Towards Applied Philosophy
Among all intellectual disciplines, Philosophy is intrinsically concerned with the search of essential significance, which impels uncovering of layers of facts, physical and psychological, and determination of the distinction between appearance and reality. It also provides an impetus to the quest of comprehensiveness as also of the ultimate reality that may exist, in the light of which relationships are understood and evaluated. And if we examine the dimension of significance, we shall find that there is in it an underlying sense of perception of the object and of the idea that signifies the object. Philosophical thinking is an expression of an inherent nisus that can be satisfied only if all that is there is cognised in a dispassionate search of a comprehensive and, if need be, a transcendental sweep, resulting in a meaningful state of completeness.
Mere vision of truth, even comprehensive vision of truth, may be an object of science, but the unique dimension of Philosophy is the search for meaning, which discloses what may be called deliberate reason that raises us up in suggesting not to accept things as they are but to inquire into why they are what they are and whether they could be or ought to be other than what they are. A complete philosophical argument involves this quintessential element.
If Philosophy is a critical search, if it is a search which is free from all presuppositions, it is because there is in the deliberate or critical reason an inherent freedom that seeks to rise above the subjection to the presentation of facts as they are. If Philosophy is a search for comprehensiveness and even of transcendence, it is because there is in the intellectual operation of the Reason an inherent sense that all that is presented to us is not enough and that much more is needed for the purpose of understanding the given data. It is this inherent quest that lifts Philosophy above the realm of science and gives to Philosophy a pre-eminent position among all the intellectual disciplines.
If this account is true, it follows that a true study of Philosophy should end, not in a mere spinning of abstractions, but in a state of satisfaction in which all that is presented stands in the context of comprehensiveness and in a grasp of their essential significance and meaning.
However, since Philosophy is an intellectual activity, the satisfaction that it provides is ideative in character, which reflects the possession of meaning in an ideative form, similar to the satisfaction of an artist in the perception and creation of a form that reflects the intended meaning, in a vehicle that represents colour, line, mass and proportion, or very similar to music in which the meaning is captured in the form of a sound in a vehicle marked by pitch, volume and rhythm. Idea is really a Form, as Plato conceived it and as Vishwamitra much earlier described it as something so transparent that it cannot be called either clad or unclad (avasana anagnah). But precisely because the purest idea is still a form, it does not give that utter satisfaction which our integral nature demands and which can come through experience, contact, activity and identity. For
this reason, even the highest and the purest philosophical perception or comprehension needs to be complemented by such movements of consciousness that are fulfilled in corresponding currents of concrete experience and through the methods of application. Applications in conduct, action and direct contact and identity of the object of which idea is a mere form. In other words, purest Philosophy pushes itself towards Applied Philosophy so as to arrive at concrete possession of the object of thought in a state of being and becoming. This is what lies behind the Indian approach to philosophy when it is coupled with Yoga. To use Indian terms Sankhya and Yoga accompany each other.
It is not necessary that philosophical inquiry must end in a discovery of meaning; a Philosophy may even come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as meaning; but even such a Philosophy can be designated as philosophy only if it has attempted to exercise
the sense of meaning in its fullness and arrived at its own conclusion after having exhausted its search for meaning. And even such a philosophy pushes itself for a corresponding satisfaction in an Applied Philosophy that advocates conduct of life based on the denial of meaning. It prescribes the cultivation of qualities or states of mind and experience that would result from the philosophical denial of meaning. This is very well illustrated in the Essay written by Bertrand Russell, “A Freeman’s Worship” where he describes briefly his philosophy of meaning-lessness and application of that philosophy in the conduct of life. For the sake of brevity, we may only quote the last paragraph of that article:
“Brief and powerless is Man’s life; on him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark. Blind to good and evil, reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter rolls on its relentless way; for Man, condemned today to lose his dearest, tomorrow himself to pass through the gate of darkness, it remains only to cherish, ere yet the blow falls, the lofty thoughts that ennoble his little day; disdaining the coward terrors of the slave of Fate, to worship at the
shrine that his own hands have built; undismayed by the empire of chance, to preserve a mind free from the wanton tyranny that rules his outward life; proudly defiant of the irresistible forces that tolerate, for a moment, his knowledge and his condemnation, to sustain alone, a weary but unyielding Atlas, the world that his own ideals have fashioned despite the trampling march of unconscious power”.
We may draw a conclusion that a study of a Philosophy leads logically to the development of corresponding Applied Philosophy.
It may be noted that a number of systems of philosophy have developed in the East, which were accompanied by systems of applications. At first, as we see it in India, there was a period of spiritual development, but as in the Upanishads, the method was at first an intuitive seeing and an inspired expression, but afterwards there was developed a critical method, a firm system of dialectics, a logical organisation.
