Prof. Kireet Joshi: As I have been saying, I would like to reiterate an important point as you might remember we had spoken earlier of what Sri Aurobindo had said about the resurgence of the barbarian in ourselves and it is this resurgence which causes the impasse. Now in that context Sri Aurobindo has made a further statement, a qualifying statement, and if that qualifying statement remains unchallenged or unchanged then the peril is very great and there might be even a failure of the human species as the human species. And I would like to draw attention to that qualification that Sri Aurobindo has made and I would like to elaborate upon it. This is on page no. 1052 and I shall repeat actual sentences which I have already read out to you earlier and Sri Aurobindo says: “The first danger is a resurgence of the old vital and material primitive barbarian in a civilised form; the means Science has put at our disposal eliminates the peril of the subversion and destruction of an effete civilisation by stronger primitive peoples, but it is the resurgence of the barbarian in ourselves, in civilised man, that is the peril, and this we see all around us.”
Now it is at this point Sri Aurobindo makes a very important statement:
For that is bound to come if there is no high and strenuous mental and moral ideal controlling and uplifting the vital and physical man in us and no spiritual ideal liberating him from himself into his inner being.
Now this is the important qualification. In the first place it is a fact that today there is no high and serious mental or moral ideal controlling and uplifting the vital and physical man in us. Secondly there is no spiritual ideal liberating him from himself into his inner being. If you look at humanity at large these two things are not at all to be seen prominently or to the degree which there ought to be. And if this situation continues then the peril is very great and all the consequences of the failure of the new species would follow. I would like to dwell upon this particular point and I would like to say — this is the impasse. The impasse arises from the fact that there is no high failure to mental and moral ideal controlling and uplifting the vital and physical man in us and no spiritual ideal liberating him from himself into his inner being.
Fortunately, I am anticipating the argument particularly because we were told about Auroville, the development of Auroville and the ideal which lies behind Auroville besides which I attach this particular point of impasse. Auroville proposes to put before us a spiritual ideal, liberating man from himself into his inner being. If you read the Charter of Auroville, if you read some of the statements regarding what Mother has said: what an Aurovillian ought to be, where Mother has laid down fundamentally that the Aurovillians live an inner life, its fundamental proposition of a person who lives in Auroville is that he lives an inner life and one can only live an inner life only if there is a spiritual ideal, which liberates the man from his outer being and leads him to lead an inner life. This has happened and that is why we can say that Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have worked out, so as to propose to the mankind so powerfully that a township is being proposed where people who can be inspired by the spiritual ideal and who can come together, live together and lead first of all inner life. And secondly this Auroville also implies a liberation of the mind in such a way that a mental and moral ideal begins to spread throughout the humanity and this is an aspect not sufficiently understood by people in Auroville themselves but it is implied that the very existence of Auroville implies a kind of a attraction given to the mental and moral capacities of the human being, a capacity which you can control and the vital and the physical man in us. So since you had asked this question about Auroville, I would say that the relevance of Auroville is central to the whole planning of the work that is envisaged before us. But I will still like to dwell upon the question of the impasse which has been created by the action of the mental and the moral ideal and we have to realise this fact that at large in humanity there is at present a kind of a weakening or even conspicuous absence of the mental and the moral ideal, which can control and uplift the life of the vital and physical man. This is the thesis that I would like to develop if possible today and may continue later on if there is no time today but I would like to dwell upon this and we must understand this quite well. And in this context therefore I will like first of all to speak of what is rationality because what is mental ideal?
Mental ideal is the ideal of rational consciousness. And what is moral ideal? What is the ethical sense in man and these two important powers of humanity today at the end of a cycle of the development of the reason, where they stand? And for that purpose I would like to reflect on this question and share with you my reflection. As far as the mental ideal is concerned as everyone knows, it is the Greek civilisation which has given to the modern world at least a tremendous push towards the mental ideal. The Greek civilisation fell, maybe regarded as civilisation of the human mind as distinguished from the Indian civilisation which may be called the civilisation of the spirit. Not that in the West there was no spirituality and there was no spiritual guiding light but the fact is that that spiritual light has remained dimmed under the overpowering influence of the Greek civilisation which became highly mental in due course of time. At the same time it is not true that Indian civilisation was not mental, had no intellectuality, on the contrary. But the fact remains that the Vedic civilisation developed the intuitive powers of consciousness, spiritual powers of consciousness to a very high degree. And when there was a danger of that high achievement being lost, a very remarkable phenomenon arose in Indian history and that was the development of the Upanishadic Age. As Sri Aurobindo says that if you compare the history of India and the history of Greece, whereas in the beginning of the Greek civilisation there was a powerful spiritual movement greatly illustrated by the Orphic tradition, Elysian Tradition and India there was the Vedic development the two were parallel but whereas in the West, in the Greek civilisation following the Orphic element when that began to become dimmed there arose a kind of an evening of spiritual night and to my mind Socrates and Plato represent the splendid colours of the evening light where the Reason began to preponderate and the spiritual light was thrown into the background.
