Why Philosophy Graduates should be considered just as vital as Science and Engineering Graduates to the Technology and Business Sector.

A few years ago, Wall Street investor Bill Miller donated 75 million dollars to the philosophy department at the John Hopkins University.  Miller, who set a record for beating the S&P 500 index for 15 years straight, attributes much of his success in business and funding to the critical thinking and the understanding of mental behaviours that he learnt whilst studying a Ph.D philosophy course at that university[1].

This was understandably met with some heavy criticism.  This all a came at a time where there was a massive push still on practical STEM subjects, and the usefulness of a liberal arts degree like philosophy seemed to have little ‘practical application’, as obvious career paths don’t tend to spring to mind for philosophers, a problem which is never encountered for IT technicians, software developers and engineers and logisticians.
However, for those looking at ‘long term gain’, philosophy doesn’t seem like such a bad investment.  Edwin Koc, Director of research, social policy and legislative affairs at the National Association of Collages and Employers (USA) stated that philosophy graduates in 2016 had better job prospects from the year before, and also achieved a 1.5% pay rise, which was more generous than other sectors from the same year[2].  He mentions that philosophy graduates are ‘filling a need’, as employers are looking for individuals with critical and reflective thinking skills, that can communicate across sectors and engage with people of all levels.
Kate Bardaro, chief economist at PayScale reported that philosophy graduates are twice as likely to become CEOs than any other graduates.  Although this is quite rare, it does happen.  This is because, Bardaro goes on to say, philosophy literally teaches you how to think[3].

I think that these are the misconceptions when it comes to studying philosophy.  In the west, quite commonly the focus of a philosophy degree will be philosophy of God, of big questions like life after death, where is the soul and how was the universe created?  What many people seem to overlook, is the philosophy of science, philosophy of language, political or environmental philosophy, cognitive science, and importantly – ethics!
Philosophy doesn’t necessarily mean theology, in fact there is actually very little these subjects have in common, so a philosophy graduate isn’t just well versed in the problem of evil, but in fact, all areas.  By teaching students the skills to think the unorthodox, to evaluate and dismantle arguments, and the analyse actions and thoughts against a multitude of positions is vital for the modern working world.  The beauty is that these skills aren’t then subject specific but can be applied to almost anything!  Just because philosophy is taught through reading philosophy, doesn’t mean that’s what it returns to afterwards.  Even then, many philosophers studied in western schools aren’t even philosophers at all.  Plato of course was a politician; Pythagoras, well that was taught to us in maths lessons before we ever encountered his philosophies.  Kuhn, a physicist; Simone de Beauvoir was a writer and political activist and Sigmund Freud, neurologist. 

The philosopher is taught through many perspectives from a variety of fields, and so have much to draw on when it comes to informed ethical decision making.  The skills learnt can be applied to whatever the subject need be.  Take for instance the rise in AI and automated software.  For sure, a philosopher can’t build the thing; that takes skilled technicians and developers to be able to create the product, but there’s a lot that the philosopher can contribute to this.  To understand how humans act and relate to the world around them would be essential in the market research and development stages of a product, and equally how it should function to perform how people want it.  Philosophers can also act impartially when it comes to discussions, and so this can come of great use when proposing those ‘but why?’ questions when it comes to developing advanced technologies.  Again, if you’re looking at AI and say driverless cars, we need people to come to a decision to who would be at fault during the crash – the person inside?  The engineer who passed the car during its final tests?  The programmer who coded the safety features?  The road?

Equally within business and finance, the idea of being impartial to the company, its development, profit or trends in other businesses is essential when looking at the progress of the company.  To ask those questions of ‘what happens to them if we move that money somewhere else?’ or ‘Is it financially viable to start producing X if we aren’t yet cutting back on Y?’.  And I suppose you’d be right to think that these questions are already being asked within technology and business, these are definitely considerations that have been thought about before, but to offer the viewpoint to someone who is trained to see outcomes from all angles, to think the unthinkable and to sometimes be irrational could bring a dimension to a business that would never happen if all your employees all thought the same way.

My final point, the 2017 Education and Skills Survey by CBI, a business membership organisation stated that employers favour the qualities and abilities of their workers, as opposed to their subject or results from their degree when deciding whether to offer employment.  It is more important for an employer to recognise the attitude and drives of an individual, rather than just any academic awards[4].  So, even though someone might hold a degree in Religious Studies or Philosophy, if their interests follow a more scientific route, it doesn’t mean they are less qualified in this area, just differently qualified.  They will still be able to apply all those skills of deep analysis, logic, and provocative question making.

