It was with a great deal of interest and anticipation that I read Dr.S.G.Kulkarani's article Towards an Indian Philosophy of Science' in your journal of March '92. Fascinating though it is, I shall not in this note concern myself with the substantive proposal that the author makes Le of employing various notions of Indian aesthetics in an effort to create an Indian philosophy of Science. The basic question which I would want to pose through the Journal to the author and other readers pertains to the very notion of an Indian Philosophy of Science. It could mean one of at least three things which are:

  1. An Indian Philosophy of Indian Science.

  2. An Indian Philosophy of Western Science

  3. An Indian Philosophy of what is essentially Universal Science.

(There is of course the problem of what is Indian Philosophy - must it be classical Indian thought - which I leave untouched). Dr.Kulkarani makes no explicit statement of his views regarding science, but from what he does say I must conclude that he favors the last sense of the term. He says in this context:

'One of the underlying reasons for the absence of any sustained attempt to develop an Indian perspective in Philosophy of Science is the belief that both Science and the philosophical reflection on Science are somehow alien to our philosophical culture. They are believed as being exclusively the products of a revolutionary transformation in thought that occurred in Europe. Ridding oneself of such a belief is the first task facing the Indian intellectual to da (p-18).

As one who fully subscribes to the view he rejects, l am anxious to see if Kulkarni presents arguments which would make me revise my view. Frankly, I find none and am forced to conclude that we are simply being asked without argument to 'rid' ourselves of the notion that the history of science and its origins in a socio-historical and geographic cultural setting has any significance. Dr.Kulkami however clearly does not take the same Universals tic view regarding the philosophy of science. If he did then the expression Indian Philosophy of Science' would make little sense). In fact he argues that the very gap that exists between the Indian and the Western Philosophical perspectives can be made to yield an in-depth perception of science quite analogous to the phenomenon of binocular vision. At the same time he takes all his cues from Western philosophy of science. Thus even in arguing that Indian aesthetics provides a rich interpretive model for the philosophical understanding of science he falls back on the (western) historical fact that with the collapse of positivism in philosophy of science, a proximity between philosophy of science and aesthetics is established' (p.20). One can't help wondering whether for the author it is only in the light of this collapse that Indian aesthetics illuminates. I raise this question in all seriousness because the answer to it reveals the degree of the autonomy of interest with which we approach Indian thought. I myself believe that it is time we studied Indian theories without looking for parallels, justifications and finally certification from across the seas.

Moreover I am strongly inclined to believe that Dr.Kulkami would agree with me on this. Why is it important then to show 'how Indian epistemology can shed light on one of the important problems that has been revived in recent times' (23)? Isn't it more important to notice which problems an Indian philosophy of Science would, or does, generate? Indeed how can one square all these claims with the thesis of the great differences that separates the Indian and the western perspectives?

Which brings me to a more serious objection to position (c)? On p.25 Dr.Kulkami takes pains to emphasize the contrasts between Indian epistemology and its western counterpart that liars given answers which are dichotomous and single valued'. The question is: Did science arise, in either culture, outside the pale of epistemological concerns? Did the understanding of what can be known, how it can be known validated and what purposes such knowledge can serve, not have any effect on the nature of the 'scientific' explanation of the universe? Indeed, on the very constitution of that Universe? Can knowledge be universal and its self understanding alone be related to civilization concerns? To put it concretely can science be universal but only its positivistic self understanding is western? If not, then the author must give up either the notion of a universal science or that of an Indian philosophy of science in it is sense.

Towards the end of the paper Dr.Kulkami does reflect on his own exercise he himself raises the question of its authentic Indianans. He indicates the possible need for an alternative more radical approach to the problem of his paper. What I have sought to show in this note is that the more radical approach is not a matter of political choice as he suggests on p. 15; it is a theoretical necessity.

Author: Mohini Mullick

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