- Dr. Palany Arangasamy

Rationalism is only a quality or at the most a principle in worldly parlance. But Dr. Bandiste has sought to establish and elevate it to the level of a Philosophical system. Hence his sub – title – an upcoming philosophy. Not keeping rationalism on par with other good – old systems of philosophy is in no way detrimental either to its origin or to its outlook.

It paves the way for a balanced approach to life. It transcends the barriers of caste, creed and sex. Its universality is too well known to speak of it elaborately.  The book under review is from a veteran professor of philosophy. He has marshalled what all he could gather on rationalism and looked at it from the point of view of its advocates as well as its critics.

Some of the – isms such as Laoism, Buddhism and Confucianism are named after each of its founder. Their currency or popularity in the world is depending on the reputation or otherwise of each of its founder. Their area of operation is also limited and they do not transcend the barriers of dogmas, sects and religion.

Rationalism is not founder centred; it is in fact an intellectual thinking more with a leverage on rationale rather than on psyco – centric emotion or founder – centric  religious  belief.

If philosophy is a way of life and living, rationalism is bound to be an offshoot of the holistic philosophic system. Devoid of dogmatism, it engenders a spirit of enquiry much against the blind faith and foolish beliefs. Tradition is somehow allied to any system of philosophy but it doesn’t preclude murky faith and irrational superstitions.

Rationalism has its distinctive features. Dr. Bandiste, even though avuncular in his approach to rationalism, does not make his work a mere reverential but analyses the adversarial reactions as well. At length he succeeds in asserting that rationalism is a logically structured and a science oriented philosophy. He highlights that rationalism is a legitimate solution for all the evils of our personal as well as social, economic and political life along with the evils of society also as a whole.

What all – the benevolent aspects and principles of Descartes, and John Locke that have been preached  are found commingled in rationalistic philosophy. It has its quota even from the Vedantic system of Indian Philosophy and the humanistic norms of Erasmus of the early Elizabethan England.

The distinguishing feature of rationalism is that it aims to teach us how to become free from the shackles of traditions, religions and frauds in the name of gods and goddesses. Devoid of all kinds of schisms, a sound and well being of humanity and the establishment of a humanistic society are the ultimate aims of Rationalistic Philosophy.

If one were to ask why not highlight humanism instead of rationalism, the author asserts that the rational efforts only bring in humanism. It is a means to an end and not an end in itself.

A person who is rationalistic is not merely empirical in life but strives against social  evils like poverty, crimes, injustice, exploitation, casteism and communalism. Any rationalist is bound to swim against the cross – currents of society in the modern world where the gullible public still believes in god, godmen and religiosity. In   resisting these traditional concepts, one should have the boldness of Socrates to underline the hall mark of a rationalist.

Descartes, Spinoza, Immanual Kant and Leibnitz, the western philosophers strive to establish the existence of god, either pantheistic  or monotheistic,  however much they are rationalistic and hence Dr. Bandiste calls them part – rationalists.

Dr. Bandiste heartily acknowledges various deep thinkers such as Bertrand Russell, Bradlaugh, Jai Prakash Narayan, Pandit Nehru, Lohia and Periyar EVR.  But for that, rationalism would not have taken roots in the world of to – day, he observes. However Bandiste does not neglect the age – old scriptures such as Bible, and Quran and the principles of Vedanta.

 Those who authored them were great thinkers  but their intellect was not free but found to be slavish of their own faith and hence far – away from rationalism, if not irrational.  

In a chapter on the theory of existence, the ontology, the author logically rules out the transcendentalism and the supposed existence of soul. Dr. Bandiste’s denial of soul’s theory is comparable to that of Periyar, the patriarch. The argument of science studies, the outer and the spirituality studies, the inner is also ruled out by the author in his remark that science has of late studied the intellect, mind, aptitudes, memory, feelings and emotions also. Hence the leverage of spirituality over science is watered down.

If  it is true that Bhagavat Gita offers solutions to one’s own problems in life, how is it that Arujuna is persuaded to fight a battle even when he is absolutely  reluctant to do so, the author poses a question. Is it Krishna’s way of solving the problem? He rather creates problems instead of solving the author comments.

 A number of books of his own both of English and Marathi and of others as well that he alludes bear ample testimony to his in – depth scholarship. The style is readable and the points relevant are exhaustive.  But still a careful editorial touch should have been given to avoid ending sentences with – and so on.

  All aspects of rationalism, including for and against, have been given a systematic and analytic treatment. It is therefore a convincing and comprehensive work of the subject. This may therefore be suggested for an advanced study of rationalism in higher level institutions.      

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