The later philosophies were intellectual account or a logical justification of what had been found by inner realisation; or they provided themselves with a mental ground or a systematised Yogic method for realisation and experience. In the West, the syncretic tendency of consciousness was replaced by the analytic and separative mentality at an early stage; the spiritual urge and the intellectual reason parted company almost at the outset; Philosophy took from the first a turn towards a purely intellectual and ratiocinative explanation of things, even though there were systems like the Pythagorean, Stoic and Epicurean, which were dynamic not only for thought but for conduct of life and developed a discipline, an effort at inner perfection of being. A little later, this reached a higher spiritual plane of knowledge in later Christian or Neo-pagan thought structures where the East and the West met together. But later on, the intellectualisation became complete and the connection of Philosophy with life and its energies or spirit and its dynamism was either cut or confined to the little that the metaphysical idea can impress on life and action by an abstract and secondary
In recent times, however, there has come about a cleavage between Philosophy and Applied Philosophy to such an extent that reaction has started which emphasises the importance of studies in Applied Philosophy, and a number of subjects are developing today such as Ethics, Applied Ethics, Applied Philosophy of Law, Applied Philosophy of Medicine, Applied Philosophy of Management, ─ in brief Applied Philosophy of Life.
It is against this background that we need to present to ourselves a fresh line of development, in which we can recover also the earlier Indian balance between Philosophy and Applied Philosophy.
It is being increasingly recognised at present that the development of science, which is today holding the central stage of the field of knowledge, should be supplemented by enormous development of human goodness. Bertrand Russell, in his study of science and its impact on
society, has pointed out that there are two ancient evils that science, unwisely used, may intensify: they are tyranny and war. He has, therefore, declared, in this context, the need for compassion and pursuit of values of higher order. In his words:
“There are certain things that our age needs, and certain things that it should avoid. It needs compassion and a wish that mankind should be happy; it needs a desire for knowledge and the determination to eschew pleasant myths; it needs above all courageous hope and impulse to creativeness. The things that it must avoid are cruelty, envy, greed, competitiveness, search for irrational subjective certainty, and what Freudians called the death wish…The root of the matter is very simple and old fashioned thing…The thing I mean – please forgive me for mentioning it – is love, Christian love or compassion. If you feel this, you have a motive for existence, a guide in action, a reason for courage, an imperative necessity for intellectual necessity.”
It is being underlined that science and technology are human activities, and no human activity
has a right to claim such an autonomy that it can indulge in its exclusive pursuit without considering the question of the necessity of promoting universal solidarity, unity and integrity. It is being acknowledged that a scientist, a technologist, is a human being and he has to bear the responsibility that every human being has to bear towards the universal good. In other words, it is recognised that science cannot afford to be value-neutral; it has to build a bridge between the realm of knowledge and the realm of values. And this is one of the gates by which science and technology can enter into the domain of Ethics, Applied Philosophy and Spirituality.
At one time, it was fashionable to explain the universe in terms of material and mechanical determinism. Recent advances have weakened the rigid hold of this determinism, for the theory of mechanistic necessity by itself does not elucidate indeterminacy and the free play of the endless unaccountable variations which occur in the evolutionary process. Recourse is sometimes made to a paradoxical concept of self-organising dynamic Chance. But even then, the assumption of an original unconscious energy at work leads
us to incredible and inexplicable conclusion. It is also obvious that the theory, which attempts to suggest that anything can happen by chance, has no obligatory force, for chance and obligatory force are self-contradictory. In any case, the fact is that the mind has emerged in the evolutionary process, and this could be more than a chance, since mind betrays the quality of order and sense of unity, which are alien to the very idea of chance.
Again, the emergence of the theme of consciousness in the context of the recent advances of core sciences has momentous consequences for a new turning point in the history of knowledge and research. Again, the outposts of scientific knowledge come more and more to be set on the borders that divide the material from the immaterial; similarly, the highest achievements of practical science are those which tend to simplify and reduce to the vanishing-point the machinery by which the greater effects are produced. It is also increasingly acknowledged that materialism can be maintained only by ignoring or explaining away the vast field of evidence and experience which contradicts it.
The arbitrariness of the materialistic premise is also being admitted in disguised or explicit form. At one time, it was confidently asserted that the physical senses are the sole means of knowledge and that reason, therefore, cannot escape beyond their domain. But today it is being acknowledged more and more widely that physical senses cannot give any disproof of anything that may be lying beyond their domain. In other words, it is admitted that physical senses cannot find any justification for the universal sweep contained in the orthodox premises of materialism.
It is true that materialism is still lingering in subtle forms. While matter is no more placed as the ultimate reality, there have emerged formidable methodologies of analysis or empiricism which do away with any conception of ultimate reality, thus preventing the formulation of any possible theory of Spirit as an alternative to crumbling theory of materialism. At the same time, the climate has greatly changed. Science has become less rigid, and it is unable to reject a priori any claim of supraphysical experience.
