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#1
Hi all,

I am Ajay, and I must say I feel very proud seeing such a forum created my countrymen for fostering a culture of rational thought, critical thinking skills and free thinking in India. smile

Scientific thought and rationalism is important for the material development of India and the world, and this is one of the pressing needs of the country at the moment. Rationalism can also generate a proactive mindset and help one to overcome the barriers of prejudice and superstition.

At the same time it should also be taken care to see that rationalism does not degenerate into materialism dry and empty of humanism, as can be seen in the way Germany, having the best scientists and engineers in the world, created a monstrous racial philosophy of survival of the fittest (Nazism ), and perpetrated the Holocaust which killed 7 million innocent civilians, women and children in concentration camps along with the second world war which killed nearly a 100 million people.

Secular humanism and rationalism is the need of the hour in India.

I thank all those over here who worked hard to create this forum with such a noble intent and motive, and am sure their work will be rewarded with success. Thumbup

Sweet regards,

Ajay
Self-awareness is yoga. -- Nisargadatta Maharaj

"The energy produced by conscious work is immediately converted for fresh work; energy used mechanically is lost forever." -- George Gurdjieff
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#2
Hi Ajay

Welcome to the forum.

I noticed how you drew a parallel between rationalism , and the maelstrom that preceded and ultimately gave rise to the horrors of Nazism. That hateful ideology was fueled by a set of deeply irrational fears and fraudulent claims , such as the idea of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy. Nazi scientists and leaders also promoted the irrational idea of Aryan supremacy, in addition to a wide variety of blood myths. The labels 'scientist' and 'engineer' do not necessarily imply that the bearers are rational human beings.

The monstrous racial philosophy you mention was created in an atmosphere of paranoia , which isn't exactly known to be conducive to rationalism. The atrocities of the Holocaust were similarly linked to a profoundly erroneous ideology informed by the frenzied hatred of a demonized 'other'. Rationalism most certainly didn't give rise to such patently contradictory and wildly irrational acts.

I would like to know a bit more about the term 'proactive' that I encountered in your posts ( esp. the one that had a number of quotes by gurus etc.). What does it exactly mean?

I would also like to know more about the term 'energy' in the George Gurdjieff quote( your signature).

Best wishes,

Noshi

P.S. Have you read the book 'the demon-haunted world' by Carl Sagan? If you haven't, I urge you to give it a try. You won't regret it.
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#3
(05-Jul-2014, 12:52 AM)Naushirvan Wrote: Hi Ajay

Welcome to the forum.

I noticed how you drew a parallel between rationalism , and the maelstrom that preceded and ultimately gave rise to the horrors of Nazism. That hateful ideology was fueled by a set of deeply irrational fears and fraudulent claims , such as the idea of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy. Nazi scientists and leaders also promoted the irrational idea of Aryan supremacy, in addition to a wide variety of blood myths. The labels 'scientist' and 'engineer' do not necessarily imply that the bearers are rational human beings.

The monstrous racial philosophy you mention was created in an atmosphere of paranoia , which isn't exactly known to be conducive to rationalism. The atrocities of the Holocaust were similarly linked to a profoundly erroneous ideology informed by the frenzied hatred of a demonized 'other'. Rationalism most certainly didn't give rise to such patently contradictory and wildly irrational acts.



Hi Naushirvan,


Thank you very much for your reply. smile

I understand your point. The point I am trying to make is that rationalism should not be divorced from humanism at any cost, as reason or rationalism exists for the development of man and not the other way around.

The very fact that the concepts of 'Aryan supremacy' and racism has come up in the West noted for its culture of science and rationalism denotes the danger of what happens when rationalism is divorced from humanism.

And let us not forget the fact that the Nazis narrowly lost the war, mainly (and fortunately ) due to Hitlers blunder in invading the Soviet Union.

