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Social Philosophy Past and Future

Shimla: Indian Institute of Advance Studies, 1993.

Preface: These lectures continue the theme of my earlier book Considerations Toward a Theory of Social Change, though they form a self-contained whole and possess a unity of their own independent of the earlier work. They seek to focus attention on an aspect of thought about man and society which most scientists and philosophers happen to miss; that is, the effect of their thought in shaping the human and social reality itself. Man’s thought about himself and society is not causally ineffective. But if this be accepted, its implications have to be understood by all those who concern themselves with society and man in any capacity whatsoever. The present lectures attempt to spell out these implications for the attention of the social scientists and philosophers for consideration and discussion.

The past civilizations, in this context, are treated as the result of the ways in which men conceived of themselves and society and the two of the most significant among them, the Indian and the Western, are singled out and discussed as paradigmatic cases illustrating the basic contentions of these lectures. An attempt is made to provide a focal concept around which the thinking in the social sciences may be organized and which may bridge the gap, and provide the continuity between the great typal civilizations of the past and open the way for their fecundating relationship with the present and the future.

Freedom, it is suggested, is such a concept and if it be given an operational definition and subjected to quantitative criteria of measurement, it might provide an effective guide to the policy sciences which seem so much in demand today by the planner and the politician. The link between the mathematical concept of model and utopia is explained and it is suggested that the building of scientifically articulated utopias should be the task of the social scientist of the future.

These lectures were delivered at the invitation of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, and I am thankful to the authorities for providing me with the opportunity to crystallize my thought on the subject.

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