There are broadly three tools that are used in analyzing information in this site: Epistemic validity assessment, deconstruction and counterfactual reasoning.
Epistemic validity assessment (EVA) is a process checking whether statements made by a source stand ‘evidence-based grounding’. Validity of a statement is based on the nature of the statement. In general terms, statements can be described as of three types: One, those that concerns facts related to items perceived through the sense organs; Two, those concerning conventions ( eg. naming of a person, a thing or a procedure); Three, those that deal with tautologies ( eg. mathematics)
Conventions and tautologies are true by its very nature.
Tautology is something that is said in another words. Thus, 2 * 3 is 6 is a tautology where the number six is described in terms of two and three connected by the pre-established procedural convention of multiplication. These kind of formulations are always true, because they are essentially conventions that are developed based on predetermined procedures. However, the whole process of logic operations in-built in mathematics have a powerful application when it is applied to data from the sense organ world. We would discuss this process later.
The statements involving materials perceived through sense organs can never be absolutely true. Its truthfulness is only relative, varying with respect to the integrity of the sense organs. But, people make more-or-less true statements based on sense organ data by a ‘communal trick’: that of consensus. Thus, if different individuals perceive an external object similarly they make a ‘consensual’ statement on it. Science verify this consensual statements by checking them for various confounding influences that could be causing a misleading ‘superficial’ consensus.
EVA involves checking the rigor of a statement based on the above principles of the nature of truth. EVA improves its rating of integrity of a statement based on how the author of the statement has tried to nullify various ‘risk of bias’ and logical fallacies that can potentially confound her statement. We shall discuss this point in a dedicated article on the question.
Deconstruction is useful technique for elucidating significance of a concept/construct/belief in humanities where we expect bias in our assessment. It is a technique for ‘debiasing’ our frame of references in discussion of themes involving an overdose of human conflict of interests. It can be applied to any discipline which deals with human agency- and is particularly relevant in historiography, geopolitics, diplomacy, conflicts and cultural studies.
Deconstruction involves playing the role of devil’s advocate. It tries to reread a story from the point of view of the antagonist and juxtapose it against that of the original narrative. Reading the story from mainstream and alternate ways help the reader to understand the hidden meanings and biases of the story. Thus, a deconstructive reading of Ramayana involves reading it from the perspective of the antihero, Ravan, or that of his multilated sister Shorpankha or still more from the perspective of the wronged elder brother of Rama’s monekeyman alliance, Sugreha. In the case of Ramayana, the very effort of silencing that perspective that whatever Rama did is correct, and he is the personification of correctness, would bring about hidden meaning and biases that is not apparent from ‘hagiographic’ reading of the text. This reading of a text, by alternating the perspectives provide rich dividends in understanding many so-called intractable conflicts. This include conflicts like that between India and Pakistan, India and China, and that between Arabs and Israel. This pattern of reading would help to better understand interpersonal conflicts too. The trick is to understand how the perspective from the other side of the divide, and put oneself in the shoes of the ‘other’ in understanding motives and actions of the other.
This blog advocates deconstruction as a primary tool in analyzing interfaces of conflict.
Counterfactual Reasoning (CFR) is a technique of clarifying the significance of a historical event by assuming that the contrary event had happened. It runs a series of trials by examining the consequences of an opposite event in a socioeconomically and culturally similar scenario. CFR is a fictional account, and has its limitation. But it can help to illustrate the significance of a seemingly mundane-taken-for-grant- fact by showing in a case-control manner an opposite turnabout of historical events.
For instance, in his novel, Fatherland, the British writer Robert Harris discusses an alternative history of the world in a scenario where Nazi Germany under Adolf Hilter had won the Second World War. Here, the Jewish holocaust is neatly covered-up, the concentration camps are razed and the world considers the holocaust as ‘minor’ human rights violation that had happened in Germany around the Second World War. Soviet Union is defeated in the war, but a guerilla war continues in the Eastern parts of Russia. Few Jews who had fled to Russia remains to tell the story of Holocaust, but is dismissed by the ‘general’ world as a communist propaganda. The new generation Germans have some idea of the fate of the Jews, but do not care much, and are well-adjusted in their consumerist world. The cold-war is between Germany and the United States, and by the 1960s, the United States feels it is pragmatic enough to make peace with the Germany-dominated Europe. The guerilla fights of Russian and polish insurgent simmers in the background, but is considered as ‘irritant’ that frequently cause nuisance value to the mainstream ‘civilization’ of the Germany dominated Europe.
