Please visit Thinking Skills for the Digital Generation by Athreya and Mouza at Springer.com

Monday, December 16, 2013

Marquis de Condorcet


Marquis de Condorcet (Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, (1743 – 1794) was a mathematician, philosopher and political scientist from France. He belonged to the Age of Enlightenment and played a major part in the French revolution. He was an advocate for free public education, equal rights for women and for people of all races. It is no wonder that his ideas were not accepted universally at his time.

His book on A Historical Review of Progress of the Human Mind (published in 1802) is a classic and it reviews the progress of civilization up to his time. The style is simple and the logic is clear. The first two paragraphs alone are worth reading many times. Here they are: 

Man is born with the faculty of receiving' sensations. In those which he receives, he is capable of perceiving and of distinguishing the simple sensations of which they are composed. He can retain, recognise, combine them. He can preserve or recall them to his memory; he can compare their different combinations ; he can ascertain what they possess in common, and what characterises each : lastly, he can affix signs to all these objects, the better to know them, and the more easily to form from them new combinations.

This faculty is developed in him by the action of external objects, ……… It is also exercised by communication with other similarly organized individuals ………………………. and the development of this faculty already in their possession  of a language for the communication of their wants, and a small number of moral ideas, from which are deduced their common rules of conduct, living in families, conforming themselves to general customs that serve instead of laws, and….”

The following are a few more quotes from that book.

He calls errors of civilization as those based on prejudices. These prejudices are established because “men retain the errors of their infancy, their country, the age in which they live, long after truths necessary to the removal of these errors are acknowledged”.

His list of prejudices include “conversion of enmity and cruelty towards an enemy as a virtue, consignment of women to a life of slavery or obedience, assumption of familial role of wars and battles against the other groups and the development of superstitions”.
Superstitions, prejudices and authority are the three blocks to reason and proper knowledge of the world we live in”.

Commenting on the fact that many institutions support morality of the people by giving false explanation and pretense, he asks how we can trust a system that operates on the principle that “men of enlightened mind have a right to deceive the people, provided they impose only useful truths”.


One of his concluding statements is: “… the exertions of the last ages have done much for the progress of the human mind, but little for the perfection of the human species; much for the glory of man, somewhat for his liberty but scarcely anything for his happiness”.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Mokṣa


(Please note that this is the first time I am using standard scheme of transliteration to write Sanskrit words using English alphabet. It takes more time to compose. But it is worth the effort)

Moka and mukti have the same verb root – muc (pronounced as in book), to let go, release. Mukti is the process and the moksha is the final state. This has different names in different systems of philosophy of India.

It is called apavarga in the Nyaya-Vaiseshika system. This is complete cessation of effort by the soul and its absolute detachment from the body and the mind. In this state there is no happiness or suffering.

In the Samkhya-yoga system it is called Kaivalya (root word, kevala, meaning to stand apart from). This is because of the eternal isolation of Purusha from the Prakriti with its modifications. Since bondage is not a property of Purusha, once the jivan attains this state, it reaches the eternal blissful state of the Purusha.

In Mimamsa, it is called moka which is the stopping of the cycle of samsara and hence release from the cycles of pain and pleasure.

In Buddhism, it is Nirvana, a state of void, state beyond atman. There is Peace, but not the bliss (ananda) of aḍvaita.

In Jainism, it is nirvana, but defined as disintegration of the krmika sarira ( body with actions).

In aivism, it is reaching the abode of bliss which is Kailasam, the abode of Lord iva. In Vainava faith, it is reaching Vaikuntam, the abode of Vinu. In vaitam in general, it is Swargam for the “salvaged” souls. Obviously, it is “narakam” for the “bad souls”.


In Sktam (Devi/Sakti worshippers) it is called apara̅jita.