A renaissance figure and marvel that Rabindranath Tagore has been, an analytical predilection of philosophy is hardly enough for comprehending his phenomenal creativity and expression of the highest values of will and feeling.
Often the question whether Tagore is a philosopher is quite idle, as idle as whether Nietzsche is a philosopher, or the author of Philosophical Investigations is a philosopher. It is easier to deride the high and naked peaks of synoptic insight and opt for the worship of little Gods. If one cares for unfreezing habits of thinking, and is ready to see things from a new angle of vision and open windows into the not-yet-seen, then one will have to agree that Tagore is a significant philosophizer and that he compels assent.
This book studies and explicates Tagore’s central visions and fertile concepts of man, his relation to life and world, knowledge and imagination vis-ŕ-vis truth, religious life and goodness, love and beauty, society and state, and finally a philosophy of language. It will be noticed that everywhere Tagore breaks through to a deeper insight. It is no wonder Sir Isiah Berlin comments in The Sense of Reality that with Kant and Goethe the world still belongs to Tagore. As one cannot alienate myth from logic in Plato, or metaphor from analysis in Wittgenstein, so would one see that poetry and philosophy are intertwined in Tagore. It is not so because he is a poet. A poet indeed is he, but no less a philosophizer, challenging the antagonism of art and science, the logico-mathematical paradigm of thought, and viewing philosophical knowledge in a closer relationship to what art insight reveals about being and human existence. Tagore thinks on an astonishing diversity of themes.
To read him is also to linger before this or that idea, and risk thinking on one’s own account. And, above all, Tagore’s message is important at a time when everything is being undermined by a suicidal hedonism and dazed by the ranting of demagogues. He calls for a new evaluation of life, an awareness of life as transcendence into the affirmation of a free relationship to the world. This is liberation, not from, but to the world perceived as the laughter of Siva. May be, this is what we need most today.
About the Author:
Harold Coward is Professor of Religious Studies and Director of the Calgary Institute for the Humanities at the University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He is author of Bhartrhari, Sphota Theory of Language and Pluralism: Challenge to World Religions, along with other books and articles.