By no means am I trying to say that Philosophy or Ethics graduates are more qualified than a software developer to design an app, or a sheet welder to repair a vehicle, only that should there be a willingness to learn, develop and to harbour a pursuit for knowledge, Philosophy graduates could prove to be useful too companies in business and IT in helping further analysing progress and adding an edge to developing a company.

[1] https://www.marketwatch.com/story/why-wall-street-legends-bet-on-philosophy-majors-is-a-good-investment-2018-01-18

[2] https://www.naceweb.org/

[3] https://www.payscale.com/

[4] https://www.cbi.org.uk/the-business-view/

My Environmental Project: Creating a Podcast on our Responses to the Climate Crisis

Recently I was able to sit down and record an interview with Max Ellson, one of the leaders at Marches Ecology, based in North Wales, to get his insight and discuss many of the issues that we hear about the climate crisis.  The media has seen a boom over the last 18 months in stories and reports that are voicing an ever-growing concern for the planet, it’s environment and the devastating affects it could have on its inhabitants.  We are hearing more and more now the negative outcomes of single use plastics, fossil fuels, and industry and agricultural practises that are causing global warming.  What I wanted to know is: how much of this information do we need to concern ourselves with?  Do we need to sift through tabloid propaganda to find the scientific truths, and importantly, how do we decide what to do about this information?

I wanted to speak to Max specifically because he is an expert in his field; having advised councils, enterprises and businesses for almost 15 years on practises that would have the best and least damaging outcomes on our planet – I knew if I was to get advice from any authority, it would be Max.  I was lucky enough to be able to ask him some questions on what he thinks communities should get involved with, stemming from his own personal beliefs.  We also spoke about the importance of government agencies and what authorities should be doing to make industries more sustainable, and our ideas for the future, where suitability will be commonplace and plastics and petrol cars will be a thing of the past.  There was also discussion of the ethical dilemmas behind mass population growth, and the practical applications of philosophy when it comes to informed decision making.

There were many reasons for me wanting to do this, but mainly because I want to give a voice to those who have a concrete understanding of the issues revolving around the climate crisis, and have strong personal motives for helping others better understand the environment we better live in.

In short, we covered a lot, so give it’ll definitely be worth giving it a listen if you’re interested.  This is the first time I’ve attempted to do anything like this, and I really enjoyed the process.  If you have any feedback at all – please leave any comments below!

This podcast was recorded as part of an assessment at the University of Gloucestershire.

Take a Moment to Claim this Time. What this Pandemic is teaching me about my life.

I think I speak for a lot of us when I say that all of the news hysteria and social media posts are, unfortunately, becoming a staple part of my day. I know that some of these notifications are important, and I grasp the need to stay connected whilst we’re apart. In fact, now more than ever, it is vital to try and understand the changes that are going on.

But now, take a minute.

In this time, isn’t it great we can contact our loved ones on cellular devices we always have to hand. What a privilege it actually is to be able to remain inside a warm, well equipped house where there is plenty to be getting on with. Okay, panic buying has caused major issues with our supermarkets and suppliers, I’m not trying to play that down, or any of this pandemic down, but just look at what it can teach us. If we were nomadic herds people who relied on Oxen and our seasonal crop, we would be doomed. Or stuck in Victorian workhouses, where we faced the option to either work, or die – you’d be done for. Most of us are lucky enough to say we’ve never endured any real hardships, and at this time I’m learning to be grateful for that. For all those small blessings I’ve received daily that have gone unnoticed, I will try never to not acknowledge these again.

Those of us who live in Britain can receive our medical care free. The NHS, although currently being pushed to its absolute limits and needing every last bit of help it can get, still exists in its entirety as a healthcare system. Support that the NHS has supplied my family and I for my entire life, to me, has just existed. Similarly to all these parks and gyms and schools that have closed down now and remain empty. For my entire life, they’ve just been places that I’ve gone, during the day, after school and at weekends. Never have I thought about the countries that can’t even supply these to their people. Here we are all moaning about not being able to go anywhere and do anything (which yes, is actually a problem for some, and has caused inconveniences for our modern western lifestyle) without acknowledging how lucky we are fundamentally, as people, to be able to have safe spaces to walk, cinemas and restaurants to go to, and a Government that is trying to look out for our best interests.