In India however when the Vedic light began to be dimmed and it did become very dim in the period of Brahmanas but in the period of Aranyakas once again there was a new stir and in the Upanishadic gap a ripeness and a reassertion of the light that was available to India in the Vedic age and therefore in a more clear language the Vedic civilisation stood was reasserted and therefore the Upanishads became the foundation of the next cycle of development. Therefore intellectuality did come as in the West here also intellectuality age did come but not immediately after the Vedic age. The Vedic age was followed by ritualistic age and it was followed once again by the spiritual age and there came the development of the intellectual. This is what makes a tremendous difference between the cycle of the West and the cycles of the East. This will also show us when Sri Aurobindo says basically there is no opposition between East and West, if you read the message of Sri Aurobindo given to America in 1949, Sri Aurobindo speaks, he says while I give this message to America my message will be equally applied to India and to the East as well and he also points out there is no such great division between East and the West. But the difference has arisen only because of this emphasis which came to be laid upon the rational element in the Western civilisation and the emphasis that was on the spirit made in the Indian civilisation.
Now I am referring to this because I would like to mark out much more clearly how rationality developed in the West and in the East and that will give us, if you trace out very quickly the whole history we shall see where we stand and what exactly the nerve we are now arrested, both in the West and also in India both and the world at large. Let me therefore begin with a very remarkable philosopher in the early Greek period namely Parmenides. Not many people are aware of Parmenides but I would like that something of Parmenides is underlined by those of us who would like to study the history of rationality in the West. I have before me a book in which a very short sentence is given from Parmenides, which gives a precise formulation of the illustration of how rationality came to be articulated so sharply and so clearly in the following sentence of Parmenides. I am only taking this statement and I will not dwell upon it, although one can give two-three lectures on this sentence to analyse it but I will not do it because I want to move rapidly through the history of rationality in the West and the East, just to show the impasse in which we are and how to break it. Parmenides says: “Thou canst not know what is not — that is impossible — nor utter it; for it is the same thing that can be thought and that can be” Now this is a very difficult sentence, it is very well articulated and from my point of view this statement has never been refuted in the whole history of thought, either in the East or in the West. Although many people believe that this proposition has been refuted and can be refuted but this is my personal reading and I would like to underline this one sentence and I shall pass on further, in future if you would like to be precise about this statement, I have read this particular statement from Bertrand Russell, History of Western Philosophy from page number 56. For those who want to see and read those two sentences because that is the most important statement of rationality as it developed, the source of rationality as it has developed, I will read once again: “Thou canst not know what is not — that is impossible — nor utter it; for it is the same thing that can be thought and that can be”.
Now on account of this particular statement Parmenides is able to assert that Reality has got to be permanent and static and that motion is impossible. This is starting point of the Greek rationality, which therefore is throughout in the Western thought to grasp rationally is to grasp that which is permanent, that which cannot be changed, therefore rationality became to mean at least in the beginning that which is rational which cannot be altered, which is permanent and the assertion of the permanent became the hallmark of philosophical thought.
Now this particular proposition came to be developed further, particularly through Socrates and Plato and it opened up another dimension of rationality, based upon this idea of Parmenides but there was another dimension and if you want to examine the structure of the argument, you will find from a simple example that Socrates himself says: If two things are similar, you must ask why they are similar, it is the structure of the argument. If two things are similar, if two cats are similar to each other there must be a reason why they are similar? And the search for the explanation of the similars offers the purpose of rationality. So this was also developed, that is to say there must be something which remains the same in two things, which look similar and that which is the same thing between two similar must be real. And you must refer to their reality to be able to understand all that is there in the world. This is the structure of the argument. It is on that basis that if you look more deeply you will find in Plato's theory of form, or the theory of ideas, or the theory of universals, he came to the conclusion that the Ultimate Reality must be permanent as in Parmenides, it must be universal and it must be the cause of all things which are moving in the world. We must remember that in Parmenides there is no clue to understand the movement because a movement does not exist, cannot exist, it cannot be understood, does not exist. Plato, however more synthetic in his approach, had to deal with the problem of the movement and he tried to accommodate the movement within the grasp of the permanent which he described as that which remains the same, but which is also now described as the universal. And his whole concept of the Good, which he regarded to be the Reality, that Good is universal and it is that in which all things in the world can be subsumed, all the multiplicity, all things which look similar, there are types and types of people, types and types of things, all this can be generalised ultimately into the highest universals. And the highest universals are three — Truth, Beauty and Goodness and these three can further be subsumed under the highest Good and that highest Good is the Ultimate Reality.
