Social Scientist. v 17, no. 192-93 (May-June 1989) p. 109.


Graphics file for this page
BOOK REVIEW

Problems of World-View

Arnold Toynbee and Daisaku Ikeda, Choose Life: A Dialogue, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1987, pp. 348, Rs. 125/-

The book, written in the form of a dialogue between Arnold Toynbee and Daisaku Ikeda, deals with diverse aspects of human relations ranging from the fundamental philosophical problem of human essence to international politics. The central concern of the discussion is that all life in its general manifestation, and human life in particular/ is worthy of the utmost regard. The dignity of life should be defended, against all odds, without any compromise (pp. 326-42). In the modern world torn apart with so much prejudice, hatred and strife, this proposition alone is sufficient to confer respectability on the book, although one may not necessarily agree with all the positions taken by Toynbee and Ikeda. The message of love and harmony is not new but the emphasis has a contemporary appeal which imparts urgency and significance to the message. It is not merely confined to the narrow sphere of family or nation but has a universal validity for the entire family of nations. It is important to take note of this message if humanity is to survive against the present crisis.

Man is defined as a self-conscious spiritual being. Although a part of nature and the animal kingdom, man differentiates himself by certain artificial norms and conventions relating to the biological functions of sex and excretion (pp. 15-16). Man confers dignity upon sexual relations through the medium of love (p. 18). A living being's egoistic attempt to organise tht universe around itself is the condition for, and the expression of, its vitality. Life and egoism are interchangeable terms, according to Toynbee (p. 22). This definition of man primarily as a psychosomatic being is not without problems. Certainly, the authors are aware that man is not an abstraction outside time and space. He is a product of heredity and environment (pp. 20-24), but the authors do not place them in a historically conditioned social context. The Freudian bias is obvious in their discussion of the subconscious, assumed to be behind all human actions, thoughts and desires (pp. 26-31). But this subconscious is incapable of objective verification. Human essence assumes diverse aspects and it is an error to reduce it to a single aspect. The essence of man has been the subject of centuries of worldwide philosophical debate. It has been the primary and principal question of philosophy. Ever since the dawn of civilisation human essence has been defined in various forms by various thinkers. To theologicians,



Back to Social Scientist | Back to the DSAL Page