Life without philosophy is dead and philosophy without education is doomed

Dr John Mohan Razu

27th May, 2024, I read a passionate and thought provoking write-up entitled Philosophy in Nagaland by Dr Asangba Tzudir in “The Morung Express” prompted me to write this piece, not as a rejoinder, but taking the concern step further, not just to one particular state, but to the entire Indian society and educational institutions at large. Homo sapiens are thinking and rational beings who keep questioning, exploring, and innovating. This is why we as human beings have made stupendous changes in the world we live-in. Progress and development keep happening in all facets and sectors all the time. Nevertheless, questions keep propelling and pushing Homo sapiens to get into and always keep asking hard questions that go beyond human comprehension being realized and translated thereafter.  What we are now is because of this dynamic and what we are going to be is also because of the dynamism which is on-going and ever-developing.

Life is not hanging in vacuum, but encircled with a set of forces that pushes us to respond either actively or passively. Every day we question the world around-us and equally the societal forces compels us to respond. Questions that concerns: why such things are happening, why this way, and why not that way. This is why philosophy becomes handy. If we had a world without philosophy, then it would a world without creative and critical thoughts, without any creativity, stagnant and static. New ideas and original thought processes would emerge only when we have philosophy. We would not have progressed and developed, rather be living in Stone Age, if we hadn’t philosophy. Philosophy as an overarching umbrella embraces and thus undergirds sciences, politics, economics, education, cultures, religions, technologies. ethics and theologies.   

Over and above, philosophy is regarded as the mother of all other disciplines and is supposed to have given birth to every other discipline. It simply means that the disciplines we have now across and around are the off-shoots of philosophy. There are relationships between philosophy and other disciplines to be viewed between mother and children who would continue as long as humans exist. And so, the basic origin of the ideas stems from philosophy and so it is indispensable and so is irreplaceable. The word philosophy came from Greek – philo and Sophia, which means love of wisdom. It simply means those who love wisdom and are desirous of acquiring knowledge ought to embrace philosophy. It is the foundation upon which all other fields of knowledge are grounded. 

Philosophy is related to all aspects of life and vice versa. Life is connected to experience, thought processes, education, work, and webbed with aspects of life. Each and everyone whether he/she articulates cogently and systematically or not has his/her own philosophy. This is why we come across everyone saying it’s my philosophy of life. Purely because these reasons we come across our life struggles by ways of songs, stories, fictions, poems, literature, and in many other forms within which we spin and thus spun in intricate ways.  Hence, philosophy is thus the reflective thoughts on life. Though they are crude in one way or the other conveys meaning and sense, and yet do not qualify to be called as philosopher. Philosophy, however, simply means intelligent and wise thinking. We consider someone as writer or author only those who write in creative manner positing systematic thought processes enmeshed with well-arranged and developed nuanced arguments.      

In India, the academia in recent times seems to have junked philosophy. Since demand for philosophy seem to be marginal and in some cases abysmal, the custodians of education do not see philosophy generating money and also no-takers.  This is the sorry state of affairs. The appetite for exploring new meadows of knowledge and discovering unknown terrains and treasures of mystery hidden in the universe resulted to move towards different scientific genres.  Each and every branch of science and humanities manifests ceaseless painstaking pursuit of wisdom. Great men and women find their bliss and mental satisfaction by indulging in deep-thinking and reasoning. Nonetheless, philosophy per se is a study of the common and fundamental problems that concerns the reality of life, human existence, knowledge, values, rationality, governance, ideologies, and linguistic aspects. Undoubtedly philosophy has an edge over all other sciences because of its inclusivity, creative and critical and well arranged way of presenting arguments that makes people to critically think, reflect and act. 

In a scientific-technological innovative and knowledge-driven and conflict-ridden world, we see the quests for moral reasoning and ethical principles in all spheres of human life and living. In such a scenario, purpose of life and values for living are needed. Therefore, it is obvious that human inventions and scientific break-through are to enhance the quality of life—maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain for all. At the same time questions that surface constitutes ‘good life’ in totality, how decisions ought to be made—morally-bound and ethically-grounded? Do the technologies and its subsidiaries are created and innovated with the object of making life better, but on the other creating risks and misery for humans?  In politics for governance we go to Plato’s Republic, and Edmund Burke, for economics, we turn to Utilitarian namely Bentham, Mill, and Locke, for education and its values; we refer John Dewey, Paulo Freire, and Jiddu Krishnamurti and many other philosophers such as John Rawls and Emmanuel Kant known in their respective fields.

Philosophy is that which enables and facilitates to interrogate and examine ourselves deep down by pushing us to test our assumptions, pre-judgments and pre-suppositions and in the process helps to develop our character entrenched with moral principles and ethical values. Philosophy unfolds and decodes myths and beliefs that dominate and controls. It offers a vision of the world that encompasses equality, freedom, righteousness, goodness, moderation, humanity, morality, and spirituality. Philosophy pushes us to become critical thinkers exploring what is right and fitting with reasons subject to scrutiny.  It builds literary community that resonates in the forms of stories, songs, scripts, films, sharing experiences, books, autobiographies, and memoirs narrating of risks people have taken and faced for sake of common humanity and futures.