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Friday, October 31, 2014


Important questions of moral philosophy have been raised in course of the discussion. They have been subjects of endless controversy among academicians and professional philosophers. No useful purpose will be served by our getting involved in the sterile controversy. The controversy was sterile because problems of axiology were discussed in abstraction. The crisis of our time is indeed a moral crisis, but I would not start from that assumption. I would recommend a pragmatic approach to the problem of understanding the crisis of our time. Indeed, we should not start with the assumption that there is a crisis. Our point of departure should be a critical review of the contemporary world situation, which has compelled us to think as we have been doing for the last couple of years. Although we are discussing problems which until now were left to the tender mercies of academicians, they confronted us not as problems of pure thought but as realities of actual life. For us, they are not simply academic problems to be treated with pure logic in abstraction. We are discussing them to draw some very concrete conclusions. I do not feel at all inspired with the mission of offering a moral philosophy to the world. To build the airy structure of a moral philosophy is a waste of energy. Morality must be felt, and for that we do not need books and libraries. They may only confuse. 

The civilized world has been confronted with these problems not since yesterday, but for a whole period - nearly of two generations, during which time they seem to have baffled human intelligence: they have defied solution on the basis of theories or ideas with which mankind has been proceeding until now. Experience drove us to the conclusion that human history has reached one of those recurring stages when man has to take stock of things, look back on his past, examine current ideas and cherished ideals critically in order to find out what is wrong or defective in them, so as to have brought him to a state of frustration and despair and hopelessness. And then, on the basis of a critical appreciation of the knowledge acquired in the intervening period, reject some of his old values or revise them in the light of his present knowledge, or to think out and evolve new ideas and ideals, entirely new ideologies, as guide and inspiration for the future. I came to this conclusion over twenty-five years ago. I began talking of Indian renaissance already in the early thirties. But at that time, I was far from looking at the problems as we do today. 

For me, the problems were not abstract intellectual problems; they were problems of life to be solved empirically. I began as a modern believing man, believing in something supernatural, superhuman, but who at the same time felt that the old idea of God would no longer do, and that we must rationalize religion, conceive God scientifically. I was a nationalist. The experience of the nationalist movement made me doubtful about its possibilities. Marxism offered a promise; it appeared to indicate a more realistic and more effective approach to the problems which had puzzled the nationalist. The acceptance of Marxism as the philosophy of life implied breaking away from the old moorings of a rationalized religion. 

But I have never been an orthodox Marxist. My attitude to Marxism was critical from the very beginning. That experience again, the attempt to solve the problems of life with the help of Marxism, brought me to the conclusion that communism also was not a cure-all. I reached the conclusion that until the intellectual, cultural, spiritual atmosphere of the country was changed, it was not possible to bring about a political and economic reconstruction of the country, such as would promote popular welfare, establish democratic freedom and social justice. 

It was experience, gained in the various attempts at improving the lot of Indian humanity, which led me step by step to the realization of the fallacies and inadequacies of old beliefs, ideas, and ideals. The need for a new philosophy was not felt introspectively. It was not the result of my personal experience; it was deduced from a generalization of human experience of an entire period. 

Notwithstanding the pragmatically proved errors and inadequacies of the Marxist political theories and social doctrines, I was confirmed in the conviction that materialism is the only possible philosophy. But conviction is based upon an intellectual judgment; it is not a dogmatic faith. Therefore, it did not prevent me from admitting the force of the recent challenges to materialism, particularly to its cosmology. It is also contended that materialism cannot have an ethics; that there is no logical relation between a philosophy of nature and a moral philosophy; that even if materialism could successfully meet the challenge to its cosmology, that did not qualify it to offer a logically deduced system of ethics; therefore, materialist philosophy could not indicate the way out of the crisis of our time, which is a moral crisis. 

A characterization of the crisis will result from our critical review of the contemporary world situation. I shall not anticipate. Without anticipating, by offering a priori judgment, I may, however, express the opinion that a secular, rationalist system of ethics can be logically deduced from the mechanistic cosmology of materialism. I may further add that a moral philosophy which can do without a metaphysical and super-sensual sanction is the crying need of our time. If our discussion will not lead to this conclusion, I shall readily abandon it. Meanwhile, I assume it for the sake of arguing the case of materialism. If materialist philosophy is expected to yield an ethics such as will restore man's confidence in himself, it must be able to meet the challenge to its cosmology. It cannot stand, if its very foundation is blasted, and the mechanistic cosmology is the foundation of materialism. 

The challenge to materialism as a cosmology is half a century old. It was delivered by the physicists who at the turn of the century discovered that the atom was not the ultimate unit of matter and on that evidence, hastily proclaimed the "dematerialization" of matter. People began to doubt the relevancy or correctness of nineteenth-century natural philosophy. Physics having revealed that the substratum of the world was not composed of "hard lumps of reality," philosophers imagined the imposing structure of materialism was crumbling. That was the beginning of the crisis of our time. It was a new flare-up in the age-long struggle between religion and science, between the religious mode of thought and the scientific mode of thought, between faith and reason, between mystic agnosticism and the empirically established belief in man's capacity to know. Being most probably the last lap of the life-and-death struggle, it has lasted long and has placed civilized humanity in a dilemma. 

We are experiencing on a worldwide scale what happened two thousand years ago in our country. Buddhism was the scientific thought of its time. It flourished for a period of nearly a thousand years and pushed Vedic Hinduism from pillar to post. But finally religion triumphed, thanks to the absence of positive knowledge and general intellectual backwardness. The defeat of Buddhism was the greatest single misfortune experienced by India. She never recovered from the setback suffered in that remote period of history. The contemporary world is threatened with a similar danger. The scientific mode of thought, having driven religion from pillar to post, is meeting the final assault of the vanquished adversary. The sophisticated philosophies waging war against materialism with "scientific" weapons are all in the last analysis rationalized religion. Denying the possibility of man ever knowing anything, they preach a neo-mysticism and revive the teleological view of life, which is the expression of man's loss of faith in himself. That is the central feature of the crisis of our time. To come out of it, mankind must therefore have a philosophy which places man in the center of the universe, as the maker of his destiny, and celebrate the final triumph of science over religion. 

They speak of a cultural crisis; if there is such a crisis, it is experienced only by sophisticated intellectuals; in reality, it is an intellectual crisis - a crisis of their intelligence. Otherwise, how can we explain the strange phenomenon of modern men, endowed with scientific knowledge, godless men, in search of soul, eager to enthrone a mathematical God in the place vacated by the old-fashioned God? 

Sankaracharya's scholasticism, which belongs to the highest order of intellectual effort, succeeded in reestablishing the religious mode of thought, so very badly shaken by Buddhism. The scholastics of our time may also succeed in doing a similar mischief - promote a religious revival under the banner of the pseudoscientific cults of empiricism, positivism, realism, so on and so forth. A self-contained philosophy beginning with a mechanistic cosmology and ending with a secular, evolutionary ethic is the only guarantee against the danger - a philosophy which will give an integrated picture of human existence and explain human existence, including desire, emotion, instincts, intuitions, will, reason, without going outside the physical world, which is at least theoretically accessible to human comprehension. 

But the crisis of our time is all-pervading, though it is not felt by the people at large as acutely as by the more sensitive and more alert few. Indeed, the victims of the crisis are not at all conscious of it. That makes it all the more difficult of solution. Therefore, to create a widespread consciousness of the crisis is the first thing to do. Whatever may be the cause of the crisis, it expresses itself in events of the daily experience of the common man and woman. They should be helped to learn the lesson of their own experience. A general consciousness of the crisis will thus be created pragmatically. Once that consciousness is created, the desire to understand its causes will spread. 

Take, for instance, our own country. For hundreds of years, the mass of people has lived a life of misery. It was believed to be all due to the foreigners. Now the foreigners are gone. Is the condition any better? Is there any hope of amelioration? The people know that prices have gone up; they do not get enough to eat and clothe themselves. The peasants produce as much as ever, but food is not available at reasonable prices, and the peasants have to pay three times or four times for the articles they need. Cloth is produced as much as ever; yet there is scarcity and the prices soar higher and higher. This is a puzzling situation. Its anomaly can be easily brought home to the people at large, who at present are the dupes of demagogy. It can be easily shown, without maligning anybody, that the situation need not be as bad as all that, and that the hardships and privations experienced by the people can be considerably relieved. The people then will begin to ask why then it is so. Enquiry always yields knowledge and knowledge brings power, which in this case is self-confidence. The loss of faith in man's creativity is the cause of the crisis. That is the practical approach to the problem of the crisis of our time. If we begin from the other end, by raising controversial questions of axiology to be discussed in abstraction, we shall never come to grapple with the crisis in practice. 

