Nov 27, 2011

Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee (Winner of the Man Booker Prize for 1999): Book Review

UK Edition Cover
Disgrace by J.M. Coetzee is a story of the relationship between man and history. Set in post-apartheid South Africa, it explores how the forces of larger historical change often translate perversely, at times antithetically, in the lives of particular individuals. Also, through the first half, the book dwells on the state of mind of an individual, who has been thrust upon with a pervasive sense of obsolescence in his personal and professional life by sociopolitical and personal events.  

The protagonist of the story is the somewhat inscrutable David Lurie, a professor of Communication at a South African university who perfunctorily undergoes the ritual motions of teaching to a generation of students disinterested in his subject – Romantic Literature (the alien character of classical European studies in the African context is the subtext). He is twice divorced, has no intimate personal relationships and is sufficiently aware of his status as a reject of the changed circumstances of his life (personal and national life). He has an essentially pessimistic view of the corrigibility of man beyond a certain age and he persistently questions, both in soliloquy and through his conduct, the nature and effect of the Repression of instinctual desires, upon which the moral foundation of civilized society rests.

Oct 26, 2011

Sanjit 'Bunker' Roy: Learning from a barefoot movement

In Rajasthan, India, an extraordinary school teaches rural women and men -- many of them illiterate -- to become solar engineers, artisans, dentists and doctors in their own villages. It's called the Barefoot College, and its founder, Bunker Roy, explains how it works in this fascinating TEDtalk.

The Barefoot College has one mission: to provide basic services and solutions in rural communities with the objective of making them self-sufficient. These “barefoot solutions” can be broadly categorized into solar energy, water, education, health care, rural handicrafts, people’s action, communication, women’s empowerment and wasteland development. The Barefoot College education program, for instance, teaches literacy and also skills, encouraging learning-by-doing. (Literacy is only part of it.)  Bunker’s organization has also successfully trained grandmothers from Africa and the Himalayan region to be solar engineers so they can bring electricity to their remote villages. As he says, Barefoot College is "a place of learning and unlearning: where the teacher is the learner and the learner is the teacher."

Sanjit 'Bunker' Roy (born 2 August 1945) is an Indian social activist and educator. He was selected as one of Time 100, the 100 most influential personalities in the world by TIME Magazine in 2010.

Sep 28, 2011

Democracy vs Republic - Essential differences & Speculations on Future Politics of the world: Part 1

Signing of the US Constitution: A great political milestone in Human History
I have, by now, come across enough people innocent of the difference between Democracy and Republicanism to conclude, with justified confidence, that the two terms exist entangled and enmeshed in the political imagination of most ordinary folks.

(What follows is a slightly discursive foray that might help contextualize the crux of the article)

Upon some reflection it does however become obvious that such an obscure and hazy understanding of the finer points of distinction between the two is, in fact, a contingent relic of modern history. It (the confounding of democracy and republicanism with each other) is  a part of the normative 'common sense’ in a period of world history where the dominant form of political organization is supposed to be both - republican and democratic. 

Indeed, except for the odd Kingdoms, Principalities and Emirates almost every polity in the world today officially calls itself a Republic and a majority of those also append Democracy to their formal names for good measure.
Surely, much of that is just political posturing, an attempt to legitimize the status-quo by those who benefit from it. In the Economist Intelligence Units’ Democracy Index, only 26 countries are characterized as Full Democracies and just another 53 as Flawed Democracies… meaning thereby that the rest of them are less democratic than whatever measure of Democratization is conveyed by the adjective Flawed when used to adjectivize the noun Democracy!!!!

It is even more problematic, to categorize a polity in terms of its Republican character as such a characterization would be utterly dependent on how expansively (or narrowly) we conceptualize a Republic. We run the risk of trivialization in attempting to frame it too broadly, say, if any polity governed by limited power is supposed a Republic then it could imply that ALL the polities in the world today are Republics, as even the Kingdoms, Emirates and Principalities are NOT (and CAN not be), as a matter of practice, ruled by unlimited unrestrained absolute power.

Sep 20, 2011

Final Solution - A Documentary investigating the Genocide of Minorities (Muslims) in the 2002 Gujarat Riots in India

I'm sharing this film on the blog in the context of the recent propaganda being issued by the communal right-wing parties in the Indian news media projecting Narendra Modi as a likely candidate for India's Prime Ministership. That, if happens, I maintain will be an unconscionable Ethical Catastrophe.

Final Solution by Rakesh Sharma is a study of the politics of hate. Set in Gujarat during the period Feb/March 2002 - July 2003, the film graphically documents the changing face of right-wing politics in India through a study of the 2002 genocide of Moslems in Gujarat. It specifically examines political tendencies reminiscient of the Nazi Germany of early/mid-1930s.
Final Solution is anti-hate/anti-violence as “those who forget history are condemned to relive it”.

