I remember reading my first book on philosophy some 11 years ago. I was in the first year of college then. The title of the book was ‘The problems of Philosophy’, authored by Burtrend Russell.
Russel while accentuating the metaphysical problem of existence of extended objects has discussed, in the second chapter, a few questions such as :
Does the table before me, as I see it, exist?
Does God exist?
In general these basic metaphysical questions can have the following structure
Does X exist?
While attempting to answer these questions all philosophers of the cartesian tradition starting from Rene Descarte have failed to give us a holistic understanding as to what they understood by the term ‘to exist’? It is important to understand the ontic and ontological meaning of what it is to exist before we earn the right to ask if something out there exists or not?
For Descartes, it was simply a matter of being conscious of one’s ability to think. As I have a conscious awareness of my ownmost thoughts, I must exit, I must be real. Simple, isn’t it? Thus in his paradigm to think is to exist.
But, there is a problem with this view. The problem is that it allows me to draw a conclusion that the things that are not conscious of their thoughts must not be real. Therefore, my daily articles of use such as my laptop, and the books and the coffee mug on my table actually don’t exist at all, or atleast I cannot be sure that they do exist in the same way as I do, because afterall I can be aware only of my own thinking. This leads us to a certain sense of skepticism about the world and the others in the world. It therefore leads us to develop an egocentric understanding of the world, we live in. Such being the case, this understanding naturally fails to account for my authentic living experience which is essentially resolute in its natural, personal, inter-personal, and social dimensions. So, this view has to be discarded.
Now we are back to the same question again. What is it ‘to exist’? The answer in my opinion must be sought in the relationship that we have with the world. In a way we are ‘Beings-in -the world’, as Heidegger puts it. We are related to everyone and everything else in the world in a way which is real and authentic, and not just in an artificially semantic or conceptual way. Our self in so far as it is embodied is embedded in the ‘ interconnected- totalities’, that is world. Our relation to the world is however conditioned by temporality, for our being in so far as it is embodied is finite and it’s openness to the possibilities of the world is limited by the phenomenon of death. Death is non-being. And it is this knowledge, as it were, of our ephemeriality that shapes all our meanings and determines the conscious choices we make while we can.
The existential constitution of our being is however largely determined by our ancestry and the cultural conditioning we received. To be is to be with others. Our most organic identities are essentially tribal. We are thus a product of the sum total of the history of our ancestors, and yet we are capable of making new meanings, constructs, and new ways of expressing the potentialities of our being in the world. All artistic, aesteic, political, religious, and spiritual creativity is in a way an unfolding of our being. We are not therefore different from what we create. We are one with the world. We lose our sense of meaning of life when we become detached from the natural and social mode of life. We somehow become inauthentic beings.
Almost all problems in the world today are because of this inauthentic mode of our being. We are cut off from the world and others in it today (remember the artificial sense of ‘with’ we get from our engagement with others on social media and other superficial engagements with others in social and professional contexts cannot be a substitute for the real and organic communal experience). Crowd is not community. Idle talk is not real inter-subjective experience.
More than any other people, the Hindus of today are perhaps the most deprived and destitute of all means that may help them in authentic realization of their true selves. So cut off, they are from their historic and cultural identity today, in a way that could be called living and conscious, that they have almost lost all meaning and richness of their being. While some old habits and customs and symbols by way of conditioning still survive among them, but they are altogether devoid of all meaning and living significance. They are but the vestiges from the past. I refuse to take them as authentic anymore.
Given the Hindus are what they are today, it is not difficult to see why they are totally incapacitated to effectively resist the continual onslaught from others. The others in a way are more authentic beings with a clear sense of purpose. Hindus whereas are inauthentic beings with little purpose at all. Hindus will sadly continue to bleed as long as they don’t develop ‘the will’ to connect with their past and learn to live a truly communal life filled with meaning and significance.
PS: The words ‘authentic & inauthentic’ have very different significance in the Heideggerian system than what they represent in the polemic above.
This article was written by Kushagra Sisodia
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SatyaVijayi.