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The Cognitive and the Historical

The Cognitive and the Historical Responding to Sen SASHEEJ HEGDE If a good demonstration means simply an argument which is effective, where are we to stop?

Discussion

The Cognitive andthe Historical

T

EPW
Economic and Political WeeklyApril 14, 20071390seemed somehow that the book was unable tobear the weight of its own assessment – and notjust because Sen was stringing together, for acertain public purpose, a variety of his writings.My response here offers me an opportunity todraw out some of the implications of thatassessment, although strictly speaking, themethodological ground of Sen’s recentcontribution will constrain the analysis on offer.Note, all paginations in the text and in the notesunless specified otherwise are from the EPWpiece.2Sen also reiterates the “importance of practicalreason (and decisions about actions and rules)in judging alternative perspectives and theirrespective claims to our attention” (p 4879).Note, much of what I am going to say in thefollowing paragraphs and in the next section isalso a coming to terms with this methodologicalclaim.3L Wittgenstein, On Certainty, Basil Blackwell,Oxford, 1969, #200, emphasis added.4The question warrants exhaustive historical andcognitive treatment, something that I have notbeen able to come across in the literature.5The specific coupling and decoupling of theseterrains is a big issue (both in the context ofthe western philosophy and Indian philosophy);Ican do no more than gesture at some of themhere.6Sen is categorical that the criticisms whichRamachandra Guha makes of his “methods ofargument” spring from a serious misunder-standing – indeed that the latter’s charge abouthis using modern ideas “anachronistically” isuntenable because “(d)espite our changinginvolvements over time” he (that is, Sen) doesnot think that a very sharp dissonance betweenthe ideas and concerns in our past and thosetoday “is invariably present, especially if we areable to discriminate between different ides thatsurvive side by side at any given time” (p 4883).7A delicate point about answerability andstanding, it would seem. My thoughts on thequestion have been greatly clarified by RobertB Brandom, Making It Explicit: Reasoning,Representing and Discursive Commitment,Harvard University Press, Cambridge,Massachusetts, 1994. Indeed, what followsdraws much on the latter.

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