Now Sociologists call these ideas ‘relative deprivation’, and some people may accuse me of overlooking the needs of the vulnerable, the elderly, or considering the real life emotional and psychological struggling of those below the poverty breadline, or without loved ones, just because I’m alright and in a comfortable position where I don’t have to worry. Some may also see my comparison to other nations as completely out of context. Well this just isn’t the case. This time out of the limelight of the modern world, to an extent, has done wonders for me to actually appreciate the time I’ve been given on this Earth. Period. Isn’t it a fantastic opportunity that we can actually give back and help those who need it? or that now is a time where we are free from distractions to work on ourselves, or personal well-being or family bonds? Okay, so I guess the economy will fall apart after this, and we could be facing major disruptions that could ripple for years to come, but why think about that now? Why not think about the fact you’ve got this very opportunity to take some time out? Use it to help, to support and to do something meaningful in a time of great despair and disruption. And whilst you’re doing that, remember to say thank you for this chance. In the words of Ferris Bueller, ‘life moves pretty fast, and if you don’t stop and look around for a while, you might miss it’.

Thank you for reading my article, I really do appreciate your time. I hope everyone is staying safe and are doing all that they can. I am aware that I have made light of some issues within this piece, and I have not gone into full depths with the basis of my reasoning; however this was meant solely to inform and help people evaluate their perspectives during the COVID-19 crisis. If there is anything else that you think needs to be discussed, or I’ve missed something, please let me know. I’m aware everything can be criticised, so please feel free to comment below.

“When Will I Need That?” How understanding Science can be beneficial to the Humanities and Arts

Philosophy of Science is often an area that both philosophers and scientists avoid, as a lack of understanding seems to become evident on both sides within this debate.  However, an understanding of Kuhn’s notions of what exactly makes up science as we understand it, can give an insight that makes science the practical lived experience that it is, and not what is recorded in textbooks.  Normal science and revolutionary science give an account of the different areas of what make up the larger discipline and are distinctive in their own rights.  By understanding the difference Kuhn puts forward in his work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, normal science and revolutionary science are practised in completely different circumstances, and lead to separate outcomes.

Kuhn’s position as a historian within philosophy of science sees him place his views as a part of history, and therefore science is not something that exists outside of normal records of the past.  He wanted to make a clear distinction by what was understood as the routine activity of scientists, and science as a body of knowledge.  This involved using psychology, logic and language and drawing from the history of science.  As a physician and a lecturer, Kuhn’s ideas of science seemed radical at the time, especially when teaching humanities students about the nature of science in a series of Lowell Lectures starting in 1951.[1]  As Kuhn does not necessarily agree with the methodological approach to science, he almost needs to redefine his terms of what normal science is to the outsider, and of course what revolutionary science mean.  Chapter four of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (TSoSR)sees normal science as puzzle solving.  Kuhn explains that a paradigm, ‘the source of methods, problem-field, and standards of solution accepted by any mature scientific community at any given time’[2] gives puzzles for normal science to solve.  Scientists within the history of science can be seen to therefore be puzzle solvers for Kuhn.  He explains it is not their job to change the fabric of scientific knowledge and cause a revolution, but to base their findings and knowledge around the life they are in now.  He explains that normal science produces the bricks of scientific knowledge and forever adds to what we can know.[3]    Revolutions only occur in science when these ways of discovery can no longer continue as they are.  Kuhn makes it clear that normal science therefore is not out to cause a revolution, its not idealistic to keep changing the basis of our understanding every five minutes.  Kuhn makes the statement the one of the most prominent elements of normal science is that the research is not there to produce brand new concepts or phenomena.  Of course, it makes sense to question why scientists would want to solve these puzzles with such effort if they aren’t aiming to change the nature of science?  But Kuhn places science in time; within a contextual realm, where it is the scientist is trying to gather information based on the order and explanation of knowledge they possess currently, finding it in the paradigm the scientists exist in.[4]