Turning to the world as a whole, one hears from all sides the talk of another war, while the crying need of the time is peace. Nobody wants war; yet war is on the offing. Every sensible man, who knows what modern war means, must be against it, not out of moral motives but out of sheer selfishness. War today is a double-edged sword; it is bound to ruin both the parties; there is as much chance of losing as of winning, and every victory will be a Pyrrhic victory. Therefore nobody wants war; yet war is on the order of the day. Who has placed it there? It seems to have become a matter of fate. Nobody wants war; everybody dreads the specter of another holocaust; yet all agree that it is inevitable. The helplessness of man and the hopelessness about his future have reached the limit. That is the core of the crisis. 

Look at the situation from another side. There are plausible political theories; all talk of democracy; yet nowhere there is government of the people, by the people. There is a big discrepancy between the theoretical picture presented in the nineteenth century and the actual picture of today. Why is that so? It is because man's mind, man's intelligence has failed to take full advantage of the knowledge acquired in modern times and apply it to the solution of the problems of actual life. During the last fifty years, this failure has become more and more apparent, until the condition of man reached its present state of hopelessness and helplessness. Human ingenuity seems to be completely exhausted. It is not true that excellent theories have not been put into practice and hence the present pandemonium. That is only self-deception. We shall examine those theories. Meanwhile, this much can be said, that if those political theories and economic doctrines were capable of solving the problems of modern life, the world would not have come to its present impasse. Liberal, democratic, Marxist theories have all been practiced and all found wanting. Hence the crisis; hence the frustration, despair, and hopelessness. Fascism has been criticized and condemned. But how could it take the modern world by storm? Fascism only proved the failure of democracy such as it has been conceived and practiced until now. 

The experience of contemporary history is a repudiation of classical, as well as revolutionary, social, political, and economic ideas. Everything is there in the world; it is possible to build up a better and freer society; yet things go from bad to worse. Only one conclusion can be deduced from this realistic analysis of the situation. Ideas entertained and ideals pursued until now must have been defective and illusory. They might have been good enough for other times and different conditions. Now they are antiquated. Failure and disappointment are bound to follow from attempts to solve the problems of the twentieth century with the ideas of the nineteenth or the eighteenth centuries. Man's ideas have not been brought up to the level of the material progress made until now. This lag between material progress and evolution of ideas is the cause of the crisis. 

To the discerning observer and critical student, the contemporary world conditions present a dismal picture of decay and degradation; the perspective seems to be either of a ruinous war or a slow breakdown of the fabric of modem civilization, resulting in a relapse into medievalism. Is there no way out of the dilemma? Man's creative potentialities are unfolded today to a much greater degree; he knows much more; his ability to do things is much greater than ever before. The situation, therefore, should not be so desperate. It should be possible to avoid the danger. This conclusion sets us thinking. There is something which has been inhibiting man's creativeness, his urge to go forward, to break down intellectual and spiritual barriers to the expansion of the frontiers of freedom. 

That brings us to the need of a new philosophy. But before we proceed to a discussion and exposition of the philosophy of New Humanism, the conclusion should be reinforced by a review of the experiences in particular departments of public life. We shall submit political and economic theories, classical as well as revolutionary, to a logical examination and also to the test of experience. Now I shall summarize the general discussion. 

In the initial statement on the crisis of our time, three different theories of crisis are mentioned together with their respective suggestions to overcome it. Every one of them has proved either logically fallacious or pragmatically false. All of them claim to approach the problems of modem life from the rationalist and scientific point of view. Yet the doctrine that the root of the crisis is man's loss of faith is common to all the three - all three can be reduced to a common denominator - a teleological view of life, which is rationalized and mystified, more or less. The common theme is: Man, as man, is of no importance in the scheme of life and history. Faith in something mystic logically follows as the moorings of life. Leave that mooring and man must drift aimlessly and helplessly on the stormy sea of life. That is how the condition of the contemporary world is described and explained. 

Sorokin's theory of culture cycles is dogmatic. Why cast human history in that pattern? Why should it move in predetermined cycles? The belief in a First Cause or a Prime Mover obviously lurks behind the "rationalist and scientific" theory. The religious essence of the theory is also evident in its very structure. Idealist culture is the highest form of culture, and there is no ambiguity in Sorokin's conception of idealist and ideational cultures. Both the "spiritualist," while "sensate" culture is materialist. Materialism may be depicted as the devil of the drama, but determinism cannot be easily disposed of. The teleological view is also deterministic. The movement of human history in the vicious circle of recurring culture cycles is a determined process. Indeed worse, it is predetermined because the determining factor is not inherent in the process; it is a deus ex machina. Sorokin is frankly an advocate of religious revivalism; he pleads for the restoration of faith. Therefore, his doctrine is not criticized simply by being characterized as religious. Its self-contradictoriness must be exposed. That also is evident. How does the evil of a sensate culture follow the good of the ideational culture? If the ideal of human life is reached in the ideational, that is to say, devotional culture, why does man fall from Grace again? No, the dogmatic doctrine of culture cycles makes no meaning. Man moved away from the security of faith because that was security of spiritual slavery. He must sail the uncharted sea of life until he discovers real security in the faith in himself. Sorokin advises him to return to the security of faith in a Providence. 

Maritain and Berdyaev do not say essentially anything different. Man wanders away from his moorings of faith, experiences fear, and comes back. The common cry of all is: back to the religious mode of thought. Their new religious philosophy is differentiated from orthodox revivalism by a discriminating association with rationalism and scientific knowledge. But yet another attempt to reconcile faith with reason, theism or mysticism with humanism, medievalism with modernism is bound to be futile. The plea for a restoration of moral values deserves endorsement, but the morality of the modern man requires no transcendental sanction. 

The Marxian theory is also teleological; history is created by the operation of the productive forces; man has nothing to do with it; he must recognize necessity and then he is free. Once you realize that you cannot be free, that you are bound hand and foot to some mysterious forces of production, then you are free! The Marxist conception of freedom means slavery for the individual, and a society composed of voluntary slaves can never be free, except in imagination or propaganda literature. As a matter of fact, by the conversion to the modern faith of Marxism, man willingly surrenders his right to freedom and cultivates a cynical attitude to morality. The exposure of the contradiction between the theories and practice of the optimistic nineteenth century helped the spread of Marxism, and the spread of this jesuitic cult has aggravated the crisis of our time. It has discredited materialism as antagonistic to moral behavior and ethical values and has thus played into the hands of the prophets of a religious revivalism. 

The breakdown of the old social and political systems and the pragmatic discredit of their theoretical sanctions brought about the crisis of our time; the editors, inadequacies, and failure (in the case of Marxism) of the ideologies either of reform or of revolution created an atmosphere of frustration, despair, and disgust which aggravated the crisis. Civilized mankind is asked to choose between modern barbarism promising material well-being and security in a socially regimented and spiritually enslaved life, or a return to mediaeval obscurantism in search of an illusory safety in the backwaters of faith. This conflict of ideologies underlies the process of political polarization, which may any day plunge the world headlong in a titanic clash of arms. A large number of modern men and women who would go neither way are frantically looking out for an escape from the dilemma. The danger is almost overwhelming; still there is some hope. Therefore, it is a crisis. The hope must become a confidence. Never in history has man's ingenuity been put to a greater test. Man will have the courage to decline the security of slavery, in one form or another, only by regaining faith in himself. The civilized world will survive the crisis of our time inspired by the philosophy of New Humanism. 

When we wish to contribute to the development of the new philosophy, we do not claim any revelation. We do not suck anything out of our thumbs. Everything new grows out of something old. We must take advantage of the entire store of human knowledge and draw upon the entire history of thought. The new philosophy, the need for which we are feeling, can be deduced from the entire current of human thought, which has flown ever since the dawn of civilization. The crisis of our time is the result of an inability to appreciate that great human heritage. There are abiding and temporary values. We have to find out the permanent values created in the course of human evolution. The elements of stability, of unity, of uniformity, ideals pursued ever since the appearance of homo sapiens, should be the foundation of a new philosophy. A philosophy thus founded will have no difficulty in solving the complicated problems which have been baffling conventional philosophers. The solution, however, will not be theoretical; it will come from action inspired by the new philosophy. 

Ever since the ancient thinkers abandoned physical enquiry for metaphysical speculation, philosophy was vitiated by the fallacy of dualism. Modern science finally enabled materialism to conceive a monistic picture of the world. If the universe is a cosmos, it is arbitrary to break it up into matter and mind. A monistic naturalism does not allow evolutionary ethics to distinguish a world of values from a world of facts. But at this stage of our discussion, I don't want to speak on the theory of values, or deal with the problems of axiology. I only wanted to emphasize the point that a monistic philosophy cannot have a dualist ethic. Values are sui generis: they are born in our conscience; they are not to be deduced from facts; they are facts. 