Now you can see how rationality took a farther step in Plato. Now this farther step however had many deficiencies and very importantly Plato in his dialogue called Parmenides is very significant, he examines his own theory critically through the mouth of Parmenides and that is because the question of movement which Plato thought has got to be subsumed under the idea of the Good, surely he was not very sure whether it was really subsumed or to be extinct. How to explain what may be called in the Indian terms the Being and the Becoming and how the two can be combined together, reconciled together, that was the problem which Plato could not resolve. And in his dialogue Parmenides the deficiencies of his theory are themselves criticised by Plato himself. He was aware of the deficiencies. It is on that deficiency which was there in Plato that Aristotle went one step farther and I will not go into Aristotle because it is another track altogether but there is a slight deviation in the movement of rationality when we go from Plato to Aristotle. He also realised that it was not possible to explain the synthesis of the Being and the Becoming. He tried in his many ways and the whole philosophy of Aristotle is nothing but his attempt to reconcile the Being and the Becoming. Ultimately however his fundamental contribution was to analyse the becoming. And that is now the new shift which they take in the Western thought. The idea of the Being was put to some extent put aside and the greater emphasis was laid upon the phenomena of the Becoming. And in his circle we must know that Aristotle himself was the father of many sciences and the sciences are the study of natural phenomena and it is the science of Becoming. But following the Parmenidesian tradition, Socratic tradition, Platonic tradition, we see in Aristotle explanation of the Becoming strenuously tied up to the concept of the Being, not reconciled but strenuously tied up with the idea of the Being. And what is the form that it takes? And in that context we must know what exactly Aristotle understood by the word rationality.
In fact we all know that it is Aristotle who gave us the first fundamental of logic, which remained alive for two thousand years until what we call the modern logic, symbolic logic came to be developed. But the theory of logic that he gave remained supreme throughout the whole history of Western thought right up to the present day. Even now Aristotlian logic is supposed to have been subsumed under the modern logic, it is not denied but it is supposed to be subsumed. But what is important for all purposes is to realise that his enunciation of logic was a discovery of the inner structure of rational thought and he pointed out that any human being could speak rationally, if guided by their inner structure and what is that inner structure? And for him the Platonic ideal, he said that the structure consists of relating the universal with the particular. Our experience of the world is the experience of particulars. And these particulars can be rationally understood only when you discover a universal. And the structure of human reason is such that the particulars can be subsumed under the universal. He went one step farther in this discovery of the structure, that if this structure is to be remembered that in order that our thought is rational and therefore valid there must be a strict adherence to what he called the concept of identity. And this is a very important concept of rationalists. A proposition is undoubtedly true when the subject and the predicate are sustained — a cat is a cat. Nobody can doubt it, or a tall cat is tall, nobody can doubt it. It is because of identity. And identity idea is arrived at from the idea of permanent and the idea of universality, when universality and permanence, when these two ideas are put together then you get the real idea of identity. You can explain everything in the world rationally only if you ultimately refuse this state in terms of universality and identity. It is significant therefore that the three laws of thought which came to be formulated and actually are the mark of rationality, are the law of identity, the law of contradiction, and the law of extruded middle. Now these three laws actually are nothing but restatement that a proposition is valid only if the predicate somehow can be shown to be identical with the subject. You can be sure of the proposition, any knowledge can be sure of, can be rationally valid only if you can ultimately reduce whatever you want to say in terms of identity. There should be no contradictions, if there are contradictions it is invalid and if you say that it is partly here, partly not there will also not be allowed, either it is yes or no, that is extruded middle. When there are two propositions and they are in conflict with each other, only one can be true the other must be false, if the two propositions are contradictory of each other. It is also true of the later people when he came to define inductive logic he made a very important discovery. That whenever we look at particulars in this world, there is a surprising phenomenon and that phenomenon is that our mind gives a leap, our rationality makes a leap and what is the leap, going from the particular to the universal. It is again written to Platonism. Ultimate Reality is the same, permanent, it is universal and therefore thought of, when you see particulars, particulars cannot be understood properly, rationally, unless you make a leap with universality and therefore inductive logic is nothing but rules and regulations which are to be observed in order to move from particulars to universals. So he came to see that all rational processes in the world are either deductive or inductive. If it is deductive, it is relating universal with the particular. If it is inductive it is relating the particular with the universal. This became the hallmark of rationality. It is nothing but the discovery of the universal and the permanent in the flux of the plurality and the multiplicity that is there is in the world. We must remember that this data lately was not able as yet reconciled the particulars and the universals, it was not able to reconcile the becoming and the being.