For all its culture of rationalism, scientific temperament and rational philosophy( which was deemed the best in the world at that time ), Germany was not 'rational' enough to understand Hitler for what he really is, i.e a murderous and highly prejudiced criminal. The great philosopher Martin Heidegger too enthusiastically backed Hitler, something which he regretted with tears later on. The reasoning temperament is an integral part of any scientist or engineer's thought process, due to the rigorous demands of the profession. However this did not prevent German engineers and scientists from enthusiastically building up the Nazi war machine and committing atrocities on human subjects in concentration camps in the name of science.

Now if all of Germany's and Europe's much vaunted culture of rationalism and science could not build up humanism to similar heights, and instead raised Nazism in its stead, it does show that rationalism does not necessarily equate with humanism. Building up rationalism does not necessarily ripen the heart too. Humanism should be given its proper due, and more than rationalism itself, if need be, so that the dignity of the human being is never threatened by narrow-mindedness and prejudices.

Hence the reason why I believe humanism should be blended with rationalism at all times,and the focus should be the devlopment of the human being, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, race, nationality and belief.
Self-awareness is yoga. -- Nisargadatta Maharaj

"The energy produced by conscious work is immediately converted for fresh work; energy used mechanically is lost forever." -- George Gurdjieff
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#4
(05-Jul-2014, 05:49 PM)Ajay0 Wrote: The very fact that the concepts of 'Aryan supremacy' and racism has come up in the West noted for its culture of science and rationalism denotes the danger of what happens when rationalism is divorced from humanism.

But Aryan Supremacy etc. were irrational ideas that were backed by pseudoscience. Rationalism cannot be held responsible for those. The scientists who helped perpetrate atrocities were ethically irresponsible and simply chose not to question the deeply irrational end to which their collective effort was a means. I don't think what led to Nazism could be termed cold rationalism by any stretch of imagination.

(05-Jul-2014, 05:49 PM)Ajay0 Wrote: Now if all of Germany's and Europe's much vaunted culture of rationalism and science could not build up humanism to similar heights, and instead raised Nazism in its stead, it does show that rationalism does not necessarily equate with humanism. Building up rationalism does not necessarily ripen the heart too.

I'm afraid that being 'much vaunted' is no guarantee. The culture still had irrational elements like racism, antisemitism and xenophobia. Its leaders whipped up public sentiment by appealing to some of the basest emotions known to man. I reiterate that Nazism was not a product of rationalism.

It seems to me that rationalism greatly aids humanism. There might be a correlation. Rational people are quick to detect an irrational hatred of the 'other'. They are aware of common superstitions, prejudices and biases. The building up of rationalism has, in fact, led to unprecedented levels of social justice and equality for many European countries ( much better than India and other 'spiritual' nations). Humanism is rather incomplete without a rational mindset.

I was wondering if you could elaborate your idea of rationalism here. What does it exactly mean to you?

Regards,

Naushirvan
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#5
(06-Jul-2014, 01:31 AM)Naushirvan Wrote: But Aryan Supremacy etc. were irrational ideas that were backed by pseudoscience.

Hi Naushirvan,

Thank you for your reply. smile

Could you please elaborate on the pseudoscience that generated these ideas in Europe that took great pride in its culture of rationalism and scientific thinking ! And the reasons why these were not nipped in the bud by the rationalists over there.

(06-Jul-2014, 01:31 AM)Naushirvan Wrote: Rationalism cannot be held responsible for those. The scientists who helped perpetrate atrocities were ethically irresponsible and simply chose not to question the deeply irrational end to which their collective effort was a means. I don't think what led to Nazism could be termed cold rationalism by any stretch of imagination.

Again , I would like to explain that the scientist is well-established in rational thinking or rationalism much more than others due to the demands of his profession which requires a rigorously logical thought process. I know this because I have a science background myself.

So it shows indeed that rationalism in itself cannot guarantee world peace unless it is blended with the ideal of humanism.

Rationalism, imho, develops the calculating mind to a very large extent.

If a rationalist and a humanist came across a guy knocked down by a bus and lying on the ground bleeding, the rationalist might quickly calculate the costs involved in bringing the guy to an hospital, paying the medical bills, answering the police questions in case of death, going to court and so on, and would logically calculate that it is not worth his time or energy or money which could be spent on more productive pursuits of self . There is every chance that a rationalist would do so, unless he is motivated or inspired by humanistic and ethical ideals.