Final Solution was banned in India by the Censor Board for several months. The ban was lifted in Oct.'04 after a sustained campaign (an online petition, hundreds of protest screenings countrywide, multi-city signature campaigns and dozens of letters to the Government sent by audiences directly).

A pirate-and-circulate campaign was conducted in protest against the ban (get-a-free-copy-only-if-you-promise-to-pirate-and-make-5-copies). Over 10,000 free Video CDs of the film were distributed in India during this campaign, which ended in Dec. 2004. Final Solution was offered free to Anhad for their campaigns; it was included in their anthology titled "In defence of our dreams". Subscribers of several journals/mags also got a copy of the film free of cost. These included Communalism Combat (Ed : Teesta Setalvad and Javed Anand), Samayik Varta (Ed : Yogendra Yadav), Janmat and several smaller journals.

Final Solution was rejected by the government-run Mumbai International Film Festival, but was screened at 'Vikalp: Films for Freedom', organised by the Campaign Against Censorship. Rakesh Sharma has been an active member of the Campaign since its inception.

Rakesh has been working on distribution of the film on a full-time basis since March 2004. Formally, about 21,000 video CDs and 4,000 DVDs of the film have been distributed. Informal circulation estimates ( post the pirate-and-circulate campaign) put the number somewhere between 40,000 to 100,000 copies. The film is now being dubbed in Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada and Tamil. An additional 25,000 video CDs of the language versions are expected to be released soon.

The film has been screened on BBC, NHK, DR2, YLE and several other channels. It is yet to be shown on Indian television.


Sep 13, 2011

Yasheng Huang: Does democracy stifle economic growth? (A fresh comparative analysis of China and India)

Economist Yasheng Huang compares China to India, and asks how China's authoritarian rule contributed to its astonishing economic growth -- leading to a big question: Is democracy actually holding India back? Huang's answer may surprise you.

MIT and Fudan University professor Yasheng Huang is an authority on how to get ahead in emerging economies. The China and India Labs he founded at MIT's Sloan School of Management specialize in helping local startups improve their strategies. His book Capitalism with Chinese Characteristics (2008) chronicles three decades of economic reform in China and documents the critical role that private entrepreneurship played in the Communist nation’s “economic miracle.” Huang believes that China is moving away from Marxism (public ownership) but not Leninism (ideology of state control) -- and that strong social fundamentals are the key reason for its growth.

Aug 30, 2011

The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga (Winner of the Man Booker Prize for 2008): Book Review

The First Edition Cover
‘The White Tiger’ is a compelling story compellingly told. It picks up, from the unyieldingly vast socio-political mosaic of India, a fragment that has more-often-than-not been airbrushed beyond recognition in the popular imagination and sidestepped, on account of moral inconvenience, by the  mainstream cultural commentators.

In his debut novel Aravind Adiga anatomizes many of the subterranean sociological contradictions of the ‘rooster coop’ that is India (for most of its citizens anyway) in a hard-hitting mind-expanding manner. 

He renders readily comprehensible, the fabricated made-for-television character of the ‘India Emerging’ narrative that has painstakingly been manufactured, propagated and re-enforced in the cultural consciousness of urban middle class India (and indeed in the minds of media reportage-dependent international ‘India Observers’).

One can’t help but suspect that Adiga had in mind to subtly embody a revolutionary manifesto for the subalterns and the oppressed of India in this book. The whole book is suffused with philosophical irony and replete with tragicomic references to the daily subjugations that the countless Indian underclasses are inflicted with, as a matter of culturally sanctioned custom.

Jul 31, 2011

Scandinavia: The Best Place on Earth - What Emile Durkheim Never Knew!!

The empirical fact, easily  and freely accessible to anyone who can do as much as a goggle search, is that the Scandinavian countries (Norway, Sweden, Denmark and for all intensive purposes Finland, Iceland and Netherlands) ARE... the top (or the top category) of pretty much EVERY meaningful metric of human well-being LIKE...

Jul 30, 2011

Paul Bloom: The origins of pleasure

Why do we like an original painting better than a forgery? Psychologist Paul Bloom argues that human beings are Essentialists (as in Essentialism) -- that our beliefs about the history of an object profoundly change how we experience it, not simply as an illusion, but as a deep feature of what pleasure (and pain) actually is.

Paul Bloom is a Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Yale University. His research explores how children and adults understand the physical and social world, with special focus on language, morality, religion, fiction, and art. Paul Bloom's latest book is called How Pleasure Works - which is indicative of the kinds of questions he looks at, the big basic ones:  Why do we like some things and not others? How do we decide what's fair and unfair? How much of our moral development, what we think of as our mature reasoning process, is actually hard-wired and present in us from birth? 

