Thursday, September 13, 2012

A taxonomy of human intellect

My reading room is 11 X 9 feet. The wall on the left contains built-in-wall shelves measuring 10.5 X 3.4 inches. Against the front wall are placed two steel almirahs. They are all full of books, old, new, and on various subjects. Their number is irrelevant to the purpose of the present writing. Apart from technical subjects such as relating to physical, scientific and technological disciplines, I have books about many subjects and disciplines.

Let me make it clear: my passion is Philosophy, Literature and History. So, books on these subjects abound.

All these books were there randomly stuffed in various shelves. Not most of the times, but some of the times when I required a book, it used to take undue time to find it out of the heap. Also, my mind did not display all the books I had in my personal library, and when looking for a book I came to know I have already got this or that book was a surprising discovery, a pleasant finding.

But time matters (though philosophically I am all for Space), and I thought of arranging them or as the librarians say, cataloguing them. It was not possible as they do it in libraries where sufficient space is available, and of course, my personal library does not contain books on all or most of the subjects and disciplines.

Then, I thought of creating a new classification or categorization of these books, or a new way of cataloguing them.

My love for books is unquenchable and given a chance I would like to collect all the good books on philosophy, literature, and history. And, no doubt, on many other subjects which may attract one now and then.

However, for a number of reasons, this is neither advisable nor possible. There are great public libraries which one may take advantage of; though not a single such library exists in Pakistan. And, now there are electronic books. As I am a very backward and conservative reader, I still like books in PDF format. In the case of e-books, the issue of space has lost its genuine thrust; now as much space can be created as we need.

Haven’t we succeeded in creating a space of our own? We have created a “virtual space” which is infinite, unlimited, as we can create as much space as we require or wish. And, if words and punctuations were creatures, they would be bound to think, ‘We live in an infinite space.’

Also, as we have created History, or better say, Plane of History, on which or upon which we live, create and procreate; thus, in turn, we continue creating and re-creating History, and ourselves.

Back to the point:

It was easier to sort out books on literature, and I put a label, LITERATURE on the shelves collecting poetry and fiction therein.

For instance:

Doctor Faustus, by Marlowe
The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
Moby Dick, by Herman Melville

کلیاتِ میر
کلیاتِ غالب
توبہ توبہ، واجدہ تبسم

As for the books on philosophy, there was no issue; I put them in one place under the tag, PHILOSOPHY.

Such as:

Indian Philosophy, Volume I & II, by Radhakrishnan
Rights of Man, by Thomas Paine
An Autobiography, by R. G. Collingwook
The Dialogues of Plato
On Liberty & Utilitarianism, by J. S. Mill

The 3rd clearest category is HISTORY.

Though, for my own convenience, I put books on ARTS & LITERARY CRITICISM separately, but I bundled them under PHILOSOPHY.

Likewise, there are shelves labeled as MARXIST STUDIES, and LIBERTARIAN STUDIES. They belong to PHILOSOPHY.

And, due to my special focus, one shelf contains books on the FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND THE CONSTITUTION OF PAKISTAN.

Similarly, a shelf contains books on ISLAMIC STUDIES, another on PAKISTAN STUDIES. And, yet another is labeled as HISTORICAL STUDIES.

I think books arranged in all the above shelves fall under PHILOSOPHY or HISTORY or both.

A good many number of books are on economic science, and other social sciences, and also some on physical sciences such as biology, e.g.:

The Human Mystery, by John C, Eccles

But they cannot be termed books on these disciplines; they deal with Problems which are linked to many disciplines.

Let me quote Karl Popper here. He said something like that we are not students of subjects or disciplines, we are students of problems and problems can overlap right across many disciplines.

I tend to put all those books mentioned above under PHILOSOPHY, as all such disciplines somehow originated or were derived from PHILOSOPHY, or take inspiration and guidance from PHILOSOPHY.

In addition to these books, there were some which I found difficult to put under this or that label, such as PHILOSOPHY or HISTORY. Neither can they be relegated to LITERATURE, though they possess literary merits.

To explain well, here are instances of them:

The Lights of Bhagwad Gita, by Baij Nath Khanna
The Holy Bible, (New International Version) The New Testament
Psalms (New International Version)

خرد افروز، جلد اول و جلد دوم، مرتبہ: حفیظ الدین احمد (اردو)
آکھیا بابا نانک نے، بابا گورو نانک (پنجابی)
جامع الحکایات ہندی، شیخ صالح عثمانی (اردو)
روزمرہ آداب (روزمرہ آداب جن سے انسانی معاشرے میں حسن پیدا ہوتا ہے)، پروفیسر ارشد جاوید

Creative Coping – A Guide to Positive Living, by Julius Fast
The Psalm of Peace – An English Translation of Guru Arjun’s ‘Sukhmani’, by Teja Singh

These books and others like them put me in a fix: where to categorize them? After intense thinking trying to focus on the human intellect, I came to decide to label them with entirely a new nomenclature: WISDOM.

During and in this process, I was very much clear about one thing: whatever human beings have produced is a manifestation of human intellect. Thus I thought of categorizing books in my personal library under a classification based on broader manifestations of human intellect.

To me, LITERATURE is a great manifestation of human intellect. Arts, poetry and fiction, and many other forms of literature present a separate category, different from PHILOSOPHY, and HISTORY.

No doubt, since by virtue of being manifestations of human intellect they all meet at certain points, however, it is human intellect itself which see them as qualitatively separate entities.

It may be surmised: everything relaxes back to from where it originates. That is as true of all the manifestations of human intellect. That is why no absolute separation can be effected between them.

ARTS AND LITERATURE here and there face PHILOSOPHY, or walk with HISTORY.

WISDOM derives inspiration from all other manifestations of human intellect.


This is how I thought of arranging my books, and after devising this taxonomy I arranged them accordingly. What prompted me to think in this way was the limited space available to my books!

Though presently there have appeared electronic books, talking books, etc., but human beings’ fascination with the traditional books printed on paper, I think or I wish, is not going to vanish with time, or with technology. No arguments! Let’s see what comes out!

This is the last point, at least for now, in my thinking on this taxonomy of human intellect that put me again in a fix: Technology is shaping or transforming the shapes of the books to come, and Technology itself is such a subject or discipline, or with whatever name it may be denoted, which is in a flux, one like that of Heraclitus. The important thing about Technology is: not only is it changing everything, it is itself a-changing. What to categorize it with, then? With PHILOSOPHY? Or with what? Or it needs inventing a new nomenclature to be classified with!

I feel inclined to put it under HISTORY. Why? Because I see that it is here and it is past now.

What ultimate role Technology plays or is playing determines its status: it is accelerating HISTORY.

It is turning the “slow motion picture of human life in this world,” the kaleidoscope of olden times, into a “fast moving video.”

It has changed the character of HISTORY altogether. From appearing on celluloid, HISTORY now slides on digital media.

On this, these are my initial thoughts, not final in any sense. The case of Technology is a tough one; it defies traditional way of classification; it is more than a boundary line case!

1 comment:

  1. At this point in time, the collective human evolution has reached to a very enriched state. We require new words that can describe various new disciplines, discoveries, and advances we have made , as a result of which new subjects of studies (till now overlapping in definitions) have come into existance. We should try to phrase some new words, at least in English language as it allows more space in it's flexibility.