#TAOQ (The Argument Over Quarrel, May 23, 2015):

SynTalk thinks about quarrels (in a general sense), while constantly wondering whether there is a civilizational ‘need’ for it. Is it possible to have a sustainable theory for interactions (and by extension, quarrels)? What are the links with language structure and language usage? The concepts are derived off / from Upanishads, Bhagwad Gita, Sarala Das, Oliver Goldsmith, Locke, Bertrand Russell, Grice, Nozick, & Chomsky, among others. Can we think of an idealized quarrel? How do we understand sentences & discourses that have non literal (suggestive) meanings? How only the non-obvious counts as information. The maxims of quantity, quality, relation, & manner for ideal conversations, and how these cooperative principles break down in quarrels. How in a legal context the adversarial system is used to resolve difference of views. Are spoken quarrels different from the written, and whether norms, conventions and several para lingual aspects are lost (& sanitized) when written? What is the difference between interests and positions? What are the set of things that are not allowed to be used as bargaining tools in a conversational context? Are quarrels structured and institutionalized in many areas of life, where it may be possible to separate the person’s views from the person? Why are there so many lawyer jokes? How deeply should one hold one’s ideas? How a lawyer (an agent) sometime morphs into the principal. Why do some societies have so many (out of court) settlements? Is it possible to have an argument without investing certain aspects of one’s self? Why should some words not be used in ‘parliamentary’ language? Is the Supreme Court always right because it is final, and not final because it is right? Where do swear words come from, and why do they linger? Who decides what is polite or impolite language? How norms of political correctness start out as public acknowledgement of past rights or wrongs. Can one apply the Theory of Implicature to understand how swear words can come to be used as an endearment? What are the dynamics of multilateral conflicts, even if they are handled by two individuals? Why many societies do not accept the pardon by the victim? The links between ego, Judgment of Solomon, Mona Lisa, ‘devastating counter example’, debates, horse trading, Ataturk, tyranny of language, & ‘matters of taste’. Would a society without quarrels be dead? Can quarrels be replaced by some playful ways of inhabiting conflicts? ‘For e’en though vanquish’d he could argue still…’. The SynTalkrs are: Dr. Arudra Burra (philosophy, IIT Delhi, New Delhi), Prof. B. N. Patnaik (linguistics, ex-IIT Kanpur, Bangalore), & Somasekhar Sundaresan (law, J. Sagar Associates, Mumbai).

SynTalk is pleased and privileged to have hosted the following SynTalkrs (in alphabetical order) on its #TAOQ show.

Dr. Arudra Burra (philosophy) teaches philosophy at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) in IIT Delhi. He joined IIT Delhi in 2012, after post-doctoral fellowships at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS). He studied philosophy at Princeton University (Ph.D., 2011) and law at the Yale Law School (JD, 2007). His Ph.D. thesis was titled ‘Coercion, Deception, Consent: Essays in Moral Explanation’. Currently his primary research areas are moral and political philosophy, as well as philosophy of law; he also has a strong amateur interest in Indian legal history. Dr. Burra’s research revolves around three distinct topics. The first concerns the notions of coercion, deception, and consent and their role in our moral and legal thought. The second concerns  the survival of laws and institutions such as the bureaucracy across drastic changes in the political regimes that support them, such as in the case of Indian independence, and the light this phenomenon sheds on the notion of political neutrality. The third concerns debates around civil liberties in India’s early post-independence history, particularly an interesting alliance between communists and the Hindu right during this period. He hopes to connect these debates with current discussions about civil liberties in India.

Prof. B. N. Patnaik (linguistics) is (retd.) Professor of English & Linguistics, IIT Kanpur, where he taught generative linguistics and English language for more than 25 years. He completed his Ph.D. in Linguistics from Central Institute of English and Foreign Language (CIEFL, now EFLU), Hyderabad (1977) & his M.A. in English from Utkal University (1964). His Ph.D. thesis was titled, ‘Complementation in Oriya and English’ & it was the first study of Odia grammar in the generative linguistics framework. His current research interests include medieval Odia written & oral literature, literature-linguistics interface, & discourse analysis. He has published on a variety of topics in linguistics, communication, & medieval Odia literature. He has written the first generative grammar (partial) of Odia, & is an Associate Editor of Pearson’s English-English-Odia dictionary, & a co-editor of Noam Chomsky’s ‘The Architecture of Language’ (2000). He has also served as the Deputy Editor of International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics, and been on the editorial board of South Asian Language Review. He is the author of ‘Introducing Sarala Mahabharata’ (2012) and the main author of ‘Retelling as Interpretation: An Essay on Sarala Mahabharata’ (2013). Prof. Patnaik also blogs & speaks widely on Sarala Mahabharata.

Somasekhar Sundaresan (law) is a lawyer and partner of J. Sagar Associates, Advocates & Solicitors, where he heads the securities laws practice. He has been in practice for the past 16 years. He is a former Assistant Editor of The Times of India, where he was a business journalist. His work ranges from private practice on behalf of clients in transactions and in contentious regulatory litigation, to law and policy-making for the financial sector, an activity that involves connecting the dots between behavioral sciences, law and economics. His participation in this space includes work on the Financial Sector Legislative Reform Commission (FSLRC), committees that wrote new regulations on takeovers, insider trading, depository receipts, external commercial borrowings, and a task force to set up the Financial Sector Appellate Tribunal. He is also an invitee to FICCI’s Steering Committee and an active member of its Capital Markets Committee. He works on reaching the law and its meaning to the common man by writing a fortnightly column (titled ‘Without Contempt’) in the Business Standard and a weekly column in the Mirror, a newspaper with editions in four cities. He is also an independent director on the board of Oxfam India, a non-governmental organization that works on a rights-based policy.

Note: Any & all errors in the brief profiles above are SynTalk’s own.