Is the hypothesis about colonial consciousness ad hoc?

1. I have come to accept that the most interesting facts that a theory explains are those of the theory itself. Furthermore, a `theory’, which collects all kinds of facts first and tries to `explain’ them subsequently, is worse than having no theory. Such a theory is completely ad hoc and is cognitively uninteresting. It is pernicious too because it generates the belief that one understands such facts, when, in fact, all one has is an ad hoc explanation. In this sense, I have not collected evidence for the statement that `Indians accept European reports as descriptions of their world’; nor am I explaining these assembled facts.

2. I do not think that it matters all that much (in the context of evaluating a theory) how and on what basis one arrives at a hypothesis. Kekulé dreamt of the serpent swallowing its own tail to propose the structure of the benzene ring, Watson half-dreamt the structure of the DNA molecule, and Einstein’s special theory of relativity was born out of the frustration that cars continuously overtook the tram he was traveling in. I have no clue about the psychological processes involved in the generation of a hypothesis and I certainly have no insight into mine. The more interesting question is about why one should entertain one specific hypothesis instead of another.

3. However, this does not mean that there are no indications even though they mean different things within the context of different hypotheses. The popularity of post-clonial thought and subaltern historiography among some intellectual circles in India; the phenomenon of Orientalism that Edward Said draws our attention to; the mantras about anti-Brahmanism that are popular among many Dalit circles; the lack of understanding among the intellectuals (both Indian and western) about `the religions’ of India and `the Indian caste system’; the monochromic repetition of `secularist’ and `anti-secularist’ slogans; the absence of theorizing about the Indian society and culture by the Indian intellectuals; the opposition between the so-called right wing `Hindu Fundamentalists’ and the so-called left wing `secularists’ with the so-called centrist `Gandhians’ in the middle… These are some of the indications of the malaise that I talk about. There are many ad hoc theories that float around that explain one or the other of these phenomena differently than how I tackle them. Hopefully, soon, a time will come when we can evaluate these explanations against my hypothesis.

4. The hypothesis about colonial consciousness, which I am developing on and off, has helped me answer different kinds of problems. I am able to answer why colonialism as a project is both immoral and yet appeared to many as a morally praiseworthy educational project; I am able to predict that most Indians (if not all) would fail to provide reference to the words they use (almost) as a matter of habit. It has helped me understand why both the contemporary Indian intellectuals and the older generations of pundits are fossils, as far as our needs are concerned. It has provided me with focal points to do research into Indian history as well as indicate that both the Islamic and the British rule are variants of colonialism. In short, it has proved cognitively very productive for my research. If I were to develop the hypothesis successfully, I would be in a position not only to differentiate varieties of colonialism from each other but also varieties in the colonial consciousness. Furthermore, it will raise novel questions about the relationship between cultures (as configurations of learning) and massive socio-political processes like colonialism. These are reasons enough for me to continue my work on the hypothesis.

5. If you are not willing to accept the statement I make about the Indians (viz., they accept the reports of European experience as descriptions of Indian society and culture) as true, I am not surprised: as I have already indicated, this fact is in fact my hypothesis. Do you have a better hypothesis?

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