Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Public arguments

Public arguments among the well-known are becoming more frequent. For example, a sitting judge of the Karnataka High Court, Mr.Shailendra Kumar recently openly contested the authority of the Chief Justice of India to represent the views of all judges. CJI in turn snubbed him as publicity-crazy. Open discussions are welcome, but the bitterness evident in some arguments is eminently avoidable.
Now comes Mr.Homi Sethna's outburst against Mr.Kalam, former President who had earlier endorsed the success of Pokhran atomic test. This debate has been triggered by Mr.K.Santhanam, a former DRDO scientist who once again questioned the success of the test. While endorsing Mr.Santhanam's views, Mr.Sethna argued, "Mr.Kalam was not a scientist and Mr.Santhanam is a phycisist and he knew what he was talking. What does Mr.Kalam understand about physics? What did he know about extracting, making explosive grade? He did not know a thing. By being a President, he appeared to wear the stature. He relied on atomic energy to gain additional stature."
Mr.Sethna may be correct in his views regarding the atomic test. The tenor of arguments reminds us of what Krishna says in the Bagavad Gita, chapter 10, stanza 33. He says,"Among those who debate, I am Vaada i.e. the open-minded discussion for determining the truth." It is said that there are three types of debates -- jalpa, vitandaa and vaada. Jalpa is a kind of debate in which both parties seek to establish their own view point and ignore the merits of the counter-view. In vitandaa, one party understands his view is demolished and yet takes up extraneous arguments, draws red herrings and insults the counter-view. Vaada is open-minded discussion wherein the only objective of the participants is to grasp the truth. Vaada is welcome; the other two formats are dysfunctional.

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