Freethought book discussion
#1
Several books have been suggested in a companion thread on freethought books, and I think it would be good to discuss individual books on this thread.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has - Margaret Mead
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#2
Quote:5. The Argumentative Indian by Amartya Sen
Not the most eloquent but must read for every Indian freethinker (or not!)

murthymail,
I started reading this book recently, and its my first Amartya Sen book. I didnt like the first few chapters that I have read so far, and am wondering whether I should continue reading more.. I was wondering what you liked in this book.

In the first essay, he talks at length about India's long tradition of heterodoxy and consequent dialogue. His examples for this are:
1) Arjuna Vs Krishna in the Gita (debating over costs of war) (wait.. there is no evidence for the historicity of this.. so I dont even feel like accepting it),
2) co-existence of Buddhists, Jews, Christians, Jains, Hindus and development of a neutrality-of-Govt Secularism (wait.. its not like things were peaceful either in ancient times or modern times.. there have always been plenty of clashes)
3) Development of math and Science by Aryabhatta and Brahmagupta in the 5/6th Century etc. ( OK, Granted)
4) There was a mention somewhere of a woman coming out to a gathering of scholars and asking some scholar a few "big life questions". And thats one proof of women's inclusion in the tradition of arguments (Really??)

I am surprised that it has to be discussed that verbosely.. I am pretty sure any civilization that has had continuity for millenium or more WILL have plenty of heterodoxy. So, not sure whats the big deal is in belabouring this point about India.

Quote:Chapter 5: Tagore and India
Tagore did come from a Hindu family - one of the labnded gentry who owned estates mostly in what is now Bangladesh. It did not prevent the largely muslim citizens of Bangladesh from having a deep sense of identity with Tagore and his ideas. Nor did it stop the newly independent Bangladesh from choosing one of Tagore's songs ('Amar Sona Bangla' which means 'my golden Bengal') as its national anthem. This must be very confusing to those who see the contemporary world as a clash of civilizations' with 'the muslim civilzation', 'the hindu civilization' and the western civilization each forcefully confronting the others.

Thats nonsense. Even though cultures compete and even war each others oftentimes, that doesnt mean cultures dont borrow/exchange from each other or leave peacefully at other times. Sen is unnecesarily glorifying certain things.
(PS: I know Sen is against Samuel Huntington's idea of clash of civilizations)


Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has - Margaret Mead
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#3
[quote='astrokid.nj' pid='3746' dateline='1294435990']
[quote]wait.. there is no evidence for the historicity of this.. so I dont even feel like accepting it [/quote]

I have not read the book, but as far as I am aware, Sen rejects the historicity of these books as described. However, does Sen explicitly mention in this book that these are historic facts? If not, it could be possible that he meant that even the fact that such dialogue existed in fiction was an indicator of the dialectics that were present in ancient "India". How does he present the historicity of this?
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#4
(08-Jan-2011, 07:43 AM)siddharth Wrote: I have not read the book, but as far as I am aware, Sen rejects the historicity of these books as described. However, does Sen explicitly mention in this book that these are historic facts? If not, it could be possible that he meant that even the fact that such dialogue existed in fiction was an indicator of the dialectics that were present in ancient "India". How does he present the historicity of this?

In the chapters I read, unless I missed something, he doesnt say anything about the historicity.
One of the things that bothers me about our culture, is that we massively mix up history and myth, and talk about them as if they were one and the same thing. I guess thats what irked me.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has - Margaret Mead
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