As Theodore Roosevelt here says, " A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad."

The humanist, inspired by higher ideals, would not hesitate to do so in being a good samaritan and helping the injured man.

My own experience in life is that I received a lot of affection from innocent uneducated villagers who did not have much education but were not averse to sharing a cup of tea with me or part of a meal with me. This deep warmth and affection have always surprised me, and have always wondered at their guilelessness and lack of a calculating nature.


(06-Jul-2014, 01:31 AM)Naushirvan Wrote: It seems to me that rationalism greatly aids humanism. There might be a correlation. Rational people are quick to detect an irrational hatred of the 'other'. They are aware of common superstitions, prejudices and biases.

Well put , indeed. smile

Look, I respect and greatly admire your staunch defence of rationalism. Rationalism definitely has its importance, especially in nurturing a scientific thought process, and aids greatly in material development, removal of superstitions and prejudices. But I would find it deplorable if this happens at the expense of the heart, and with the growth of a calculating mindset.

(06-Jul-2014, 01:31 AM)Naushirvan Wrote: The building up of rationalism has, in fact, led to unprecedented levels of social justice and equality for many European countries ( much better than India and other 'spiritual' nations). Humanism is rather incomplete without a rational mindset.

Both the world wars originated in europe, and this was preceded by many other bloody wars in europe with the aristocratic european nations vying with each other for supremacy.

The gypsies still are a marginalised and discriminated people in europe though they have been there for centuries. Same too with the blacks and other immigrants over there. And this is ironical considering how europe had colonised and exploited Africa for centuries.

I would credit the growth of socialism in Europe for much of the social justice and equality in many european countries. You just have to study the appalling human conditions of the workers during the industrial revolution in Britain and Europe to understand this.


(06-Jul-2014, 01:31 AM)Naushirvan Wrote: Humanism is rather incomplete without a rational mindset.

Yes, I would want everyone to be a rationalist, but not at the cost of his humanistic ideals.

Rationalism aids material development , and as a humanist, I would want that.


(06-Jul-2014, 01:31 AM)Naushirvan Wrote: I was wondering if you could elaborate your idea of rationalism here. What does it exactly mean to you?

My understanding of rationalism began with the study of the scientific method at college,study of scientific subjects in general, study of the philosophies of Socrates,Aristotle, Voltaire,Francis Bacon,Thomas Huxley, Bertrand Russell and others.

Reasoning or the scientific method, helps us to arrive at knowledge by development of critical thinking skills and its exercise.

But it does not necessarily imply the development of an ethical nature too in man.

As Wernher von Braun , credited as the 'Father of Rocket Science' himself stated, "Science does not have a moral dimension. It is like a knife. If you give it to a surgeon or a murderer, each will use it differently. "
Self-awareness is yoga. -- Nisargadatta Maharaj

"The energy produced by conscious work is immediately converted for fresh work; energy used mechanically is lost forever." -- George Gurdjieff
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#6
(06-Jul-2014, 05:16 PM)Ajay0 Wrote: Could you please elaborate on the pseudoscience that generated these ideas in Europe that took great pride in its culture of rationalism and scientific thinking ! And the reasons why these were not nipped in the bud by the rationalists over there.

That could be attributed to the way the scientists chose to be intensely logical and rational about some aspects of their work but neglected to apply the same rigorous standards elsewhere. It may be termed a sort of compartmentalization of reason/logic. It means that they basically were quite irresponsible.

(06-Jul-2014, 05:16 PM)Ajay0 Wrote: So it shows indeed that rationalism in itself cannot guarantee world peace unless it is blended with the ideal of humanism.

I never said that rationalism or humanism alone could bring about something as elusive as world peace. That would take a whole lot of effort.

(06-Jul-2014, 05:16 PM)Ajay0 Wrote: Rationalism, imho, develops the calculating mind to a very large extent.

