In a recent BBC online poll for finding the greatest thinker of the Millenium, Karl Marx came first. That Marx beat Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking among other leaders in their fields amounts to a big statement of Marx’s relevance in the new millenium. The relevance of the results is magnified when we consider that neo-liberal capitalism has established itself as the dominant economic ideology today. With many leading economists of our time, including Thomas Friedman, Joseph Heath (and to a lesser extent Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz) not being critical of the capitalist ideology, the poll results give away the public pulse on this important issue. It is reasonable to assume that public sentiment and government economic policies (usually informed by contemporary economists noted above) are pulling in opposite directions. And the tensions created by these opposing tendencies are already giving rise to widespread social unrest, as shown by the . . . Read More
Orientalism as a geo-political and sociological concept has attracted much controversy. It remains author Edward Said’s definitive work, alongside other titles such a The Question of Palestine and Covering Islam. Orientalism as a scholarly work is the combined study and analysis of Oriental “philology, linguistics, ethnography, and the interpretation of culture through the discovery, recovery, compilation, and translation of Oriental texts”. (Windschuttle, 1999, p.30) Having been born into a Palestinian Christian family that later migrated to the United States, Said had the unique advantage of experiencing different perspectives on the issue of Palestine-Israel conflict as well as broader Arabian politics. His works on the subject of Middle East politics are informed by his first hand experiences at these places, as well as a careful study of preceding scholarship by Western intellectuals. The primary criticism in his book Orientalism, as also seen in the . . . Read More
Sociologist and philosopher Max Weber has contributed significantly toward our understanding of social and political institutions’ role in everyday situations. If economists such as John Kenneth Galbraith and, more recently, Joseph Stiglitz have brought clarity to the study of dominant institutions, it was Weber who paved the way for this field of study. Weber’s work on the subject were preceded by Karl Marx and succeeded by Michel Crozier, but it was he who conducted in-depth analyses, especially as applicable to practical everyday situations. And he, more than anybody else, brought the term ‘bureaucracy’ into mainstream sociological discourse.
Weber’s work dealt with such dominant socio-political institutions like religious authorities, the government, industrial corporations, etc. And in the case of the government, it is through bureaucracy that it interacts with the general population. Bureaucracy can generally be said to contain the . . . Read More
Intellectuals such as Karl Marx and Max Weber have proposed important theories toward understanding the dynamics of societies. Marx’s ideas in particular have profoundly affected later generations of sociologists, including his compatriot Max Weber. Marx’s achievement lies in attempting to explain social situations and problems from the point of view of economic class of constituent groups in society. Max Weber, who was a successor to the socio-economic analytic tradition established by Marx, made critical observations of many of Marx’s theories and consolidated the communist school of thought. (Bonner, 1998, p.166) While Weber made important contributions to Marx’s work, he also brought in unique sociological perspectives to communist commentary. In this sense, Weber’s approach to explaining the rise of modern society can be stated as a ‘debate with the ghost of Karl Marx’.
First of all, Weber agreed with many of Marx’s . . . Read More
Humanism is a school of thought in philosophy that is based upon established and emerging facts about human nature. Humanism, which flourished during the Italian Renaissance is largely secular in its composition, making no references to the unknown and the supernatural. But in the centuries that have gone by, it has been adopted into various religious doctrines, giving rise to a branch of theology called religious humanism. No other religion has interplayed its tenets and principles with Humanism more than Christianity. Generally, when we talk of Christian Humanism, it implies the attempt to incorporate humanistic ideas into established Christian practices; seldom is it the other way around. While Christianity’s interaction with Humanism seems to have started as early as 2nd century A.D, it wasn’t until the beginning of Renaissance that the two ideologies fused substantially.
The Renaissance was a period when Europe woke up to the . . . Read More
Socrates’ reasoning in passing up the chance to escape his sentence after being condemned to death on fabricated charges
Socrates is one of the most influential Greek philosophers, who as influential in ushering the Hellenistic Age. His powers of logical reasoning and the invention of the Socratic method has left a lasting impression on Western philosophy. Although he was a prominent member of the Aristocratic class, his lack of deference to authority would lead to his tragic death. Even when given the choice between a life in exile or immediate execution, he chose the latter as a matter of adhering to principle.
According to Socrates, a commitment to moral reasoning is an essential condition of a well-lived life. An individual should base his actions upon the outcomes of such internal dialogues. The exercise of self-examination and introspection as a way of arriving at moral truths is of paramount importance to Socrates. So much so that he unequivocally . . . Read More
Thomas Kuhn was one of the pre-eminent scientific voices of the twentieth century. He made key contributions to physics; but his most important works were about the history and philosophy of science. His most influential work is The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, in which Kuhn offers the processes and conditions under which scientific progress takes place. This book deals with a broad time-span of scientific history while also providing in-depth analysis of cornerstone scientific discoveries. He states that rather than progressing through gradual and slow accumulation of new knowledge, scientific progress happens in periodic bursts in which new insights add to the previous understanding. In other words, scientific progress happens through a three-step process. During the initial ‘Prescience’ stage, there is not central guiding paradigm in the particular field of inquiry. The process of adding new knowledge to the Prescient stage is called . . . Read More
Religion has long been an integral part of human civilization. Religion effectively started when humans realized the power of nature and their subordination to this power. And being the most intelligent species on earth, human beings conceived the notion of ‘appeasing’ the Gods in return for favorable natural events. For example, offering animal and human sacrifices would comprise of such acts of appeasing the Gods. It these early days of religion, Gods were sought after as a matter of survival of the tribe or clan; and religious beliefs as they existed had little to do with morality. Irrespective of whether there was a cause-effect relationship between religious rituals and natural events, it is fair to say that primitive religious practices were done as a matter of survival and morality found no consideration. (Taliaferro, 2006)
In wasn’t until the rise of organized religion around two thousand years ago that the importance of morality to human . . . Read More
Sociology as a discipline of study took off only in the twentieth century. The growth in communications technology, coupled with unprecedented levels of human migration, both facilitated and made necessary the study of human interaction from the perspective of ethnicity, race, class, gender, etc. Intellectuals such as Karl Marx, Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, Talcott Parsons and Anthony Giddens have proposed important theories toward understanding the dynamics of societies. Karl Marx was identified as a sociologist posthumously for during his life-time the field of sociology was not yet formed. But despite the lack of nomenclature Marx’s ideas have profoundly affected later generations of sociologists. Marx’s achievement is in attempting to explain social situations and problems from the point of view of economic class of constituent groups in society. Max Weber, on the other hand, saw religion to be pivotal to society and hence included religious considerations . . . Read More
According to Socrates, a commitment to moral reasoning is an essential condition of a well-lived life. An individual should base his actions upon the outcomes of such internal dialogues. The exercise of self-examination and introspection as a way of arriving at moral truths is of paramount importance to Socrates. So much so that he unequivocally declared that “an unexamined life is not worth living”. This commitment to truth by way of rational, critical enquiry would eventually cost Socrates his life. But, even when in sight of his impending death, Socrates calmly reasoned with his friends and supporters that accepting the judgment of the state is to follow the moral course of action and he refused to escape into exile.
Socrates was brought to trial by the democratic Athenian jury, which had scores to settle with prominent members of the previous regime. Socrates’ association with the previous regime made him a target of persecution, irrespective of the . . . Read More