Dr Amit Kumar Sharma

Dr. Amit Kumar Sharma
Department of Sociology,School of Social Sciences,Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi - 110067

Man and the Cosmos

Man and the Cosmos


The German thinker Kant said that two things fill the heart with ever renwed and increasing aew and reverence, the more often and more steadily we meditate upon them: the starry firmament above and the moral law within . His words are very appropriate to express the place of man's destiny in the universe.2009 is the 400th anniversary of Galileo's first use of a telescope. Telescope made man very vulnerable human creature in the cosmos. Our greater knowledge of the universe in the last 400 years has surely forced us to acknowledge our insignificant place in the cosmos. Our entire galaxy is a tiny fragment of the Universe and within this fragment our solar system is an infiniteimal speck and within this speck our planet is a microscopic dot- a pale blue dot. On this dot, any tiny lump of impure carbon and water, of complicated structure , with somewhat unusual physical and chemical properties, crawls about for a few years, until they are dissolved again into the elements of which they are compounded. No man is liberated from fear who dare not see his place in the world as it is; no man can achieve the greatness of which he is capable until he has allowed himself to see his own littleness. If we wreck this planet, we have nowhere else to go. We are not the only intelligent beings in the universe. Immanuel Kant is significant as a philosopher who defends the principles of Enlightened reason against scepticism. He argues for the validity of the Knowledge accrued by the natural sciences but also the possibility of reason legislating for both individual moral action and the constitutional structure of the state and its relations to other states. Hegel criticised Kant's transcendent notion of reason and formalist morality, arguing instead for the immanence of reason and ethics to concrete practices and historical periods. For, Hegel, as for Marx, teleological judgement about human progess can be made only retrospectively, depending on whether a social or political development actually contributes to the realisation of reason in human life on earth. But Kant remains the prophet of European Modernity. He makes an analytical distinction between theoretical understanding and reason. The former relics on scientific rationality to gain understanding of the natural world of objects which can then be mastered technologically, while the latter is a version of Kant's practical reason which deliberates about the ends and purposes of instrumental action. Kant's philosophical system aims at mediation between these two forms of reason ( Pure reason of Science and Practical reason of Ethics). Kant also explains how humans an be understood from the perspectives of both scienitific rationality, as natural objects, and moral reasoning, as free subjects. Max Weber developed his theory of social action by extending Kantian concept of free subjects . Later Wittgenstein's attention to meaning rather than truth in language is a later development of the same Weberian meaning of social action. In this phenomenological- hermeneutic tradition art is autotelic, meaning that it gives it end to itself. In a world dominated by instrumental reason and administration, certain forms of art can thus be valued by Adorno asĀ  a priviledged area of freedom indicating Utopian possibilities. Nietzsche also regards artistic creativity as paradigmatic human action because neither God nor the nature of the Universe determine human purposes. Rather, the human will imposes myths and metaphors on existence in order to give it a manageable form, but Kant refuges to acknowledge that only humans invest the world with purpose. Nietzsche's radical critique of Kantian reason speaks of the immaturity humans have displaced by attributing the limits tehy have imposed on the world to reason instead of admitting that they invented those limits.


Click here to see articles of Dr. Amit Kumar Sharma