Thursday, September 21, 2006

Heterodoxy

The world over, the men and women who have the courage to fight the odds and come out trumps are the ones that are respected. Often, as is the case, they must sound anti-establishment or must "go against the grain", to use two very cliched terms, to make their case. However, it isn't for the joy of being anti-establishment or going-against-the-grain that these people do or say what they say; it is because they firmly believe in what they say, feel or do.

It is here that i would like to introduce a few names much more well known than mine and highly respected worldwide.

To quote from the first chapter from Amartya Sen's "The Argumentative Indian" (which, as the top-right corner of this page proudly announces, I'm currently reading): "It is not hard to see that the possibility of scientific advance is closely connected with the role of heterodoxy, since new ideas and discoveries have to emerge initially as heterodox views, which differ from, and may be in conflict with, established understanding. The history of scientific contributions across the world - the experiences of Copernicus, or Galileo, or Newton, or Darwin - shows many examples of the part that resolute heterodoxy has to play, in scrutinizing, and when necessary rejecting, the views that are standardly accepted." (Sigh, I wish I could write like him.)

Sen continues later: "...a methodological point that Francis Bacon would make with compelling clarity in 1605 in his treatise The Advancement of Learning. 'The registering and proposing of doubts has a double use,' Bacon said. One use is straightforward: it guards us 'against errors'. The second use, Bacon argued, involved the role of doubts in initiating and furthering a process of enquiry, which has the effect of enriching our investigations. Issues that 'would have been passed by lightly without intervention', Bacon noted, end up being 'attentively and carefully observed' precisely because of the 'intervention of doubts'."

A few weeks ago, fired up by the words of Swami Vivekananda, I collected all the quotes that I personally found very motivating. I then put them on different slides and converted the Powerpoint presentation thus created, into individual JPEG images. Having saved these images in a particular folder, I selected the folder from which these images are now shown as my screensaver.

One of Vivekananda's quotes, which I was reminded of while reading the quoted text from The Argumentative Indian was this:


I am also reminded of Ayn Rand's classic The Fountainhead. Although I completely disagree with some aspects of the book, there are excerpts of the classic court scene, where Howard Roark speaks, which are dipped in truth. Here is what I was reminded of:

"Throughout the centuries there were men who took first steps down new roads armed with nothing but their own vision. Their goals differed, but they all had this in common: that the step was first, the road new, the vision unborrowed, and the response they received--hatred. The great creators--the thinkers, the artists, the scientists, the inventors--stood alone against the men of their time. Every great new thought was opposed. Every great new invention was denounced. The first motor was considered foolish. The airplane was considered impossible. The power loom was considered vicious. Anesthesia was considered sinful. But the men of unborrowed vision went ahead. They fought, they suffered and they paid. But they won."

3 comments:

arpz said...

interesting post !

Himanshu Jain said...

Extending the concept of ridicule->opposition->acceptance, Linus Torvalds (I hope you knwo who is he) says that any innovation/idea/concept goes through three phases... Survival, Social order and Entertainment

Shekhar said...

arpz: Thanks. :)

himanshu: Of course I know who he is, and boy, has he got ALL the right in the world to make that statement. Without him (or his invention, for that matter), where would the open source battle be ?