Triveni Journal

1927 | 11,233,916 words

Triveni is a journal dedicated to ancient Indian culture, history, philosophy, art, spirituality, music and all sorts of literature. Triveni was founded at Madras in 1927 and since that time various authors have donated their creativity in the form of articles, covering many aspects of public life....

The Fourteenth Indian Philosophical Congress

Dr. P. T. Raju

The Fourteenth Indian Philosophical

Congress, 1938 (Allahabad)


(Andhra University)

The academical Congresses and Conferences would be of little use if they did not show the trend which the thought of the country is taking in different spheres. In no sphere are men satisfied with the mere understanding of the old things. It is now a truism that the present age is restless and is dissatisfied with itself. It is in search of new ways of thought and new modes of action. And to preserve its continuity with the past, it is seeing new truths in old beliefs. Even in India it is really time that we do not rest content with the mere appreciation of doctrines passed on to us by the modern West and the ancient East. We have ceased to be passive and can ill afford to be uncreative. In spite of our belonging to the East, we are no longer people of the fifteenth or sixteenth century. We have begun to move, and how we are moving, and in what direction, it is important to know.

The signs of such movement are showing even in the philosophical activities in India. For a long time Indian scholarship had been satisfied with the knowledge and interpretation of its own philosophy and an understanding and appreciation of the Western. But as a comparative understanding of both philosophies is deepening, scholars are struck by the uniqueness and peculiarity of Indian thought more and more. The hunt for similarities is not the fashion now. We are more interested in understanding the significance of the petrified concepts of our ancient philosophy. We want to know how far these can solve the problems unsolved or given rise to by Western philosophy. The Philosophical Congress has been fortunate in getting the services of Rev. C. F. Andrews as the General President in 1938. The subject of his address was Ahimsa or non-violence, an idea that is strongly influencing the religious and political activity of India. He is one who believes in the progress of India through internal development and is opposed to the idea of making India better by the importation of things foreign. Professor Amarnath Jha, the Chairman of the Reception Committee, aptly referred to this characteristic of Andrews’ views, while pleading, in his Welcome Address, for an ethical basis for politics, and showing how philosophical wisdom lies embodied in popular maxims, proverbs, and sententious utterings of poets and dramatists."

The trend which philosophical thought is taking is to be found more distinctly in the sectional papers and addresses. The Logic and Metaphysics Section and Indian Philosophy Section are the mainstay of the Congress. Sixteen papers were contributed to the former and about twelve to the latter. The Section of Ethics and Religion and that of Psychology had about half a dozen each. The reason for the small number of papers in the Psychology Section is that the Indian Science Congress too has a Psychology Section, and there is more glamour about the word science than about the word philosophy. As regards Ethics, unfortunately much work is not being done in India now. There are in India no ethical systems or philosophies as in the West, and people are losing interest in religion. This is unfortunate. Religious interest need not be faith in dogma, but, as Professor Amarnath Jha puts it, "real, abiding, burning devotion to the highest good." We should not identify ethics with codes or institutes. It can be as speculative as metaphysics; and its basis should be metaphysics. Such ethics has to be written; it is not handed down to us by our ancients. It is this subject that brings philosophy closer to our life. As India is trying to assert herself, it is necessary to have a philosophy of her life. That has to be formulated as an ethical system based upon her metaphysics.

The president of the Ethics and Religion Section, Mr. M. V. V. K. Rangachari, is a non-University man, who is well known for his interest in religion and culture. His interesting address dealt with the ethical shift under Dialectical Materialism. The President of the Psychology Section, Dr. Inder Sen of Delhi, made the Culture Psychology of Germany the subject of his address. The subject was really of philosophical interest. It was new to many, as works on that subject are not available translated into English. The President of the Indian Philosophy Section, Dr. S. C. Chatterjee of Calcutta, dealt with the peculiarity of the Indian philosophical stand-point as compared with the Western. Philosophy for the Indian is identical with metaphysics, which deals with a transcendent reality. It is direct experience with self or reality. The author of this article, who presided over the Logic and Metaphysics Section, spoke on the idea of Superposition and the Sphere of Mind. He pointed out how the concept of Organism, the highest concept reached by the methodology of Western philosophy, is inadequate to express the nature of Mind. That concept has to be transcended, and the idea of the supra-organic whole introduced. Consistent application of the concept of organism ends in complete determinism. Freedom, which is so characteristic of Mind, and so important in ethics, has to be treated as an illusion if we hold to the organic view of the universe. The relation between the part and the whole at the level of Mind is not organic. Borrowing the concept of Superposition from the Advaita philosophy, the writer has shown how it is applied to Mind and its so-called parts to the best advantage. Not only is the relation between Mind and its parts the relation of superposition, but also the primary judgment made by the mind is an act of superposition. This is the kind of judgment made by the mind in the practical sphere, in its living contact with the world. He also discussed how this view of judgment differs from that of Western idealists.