Now this failure of the Western rationality has remained throughout history. Now I omit at present the consideration of rationality as it came to be in the Middle Ages after Aristotle. And I come straight to Descartes because he is a rationalist of the modern times and in Descartes there is a restatement of Platonism and also the logic of Aristotle, there is no departure at all from the principles of universality and permanence and so on except that there was a new attempt on the part of Descartes and he underlined a new analysis of the human rationality, it is the fresh analysis. And this analysis started with the affirmation of doubt. Descartes is famous for the Cartesian doubt. In order to be rational you must come to universal permanent but if you simply asserted, it is not rational, you must arrive at it, you must be sure about it, you must have self verification of this principle and how do you do it, therefore he starts a process of doubting and he said you can doubt the whole world, you can doubt your mind, everything at all, everything can be doubted until he came to the phenomenon ‘I think”. It is the one proposition which you cannot doubt because the very doubt implies itself by thinking. So the instrument by which you doubt is itself an instrument which affirms what you are trying to doubt. And therefore ‘I think’, he said, is incorrigible. It is a very important term incorrigible, intellectually it cannot be corrected. I think it is an incorrigible statement. Of course on the basis of this ‘Cogito ergo sum’ he developed the proof of the existence of God and also the existence of the self, of the soul. And it is very remarkable that his proof of the existence of God, if you examine properly it is nothing but the restatement of those two sentences of Parmenides. I will not dwell upon it, I leave it for further, at any time if you want to discuss it, we can discuss it. Very important, the argument that Descartes gave of the existence of God and proved the existence of God is nothing but proof of Parmenides of the problem of being. This argument has been famous as the ontological argument which was restated by Spinoza. In fact Spinoza is a kind of a climax of Platonism, of the theory of Aristotle, of Descartes and brings the whole rationalism to a grand finale you might say. In his ethics the way in which he has tried to demonstrate philosophy — geometrically, so as to show thinking can be absolutely logical and concluded in which no doubt remains at all. In which he once again reduces the whole universe in one permanent principle of the Absolute, which is universal and which transcends all limitations and which is one without the second. This proposition he said cannot be doubted by the human being, intellectually in a sense came to be formulated most robustly by Spinoza.
In the next step of the development when we come to Leibniz, a remarkable change takes place. We must remember that Leibniz not only inherits Platonism and Cartesian philosophy but he also inherits Christian philosophy and this brings a new element into the whole perception and this perception is very important and for the sake of understanding rationality, this importance should be underlined. It is the following.
In Christian theology there is a distinction made between two states of becoming and that is a very important distinction. There is according to Christianity the world as you see, understand it and there is a heaven, and both are processes of becoming and yet there is a divergence between that and this. Now this perception of Christianity was not sufficiently amalgamated into rationality of the West, until we came to Leibniz. You will see that in the Western thought this distinction which is made by Christianity was in due course of time rejected and even after Leibniz who undertook to assimilate the Christian idea of the two kinds of becoming, this attempt which was made by Leibniz even that came to be rejected in the subsequent development of rationality in the West and therefore whenever there is a discussion about rationality, there is an attempt to understand becoming as we find it today but not in contrast to heaven. In the case of Leibniz, he clearly recognised the distinction between the two kinds of becomings. The becoming as we see now and the becoming that is in the heaven. He does not use these two terms, which I will come to shortly but I just wanted to underline this distinction because it is of fundamental effect for an ultimate solution of the problem of rationality. One of the reasons why rationality has some kind of arrestation today. It is because the distinction that has got to be made between various levels of becoming has been blurred, that is to say our understanding of the world is not blind but one-eyed. It is only when you open both the eyes that you see both the worlds or many planes of the world and our difficulty of rationality is that it stands to be a kind of an attempt to understand the world of becoming as we normally see and we don’t suspect even that there is something else, or if there is something else we try to feel uncomfortable about it. But in Leibniz, and this is what I would like to point out, that logically because Leibniz has been regarded as the greatest synthesiser in the history of Western philosophy. In fact Bertrand Russell regards him to be the greatest intellect in the history of mankind. And as we all know Russell himself wrote one full book only on Leibniz and that is because of the importance of intellectual history as represented by Leibniz.