I strongly recommend Paul Blooms' introductory course on Psychology (Psych 110 - delivered at Yale) available as a serial webcast on youtube. I've done it and its awesome!!

Jul 15, 2011

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig: Book Review

The context…
‘Zen and the art of Motorcycle maintenance’ (ZAMM) is the largest selling philosophical novel ever. It is listed in the Guinness book of world records as the bestselling book that faced the highest number of rejections (121) before finally finding a willing publisher. It is a window into the mind of a remarkable man (author Robert Pirsig) whose obsession with the ‘grand truths’ of life took him to the verge of self-destruction and even beyond it (he was institutionalized for Insanity and forcibly put through electroconvulsive shock therapy). He is a defining example of a genius (he was tested to have an IQ of 170, a 1-in-50000 result) as traditionally conceived – coruscating and inspirational but tortured and solipsistic.

The book itself…
is essentially an exposition of a new philosophical thesis that is put forth embodied in a series of meditative reflections interspersing the course of a motorcycle journey through northwestern United States.
The narrator has his son Chris for a pillion during the entire journey; it must be said that a certain poignant tension continually attends their relationship which progressively reveals itself in the course of events.

Pirsig and his son on the roadtrip described in the book (Actual photograph)
Then of course there is the constant companion, the motorcycle, which the narrator recurrently employs (as a readily accessible epistemological and ethical object) in his annotations to ‘concretize’ the many otherwise often abstract themes.
There are a host of other characters, none of whom occupy the Mise-en-scène throughout, but all of them serve as exemplars of a more general ‘type’ and help in anatomizing, for the reader, the many varied perspectives that stood considered by the author en route to his grand thesis.

Opinions on Ron Paul's economics :|

The following is (also) a case against the calls for dissolution of central banks worldwide.

Ron paul's analysis of the financial crisis is unsophisticated and his understanding of economics superficial . His contrived contrarian views seem to be an attempt to gain public office. TO EQUATE the Fed's lending operations to the tune of 5 trillion dollars to the treasury and the major banks in exchange for underperforming-nevertheless-undervalued securities WITH an equivalent increase in deficit is intellectually puerile .

"Fed in it's history of lending to financial institutions hasn't lost a single cent" says Ben Bernanke.

Jun 13, 2011

Paanch (2003) (Dir- Anurag Kashyap): Movie Review

Directed by Anurag Kashyap
At the outset, it’d be in order to mention that this is the well-known theatrically unreleased film that was in the news (in 2003 and afterwards) over the ethical exceptions that the Censor Board of India had taken to it while denying it permission to release. It held that the film "glorifies violence; it shows the modus operandi of a crime (killing of a police officer); it shows excessive use of drugs; it has double meaning dialogues (with sexual undertones); it has no positive characters; it does not carry a social message".

That episode resulted in further intensification of the lasting antagonism that marked (and continues to mark) the relationship between iconoclastic brigands of Indian cinema (with director Anurag Kashyap at the vanguard) and the government-appointed sentinels of public morality who run the Censor Board.

It was primarily through p2p torrent networks and file-hosting sites like Dingora that ‘Paanch’ trickled into the  audiovisual precincts of movie aficionados and elicited reactions that spanned the spectrum from disturbing/disgusting to captivating/thrilling. It has since then developed a sort of cult following among fans of the ‘psychological thriller’ genre.

Jun 2, 2011

Ed Boyden: A light switch for neurons **Jaw Dropping**

Ed Boyden shows how, by inserting genes for light-sensitive proteins into brain cells, he can selectively activate or de-activate specific neurons with fiber-optic implants. With this unprecedented level of control, he's managed to cure mice of analogs of PTSD and certain forms of blindness. On the horizon: neural prosthetics. Session host Juan Enriquez leads a brief post-talk Q&A.

Below:A visual representation of the genesis and logic of Optogenetics. Click on it view larger image

May 31, 2011

RSA Animate - Language as a Window into Human Nature by Steven Pinker

In this new RSAnimate Steven Pinker shows us how the mind turns the finite building blocks of language into infinite meanings.

May 7, 2011

Exploring Paradoxes: A Refutation of the ‘Cosmological Argument’ for existence of God: Part 2

'Impossible Object' based on the Penrose Triangle:
An Examples of a Visuo-Cognitive Illusion. It Shows
how easily human perceptions based on intuition
can be fooled.
Comparison of paradoxes:  to discriminate between the 'Cognitive Paradox' and the 'Logical Paradox'

Now Paradox 1 (P1) is, as I’ve already pointed out a readily recognizable case of reasoning that appears satisfactory upon a casual run through the mind but reduces to a self-entangled mess upon serious reflection. To re-iterate... this is what is an ACTUAL case of a paradox.