By using a historical approach to science, influenced by the likes of Koyre, Metzger and Meyerson,[5] Kuhn spawned his idea of a paradigm, which essentially is a space in time where scientific knowledge exists under the circumstances at the time.  The paradigm therefore creates the possibility for normal science, giving it puzzles to solve throughout time, based on the knowledge the scientific community at the time hold.  This notion of the paradigm is key for understanding what constitutes normal science, and then what goes on to become revolutionary science.  Scientists can only know the information they have access to at the time, from their equipment to methods of observation, as this is a psycho-social construction for the community ‘doing’ science, not science as an empirical, observable object.[6]  This differs hugely from the methodological approaches to science, fronted by the likes of Karl Popper.  The methodological approach assumes the science is cumulative, that it is building and building on information from the past in order to get to some ultimate ‘Truth’, where all scientific knowledge from the past that has been deemed false in accordance to the most up to date science, is disregarded as useful.[7]  Kuhn’s ideas when placing science as historical states that this isn’t an accurate way to present normal or revolutionary science.  To state that all scientific evidence from the past is wrong because it has been disproved is like saying that test you passed when you were in junior school is now wrong because you’ve completed another test at secondary school.  To say that Aristotelian scientific explanations of astronomy are wrong because of the information that the International Space Station and the Hubbell would be inconsiderate of the fact that Aristotle didn’t have 20th Century technology in order to explore space, and so his scientific developments where based on the knowledge he had within his paradigm, the scientific information available to him in his time.[8]  The philosophy of science that existed before TSoSR was mostly dominated by the logical positivists, headed by Mortiz Schlick.  They didn’t pay close attention to the history of science, as they believed more so in the ideas of the context of justification than about the context of discovery, where the justification of a new theory is more important than the discovery.  Kuhn states this presents a naïve view of science, and that revolutionary new discoveries cause the revolution to replace older scientific theories with the new ones.[9]  This of course relies on the fact that enough scientists choose to believe in the new accepted way of understanding, and abandon the previous paradigm, as paradigms aren’t cumulative, but stand alone periods of science throughout history.  If there is not another paradigm present, then that branch of normal science will dissolve over time.

So where exactly do we see this shift from normal science to revolutionary science?  For Kuhn, anomalies are the weaknesses within a scientific theory; and when too many anomalies appear to make exceptions for, there becomes an issue for that discipline of normal science. An anomaly is when a problem cannot be given a solution, and it is not compatible with the already accepted theories of a said paradigm.  Normal science, the day to day research performed by a scientific community, can create an ‘ad hoc’ modification where certain allowances are made within a theory that allow the anomaly to have a logical explanation.  But a puzzle is no longer considered a puzzle unless it has a solution.  When too many anomalies occur that cannot be accounted for, normal science goes into crisis.  This causes a breakdown in the scientific knowledge that has been accepted to exist within that paradigm, as questions start arising when there are too many exceptions to the rule.[10]  Revolutionary science can therefore be seen as the involvement of discoveries that cannot be accommodated in the concepts that were used to define normal science before, so in order to facilitate these, Kuhn says that there becomes an alteration in the way we perceive the natural phenomena that we used to know in the paradigm.  So normal science doesn’t need to cause a revolution unless developments appear that no longer fit the theories and practises of the paradigm; and this is revolutionary science.[11]  Kuhn details for us clearly on the nature of normal science, that a paradigm becomes accepted when it is seen as more successful than its competing theories in solving these ad hoc modifications that cannot be catered for anywhere else.  When enough members of the scientific community go on to accept this as a new more informed reality for a normal science to exist in, the revolutionary shift occurs to a new paradigm, which them goes on to perform a new cycle of normal science, under a new set of concepts.[12]

Kuhn makes an example from the history of science in his chapter on the anomalies and scientific discoveries.  The case of dephlogisticated air; and the battle for the discovery of oxygen gas between Priestley and Lavoisier.  Priestley had claimed to have discovered a gas in his phlogiston theory, which was based on mercury and nitrous oxide fumes, which he called dephlogisticated air.  Lavoisier thought that this gas was ‘air in itself’, looking closer and closer to what this gas was, new definitions would be needed to define what this unknown chemical gas was made of.  For Priestley, this compound of dephlogisticated air was oxygen; but when Lavoisier tested it agaisnt the expected results of the phlogiston paradigm; he did not get the same outcomes; revealing that this wasn’t the oxygen gas that Priestley had discovered, but what seemed to be now the oxygen theory of combustion.[13]  This prompted then a whole change in reality, was what was thought to be known about combustion and gasses had just been proven false; entering a crisis stage for the previous paradigm, and moved into a revolutionary form of science which later became known as the chemical revolution.

