Saving Philosophy in Kashmir | Kashmir Observer

For representational purposes only

The University of Kashmir does not have a dedicated department for the study of philosophy and this has contributed to our disengagement with and progression from our own philosophical traditions.

A A few days ago, the Center for Central Asian Studies (CCAS) of the University of Kashmir, in collaboration with the Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi, organized a seminar on “Philosophers of Kashmir and the Indian system of knowledge” and the irony is not lost on any careful observer that the University of Kashmir does not have a philosophy department.

Kashmir has always been the cradle of wisdom, learning and scholarship, home to philosophers such as Vasugupta, Utpala, Abhinavgupta and dozens of others, who shed the light of their wisdom on the world that surrounds them. Kashmir’s transition to Islam only furthered this intellectual chime process which resulted in the works of exegetes, poets and thinkers like Yaqoob Sarfi, H. Nowsheri, MABadhakhshi and others.

This continuity of intellectual tradition testifies that at no time in our history has our land been intellectually barren or barren. Kashmir continued to be the philosophical capital of neighboring countries, inspiring luminaries such as Sankara to make a pilgrimage to this place in the quest for knowledge and spiritual contentment. Kashmir may not have scientific discoveries or technological advancements to its credit, but it certainly has the honor of producing and housing literary and philosophical icons throughout the ages. The ground of philosophy was so fertile that Kashmir has its own schools of gnosis like Kashmiri Shaivisim and Rishism. These facts have been restated so that we can understand the tragedy of what it means to not have the Department of Philosophy at our highest seat of learning – the University of Kashmir.

The philosophy acquired a reputation for being too abstruse, remote from the masses, and indifferent to people’s lives in its mundane and pragmatic dimensions. This understanding is misinterpreted and rests on the distorted image of the subject. Philosophy is in fact the repository and treasure of the theoretical frameworks that underlie and define our engagement with our culture, our fellow human beings and ourselves. This understanding claims the Department of Philosophy as a space of preservation and cultural reconstruction bringing it closer to the pragmatic and practical dimensions of human life. In a paradigm like this, the absence of the Department of Philosophy at the highest seat of learning reflects the indifference and disregard we as a nation tend to have towards our culture, the legacy of tradition and our nonchalant attitude to preserve the same. The rich and complex philosophical and literary tradition that we had inherited from the glorious past eludes us and in the absence of institutions and departments, individual efforts will make marginal differences.

Not having the Department of Philosophy has had its consequences as the greatest and paradigmatic as recounted above and more immediate and localized effects which are broadcast from time to time. One of the salient and striking effects of this situation has been the discouraging effect on students wishing to pursue higher education in the field of philosophy. Not having the philosophy department either steers them to places outside of the valley or they completely drop the idea of ​​pursuing higher education in the field. It is not only tragic but also shameful for a society that boasts of its philosophical past to see its children abandon the subject at the whim of the department. The students have repeatedly raised their voices and repeatedly asked the authorities to start the process of establishing the department, but their voices do not seem to be heard.

The importance of philosophy and its prominence as an academic discipline are well known. Plato said that “a life without examination is not worth living”, philosophy is the examination of life. It is a meta-science that defines, describes, corrects and develops the concepts used by other sciences. Philosophy is essential to our ability to understand other disciplines. Many important questions about a discipline, such as the nature of its concepts and its relationship to other disciplines, are philosophical in nature. The philosophy of science, for example, is necessary to complement the understanding of natural and social sciences that derives from scientific work itself. The philosophy of literature and the philosophy of history are of similar value in understanding the humanities, and the philosophy of art (aesthetics) is important in understanding both the visual arts and the performing arts. Philosophy is also essential to evaluate the different standards of proof used by other disciplines. Since all fields of knowledge use reasoning and must establish standards of proof, logic and epistemology have a general bearing on all these fields. Without this substantive work, little progress is possible in other areas of the intellectual and academic order, which depend so much on the concepts and frameworks served by philosophy. It has both the role of an active academic discipline that separates right from wrong and simultaneously has the role of a pointer in our lives, pointing us in the right direction, whether we are faced with an ethical dilemma or a problem of epistemological order. Even those who cast criticisms of various kinds against philosophy philosophize one way or the other, thus validating the necessity of a philosophical perspective and the necessity of philosophy as an academic discipline.

It remains to be seen how long the authorities will postpone this founding and indispensable necessity of the creation of the department of philosophy. This is decisive for our intellectual engagement with the wisdom traditions of the world and, more importantly, the tradition that we have all bequeathed in Kashmir.


  • The opinions expressed in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the editorial position of Kashmir Observer

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Amir Souhail Wani

The author is a writer and columnist