A New Synthesis of Yoga as a necessity to overcome the impasse of modernity - Skype - Track 305 (12 September 2008)

Uptil now we have spoken only of the mental ideal but now it introduced the moral ideal and a rationality which is concerned with the establishment of the moral ideal, not that the moral ideal was discussed in the earlier schools of philosophy; it was. And I did not touch upon it because it is not so prominently stated in the form in which we find as in Kant. The rationality of morality is best illustrated in the philosophy of Kant, in his description of what is rational. He pointed out that in this world of phenomena that we experience there is one experience which is extra-ordinary. All the phenomena that you experience, they either exist, or they do not exist, or they may not exist. But there is one experience which is very diffident, an experience which says something ought to exist, this is the bringing out the totality of the human experience, that all human experiences basically are regarding things that exist, those who do not exist, they may exist, they do not exist but this does not exhaust all that we experience. There is something in which we say it ought to exist, this is an experience which is undeniable. How do you account for it, what is the rationality of it? The rationality of it is that there is a human description of ‘ought’, is there any human being who does not understand ought? Human rationality is such, it is at one time or the other obliged to speak of the ‘ought’. In The Life Divine Sri Aurobindo makes a very important statement within the chapter on The Light of Existence. The sense in human being that you ought not to do, what you do not want another to do unto you, – this sense you ought not to do what you do not want another to do unto you. If somebody laughs at you, you feel he should have not laughed at me; you should not, – why do you get this proposition. Sri Aurobindo says that this is the beginning of the ethical sense; it is inherent in human consciousness. If you don’t take into account, you are not taking into account all the phenomena of the world, it’s a phenomenon, it is very important, you must explain from where it has come? Rationality consists in taking into account a phenomenon and trying to understand it, or state it that ‘ought’ he said can be explained only if you can follow up the ‘ought’, that is he says ‘ought’ implies ‘can’. When I say: you ought to do, I can say you ought to do only if I believe you can do it. You tell a child you ought to be able to give a lecture tomorrow, you will not tell because the child is not capable of giving a lecture tomorrow. But when you say you ought to do it, if you tell a young son of 25 years, now you have got good muscles, you must run, sprint, you ought to do very well tomorrow, you ought to do because you can. So he said that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’.

Now this logicality, connection between ‘ought’ and ‘can’ was a important step in the rational development of the Western thought. The discovery that rationality consists in discovering ‘can’ from ‘ought’ was a great discovery of Kant. And what is the meaning of ‘can’?  If you analyse the meaning of ‘can’, means that you can choose to do it, and choose to do it freely. So he said ‘can’ implies a free choice and therefore he says that rationality consists in affirming freedom. Freedom and rationality came to be combined together. To be rational is to be free and to be free is to conceive something which is not here but which ought to be. The possibility of illuminating what is here and creating something else is a very important rational proposition. So rationality also consists in arriving at proposition which involves free exercise of the will and creation of that which does not exist. It is a very interesting remark made by Peers Peters, he is a positivist, he has written a very good book on Ethics in Education and while describing the philosophy of Kant he says that Kant had observed during his time that French Revolution took place and what is the speciality of the French Revolution? Speciality was that there was monarchy existing and the idea of ought was not present, they could not have conceived the idea of eliminating monarchy. The French Revolution conceived the ideal of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, they are not there but these are ideals and these three ideals came to be the ideals of rationality. It is very important that Sri Aurobindo in The Human Cycle and in The Ideal of Human Unity there is a tremendous place of these three ideals. These three ideals are the ideals of the Reason, because reason can conceive the ‘ought’, because ‘ought’ implies ‘can’, because ‘can’ implies free-will, therefore exercise of freedom for the ideal, for the ought is a rational proposition. Ethics is rational and there was a great affirmation of Kant. Now I don’t want to dwell too much because I have taken lot of time, but now I will rapidly go to the end of this story and I would only make a comment that Kant made two great discoveries in rationality. One was that the world as we see it can be rationally understood from space and time in the form of four categories that rationality consists in affirming that there must be a noumenal reality, transcendental reality and they have to consist in freedom of man, individual and the possibility of realising and bringing into the world something that does not exist but something that is ideal and can be realised. Therefore, the proposition which asks you to do something ideal is rational. These are the permanent contributions and I would like to underline one of the greatest contributions he made was the discovery of the individual in the phenomenal world. World of phenomena does not consist only of things, events and personalities. There is individuality, why? Because freedom is experienced by the individual, individual feels: I ought to, even when the whole world will not be, I feel something that arises from the depth of the individual himself. Now what is that individual, what is that centrality of the individual? I must say that he has not fully expounded or explained, nor would I like to say that Kant has explained everything, I am only trying to say that the concept of rationality in the West at this time came to be formulated in this large elaborate manner.

Thereafter, after Kant as I said last time, a period came there was a possibility at this stage after Kant, post-Kantian philosophy could have taken a different direction but by now something else began to develop. And it is that development which has led us to the present crisis. The development of rationality as it developed later on after Kant that is responsible for the present what I call the downward curve of the development of Reason arriving at the present impasse. There is a concept of freedom, there is a concept of the individuality as understood by Kant, if the ideal of rationality and freedom and ideality record developed further perhaps the present impasse would not have come about, perhaps because in this world of uncertainty anything is possible. But what happened actually is post-Kantian philosophy gave rise to four important levels, – the empirical hedonism, phenomenology, existentialism, pragmatism and post-modernism. Phenomenology and existentialism are very similar, so I count it as one major movement in the sense that the logical, empirical rationalism continued the Humeian line of rationality, it rejected Kant but derived from Kant some of the important propositions, like the importance of the individual. At the same time following the Humeian lead discarded concern for transcendental, for universality and all concept of necessity. This is how rationality in logical empiricism came to not that it does not take into account, what is some sense of universality or necessity but they tried to interpret this word in some other phenomenal manner, linguistically but not fundamentally in any metaphysical ontological manner. Phenomenology is a very interesting development, if I have the time I would like to discuss at length the rationality as it was developed by Husserl in his phenomenology, but his main conclusion was that whether ultimate reality exists or not, whether the world exists or not physically, rationally you can at least temporarily suspend or believe in the existence of God or existence of the world, why? Because we can be certain only of the phenomena of consciousness and that indelible, indestructible structures of consciousness and these indestructible structures of consciousness have three elements, – the element of intentionality, the element of ego and perception of the universal in which in which science has place. The assertion of these structures and discovery of these structures is the task of rational endeavour and understanding the world in terms of these three structures. There are many more details and the whole terminology of Husserl is a very difficult domain and I do not want to enter into all that.