Whereas Paradox 2 (P2) is, I would contend, only an ‘Apparent Paradox’ while actually being a perfectly legitimate logical scenario with no necessary falsehoods. Surely it does exude unmistakable paradoxedness for many people… and that is precisely what I’d account for.

De-constructing the Cognitive Illusion of ‘Beginnings and Ends’
a.) Differentiatedness of Cognition
The origin of this strong “feeling” or “sense” or “intuition” of a paradox, the paradoxedness therein, lays in one of the most fundamental features of human cognition, in fact it may be said, in the very foundational quality of human cognition – THE DIFFERENTIATEDNESS OF THE COGNITIVE FIELD. (which gives rise to certain ‘cognitive order(s)’ i.e. intrinsic patterns… that we ‘impose’ on the world of experience to cognitively apprehend it… we’ll come to this part later!!!)
Cognitive field here is the sum total of all that one cognizes, i.e. the total aggregate Sentience of a being, Experience considered in its phenomenological fullness!! To now grasp what Differentiatedness means, it’d do us good to begin by thinking counterfactually, so we’d first attempt to define what Undifferentiatedness of the cognitive field could mean! 
 Undifferentiated is a cognitive field without any differentiation, without any cognitive contours, without any cognitive definition, without any foreground-background relation, without any object-subject dichotomy, without any gradient of intensity, without any Qualia…. In fact it is a cognitive field approaching (but not equal to) Non-Sentience or Non-Cognition or “Cognitive Nothingness” … While Differentiation is the original process that generates “Cognitive Thingness”!

Apr 25, 2011

Exploring Paradoxes: A Refutation of the ‘Cosmological Argument’ for existence of God: Part 1

A Rational View: Unbegining Unending Universe
  •   Objects and Purposes

The objective of this post is to posit and hopefully establish a distinction… that between what I call a ‘cognitive paradox’ and what is popularly understood as a ‘logical paradox’. This I will undertake to do within the larger context of rendering bare some shortcomings of the oft proffered ‘Cosmological argument’ for the existence of god which maintains god as a logical necessity insofar a first cause or a prime mover is a logical necessity in explaining the existence of the universe. Concomitantly, we will consider an alternative view, that of an unbegining unending eternal universe and, most importantly from my standpoint, undertake to tackle in a novel manner some of the apparent paradoxes that arise whilst considering such a view, by considering them as either of the kind Logical or the kind Cognitive.

In the first place, it will be in order to disclose as to why is it that of the myriad philosophical constructions that attempt to rationalize the idea of a god, I chose the Cosmological Argument(henceforth CA) to be the subject of my considered rebuttal. The answer lies in the erotics of Cosmological Argument! It’s sheer simplicity, semblant sufficiency and most of all its psychological self-evidence is what has made CA perhaps the most profound mass-misunderstanding that underpins a belief in god. To the philosophically insensitive the CA, or some plebeian variation of it, is what most ordinarily secures a belief in a god. Even amongst the ones in the habit of thought, there is a considerable faction that lends its credulity to the CA without any significant reservations that I contend are to be unmistakably felt. It has been a part of classical natural theology since at least the ancient Greeks and even Islamic theology has had its discourse on the CA. I should proceed with a brief introduction to the CA. Some of the prominent philosophers who've made the Cosmological Argument in their philosophies are: Plato, Aristotle, Avicenna (Ibn Sina), Gottfried Leibniz, Thomas Aquinas, San Bonaventure, Samuel Clarke and many others.

  • The cosmological Argument:  A Primer

As someone describes it fairly well(for our purpose) on Wikipedia:

                                       “…The cosmological argument is an argument for the existence of a First Cause (or instead, an Uncaused cause) to the universe, and by extension is often used as an argument for the existence of an "unconditioned" or "supreme" being, usually then identified as God.
                                         It is traditionally known as an argument from universal causation, an argument from first cause, the causal argument or the argument from existence. The basic premise of all of these is that something caused the Universe to exist, and this First Cause must be God..."

To reiterate, the basic reasoning embodied in the CA (at least in the popular imagination) is roughly outlined below.

Ahem… there is a universe > it is ordered by cause-effect relationships > all that is there must have been caused by something before it > there must be a long cycle of causes that run back to the beginning of the universe > there needs to be a prime cause or a first cause that set in motion the subsequent cause-effect chain(s) > Voila … that must be god!!!

Apr 8, 2011

Michael Pawlyn: Using nature's genius to transform Architecture and Society

Michael Pawlyn takes cues from nature to make new, sustainable architectural environments. How can architects build a new world of sustainable beauty? By learning from nature. At TEDSalon in London, Michael Pawlyn describes three habits of nature that could transform architecture and society: Radical Resource Efficiency, Closed Loops, and drawing energy from the Sun.