In the field of Biology, while the Darwinian Theory of Evolution by random chance, natural selection, struggle for existence and survival of the fittest is still surviving, powerful trends have emerged to challenge it through theories such as those of Vitalism of Bergson, Emergent Evolution of Alexander, Holism of Smutts, Ingressive Idealism of Whitehead, and Spiritual Evolution of Teillard De Chardin. In India, Sri Aurobindo’s theory of Supramental Evolution is a formidable answer to Darwinism and to materialism in general.
A major difficulty lies in the insistence laid by the physical sciences on the application of their methods on all sciences, even when subject matters are not physical in character. The scientific method is so conceived that no evidence could be accepted of a fact unless it is objective and physical in character; even if the fact apparently be supraphysical, this method refuses to accept it as such unless it is totally inexplicable by any other imaginable hypothesis or conceivable conjecture. But it should be evident that this demand for physical valid proof of the supra-physical is irrational and illogical.
For the method of knowledge should be appropriate to the object of knowledge. If the nature of the object is itself supra-physical, it would be unreasonable to demand that it should be physical and should be scrutinisable by means of physical senses.
On the other hand, the great science of Yoga, which has been developed for thousands of years in India as Applied Philosophy, has begun to command increasing recognition. Yoga has developed various kinds of evidence of the existence of other planes of beings and communication with them. They include objectification of the outer sense, subtle sense contacts, mind contacts, life contacts, contacts through the subliminal in special states of consciousness existing beyond our ordinary range. It is normally argued that subjective experience or subtle sense images can easily be deceptive, since we have no recognised method or standards of verification. It is, however, being gradually understood that the validity in any field must be scrutinised according to the laws operating in that domain. It is also being argued that in any field of experience, error is possible,
and error is not the prerogative only of the inner subjective or occult parts of us. Even where physical and objective methods are employed, it is admitted, there is room for errors. Mere liability to error cannot be a reason for shutting out a large and important domain of experience. As in the physical science, so in the supra-physical sciences, it has a reason for scrutinising it and finding out in it its own true standards and its characteristically appropriate and valid means of verification. It is also observed that the very basis of our objective experience is our subjective being; hence it is not probable that only its physical objectivism are true and the rest unreliable. It is finally urged that the supraphysical consciousness, when rightly interrogated, is a witness to truth and its testimony is confirmed again and again even in the physical and objective field; that testimony cannot, then, be disregarded when it calls our attention to things within us or to things that belong to planes or world of supraphysical experiences.
It is gradually coming to be recognised that consciousness is the great underlying fact, the universal witness for whom the world is a field.
To that witness, the worlds and objects appeal for their reality and for the one world or the many, for the physical equally with the supraphysical, we have no other evidence that they exist.
In the development of the Western thought, two contemporary movements have brought out forcefully the significance of consciousness and subjective experience, namely, Phenomenology and Existentialism. Even though they are still circumscribed within a narrow field of subjective experience, the question is whether there is or there can be a science of supraphysical data. While this search is gaining ground, the world seems to be preparing to return from the present period of scepticism to Applied Philosophy of Yoga, its assured methods resulting from the principles, powers and processes that govern experiences and realisation of the highest possible object of knowledge. It is also being recognised that the methods of Yoga have something of the same relation to the customary psychological working of man as has the scientific handling of the natural force of electricity or of steam to the normal operation of
steam and electricity. And they, too, are formed upon knowledge developed and confirmed by regular experiment, practical analysis and constant results.
All these new data and contentions need to be studied, and the more they are acknowledged, the more will be relevance of the study of Yoga as Applied Philosophy.
There are growing today certain pressing concerns which impel practical studies and applications of knowledge, particularly that knowledge which is accessible to Philosophy.
1. Today humanity is gripped by three pulls and counter-pulls and the resultant situation is so difficult that nothing short of change in human consciousness can lift up humanity from its crisis. On the one hand, there is a downward gravitation; on the other hand, there is a pull towards horizontal development, and there is still a higher pull of vertical ascension.
The downward gravitational pull has many
features that are related to the hugeness of the structures and super-structures of economic, industrial, social and political life. These structures and super-structures are being sustained by continuous scientific discoveries and inventions and technological devices and gadgets, ─ all of which contribute to the efficiency of the system. All these structures tend to sub-serve certain intellectual goals, but also more and more increasingly those goals which enhance pragmatism, success in competition and gratification of sensual pleasures. The fabric of life that is getting woven yields more and more through impersonalisation, mechanisation, and even dehumanisation. Even the higher and the highest pursuits of life are getting pulled down under the weight of the hurry and fury of forces that tempt and weaken human will. The subconscious and the unconscious are finding in this situation increasing avenues of invasion, and the forces of reason are being greatly defeated by those of unreason. This gravitational pull is that of the infra-rational and to fight against it so as to retain humanism requires a gigantic effort.