All the religious philosophers of the Middle Ages were frank dualists. The rationalist rebels against theology - Descartes, Leibnitz, Kant - also could not get out of the vicious circle of dualism. And as long as you remain entangled in that vicious circle, you cannot conceive of man being free. In the context of a dualist philosophy, the only logical consistent ideology which can offer security is religion, and the religious man must always bow before the will of God or the "moral" law of the teleological order. Morality is equated with absence of freedom. 

The ultramodern empiricists also are essentially religious men; they declare that everything beyond the reach of direct experience is metaphysical. From that apparently scientific premise, they deduce a neo-mysticism which goes to the extent of denying man's capacity to know anything outside his own body. The world is veiled in an impenetrable mystery, and in every dark corner a god can be easily imagined. The neo-mysticism of the ultramodern empiricists installs God on the throne of man's ignorance. 

In the realm of biology, the famous "missing link" is the mainstay of a dualist philosophy, which valiantly defends the long-lost cause of religion. Man rises out of the background of an inanimate world. The theory of descent may trace his origin to the most primitive organism. But there the chain of evolution breaks. How can life emerge from dead matter? That is the challenge of modern "scientific" dualism. Eminent biologists have taken up the challenge and their answer, based upon empirical knowledge, should satisfy philosophers having no axe to grind. The chemical composition of protoplasm known, the imaginary gulf between the organa and inorgana has disappeared. Even if empirical evidence and experimental data were really absent, the neo-vitalism of the ultramodern philosophers should be logically ruled out. 

What is the source of life, if not matter? The breath of God. Whoever falls back upon that venerable fundamentalism can hardly pass as a philosopher, and any other answer would suffer from the fallacy of something coming out of nothing. If the religious dogma of creation by an almighty God is not trotted out in support of a "scientific" philosophy, then life appearing as a novelty out of dead matter is to be recognized as an empirical fact which corroborates the logic of monistic materialism. There is a red thread of continuity running through the entire process of evolution - organic as well as inorganic. 

The veil of mystery lifted from the origin of life, man is to be regarded as a biological phenomenon; no human trait or behavior needs be referred to any extra-physical sanction for explanation. Instincts and intuition are not mystic categories to be regarded as elementary indefinables. The soul is not a spark of the divine light; as the sum total of the intellectual and emotional excellence of man, it can be more appropriately called the torch of humanity. Conceived otherwise, the soul is a fiction. An axiology built on the foundation of the exact knowledge of the biological phenomenon called man deduces all values from one supreme value. Thus dispelling all the confusion of academic moral philosophy, materialist monism alone can blaze a new trail for modern mankind. Applied to the problems of social existence, it can be called New Humanism. 

What is the supreme value? One could almost say it is existence. But let us not run the risk of being identified with the ultramodern cult of existentialism, which with all its extravagances may not be altogether barren. However, I regard freedom as the supreme value from which all human values are derived. Freedom is the supreme value because the urge for freedom is the essence of human existence, and it is never in the danger of being mystified because it can be traced all the way down the process of biological evolution; indeed it is coincident, if not actually identical, with life. Since all ethical values are derived from the soulless animal heritage of man, they need no sanction which transcends human existence. Morality is a human attribute - of animal heritage. To be moral, one need only be human; it is not necessary to go in search of mystic, if not divine, sanction. Man need not be a slave of God or of his own prejudice (as in the case of modern moral philosophers) to be moral. Humanist morality is evolutionary. 

The function of life is to live. The basic incentive of organic becoming is the struggle for survival. It goes on throughout the long process of biological evolution, until in man it becomes the conscious urge for freedom - the supreme human value. 

When the human species appeared, the first thing for it to do was to struggle with environments for survival. That was the beginning of an endless struggle for freedom. Since then everything that man has done, every one of his acts, cultural progress, scientific achievements, artistic creations - everything has been motivated by that one urge. Man is infinite, while the universe is infinite, and his environment, in the last analysis, is the whole universe. Consequently, his struggle for freedom is eternal; he can never conquer the universe. Therefore, the urge for freedom is the only eternal thing in the world. This urge enables man to acquire knowledge, to conquer his environment by knowing it. In that process he solves another problem. What is truth? It is the content of man's knowledge. Truth is a value; but it is not deduced from facts; it is a fact because it is objectively real. Quest for freedom, knowledge, truth - that is the hierarchy of humanist axiology. Our values are not autonomous deities; they are interrelated, logically as well as ontologically. Therefore, we say that freedom cannot be attained by immoral means, nor an enlightened man ever be a liar. Freedom, knowledge, truth are values to be appreciated together by living them. 

Humanism is not a new philosophy. In the past, humanists approached all problems of life from the assumption of the sovereignty of man. But man remained unexplained, veiled in a mystery. Now we know approximately what makes man a man, what is the source of his sovereignty, his creativeness. It is his capacity of knowing, as distinct from the common biological property of being aware, and knowledge endows him with power - not to rule over others but to create for the benefit of the race, and pursue the ideal of freedom further and further. As the content of knowledge is truth, the enlightened man finds in himself the sanction of the moral values cherished by him. 

The humanist mission, therefore, is the pursuit of knowledge and dissemination of knowledge already acquired. If my understanding of the crisis of our time is correct (you shall have to judge that in this school), it calls for that mission which will enable the civilized world to get out of the present impasse. 

In conclusion, let me recapitulate. I do not start with any a priori idea about the crisis. I do not look for it in the art and literature of our time, in the crumbling personality of sensitive people. That is a symptom of the crisis, but it is a minor symptom, a by-product. We must see how the crisis affects the life of civilized mankind as a whole. Intellectual and institutional equipments cannot cope with the requirements of the time. It is not a choice between two authoritarianisms; we must find a third alternative. The prophets of a revival of the teleological view of life, as the only way to bring man back to his moral moorings, preach spiritual authoritarianism as against the temporal brand. Their remedy may be more dangerous than the disease they propose to cure. 

It took mankind centuries to revolt against the spiritual slavery which was the result of the original sin of ignorance. The standard of the revolt of man was carried forward during another several centuries by scientists, and philosophers who wisely accepted the leadership of science, and built up a philosophy not of airy speculation but on the solid foundation of positive knowledge. Eventually, a point was reached where old theories seemed to be challenged by experience. The tradition of religious thought, of the easy way of faith, had been lying dormant under the surface of modern culture. It took advantage of the opportunity and started an offensive when scientists were puzzled and philosophers turned out to be pusillanimous. The structure of scientific knowledge, however, was not so very unstable as to collapse on the first offensive of an atavistic prejudice. Its weakness resulted from overspecialization. 

Different branches of science had surveyed various aspects of nature. The object of each branch of scientific knowledge was not the whole of reality. The fallacy was to make the partial view of physics, for example, a picture of the whole of reality. That picture was to be sought in an integration of knowledge acquired by the different branches of science. To build that picture of reality was the function of philosophy. But academic philosophy, except in the short period of Enlightenment, had never fully broken away from religious or metaphysical traditions. Therefore, it failed when the time came for it to take over the leadership of human progress. The root of the crisis of our time is to be traced in that failure of philosophy to justify itself. Therefore, I call it an intellectual crisis: intellectually bankrupt men are naturally demoralized. Having lost faith in themselves, they project their moral crisis to the world. Why should I look at the world through their jaundiced eyes or colored glasses? 

Scientific agnosticism preached by modern scientific philosophers, ever since Mach and Poincare and down to Bergson, deprived man of his distinction from other biological forms - the capacity to know. Fortunately, sophisticated philosophies leave the bulk of mankind untouched. They have not joined the stampede of the intellectual elite, the artists and literateurs, back to the illusive security of obscurantism and mysticism, under the leadership of prophets who declare that man cannot be moral unless he accepts spiritual slavery. We cannot give them confidence. They would scorn any philosophy which is not cast in their obscurantist academic pattern. And words have meaning; once we get involved in the mazes of their jargon and tendentious terminology, we shall be nowhere; we shall betray the humanist mission. 

We must speak the language of the people, look at problems from their point of view, from the experience of daily life. Fortunately, they are not corrupted by the perversion of modern scientific knowledge as preached to the semi-educated middle class. Scientific knowledge can be brought to them in a simple language. The old theories of the nineteenth century may be naive for the highbrow who cannot see the relation between science and life. Steam still has power; electricity can be harnessed for the benefit of man; medicine cures; biology explains a whole lot of things of daily experience; Darwinism is still to go to the masses, particularly in our country; psychology throws light on the mysteries of mental life. The people, particularly in our country, require this kind of knowledge; it will give them a sense of power; their moral stamina will be reinforced in proportion as knowledge liberates them from the traditional bondage of ignorance fostered on the authority of religion. 

