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A strange environment of intellectual and religious intolerance is sought to be created in the country. If the Union Government does not agree with any idea or ideology, the persons subscribing to that ideology are being charged with “treason” in a very light manner. Hate campaigns are being carried on against religious minorities. Writers-thinkers are being killed, and Gandhi’s assassination is sought to be justified.
Someone may disagree with Gandhi’s ideas. Gandhi can be and has been criticized from a humanist point of view as well, particularly, his views on religion and varna-vyavastha (See, Ramendra, Why I am Not a Hindu). But, what is the meaning of justifying Gandhi’s assassin, Godse? This can only mean that if you don’t agree with someone’s ideas, shoot him! In fact, this is what has been done with Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi.
Therefore, according to me, the role of Philosophers in the present context ought to be the main issue of discussion before this conference.
Whether it is Philosophy or any science, knowledge grows by critical thinking. There is no place for intellectual intolerance in scientific method. If scientists are not tolerant towards different hypotheses, then science will not be able to move even a step forward.
Philosophy, in particular, grows out of critical thinking. This was true in ancient times and is true at present also. Today, in Analytical Philosophy central place is given to clarification of concepts and logical evaluation of beliefs. If we are not tolerant enough even to listen to one-another’s arguments, how are we going to logically evaluate it?
In fact, in Philosophy, knowledge grows out of clash of opposite ideas and intellectual struggle. In western philosophy there has been a long intellectual struggle between materialism and idealism. In India, Astika (orthodox) and Nastika (heterodox) struggle has been going on since ancient times, and is still continuing in 21st century. In fact, the conflict has sharpened further.
Whether we are Nastika or Astika, we ought to be ready to listen to and to evaluate one another’s arguments. If possible, we should try to remove or minimize our disagreements by using logical and scientific method. Where there is no sufficient evidence to come to a definite conclusion, we ought to suspend our judgments. If it is not possible to remove our disagreements, then we ought to learn to live peacefully and gracefully with our disagreements. In no case, we should turn our intellectual disagreement into personal enmity, conspire against one-another and even indulge in violence.
This is the essence of intellectual tolerance.
In absence of such intellectual tolerance the future of philosophy will itself be endangered. Therefore, Philosophers ought to be in the forefront of the fight against intellectual intolerance.
Hopefully, this philosophical conference will discuss the subject of intellectual tolerance in an atmosphere of intellectual tolerance.
(Keynote address presented at the inaugural session of the 61st Conference of the Akhil Bhartiya Darshan Parishad at the Wheeler Senate Hall, Patna University, on 10th September, 2016.)
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