Friday, September 09, 2005

do-the-evolution dept.

My grandfather, who also claimed to be a writer of some sort, always talked about a book called Janus: A Summing Up, by polyglot, philosopher and novelist Arthur Koestler. It was a theory that he expounded on every alternate day at the dining table, until all of us had it memorized -- well almost. It is a miracle how much information the human mind can retain even without the ability to comprehend it :-).

Janus is a two-headed Roman God, and from what I remember of the book, it had some dire predictions for humanity. It sure began on a sombre note -- with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki -- about how after that day, humanity exited the age where human beings had to face destruction as individuals, and entered one where humanity itself faced destruction as a species.

The scare-mongering just got worse from there. The two-headed allusion was of course, directed at a duality of the human mind -- the 'philosopher' and the 'hunter'. Presumably, the philosopher makes and lives by rules and aesthetics. The hunter, on the other hand, relies on instinct, and is a much more unpleasant sort of animal.

The ultimate question then, was -- which of these two dualities is the dominant one. And if one factors in evolution, are we moving from being dominant hunters to dominant philosophers? And if so, is that a good thing?

And then , where does humanity itself fit into this interplay between the two? Are we heading towards becoming a more refined, intellectual, gentle race of supermen. Or are we just kidding ourselves, and sowing the seeds of our own destruction?

My grandfather, of course, could play around with this if he wanted to. For those familiar with his work, the play 'सूर्याची पिल्ले' contains an inside joke on the doomsday prophecies of Koestler.

I personally find either extreme distasteful of course-- more so the dominant philosopher types -- ever been with some one that made logical arguments founded purely on deduction i.e. other people's theories, without any substantial experience with the human condition in its myriad forms? You know them -- they live by certain books, and idols, and substitute practical experience for a lot of 'ism's they can throw about in casual conversation :-)?

God! I mean even Sherlock Holmes relied on induction now and then. (See : his experiments with opium)

Of course, for a naive adolescent, ideas like these can really get you to wilt in despair.

Which is why, its a relief to know that the human mind is on the move after all!.

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