Nor is it necessary for the people to grasp the intricate problems of sociology; the breakdown of the economic system is a matter of their daily experience. It is not necessary for them to understand economic theories. They experience want when there is no reason for it. Once they are made conscious of their experience, they will feel the need for a reconstruction. Political problems can be similarly accessible to them in experience. Finally, we shall show them how they can take things in their own hands. But all these easy steps presuppose man's faith in himself. They will gain that faith also in the experience of doing things. 

I see no other way out of the crisis. It is a creation of people who were to lead mankind. They have failed. A mighty resurgence of the common man and woman only can save modern civilization. To inspire that resurgence, organize it, guide it to fruition - that is the mission of New Humanism. Let us be true to our own philosophy.

Monday, December 8, 2008

INTEGRAL HUMANISM - A Social Philosophy

All thinking men agree that there is something wrong somewhere in the contemporary world. The crassest expression of that is the fact that while nobody is consciously or deliberately aiming at a war, nevertheless the world is actually drifting in that direction. Mankind seems to have lost grip on its own destiny. This realization expresses itself in the frequent use of the term *crisis*.

The root of this crisis has been traced by various thinkers with different predispositions to different causes and different spheres of human activity and their theoretical background. Some call it an economic crisis due to the fact that the economic organization of the world has lost its balance, and as a result things have become chaotic; and if only this economy could be replaced by a more stable and better organization, all the evils of the modern world would be cured.

This theory is more than a hundred years old. In these hundred years, more and more people have been influenced by this opinion, until today most parties and persons engaged in efforts to remake the world accept this point of view, which is based on the doctrine of economic determinism. This view is not only held by the political left but widely shared, though not necessarily acknowledged, even by conservatives and reactionaries. lf socialization is the panacea of the one, free private enterprise is that of the others, both being economic concepts. According to both, the economic organization of society determines all other forms of social activities, and if things have gone out of gear, the only thing we have to do is to accept their respective economic remedies.

Others call the crisis of our time a political crisis. They say that in consequence of the horrors of two world wars, people have lost faith in the modern political institutions. Others have drawn the conclusion that the modern political institutions have revealed certain inadequacies and if better institutions replace the present ones, the crisis will be solved.

There is yet another school among the sociologists, who try to combine the findings of all the others and introduce certain psycho- logical considerations in it, and in a general way, call it a cultural crisis. But even if we could define culture and agree that there is a cultural crisis, how does this help us when trying to solve the economic and political problems which are certainly also aspects of the crisis of the contemporary world?

If we examine the condition of the world in all fields of human activity, we must come to the conclusion that the crisis is deeper than merely an economic or a political or even a cultural crisis. It is not that just any one department of human activities has gone out of gear and in consequence the entire world is disorganized. lf we must give it a name, it could be called a crisis of existence because the whole of human existence has been thrown into chaos and con- fusion. We find disharmony and unreasonableness in all departments of human life, and these are symptoms of crisis.

Examining this phenomenon, some people have come to the conclusion that the cause of the present state of things is that human affairs are no longer directed and controlled deliberately through the exercise of individual reason and judgment. In the case of perhaps 95 percent of human beings, the individual personality is completely eclipsed, unconscious, and inoperative. Individuals do not have anything to say, much less can they influence the guidance of human affairs either at home or abroad. Reason and discrimination are at a discount in public life because these can be exercised only by individuals, and the individual itself is at a discount. In consequence, a small minority of self-willed and often self-appointed men at the helm of affairs manage to guide everything according to their own proclivities or fixed ideas, irrespective of the enormous volume of reason that could be brought to bear on world affairs if the potential rationality of all human beings would assert itself in an intelligently expressed public opinion. ls it possible to change this state of affairs?

That question can be answered only if we start from an understanding of human nature. If human nature is creative and capable of taking rational initiative then conditions can be changed. But if the human being is by nature fatalistic, if man must believe in something and be guided by faith and illusions, then it cannot be changed. All the modern architects of social reconstruction are agreed on the basic proposition that man is the maker of history. History is a record of human activities, failures or achievements of his own making. If we have to state the fact that the overwhelming majority of men have nothing to do in what is happening in the world, that means that they have ceased to be the makers of history, the architects of their destiny. A few men have become the makers of the destiny of all. And this will not be changed by replacing one group of mentors by any other group of mentors. Some may claim that they know better what is good for the people, but others make the same claim. Only the people themselves can know what they really want and need. But they have lost the power and capacity, they have at any rate lost the confidence that they can judge for themselves.

This analysis leads to the conclusion that unless the average man and woman recover their capacity to think and judge for themselves what is good or bad, for them and generally, and become conscious of the fact that whatever exists in the world of men was created by men and women like themselves; that if there is to be any future for man, it must also be made by man-we cannot advance one single step in the direction of a way out of the crisis. Unless we can find a way by which man can regain faith in himself, there will be no freedom and no future for man. From time immemorial, man has believed in many things. But except for a very few exceptions, men never believed in themselves. When a creator is not conscious that it is his function to create, that is certainly a strange and sad situation. But this is where the crisis of our time has its roots.

This view of placing man in the position of supremacy and primacy and maintaining that man precedes everything that exists, that society itself is the creation of men, that all history is the creation of man, that all economic and political institutions are the creation of man, and that therefore individual man must have the position of priority in relation to all of these-this view has been held by the profoundest and most advanced thinkers of all times. But it was only at the close of the European Middle Ages, when the intelligence of that continent revolted against the spiritual tyranny of the Catholic Church, that this philosophy of placing man in the center of things found wider acceptance. Because the human being was the central point of their philosophy, the leaders of the European Renaissance called themselves humanists. They have gone down in history as humanists, and their ideas and thoughts are known in history as humanism.

But we can trace the history of humanism further back, at least to the philosophers of ancient Greece. And if we search in our own past, we shall discover strands of similar humanist thought in Indian history also. Only, unfortunately, those chapters of ancient Indian thought have been forgotten, and in consequence, in India more than anywhere else, man, the individual, has been forgotten today. The question arises, why when humanism is such an old and venerable tradition in the history of human thought, things could yet have come to such a pass, and why this line of thought could not commend itself to a larger number of people and hence did not determine the generally accepted way of life. This question must be answered because this deplorable fact is the cause of the crisis of our time.

Revolting against organized religious faith, which had become a spiritual tyranny, the philosophers of the Renaissance declared man to be sovereign. But the defect was that the people who had talked about man as the center of all things and attached such a high value to the human being kept the concept of man himself clouded in mystery. And how could they help it? There was no scientific explanation of man. Therefore, this view of man was bound to degenerate into some form of mysticism and even in a new religion.

Even today many of those who want a revival of humanism are inclined toward a religious point of view. A man like Jacques Maritain, certainly a humanist, is the best example for this. He believes that a restatement of Christianity can take the world out of the present crisis and give man back his moral sanity. Similarly is the case with the Quakers and other humanitarian groups of reformers, who attach the highest importance to man but cannot get away from the fallacy of subordinating man to some superhuman and supernatural agencies.

We have known all sorts of slavery and revolt against slavery. But the worst form of slavery is spiritual slavery and no progress is possible unless it is preceded by freeing the minds of men from that slavery. If man was by nature subordinated to supernatural and superhuman powers beyond his comprehension and control, all talk about placing man in the center of things is meaningless. These assumptions mean that man is born a slave and will stay a slave and can never come out of his slavery. This so-called spiritual point of view is only a sublimation of slavery, and it has been the evil genius of human history throughout. Whenever any form of revolt against terrestrial oppression has taken place except on the background of at least an attempt to revolt against this most fundamental spiritual slavery; it has led to defeat. Revolutions have taken place, but if they were not preceded by a philosophical revolution, they never succeeded. Historians record that fact but generally do not explain it.

We can get out of the blind alley in which earlier humanist thought has led only with the help of the knowledge which man has accumulated since the days of the European Renaissance. Since those days, human knowledge has expanded enormously. But it was the men of the Renaissance themselves who began to throw the searchlight of their inquisitiveness in all the dark corners of nature. Since their days, the store of knowledge about nature his grown considerably. But it was not until very recently that a scientific search into the nature of man himself was undertaken and still more recently that a plausible hypothesis could be set up about man's place in nature on the basis of scientific knowledge.

The movement for a humanist revival, starting from the attempt to explain what is human nature, has been called scientific or simply New Humanism, as distinct from the older humanism, which took man for granted as an elementary indefinable, which shifted man's blind belief simply from God to man, while man remained a mystery, himself a matter of faith.

New Humanism tries to go into the genesis of man and to examine the background out of which man emerges in nature. The study of science establishes that there is nothing extra-natural in man; nowhere in his evolution does anything extraneous to his own nature enter into this process. Whatever we call human nature, man's attributes and potentialities, can be strictly deduced from the background of the evolving physical universe. Insofar as modern science has acquired a good deal of knowledge of this background, it is now possible to dispense with many assumptions and prejudices, which were at some time or other set up by way of hypotheses, and to have a rational scientific understanding of human nature.