Fortunately, the gigantic effort is not entirely missing. While scientific discoveries and inventions tend to be utilised in their applications largely by the infra-rational, science itself is a rational endeavour, and its impulse to know and to know as comprehensively as possible stands out in the contemporary scenario as an angel which can provide lofty wings to humanity to fly into higher and higher domains of efforts and achievements. There is also a widespread inquiry, ─ multiple inquiry and critical inquiry, ─ which is pushing humanity to develop philosophy and ethics as also stringent notions of justice and equity. There are also growing visions and experiments with the shining ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity, ─ and even though they are being hampered by the forces of economic barbarism, they still provide a push of higher struggle. In these domains, humanity can fulfil its humanism, and numerous paths are constantly opening up to invite humanity to become more and more humane, more and more rational, and more and more ethical.
It is in this context that several lines of applied ethics are being studied and promoted.
This network of ideas and forces constitutes the peak of the cultural effort of today. The intellectual, the ethical and the aesthetic aspirations of humanity are combined here to pull humanity from its downward gravitation and erect a durable civilisation that can continue to spread over larger and larger areas of the world. It perceives quite clearly that even science, if it is not guided by values, can be dangerous and can injure the future of humanity. It is greatly concerned with humanism, it is international in its sweep, and it has given a decisive turn to the ideal of human unity.
2. Psychological studies have begun to reveal to us the strangeness and complexity of the components and powers of human personality. It has now become clear that the human being has many parts and planes and that each one of them has its own thrust of development, and these thrusts are far from being homogenous or harmonious with one another. The physical being is often in conflict with the vital pursuits, and when the vital ambitions and attractions impose upon the physical body their own burden, the physical often revolts or collapses.
The demands of physical health are often in clash with the demands of the vital being. Again, the demands of the vital being are in conflict with the demands of the mind when it wants to pursue the purity of thought and knowledge and the purity of its ideals. Often the vital being tends to make the mental being the advocate of its desires and ambitions by means of rationalisation. At the same time, the pure pursuits of the mind succeed some times in obliging the vital being to make sacrifices, but the resultant condition is often that of disequilibrium.
Still, again, the triangular disposition of the mind in its pursuit of rationality, ethicality and aesthetics is itself a complex of battle and disequilibrium. The pursuit of the truth through the channel of rationality is often encumbered or even contradicted by the pursuits of the good and the beautiful through channels of the moral and aesthetic sense. Even in the field of the pursuits of the truth, there are conflicts between scientific truth and the philosophical truth, and even when a choice is made in favour of one or the other, some kind of disequilibrium still remains. Similarly, in the field of ethical pursuit, the
demands of love and justice often collide with each other, the good of the individual often collides with the good of the society, and the standards of conduct have among themselves continually sessions of disagreement. In the field of aesthetics, we are aware of the relativity of aesthetic standards and aesthetic judgements, and we are also aware of aesthetic personalities actuated by perceptions, imaginations and inspirations that often collide with scientific and philosophical truth as also with demands of the ethical good. It is true that a certain stage, one does perceive that truth is beauty and beauty is truth, but we are also aware how beauty looks askance at the good and the truth, and vice versa. It is true that the highest developments of Reason can bring about some kind of truce among the conflicting demands of various parts of the being, but this does not amount to integration.
This is not all. The conflicts that we see between the conscious parts are nothing as compared to the conflicts that arise between the conscious and the subconscious or unconscious. How feeble is the rational, ethical, and aesthetic
complex of the human being when it gets attacked by the subconscious and unconscious forces has become more and more evident when we examine the modern life in its conditions of anxiety and stress. Some of the acute psychologists have even felt that there are only two powerful subconscious impulses, those of Eros and Thanatos, the desire to love and desire to kill; and not only are both of them in conflict with each other, but both of them are in conflict with the pursuit of rationality, morality and aesthetics in their purest and highest flights. They have even warned or predicted that humanity cannot sustain its upward movement and must ultimately decline and succumb to the forces of the unconscious Unreason.
Again, when the three ideals of the social Reason, ─ liberty, equality and fraternity, ─ are attempted to be established in collective life, these three are found to be in conflict with each other and defeated by the powers of Unreason. When liberty wins, equality gets dethroned; when equality is attempted to be raised up, liberty gets strangulated; and fraternity does not get even a chance of getting into any programme
These reflections turn us to inquire as to whether there is any other still higher uplifting force by means of which humanity can successfully be uplifted from the tentacles of the subconscious and the unconscious.
It is here that studies in Applied Philosophy can provide expertise to help and counsel.
We find that there has been in the history of the world a persistent recognition and experience of a higher light and both in the East and in the West there have been luminous examples of those who have provided evidence of the presence and powers of the superconscious, which far exceed the capacities of the reason in dealing with the subconscious or the unconscious. In our own country, there appears to be a kind of specialisation, which has resulted in the opening up of hundreds of ways by which one can enter into the portals of the superconscient. Right from the Vedic times, of which we have existing records, up to the present day, we have a large bulk of data to show that the superconscient light or knowledge is not a matter of subjective error
or hallucination but a matter of repeatable, verifiable and abiding experience as also of a continuously developing tradition. The Veda clearly spoke of three oceans, of the ocean of the inconscient, the ocean of the conscient, and the ocean of the superconscient. They spoke of the battle between the forces of these three oceans and even of the triumph of the superconscient over the conscient and the inconscient. The tradition of Vedic knowledge has continued right up to the present day and in our times, Sri Aurobindo has made radical experiments for the total transformation of the Inconscient by the process of the Supermind, the highest cosmic power of the Superconscient.