Now what was his fundamental contribution to rationality? He distinguished between two logics. He said that Aristotelian logic was only a logic of the Law of Contradiction, Law of Identity and Extruded Middle. In other words it was only the logic of identity basically and therefore that logic cannot explain very well the phenomena of the becoming, that logic cannot easily apply to the world of becoming, it can apply to the understanding of the permanent, of the universal but when you want to understand the phenomena and the becoming, we cannot give a full account, a true account of it. Now, he spoke of these two logics as the logic of necessity and the logic of sufficient reason and this is the special contribution that Leibniz made in the history of thought. According to him the laws of thought which were enunciated by Asel are all laws of necessity. In other words rationality consisted of showing that parenthesis and conclusions, whether inductive or deductive the relationship should be necessary, that is to say: if you start from a universal proposition, — ‘All men are mortal’, ‘Socrates is a man’, ‘Socrates is mortal’; we arrive from one proposition to the other and the context of it is necessarily true. If you start from a valid proposition, the conclusion must be necessarily true. Why necessarily true because it follows the Law of identity, it follows the law of non-contradiction, it follows the Law of extruded middle. Therefore the conclusion is necessarily true. In the inductive logic also, if you start with the particulars and you arrive at the necessary conclusion which is universal the conclusion is a necessary consequence. And till the time of Leibniz science claimed that if knowledge, whatever is knowledge, was based upon inductive truth and inductive process, you started with particulars arrived at universals and all the universal laws gave you the knowledge of necessary consequence. Because of the Law of gravitation an object must fall necessarily from top to bottom, because of that the laws of tides of the ocean can be explained necessarily, the movement of planets can be explained necessarily. In other words at that time it was regarded that scientific knowledge is also a knowledge of necessity, it explains all the necessary phenomena in the world.
Leibniz pointed out however that the world of becoming is not merely the world of necessity. There is also what we call the world of contingence. This is a discovery of Leibniz and he emphasised it that this world is not merely the world of necessity, there is something like contingence, it may happen, may not happen. According to the law of necessity, it must rain today evening. If necessity is the ruling principle everywhere, you may not understand why rain must fall today. But if you knew all the facts of the world, if you know the universal, if you know the permanent, if you know the connection of the permanent with the becoming then you can be sure that it must rain today. According to Leibniz this is an assumption, not true. Bertrand Russell while commenting on Leibniz’s theory says: There was no necessity that Napoleon Bonaparte should have been born on 15th of August 1759, there was no necessity. He was born on 15th of August 1759, why? There was no necessity, he was born, he happened to be born. So he said there is an element of contingence in this world. Now this is a proposition which can be challenged, which can be discussed, debated and in the Western field of rationality this is being debated. But it is a very important underlining of the fact that the world does not consist merely of necessary events, it consists largely of contingencies. But if contingency, the question was, does contingency imply chance? Has it happened by chance? Because contingencies happened, he was by chance he was born on that day. If it is a chance then rationality goes off the board. There is no reason whatsoever why he happens to be born on that day, no necessity. But even contingency, is it by chance? And his answer was, it is not by chance either altogether, neither by necessity, nor by chance. And he therefore gave a new dimension to understand the world rationally. So he said when you cannot explain anything in terms of necessity, you should be able to explain a thing in terms of what he called sufficient reason. So he introduced in the logic, in rationality the presence of what he called sufficiency of reason, sufficient reason. And what is sufficient reason? And he explained: an event is contingent but rational if first of all it must be a possibility. If the world is chance then even impossible things would happen but that is not the case according to him. The world is a world of contingency but that contingency consists only of an event happening because it is possible. So first of all an event must be possible. Rain must be a possibility, if it is not possibility at all, it will not happen. And secondly there must be some special impulsion for it. And this is an important element in the rationality that he introduced in the Western thought. It is very important. And what is that? According to him this world cannot be explained if there is not somebody who is controlling the events happening in the world, it doesn’t happen by chance. First of all there must be a possibility of an event to happen but even if it possible it must not necessarily happen. Then why does it happen what is the sufficient reason? So he says there must be a controlling agency through whom, through whose will an event must occur and if it is contingent that will must be such that it can chose one or the other to happen. And it must be such that it must be omnipotent, so that nobody else disturbs it. Therefore an omnipotent God capable of controlling many possibilities and freely deciding, this is the important idea, freely deciding an event to happen therefore that happens. So an event in the becoming in the whole world if you see, an event occurs because it is possible and secondly because it expresses the free determination of God, who allows that possibility to come into being safely. He went one step farther and he pointed out that this possibility is never alone in the world. God is not so limited that he has only a few possibilities, he has infinite possibilities. Therefore he does not decide only one possibility to come into being, he decides the realm of possibilities to come on the earth to be manifested because there are hundreds and hundreds of possibilities. So he says that there are many possible ways in which possibilities can be combined. For this particular world on which we are living there is a law of compossibility. It is a new concept he introduced in logic — compossibility, not only possibility but compossibility. Events are decided by God to come on the existence, possible can be brought into manifestation if they are compossible. Act will occur in this world if act is compossible with a,b,c,d,e,f,g, as again why if it comes like this it will be compossible only with a and b. So if y is compossible with only a and b it will not occur. God will choose such a compossibility where a largest number of possibilities can occur and they can all be fixed up in a harmony. That is why he spoke of a law of what is called pre-established harmony. According to him all that happens in the world happens because it is all harmony. So according to him the mark of rationality is harmony. It is a very important insight that we are given that a rational person, rationality consists not only perceiving permanence, not only perceiving universality but also perceiving necessity and also for the existence of possibility and contingencies and contingencies happening because they are possible and they are possible because they are compossible and compossible because they are harmonious. Therefore the mark of rationality is to seek for harmony and to discover the harmony, to be rational is to discover the harmony. There is always a harmony. According to him the whole world is actually a harmony.
