Pakistan needs its Rousseaus and Voltaires

Pakistani society lacks philosophical synthesis. Today the nations that we see as global leaders, all of them have a long history of philosophical evolution and background. It was Voltaire and Jean Jacques Rousseau who contributed to the French Enlightenment and were instrumental figures in the French revolution. The works of Voltaire and Rousseau influenced the modern Western educational and political thought to this day. Today France is among the most powerful states on the planet. Bertrand Russell, an English philosopher, opposed the wars, primarily the Second World War (WW2). He highlighted the problems of the world and set the direction for Britain’s political and social governance. Bertrand Russell in his book ‘Fact and Fiction’ writes that the world is facing three dangers – rapid population growth, the threat of a nuclear war and climate change. It is surprising to see what Bertrand Russell predicted and analysed decades ago is still relevant today. Russell denounced fears based on superstitions and said that overcoming fear is the beginning of wisdom. He was of the view that world can only attain peace if it is led by a single government.

Similarly, John Locke, another great English philosopher and the father of modern democracy, gave the concept of modern government structure based on checks and balances. He was a staunch promoter of political freedom. Today Britain is well known for its democratic values and freedom of speech. Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher and a staunch critic of the Catholic Church, is famous for his remarkable works in the form of “Beyond good and evil” and “Thus spokes Zarathustra”. For Nietzsche, good and evil are just words and it has been used by powerful to justify their atrocities against their adversary by terming them as evil. Nietzsche along with Machiavelli is considered as the father of modern Realism, a prominent thought in international relations according to which every nation state tries to maximise her power. Today, realism along with liberalism is the base of the discipline of international relations. Many people do not recommend reading Nietzsche because he went insane and attribute him with the thought of depressive nihilism. But it was the superhuman of Nietzsche which he called ’Ubermensch’ that is full of love for life. Simone de Beauvoir, a leading proponent of Feminism, in her book “The Second Sex” wrote about the oppression faced by women in the society. Furthermore, her works also contributed to the rise of the second wave of feminism in which the women from around the world demanded equal property and voting rights. Though, Simone de Beauvoir never called herself a philosopher, her works are of vital importance in existentialist and feminist philosophy.

Pakistan today is facing the same problems once faced by Western nations. Democracy in Pakistan is facing many dangers and its youth is struggling in understanding the benefits of democracy because political leaders lack philosophical and political thought. The origin of our problem lies in the educational institutes. The curriculum of schools does not allow students to think beyond the artificial barriers made by society resulting in the decline of Philosophical thought. Furthermore, the other major hurdle to rational Philosophy is the believing in superstitions and dogmas. Moreover, violence against women is rampant in our society since decades and many feminists are active in promoting women rights through their respective platforms. But there is difference between feminists and feminist philosophy. It is due to the lack of feminist philosophy that Pakistani women lack clarity of thought. On other hand, it is the lack of realist philosophy that is creating hurdles in pursuing our national interests.

Similarly, just like European Renaissance which takes all its roots and inputs from Muslim demise, the importance of Western philosophy needs to be highlighted as West is home to those enlightenment philosophers who laid the foundation of the modern European political thought and were also responsible for European Renaissance and all reformist and revolutionary movements. Pakistan and specially its young generation badly need a philosophical synthesis for its unity to develop a worldview for its progress and national direction. Philosopher kings and leaders are missing from national discourse and narrative.

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