It is again affirmed that the superconscient is at work just as the subconscious or unconscious is at work, whether we may be aware of it or not. And it is further affirmed that in many critical conditions through which humanity has passed in history, the uplifting pull of the superconscient has played a decisive role.
3. The pursuit of the superconscient has been, as stated above, a perennial theme both in the
East and the West. This pursuit has taken three principal forms, and we need to derive from them the most valuable lessons, which are relevant to the creation of a new road of education. These three forms are those of religion, philosophy and Yogic science. Our concern will be, not with any specific formula, nor with their conflicts, nor, again, with outer details of practices. Our concern will be to consider mainly the theme of the conquest of the subconscient and the inconscient by higher powers of rationality, ethicality, aesthetic sensibility and the superconscient pursuits of the Truth, Beauty and Goodness.
The conflict of religions, each one of which claims to have discovered the superconscient knowledge and light as also the methods by which that knowledge and light can be attained or contacted, is one of the chief obstacles that needs to be crossed. Fortunately, humanity has made considerable progress during the last hundred years, particularly since Swami Vivekananda declared that everyone needs his or her own religion, since each one has his or her own specific road of specific method of contact
with the superconscient knowledge. Adherents of different religions have begun to understand with greater and greater sympathy the main points of agreement and disagreement, and even the claims to the possession of exclusive truths have become tampered with greater flexibility, mutual respect and not only tolerance but even an effort to absorb new insights, experiences and realisations. If this new trend is supported by a fresh appraisal of religions without dogmatism, further progress can be achieved. Instead of excluding each other, religions need to come together and arrive at a synthesis of universal knowledge to which each higher religion can make a significant contribution.
Each one of the universal religions possesses a precious treasure of knowledge; many aspects of this treasure are common, and certain distinguishing aspects can serve as enrichment, which can be shared by all. All religions stress the need to abolish egoism and eliminate desires that obstruct the attainment of purity and unity with the higher levels of knowledge and power. All religions live in a spirit of sacredness and holiness; all religions prescribe concentration on
the highest that is accessible to our consciousness; all religions affirm the possibility of transcending our normal psychological limitations and of experience of higher faculties of intuition, revelation and inspiration. Even in respect of the contents of superconscient knowledge, where there are wide disagreements, a greater understanding can be instituted, so that following the method of repeatability, verifiability and expandability of experiences, their contents of knowledge can be properly ascertained and synthesised.
Philosophy, too, is a quest to arrive at the knowledge of the essential reality or realities, their relationships with the world and with the individual human being. But as distinguished from religion, where methods consist of faith or acceptance of belief or doctrine, and practice or rituals, ceremonies and prescribed acts, ─ ethical and religious, ─ both in context of the individual progress and social living, the methods of philosophy consist of a critical and logical inquiry and rational judgements based upon the criteria of consistency and comprehensiveness. Philosophical pursuits can be very useful in
arriving at a comparative idea of the contents of the superconscient knowledge as also in obtaining intellectual assessment in terms of ontology, epistemology, cosmology and axiology coupled with critical self-evaluation of philosophical knowledge in contrast to knowledge obtained through direct experience in revelation or inspiration. Philosophical pursuit will also enable impartial seekers to arrive at non-dogmatic knowledge in intellectual language and in intellectual concepts, and may even prepare the human mind to seek and practise methods by which the knowledge gained by philosophy can be verified by direct and abiding experience.
Yogic science is also a pursuit of the superconscient knowledge, and its distinction is that it is experiential and experimental in character, and it is the methodised effort at arriving at direct experience by the contact and union with the universal and transcendental realities which, as in any science, can be arrived at without any dogmatic assumptions or even without recourse to rituals and prescribed acts based on any religious creed or dogma. Even a sceptic, an
agnostic, an atheist and non-believer can practise Yogic methods and arrive at an impartial perception and experience of the truths of the superconscient knowledge.
