Social Scientist. v 1, no. 2 (Sept 1972) p. 56.


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The Philosopher and Socio-political Activism

Except for the mentally sick and the fascists, no one likes men to have to make history by killing. But if you want to talk about crimes., where are the innocent ones ? All of us here—judges as well as defendants—are accomplices to crimes. You do not represent peace and happiness, while we represent violence and pain. Each one has to decide which side he is on—the side of military violence or guerrilla violence, on the side of violence that represses or violence that liberates. Grimes in the face of crimes. Which ones do we choose to the jointly responsible for, accomplices or accessories to ? You choose certain ones, I choose others, that^s all...

—Regis Debray, the French Philosopher, at his trial at Gamiri in Bolivia, November 1967.

MORE than two thousand years ago, Indian philosophers and the Greek Democritus explained the nature of Reality in terms of Universal Flux. The same truth has now been confirmed by modern physics as Dynamic Change. And the Change of physics corresponds to Progress in sociopolitical phenomena. Status^uo and conservatism are not the laws of nature that are incessantly sought by philosophers. Hence a philosopher, whose commitment is to Truth, must be a seeker of Change and Progress $ not of that which is called status quo,

He who is more akin to maintenance of institutions, security of established orders rather than wellbeing of mankind through change^ will have to justify his claim to philosophy. For he is, then, more a functionary of the system than a philosopher.

All through human history, progress or meaningful change has been wrought by active participation of radical philosphers in socio-political dynamics. It was this realisation which led Ludwig Wittgenstein to declare that it is the business of philosophy, not to resolve a contradiction by means of a mathematical or logico-mathematical discovery, but to make it possible for us to get a clear view of the state of mathematics that troubles us : the state of affairs before the contradiction is resolved. The civil status of a contradiction, or its status in civil life : there is the philosophical problem. One might also give the name "philosophy" to what is possible before all new discoveries and inventions.

I shall not here deal with the question defining Philosophy or advancing description of what a good logic is. Such vagaries are not very uncommon for those who assign philosophy a mute and passive role in socio-political dynamics. What I assert here, then, is that a philosopher cannot, and must not be limited to his mere classroom performance, although as a salaried citizen that may also be required of him. He



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