” says even more than: “hay that S is P”. It says this to somebody, to a thou. (So) the . . formula really is. : “I say to you that S is P’ (or, to put it in its “unabbreviated” wholeness) “I am saying that you are conscious of it, that S is P’. Thus all the (grammatical) persons are involved. There is no pure objectivity (what is more,) the art and the am remain uncomprehended by the is.’ All the three idioms are important. ‘If “S is P’ is the language of the scientist, and “thou art” that of the artist (who enlivens things), the “I am” is the language of the authentic philosopher or the true mystic. ‘ The ideal of intelligibility comprises all the three idioms—distinct admittedly, but by no means separate.
So far there is nothing to startle us. But even where we are likely to be disturbed by the essayist’s ‘far-reaching’ conclusions, there is some genuine argument in support of what is asserted. Thus, see the following:
Knower, known, knowledge... the three belong together.. If this thesis is right. . a monotheistic and absolute pure consciousness would collapse. There has to be a primordial relationship at the very core of reality.
This is, however, only one of the three far-reaching conclusions that the essayist arrives at. For the other two, and the logic which supports them, we have to read the whole essay closely.
The same may be said of the next essay too, by Evanghelos A. Moutsopoulos, for it deals with the important subject of philosophical authenticity. The three opening paragraphs, which dwell on the function of philosophy and the proper way of teaching the subject, straightaway tune the reader to thoughts of high seriousness.
The actual function of philosophy.. consists, first, challenging the world and one’s own life as well, in order to find out whether, why, and to what extent they are worth being lived and enjoyed; and, second, in being able to communicate the results of such a long quest . . to the still inexperienced ones. . . (This communication, however,) needs and openly claims the active participation (of the learner). . . Unlike other disciplines, philosophy cannot be taught as a mere transmission of knowledge (for the sake of the) qualitative enrichment of the learner but requests a common movement of the persons involved in the process of its teaching. It is precisely to this kind of qualitative transmission of philosophical knowledge that the term philosophical authenticity applies Such authenticity depends upon the sincerity with which the subject matter of philosophical reflection is conceived and examined and methodically carried through as a deep and intense experience of the philosopher’s consciousness.
Yet in spite of the deep involvement on the philosopher’s part that it calls for philosophical authenticity we are warned is impossible without faith in the consciousness of a reality which is totally independent of consciousness. The essayist contends further that philosophical insight is both a process and its conclusion and that philosophical exposition is in principle a perfect parity of every proposition with the meaning of the insight for other wise effective communication will be hampered detracting from the total function of philosophy which is fundamentally a genuine adventure of the mind of the philosopher and of those of his public as well.
But is philosophy at all of help to people at large? It is able to make us see any meaning or value in life? Or do we have to acquiesce in a kind of philosophical pessimism such as is propounded by Schopenhauer? Jenny Teichman in her essay philosophy and the meaning of life, answer the last of these questions in the negative and with due reason. She contends that philosophical pessimism in an irrational creed. She contends that philosophical pessimism is an irrational creed because it is based on two false assumptions first that we can compare (a) Better and (b) worse (state of affairs) from no point of view and second that it is possible to compare an individual’s existence and non existence from his own point of view. In working for the conclusion and by way of arguing for the intrinsic value of life the essayist invites our attention to the fact that people happiness and to the possibility that even a life with prolonged illness may be preferred to premature death.
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