Mar 22, 2011

Whatever Works (2009): Movie Review *spoilers*

Typical of most of my anachronistic reviews, this has been long overdue.

Like most woody allen fare, the tales of jaded quantum physicist Boris Yellnikoff (Larry David) transpire in New York city, whereto the hypochondriacal misanthrope moves after a failed suicide attempt, relinquishing his professorship at Columbia university and divorcing his wife of many years. This transition is precipitated by his biological decay, his disillusionment with the human condition and the institution of marriage, alongwith the reinforcement of his convictions on the futility of life.

Around his new abode in the lower east side, Boris meets optimists, which includes philosophical scholars and butchers among contrarians of other stripes , who engage with him over crumpets and apple pie on subjects ranging from the Original intentions of Karl Marx to medical malpractice.He also takes to coaching toddlers in the fine game of chess and takes great delight in calling them “cretins” to rake his wherewithal. These activities tide him over from one afternoon to another and appear to make the ordeal he calls life bearable.As he returns one evening from his ritualistic ranting and raving at the bakery, he is affrighted by the fascinatingly dense Melody(Evan Rachel wood), who emerges from under a pile of cardboard boxes and begs for sustenance . Briefly reluctant, Boris begrudgingly relents after kibitzing her lifestyle and offers her shelter for the night and the night alone. 

Mar 18, 2011

A Loner-in-the-world

Imagination consigns one to utter connectedness 
with all else... even amidst apparent isolation
I am hard pressed to conjure a metaphor that might sufficiently and poignantly embody the existence of a loner, a loner in the world, in the strange world of socially actuated indivuduals; 

...a stray note in a harmonic symphony, a system out of sync with the rythm of things around it, an outsider 'peeping in' on socieity, anxious occupant of the vantage point in a solipsistic inner world... perhaps!! 

How married couples without children struggle to anchor thier social intercourse with other couples who have and are preoccupied with children; how an individual who does not marry suddenly runs out of common ground with those around him as they all get hitched; how a student dropping year after school experiences a lessening camaradrie with friends already in college; ...that i reckon is somewhat how a loner feels in the company of those used to having enduring personalized social relationships. 

Just as parent-talk made only idiosyncratic sense to children, leftist talk did to the rightist, scinence-talk to the artist, idealistic-talk to the pragmatist... social talk might make only non-intuitive sense to the loner, even though be it so that he or she fully comprehends it, understands it... just that he or she does not wish to organically partake in it... does not experience life as that!!

He is not self-centred, not ego-maniacal, not delusional neccessarily. He need not be disordered, dysfunctional or pathological. It is quite plausible, and perhaps often the case, that he internalises the social experience of existence on a different ontological register. His representations of other people, and other peoples' relations to other people, are logical, rational, dry, un-dramatic, un-romantic, un-fuzzy but completely empathetic, sincere, honest and imbued with a certain order, structure, function.

Mar 2, 2011

A thing is what it is measured to be: The illusion of immeasurability of existence (A Prelude)

A relatively inflexible, mostly facile but a rigidly stable world-view imbued with certainty is what constitutes the received wisdom for most people .... it is what becomes of their acculturation, their foreclosed attempts to understand life. Whereas for the  ones sophisticated in the habits of thought, it becomes fashionable to brandish a sort of wholesale skepticism which dismisses all philosophical dictums as mere culture-bound prejudices and worse still, rationalizations of the prevailing power relations in the concerned society. While the contribution toward maintenance of civilizational equilibrium of the former is clearly discernible, so is the contribution of the latter toward the occasional revolutionary disruption of that equilibrium that is essential for enabling progress; But what ought also be clearly understood... is that none of them are any the better in their claim to veridicality.

Both these 'epistemic attitudes' represent an obfuscation, of opposite kinds,  of reality - one attributes asphyxiating changelessness to the prevailing notion of reality while the other plunges it into absurd super-fluidity.

Feb 18, 2011

Optogenetics: Holding out the promise of a Mechanistic Mind?

In the quest to map the brain, many scientists have attempted the incredibly daunting task of recording the activity of each neuron. Gero Miesenboeck works backward - manipulating specific neurons to figure out exactly what they do, through a series of stunning experiments that reengineer the way fruit flies perceive light. 

Feb 11, 2011


In the grand scheme of things, i don't quite know anything at all that is more salient about our individual existences than the infinite landscape of ignorance that we trudge every moment of life, and manage only to map a laughably finite portion of it. The more one knows... the more one knows how much massively more one does not know. 

In a crude analogy for the quantitatively oriented, one might say that for every unit of even intelligent existence there is always more, much many more, units of ignorance than units of any other phenomenon. Thus my point about ignorance being the most salient phenomena of individual existence. 

In an ironic sort of way then.. the superiority of one's intellect is the extent, intent and clarity of the awareness of one's own ignorance. 

