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Philosophy

delhi Updated: Jun 13, 2008 00:04 IST
Rekha Basu
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Philosophy is an optional subject on offer in schools, but is seldom taught there. Thus, misconceptions abound in the public mind about this subject that has traditionally enjoyed a preeminent centrality in liberal education curricula of all leading universities of the world. Significantly, research degrees in any discipline, be it humanities, social sciences or sciences, continue to be awarded in the name of Philosophy, i.e. Master of Phiposophy (M.Phil.), Doctor of Philosophy (D.Phil.), (Ph.D,) etc.

Philosophy is a rigorous study of diverse visions of the universe and the place of humanity in it that thinking people have articulated down the centuries. It complements the empirical approach of the sciences to facts and endeavours to contextualise facts within a framework of values.

A three-year B.A. (Honours) programme in Philosophy at the University of Delhi brings the students face-to-face with manifold areas of inquiry. The course includes Logic and Elements of Indian Philosophy. There are also courses that focus on Western/ Continental thought.

A course on Social and Political Philosophy, prescribed in the second year of the B.A. (Honours) programme has been designed in terms of specific thematics: Politics, Democracy, Equality, Justice, Rights, and so on. The effort is to analyse the concepts under scrutiny so as to unravel their latent assumptions within an ideological/historical matrix rather than to unproblematically accept inherited vocabulary.

The B.A. (Honours) programme provides for, further, courses on Ancient and Later Greek Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, and, in the analytic tradition, three zones of study — Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Mind, and Philosophy of Language. A specialization that has emerged centre stage in recent times is that of Applied Ethics.

This sphere is enlivened by debates on suicide, euthanasia, capital punishment, terrorism, among other ‘live’ issues.

An undergraduate course in Philosophy might enable a student to project it as an Indian Civil Services Examination option. Philosophy has become increasingly popular as a paper with prospective candidates for this examination.

Students with a more scholarly disposition could continue higher studies in the discipline and acquire research
degrees that will lay for them the foundation for a career in academics. There are some research institutes and NGOs that welcome Philosophy students because these students are equipped with the skills of analysis and investigation.

Students from Science, Social Science, Humanities backrounds who have an inquisitive disposition are eminently suited for admission to the scholarly pursuit of Philosophy. It is a misconception that Philosophy induces a calm acceptance of life. A typical philosopher is driven by curiosity. Philosophy is an invitation to interrogate the so-called common sense view of life.

(Rekha Basu, Hindu College)