ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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A Defence of the Extraordinary?

In Defence of the Ordinary: Everyday Awakenings by Dev Nath Pathak, New Delhi: Bloomsbury, 2021; pp xxvi + 249, `1,299.

The ordinary, along with its cognate terms, including the mundane, banal, usual, commonplace, normal and so on, connotes both a value attribution or judgment and perhaps also a statistical significance. That which is supposedly ordinary is also often the most frequent, statistically speaking. The extraordinary, on the other hand, is not only a deviation from the “normal” and thus statistically infrequent, but it is also accorded value—either negative or positive—of a different kind than that accorded to the ordinary. The ordinary and the extraordinary are thus both qualitatively as well as quantitatively distinct. Qualitatively, they are val­ued or judged differently and thus their social desirability differs. And the quantitative distinction may be discerned in terms of the statistical frequency of the pheno­mena. So, for ins­tance, an artist becomes an extraordinary one not only through positive value attributions but also through a process of establishing oneself as one among the very few.

At the same time, a natural calamity like a flood is an extraordinary circumstance not only because it is negatively valued and undesirable, but also because it is a relatively rare occurrence. A person with a mental illness is suffering from an extraordinary condition not only because they may behave in socially undesirable ways, but also bec­ause the symptoms that such a person experiences do not present themselves as frequently in the rest of the population. Therefore, in this analytical frame, the qualitative distinction bet­ween the ordinary and extraordinary in terms of the difference in normative value att­ributions of social (un)desirability is only a necessary but not a sufficient condition to distinguish the two kinds of phenomena. The sufficient condition perhaps comes to light in terms of the (in)frequency of the occurrence. Within this scheme of things, several permutations and combinations of what may be consi­dered ordinary or extraordinary are possible.

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Updated On : 19th Jun, 2022
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