Similarly, can be said for theoretical ideas of paradigm shifts, which Kuhn displays in the chapter on progress through paradigms.  Whereas the last example is based on experimental discoveries, Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection, published in 1859, had completely gone agaisnt what was considered scientific fact before.  Not because of the claims made about the origin of species specifically, as there were already scientific ideas that evolution was a possibly before and had been widely debated by many other scientists.  The difficulties came from a shift that Darwin himself had created himself.  Evolutionary scientists before Darwin; Lamarck, Chambers and Spencer had already theorised that evolution was orientated towards a goal, a specific purpose for humans to evolve into.  However, Darwin’s discoveries lead him towards the conclusion that evolution wasn’t aiming towards a specific model, but in fact evolution was based solely on equipping the species best for survival with its environment.[14]  As we know Darwin faced religious backlash from this theory, but also by changing the conceptions about what was know about evolution, caused a revolution in ideas.  If it wasn’t the nature of a creator figure to design humans to eventually become perfect throughout time, but was their environment changing the genetics of the creates best suited to live there, then biology at the time had to then question all their other principles agaisnt this new information; causing what for a long time was normal science to then become revolutionary.

Now naturally these points are very brief and exacerbate the message Kuhn is trying to get across.  Paradigm shifts are movements from normal science to revolutionary science – where our excepted and known realities can no longer hold all of the answers we need, causing the need to move into another paradigm.  But this isn’t so black and white.  Scientists don’t go into a physical crisis state and panic, and these paradigms are marked and plotted in their work diaries.  Rejection of the information the old paradigm provided is fundamental in accepting that that form of normal science was the old way of doing things; but then an episode of revolutionary science occurred, and now through retrospect of what we knew in the past, we can go on to create more normal science in the reality that is immanent to this current paradigm.[15]  This of course for Kuhn, is the basis of how science as a body of knowledge develops through time.[16]   

So for Kuhn, both normal and revolutionary science are important for explaining science not only as a body of knowledge, but also as a practical occupation.  Normal science seeks to test what we know is possible through the vast amounts of information we have today, based on years and years of scientific experience, all of which valid in their own rights having been taken as truth at one time.  When of course, these tests and experiments start to break down the theories and evidence that make up our understanding of the world, science enters a revolutionary state where new ideas come into being that haven’t been considered before, leaving an old paradigm and moving into a completely new incommensurable paradigm, unrelated to the past.

This Essay was submitted for grading on the 10th January 2020 as part of an assessment at the University of Gloucestershire. Turnitin ID: 117870674

[1] James A. Marcum, Thomas Kuhn’s Revolution, Continuum Studies in American Philosophy (London: Continuum, 2005) p.30-31

[2] Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Third Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996) p.103

[3] Thomas Kuhn, The Road Since Structure (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002) p.13

[4] Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions pp.35-37

[5] Ibidp.vii-viii

[6] Ibid pp.77-88

[7]Steve Fuller, Kuhn Vs. Popper: The Struggle for the Soul of Science. Revolutions in Science. (Cambridge: Icon, 2003)

<https://www-dawsoneracom.glos.idm.oclc.org/readonline/9781840465334>  [accessed 15 November 2019]

[8] Samir Okasha, Philosophy of Science: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002) pp.77-95

Big issue in comparing past and present paradigms as they are incommensurable, science had to pass through those stages to get where it is today, historical view over the methodological.  Cannot say one is better than the other, they happened because of the reality of the way things were at the time.  Each displaying aspects of normal and revolutionary science, essential to each past paradigm.

[9] Ibid

[10] W.H Newton Smith, Blackwell Companion to Philosophy: A Companion to the Philosophy of Science (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2001) p.417

[11] Thomas Kuhn, The Road Since Structure pp.14-15

[12] James A. Marcum, Thomas Kuhn’s Revolution, Continuum Studies in American Philosophy (London: Continuum, 2005) p.35

[13] Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions pp.54-57

[14] Ibid pp.171-172

[15] James A. Marcum, Thomas Kuhn’s Revolution, Continuum Studies in American Philosophy (London: Continuum, 2005) p.32

[16] Ibid p.94

Making Sense of Shiva; Understanding the Complexity of Hindu Gods

To a certain extent it is fair to say Siva has one of the most important roles in the Tri Murti, and is definitely the most important to the Saivite tradition.  Siva also functions as a prominent deity and arguably one of the most influential and vital to Hinduism.  However, it is not entirely accurate to say Siva has the most important role in the Tri Murti, due the prominence of Visnu and subsequent Vaishnava traditions.  Within this essay I will be looking at the aspects of the divine in Siva, and what this means in Saivite traditions and permeation into wider Hindu society, as well as alternative and contradicting points of view that disagree with the question proposed.