It is significant that Professor S. S. Suryanarayana Sastri of Madras, in his paper, Akhandartha, contributed to the Logic and Metaphysics Section, dealt with the same theory of judgment. It is felt that the peculiarly Indian thought of the Advaita must have its own logic. It struck the writer of this article long ago that judgment according to the Advaita must be an act of super-position, and cannot be an expression of organic unity. He wrote a paper on that subject, but it was not published for some time. But later a short paper was published in the Calcutta Review(September 1935) under the title, "Judgment as Superimposition." And after the ideas had been more clarified, another paper, "The Need for Transcending the Concept of Organism as a Principle of Explanation," was published in the Philosophical Quarterly (January 1937). The present presidential address dealt with the same subject. But the significant fact is that others too are thinking on the same lines. It is therefore hoped that it will not be long before a system of philosophy on the Western lines and in the Western sense, that is, in the systematic way in which Western philosophies are written, makes its appearance. Then India too can have a national philosophy.

One important feature of this session of the Congress was the opening of a new Section, the Muslim Philosophy Section. Professor Hakim of the Osmania University presided over it. In his address he pleaded for a critical study of Islamic philosophy. There is really one advantage in opening this Section. It has been the opinion in some quarters that Muslims are fanatical, that they do not allow a critical study of their religion and philosophy. It is hoped by opening this Section that a large number of scholars of Islamic philosophy and culture will come forward and give us a better understanding of Islam. Truth is not the monopoly of any one religion. Yet every religion contains elements which are historical and factors which are climatic and environmental. It is hoped that Muslim scholars will distinguish between these elements and those that are of eternal importance. It is only then that rival religions will cease identifying the devil of each with the God of the other. There is no better way of mutual co-operation and friendliness than a sympathetic and thorough understanding of each other’s thought and outlook. It would not be of much use if Islamic philosophy is limited to the thought of some medieval philosophers of Arabia and Spain. They are already studied inthe history of European philosopby; and what is peculiarly Islamic may be left out, which is not desirable.

Some members of the Congress felt that the Indian Philosophy Section was out of date. Philosophy is philosophy, whether Indian or European; and no kind of segregation or distinction should be made. The interest we are to take in Indian philosophy should not be antiquarian, but metaphysical. We should take living interest in all philosophies alike. We should think of them in terms metaphysical, not in terms religious or communal. But many could not appreciate the importance of this feeling. And one reason that counted against this feeling was that there may be some members who can think and understand only in terms of Indian philosophy and not in terms of European philosophy. So long as this state of affairs continues, the Section of Indian Philosophy has to remain. But none can reasonably deny that it is desirable that we should think, not in terms antiquarian but in terms of living metaphysics. Western philosophical ideas have permeated the thought of educated India in its political, economic, and social spheres so much that it is necessary for us to think our philosophy in the light of these, if we are not to lose connection with our past. If our contact with the modern West is not to leave a breach between our past and the present, we cannot shun the task. One thing we have to do: that is to march with the times. Western ideas form the vehicle of our thought now. They constitute the living thought for us. But they belong to a different outlook. Then, if we are not to sever our connection with our past, if our past is not to disown us, we have to rediscover our philosophical ideas, and make them again our true property. This process involves comparative evaluation. It constitutes really a very important line of philosophical development. When the task is accomplished, we cannot think in terms of Hindu, Islamic, or Christian philosophy, but of philosophy pure and simple. That it is really an ideal which we should by all means try to realise, I believe none would deny.

The Indian Philosophical Congress has been trying for some years to bring its discussions into closer and closer connection with the burning topics of the day. For its symposia it is selecting subjects from politics and law. In the last Congress one of the subjects for its symposia was "Authority and Freedom in the State." Many took interest in that discussion. The other subject was "Philosophy and Mysticism."

On the whole the Congress was a success. Yet it desirable that more people should become its members.

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