Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Claims to Extraordinary Exceptionalism

On a more esoteric realm, a famous writer (Rajiv Malhotra of "Breaking India" fame) writes the following on his yahoo-group:

If a drunkard walks on to a busy road and gets run over by a bus, he is reaping the effect of his actions. No one, even Aamir Khan, would disagree with this. No one will flinch in explaining how the momentum of the bus transferred to the drunkard in a very short moment caused the harm to the drunkard. It is, after all, an impartial, non-judgmental, universal, natural law. No one can blame the bus driver for drunkard's foolish and unfortunate behavior.

No one needs to be angry and upset with the drunkard's thoughtless behavior. As a witness to this event, would Aamir Khan say "Drunkard is reaping the fruit of his stupidity. I will therefore be a callous and indifferent person." Of course, Aamir would not. Aamir Khan, as the humanist, would step up and try to do the best to help him. Nothing changes the fact that the drunkard might sustain irreversible damages.

What does Karma theory say? Drunkard had choices for his actions. He made a choice, did his actions (karma), and should expect to reap the rewards of his actions.
An atheist would explain it as random chance. Dharmic traditions have no issue with this explanation.

A Muslim or Christian will tell you that God does things for reasons that we cannot understand and that God is not bound by morality. A rational mind cannot accept a loving, compassionate, omnipotent God leading to this outcome. Dharmic traditions do not accept this explanation.

While the author claims such superlatives that make Karma an impartial, non-judgmental, universal and natural law, one really believes that such a law (presumably exceptional!) would allow itself to be put under a microscope and be examined in its various dimensions. For one, extending the mundane drunkard example to the level of sophistication in terms of the grandness of the infinite past (not in its mere hypothetical existence, but in its impact on the current) a) is fundamentally unverifiable, b) is not seen in almost all reasonable physical sub-systems even under arbitrarily infinitesimal measurement accuracy since most sub-systems are of finite memory, c) can be and has often been easily prostituted to explain away/justify/make peace with human conditions.

c) The prostituted part is of immediate importance to me in understanding (subject to caveats below) conflicts that arise from a "kindling of the consciousness": how does one reconcile a philosophy where time (that matters) stretches all the way to minus infinity with rationalism that is so immediate, often instantaneous, and fits the Occam's Razor better.
b) But more incredulously, the possibilities that:

1) Not all things that happen around us need explanations;
2) Not all things that need to be explained have to be explained;
3) Not all things that need to be explained can be explained by an observer who is also a part of the system;
4) Not all things that can be explained by an observer who is a part of the system can be explained correctly, etc.,

do not seem to have made much of an impact on the postulate. In some sense, Karma is the Theory of Everything that physicists have been hunting for.
a) Fortunately, a candidate for the ToE can be put under test. Without any verification, Karma being the universal dictum falls strictly under the realm of belonging to the fervent imagination of the individual(s) concerned just as many other hypotheses of the religious kind belong. In other words, faith in the hypothesis that Karma is universal is an integral part of the postulate. In this sense, a rhetoric of your theory vs. my theory can be expected and thus it may appear that the claims to extraordinary exceptionalism on the part of either theory fails. However, the distinct possibility that either (or even both) theory(ies) could be wrong is best reconciled by a philosophy that is adaptive and grows with information and time, rather than a stasis of fear-mongering, remembrances of the past that only one party in a two-way conversation can see, and claims to extraordinary exceptionalism that should be self-invoking and self-referential rather than explicit and in-your-face.

PS: I expect the question: "why such an esoteric title for your blog when nothing is exceptional about anything?" Good question, I wish I knew the answer other than a blase "its my dharma that I peddle, not something I peddle as a virtue for anyone." For the more earthly, please see: Linky.



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