“There are three elements necessary to correct reasoning, first, the correctness of the facts or conclusions I start from, secondly, the completeness as well as accuracy of the data I start from, thirdly, the elimination of other possible or impossible conclusions from the same facts. The fallibility of the logical reason is due partly to avoidable negligence and looseness in securing these conditions, partly to the difficulty of getting all the facts correct, still more to the difficulty of getting all the facts complete, most of all, to the extreme difficulty of eliminating all possible conclusions except the one which happens to be right.”
This is Aurobindo’s diagnosis of untenable conclusions. These untenable conclusions lead to unwarranted public posturing and action. We can add a fourth source of problem in correct reasoning which Aurobindo mentions in the same article, he says, “the mind must have some development of the faculty of dealing with words before it can deal successfully with ideas.” If we leave out the chronological part, that of order of acquiring facility in words and ideas, the claim that “words” (read language) plays the most fundamental part in reasoning can hardly be doubted.
Therefore, the education that wants to help people develop into independent minded citizens, so essential for a democracy, has to teach them to be respectful to: 1. Accuracy and clarity of language, 2. Correctness of facts, 3. Completeness of data (facts), 4. Logical correctness of conclusions, and 5. Elimination of other possible conclusions.
If one goes by Dewey all social groups want to continue their existence. In brief this continuation is in terms of shared meaning of experience and interaction of mutual interests. The conservative societies maintained this shared meaning of experience through the force of custom reinforced by some custodian class. But “social groups which are intentionally progressive, and which aim at a greater variety of mutually shared interests in distinction from those which aim simply at the preservation of established customs. Such societies were found to be democratic in quality, because of the greater freedom allowed the constituent members, and the conscious need of securing in individuals a consciously socialized interest, instead of trusting mainly to the force of customs operating under the control of superior class.”
A democratic society, therefore, is vulnerable to fragmentation of meaning of experience if the mutual interests of its members do not interact on a fair and sympathetic manner. Indian society has been trying to format itself on the democratic lines in terms of creating shared meaning of experience and fair interaction of mutual interests for last at least 125 years. We have achieved a measure of success in this direction but we have also very disturbing and significant failures.
When the shared meaning gets fragmented in a society one has to go a level up in developing a social philosophy which accommodates all competing interests and recreates the shared meaning and shared commitment in all its members.
This is where the Aurobindo quote in the beginning of this article comes into play. The people engaged in highlighting the fragmented meaning of experience and unfair emphasis on interests of the some may take a position where their aim seems to be only pointing out the fragmentation and consequent injustice. Or, alternatively, they can take a position where highlighting the injustice and inequality is part of the project where the ultimate aims is to arrive at a more shared meaning, greater possibility of justice and equality. When one emphasises only the earlier one is aiding in making the problem more intractable; and finally pushing towards a breakdown of the social and political order. When one is also considering the latter without diluting the first one is striving to achieve a more just and equitable order. The so-called left intellectual at the moment are engaged in the first.
The other side of the coin is represented by the BJP-forces. They want to preserve the order through imposed traditional meaning, completely ignoring the fragmented meaning of the very symbols they want to use for this; Ex. Bharat Mata and cow. Their ideal is not freedom to each individual to create his/her own meaning which also aligns with the creation of shared interests taking into account all perceptions and aspirations. Their project seems to be to bulldoze everyone into an imagination of society and state which they have formed, based on particularly unpalatable aspects of a single culture.
Both are intent on their own little victories. In this process they are distorting the meaning of words (Exs. nationalism, patriotism, institutional murder, etc.). Both parties are suppressing, distorting, and manufacturing ‘facts’ (see the media reposts); jeopardising completeness and veracity of the facts. Both are using untenable logical inferences and indulging in fallacies. Both are picking up the kind of conclusions that suit their purposes and without properly eliminating the other possible conclusions. Thus, failing on all the criteria of sound reasoning listed by Aurobindo.
As result, the language has become ambiguous; the reliability of information providing systems (media) has plunged very low. The people are becoming more and more unsure of their own minds and are depending on chosen leaders for opinion.
This is very beneficial for both the warring formations. As the success of their purposes depends not on factually informed, capable in proper reasoning and fair minded public. It rather depends on feeding distorted information, blurred reasoning, and indoctrinated public. The numerous left formations of students and ABVP both are very good prototypes of uninformed, very zealous, indoctrinated brigades ready to attack whomsoever their masters command. In the process a whole generation of bigoted (be that to the right or to the left) population in capable of reasoned judgment.
In this little piece I have stated only the general argument and have not given expels to instantiate each conclusion in the chain. Partly because of lack of time and partly because examples are plenty in the media and will come to the minds of the readers automatically.
 Aurobindo, A system of national education (page 408) in Complete Works of Sri Aurobindo, Vol 1, (2003),
Sri Aurobindo Ashram Publication Department, Pondicherry
 Dewey, (1916, 1948 reprint), Democracy and Education, pages 375-6, The Macmillan Company, New York.
Thanks for the post. Not fully understood, except the first part. Reading again to understand its implication for the Left, BJP and the Media
It is easy to understand how and why ABVP (a representative of the right wing ideology) distorts\misrepresents (and all other allegations you have made). This distortion is in confirmation with right wing ideology itself. I mean (I feel) there is a complete coherence between ideology and it’s manifestation in the forms above mentioned. But I do not see a similar coherence in your allegations against left wing students. I mean to ask that do you see a problem in the leftist ideology or in leftist students’ lack of reason as per aurobindo’s and dewey’s formulations? Or do we need to be careful about ‘ideology’ itself which may be a hinderence to building dispositions to reasoned judgement?