Now, it was not a fact that he was able to explain the heaven of Christianity and the world as we see it, I cannot say he reconciled the two. I only wanted to speak about it because there was the kind of a reflection of Christian thought on him and he had a insight which he had got from Christian theology that this world by itself cannot be explained, unless you accept rationally the existence of God, therefore he believed in God to be rational and God rational in the sense that he who harmonises and allows events to occur because they are harmonious with each other. And therefore the rationality of man consists in discovering the harmony. Now this insistence upon harmony and perception of harmony as a part of rationality was approved by Leibniz very powerfully. You will recall, I am speaking in parenthesis, Sri Aurobindo says in the very first chapter, ‘All problems of existence are essentially problems of harmony.’ It is one of the most fundamental rational propositions that Sri Aurobindo has made in The Life Divine. ‘All problems of existence are essentially problems of harmony.’ Rationality is guided by seeking for harmony, where there is no seeking for harmony, it’s not rational. If you don’t seek harmony anything can happen it is pell-mell, the world is pell-mell. It is not rational.
Now we have reached only the midpoint of the development of rationality as it developed in the West. We move forward and we find that thereafter there was a turn in the Western thought, a new development of thinking as to what is irrational and what is rational? And there developed the theory of empiricism, as opposed to rationality. In other words the entire tradition of Plato came to be questioned. Now this questioning was inherent actually in Aristotle, as we marked earlier that Aristotle tried to combine the becoming and being and he revolted against Plato because Plato was not able reconcile being and becoming and he thought that he could do so, and if you look at it impartially it did not actually succeed in doing it. But the …..there was as it were kind of a trend of thought, the trend emphasised the being and universality and permanence on the one hand and the movement which emphasised becoming. And although up till now there was some wave of combining being and becoming, although in a very loose manner, in a haphazard manner and the problem had remained unresolved. There was now a clear departure which said that Plato and all his tradition was fundamentally not rational. It does not take into account sufficiently the world as we see it, the becoming is very much minimised, the importance of the becoming is very much minimised in the whole history of philosophy, accept Aristotle tried to give some place to it and Leibniz, who gave place to it through his theory of compossibility. But neither Leibniz was able to reconcile being and becoming, nor was Aristotle capable of doing it. Therefore instead of clearing the barriers of the problem all the time, a time came when they said: we should not be blocked by these barriers of universality, behaviour of permanence and this Law of Necessity and a new trend arose in which they said we should see the becoming as it is, not in the context of permanence and universal but we should see the world of becoming as it is and how do we know the world of becoming? By experience. It is not by the help of the idea of universals, permanence and all that of which Plato and others had spoken. We will see the world as it is by experience.
Now this emphasis on knowledge of, by experience, an ideation or rationality which follows the logic of the becoming became now a more prominent feature and that movement is right up till now continuing. Empiricism ultimately came to a climax in Hume. And Hume pointed out that experience is the only means of knowledge and we have no experience in the world except sense experience. In the sense experience that is no perception of universality, no perception of permanence, no perception of causality, no perception of explanation, the whole world is simply what it is and take account of the world as it is and rationality consists in doubting any proposition which speaks of certainty of knowledge, which speaks of universality of knowledge, absoluteness of knowledge, confine yourself only what you can know probably. And therefore he is regarded as a sceptic. So scepticism became the hallmark of rationality. Becoming had to be understood directly and his becoming can be understood with no other standard except doubting. You can make even the Laws of Induction, where according to him not sustaining, even the laws of science, he said even scientific knowledge can be questioned. So rationality came to consist in physicality and scepticism. So this is another mark of rationality, which came to be underlined in the Western thought.
