G C Lichtenberg: “It is as if our languages were confounded: when we want a thought, they bring us a word; when we ask for a word, they give us a dash; and when we expect a dash, there comes a piece of bawdy.”

W H Auden: "But in my arms till break of day / Let the living creature lie. / Mortal, guilty, but to me/ The entirely beautiful."

Will Self: “To attempt to write seriously is always, I feel, to fail – the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short. It is this failure – a ceaseless threnody keening through the writing mind – that dominates my working life, just as an overweening sense of not having loved with enough depth or recklessness or tenderness dominates my personal one.”

John Gray: "Unlike Schopenhauer, who lamented the human lot, Leopardi believed that the best response to life is laughter. What fascinated Schopenhauer, along with many later writers, was Leopardi’s insistence that illusion is necessary to human happiness."

Art Spiegelman: "You know words in a way are hitting you on the left side of your brain, music and visual arts hit on the right side of the brain, so the idea is to pummel you, to send you from left brain to right brain and back until you're as unbalanced as I am."

विलास सारंग: "संदर्भ कुठलेही असोत, संस्कृत, इंग्रजी, बुद्धिवादी, तांत्रिक, इतिहासाचे, खगोलशास्त्राचे, आधुनिक पदार्थविज्ञानाचे, शिवकालीन व पेशवाईतील बखरीचे, अगणित ज्ञानक्षेत्रांचे, अशा वैविध्यपूर्ण ज्ञानावर लेखन- विशेषत: कवितालेखन- उभं राहत."

Friday, May 31, 2013

J S MIll: Why I Don't Share Ashok Shahane's Frustration With G G Agarkar

May 8 2013 was  John Stuart Mill's 140th death anniversary and May 20 was his 207th birth anniversary. May is Mill!

 

Artist: Scott Garrett

 John Stuart Mill:


"Lord, enlighten thou our enemies. Sharpen their wits, give acuteness to their perceptions, and consecutiveness and clearness to their reasoning powers. We are in danger from their folly, not from their wisdom: their weakness is what fills us with apprehension, not their strength."

 John Gray:

"To account for the Fukuyama/Wilson faith that mankind can achieve conscious mastery of its evolution, we need to look back to an early 19th-century cult - French positivism. Led by thinkers such as Henri Saint-Simon and Auguste Comte, the positivists were the inventors of the religion of humanity that has inspired the secular religions of the past two centuries. They had many eccentricities, including a version of the Catholic practice of crossing oneself in which they tapped the parts of the cranium believed by phrenologists to be connected with order and progress, but their religion has been vastly influential. It inspired not only Marx but also, through John Stuart Mill, many liberals, and it stands behind the faith in progress that is shared by all parties today."
  
Ben Yagoda, “When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It”:

"The nineteenth-century philosopher John Stuart Mill holds out a temptingly lofty rationale for a consideration of the parts of speech, claiming that they represent fundamental categories of human thought."
  
This is in continuation of my earlier post dated May 22 2013.

Sadly,  Ashok Shahane's (अशोक शहाणे) book 'Napeksha' (नपेक्षा) has no index- typical of many serious/ nonfiction Marathi books that are published.

While criticizing  B G Tilak (बाळ गंगाधर टिळक) for quoting John Stuart Mill in 'Gitarahasya' (गीतारहस्य), Shahane says: 

"....मिल आणि स्पेन्सर ह्यांचा त्यांनी विचारसादृश्य असणारे म्हणून ळटिपांतून उल्लेख केला. ही त्या काळच्या बुद्धीच्या दारिद्र्याची ठळक निशाणी म्हणून सांगता येईल. 

मिल आणि स्पेन्सर ह्यांची पुस्तके 'क्रमिक' स्वरुपाची आहेत, ही गोष्ट ध्यानात घेतली म्हणजे त्या काळच्या महाराष्ट्रातल्या वैचारिक नेतृत्वाची कल्पना येईल..."

["Footnotes mentioned (John Stuart) Mill's and (Herbert) Spencer's thoughts were similar (to Bhagavad Gita's or Tilak's?). This can be described as the bold sign of poverty of intellect of those times.

