Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Treating others as ethical equals

A very good piece by Dipankar Gupta in The Telegraph.

    Scientific growth is possible in modern societies not because there are suddenly more sceptical scientists, but because people must now respect the other as an ethical equal. This person may be an anonymous individual, about whose origins we have no knowledge, and towards whose point of view we may have no sympathy. Surely this does not happen easily and that is why many societies that are industrializing are not yet modern in this very critical sense. On the other hand, without a thoroughgoing industrialization that overthrows every vestige of past relationships that were governed by status and birth, it is impossible to inaugurate an era where ethical equality can be a defining social motif. There are certain structural conditions that favour the development of such modern social relations. It is difficult to imagine modernity of the kind outlined above when there are vast economic disparities between classes.

    ... ... ...

    It would be incorrect to say that only bright minds are produced in the western hemisphere. Countries like India fall behind in scientific production because we lack the basic ethical quotient necessary for being modern. This demonstrates that social relations of modernity thrive particularly well when there is greater economic parity between people. So if India is to move towards true modernity then it is important that we overcome economic and status differentials of the kind that prevail in this country. Modernity, in the ultimate analysis, is not about affectations, or about personal dispositions, such as being scientific, irreligious, or philanthropic; nor is it really about building big industries and dams. Modernity is essentially a sociological concept as it emphasizes, above all else, the conditions under which social relations based on ethical equality can be realized as a universal principle.


At 5:51 AM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said...

India's scientific output is not what it should be primarily because there is a near total neglect of teaching among most of our leading scientists. Major breakthroughs come from the ground up - when fundamental paradigms are worked on, questioned and challenged - it hardly happens in India, as at least in the so-called pure sciences, most leaders never teach undergraduates and rarely teach graduates and are thus handicapped by their 'fossilized' foundations.

In some sense this malaise also stems from our low ethical equality quotient - the elite are sheltered in exclusive 'institutes' and taught to think themselves as apart from and superior to those who work with undergraduates in plebian universities; and the state policy, which lavishes hundreds of crores on robust institutions like the IISc (where no non-member can enter the library for even reference!) has nothing much for the hundreds of less fortunate places who need the help far more urgently.

At 6:39 AM, Blogger R.Nandakumar said...

I felt the need to clarify my earlier comment: I did not mean that the Indian academic leaders wilfully neglect teaching. It is that they DO NOT GET TO TEACH due to the vagaries of a highly iniquitous system; I see the majority of these academicians as victims of this system rather than as perpertrators.


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