Thinking is like a game, it does not begin unless there is an opposite team

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Ancient Greece was situated on the north-western of the Mediterranean Sea. The city-state was the political unit of Greece. There were two prominent states – Athens and Sparta. The Peloponnesian War was fought in ancient Greece between Athens and Sparta – the two most powerful city-states in ancient Greece around 430 BC. Due to the defeat of Athens in the hands of Sparta, power shifted from Athens to Sparta, making Sparta the most powerful city-state in the region.

Plato posited that excessive democracy, which to him is ruled by common men, had led to corruption and degeneration of the polis. This ultimately led to the defeat of Athens. Subsequently, in his prescription, he suggested an institution of Philosopher King, who is talented in the arts, military exercises, sciences, and metaphysics. He suggested it to arrest the decline of Athens.

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Therefore, opposing the current establishment with a proper solution – an idea of the philosopher king – laid the foundation of critical thinking in Western philosophy. Probably, due to this reason some political philosophers like Northern Whitehead call entire political science as nothing but the footnotes of Plato and Aristotle. Thus, the game of thinking started with the opposition posited by Plato in the light of Athens’s defeat in the Peloponnesian war. However, the game of thinking travels across history.

If we look back into ancient India, there was a tradition of critical thinking. Amartya Sen, a Nobel laureate in his book “Argumentative Indians” claims that since ancient days, deliberation has been part of India’s political culture. For example, the world’s first republic was Vaishali, located in the present-day Bihar region. The Vaishali Republic had Sabha and Samiti. In Sabha, elder people were represented while the ‘Samiti’ was regarded as the common folk assembly. It germinated the game of thinking where the opposition’s role is considered.

Similarly, down the line in medieval history, we witness the rule of Akbar who built “Ibadat Khana”. The prime purpose of Ibadat Khana was to invite people from different religions to discuss philosophies. When people from different religions gathered, a force of opposition appeared. It began the game of critical thinking. Consequently, Akbar took all good things from all religions and formed a new religion with the name of “Din-i-Ellahi”.

Subsequently, in India’s struggle for freedom, we have seen various ideological stances of resistance – moderates, extremists, and revolutionaries. Critical thinking provided different means to freedom fighters. All means have their significance in India’s freedom struggle. For example, whenever mainstream leaders were arrested after a protest like the non-cooperation movement in 1920, the vacuum of leadership was filled by revolutionary leaders like Bhagat Singh and Chandrashekhar Azad. It was possible due to the spirit of tolerance toward diverse opposition that flourished game of thinking.

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Even in the modern world after the Second World War, we find the footprints of the game of thinking with the help of opposition. For example, during the inter-war period, two opposite forces – liberalism led by central forces and fascism led by allied forces. With the defeat of fascism in world wars, it seemed like the game of thinking would stop. Experts started calling it the “end of ideology” era. But soon after, communism emerged as a hegemonic force before liberalism. Therefore, the force of opposition fuelled the game of thinking.

Therefore, it created a binary discourse of liberalism Vs communism. Soon after this, under the leadership of India, the Non-alignment Movement (NAM) emerged as critical of both liberalism and communism. It added another value to the game of thinking by providing an alternative perspective in international politics. Subsequently, with the end of the Cold War, a sense of unilateralism emerged. But again the game of thinking resurged with the rise of Asian powers like India and China. Therefore, opposition is very important for fuelling the game of thinking.

Similarly, in an economic context, India initially focused on the soviet model. Economic reforms between 1950 and 1980 were termed as the “Hindu rate of growth” due to low growth in that period. The planning commission in its report acknowledged this limitation. Therefore, the New Economic Policy of 1991 posited a push in the game of economic thinking. It opened India’s economy and contributed to its growth. Subsequently, some analysts criticized inequality as a side effect of the new economic policy. Another opposition thought-provoking team answered it with a welfare model.

Along with these, we can see the game of thinking through debates and discussions during election days. It makes people aware of political shades. It happened due to the force of opposition. Such things are not possible in countries like China where there is one-party rule and the force of opposition is missing. That’s why even though India is a multi-party democracy, there is a space for opposition in both houses of parliament. Office of Opposition brings critical thinking to public policy.

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On the same line, in the context of technological advancement, artificial intelligence has been transforming public policy. Supporters claim that it would help society in completing hazardous works like – manual scavenging. It would emancipate people from hazardous work and help employees to complete work quickly. But the force of opposition poses a game of thinking by putting threats of artificial intelligence before us. There are concerns about intellectual property rights. It is using content created by people without paying them. Thus, it demotivates the spirit of innovation. Therefore, the opposition plays a very important role in this game of thinking.

Now there is a question, why there is a need for opposition in the first place? If we talk about the political sphere, it contains tyranny of the majority. It keeps check on the government of the day. For example, Indian democracy is limited due to the office of opposition to some extent. However, due to absence of strong opposition in other South Asian countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka caused a decline in democracy. Even in history, we have seen totalitarian states in Italy under Mussolini and Germany under Hitler. Those conditions were due to the lack of a strong opposition force at that point of time.

Similarly, even mythological scriptures talked of the opposition forces. For instance, in Mahabharata, due to a lack of opposition amongst Kauravas, Duryodhana who was a friend of Karna became arrogant. It enables one to correct misunderstandings. In the words of political philosopher, J.S. Mill, even mad people are allowed to speak as opposition. If he/she is incorrect, it will allow us to correct him/her. However, if he/she is correct, then it will provide an opportunity to correct ourselves. Thus, it can be a way to reach truth since it can emerge from anywhere.

Does it mean that the opposition is always good? The role of the opposite team is a double-edged sword. If the intent of opposition, is good then it helps in the improvement and processing game of thinking. But negative intent may backfire. Because there are possibilities of polarization in the face of opposition due to a lack of the right spirit. Also, all the time there wouldn’t need for opposition, especially in the case of solitary thinking like artists. In the same way, people involved in introspection also don’t need external opposition because the dialogue is executed within himself/herself.

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Additionally, sometimes opposition to the cause, in totality, is not necessarily required. There can be opposition to the means of execution. For example, the Women’s Reservation Bill 2023 and legislation against child labor do not need opposition in totality but there could be different means. Apart from this, it is not necessary that every time, one learns from opposition. One can also improve himself/herself with experiences as well. For example, Dr. Ambedkar’s understanding of Dalit people was the product of experiences not necessarily the force of opposition.

Along with these, it is also quite possible that some thoughts trace their roots in originality that doesn’t require opposition. For example, Kalidas’s work regarding Abhigyan Shakuntalam was not the product of opposition but it was his original work. Therefore, the role of the opposition is not a necessary condition for developing the game of thinking. However, some texts like Bhagwat Geeta even give preference to Action over Thinking. It means Bhagwat Geeta believes that action is more important than mere thinking.

Therefore, there is a need for socialization to inculcate the value of tolerance among people. Tolerance will create the habit of opposition. Also, imbibing the value of emotional intelligence makes oneself aware of emotions. It will help not only in knowing oneself better but also in understanding the emotions of others. Thus, emotional understanding of each other would help in fruitful opposition that would padel the game of thinking.

In conclusion, René Descartes rightly said “I think, therefore I am”. It means thinking has existential values as well. For quality thinking, there will be a need for an enlightened opposition with good intent.

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