(Dr. Muhammad Maroof Shah, 33, was born in Kunan, Bandipore. He has pursued a career in veterinary medicine and animal husbandry, completing Bachelors's degree in veterinary sciences (BVSc) at the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences and Animal Husbandry (FVSc & AH), Shuhama campus of the Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Kashmir (SKUAST-K), and MA English through the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). He is presently posted as a Veterinary Assistant Surgeon (VAS) at the Government Sheep Breeding Farm in Dachigam. Dr. Shah is the author of two books, and has lectured as a visiting fellow at the Jaipur University on Western Philosophy. In his leisure time he pursues studies in comparative religion, philosophy and literature.)
A Philosophically Illiterate Society
It is vain or futile to lament all kinds of degenerations afflicting our society. What is needed is to work for cure. I think we must target education. And in education we need to focus on something that is so little known even to MAs in education or educationists and intellectuals. A philosophy illiterate society that ours is ill equipped against multiple crises currently challenging us including corruption.
We are talking of guarding our heritage without bothering to campaign for creating necessary human resource or infrastructure. Average student here doesn’t know anything of philosophy and thus of the knowledge of general principles of all disciplines, of the knowledge that synthesizes discordant and heterogeneous bits of information in a certain coherent framework. We know much about individual sciences, physical and biological but are mostly ignorant of methodology and philosophy of science. That is why we have been unable to inculcate scientific attitude. Modern science is empiricist and inductivist in its methodology and inculcating it in our newer generation requires philosophical aptitude. How many students could define induction? Thus despite being science literates we are appallingly ignorant of its defining assumptions. We know too little about modern scientific weltanshuung or ideology. How could we conceive a critical understanding of its philosophical and methodological assumptions unless we give due attention to philosophy? General awareness regarding most of things of science, literature and arts is miserably low in our state. One can safely assert–as our great educationists have already noted – by international standards we are uneducated. The subjects like religion and philosophy, art and aesthetics, language and literature, history and psychology, sciences and their underlying philosophical foundation–hardly attract our students. No wonder we are really uneducated because philosophy illiterates. The joy of knowledge, of any science comes from deeper understanding of the subject which demands philosophical orientation in learners.
Philosophy has traditionally helped to pose new problems for sciences. In fact the great scientists have been often philosophers or philosophically inclined. Philosophy, carried in true spirit, will guide new generation to more prosperous future. Different disciplines in themselves and independently operating, can’t give us these insights which the comprehensive cross disciplinary philosophical approach can give.
Development of infrastructure for Philosophy will help to strengthen human resource in other departments in our academic institutions such as Political Science, History, English, Urdu, Education, Economics, Journalism, Islamic Studies, Linguistics etc. as all these disciplines today in the West have been linked to philosophy in one or the other way. Only students with strong background of philosophy or teaching faculty with proper philosophical grounding can properly teach educational philosophy, political philosophy, philosophy of history, philosophy of language for linguistics, philosophy of religion, postmodernist, new historicist and other movements in literary criticism. Relatively poor teaching quality in different humanities department in many Universities including Kashmir University could be attributed to lack of training in philosophy of teachers. No training programme or refresher course for teachers in higher education can claim to be comprehensive that ignores lectures in philosophy. An unexamined life is not worth living, said Socrates. Without good familiarity with philosophy understood in broad sense as love of wisdom and hard consistent thinking good teachers can’t be produced. Failure of teachers in getting respect or setting examples or inculcating moral values in students can be traced to their lack of philosophical training and culture. No culture of higher moral values can be produced without philosophy (hikmah/gyan/darsana).
Our young generation is forced to go to outside the home state for pursuing studies in philosophy and other disciplines or specialised problems needing philosophical background. Thus our highly intelligent youth is led ultimately to desert the state for careers in similar disciplines and we lose future human resource. Institutions for philosophy are required for launching new courses in cultural studies, anthropology, development studies, and comparative religion. All these departments presuppose familiarity with philosophy. Philosophy has been always been instrumental in fighting crisis in values in any culture and guiding youth to pursue paths that ultimately take the whole community to new heights. We owe to philosophers all great ideas that have shaped history.
In fact philosophy should ideally be compulsory for all graduates in the State for strengthening moral-spiritual fabric in our society. If education is to be comprehensive philosophy must be in curriculum. Thus the need of philosophy course at the highest institution of learning or comprehensive Institute devoted to philosophy is too obvious if we are to make the whole educational system geared to full development of personality.
Courses in ethics which have traditionally been part of philosophy are urgently required for medical and other professionals as it is this deficit that largely accounts for current corruption of professionals. The greatest thinkers in history–in political, social, economical, religious, literary fields–have been philosophers–in fact it is philosophy which gives depth perception in any field. Understanding giants of intellectual and cultural history demands we read philosophy.
Philosophy education is an indicator of academic excellence. Today we still name academic degrees as Masters/Doctors in Philosophy. Philosophy has always been the most prized and fundamental of human inquiries and key to greatest revolutions in human thought and history. If Kashmir is to be launched on world intellectual scene and regain its lost status of shardapaeth it has to have a philosophy department of excellence at par with the best in the world. Philosophy is a quest for knowledge and value and thus the quintessence of higher art, religion and wisdom. It humanises and perfects us, deepens our perception and beautifies our inner world. It shows the way to peace within and world. It embodies the values of tolerance and pluralism in a world torn by conflicts. It provides us a trans-sectarian identity. A nation well read in philosophy can’t be mean, materialistic and corrupt. If we are serious against corruption we need to make philosophy compulsory in schools. No man is wilfully bad, said Socrates. Yes, philosophy teaches us how and why we harm our souls by doing wrong things. Religions preach these things but gnosis that is the fruit of traditional philosophies, shows it. Religion’s deeper meaning is expressed by philosophers. But very few know this because they have not been taught it. Once upon a time at least was logic was being taught to all students in Muslim schools. From our Sufiana music to our Sufi poets and from our traditional arts and crafts to diverse cultural expressions the underlying philosophical basis of our culture and religion needs to be understood and developed to appropriate the challenges of the twenty first century.
Kashmir has been the home of world’s greatest sage-philosophers. If for no other reason than merely to be loyal to their great names, to be conscious inheritors of our history, we have long been direly in need of philosophy.