#TTCA (The Two Cultures Again, September 06, 2014):

SynTalk thinks about the ‘sciences’ and the ‘humanities’, and speculates on the genesis, present and the future of this dichotomy. Is the 1959 Rede lecture of CP Snow still relevant, or have changes of knowledge systems & technology made the concern banal? The concepts are derived off / from Copernicus, Donne, Bacon, Newton, Gulliver’s Travels (in Laputa), Alexander Pope, Riemann, Einstein, Marconi, Heisenberg, Heidegger, life-world (Husserl, Habermas), Hardy, Korzybski, CP Snow, Leavis, Feynman, Deleuze, Wilson, Levi-Strauss, & Buffett, among others. Were there ever any polymaths? We look at the possible link between the establishment of the Royal Society (like a trade union), Newtonian physics, colonialism, and Hitler? Is there consilience & bricolage in knowledge (a la ingredients in a salad bowl)? Do ideas have a rhizomatic structure? Is Mathematics closer to art than to science? Has man’s desire to understand nature led to the ‘anthropocene life-world’ (with disciplines such as digital humanities and cybernetics)? Does ‘episteme’ have to become an easy-to-use ‘API’ to spread? Does a platform (created by designers & engineers) have to be so easy that it is beautiful (a la Angry Birds, Airbnb, Square)? The importance of ‘groundedness’; is “T-shaped” interdisciplinarity the only possible form? The importance of a ‘gifted person’ to make connections. The SynTalkrs are: Prof. Prafulla C. Kar (literature, philosophy, Centre for Contemporary Theory, Vadodara), Prof. M. S. Raghunathan (mathematics, IIT Bombay, ex-TIFR, Mumbai), & Kunal Shah (computer science, philosophy, Freecharge, Mumbai).

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

Prof. Prafulla. C. Kar (literature, philosophy, interdisciplinary) is the director of Centre for Contemporary Theory (set up by Forum on Contemporary Theory (FCT)) and the Balvant Parekh Centre for General Semantics and Other Human Sciences, Vadodara. Prior to this, Prof. Kar was the Professor of English at Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda, the Deputy Director of the American Studies Research Centre, Hyderabad (1982-86), and Chair, Department of English at Baroda (1995-2000). He visited Universities of Chicago, Texas at Austin, and California at Berkeley under a Fulbright postdoctoral fellowship. He was a Fellow at the School of Criticism and Theory at Dartmouth College, USA in 1986. Besides editing several scholarly books, he has published papers on American literature, critical theories and new literatures in English. In 2012, he received the Nicolas Guillen Award for Philosophical Literature of the Caribbean Philosophical Association as a recognition of his extraordinary contribution to the study of the humanities in India & for the global impact of his work.

Prof. M. S. Raghunathan (mathematics, number theory, geometry) is currently the Head of the National Centre for Mathematics, IIT Bombay, Mumbai. After retiring in 2006 as Professor of eminence at TIFR, he continued to hold the Homi Bhabha Chair till 2011. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS), of the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS), and of the American Mathematical Society (AMS). His research focus is Lie Groups where discrete subgroups of Lie groups have been the central objects of his researches. He has made contributions to rigidity and arithmeticity problems. He holds the distinction of being invited to give a talk at the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) when he was only 29. He has also played an important role in the promotion of mathematics through various scientific bodies, in both advisory and administrative capacities. He also organized the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) in Hyderabad in 2010, which was the first ICM in India. The ICMs are held every four years and have now been around since 1897 (with breaks during the 2 world wars). He has also been awarded the Padma Shri in 2001 & Padma Bhushan in 2012. In 1977, he was awarded the Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar Prize.

Kunal Shah (computer science, philosophy) studied philosophy at Wilson College, Mumbai but soon after college ventured into entrepreneurship by starting technology based businesses. He is currently the Founder & Director of Freecharge, an online & mobile based platform to enable recharges with benefits for consumers. Freecharge is backed by leading global venture capital firms such as Sequoia Capital. He began his entrepreneurial journey with ‘Paisaback’ in the year 2009, where he was trying to build innovative ways of cashback promotions. Continuing with the focus to create an innovative channel to deliver more for less he built Freecharge (already used by over 4 million customers). He has a deep understanding of the consumers’ mindset which, integrated with his philosophical understanding & long term vision, has led to making Freecharge a highly recognized platform in the Indian consumer technology space.

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

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