Philosophy is a non-negligible part of being a human being: Amartya Sen

9th Jul 21 - Sneha

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* This book is more of an intellectual trajectory of Amartya Sen than his account, isn't it? You do not even mention being awarded the Nobel Prize here.

Well, yes. It is mainly about the issues that worried me or excited me or interested me. It is that. I don't think the Nobel was at the top of the horizon there. But I hope you found something of interest in the book.

* You credit 'the little work you have been able to do in your life which can be divided into 'abstract reasoning' and 'rather earthly practical problems' to the foundation of your school education at Santiniketan.

Is it even possible to scale up this model of education today? Or was it just Rabindranath Tagore's brilliance which you happened to gain from?

Well, we were lucky in Santiniketan, partly because of personal guidance from Rabindranath himself, but also because of association with other great scholars who were there. Not every school will be exactly like every other school, but the standard of school education can be very substantially improved in India, and I think that is the direction in which we ought to go. The tendency to regard it as just a mechanical reading, writing, arithmetic thing, I think we should get away from focusing just on that. Those are important training of course, but we have to go beyond them. Taking an interest in the country, what India stands for, what the world is like, what the problems of unfortunate disadvantaged people are. We ought to get an inkling of those things in school. I don't think we can make the same kind of excellent school everywhere, but we could certainly make much better schools than we have at this time.

* There is a tendency in India today to claim false achievements such as plastic surgery and aircraft in ancient India by evoking mythological examples. You have always argued that making false claims about India's cultural and scientific achievements, which are very significant, is a disservice of sorts.

Yes indeed. There are several problems here. First of all, making any false claim, which is really like a lie, is a bad thing to do. Secondly, rather than elevating India's standing in the world, such false claims make the country rather ridiculous, to say that we were flying aeroplanes and had wireless in ancient times. The sad thing is that India had a lot of unusual achievements, and by concentrating on fantastic achievements as opposed to unusual achievements, you undermine the importance of what we did achieve.


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