Evolution Of The Knowing Individual

Evolution Of The Knowing Individual

Evolution Of The Knowing Individual

          Evolution Of The Knowing Individual: The ability to associate events and experience (through uses of symbols across space and time) gives human beings an insight into the cause and effect relationship. It marks the beginning of scientific logic.

In their quest for knowledge, human beings simultaneously discovered science and values. Science gave them the power to establish causality and explain the control the events of nature. The values offered them the basis to regulate their relationship with fellow human beings. Language, through which we enter into both the scientific and cultural dialogue, is a social heritage. Both science and values thus have a social character.

Human Beings’ quest for knowledge led them to great discoveries and scientific achievements. The technological advancement that humankind has made since the Stone Age equipment is testimony to this reality. It has been made possible through growth in their philosophical reasoning, logical skills and methods of scientific experiments. With this advancement, the rate and volume of production of knowledge has increased manifold. One estimate is that scientific knowledge doubles every ten years and that this rate of growth is further on rise.

Growth of Two Cultures

The fast pace of growth of science has, in its turn, created problems of its relationship with values and the moral order of society. In the Western society, scholars have expressed disappointment about the increasing gap between the scientific and the moral order of society. Instead of integration, science and moral values are showing increasing evidence of dissociation or distancing from each other.

The separation of science from values not only creates ‘two cultures’, but increasingly makes them run at cross purposes. We notice it in the present day, race for armaments, ecological destruction through industrialisation, control over human freedom and in invention of weapons of mass annihilation like the atom bomb. Thus, for the survival and the very existence of human beings, it is necessary that the social and moral character of science is maintained. The mainstream Western tradition, believes in opposition between nature and culture or between human beings and their physical environment.

In contrast (to the Western tradition), Indian tradition right from its inception took an organic view of the relationship between scientific knowledge and its cultural or value framework. In fact, science was encapsulated within the world view of ethics, and the discovery of truth (satyam) was governed intrinsically by the principles of beauty (sundaram) and welfare (sivam). No dichotomy between the sacred and the profane, between the instrumental and the transcendental or between science and value was entertained in the Indian tradition and practice of science. The converging points between science and religion in the Indian tradition lie in the notion of science as yoga and Sadhana and the conceptualization of truth as tentative or partial. Science treats the nature of truth as being tentative and revisable with ever new discoveries and experiments. The quest for knowledge, therefore, is perennial. The Indian tradition does not see any opposition between science (discovery of truth) and value (normative basis of truth). It seeks rather a unity among the principles of truth, goodness and beauty (Satyam, Sivam, and Sundaram).

Evolution Of The Knowing Individual

Forms of Knowledge in Transition

Evolution of knowledge till date has passed through three distinct stages of transition and growth as given below.

Magical Form of Knowledge

Knowledge in the first instance, grew through symbolic representation of nature, self, and of the fellow human beings. It played a central role in determining the human’s relationship with both nature and culture. First, it evolved in magical and religious forms. Magic which for the primitive human being was equivalent to scientific knowledge was based on principles of causality governed by two rules:

  1. First rule was that “like produces like”. For example, since rain is accompanied by thunder, so if one could produce something similar to thunder, rain would follow. It was common among some ancient tribes to roll down heavy boulders from hill-tops to produce thunder-like sound to bring about rainfall.


  1. The second rule was: “Once a part always apart”. It was believed that if something is done to a part of a person, or his/her image, the ensuing results would devolve upon that person as such. For instance, if human nail or hair could be obtained and burnt or damaged, then this bum or damage would occur also to the person to whom these parts belonged. Or, if his image could be made and subjected to harm, the harm would be transferred also to the person.

These laws of magic tried to establish causality as sought in modem day science but were based on the false premises. They violated the rule of validity. That is why magic is called a pseudo-science.

Some magical rituals and explanations of events, however, integrated with practical knowledge as these evolved through trial and error over a period of time. Magical rituals were very common in all crucial economic activities such as hunting, food gathering and agriculture. Magic was integral to other rituals related to death, birth, marriage and initiation rites, etc. Mother goddess cult emerged from these magical rituals. The process of learning for human beings was from the very beginning related to their conceptions of nature, spirit and supernatural.