Robert Harris’s counterfactual of the world after a Nazi victory sketches the picture of a modern world much like that of the present one. But, one can have any number of counterfactual narrative of a historical event. For instance, it can be visualized that a Nazi victory would draw up a world that they originally envisaged- Soviet Union is completely subdued, and is made a colony similar to that of the British Raj in the Indian subcontinent. The Aryan race purist theory is legitimized and it became the dominant ideological theory in the world including in the United States. China is occupied by the Japanese, and India and much of the colonized world continue to be under combined British-German dominion. Quit India movement is crushed and a puppet government under Subhash Chandra Bose is installed in Delhi. Communist insurgency spread throughout the world, and they are considered as the ‘terrorist’ minions that as a scourge to the ‘civilized’ world.
CFR provides to illuminate the nature of dominion and the signals of cover-ups in the sociopolitical spreadsheet of the world. In Morris’ narrative, Nazi holocaust was termed as a 'minor' human rights violation that can be forgotten for the sake of future peace. In the absence of a proper Godfather, the Jewish outcry from the Russian East was dismissed as a Bolshevik propaganda that is best neglected. This contrast with the ‘straight-history’s’ hypersensitivity for the Nazi Holocaust. This reflects on the nature of victory of the World War II. It also reflects of Jewish dominance of the power centres of the postwar world. Genocides of similar or larger magnitude that happened before and after the world war are not given the same degree of political and cultural significance. For example, the United States’ attitude towards the Bangladesh genocide orchestrated by Pakistani army in East Pakistan #Blood Telegram ) or the genocide the Ottoman Turks committed on Armenians in the early 20th century. The Indian public’s response to the judicial fate of Gujarat Riots after successive electoral victory of Narendra Modi is another case in point.
Beyond clarifying the ‘signals’ from the cultural history, CFL allows to illustrate the significance of crucial actions that redirected the apparent ‘natural course’ of history. For instance, the evolution of democracy in India is many a times taken for granted. This has to be contrasted with the devastating course of democracy in the neighboring Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Burma. An important book that clarify this phenomenon is Army and Nation by Steven Wilkinson. Wilkinson addresses how Indian founding leaders systematically nullified the democracy-destabilizing potential of the Indian Army. This, they did by modifying key tenets of the Royal British Indian army that based organization of army units according to the assumption of existence ‘marital races’ in India. Because of the Royal British Army’s belief in the ‘marital races’, the British India army was organized as ‘racial regiments’, and there was a dominance of certain racial groups in the Indian army’s upper echelon. Nehru and Patel deftly reorganized it, such that the ‘racial homogeneity’ of the upper echelon was demolished, while the lower strata was maintained in the organizational style of the British Army. Besides, they created buffer units of a series of paramilitary troops to maintain regular security-keeping function. They also removed the unified command system of the Royal army, and prevented coordination of the three units of the military under a single command. All this ‘softened’ the Indian army and made it subordinate to the civilian authority. In Pakistan, on the contrary, none of these measures were instituted, and in a matter of few years, democracy was sabotaged by the military in favour of military autocracy. We can understand the significance of these moves by Indian founding fathers only when we realize that India is one of the very few countries that could sustain a democratic regimen of the tens of nations that got decolonized in Asia and Africa after the world war. The real significance of India’s achievement can be understood only when you do a CFR of the actions of our founding leaders (We shall discuss this point in detail in yet another dedicated article).
This blog would use the techniques of EVA, deconstruction and CFR in a broad array of questions. This includes analysis of political propaganda, cultural myths, geopolitical conflicts, historical narratives, rhetorical presentations and religious mythography. It underlines the fact that skepticism cannot be passively sustained, but requires active intervention using a whole range of sophisticated tools in a systematic manner.