Thursday, 26 August 2010


Faculty of Philosophy, Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram

Philosophy as Interpersonal Communication

Prof. Dr. Thomas Kadankavil, CMI
Professor of Moral Philosophy
Faculty of Philosophy, DVK, Bangalore

Date: August 26-27, 2010
Venue: DVK Auditorium, DVK Administrative Block

Reverend Prof. Dr. Thomas Kadankavil, the speaker of the 14th Dharma Endowment Lectures 2010-2011, Reverend and Dear Prof. Dr. Francis Thonippara, our President, Rev. Prof. Dr. Augustine Thottakara, our Rector, professors from various faculties and institutes in and around Bangalore, Campus Superiors, invited guests, staff members of DVK, respected colleagues in the Faculty of Philosophy, and my dear students, ladies and gentlemen,
Taking cue from practical experience, George Bernard Shaw once said: “The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.”
Whether we like it or not, we are changing, our life is changing, and the world around us is changing. Indeed, our thought also undergoes constant change. If we look closer at the things that we experience, there is an ongoing dynamism in reality that we identify as change. Those who identify change and are capable of responding to those changes are said to be sensible persons; those who foresee change and anticipate it at an earlier stage are called prophets. Those who are capable of initiating lasting changes for good are taken to be trend-setters. As Pauline R. Kezer puts it, while “Continuity gives us roots,” “change gives us branches, letting us stretch and grow and reach new heights.”
Developing a positive attitude towards change provides us with an ambience of growth. According to Harold Wilson, “He who rejects change is the architect of decay. The only human institution which rejects progress is the cemetery.” Human spirit is not expected to be bound by the four walls of any cemetery, as it would, then, represent a dead world. Our vocation is never to settle with what is given, but to explore newer horizons and reach greater heights, which would be further explored and unravelled in the course of time. We are never ready to settle with what is bequeathed to us; but our noble but dynamic vocation is to access those unexplored dimensions and the unseen territories of reality.
Of course, the dynamism that we identify as change is an ongoing phenomenon and a closer look at it would enable a philosopher to identify certain patterns or matrixes in the changes that happen. Over a longer period of time, the changes that get settled give rise to traditions that would gradually turn out to be the accepted practices of a society. Those who look for comfort zones are happy with the settled foundations; they would make them unchangeable to such an extent that sometimes they would challenge any attempt at changing those foundations. However, in the course of time, as these foundations turn out to be crucial in the making of societies and institutions, there arise even contempt and animosity against suggested changes, many a time even if they are for good.
There is a saying: “After you've done a thing the same way for two years, look it over carefully. After five years, look at it with suspicion. And after ten years, throw it away and start all over.” Hence, people of wisdom are of the opinion that there are no settled foundations in the presence of the ever searching human spirit; in fact, the openness with which the humanity surges ahead will only present before us those unsettled foundations, which would ever invite all of us to earnestly look forward to those new horizons that would unravel a world of unending possibilities.
The human world, though constantly partaking in the flux of reality, is a world of dynamic relationships. When it comes to the human beings, we encounter a web of interrelationship, which is the foundational matrix of our societies and states, and the most crucial ingredient of making an individual human being a whole. The role of a philosopher is to make the interrelationship matrix a consciously brought about reality that would facilitate the inherence of all the parts into a meaningful whole.
It is interesting to note that the trends of philosophizing have been changing over a period of time; sometimes for good and at other times for bad. But the ongoing change in human thought is a fact. Although there have been attempts at identifying perennial methods and perennial truths, the irrepressible human spirit has been making strides and no attempt on the part of any system or tradition had been capable of capping the search for truth as definite and final. Although this ongoing search does not amount to total relativism, the emphasis is placed on the openness that the human being is endowed with. Indeed, reason as a faculty is on the look out for systems or structures; it is interesting to note that the same reason is instrumental in taking us to new domains of thought and action, opening us to new vistas of truth and reality. The definiteness that was the mark of modern philosophy, for example, has already given way to the dynamic indefiniteness of the postmodern and the post-postmodern philosophies that have found their homes even in Catholic ecclesiastical institutions and other orthodox circles. Although such a theoretical possibility suggests the risk of relativistic thought patterns and the ensuing chaotic social structures, in truth, these are attempts to free the human spirit that was made captive to the self-declared final citadels of reason, initiated by the system-builders and trend-setters of modern philosophy and Enlightenment thought. Hence, the need for more openness on the part of philosophers and to invite them to plunge into the various processes of negotiating and re-negotiating new vistas stemming from the ever vibrant human spirit.