If we keep our focus on those gods within the Tri Murti, we can see through the Saivite lens that Siva is the most important aspect of the Tri Murti.  Commonly he is seen by the wider Hindu community as the destroyer, but in Saivite circles he is also the creator, and encompasses the roles of the other two deities in the Tri Murti; Visnu and Brahma.   Saivism is one of the largest sects within Hinduism and is the organised worship of Siva.[1] Modern Saivism consists of a whole spectrum of schools, such as the distinctive Lingayat community unique to Siva, ascetic traditions like the dashnami sannyasins, and other folk variants.[2]

The Vedas spoke of the origins of a God called Rudra, who later developed as Siva, known as ‘the auspicious one’.  The Shvetashvatara upanisad treats Siva as the paramount deity and is an important God in the two main epics: the Mahabharata and the Ramayana.[3]  However, it was not until a time between the second century BCE and second century CE that the rise of the Pashupata sect made it possible to have sectarian worship.  The Pashupata are one of the earliest sects that worship Siva as the most supreme deity and created numerous other schools that spread throughout Gujarat and Rajasthan, and as far as Cambodia.  The Pashupatas see themselves as the heard of Siva, who rules over them like sacred animals fit for sacrifice.[4]  After this, temples and festivals dedicated to Siva, religious institutions and temples developed for Siva renunciants, and places of pilgrimage for Siva developed throughout India.

Sharada Sugirtharajah, when writing on the Tri Murti, says Siva holds together all opposites, tensions and contradictions.  Seen as the destroyer of evil foremost, but also encompasses all three forms of the Tri Murti.  Within the Saivite school, Siva bares greater power than Visnu, and absorbs him into his aspects.[5]  However, it is important to consider of course that this is part of the cultural and religious standing that pieces together the Saivite perspective.  Within Vaisnava thinking, Visnu does the same, only to Siva.  The way Siva draws in all three aspects of the Tri Murti towards him balance the creator and destroyer elements, making him the most supreme aspect of the divine.

One of most important forms of Siva is when he appears as Nataraja, the lord of the dance.  Symbolises the cosmic energy that flows through him as sustains the universe.  The dance is the destruction of evil, which makes room for creation.  In this form he performs all three functions of creation, preservation and destruction.[6]  Ascetic Siva conserves energy, whereas dancing Siva releases it for the good of humanity.  These are the two opposites that bind Siva together, and creates his important position of both householder and ascetic[7].    The importance of the role of Siva as a great yogi and grhastha, or householder symbolises the renunciation and affirmation of life.  As a yogi he is pictured with his third eye, cross legged, holding his trident, which represents his three aspects as creator, preserver and destroyer[8], showing him as being all the Tri Murti.  This distinction also shows Siva as capable of all things, because the household and renunciant traditions are often seen as very separate, but in this case, Siva bares the power to draw them together.

Siva’s power and arguably further dominance of the Tri Murti can be seen where he is depicted ichnographically as Ardhanari, half male half female.  It is said Siva performed this himself to aid Brahma in creation, as Siva can play the role of both men and women, appearing as androgynous, or Ardhanarisvara.[9]  This is another example in which Siva has superseded Brahma’s role as creator and become the creator himself; taking on the divine attributes of another God as the more supreme deity.  Siva’s relationship with the sexes and sexuality also makes him prominent within the Tri Murti.  Within the realms of the divine feminine principle, knows as sakti, Siva’s energy manifests as Durga, the most powerful female goddess.  In this form, she is seen as the divine and universal mother: embodying courage, pure love, compassion, divine light and blessings.[10]  Durga is a supreme being that presents moral order and righteousness, battling forces of evil in the world.  Mythologically, Durga has eight arms, each holding a weapon she used to slay the buffalo demon who threatened the world.  Many Hindus see goddesses as independent from male gods of the Tri Murti, and worship them within their own right[11], so it is not entirely accurate to compare Durga to Siva in the same sense.  Although they are connected, they are separate deities.

Siva temples worship him in the form of the linga, a phallic symbol, and in association with the yoni, or womb, it symbolises the union of male and female.  It represents creation in the biological, as well as spiritual and cosmic.  The Linga is the main object of Siva worship.[12] Seen in the Siva Puranas, part of the 18 major mahapuranas within Hindu scripture that puts Lord Siva as supreme deity, chapters 34-35 from the Vayaviya-samhita focusses on the linga worship of Siva.  In verse 6, Krsna questions the linga, and how Siva is worshipped in his form. 