It is true that Yogic knowledge is central for a genuine pursuit of the supra-rational truth, beauty and goodness, but still the religious and philosophical pursuits can, whenever and wherever needed, also help, and this help can be of great value. It is also true that there has been a strong tendency in religion, philosophy and Yoga to pursue the supra-rational in such an exclusive manner that claims of pragmatic life and material existence are ignored or even denied. There is too much emphasis on the supra-terrestrial, supra-cosmic, acosmic, so that the cosmic and terrestrial concerns are subordinated or neglected, even rejected. Since our aim will be to utilise superconscient knowledge in the conquest of the inconscient, we have to assign a central importance to those pursuits of the supra-conscient and supra-rational which deal with the cosmic and terrestrial, right up to our material life and its subconscious and unconscious recesses. In this context, our aim should be to
give the right place and justification to that tendency in materialism which affirms matter, discovers secrets of knowledge pertaining to matter and affirms the legitimate and right claims of matter in the totality of existence as also to the utilities which material knowledge has provided to humanity and is still continuing to provide so that they can subserve along with similar utilities of the knowledge of Life, Mind, and other higher domains, those ends which are to be fulfilled through the conquest of the superconscient over the inconscient.
It is in the context of the above three needs and also to promote studies in the contemporary crisis and find remedies and their applications that the studies in Applied Philosophy need to be instituted and pursued.
Applied Philosophy is often confined to the study of Ethics and Applied Ethics, but there is a need to enlarge the scope in the light of the following considerations:
We are all aware of the moral theories of hedonism, hedonistic utilitarianism, ideal utilitarianism, intuitionism, and other higher formulations of ethical and spiritual norms. They are all presented as universal doctrines intended to be prescribed uniformly for all people, but if we take human individual and human collectivity to be evolutionary in character, and if we take elements of the complexity of human nature in an ascending order rising from the infra-rational to the rational and from the rational to the supra-rational, we may be able to gain insights into an evolutionary mode of reconciling conflicting morals and ideals.
From this point of view, there are four main standards of human conduct that make an ascending scale. The first is the personal need, preference and desire; the second is the law and good of the collectivity; the third is an ideal ethic, the last is the highest and divine ideal and law of the nature. Standard of conduct, which is prescribed by psychological and ethical but egoistic hedonism, falls into the first category; its argument is that because every individual
psychologically seeks satisfaction of his personal need for pleasure, ─ because everyone psychologically prefers pleasures to pain and because every individual seeks the satisfaction of personal desire for pleasure, every individual ought to seek one’s own pleasure. Students of philosophy and ethics are familiar with this argument and its criticism, such as whether each human being necessarily seeks pleasure or some other things also, and if pleasure alone, whether there are different kinds of pleasures, some inferior and others that are superior. They are also familiar with the naturalistic fallacy that is committed when it argued that because pleasure is desired, pleasure is desirable.
If we examine the history of ethical thought, we find that egoistic ethical hedonism came, in due course, to be defended in the name of altruism and, eventually, run over by universal ethical hedonism that embodied the force of collectivistic ideals. This moral law advocated, in effect, the search for maximum pleasure for maximum number of people. To use the terms of Indian philosophy, the demands of vyashti and samashti came to be pressed forward against
the claims of ahambhava. The existence of the collectivistic law external to the individual suggests a power other than that of personal egoism and induces or compels the individual to moderate his average demands, to discipline his irrational and often violent movements and even to lose himself some times in a larger and less personal egoism. And yet, the collectivistic morality or idealism is found to be incapable of arriving at any satisfactory solutions. Consequently, claims of society and claims of the individual continue to confront one another. There is a demand of the group that the individual should subordinate himself more or less completely or even lose his independent existence in the community. On the other hand, the ideal and absolute solution from the individual’s standpoint would be a society that existed not for itself, but for the good of the individual and his fulfilment, for the greater and more perfect life of all its members. An ideal society of either kind does not exist anywhere, and in actuality, the society somehow attempts to work out some kind of a compromise, which sometimes gives an upper hand to the claims of
individuals and sometimes to the claims of collectivity. In the end, the complexity of the problem increases and multiplies its issues. A need is felt to call in a new principle, and humanity begins to climb to a level of the pure mind, where the life of personal need, preference and desire begins to be touched by a greater and elevated light, and the aesthetic, intellectual and emotional desires begin to preponderate over the demands of the physical and the vital nature.
At this higher level, search for pleasure, egoistic or universal, gives way to a search for higher ideals like knowledge and character. Hedonistic utilitarianism begins to be over passed by what has come to be called ideal utilitarianism, which in the history of Western ethics was formulated to advocate the combined fulfilment of three ideals of character, knowledge and happiness. But even this ethical theory could not sufficiently be defended within the formula of utilitarianism, because while the utilitarian judges an action by its consequences, it was found that things like knowledge and character are ends in themselves and cannot be judged in
terms of their consequences. This forced the ethical thinker to develop a search for the realm of ends, which are intrinsic and which are valuable in themselves.
In India, there was an early discovery of dharma, of duty, of values of righteousness, and of action that had to be performed with a sense of equanimity as far as its consequences are concerned. In the West, in the philosophy of Conscience and Intuitionism, similar ideas were put forward, and they came to a culminating point in the ethical doctrine of Kant, which enjoined duty for its own sake and attempted to give a standard of action that had to be judged not by its consequences but by its own intrinsic value.