It seemed as if with the arrival of Hume, rationality came to conclude that nothing can be known, and to assert nothing can be known is a rational proposition and no other rational proposition as drawn. This created a great crisis in the Western history of rationality. Is it really true that scientific laws which seem to give necessities, are they not valid? Is it not a fact that things can fall and must fall directly, how do you know? But if experience is the means of knowledge and the only means of knowledge, you can only say: I see things falling, do you see they must fall? In experience you don’t see they must fall. They are falling, but there is nothing that they must, necessity is never seen. That the sun will rise tomorrow is an expectation and maybe it does rise tomorrow but there is no necessity it must rise tomorrow. Hume says: I come out of my room and go away and my room is on a hill, and nobody perceives it at all, how am I to be sure that this room does not disappear when I go out of the room? It is true that when I come back it is there, it is quite possible that it is always there when I see it but there is no necessity that the house must be continuing to exist. Now many of the propositions, many of the people laugh at but actually they are very serious propositions and it is because of the seriousness that Kant said he himself was awakened from his dogmatic slumber by Hume. By reading Hume, he felt he himself was carrying a dogmatic slumber and Hume carried him so powerfully that he was awakened and because he was awakened he felt the necessity of reformulating the whole rational fabric of human mind, tried to understand it and that’s why he wrote the famous book called The Critique of Pure Reason,that is the whole theory of reason as he defined, it is actually important. He said that our human rationality consists of four complexions, you might say four boxes, you might say, four spectacles and two additional spectacles, four he called four categories and two he called two intuitions. They are automatic in your human mind. Rationality consists of putting everything in space and time. It is inevitable that whatever you think the becoming, you cannot but see it in the context of space and time, of this you can be absolutely sure, why because the structure of reason is such, human mind is such and you cannot transcend human structure it is there, your structure of the brain, nobody can think it, it is there planted upon you. So you must see space and time, everything is in space and time and there are four categories, everything in the world can be summarised into four forms, — quantity, quality, relation, modality. There is nothing in human knowledge which can transcend these four forms. Why and many and plenty, there is no other quality positive, negative and neutral, relation, causality etc. etc. but they may be, may not be and will not be. These are the only modes of pure existence. There is no other proposition except the twelve propositions that you can make and all in space and time, so twelve forms of proposition, under four categories, each one with three propositions. So rationality consists in finding every proposition in this form. When one of the forms of proposition if it is fitted in, is rational provided it is put in the context of space and time but this is all what he calls phenomena and this is what he calls phenomenal reality. But he saw that phenomena themselves, this is the important point, rationally take you to that which is beyond phenomena. He perceived that if you are rational, you have got to affirm that phenomena by themselves are only structures. There must be a reality behind it, behind the phenomena, which he called noumenal, phenomenal is what we see around and there is a noumenal. Therefore rationality consists in analysing all the phenomena under twelve propositions provided they are in the form of space and time. But leaving this proposition at the same time that all these ultimately must be grounded in what he called the transcendental. He said that transcendental is not merely a possibility, it’s a necessity of thought; to be rational is to be absolutely certain there must be a transcendental. In a sense you might say he was reaffirming Plato and the whole rationalistic movement. But again he said what is that noumenal? As long as we have got this reason, we can never know because you cannot transcend the structure. Whatever we see, whatever we know, will only be in this form, therefore we can only be sure that there must be a ground, there must be a transcendental, the transcendental cannot be known. Therefore his philosophy is called agnosticism, not scepticism because he is sure there is a ground but it cannot be known therefore it is agonistic, you cannot know, you are sure it cannot be known. So rationality consisted in admission of agnosticism regarding the transcendental and framing everything that we see in the world under these twelve propositions. But he added one important thing and that brings now the concern for moral ideas.
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 extraordinary. 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 it because you can. So he said that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’.
Now this logicality, connection between ‘ought’ and ‘can’ was an 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’, it 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 a 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 the 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 a 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, the 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 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 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 actually happened is that post-Kantian philosophy gave rise to four important levels, — empirical hedonism, phenomenology, existentialism, pragmatism and postmodernism. 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 concepts 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 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.
