Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Response to ‘Inductive Knowledge Reasoning and Lokavidya' - Syed Sayeed

I am sorry but the difference in method of reasoning between scientific knowledge and lokavidya (folk knowledge?) is not clear to me. What is the conception of scientific knowledge employed here? I think this is a derivative notion. There is only scientific method and it is purely validatory in function (This might be unregenerate Popperism but what exactly is the alternative we are positing?). It is of course possible to argue that there are indigenous knowledge systems whose elements may not be amenable to existing protcols of scientific procedure. But that can only be an argument for an expansion/reform of scientific method. Whether it would justify a classification and whether such a classification would be of great practical value, I am doubtful.

I have problems also with the idea of rationality or method of reasoning used here. It is true that a completely contingent content has been given to rationality, making it conform to certain western forms of life. What we need to do in this context is to insist on a less substantive, more rigorously formal notion of rationality. I myself prefer to insist on defining rationality in terms of being in possession of good reasons for one’s behaviour, grounding what constitutes ‘good reasons’ in diverse ways of life without necessarily lapsing into arbitrary relativism.

The second paragraph I find frankly poetic in the sense of being suggestive and evocative but full of hermeneutic pitfalls. The underlying idea seems to be draw an analogy with or extend the idea of instinct to human behavior in certain situations. This seems to me to be bristling with dangers. The invocation of instinct in human contexts can entail all sorts of bizarre consequences. Moreover, why should we take the confessedly atypical behaviour exhibited in extreme or abnormal situations as constituting the norm even for those group of people? Are we not risking reducing lokavidya to survival oriented unreflexive responses?

I have not understood the specific way in which the contrast between inductive and deductive reasoning is sought here. I must confess that I find the third paragraph even more problematic. It is one thing to say – using my own paradigm – that agents may not be conscious of the good reasons that prompt their action, and quite another to equate that action with unreflective behaviour that may not be in any way rationally or ethically justifiable according to the norms of that very group of people.

It is all right to use of the context of diplacement to understand the rationale of a certain behaviour but beyond that I do not see how we can relate the question of such action with the issue of displacement per se, the latter being an issue for a debate on models of development. Here my position is that it is simplistic and counterproductive to declare development as evil. We have to unpack the notion of developoment and return its various strands to where they belong – such as some vested interests and some thoughtless and insensitive policies originating in a certain kind of governmentality.

I must also say that the rhetoric of the concluding statement makes me uneasy. It is not clear to me what it is supposed to entail. It is possible that in saying all this I have been guilty of precisely the way of thinking implicitly under criticism in the lokavidya approach. But it would be useful to have a more explicit criticism.

I am sure that those who have been thinking about the idea of lokavidya and related issues have clarity on all these questions and have good answers. But I am also sure that there are a lot of people who are not clear on these questions and a debate on them will help them understand and join this movement with greater conviction and enthusiasm.

Please treat these remarks only as an attempt to initiate such a debate. This may not be the most important debate in this context but it will certainly help many others like me.

Syed Sayeed

Professor, Art Aesthetics and Comparative Philosophy,

English and Foreign Languages University,


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your appreciation and warnings.

    I postponed my clarification of the methods employed in my post, because I did not wish the philosophic aspect to take up too much space in the blog. However, the last two paragraphs of your response seemed to demand that I take some responsibility for a possible loss of support from people who may 'join the movement with greater conviction and enthusiasm'. I believe that such an opinion perhaps has to do with two or three threads in my post. As for the poetic element you may see some description in http://infinity-yoga.blogspot.com.

    1. The domination of deductive logic in the so called 'scientific method of discovery of truth' even though the mathematics it uses has both deductive and inductive logic in its methods of proof. And today there are even stochastic elements ( for almost all elements of a set except for a measure zero subset ) in the proof

    2. Individual centered capitalism reduced all scientific thought to deductive logic ( 'my experience' and 'my work', 'my understanding', ... 'rationally a consequence of my following such and such principles' of the smart worker who wins the prize ) are granted the class of abstract universal principles of axiomatic truth. And this may have contributed to the above. I believe this has to do with the necessity of algorithmic implementation of laws and their understanding, for creation of machines for the displacement of ( human ) labour. In the discussion of scientific rationality, the important thing seems to be 'construction of machines' and not morality or truth.

    3. Lokavidya is unconditionally 'not my experience, not my idea, not my understanding....', it flows from eternity in the society I find myself in, and I am almost like everyone else, counting one, two, three,.... Thus, this logic is apparently antithesis of the former in #2, although an individual, irrespective of his belief, will experience mental projections of what he calls 'physical objects', which are as if they originate as 'names' (called by his ancestors) whose meaning he is forced to seek, confront, on a daily basis. I think that is also the meaning of "...the Word was God."(John 1:1)

    4. Because of item #2 above, within capitalism, the infinite freedom experienced by the follower of Lokavidya , is torn away from the being when he is cast in the role of a labourer. In practice this is inexorably experienced by every child who grew up in an autonomous (farmer /producer / artisan / cowherd's) home and became a laborer.

    I must clarify that to my mind that rhetoric statement,' It appears that the life cycle of lokavidya is either incomprehensible like life itself or it is comprehensible like the conflicts of human life, wherein lokavidya is in eternal conflict with exploitative wage labor?' arises from all the above put together.

    Surendran KK