At that new higher level, the primacy of universal values came to the forefront and began to influence the new equations between the individual and the collectivity. The question came to be asked as to what was the real nature of the individual, and Kant’s own answer was that the true individual was capable of liberating himself from the clamour of desires into a realm
of ends in themselves. Kant even went one step farther and declared that the individual himself should be looked upon not merely as a means but as an end in himself. In other words, it was affirmed that while individualism is valid, the individual in its true nature is not an egocentric entity subject to appetites and desires, but an entity capable of uplifting himself to a state of intrinsic and universal values.
Consequently, it came to be advocated that the needs and desires of individuals are to be surpassed in obedience to the moral law, and even the social law has no claims upon him if it is opposed to his sense of right and denied by Conscience or by the categorical imperative. In regard to the conflict between the individual and the society, the solution that the moralist presented was that the individual shall cherish no desires and claims that are not consistent with love, truth and justice, and that the collectivity shall hold all things cheap, even its safety and its most pressing interests, in comparison with truth, justice, humanity and the highest good of the people.
The moralist’s ideal of the categorical imperative is basically individualistic, and when his ideals are applied to the society, the inadequacies of these ideals come to light. For justice often demands what love abhors. Man’s absolute justice easily turns out to be in practice a sovereign injustice; for his mind, one-sided and rigid in its construction, puts forward a one-sided partial and rigorous scheme or figure and claims for its totality and absoluteness and an application that ignores the subtler truth of things and the plasticity of life.
The fact is that the categorical imperative of ideal law does not signify the end of human search of the truth that harmonises and delivers. We discover that the moral nature of the human being is not the last and the highest component; there is, in us, it will be found, a divine being that is spiritual and supramental. In that component of our complex nature, it is claimed, is the integrating power; in it the truths of the individual and the collectivity coalesce; there we discover, we are told, that the individual and the collectivity are not what they appear to be in the lower or infra rational parts of our being.
Individual is not, it is discovered, fundamentally egoistic in nature; ego is only a temporary construction, but behind it there is the unegoistic centre of universality and universality finds its concentrated centre of fullness in the individual.
Beyond the moral law are spiritual ideals. These ideals are not limited to moral data but embrace the totality of our being and totality of existence. The true divine law is not fully represented in exclusive formations of the mind or even in religious creeds that collide with other religious creeds. That is the reason why exclusive religions, even when proclaimed to be universal, have come to be combated by other exclusive religions with similar claims; and no social harmony can be achieved in that state of conflict.
The true spiritual and supramental consciousness takes into account the truth of all that is manifesting in this imperfect but evolving world and supports each truth in its proper place and harmonises it with all the rest. This seems to be the ideal of lokasangrah (solidarity of the people) of which Sri Krishna speaks in his message to Arjuna. The true universality and
unity resolve lower discords into a victorious harmony and point to the ideal of the creation of what may be called a spiritualised society, where love would be absolute and equality would be consistent with hierarchy and perfect in difference. In that society, absolute justice would be secured by the spontaneous action of the being in harmony with the truth of things and the truths of oneself and others and, therefore, sure of true and right results. In that society, the quarrel between the individual and the collectivity or the disastrous struggle between one community and another would not exist, since the cosmic consciousness imbedded in the embodied beings would assure a harmonious diversity in oneness.
The study of Applied Philosophy will need, therefore, to include the study of the relationship between the ethical and the spiritual and the resolution of ethical dilemmas in the light of higher spiritual knowledge.
The course in Applied Philosophy would underline
the study of those uplifting forces which have provided to humanity the basic impetus to rise to higher and higher levels of culture and would thus stimulate students to practise in their own life the lessons of human culture.
Illumination, Heroism and Harmony can easily be discerned as the powers of the sublimation of human nature and the root cause of humanity’s upward march. It can also be seen that human aspiration, right from early stages when humanity began to cultivate awakened thought, has manifested itself in the divination of Godhead, impulse towards perfection, the search after pure Truth and unmixed Bliss, and sense of a secret Immortality. This aspiration, when analysed in fullness, can be said to be the urge to know, possess and be the divine being in an animal and egoistic consciousness, to convert our twilight or obscure physical mentality into the plenary supramental illumination, to build peace and a self-existent bliss where there is only stress of a transitory satisfaction besieged by physical pain and emotional suffering, to establish an infinite freedom in a world which presents itself as a group of mechanical necessities, to discover and
realise the immortal life in a body subjected to death and constant mutation.
It is true that this aspiration is contradicted and denied by the ordinary material intellect, which takes its present organisation of consciousness for the limit of its possibility. But if we ask as to why there exists this opposition between realised fact and the ideal of the human aspiration, we shall find that this opposition is a part of Nature’s profoundest method, and the greater the apparent disorder of the materials offered, the stronger is the spur to arrive at a more subtle and puissant order. The entire evolutionary movement can be seen from this point of view where life has been greatly harmonised with matter, and mind has also been similarly harmonised with life. It would, therefore, be seen that the upward impulse of man towards the accordance of yet higher opposite not only rational in itself, but the only logical completion of a rule and an effort that seems to be a fundamental method of Nature and the very sense of our universal strivings.