If one comprehends the fact that Mill's and Spencer's books were sort of 'text' books, one realises about the nature of the then thought-leadership of Maharashtra... "]

I strongly disagree with the assertion that quoting of JSM was a sign of poverty of intellect.

Shahane is free and maybe even justified to fault the then Maharashtra's thought-leadership but he can't blame the problem on Mill.


Gopal Ganesh Agarkar (गोपाळ गणेश आगरकर) was a great disciple / fan of John Stuart Mill.

In May 1893 (he died in June 1895),  he was very ill. One night, while in high  fever, as he could not sleep, he wrote a note to his close relatives and friends. 

A part of it reads as follows:

"...जॉन  स्टुअर्ट मिलसाहेब, पुढील जन्मीही तुमच्या पायाशी बसून शिकता आले तर मला अतिशय समाधान लाभेल. जर आपणास माझे सर्वात प्रिय व आदरणीय गुरु होणे शक्य झाले आणि मलाही आपला सर्वात नम्र आणि अज्ञात शिष्य होणे जमले तरच हे सुख मला लाभेल..."

('आगरकर', य  दि फडके, १९९६)

("....John Stuart Mill-saheb, in next birth if I can learn sitting at your feet, I will have great satisfaction. I will get that pleasure only if you could become my dearest and most respected teacher and if I could be your most humble and incognito student...",

 'Agarkar' by Y D Phadke, 1996)

Why is Mr. Shahane so much dismissive of Mill? (Btw- Why doesn't Mr. Shahane see G G Agarkar as a great Socratean figure?...More on this some other time.)

It's most likely because Nietzsche's antipathy towards British utilitarianism, expressed in the cartoon below, and its greatest proponent JSM : "Man does not strive for happiness, only the English do that." 

(This is how John Gray talks about Nietzsche: 

"Like innumerable, less reflective humanists who came after him, Nietzsche wished to hold on to an essentially Christian view of the human subject while dropping the transcendental beliefs that alone support it. It was this impulse to salvage a religious conception of humankind, I believe, that animated Nietzsche's attempt to construct a new mythology. The task set by Nietzsche for his imaginary Superman was to confer meaning on history through a redemptive act of will. The sorry history of the species, lacking purpose or sense until a higher form of humanity came on to the scene, would then be redeemed. In truth, Nietzsche's mythology is no more than the Christian view of history stated in idiosyncratic terms, and a banal version of it underpins nearly all subsequent varieties of secular thought. ")



Commenting on the list of current thinkers / intellectuals published by Foreign Policy magazine in 2011 and comparing it to an imaginary list prepared in 1861, Gideon Rachman says:

"...It is an impressive group of people (from 2011). But now compare it with a similar list that could have been compiled 150 years ago. The 1861 rankings could have started with Charles Darwin and John Stuart MillOn the Origin of Species and On Liberty were both published in 1859. Then you could include Karl Marx and Charles Dickens. And that was just the people living in and around London. In Russia, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky were both at work, although neither had yet published their greatest novels. Even if, like Foreign Policy, you have a preference for politicians, the contrast between the giants of yesteryear and the relative pygmies of today is alarming..." 

(Financial Times, January 24 2011)

Look at the company JSM keeps in the statement above- Darwin, Marx, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky....(I don't say Dickens because very likely Mr. Shahane is dismissive of him!). 

Another important thing to note: along with Darwin, Dickens, Marx, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard,  Mill survives and remains relevant even today.

John Gray remains a fan of  JSM for:

"Not his utilitarianism, not his belief in progress, not his Victorianism - but his eclecticism. He took things from different systems of thought. The truth about human civilisation is very unlikely to lie in some single form. Which he understood."

'The truth about human civilisation is very unlikely to lie in some single form.'?...Even Shahane's 'darling'  Soren Kierkegaard would be impressed!



courtesy: 'Action Philosophers: Two Millennia of Philosophy in Comic Form' by Maria Popova