Existentialism takes up this phenomenal logical emphasis on the ego while it omits the phenomenological emphasis on the universal and underlines the importance of the individual. It’s an analysis of the individual and the experience of the individual as the individual, the freedom of the individual. These are the important things which phenomenology of existentialism affirms. Pragmatism finds one criterion of the truth, a rational proposition is true and is rational, if it produces the effect which is intended to be produced. Successful result of a proposition can apply, is the mark of truth. A true proposition is a proposition which must succeed, if it is true it must succeed, it must be useful, practicable, it must result in consequences if they are intended. A rational proposition is a proposition which is pragmatically successful. Honesty is good because it pays. Religious belief as William James, one of the greatest pragmatists says: ‘religious consciousness creates healthy mindedness, and healthy minded is very good, therefore whether God exists or not it does not matter, if belief in God gives you help in your mind, you allow and nurture belief in God pragmatically. You can never decide whether there is God corresponding to religious consciousness but you can know this much that belief in God produces healthy mindedness, therefore you can say the proposition must be true because it is successful, creates healthy-mindedness, or even if that proposition is not true for practical purposes you should take it that it is true.
Now postmodernism combined all these movements — of logical empiricism, of phenomenology and existentialism and pragmatism. It adopts the proposition of language and the emphasis on language from logical emphasis, he takes the proposition of the individual and the freedom of the individual, phenomenology and existentialism. It adopts the criterion of pragmatism and comes to the following conclusion. You take this subject on which I want to hear Debashish today and therefore when I will speak of it, I am only speaking like a small child because I am not such a scholarly when we speak of postmodernism, but whatever I have understood, I will tell you this that postmodernism maintains that rationality consists in ascertaining that whatever is knowledge, whatever is true should be expressible in language, there should be an expression, all knowledge is something that can be derived from texts. Secondly, every individual when he encounters a fact, he encounters it as a free individual and therefore he understands the text in which it is specially individualised in himself. Therefore his understanding of the text is something individual and thirdly in so far as he finds what he understood is successful, it is true. The net result of post-modernism is that there is no knowledge, affirmation of any knowledge which is not textual, not reducible to text. Secondly that all textual knowledge can be interpreted and this is the whole development of what is called hermeneutics. Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation. Everyone is free as an individual to interpret the text, the consequence is that there is no possibility of making any statement valid for all. There is no possibility of stating that any knowledge is certain but every piece of knowledge is good for himself according to what he understands. But he should allow others also to reason whatever is understood by him or by her, is true for him and for her. Reason according to post-modernism cannot go beyond this, it cannot know what is Ultimate Reality? Cannot know if there is any ultimate purpose in life or an aim, no utopia can be formed. The world is what it is and every individual is free to understand this world through texts in which rational knowledge is translatable. Now only reason therefore you cannot erect any moral ideal, nor rational ideal and you can find actually speaking that all the four movements which are today, basically are incapable of giving any rational, mental ideal or moral ideal. And if we are therefore to remain only there, it can go round and round, uncertainty, relativism, agnosticism, scepticism of various kind and freedom for every individual to do what he thinks is right, is all that can be proposed. Therefore there is no presence in the present scenario of any ideal which can lift man, what Sri Aurobindo says therefore becomes so meaningful and I would like to repeat again, he says:
.. if there is no high and strenuous mental and moral ideal controlling and uplifting the vital and physical man in us and no spiritual ideal liberating him from himself into his inner being.
and this is exactly what has happened and that is all around us, then the only consequence will be economic life, perfection of material life, huge structure of buildings structures and resurgence of barbarism in human civilised society is inevitable. This is the impasse and this is where we stand today. And fortunately however I would like to end my statement by stating the following, what Sri Aurobindo said in The Ideal of Human Unity and there is a similar statement in The Human Cycle. I shall only refer to these two statements and conclude for the present because these two propositions give us what in Sri Aurobindo’s own terms that humanity will not be arrested and something else will happen and that possibility is dependent upon the following. I read on page number 555 of the vol. no. XVI, where Sri Aurobindo says:
But the higher hope of humanity lies in the growing number of men who will realise this truth and seek to develop it in themselves, so that when the mind of man is ready to escape from its mechanical bent,—perhaps when it finds that its mechanical solutions are all temporary and disappointing,—the truth of the Spirit may step in and lead humanity to the path of its highest possible happiness and perfection.
And what is that higher truth which humanity can hope to realise? And that is what Sri Aurobindo states, just in the paragraph above it. And it says that truth is the truth of oneness and I read it:
A spiritual oneness which would create a psychological oneness not dependent upon any intellectual or outward uniformity and compel a oneness of life not bound up with its mechanical means of unification, but ready always to enrich its secure unity by a free inner variation and a freely varied outer self-expression, this would be the basis for a higher type of human existence.
And to connect it with the question of Auroville I will say, this is what is proposed for Auroville. So I conclude here but if there is any comment I will be happy to hear a few comments in the remaining time. Thank you.