Anyhow, the point of the post is to share (the web link is at the end of the post) a remarkable set of 164 responses to the question "WHAT SCIENTIFIC CONCEPT WOULD IMPROVE EVERYBODY'S COGNITIVE TOOLKIT?". 

Jan 29, 2011

Denis Dutton: A Darwinian theory of beauty

TED collaborates with animator Andrew Park to illustrate Denis Dutton's provocative theory on beauty -- that art, music and other beautiful things, far from being simply "in the eye of the beholder," are a core part of human nature with deep evolutionary origins.

Denis Dutton (9 February 1944 – 28 December 2010) was an academic, web entrepreneur and libertarian media commentator/activist. He was a professor of philosophy at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. He was also a co-founder and co-editor of the websites Arts & Letters Daily, and

Jan 26, 2011

The Great War of the 21st Century: Its Nature and Consequences

Will Durant, the author of The Story of Civilization (in ten volumes), notes that out of more than 3000 years of recorded human history ONLY 268 were without war

It is difficult to decide whether this fact mocks human rationality or justifies war as a necessary trait of human progress. But without doubt it provides an important clue to the overpowering human instinct: to fight other fellow men. 

Thus, each century bears evidence to this instinctive adventure by its share of great wars: the 20th century has World War I and II, 19th century has Napoleonic wars and American Civil war, 18th century has French Revolutionary War and so on. This century excels previous ones as it has seen almost 10 out of its 11 years as war. So this war is longest in the last 200 years and thus can be and must be called Great War of 21st century. This article is an attempt to see the future of this war by comparing it to the theoretical concept of war. 

At a theoretical level war is defined as an “act of force to compel our adversaries to do our will.”[2] Two points are notable in this definition: First, the existence of the action that involves force, and second, the objective behind using force. The objective of the use of force is to create such conditions for the opponent that it has to comply with our will. 

On the nature of Reality: A trialogue between a Rationalist, a Postmodernist and a Realist

Somewhere, in the middle of nowhere, 3 men contemplate...

Postmodernist: I assuredly believe in the non-existence of any objective reality. It's all relative..all in the mind of the observer !!

Rationalist: Hmm.... i don't agree... I’d say that 'truth' in-itself is absolute, and 'untruth' in-itself is absolute too, only 'nontruth' is not absolute. A system of knowledge based on relativity of multiplicity of nontruths can never lead to any conclusion which is true insofar the conclusion is based entirely on the mutuality of nontruths

Postmodernist: Voah Voah.... Hold on.... what is truth? what is untruth? what is nontruth?

Rationalist: this is an epistemological classification (not an ontological one mind you). So for the sake of argument, one may suppose...

'truth/true' - to be the attribute of a proposition, the content of which, is in perfect correspondence with an entitative reality

'untruth/untrue' - to be the attribute of a proposition, the content of which, is  positively NOT in prefect correspondence with an entitative reality

'non-truth/non-true' - to be the attribute of a proposition, the content of which, can neither be determined to be in correspondence with an entitative reality nor can it be determined to be not in correspondence with an entitative reality. (mostly, NOT always, this is a property of propositions which have a structural contradiction)

Postmodernist: OK… go on.. Now explain how does your argument above prove me wrong?

Jan 24, 2011

The Inner World - A Psychoanalytic Study of Childhood and Society in India by Sudhir Kakar: Book Review

Cover of the third and current edition
Written by the foremost amongst Indian psychologists, this one, undoubtedly ought to be a part of any modern canon on India. 

Composed originally in 1978, the book represents one of the last non-bowdlerized socio-cultural theses of considerable repute that was conceived before the post-modernist age of academic hypersensitivity to cultural differences.

It has,  ever since, become impossible for most in the Western intellectual mainstream to be forthright in judging different cultures and peoples for the fear of violating any tenet of moral relativism. Sudhir Kakar, evidently, suffered no such compunctions in writing this classic. 

He trenchantly explains varied social phenomena of India from the theoretical standpoint of Sigmund Freud's psycho-sexual dynamics and  Erik Erikson's psycho-social dynamics. His focus neatly resolves itself into a multiplexed analysis of the Indian mind-scape into different layers conditioned by the Patriarchal social structure,  the Maternal over-indulgence of the infant, the institution of Caste, the magical world of Myths and folklores, the  upbringing in a Joint family system and the practice of Arranged marriages.

Jan 22, 2011

Meditation on Michael Mann's Methods

(Circa The 1960’s)
Sequence 1 (0:51-1:02)

(Late one night, Police Car Siren sounds sporadically. The Vehicle approaches a pedestrian )
White Police officer to Black Youth(AKA Cassius Clay): What chu running from son?
Cassius Clay ( Jogs on Pensively, not saying a word) : Inequity!…. Persecution!….Murderous Prejudice!….Racist Criminal Justice system.