The reply in verse 7 is that it is the ‘source of all attributes’, it has ‘no beginning or end,’ and is the ‘cause of the universe’.[13]  This places Siva as the ultimate manifestation of the divine but does not necessarily discount other Gods from being.  From the linga is meant to come Siva, and all his forms, including Visnu and Brahma.  In addition to this, chapter 6 of the Vidyesvara-samhita depicts a fight between Brahma and Visnu, who both believe they are the lord.  Verses 20-22 state that the ‘three-pointed-trident-bearing deity,’ who we know is Siva, is said the be the ‘cause of creation, maintenance, annihilation, concealment and blessing’.[14]  This of course portrays Siva as the ultimate, and everything, and places Siva above that of Brahma and Visnu.

It is important to bear in mind however that Hindus have many names of the divine, and worship affirms the Supreme through various names and forms.  This stems from the Rg-Veda[15], which gives the one reality many names as a form of expression.  Each god and goddess will have more than one name to exemplify the different aspects of that godhead.  For example, Visnu is known through other names like Narayana, Hari and Padmanabha; and Krsna, an avatar of Visnu is known by Madhusudana, Gopala and Janardana[16].  There are also notions of the supreme self, or Paramatman, as well as village deities.  With the divine being worshiped in many different forms, it will be subject to the worshipping individual or community as to who the most supreme is.  Siva’s sons, Skanda and Ganesh are worshipped outside of Saivite communities, and have whole separate grouping of traditions, and are worshipped by separate followers to Siva.[17]  Geaves’ study on Saivism and the diaspora found that Skanda worship has spread through the Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and the UK, making it comparable geographically to Saivite worship[18].  This doesn’t take away from Siva’s role within the Tri-Murti, but just means that outside of that context, Siva isn’t directly worshipped as Siva, but as other forms respectfully.  Ganesh is a god worshipped within his own right, and by some is seen as more powerful and influential than Siva.

After the later upanisads, Visnu and Siva became popular deities, creating the schools of Vaisnavas and Saivites.  They each have thier own individual set of cultural practises and traditions, yet to each of their followers respectively, Siva and Visnu are the same; a transcendent supreme Lord, but also immanent within each person.[19]  This causes issues when considering which deity takes ultimate position, as they both bare the same weight to thier devotees, and can at times subsume each other’s roles and become all three parts of the Tri Murti in a singular form[20].

To conclude, we look at this from a wider perspective, the Hindu religious experience is made up of a variety of regions and perspectives and talking about these religious experiences within Hinduism is problematic.  Hinduism is a term created and re-appropriated by colonialists as an umbrella term to cover a wide variety of systems and practises within India.[21]  It’s almost unfair to view Saivism as anything over and above other deities and is a difficult concept to try and state that Siva has any more power and authority over any other God or tradition.  Even if we try to see each tradition as separate, they do permeate into each other[22].  Although different sects of Hinduism will follow thier own deity; they all feed into same idea of the divine, with each God emulating different aspects of the supreme.  So, although Siva holds a magnitude of authoritative positions within the sphere of Hindu theology, it is not entirely accurate to portray him as the literal be all and end all divine authority throughout all Hindu traditional beliefs.  The Saivite school of belief is nothing but equal to the Vaisnava school from the perspective of an outsider.  Saivites place Siva in the position of the ultimate Godhead, just as Hare Krishna’s place Krishna as the ultimate Godhead of Visnu.  Therefore, the extent of Siva’s role in the Tri Murti is that of great power, just as the other roles also.  It is too simplistic to see one as holding any more objective power over the others, as the Tri Murti has three individual deities, that perform together in order to create the Tri Murti.  Even if we say Siva has the most important role, that is within its own perspective.  We can completely say Siva is important, but only with the due consideration of the context of the views of others.

This Essay was submitted for grading on the 1st December 2019 for an assessment at the University of Gloucestershire. Turnitin ID: 114799339

[1] Stefon, Matt and Wendy Doniger: ‘Shaivism’ (The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2015) <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Shaivism> [accessed 28 October 2019]

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Stefon, Matt and Wendy Doniger: ‘Pashupata, Hindu Sect’ (The Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2015) <https://www.britannica.com/topic/Pashupata> [accessed 10 November 2019]

[5] Paul Bowen, Themes and Issues in Hinduism (London: Cassell, 1998) p.179

[6] Paul Bowen, Themes and Issues in Hinduism p.180

[7] Ibid

[8] Paul Bowen, Themes and Issues in Hinduism p.181

[9] Paul Bowen, Themes and Issues in Hinduism p.182

[10]Gavin Flood, The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism (Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 2003) p.191