This is very important not only from the theoretical point of view but for very concrete and practical considerations of man's life in society. When attempts are made in our time to formulate a new social philosophy, it is maintained that owing to the development of technology and the expansion of communications in the modern world, human relations have decisively altered, and any rules for the governance of those relations must be adjusted to those changed conditions. Rules which were good enough for relations existing under different conditions cannot be applied under the changed circumstances of the modern world.

That sounds plausible. But some sociologists who propound these ideas do not take the one necessary step forward which would give to all these changes a significance satisfactory for the life of man. And as long as they do not take that step, their efforts will be useless. What is the decisive category of all social sciences? It is man. Society has men for its constituent units. And if we want to have any ideas or rules for governing the changing relations between men and society, we must have first an idea about the nature of man, just as you cannot study physics unless you have knowledge of the elementary constituents of the matter with which physics is concerned.

When modern political theories were first conceived, all thinkers started with a certain idea of man. Some said, like Rousseau, that man is simple and good by nature, and civilization degenerates and corrupts him. Others still held to the older idea that it is human nature to believe, and human existence cannot be sustained unless it is anchored in the belief in some thing super- human. However, in the seventeenth century, a school of thought gradually developed which, while recognizing the complexity of human nature, laid emphasis on reason as the distinctive characteristic of humanity. A whole structure of social and political thought was built on that idea. Throughout the eighteenth century and even in the beginning of the nineteenth century, this idea predominated; it was widely held that man is essentially rational, and all appeals of social progress or political revolution had to be addressed to the reasoning capacity of man. But there were also other trends of social thought which tried to push this idea into the background and confronted it with the more superficial strata of the human personality, which appeared to contradict the idea of man's essential rationality. According to them, instincts and emotions are the decisive elements in human nature, and emotions would always overwhelm reason.

Modern philosophers, and especially social philosophy have come very largely under the influence of this emphasis on man's essential emotionalism. For instance, Bergson, but also many others, attributed to emotion by far the greater role as a determinant of human action and behavior. But emotions cannot be exactly known; they have to be taken for granted as something given in the make- up of man; however much we may try to analyze them, they have an element of unpredictability, and you cannot say that they were either correct or mistaken.

This view of human nature brought about a relapse and a reversal in social science, away from the trend which was to make man the maker of his world. Therefore, since the early days of the twentieth century, we have this curious spectacle of a ''scientific'' religious revival and a whole host of men of science in frantic search of God. Human knowledge is never perfect. But to draw from this fact the conclusion that whenever we come across something unknown, it must be something unknowable-that amounts to installing ignorance as a godhead.

This development was the result of a certain ideological reaction which followed upon the French Revolution. It was motivated by various factors. As revolutionary political theories developed, which challenged the sanctity of the established order by declaring that man is the maker of his world, the advocates of the old order went over to the offensive. When they found that they could not challenge the humanist sanction of the forces of progress, they fell back on the age-old authority of a superhuman sanction, and consciously or unconsciously, mostly perhaps unconsciously, those modern scientists who tend to invest all that they do not yet know with the mystic halo of something unknowable have played into their hands.

Later in our time, when one world war was followed by another, and a third one is threatening now the whole world with disaster, a sense of horror, despair, and helplessness appeared to leave man no other alternative but to relapse into the religious mode of thought, which historically belongs to the Middle Ages. Confronted with this spectacle of a total reversal of human development the bolder thinkers of our time have come to the conclusion that unless the sanction for social change and a further development of man and society can be found in man himself, rooted in human nature, all change can only be for the worse.

Because it is quite clear that if man cannot do anything by himself, he must merge himself in this modern monstrosity called the masses. Nothing but this self-abasement of the individual in mass meetings, mass prayers, mass demonstrations can give to the man who does not believe in himself a sense of security and power. The power of the masses is extolled so much that some of the detractors of humanism who do not believe in the old God anymore have made a new god of the masses. But this God is an insult to the good old God as well as to men. Yet we find modern men worshipping this strange god which they have themselves created out of their own ignorance and lack of faith in themselves.

Only a robust humanism can put an end to these perverse cults by striking at their roots, which lie in ignorance and a glorification of this ignorance. This new humanism is an integral humanism, distinguished from the older forms of humanism, which were more poetic and romantic, by being strictly based on a scientific knowledge of man and human nature. But scientific knowledge as learned in schools and colleges is not enough to make a humanist. You may learn something about physics and yet not be a scientist. There may be even recognized scientists who have not necessarily imbibed the scientific spirit. Knowledge in our days has become departmental- ized. But true scientific knowledge presupposes an understanding and coordination of all the departments of science. The function of philosophy is precisely that. It must supply a coherent picture of the various branches of knowledge acquired by human experience at a given time. An integrated picture of the knowledge of modern science leads to an integral scientific humanism because it can explain man.

Man is said to have a soul, and the soul is the greatest thing about man, and there are various theories about the nature of the soul. But if you study all that is known about man, you find no place where this extraneous and mystic element of a soul could have entered into man. It is said that the soul is something divine, and so are all man's higher emotions. But like the soul, emotions also do not enter man from without, even if they may be evoked by external stimulation. Modern science knows a good deal about man's emotions and can trace them wholly to physico-chemical processes. Once you know these processes, you can actually change the emotions of men. We can therefore make the hypothetical assertion that emotions have no extra-physical origin or significance. Of the soul, however, nothing is known for the obvious reasons that there is no such thing. But if it is identified with man's highest emotions, then it is reduced to a part of man's psycho-physiological nature.

Much emphasis is laid in modern theories on instincts and intuition, on which moral judgment is supposed to be based in preference to man's reason and intelligence. But if we trace the biological development of man back beyond the appearance of the human species, you can find rudimentary forms of the power of thinking and reasoning and even of moral judgment already in the lower animals. Instinct and intuition are nothing mysterious but an undifferentiated form of rationalism, which can, however, teach us a good deal about the working of man's reason. So long as the cortex in the cerebral processes was not sufficiently differentiated, these functions took place in the neural system as a mechanical biological reaction. Therefore, they cannot be analyzed in terms of conscious thought. But the cerebral activity was there in elementary form even before the appearance of homo sapiens.

We can trace the biological evolution of man further through the entire process of natural evolution back to inorganic matter. There is supposed to be a hiatus somewhere. This hiatus is, so to say, the last leg on which the doctrine of creation stands today, of which the assumption of the soul is a part. Assuming that there is a ''missing link'' the problem is of an adequate hypothesis. Two hypotheses are possible. One is the old hypothesis of creation, according to which a God took it in his head to create the world. The other hypothesis is that out of the background of inanimate nature, life evolved through a certain combination of material substances under particular circumstances and conditions. This hypothesis is logically more plausible, and there is more empirical evidence in its favor than for the former hypothesis, even if it is not yet conclusively proved.

That places the origin of man plainly into the background of the physical universe. The physical universe is a harmonious and law- governed system. The law-governedness of this system, of which man is a part, expresses itself in man as his capacity for reason and judgment. Because the background of physical nature, out of which man has grown as the highest product of evolution, is harmonious and law-governed, therefore, the elements of harmony and law-governedness are also inherent in man. They are the foundation of the special human qualities.

If that is accepted, then we have also laid the foundation for the belief in the basic equality of all men. The difference between an ordinary man and a great man becomes a difference only of degree and may be caused only because the great man had better opportunities to develop his potentialities than ordinary men have. There may be real differences based on abnormalities. Even genius is a form of abnormality. It may be a very desirable disease, but it is a form of disease, a deviation from the norms of the species. A wide variety of special traits, gifts, and characteristics in ordinary human beings do not affect this basic equality.

This view of human nature gives us a new approach to the problem of social reorganization and opens up new prospects for solving the crisis in all spheres of human life from which men suffer in our time. This new approach allows us to start from the assumption that man can think for himself, that man has created his world, and that he can remake it according to his own decision rationally arrived at. That is possible on the assumption that man is essentially rational.

Of course, if you ask me whether I maintain that man is really rational, I must admit that very often he is not. But that does not invalidate the humanist assumption. It is so because man has been told for ages that his nature is to believe and to follow some higher authority, and that, trying to think for himself, he has fallen from grace. We have to work hard to atone for this sin of our forefathers in order to make man conscious of his humanness and that his fate is not preordained by any supernatural power or divine will. That false belief was the basis of man's subordination to successive oppressive terrestrial powers also, and if we want to make man free, if we want to have a free society; we must first make him free of these unfounded beliefs.

Any significant change in the institutional structure of society has been preceded by a change in the thinking processes of men. Every political revolution has been preceded by a philosophical revolution. The modern age started with the Renaissance, which was a revolt of man against God. It came to a dead end because a god was made of man in the absence of a more scientific explanation of man. What the world needs today is a new renaissance, a revolt against those new mystic gods which man, or some men, or men in the mass, are supposed to be. Man has been made into gods, into kings and leaders and supermen. But never yet has man been satisfied and proud to be just man. When men will be content and proud that they are men, and that man is rational and has endless potentialities in him, then only shall we experience a reconstruction of society into an order of freedom as we want it to be.