Sequence 2 (2:50-3:12)

Artisan African-American father renders finishing strokes to a portrait of Jesus Christ and an apostle
Young Son , in the backdrop, watches father paint, while ruminating over his future.
(Jazz music full of expectant guitar riffs and drum cymbals used to score the scene.)

Jan 17, 2011

Herman & Chomsky's 'Propaganda Model': It Still Holds

Book(1988) was made into a documentary(1992) 
Brief investigation into the current standards of Newsworthiness and Most Preliminary assessment of US Media Performance has revealed for me 

that 22 years since the publication of the seminal ‘Manufacturing Consent’

a) The Institutional structures of the Propaganda Model* are intact if not burgeoning AND

b) The patterns of Media Coverage validate the model’s forecasts in many instances- as is illustrated by the abbreviated case study performed below.

*What is the Propaganda Model?

Propaganda Model is the analytical framework that attempts to debunk the Mythology

>>The constituents of the US Media( Print & Electronic) are the Purveyors of Truth ,sentinels of our inalienable liberties and institute in themselves a system of checks and balances that is supposed to preclude the abuse of political office, military resources and Civil Rights among their other purported functions<<

Burn After Reading (2008): Movie Review *spoilers*

The Transfer of CIA analyst (John Malkovich) to a lower clearance level on seemingly dubious grounds sets in motion a sequence of events which find their denouement in either the Nervous breakdown,expatriation OR Murder of every central character except for that of the figurative agent(Frances McDormand) responsible for this bedlam and carnage.All … for half a done cosmetic surgeries. Chekhov anyone! (To compare is To Insult so I wont develop this analogy)

I however will take the liberty of deciphering and summarizing The Films Overarching precis :

>> Not only are we-from Federal Marshals to Fitness instructors without exception - inscrupulously self serving but are also criminally vacuous; and the amalgamation of these attributes in Individuals is invariably fatal for those who surround them.<< Furthermore, That summary almost defines the Black Comedy Genre .

Jan 16, 2011

The Man from Earth (2007): Movie Review

A Still from the movie
This one is an utterly cerebral affair. That Jerome Bixby let three decades pass between conceiving and completing the screenplay for this piece-of-art is altogether condonable. A 'remarkable cinematic accomplishment by a team of unremarkable people' has been the long-n-short of this films' post-release existence.

Released largely on the Internet and spread through p2p networks, it was the ordinary internetizens who proliferated the web with copious offerings of positive reviews which abetted the movie's emergence on the horizons of popular imagination.  The juggernaut still continues to roll as the movie has maintained its upward climb on all major ranking directories. 

Jan 15, 2011

A brief history of the philosophy of Management: Part 2

(This is the second and the final part of a two part guest post by management researcher Kunal Sharma, on a brief History of the Philosophy of Management. He chronicles the evolution of management practices, their philosophical bases and the attendant historical circumstances. He is crisp, precise and impartially analytical and, operating with a bare minimum of factoids, keeps your freedom of thought intact)

  • The New Humanism

Douglas McGregor
In the last section we said that the time had come when organizations were ready to understand their most important constituents – the people. But every understanding will have different views. Though it might sound too harsh, but let us say that if we could start grouping people together in two different categories: in the first category we put those people who believe that people are by nature lazy and would avoid doing work until and unless they are forced to work. These people would, as obvious, think that workers in an organization would need guidance and control at all levels and it would be the organization’s responsibility to assign work to these people, control them, and put them in a strict hierarchy inside the organization. In the second category, we put those people who believe that people are by nature self motivated and exercise self control, therefore, no need for any control or a strict hierarchy. Douglas McGregor (1906 - 1964) was the person, a man of academia, who proposed the Theory X and Y. McGregor identified the people belonging to the first category as the managers who would focus more on authoritative approach to management (Theory X), while those falling in the second category as the one who would focus more on self-control by the workers (Theory Y). Self control by the workers would be thorough empowering the workers and giving them the responsibility for their task.

A brief history of the philosophy of Management: Part 1

(This is the first part of a two part guest post by management researcher Kunal Sharma, on a brief History of the Philosophy of Management. He chronicles the evolution of management practices, their philosophical bases and the attendant historical circumstances. He is crisp, precise and impartially analytical and, operating with a bare minimum of factoids, keeps your freedom of thought intact)

  • Introduction

This short essay provides an overview of major schools of thought and philosophical perspectives in the field of management theory. The focus is on the contribution and the gradual growth of the management thought from the early 20th century to the modern theories of management which influence the thoughts of the 21st century management thinkers. We will focus on Individuals and their contributions to the development of management theory. As obvious, no theory is a product of a single mind, nor can it exist without any context. We will try to see what the situations were which gave rise to the theories – the contexts and the environments in which the thoughts took shape and yielded the well sung theories of management, many of which have become trite yet remain true. 

