If we are adamant on believing what will be, will be then one thing that we won'tbe is progressive.
In the essay, ?Religion and Science in Three Great Civilisations,? British philosopher Anthony Quiton argues that the industrialisation and the development of scientific temper in Europe (and in the USA) was possible because of the religions and social histories of the religion and that countries like India and China may not be able to repeat the success as their histories do not create the necessary mentality. He traces the reason to the kind of determinism witnessed in these three civilisations. While this may not be the only reason it?s, nevertheless, work Psalming about.
Determinism (the doctrine that phenomena are predetermined) is one of the oldest doctrines in both Oriental and Occidental intellectualism. It'san acknowledgement of the cause-effect chain and the consequent lack of choices. Thus, for the determinist if rain clouds form in the sky, it'sbound to rain soon. Within an orthodox religico-political structure there is the danger of determinism tending towards fatalism. For instance, if a sick person is incurably sick, the fatalist would say that it'spointless going to the doctor as he will not be cured. If he is curable, then too the fatalist would say that it'spointless going to the doctor as he will be cured even otherwise. The result of this mentality is a passive submission to the unavoidable. It is this kind of fatalistic determinism that'santithetical to progress.
Occidental intellectualism was not insulted from this kind of determinism; they had suffered bouts of it and one of the longest was during the Dark Ages when the church dominated the religico-political structure and suppressed learning. But in the 17th century, with enlightenment, came a softer form of determinism which acknowledged the cause-effect chain, but chose to be inventive and later the effects. An effort to make the idea the real. At the root of this, according to Quinton, is the moral logic that the West inherited from the Greeks and the Romans. On the one hand is the Roman stoicism in the face of difficulties and on the other is the Grecian view that virtues, abilities and skills can be acquired and that the individual'scharacter can be moulded by education and habituation. In philosophical terms, character is the reality and personality is its appearance. Hence, moulding a character is synonymous with personality development. And a corollary to it was the great interest in the freedom of the will and will power.
In contrast is Confucianism, which results in a practical science without any emphasis on theory or analysis. An instance of this is the Chinese discipline or acupuncture. It'sa practical science without a proper theoritical structure to back it. The mentality that Confucianism cultivates leads to kind of imitative industrialisation which is, no doubt, empirical and practical, but doesn'thave much room for innovation. Take the instance of Chinese medicine, which has remained static for countries.
In contrast to both these is the Indian intellectualism which is capable of extreme fatalism. Quinton acknowledges that India was one of the first countries to show signs of developing great sciences. For instance, way back in the sixth century, intellectuals here were already working with the idea of a spherical earth. But, instead of such ?inventiveness? developing into an advanced form of astronomy what was witnessed was an ossification of knowledge around the 13th century and a slippage into fatalism and passivity. At the root of this was the ethical framework of the time.
J. N. Mohanty, in his essay ?Practical Rationality in Indian Thought?, explains that the goals of life, in Indian tradition, largely revolved around the four purusharthas: dharma artha, kama, and moksha. Moksha was the highest goal and dharma spelt out the duties and functions of the individual as he strove to attain the highest. Artha and kama provided him with the link to the physical world. The idea of cultivating virtues, abilities or skills or of moulding character through education and habituation was not alien to Indian moralists. But there was no thrust in this direction or any pre occupation with will power or the freedom of the will. For, working with the premise that humans are borne into trouble time and trapped in a Karmic cycle of rebirth these moralists had to concentrate on the means to break the undesirable cycle.
So, how long do you remain trapped in this situation where we deny the development of scientific temperament though we possess the adequate intellectual prowess for it?
(The writer can be contacted at Rly. Qtr. No. N-423-A, Central colony, Po: New Bongaigaon, Dist: Bongai-gaon, PIN:-783381 (Assam))