There have been changes in social institutions in the past, but they were all imposed by some men on other men from the top. New constitutions have been framed from time to time and were imposed on people who had no way of knowing whether those constitutions were good or bad, and why they were so. The modern ideal is democracy, which means self-government of the people. But the people themselves never think that it is really they who might govern. They have come to believe that any change must begin with a group of well-meaning men, having the blueprint of a new social order in their heads, capturing power and with the help of that power imposing their idea of a new order.

That is a great fallacy. Even assuming their ideas are good, the process contradicts all interpretations of democracy This is truly a case of playing Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. They want a democracy but without the demos. But there can be no democracy when the demos know nothing about it. Institutions are after all run by men. Good institutions cannot persist unless they are run by good men. A good government cannot be established unless the demos can discriminate between what is good and what is bad for their society. For this we must appeal to man's rationality. lf that appears to be a long process, that is our atonement for the sins of our fathers who deprived man of faith in himself. But how long the process will be, that also depends to a large extent on us.

Human beings being essentially rational, if we persistently appeal to their reason and not place premiums on unreason, they will ultimately respond to the appeal to their reason rather than to any other appeal, because it is only through the application of their reason that they can ever establish a government of themselves and by themselves and make a success of such a government. It appears so obvious and so simple, and yet this will be truly a revolution, that philosophical revolution without which no social change in the direction of greater freedom is possible.

New humanism is not an abstract philosophy, nor merely a social philosophy or a political or economic theory. It is a set of principles which have relevance to all branches of man's life and social existence and show a way toward their reorganization. They are principles which can inspire mankind to take things in their own hand and shape their social world according to their reason and their needs. New humanism has grown out of the experience of a perennial crisis, which has become all-pervasive, affecting the entire existence of man, and it is that very crisis which has inspired some of the bolder spirits of our time to rethink mankind's entire history and tradition and come to the conclusion that unless man can recover his confidence in himself, society cannot be reconstructed as a happy and harmonious abode for all.

New Humanism is a scientific integral philosophy. The human being is taken not only in the context of society but of the whole universe. It is not an anarchic individualism, because a point has no existence in space. Similarly, while individuals cannot exist independent of society, society is no more than an integration of individuals. Until now, we have put the cart before the horse and said that we must have a good society in order to have good men. That led to the theory that in order to reconstruct society, we must capture power first and that this end justifies all means. At that point all ''goodness'' goes by the board. To make a good society even bad means are justified. But bad means spoil good men. In the process, good men become bad. And bad men cannot make a good society.

New Humanism is not a closed system. Being based on experience and science, it will evolve as experience grows and science develops. It can be considerably elaborated and improved. But it is decidedly a new approach which promises to lead to better results than any other known so far. All the old avenues have led where we did not want to go. Therefore, we must blaze a new trail. The ideas and principles of New Humanism appeal to the best in man, and there must be enough men and women in the world who will respond to an appeal to all that is best in them.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A New Political Philosophy

The question of all questions is: Can politics be rationalized? An affirmative answer to this controversial question would not take us very far unless rationalism was different from the metaphysical concept of reason. To replace the teleology of Marxist materialism by an appeal to the mystical category of reason would not be an advance.

The cognate question is about the relation of politics and morality: Must revolutionary political practice be guided by the Jesuitic dictum - the end justifies the means? The final sanction of revolution being its moral appeal - the appeal for social justice - logically, the answer to the latter question must be negative. It is very doubtful if a moral object can ever be attained by immoral means. In critical moments, when larger issues are involved and greater things are at stake, some temporary compromises in behavior may be permissible. But when practice repugnant to ethical principles and traditional human values are stabilized as the permanent features of the revolutionary regime, the means defeat the end. Therefore, communist political practice has not taken the world, not even the working class, anywhere near a new order of freedom and social justice. On the contrary, it has plunged the army of revolution - proletarian as well as non-proletarian - in an intellectual confusion, spiritual chaos, emotional frustration, and a general demoralization.

To overcome this crisis, the fighters for a new world order must turn to the traditions of humanism and moral radicalism. The inspiration for a new philosophy of revolution must be drawn from those sources. The nineteenth-century radicals, actuated by the humanist principle of individualism, realized the possibility of a secular rationalism and a rationalist ethics. They applied to the study of man and society the principles and methods of the physical sciences. Positive knowledge of nature - living as well as inanimate - being so much greater today than a hundred years ago, the radical scientific approach to the problems of man's life and interrelations is bound to be more successful. Today, we can begin with the conviction that it is long since man emerged from the jungle of ''prehistory,'' that social relations can be rationally harmonized, and that therefore appreciation of moral values can be reconciled with efforts for replacing the corrupt and corrosive status quo by a new order of democratic freedom. A moral order will result from a rationally organized society because viewed in the context of his rise out of the background of a harmonious physical universe, man is essentially rational and therefore moral. Morality emanates from the rational desire for harmonious and mutually beneficial social relations.

Man did not appear on the earth out of nowhere. He rose out of the background of the physical universe, through the long process of biological evolution. The umbilical cord was never broken: man, with his mind, intelligence, and will, remains an integral part of the physical universe. The latter is a cosmos - a law-governed system. Therefore, man's being and becoming, his emotions, will, ideas are also determined: man is essentially rational. The reason in man is an echo of the harmony of the universe. Morality must be referred back to man's innate rationality. Only then man can be moral, spontaneously and voluntarily. Reason is only sanction for morality which is an appeal to conscience, and conscience in its turn is the instinctive awareness of, and reaction to, environments. In the last analysis, conscience is nothing mystic or mysterious. It is a biological function, as such mechanistic, on the level of consciousness. The innate rationality of man is the only guarantee of a harmonious order, which will also be a moral order, because morality is a rational function. Therefore, the purpose of all social endeavor should be to make man increasingly conscious of his innate rationality.

Any effort for a reorganization of society must begin from the unit of society-from the root, so to say. Such an effort to develop a new philosophy of revolution, on the basis of the entire stock of human heritage, and then to elaborate the theory and formulate the principles of the practice of political action and economic reconstruction, therefore can be called radicalism.

Radicalism thinks in terms neither of nation nor of class; its concern is man; it conceives freedom as freedom of the individual. Therefore, it can also be called New Humanism, new, because it is humanism enriched, reinforced and elaborated by scientific knowledge and social experience gained during the centuries of modem civilization.

Humanism is cosmopolitan. It does not run after the utopia of internationalism, which presupposes the existence of autonomous national states. The ideal of One World, or a world government, is not compatible with the continuation of national states. The one makes of the other a pious desire or wishful thinking. A cosmopolitan commonwealth of free men and women is a possibility. It will be a spiritual community, not limited by the boundaries of national states - capitalist, fascist, communist, or of any other kind - which will gradually disappear under the impact of cosmopolitan humanism. That is the radical perspective of the future of mankind.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Decentralization of Power

The central problem of all modern democracies is that of concentration of power in the hands of the state which has increased in a phenomenal manner in the course of the last five or six decades. What is power? Power can be defined as the ability to do things. As such, power will always have a place in human society. But the usefulness of power is eclipsed by abuses when it is concentrated to such an extent that the community as a whole becomes totally powerless. Second, the concept of the state has also to be defined because power is associated with the function of the state. Some political theoreticians of recent times have defined the state as an organ of coercion, an instrument created by a certain Class or section of society with the purpose of exercising its domination over the rest. The corollary to this definition is that a just and fair social order is impossible so long as the state exists. Therefore, thinking out their thoughts consistently, these political theorists came to the conclusion that in an ideal society the state must wither away. The anarchist denial of the very necessity of the state is only an exaggerated version of what may be called the communist utopia.

The ideal of a stateless society is an obvious absurdity. The most outstanding feature of the communist-social organization is greater and greater concentration of power, political as well as economic. It is very difficult to see how one of the two processes can ever annul the other. The establishment of a communist society presupposes a highly centralized political power. Such unrealistic utopian ideas about the future naturally result from the equally unrealistic, empirically unverifiable doctrines that society is divided into irreconcilable classes, and the history of civilization has been a history of class struggle.

The division of society into classes with diverse interests is a historical fact. But it is equally true that cohesive forces are also inherent in society. The centrifugal tendency is counteracted by a centripetal tendency. In the history of social evolution, an equilibrium between the two created stability, whereas discord and disharmony led either to the establishment of dictatorships or other autocratic forms of government or to social disintegration.