  • Emergence of Management Philosophy in Academics

Industrial revolution:
The Impetus for management philosophy
When the words “Management Thought” skirt our ears, the alphabets MBA do resonate in our mind. Management has become the synonym of Business Management, and a MBA degree has become a much respected degree of the modern age. Let us spend some time going back to the history to find out when did “Management” gain its focus and when did it get incorporated into the regular courseware. It was in the year 1902 when Dartmouth College in New Hampshire (USA) started the first master’s degree in business education.

Jan 11, 2011

The myth of Individuality: A contrarian take

Individual... In Dividual... Not Divisible... A whole thing... Self-contained... An end unto itself in matters of living. An Individual has in the modern world become a unit-of-existence that is the normative 'level-of-analysis' in deriving ethical wisdom, social conventions, economic structures and institutions of governance among other things.

An individual is often assumed to have autonomous motives, is reposited with agency of causation, credited with full awareness of his needs, considered the locus of morality and each one is thought of as a complete instantiation of humanity. While this view took root first in the west, it is now a credo preached in just about every modern institution in much of all nations of the world. When considered theoretically, it is found to constitute the very foundations of 'classical economics' in particular, the 'capitalist' weltanschauung in general and the popular imagination of urban-middle classes enthymematically.

But the truth, viewed from a dispassionate distance, is that there is scant individualistic about most men, only bantam individualistic about some men and something remarkably individualistic is to be found in only an exiguous few  in a whole generation of men. 

Jan 7, 2011

On the Mind-Body relation: A New Look at Consciousness and Free will

What is thought to be mind? Whence from it cometh? Whither does it go? In what relation to the corporeal organism does it exist? What are, if any, the physical and physiological bases for the mind to emerge? And does it do so as a differentiated organ of the body itself, i.e. is it merely identical with brain or is the unmistakably distinct 'qualia' of mind sufficient reason to consider it a phenomena of its own accord?

Reductionist view: Mind=Mechanics of the Brain
It should be theoretically profitable to consider all these questions as occupants of certain positions on a continuum, at one end of which is a conception of mind-body relation as a strict dichotomy to reconcile, i.e mind and body as 'separate things', the other end of which condenses around the mind-body relation conceived as only an 'illusion of separatedness' and as such (being only an illusion) is to somehow be explained away to establish that mind=brain. The latter view is commonly ascribed the label 'monism' (often 'material monism') and the former 'dualism'. While 'dualism' has been very explicit since Plato in theology and in the popular imagination, the reductionistic Monist view has gained philosophical legitimacy in the scientific age. Though patent limitations of both the positions, when conjured simplistically in the absolute, have launched a frenetic academic search since at least the mid-twentieth century for a viable alternative to the two extremes.

Jan 6, 2011

A peoples History of the United States by Howard Zinn: Book Review

Best Quote from the book -
Susan B Anthony: “Give us suffrage and we’ll give you socialism.”
Eugene V Debs: “Give us socialism and we’ll give you suffrage.”

This book with its thoroughly substantiated arguments for expensive social safety nets might proselytize me into socialism.

Ironically, I am at an institution which preaches the creed and postulates of The Efficient market hypothesis and and exhorts us to avoid "Dead weight loss" at all costs.

Now thats what results in cognitive dissonance. I am torn!

Jan 5, 2011

The sociological, political and moral reality of 'Blasphemy'

Naked Face of Fundamentalist Suppression: Stoning to death for Blasphemy
That human life on earth, or at least its moral underpinnings, aren't based on any immutable, pre-existing divinely-ordained moral wisdom is an arrangement that every wise man comes to comprehend fairly early on in his inquiry into life. 

In fact, it is one of the set of 'exceedingly rare  and but unmistakably accurate' insights into human condition that isn't entombed underneath several intractable layers of deductive logic and is, as it were, accessible to anyone willing just to think free from popular prejudices and in spite of religious compunctions. Unmistakable just as much, is the need to base the human morality on a foundation more stable and less whimsical than mere 'human nature' - as it is given to all evil and vice just as much to all good and virtue. 

It is perhaps a pragmatic compromise then, between these two antagonistic realizations, that in the popular imagination even our manifestly terrestrial moral precepts tend to be fastened and legitimized by divine entrapment and providential diktats.

Make no mistake, even in a secular-rational weltanschauung the 'need for solidity' of moral structures is just as acute as in a worldview that coalesces around a central divinity; and this is served in such case by a more mature philosophical approach, that of 'attributions of universality', i.e, by consecration and elevation of certain moral maxims to the status of 'universals' that have somehow been extracted by the human mind, by contemplation and genius, out of deposits of universal truth that lay deeply buried in an imagined realm of ideas.