PHIL 432: Muhammad Iqbal and Charles Peirce
Dr. Basit Bilal Koshul
May 7th, 2012
Iqbal, Peirce, and Hume in Conversation
“I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.” These words of Tolstoy articulate the truth about most of the scholarship which includes the works of almost all the ancient and contemporary intellectuals. On a closer inspection we come to know that philosophy has not been entirely honest about its tall claims of being the torchbearer of objective and disinterested inquiry into ultimate reality. Usually, the bigger part of the solution lies in identifying the problem correctly. John Dewey, an American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer, has done a great job by identifying the ailments afflicting philosophy in his book, Reconstruction in Philosophy. He challenges the prevalent notions about Philosophy which claim that philosophy revolves around love of wisdom. Dewey shows us that it is not true, and classical philosophy has its own limitations. Often the Philosophy has been developed through various stages and is rooted in the feelings and emotions of the people philosophizing it. Dewey tries to change these conceptions, and brings to light the true origin and principles of philosophy. It includes the realization that Philosophy has its limitations, and within these limitations philosophy has to assist humanity. Dewey points out that the original material out of which philosophy emerges is irrelevant to science and explanation. This original material is “figurative, symbolic of fears and hopes, made of imaginations and suggestions.” This material can be classified as poetry and drama but not science, and that is why it is independent of truth and falsity or rationality and absurdity. However, this original material has to pass through at least two stages to become philosophy proper. In the first stage the “stories and legends and their accompanying dramatizations are consolidated”. The second stage is the “organization and generalization of ideas and principles” through a “logical system and intellectual proof”. When the original material passes through these the story doesn’t end, but it goes through another important phase. The ideals and moral codes derived from the two stages are reconciled with empirical facts, since they need to represent reality (at least a bit) to ensure survival. As the body of facts and empirical data increased, they began conflicting with system of beliefs, doctrines, fantasies and cults. The attempt “to reconcile the two different types of mental product” thus became the origin of philosophy. These two mental products are the social and emotional materials which make up philosophy, and the knowledge of industries, arts and crafts in which practical relations of cause and effects rule over tradition and belief. Dewey asserts that philosophy has been prejudiced and agenda-driven. At one pole, philosophy advocates rationality, objectivity and intellectual independence, but on the other, it has been used in conjunction with rationality to justify the spirit of existing norms of society and government which represented preconceived beliefs. Since philosophy used reason and proof in matters which lacked rationality, it had to rely on abstract definitions and ultra-scientific argumentation. So, at its best, it produced over-attachment to a system for its own sake and unwillingness to live with probabilities, and at its worst, the philosophy became petty demonstration and complex terminology. Dewey compares this kind of philosophy to a Spider’s web to...