If there was no cohesive force in society, then mankind would have continued in a state governed by the laws of the jungle. The entire history of society shows that the cohesive force has always been more or less in operation; otherwise there could be no history of civilization. Ancient civilizations broke down because the forces of social cohesion and harmony were overwhelmed by strong centrifugal tendencies. Mediaeval and modern history has also been punctuated from time to time by wars and revolutions. But reaching higher and higher levels of social evolution, civilization survived those recurring vicissitudes and regained equilibrium of the conflicting forces.

It is possible to visualize an idealized state when the contradictory forces will disappear and society be a homogeneous organism. Then, there would be no classes, one trying to dominate all others. Yet, society will be there; it will not be a primitive community but a much more complicated organization with greatly diversified fields of activities. Such a society cannot possibly do without a central organization. It need not be a Leviathan, as the state has been described, but only a coordinating factor, one of the various social institutions, the function of which will be to harmonize the functions of the various other institutions.

Primitive communities organized themselves politically much later than their original formation, primarily with the purpose of self-defense and struggle for existence. In the intervening period, progressive human development added to the original functions of society, which was departmentalized according to vocations and professions. Eventually, the state arose to coordinate and harmonize the diverse departments of social activities, so as to promote the welfare of the community as a whole. It was not superimposed on I'm in society or given any totalitarian significance. It was created as the instrument of public administration to maintain order, to make laws and enforce them, so that the diverse forms of social activities could be carried on peacefully. The state rose as one of the several other social institutions, all equally autonomous - economic, educational, cultural.

There was a time when the government did not interfere in the economic life of society. The requirements of the community were met by peasants, artisans, and traders, applying human labor to natural resources, either individually or organized in guilds. Individual freedom and institutional autonomy in educational and cultural fields were particularly beyond the jurisdiction of the state.

The economic advantages of the politically centralized modern society are a doubtful blessing. We can therefore visualize a time when the state will again cease to be the Leviathan which it has become today, without dreaming of the absurd utopia of a stateless society, a society without public administration. But we shall have to search for ways and means to reduce the functions of the state to the minimum, in other words, restore to the native function of an instrument for public administration, to coordinate the various functions of other autonomous social institutions.

There are social philosophers who advocate what is called a pluralistic society, composed of autonomous institutions, the state being one of them, with no other function than to regulate and coordinate their diverse activities. This view of social organization was stated in the nineteenth-century liberal dictum that that government is the best which governs the least. Since then, the tendency for concentration of power has gained ground: as a result, it is not an exaggeration to say that the state has become an engine of coercion. But the point is that it is so not because of power as such but because of concentration of power. So, ultimately, the problem of democratic political practice is that of decentralization. Politically, it may not be a baffling problem. It is aggravated by the centralization of economy, immensely reinforcing the power of the state. In the last analysis, the problem, therefore, is: Can the economy of a modern society be decentralized? And in consequence thereof, also the political power? This is the problem of our time, and it will not do to blink over it by arguing that since it has been so for centuries, how can it be otherwise? The fatalistic view that human ingenuity has been exhausted and the last word of wisdom pronounced implies that mankind is nearly its journey's end and that the perspective is not promising; it is moving toward a social breakdown. With such a negation of human potentiality to evolve, progress, and create endlessly, ''might is right'' will not be only the legal but also the moral law. One can imagine what life will be like in a society ruled by such law, the law of the jungle.

If human freedom is not to be sacrificed in the scramble for power, we shall have to explore the possibility of political practice without the interference of political parties. Because it is through the instrumentality of political parties that power is concentrated in the hands of minorities, to be abused and misused on false pretences. The desired decentralization of power is conditional upon the disappearance of the instrument of centralization. It must be replaced by another instrument, which can guarantee that the sovereignty of the people will always remain with the people.

So long as political parties are believed to be essential for democratic practice, power will be inevitably concentrated in the hands of a few men. Therefore, under the party system, benevolent dictatorship is the best one can reasonably expect, and one also may idealize benevolent dictatorship, but the fact is that it has never existed in the world.

There are people who are above corruption. But politics as it is practiced today repels them. They stay out of the scramble for power because it might corrupt even the best of men. Nevertheless, they are not necessarily unconcerned with public affairs. They try to do small things in their quiet manner, and the cumulative effect of their silent endeavor may keep the morale of society from a complete collapse. To raise politics above corruption, it must be free from the lust for power. A constitutional structure based upon an even distribution of power alone can purify politics, and such a genuine democratic system is possible if the individual is restored to his place of primacy.

Democracy has been discredited first because of the fallacious theory which made for deceptive practice, and second, the practice did not allow that a solid foundation of the democratic state was laid. It placed a premium on demagogy. Those who are dreaming of a better world in which politics will be free from corruption and concomitant evils must apply themselves to the task of laying the foundation of a democratic society. Individual men and women must be conscious of their individuality, conscious of their ability to judge intelligently and discriminatingly all moral and political issues con- fronting them, so that in course of time politicians will not be able to sway them by appeals to base instincts and unbridled emotions, when a growing number of electors will be able to examine the promises made to them by parties at election time and find out whether they are genuine or false. They will be building democracy from the bottom. That is the proper approach to the baffling problem of democratic practice in the modern world: the problem of practicing direct democracy in large states with huge populations. Genuine democracy must be direct democracy. Indirect democracy means delegation of power. And delegation of power means surrender of sovereignty. Unless the democratic state is based on the foundation, not of helpless atomized individuals, but on the foundation of a network of locally organized democracies, democracy will never be real. Decentralization of democracy will prevent centralization of power, and the function of the state will be reduced to coordination of the activities of the other autonomous social institutions.

This process may take a long time. That is the common objection against it. But once we make the choice and begin moving in the new direction, it is not really such a long way as it appears to be. The precondition is to discard the traditional notion of human nature, and to know that it is neither evil nor divine, but that man is essentially rational, that, given the opportunity, every human being is capable of thinking for himself, judging right and wrong, making judgments and acting accordingly. Unless by his own nature, as a biological being, man was capable of thinking rationally and behaving morally it would be a vain dream to visualize a free, just and harmonious social order. For the time being, it is true that the common people are illiterate; they may not be able to govern country. But at the same time, is it not a fact that left to themselves, even the most ignorant peasants can manage their affairs better than our present government? The distrust for the ability of the common people to think for themselves and take care of themselves is only a pretext for seizing power in their name and abusing that power to suppress their liberty.

At election times, all parties go to the people and make promises; they all know that not half of their promises can be fulfilled, but they rely on the fact that the voters cannot understand and therefore can be duped. Can that state of affairs not be changed? It can be. To change this state of affairs is the first necessity, the biggest task for anybody who wishes to participate in politics-not for selfish ends. One need not go to the people only to catch their votes; to help them cast their votes intelligently would be an immensely more important work. The electorate should be asked to examine the programs of all the parties, to see if the promises can be fulfilled or if fulfilled will really improve matters. But this new political practice presupposes a radical change in the idea of human nature. It is an appeal to reason, which presupposes the belief that man is a rational being. Political practice is guided by the notion that the ordinary man cannot think for himself; therefore, he must be persuaded to follow parties and politicians. Since this unnatural relation between the people, the parties, and politicians constitutes the foundation of what is called party politics, the latter prevents the people even to think for themselves. Politics is not only a scramble for power but competition in all manner of questionable practices.

The position may appear to be a vicious circle. But there is a way out which party politicians would not take because that would mean the end of their days. Appeal to reason is the way out. And modern science indicates the way. Science teaches that human nature is not to believe but to enquire, that human nature is rational. It is true that the rational nature of man has been buried very deep. But being the essence of human nature, it can be recovered. Let some people have the conviction and the courage to act accordingly. Let them raise political practice on the level of reason and intelligence. I have no doubt the appeal to reason will and a response. The new politics will bear fruit sooner than one dares imagine; only the measure of success will not be power but gradual disappearance of that evil. Even a few people can lay down a solid foundation of democracy and freedom, if they forego the quest for power, do not participate in the scramble, do not ask for the vote of the people to rule in their name, but, on the contrary, remind the voters of their human dignity, capacity to think, and to act creatively.

Thus, the electorate will gradually become critical and discriminating the time will come when the voters of a locality will tell candidates of all parties to leave them alone; among themselves they will find men in whom they can have confidence and who will remain responsible to them between two elections. Once that happens, the end of the party system will begin, and with the parties, the main cause for concentration of power will disappear. In the process, we shall already have laid down the foundation of a decentralized state of local republics, which will combine all functions of the state as they affect the local life. National culture, national economy, and national political institutions will be cast on the pattern of the functions of these local republics; power will remain with them, to be wielded directly by the individual members of small communities. Being thus reared upon a broad foundation of direct democracies, the state will be really democratic. Usurpation of power will be out of the question. Thus, a pluralistic modem society can be built up at the same time while doing away with centralization of powers political and economic.

