Saturday, July 3, 2010


© Mukesh Williams

1. Who has the right to ask a question and why?

In an age which is increasingly questioning privilege and authority, how can we find a common yardstick to define the right to ask a question? Do individuals, nations, communities or philosophies possess this right? If so why? Is asking a question a discursive strategy or a more fundamental issue of authority and rights? If we decenter or ‘liquidate’ the subject as Lacan said, then can we ask the question? Heidegger felt that there was subjectivity in questioning. But if subjectivity goes away from philosophy would philosophy come to an end and with it all questioning?

2. Is it possible for human beings to share worldviews, values, sensibilities and global futures?

Today globalization and its accompanied discourses of immigration and change have brought together economies, nations and communities closer and yet values, sensibilities, worldviews and global futures have acquired a deeper schism. There are more contentious debates between the rich north and the poor south about controlling the resources of the world. There are debates about clash of civilization theories and return to an ideal past.

3. Can local communities coexist with global societies?

As the world becomes increasingly complex, both local and global forces shape our lives and identity in often incompatible ways. Can we retain our old tribal and communal loyalties and yet act globally? Can we inherit the benefits of modernity and still function effectively within our traditional ethos?

4. Can we overcome the dichotomy of body and mind?

Symbiotic philosophies like Buddhism suggest that oneness of body and mind is possible, while neuroscience is discovering that it is difficult to resolve this dichotomy.

5. Is the concept of human freedom compatible with scientific discoveries of the mind?

If we are free agents we are responsible for our actions but if we are not then can we be responsible for our actions?

6. Is the universe organized only in bits and parts or there is a comprehensive scheme that is hidden from us?

This is an age-old problem expounded by T. E. Hulme and others who believe that the universe has no pattern but we place a pattern on it. We organize the world in parts, the rest is burning cinders. However the Kantians and the foundationalists disagree.

7. On what should we depend to answer the questions: Who am I? Or who are we?

The 1960s was a momentous decade. Lacan began to attack the concept of the embedded self and posited the notion of a de-centered self. The dominant theory thesis and hegemonic ideas connected with it began to give way to micro politics. By 1970s it became rather difficult to say, both on the individual and group level, “Who am I? or Who are we?” As we go into the 1980s again new groups are formed such as Yuppies and DINKS. Identity was no longer what we learn or experience but something to be consumed and used. The consumer culture acquired greater intensity during this decade. Today it is difficult to assert an ‘authentic identity’ as postmodernism undercuts modern history, psychology and philosophy. Cloning, genetic tinkering and transforming memory has further destabilized our conception of who are we.

8. How to find the right information in an age of information glut?

Information has spread rapidly like a web of knowledge breaking the hierarchical modernist framework of top down flow. We now float in a world of information but have a problem to find reliable knowledge. We need new skills and techniques to find what is reliable and accurate. Can we do it?

9. Can we retain hundred percent intellectual property rights in an age of plagiarism, intermixing and amalgamation of knowledge?

Today when information and ideas spread quickly, we still talk about retaining hundred percent IPR. Can we share 40 percent free and charge on the rest?

10. Can we discover ideal ground to make collective decisions and arrive at rational consensus?

Since World War II we have promoted the idea of collective decision making and rational consensus through the UN and Bretton Woods institutions but failed? Are there global standards of rationality and collective decision-making beyond partisan politics and self-interest? Can postmodern philosophy show the way?

11. Can we arrive at a consensus at defining universal justice?

This is distinctively a hegemonic idea, a function of a unipolar politics of the 21st century. However everyone would like to know if the answer would come from philosophy, religion or sheer brute strength of nations? We live in an unequal world and if so can we find a universal definition of justice? Thomas Hobbes believed that justice cannot be achieved outside the nation state. John Rawls would like us to believe that justice involves a notion of equality amongst people living in a nation state. It does not apply to the choices individuals make. An ideal world must have ideal institutions and ideal nation states to realize ideal universal justice.

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