If a rationalist and a humanist came across a guy knocked down by a bus and lying on the ground bleeding, the rationalist might quickly calculate the costs involved in bringing the guy to an hospital, paying the medical bills, answering the police questions in case of death, going to court and so on, and would logically calculate that it is not worth his time or energy or money which could be spent on more productive pursuits of self . There is every chance that a rationalist would do so, unless he is motivated or inspired by humanistic and ethical ideals.


I would have to admit that I found the tenor of your argument a bit cynical. A rationalist may also be motivated to act by a desire to prevent needless suffering or loss of life. Humanistic and ethical ideals may have deep, rational roots in his/her psyche. It is unreasonable to assume that the establishment of a rational mindset would lead to selfishness and a self-centered approach to problems.


(06-Jul-2014, 05:16 PM)Ajay0 Wrote: My own experience in life is that I received a lot of affection from innocent uneducated villagers who did not have much education but were not averse to sharing a cup of tea with me or part of a meal with me. This deep warmth and affection have always surprised me, and have always wondered at their guilelessness and lack of a calculating nature.

Yes, such affection as you talk about is not hard to come by. I know some scientists and engineers who are very polite, congenial and affectionate. On the other hand, I have also encountered villagers whose affection and congeniality vanished the second they learned that some members of my tour group were Dalit. There are all sorts of human beings.

(06-Jul-2014, 05:16 PM)Ajay0 Wrote: Rationalism definitely has its importance, especially in nurturing a scientific thought process, and aids greatly in material development, removal of superstitions and prejudices. But I would find it deplorable if this happens at the expense of the heart, and with the growth of a calculating mindset.

Yes, it would indeed be deplorable if one abandoned humanistic and ethical concerns.

(06-Jul-2014, 05:16 PM)Ajay0 Wrote: As Wernher von Braun , credited as the 'Father of Rocket Science' himself stated, "Science does not have a moral dimension. It is like a knife. If you give it to a surgeon or a murderer, each will use it differently. "

For that, one must have ethically responsible scientists who are willing to challenge the orders of the powers that be.

Regards,

Naushirvan

P.S. I'm still rather curious about the use of the term 'energy' in the George Gurdjieff quote.
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#7
(06-Jul-2014, 11:31 PM)Naushirvan Wrote: That could be attributed to the way the scientists chose to be intensely logical and rational about some aspects of their work but neglected to apply the same rigorous standards elsewhere. It may be termed a sort of compartmentalization of reason/logic.

That would be unnatural because the intensely logical thought process they employ in pursuit of their livelihood for many hours a day, will also naturally influence other aspects of life as well. Most of my engineering, scientist and technician friends, including myself, have been found to bring a scientific approach to diverse areas of life as sports, music, literature and arts and other areas.

This has to be , because the mind has been programmed to use the scientific method incessantly at work, that they naturally use it elsewhere as well, probably out of force of habitual thought patterns.

(06-Jul-2014, 11:31 PM)Naushirvan Wrote: It means that they basically were quite irresponsible.

Yes, and this irresponsibility probably has its foundations in lack of humanistic or ethical ideals. It can also be that they were not exposed to such a culture substantially in the first place.

(06-Jul-2014, 11:31 PM)Naushirvan Wrote: I would have to admit that I found the tenor of your argument a bit cynical.

Actually , this is what most people, including some well-qualified professionals I know too have said with respect to helping an accident victim on the road, almost on a frequent basis. I am just echoing what I have heard from them. You can say that the society itself is highly cynical.

For example, just check out the highly controversial criminal incident of Nirbhaya incident in Delhi in 2012. The injured couple were lying on the road with many onlookers walking beside and no one stopped to help them. Even the police who arrived after much time later, was found squabbling over whose jurisdiction this crime took place, instead of taking them to hospital.

This is why I say that the culture of humanism and ethical behaviour should be promoted on an independent basis, and rationalism in a secondary position, in as much as it aids the development of secular humanism.

(06-Jul-2014, 11:31 PM)Naushirvan Wrote: A rationalist may also be motivated to act by a desire to prevent needless suffering or loss of life.

How would a rationalist be motivated to act by a desire to prevent needless suffering or loss of life ! What would he rationally gain from it ?

