The Traumatic Terrain

'Philosophy' Matters


[Following is the forward of Ranganayakamma's thought-provoking book 'Philosophy'. While reading Philosophy books the author initially finds it difficult to negotiate this terrain. Finally she concludes 'Philosophy' matters. "The Philosophers have interpreted the world in various ways. The question, however, is to change it."—Marx

I have never had any interest in Philosophy. Not that I did
not read those books in the past. We would certainly like it if what we read is easily understood and it there is any good point. If we cannot understand what we read; there won't be any scope to know whether it is good or not and how much good is there in it. I can't say how I read Philosophy essays in the past but held the view that it was waste of time. Not that my view has now changed completely.

Six months ago, I read a collection of Philosophy essays with which I came across unexpectedly. It was somewhat intelligible. I got very angry. Then I though', 'let me see what Philosophy is. Why should I leave it aside without looking at it?' When searched in the house, I found 7 or 8 books on Philosophy. I noticed some comments which I wrote with pencil on the covers of those books. A comment on the cover of a book read like this: 'I read this. I read this. I swear if I understood it.' A comment on another book: 'I should not touch this book again! I should be clever!" A comment on yet another book: 'The time which we lost won't come back'. Similar irritating comments were there on the remaining books. But on one particular book, I noticed the comment: 'Pity, this book is somewhat good.' I felt as if my heart stopped beating.

Then I thought, 'I took out all these books with an intention to read, didn't I? What should I do now? Perhaps I wrote that comment then as I could not understand them properly! Should I read them now or not? Why should I waste space in the almirahs for such books which need not be read? This time I should and will read carefully keeping all my senses in order.'

I thought at length on that day, removed all my old comments on the books with an eraser, struck of those comments with pen which could not be erased and kept that handful of books beside me. In every book, there is a list of books which the author read in order to write that book. After going through those lists of readings, I found it Essential to secure 10 more books for my reading. I got them in a few days. Relevant dictionaries are also available at home.

Those Essays on Philosophy were not the original writings of Philosophers. They were Telugu translations of English essays in which the essayists summarised the original writings of the Philosophers. Those Telugu translations in fact were highly Sanskritised.

Whatever book we open, we need to take the help of a dictionary at every page. If we close the book for a while due to some interruption and re-open it after an hour, we would be unable to remember upto what point we have read. When we go back too far and start reading the already read pages once again, those pages too appear as new unread pages. No page gives an impression that we have already read it. They appear alike even when read them third time or seventh time. The problem is not entirely with the language. The subject matter itself is like that. The manner of writing itself is like that.

In every book and at every page, I used to wonder, 'should working class people and students read these writings and this language!' Whenever I finished reading a book, I used to feel, 'Oh, I have; unnecessarily erased my comments which I wrote on the cover. It is again waste of time! Waste of time!'

I have once again scribbled as it came to my mind: 'Life is short', 'How much life is left for me! Should I spend it like this?', 'I will not waste my short life like this'. I wrote my comments like this with a view that I would erase it, strike it of later if necessary. Only then my anger subsided.

I did not at all have the intention to write something about Philosophy: before I started reading those books. Except curiosity to peep into that subject for a while, I did not have anything more.

After four or five weeks when I started jotting down some notes for my understanding, it gradually took the present form.

I think so many writers we find in the field of Philosophy will not be there in any other fields. I don't know whether this is true or not.

Some translators of Philosophy books give the meanings of certain terms in parentheses when citing the words of a particular Philosopher. Not all translators do so. And not at every place. While summarising they explain in whatever way they understood those terms. One would not say as the other did. For the word 'pillio'? (cat) one gives 'maarjaalam' while another gives 'bidaalam' (Telugised words with Sanskrit origin, meaning 'cat') as translation equivalents. Truly speaking, this is a sort of feat on the sword (=Herculean task) for the translators. The translators too must have experienced lot of torture in the work of translation.

It is imperative on my part to clarify about the quotations that I cited here and there in the book 'Philosophy'. I retained some quotations as they were. I presented some quotations by modifying few words so as to make them easily understandable. I have also added 'lengthening or the final vowels (at the end of every noun if there are more than one noun in order to express coordinator markers like 'and', and 'or'), case suffixes (for every noun if there are more than one), commas and the like whenever necessary. If such modifications were not made, there won't be any question of intelligibility.

'Men, women and students belonging to the working class ought to read this book. I kept only these readers in view. Books meant for these readers should be written in an easily under-standable manner. Otherwise, there won't be any use if not written so.

This is merely small attempt at introducing Philosophies that have been in existence since pre-Christian era.
The list of books which I read for writing this book is given at the end. Most of those books are available in book shops or libraries. One must read at least few books. If they wish they can write their comments or the covers of those books. They, however, will have such facility only if the books are their own.

Why should we be totally unaware of what Philosophy is and what its history is? It is good to know something about it, isn't it? Now, I have rectified my mistake of not allowing it to fall on my ears. It is certainly necessary to have some amount of acquaintance with Philosophy. We will know to what extent it is necessary for the society.

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Vol. 52, No. 11, Sep 15 - 21, 2019