It is in this context that we find the relevance of this year’s Dharma Endowment Lectures theme, “Changing Patterns of Thought: Philosophy as Interpersonal Communication” by Prof. Dr. Thomas Kadankavil. We live in a postmodern era in which every foundation is being questioned, challenged, and sometimes overthrown; changes are indeed welcome and they rule the day! As we pass through the difficult times, a philosopher has the responsibility to come up with definitive but dynamic directions. As a person who has been engaged in learning and teaching philosophy over a period of 40 years, in these lectures, Prof. Kadankavil proposes to come up with his own life’s findings, suggesting that an interpersonal communication pattern is the best suited mould for meaningful philosophizing.
Dharma Endowment Lectures is an important event in the annals of Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram. Started in 1996, these lectures provide a platform for rich and powerful contemporary philosophical synthesis in view of an enriched and meaningful individual and societal existence. As we know, the very expression ‘dharma’ is so rich in meaning and philosophical resonance. It is beyond our ability to propose a single exhaustive translation to the word dharma; yet, its subtle existential sense refers to the dynamic and creative rhythm of life that has to be the substratum of everything in existence. Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram, particularly the Faculty of Philosophy, in instituting the Dharma Endowment Lectures, has a definite philosophical plan of action in view of establishing an integral vision of life among the members of our academic community and the wider public. Hence, so far, all the Dharma Endowment Lectures, 2010-2011 being the fourteenth in this series, have been dealing with philosophy from existential as well as theoretical points of view.
At the outset, I feel that the Faculty of Philosophy at DVK and all those who have gathered here are blessed and honoured by the very presence of Rev. Dr. Fr. Thomas Kadankavil, an eminent ethicist and a professor emeritus in our own Faculty of Philosophy at Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram.
Professor Emeritus Dr. Thomas Kadankavil, a member of the CMI congregation, holds a Licentiate (1968) and Doctorate in Philosophy (1972) from Gregorian University, Rome. He was awarded another PhD in Philosophy from Fordham University, New York, in 1974.
Prof. Kadankavil started his academic career of teaching philosophy at Dharmaram College, Bangalore, in 1972. After four decades of committed teaching and various other administrative involvement, he retired from full time teaching in 2002. He had served Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram as its president and the dean of the Faculty of Philosophy. He was also the director of the Centre for the Study of World Religions (CSWR) and the Chief Editor of Journal of Dharma, the international quarterly of religions and philosophies published from DVK. He had been instrumental in establishing the Centre for Dalit Solidarity at DVK. During his academic career, he has also served as the novice master, rector of Darsana Institute of Philosophy (Bhopal; now at Wardha) and Dharmaram College (Bangalore).
An acclaimed teacher and an erudite research guide, Prof. Kadankavil has taught almost all subjects in philosophy and has guided a number of licentiate theses and PhD dissertations. Please permit me to make a personal note: I was blessed to have Fr. Thomas Kadankavil as professor of philosophy during my four years of training in philosophy here at Dharmaram; I had the wonderful opportunity to work under his guidance during my licentiate studies. As he was the director of my licentiate thesis on “Ramayana and the Indian Ideal,” I have immensely benefited from his academic expertise and accompaniment. I remember the scientific rigour that he expected from any student; but equally I remember the love and concern with which he accompanied me all through the project. Although the red ink that he had spilled on the pages of the first draft of my licentiate thesis had occasionally hurt me – at that time, I do acknowledge that it had been quite effective in initiating me into rigorous scientific research, which some of my present students would find as difficult to cope with. I am also personally grateful to him for having edited and published my first article in philosophy, in the Journal of Dharma, way back in 1989, and for having guided me in the preparation of my licentiate thesis on the ethics of Ramayana, which eventually became my first book, published during my student days, of course, from Dharmaram Publications. As I have benefited from the academic expertise and commitment of my teacher and guru, Fr. Thomas Kadankavil, let me take this opportunity to thank him for all that he had been to me and to thousands of other students who have passed through the portals of Dharmaram over a period of more than 40 years. Let me reverentially bow my head before by beloved teacher!
Prof. Kadankavil has to his credit 15 published books and around 100 articles in various scientific journal and other periodicals. Some of his prominent works include The Philosophy of the Absolute (1972), The Quest for the Real (1974), Ethical World (1995), Religion and Politics from Subaltern Perspective (edited, 1999), and Little Traditions and National Culture (edited, 2000).