Please forgive my cynicism, but what indeed would be his source of motivation, if not for ethical and humanistic ideals. I am just curious.



(06-Jul-2014, 11:31 PM)Naushirvan Wrote: Humanistic and ethical ideals may have deep, rational roots in his/her psyche. It is unreasonable to assume that the establishment of a rational mindset would lead to selfishness and a self-centered approach to problems.

Are you sure ! The two world wars, which started in a mad race for selfish acquisition of colonies in Asia and Africa for increasing the power and prestige of the western imperial nations, started in the west after the growth of science, technology and the Industrial revolution . Japan, an exception in the east, was also a leading industrial nation of the world even back then on par with the west.

And all the above said nations were the foremost in the world in terms of science , technology and a culture of rationalism.

And what is the nation but a conglomerate or a large group of individuals.

I certainly can't buy it that the establishment of a rational mindset would lead to unselfishness and an ethical approach to problems. That can happen only with the development of humanism and ethics side by side.



(06-Jul-2014, 11:31 PM)Naushirvan Wrote: Yes, such affection as you talk about is not hard to come by. I know some scientists and engineers who are very polite, congenial and affectionate. On the other hand, I have also encountered villagers whose affection and congeniality vanished the second they learned that some members of my tour group were Dalit. There are all sorts of human beings.
[/quote]

A very good observation. I thank you for putting this over here.

The villagers I mentioned were dalits and obc's themselves.

(06-Jul-2014, 11:31 PM)Naushirvan Wrote: For that, one must have ethically responsible scientists who are willing to challenge the orders of the powers that be.

Yes, hence the reason to develop humanism and ethics on an independent basis as well.
Self-awareness is yoga. -- Nisargadatta Maharaj

"The energy produced by conscious work is immediately converted for fresh work; energy used mechanically is lost forever." -- George Gurdjieff
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#8
Compartmentalization is not unnatural or unheard of. Please look at the numerous doctors, engineers and scientists who are deeply religious. Human beings do have that skill.

(07-Jul-2014, 05:32 PM)Ajay0 Wrote: Actually , this is what most people, including some well-qualified professionals I know too have said with respect to helping an accident victim on the road, almost on a frequent basis. I am just echoing what I have heard from them. You can say that the society itself is highly cynical.

For example, just check out the highly controversial criminal incident of Nirbhaya incident in Delhi in 2012. The injured couple were lying on the road with many onlookers walking beside and no one stopped to help them. Even the police who arrived after much time later, was found squabbling over whose jurisdiction this crime took place, instead of taking them to hospital.

This is why I say that the culture of humanism and ethical behavior should be promoted on an independent basis, and rationalism in a secondary position, in as much as it aids the development of secular humanism.

I cannot verify what your friends tell you. If they do think that way, it is quite sad. There have been cases where bystanders have been astoundingly callous and insensitive to the plight of the victims.

I am not sure if the onlookers in Nirbhaya case were all sworn rationalists. The Delhi Police isn't exactly known to be a very humane or even sensitive institution. Rationalism and Humanism can both be promoted, since they aid each other and help create a better society.

(07-Jul-2014, 05:32 PM)Ajay0 Wrote: Are you sure ! The two world wars, which started in a mad race for selfish acquisition of colonies in Asia and Africa for increasing the power and prestige of the western imperial nations, started in the west after the growth of science, technology and the Industrial revolution . Japan, an exception in the east, was also a leading industrial nation of the world even back then on par with the west.

You persist in equating colonization, subjugation and racism with a rational mindset. If you ever get a chance to intimately study the history of colonization, you'd notice that the actions of the colonizers were deeply irrational. They thought subjugating 'lesser' races and plundering their resources was OK. This seems to be a variation of your Nazism argument, which you are yet to justify( please be proactive and do so in your next post).

I reiterate that humanity neglects humanism and ethics at its own peril. What I am against is the way you consider the deeply irrational attitudes of Nazism, racism, colonization etc.as the fruits of a rational mindset. Why do humanism and ethics need to be developed independent of rationalism? Can't they complement each other?

Regards,

Noshi
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