Evolution Of The Knowing Individual

Religious beliefs grew with magical beliefs. In some cases religious beliefs may have followed when magical principles failed. It is said that like science, magic seeks to command nature. Religious beliefs emerge when magical commands fail to materialize. Nature, on which human beings have no control, inspires a supernatural awe. It is symbolically converted into (religious) forms of deities, and made object of worship and prayer. The origin of cultural expressions, such as dances, songs, dramas and most objects of arts is attributed to some extent to early magical and religious rituals. As human culture and civilization advanced through evolution of agriculture, industry and technology, sharp differentiation between religion and magic took place. Religion evolved in Europe into a more organized social institution, such as the Roman Church and various other sects. Magic which right from its beginning was highly individualised as a form of skill and knowledge came under pressure both from science and religion. This was manifest from the persecution of magicians and witches in Europe during the medieval period. Wherever it survived, it did so in the form of the skill of an individual or a few persons.

 Separation of Science and Religion

With the emergence of imperial political organisation, there took place large scale growth in trade, commerce, technology and industrial production. This is revealed through the history of ancient civilizations like those of India, China, Egypt, and Greece 2nd Rome. With few exceptions, now a differentiation between the scientists and religious or priestly classes took place. The separation, however, was often hazy. With the decline of the Graeco-Roman civilization and the rise of Christianity, Church had emerged in Europe as the most powerful social and political institution. It was a major setback to the process of differentiation between religious and scientific knowledge. All knowledge was now subject to approval of religious authority represented by the Church. Its seminaries were the only institutional organizations recognized for generation and communication of knowledge. This pattern continued for several centuries until it was challenged by forces of renaissance and religious reformation during the 15″ and 16″ centuries. During this period, contributions to science made by Galileo, Copernicus and Newton and the religious reforms initiated by Luther and Calvin made it possible that humanistic, rational and empirical forms of knowledge could slowly emerge. Luther and Calvin emphasized the role of individual over that of Church for religious salvation. Galileo and Newton offered scientific and experimental evidence instead of theological cosmology. Slowly, the nature of seminaries which were like theological schools changed. These were taken out of the control of the Church and taken over by the city councils of citizens for administration and cultivation of knowledge. The modem university system thus came into being on a secular basis of organisation, production and communication of knowledge. This process of secularization of knowledge in the European society took several hundred years and it was shaped under the influence of its own social, political, cultural and economic transformations.

Evolution Of The Knowing Individual

Division of Knowledge into Disciplines

What we see today as disciplines under the Natural Sciences, Social Sciences and Humanities are the result of the division (of knowledge) which took place during the period of emergence of University system in Europe. This division is based largely on classification of reality on certain philosophical grounds. That is to say, each discipline whether it is physics, chemistry, economics or sociology, assumed that it had for its study a separate ‘subject-matter’. However, as knowledge advanced in depth and stock, it was observed that the scope of a discipline could not be demarcated on the basis of the ‘subject-matter’ which may have been shared by many disciplines in that group. For example, study of individual is the subject matter for disciplines of Social Sciences group (like Economics, Political Science, and Sociology etc.). Does this then mean that the ‘individual’ is artificially divided among these disciplines? Is the economic man different from a ‘political’ or ‘sociological man? N;. The individual which is the subject matter cannot be fragmented among the disciplines. They are merely different because they adopt different conceptual approaches to, and study different facets of the same subject matter i.e., the individual. That is where there lies hope for integration of knowledge for comprehensive understanding of the subject-matter (individual in social sciences) through genuine inter-disciplinary researches.

Many social and natural science disciplines such as statistics, economics, chemistry and physics, etc., emerged in response to demands to solve specific needs of society. Necessity indeed was the mother of inventions. But chance discoveries (serendipity) and creativity also played a role in the growth and differentiation of knowledge. All these diversification have given rise to professional groups of vested interests who pose a major problem to the integration of knowledge. In the domain of logic, concept and method, however, significant advances have already been made during the past few decades which point to the possibility of more and more integration of knowledge.

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