Applied Philosophy can institute a study of this subject and also exploration of methods by which
the upward aspiration of humanity can be fulfilled.
Applied Philosophy can also be considered as a part of value-oriented education at the tertiary level.
It is often argued that while value-oriented education is important at the elementary and secondary levels of education, it is not required at the tertiary level. It has been urged that values can be taught or caught when children are young, and when they are grown up they have already a formed character, and education in character development at a higher level is therefore unnecessary. But this argument misses the point that it is only at the tertiary level that one can institute a critical examination of the concept of values and how values can be inculcated in the personality. In fact a critical examination of values is by itself an important part of value-oriented education. Values, which are simply transmitted without examination, can only result in some kind of dogmatism or even
indoctrination. Therefore, value-oriented education is absolutely essential at the tertiary level.
Considering, therefore, the importance of value-oriented education, one can think of its inclusion in the course of Applied Philosophy.
Firstly, place could be given to a critical examination of the questions of the aim of human life.
Study of the aim of human life can be viewed under four headings:
Secondly, one could discuss the question of relativity and subjectivity of values and how values have changed from time to time and from country to country. In this connection, one can introduce the question of definition of values and distinction between moral and spiritual values, as also values related to aesthetic and emotional life and values of intellectual and
physical culture. Ideals of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity could also be studied at this stage.
The study of values in relation to the psychology of development of human personality could also be important, and it could be suggested that the following ideas, which are essential for the development of personality, could be a subject matter of a detailed study, namely:
Next, there could be a discussion on the multiple personalities in man and conflicts within man and how these conflicts can be resolved by harmonisation of personality. The question of free will and determinism can also be discussed in this connection.
There are also other aspects of personality which need to be studied in this connection. These relate to multidimensional personality, balanced
personality and personality of equanimity. There is also in India a concept of fourfold personality of Wisdom, Power, Harmony and Skill.
One part of the important concept of value, which should be examined at the higher level, is that of the relationship between science and values. Here one could study he nature of the scientific thinking and pursuit of the value of Truth through science. There is also the contention that just as there is science which deals with the knowledge of the outer universe, even so there is a science which relates to the domain of inner universe. Both these sciences need to be harmonised.
At present, there is a new subject which is coming up in the forefront, and that is the theme of consciousness. This subject should be introduced with a special emphasis on the relationship between body and mind, and also the study of the body and mind as the science of yoga looks upon them. This subject can also be studied in the context of evolution, and it can be argued that evolution does not stop merely at the evolution of man and that there is a possibility
of mutation of species.
What is called philosophy of religion could also be a part of the curriculum at the tertiary level. It is here that certain features of universal religions could be studied with the methods of comparative studies. Particularly, we may emphasise the study of Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism, Christianity, Islam and Sikhism. Along with these religions, there should be a detailed study of the lives of great personalities associated with these religions, or various systems of yoga such as Rama, Krishna, Buddha, Mahavira, Zoroaster, Moses, Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohammed, Guru Nanak, Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo.
What is called psychology of religion and spirituality could also be studied at least at the elementary level, and here the emphasis could be on the study of psychology of worship and prayer, psychology of action without desire, psychology of concentration including that of meditation and contemplation. Yoga and psychology of spiritual experiences could also
be included such as those of liberation from ego, cosmic consciousness, transcendental consciousness and spiritual transformation and perfection.
Along with the subject of science and values, one could also have in this programme the study of art and values, and in this connection, the followings questions could be discussed:
Another important subject which could be proposed is that of environment and values, and the following themes can be discussed:
earth, including human species. In this connection, various attitudes towards environment which are present in Indian culture and ancient culture could also be emphasised.
Finally, special studies should be made for physical culture and its values. This study should include the concept of health, strength, agility, grace and beauty. One could also introduce here the concept of ideal sportsman and sportswoman, and one could explain the specific contribution that can be made for the promotion of values of physical culture through gymnastics, athletics, aquatics, martial arts and games.
A programme for value-oriented education at the tertiary level should also include a special study of Indian culture and Indian system of values. It should also include the study of Indian religion and spirituality, Indian ethics and Indian concept of dharma, Indian literature, Indian art, Indian architecture, and Indian polity.
It may be suggested that these programmes can be spread over three years of courses.
In the light of the foregoing, it may be said that the aim of the curriculum for the Applied Philosophy should be:
The following tentative programme should be suggested for a three-year undergraduate course for Applied Philosophy:
A good deal of research work would be needed to mature our thinking on the proposed subject of Applied Philosophy, and a greater effort will be needed to identify and prepare the required teaching-learning material.
What is suggested in these objects is merely to stimulate thought and co-operation of all who would like to be associated with the development of Applied Philosophy in our country.