Principles of Radical Democracy - Twenty-Two Theses

1. Man is the archetype of society; cooperative social relationships contribute to develop individual potentialities. But the development of the individual is the measure of social progress. Collectivity presupposes the existence of individuals. Except as the sum total of freedom and well-being, actually enjoyed by individuals, social liberation and progress are imaginary ideals, which are never attained. Well-being, if it is actual, is enjoyed by individuals. It is wrong to ascribe a collective ego to any form of human community (viz., nation, class, etc.), as that practice means sacrifice of the individual. Collective well-being is a function of the well-being of individuals.

2. Quest for freedom and search for truth constitute the basic urge of human progress. The quest for freedom is the continuation on a higher level - of intelligence and emotion - of the biological struggle for existence. The search for truth is a corollary thereof. Increasing knowledge of nature enables man to be progressively free from the tyranny of natural phenomena and physical and social environments. Truth is the content of knowledge.

3. The purpose of all rational human endeavor, individual as well as collective, is attainment of freedom, in ever-increasing measure. Freedom is progressive disappearance of all restrictions on the unfolding of the potentialities of individuals, as human beings, and not as cogs in the wheels of a mechanized social organism. The position of the individual, therefore, is the measure of the progressive and liberating significance of any collective effort or social organization. The success of any collective endeavor is to be measured by the actual benefit for its constituent units.

4. Rising out of the background of the law-governed physical nature, the human being is essentially rational. Reason being a biological property, it is not the antithesis of will. Intelligence and emotion can be reduced to a common biological denominator. Historical determinism, therefore, does not exclude freedom of the will. As a matter of fact, human will is the most powerful determining factor. Otherwise, there would be no room for revolutions in a rationally determined process of history. The rational and scientific concept of determinism is not to be confused with the teleological or religious doctrine of predestination.

5. The economic interpretation of history is deduced from a wrong interpretation of materialism. It implies dualism, whereas materialism is a monistic philosophy. History is a determined process, but there are more than one causative factors. Human will is one of them, and it cannot always be referred directly to any economic incentive.

6. Ideation is a physiological process resulting from the awareness of environments. But once they are formed, ideas exist by them- selves, governed by their own laws. The dynamics of ideas runs parallel to the process of social evolution, the two influencing each other mutually. But in no particular point of the process human evolution can a direct causal relation be established between historical events and the movements of ideas. (''Idea'' is here used in the common philosophical sense of ideology or system of ideas.) Cultural patterns and ethical values are not mere ideological superstructures of established economic relations. They are also historically determined - by the logic of the history of ideas.

7. For creating a new world of freedom, revolution must go beyond an economic reorganization of society. Freedom does not necessarily follow from the capture of political power in the name of the oppressed and exploited classes and abolition of private property in the means of production.

8. Communism or socialism may conceivably be the means for the attainment of the goal of freedom. How far it can serve that purpose must be judged by experience. A political system and an economic experiment which subordinate the man of flesh and blood to an imaginary collective ego, be it the nation or a class, cannot possibly be the suitable means for the attainment of the goal of freedom. On the one hand, it is absurd to argue that negation of freedom will lead to freedom, and on the other hand, it is not freedom to sacrifice the individual at the altar of an imaginary collective ego. Any social philosophy or scheme of social reconstruction which does not recognize the sovereignty of the individual, and dismisses the ideal of freedom as an empty abstraction, can have no more than a very limited progressive and revolutionary significance.

9. The state being the political organization of society, its withering away under communism is a utopia which has been exploded by experience. Planned economy on the basis of socialized industries presupposes a powerful political machinery. Democratic control of that machinery alone can guarantee freedom under the new order. Planning of production for use is possible on the basis of political democracy and individual freedom.

10. State ownership and planned economy do not by themselves end exploitation of labor, nor do they necessarily lead to an equal distribution of wealth. Economic democracy is no more possible in the absence of political democrat than the latter is in the absence of the former.

11. Dictatorship tends to perpetuate itself. Planned economy under political dictatorship disregards individual freedom on the pleas of efficiency, collective effort, and social progress. Consequently, a higher form of democracy in the socialist society, as it is conceived at present, becomes an impossibility. Dictatorship defeats its professed end.

12. The defects of formal parliamentary democracy have also been exposed in experience. They result from the delegation of power. To make democracy effective, power must always remain vested in the people, and there must be ways and means for the people to wield the sovereign power effectively, not periodically, but from day to day. Atomized individual citizens are powerless for all practical purposes and most of the time. They have no means to exercise their sovereignty and to wield a standing control of the state machinery.

13. Liberalism is falsified or parodied under formal parliamentary democracy. The doctrine of laissez faire only provides the legal sanction to the exploitation of man by man. The concept of economic man negotiates the liberating doctrine of individualism. The economic man is bound to be a slave or a slaveholder. This vulgar concept must be replaced by the reality of an instinctively rational being who is moral because he is rational. Morality is an appeal to conscience, and conscience is the instinctive awareness of, and reaction to, environments. It is a mechanistic biological function on the level of consciousness. Therefore, it is rational.

14. The alternative to parliamentary democracy is not dictatorship; it is organized democracy in the place of the formal democracy of powerless atomized individual citizens. The parliament should be the apex of a pyramidal structure of the state reared on the base of an organized democracy composed of a countrywide network of people's committees. The political organization of society (the state) will be coincident with the entire society, and consequently the state will be under a standing democratic control.

15. The function of a revolutionary and liberating social philosophy is to lay emphasis on the basic fact of history that man is the maker of his world - man as a thinking being, and he can be so only as an individual. The brain is a means of production and produces the most revolutionary commodity. Revolutions presuppose iconoclastic ideas. An increasingly large number of men conscious of their creative power, motivated by the indomitable will to remake the world, moved by the adventure of ideas, and fired with the ideal of a free society of freemen can create the conditions under which democracy will be possible.

16. The method and program of social revolution must be based on a reassertion of the basic principle of social progress. A social renaissance can come only through determined and widespread endeavor to educate the people as regards the principles people will be of freedom and rational cooperative living. The people will be organized into effective democratic bodies to build up the sociopolitical foundation of the post-revolutionary order. Social revolution requires in rapidly increasing number men of the new renaissance and a rapidly expanding system of people's committees and an organic coordination of both. The program of revolution will similarly be based on the principles of freedom, reason, and social harmony. It will mean elimination of every form of monopoly and vested interest in the regulation of social life.

17. Radical democracy presupposes economic reorganization of society so as to eliminate the possibility of exploitation of man by man. Progressive satisfaction of material necessities is the precondition for the individual members of society unfolding their intellectual and other finer human potentialities. An economic reorganization, such as will guarantee a progressively rising standard of living, is the foundation of the radical democratic state. Economic liberation of the masses is an essential condition for their advancing toward the goal of freedom.

18. The economy of the new social order will be based on production for use and distribution with reference to human needs. Its political organization excludes delegation of power which in practice deprives the people of effective power; it will be based on the direct participation of the entire adult population through the people's committees. Its culture will be based on universal dissemination of knowledge and on minimum control and maximum scope for, and incentive to, scientific and creative activities. The new society, being founded on reason and science, will necessarily be planned. But it will be planning with the freedom of the individual as its main purpose. The new society will be democratic - politically, economically, as well as culturally. Consequently, it will be a democracy which can defend itself.

19. The ideal of radical democracy will be attained through the collective efforts of spiritually free men united in the determination of creating a world of freedom. They will function as the guides, friends, and philosophers of the people rather than as their would-be rulers. Consistently with the goal of freedom, their political practice will be rational and therefore ethical. Their effort will be reinforced by the growth of the people's will to freedom. Ultimately, the radical democratic state will rise with the support of enlightened public opinion as well as intelligent action of the people. Realizing that freedom is inconsistent with concentration of power, radical democrats will aim at the widest diffusion of power.

20. In the last analysis, education of the citizen is the condition for such a reorganization of society as will be conducive to common progress and prosperity without encroaching upon the freedom of the individual. The people's committees will be the schools for the political and civic education of the citizen. The structure and function of the radical democratic state will enable detached individuals to come to the forefront of public affairs. Manned with such individuals, the state machinery will cease to be the instrument in the hands of any particular class to coerce others. Only spiritually free individuals in power can smash all chains of slavery and usher in freedom for all.

21. Radicalism integrates science into social organization and reconciles individuality with collective life; it gives to freedom a moral-intellectual as well as a social content; it offers a comprehensive theory of social progress in which both the dialectics of economic determinism and dynamics of ideas find their due recognition, and it deduces from the same a method and a program of social revolution in our time.

22. Radicalism starts from the dictum that ''man is the measure of everything'' (Protagoras) or ''man is the root of mankind'' (Marx) and advocates reconstruction of the world as a commonwealth and fraternity of free men, by the collective endeavor of spiritually emancipated moral men.