This comprehensive and erudite study on peace, stressing the imperative need for preserving it in a turbulent world, is of great relevance today in the context of the menacing nuclear arms race, the imminent possibility of extending nuclear weapons deployment to space and the increasing number, frequency and intensity of ‘local wars’. It has rightly been said that wars begin in the minds of men. Basanta Kumar Mallik points out that mankind’s ills have been brought about by man himself. He has yet to realize that he can, if he so chooses and strives earnestly to move forward towards establishing and maintaining peace, transform human society from one riven by mutual conflict into one where relative harmony prevails. In order to achieve this a fundamental change in man’s thinking is essential. Man has to educate himself—that is, acquire knowledge as Mallik emphasized and practice austerity or the ‘ethics of mutual abstention.’ The thrust of Mallik’s philosophy as ably explained by the author is that true knowledge or thought as he describes it, is non-absolutist understanding of reality in contrast to Hegel’s definition of reality or truth as being absolute or perfect.
Hegelian dialectic, it may be recalled, starts from stating a proposition, supported by observations, arguments and considerations affirming the proposition. This is followed by critically re-examining the proposition and the principles on which it is based in order to discover any inherent contradictions, which may negate or modify the proposition. This exercise ought to lead to the formulation of a new pro¬position eliminating the contradictions discovered during the analysis.
The new proposition is once again critically assessed in order to discover any further contradictions, the elimination of which would lead to a new proposition. This process would be continued until one arrives at the absolute which, by definition, would be free from contradictions.
Four Stages of Reality
The author has discussed with great clarity the concepts concerning reality and existence and the metaphysics of the Law of Contradictions, to mention only a few of the many areas covered in this volume. Mallik’s principal contribution to the development of philosophical thought is his identification of four stages of reality, the primal, the secondary, the tertiary and the fourth stage, the last resting on three principles— namely, that
1. Reality partakes of the triadic pattern of the discontinuous and continuous universes;
2. The middle universe is a condition of related duality, which provides for the simultaneous existence of unity and individuality; and,
3. Reality is duality (of non-absolute being and non-being, both perfectly equal) and is ‘neither individuality nor unity nor community.’
These concepts and the ideas flowing therefrom have been analysed and presented with understanding and great competence by Mrs Sondhi.
Mallik’s concept of knowledge or thought being non-absolutist, provides for changes of perception and hence is more in accord with human experience and understanding.
Mallik’s principal concern is to analyse conflicts in human relations, between individuals, groups and nations, and their resolution. His approach towards formulating solutions to conflicts ought to help bring about desirable changes in human perception of problems, which would lead to harmony instead of conflict. Such changes in their turn would affect the course of history. The role of organizations, whether of thought or of groups of individuals is important in this context. An organization, he notes, is that which unifies and individualizes multiple constraints and that if any thing exists it has to exist in the form of an organization.
Traditionally man has accepted conflict as part of human nature itself, although sages such as Buddha and Jain maharishis and a few other thinkers saw the futility of conflict and advocated universal peace and goodwill extending to all forms of life on earth. The tragedy is that conflict among humans whose high point is war is being accepted by national leaders today even though wars are becoming more and more devastating and have acquired the potential to destroy man as well as the planet’s life support system. The motivations of those whose actions tend to sustain international tensions are to secure or preserve the dominance of their countries.
The politics of military alliances, securing military bases in the Third World countries, recruiting intrinsically unstable Third World states as their regional surrogates, induction of sophisticated arms into such countries and the Third World generally and thus heighten regional misunderstandings and tensions and create and sustain ‘cold wars’ which at any moment could explode into a ‘hot’ war, have been decried by western as well as Oriental humanists. But their voices remain unheeded. Gandhiji, and Tolstoy also firmly rejected the idea that conflict is inevitable. Both believed that conflict can be contained and even transformed through spiritual and moral force.
Of particular interest to Indian readers would be the similarities and differences between Gandhiji’s and Mallik’s concepts of non-violence. Gandhiji preached as well as practiced non-violence. To him non-violence was not a negative but a positive virtue. If practised this way it can withstand and overcome the most brutal form of violence. Mallik agrees, indeed stresses, that only non-violence is true humanism. Where he differs from Gandhiji is that non-violence too could have coercive overtones and to the extent it has, it may not be compatible with humanism.
The author has interpreted Mallik’s philosophy admirably and is to be congratulated for this scholarly treatise on a subject which deserves earnest study, not least by those in power in all countries who are in a position to use the means at their disposal either for the survival of their own people and of mankind or for taking the world closer to the brink of total destruction.
Col. R. Rama Rao