As it is noted in the biographical sketch that Prof. Dr. Augustine Thottakara had written in the Festschrift dedicated to Prof. Kadankavil, the most important contribution that he has made is his praiseworthy and transformative involvement in the training of thousands of ministers of the Word and the Church. To quote Fr. Thomas Kadankavil himself, “my greatest contribution … is the sharing of the courage of my conviction to be with the generations of students.”
Apart from the above said substantial academic foundations and sound scholarship, what makes Prof. Thomas Kadankavil uniquely important for the Dharma Endowment Lectures 2010-2011 on the “Changing Patterns of Thought” is his ongoing pilgrimage in the domain of human thought. His own search for understanding the reality has been a progressive one. As he got to know the inner depths of one system and, in the course of time, its limitations, he dared to look for better understanding in other domains. When his intellectual search unravelled injustice, he dared to part ways with unjust systems of thought, even though they were considered to be so dear to him at an earlier stage. The openness and the daring spirit with which he always searched for the truth led him to better and deeper understanding of the truth, even though sometimes it had an inherent call to change his own accepted patterns of thought and living. Prof. Thomas Kadankavil, a person who was academically trained in the absolutist thought of the Vedanta, as he got initiated into the systematic thought of the Upanisads, maintained his openness in his intellectual and spiritual search, so much so that even at the close of his active academic life he dared to part ways with the Vedanta and consciously opted for the subaltern and the downtrodden in the form of a preferential option for the Dalit cause and their world vision, which he continues to cherish even to this day. It was this daring spirit that opened up the gates of DVK to the Dalit and subaltern thought and, gradually, the establishment of the Centre for Dalit Solidarity in the Faculty of Philosophy in 1997. A realization of the earlier mistakes, which were made in the light of the then available limited knowledge, made Dr. Kadankavil to initiate conscious efforts in setting things right. Great Confucius had stated in his Analects: “A scholar who loves comfort is not fit to be called a scholar.” As he made his options very clear and his convictions definite, as a true scholar, Prof. Kadankavil did not mind what he had to lose on his affirmative way. As he could know and experience the best of both the mainstream Savarna thought and the subaltern Avarna thought, at the same time, he could make the best out of them and launch his own firm positions as to what is truth and how to realize it. Though we may realize the folly of having followed one system of thought for years, many of us may not take the risk of admitting it and, then, changing the course for good. However, the moment of truth for Prof. Kadankavil was the realization that it is never too late and he dared to part his ways with untruth and injustice and to court truth and justice with all his might. Hence, I consider that Prof. Dr. Thomas Kadankavil is the right person to deliver the Dharma Endowment Lectures 2010-2011, today and tomorrow, on “Changing Patterns of Thought: Philosophy as Interpersonal Communication.” In the name of Rev. Dr. Francis Thonippara, our President, Rev. Dr. Augustine Thottakara, our Rector, all the members and students of the Faculty of Philosophy, and all those who have gathered here, I accord a warm welcome to our loving and respected Prof. Fr. Thomas Kadankavil!
It is my privileged duty to welcome you all, especially Prof. Dr. Francis Thonippara, our President, Prof. Dr. Augustine Thottakara, our Rector, Dr. Paulachan Kochappilly, Dean, Faculty of Theology, Campus Superiors, staff members from Christ University and other institutes of philosophy, the faculty members of theology and philosophy faculties, and the Institute of Canon Law and the Institute of Spirituality and Counselling of DVK and all our well-wishers and students to the Dharma Endowment Lectures 2010-2011. Hearty welcome!
The knowledge and experience of change need not be taught, for it is the very fibre of our knowledge and experience of reality. Perennial truth, sanāthana dharma, is an eternal dream of human mind ever attempting to tell its story through changing thought patterns. How this search of philosophy has to be undertaken and communicated is the issue that would be examined in the Dharma Endowment Lectures 2010-2011. These lectures have grown out of the conviction of Prof. Kadankavil that philosophical truths are not to be taught as dogmas, for they would be as firm as a dogma when a philosopher has arrived at it by his own reasoning. Dialogue certainly would help one to streamline this speculative process.
Centuries have built up systems of philosophy, some claiming absolute certainty for their vision, others launching an all out deconstruction with the hope of a new reconstruction. These lectures try to find a space, with its dialogical spirit, in between the positions of idealizing and understanding a unique reality or letting the contingent or fragmentary have their own reality and importance. In order to shed light on the proposal of doing philosophy as practising a fine art, Prof. Dr. Thomas Kadankavil has chosen a few issues from both eastern and western philosophical traditions. We hope that this will create a new enthusiasm and dynamism among the seekers of truth within the context of our academic curriculum and concrete living.
Wishing you a wonderful and enriching academic experience with Prof. Dr. Thomas Kadankavil, today and tomorrow, I remain. Thank you!
Dr. Saju Chackalackal
Dean, Faculty of Philosophy, DVK, Bangalore

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