[11]Klaus k. Klostermaier, A Survey of Hinduism Third Edition (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007) p.116

[12] Paul Bowen, Themes and Issues in Hinduism p.183

[13] J.L Shastri, The Shiva Purana (Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1970) in Wisdom Library

<https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/shiva-purana-english> [accessed 18 November 2019] Chapters 34-35

[14] Ibid, chapter 6

[15] J. Gonda, Visnuism and Sivaism, A Comparison (London: The Athlone Press, 1970) p.2

[16] Ibid

[17] Kim Knott, Hinduism, A Very Short Introduction, second edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016) p.48

[18] Chappel, C.K., ‘Saivism in the Diaspora: Contemporary Forms of Skanda Worship by Ron Geaves’

Digital Commons@Loyola Marymount University: Theological Studies Faculty Works (2011) pp.1-3

[19] Kim Knott, Hinduism, A Very Short Introduction p.51

[20] Klaus K. Klostermaier, A Survey of Hinduism Third Edition (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2007) pp 108-117

[21]McDaniel, J., “Introduction to “religious Experience in the Hindu Tradition”, Religions, 10 (2019), pp 1-3 doi:10.3390/rel10050329 pp.1-2

[22] Gavin Flood, The Blackwell Companion to Hinduism (Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 2003) p.25-29

The Decade of the Robot – What’s to happen to our future workforce?

I read a BBC news article today on the idea that soon enough, we could be working next to robots, as they will gradually start to replace the human power within manual workforces. Initially of course I was sceptical of this idea, as my first thoughts tended to be that a human workforce, although prone to injury, sickness and natural error, would naturally be cheaper than producing state of the art machines to do the same job. As I considered all the article had to offer, I actually found what it had to say profoundly interesting.

First of all, it would be silly to not already look at many of the questions that are already circling the sphere of robotics today. We could say that looking ahead, these robots would earn their value back tenfold, as they’d in theory be able to work 24/7, with no time off and no need to be paid – making the initial cost appear as just a short term loss to a company. However, damage on the environment may be a factor to consider amongst today’s climate crisis. How much harm would be caused to our natural geography when farming the rare metals needed for parts, or the pollution that would be caused in their manufacturing? Not to mention the cost of transporting and installing these robots in the first place.

However, Automata – one of the focus companies in the article, are making the EVA, which is a reliable robot made from affordable parts, in the UK, and are aimed at smaller companies. Now although I’m tech literate, I can’t explain how this robot works fully, but what it is doing is really beneficial, and I don’t think should be overlooked, or seen as terror.

Many fellow students and lecturers I speak to, ranging from the historian, ethicist and writer, tend to only focus on the negative side of this advanced tech. I remember when AI smart speakers first appeared on the market, and everyone was in a state of panic about the government listening to our lives. Now although that may be a concern, and I’m not completely discounting it, our lives haven’t become Orwell’s 1984, most of us use these speakers as timers for oven food, they certainly don’t dictate our lives as much as we thought.

As for the worker replacement scare, which again, is a big fear especially for those on the breadline, living paycheck to paycheck, I don’t think there needs to be too much concern. The OECD state that 14% of jobs are “at risk of automation”, and 32% could be “radically transformed”, but despite this, I think the human workforce will exist for a long time. During the Industrial Revolution, so many farmers were terrified of loosing everything, and of course some did naturally, but it was a time where we saw a huge shift and development of a workforce, adapting and taking on new roles in industry. There’s every chance that instead of humans being redundant, we’ll move into new roles, roles that we’ll create for ourselves.

As a tech utopian, I’d like to think that there won’t be so much fear and angst around technologies for the future when we see their practical uses pay off. According to the International Robotics Federation, there are already 2.4 million robots working in industry worldwide, so this isn’t some new big scare. Chances are you’re reading this online, and I can tell you now, I doubt that device was made by hand! I’d like to think about the positives this could produce – in more realistic prosthetics in medicine or through saving lives by having robots do dangerous jobs for us. I think its important to acknowledge the potential dangers, like security and surveillance, and I’m not trying to say robots won’t take over the world, but I believe its more beneficial for humans to become as adaptable to new technologies as possible. Not to bow down to them, but allow them space to work with us, for us!

Here’s a link to the article below, and any other bits of relevant information I’ve drawn on –