Learning Philosophy with Professor N S Nigam | Philosophy School

Prof. Nigam Nuggehalli is the Dean, School of Law at BML Munjal University. Professor Nuggehalli holds a DPhil from the University of Oxford Faculty of Law, an LLM in Taxation from New York University and a BA., LLB (Hons.) from the National Law School of India University. Before joining academia, he worked as a tax lawyer in New York and is a member of the New York Bar and the India Bar (Karnataka).He has completed his thesis on political and legal philosophy and his work was majorly inspired by Ronald Dworkin, an American legal philosopher. The professor went on to elaborate on how the subject has helped shape his thinking in almost every aspect of his life. 

The talk started off by the professor proceeding to address one of the very main questions in Philosophy, ‘Why should one learn Philosophy?’. To answer this question, the professor presented three main important points.  

  1. Philosophy makes things interesting and accessible.To elaborate this, Prof Nigam presented a brief passage from an ICSE civics textbook and asked the students to understand it. The passage described the constitution and other rules and regulations related to it. Then the Professor proceeded to highlight the mundane nature of such formal texts and how it curbs the students from raising fundamental questions regarding the nature of the subject they are studying. Philosophy makes the matter at hand interesting by getting one invested in what they are actually studying.’The literal idea of philosophy is the love of wisdom’, he says. 

To make his second point, the students were asked to read another brief passage from one of Ronald Dworkin’s works, explaining the necessity of political society from a philosophical point of view. The political entity is needed to make a regulatory framework that ensures dignity and rights for every individual.

In the duty-based paradigm of this framework, the legislature is paramount and is just a set of instructions enforced by judges who act as a subsidiary. When the law regulates our activities, the law is not trying to dictate what to do, but in fact tells us that in whatever we do, it is our duty to respect the rights of others.

In the rights-based paradigm of the framework, judges become of paramount importance as they help enforce the code of conduct and rights of individuals in particular situations.

These two perspectives take us to the second point that is,

  1. Philosophy takes us to the heart of any subject. It explains the fundamental essence of the phenomenon and helps develop a whole new perspective.

Here, some students enquired about the perspective of one’s rights and wrongs clashing with that of others. This led to the professor’s third main point for which he presented yet another passage from Ronald Dworkin’s works. His third reason for the importance of understanding philosophy was as follows;

  1. Philosophy makes us understand that there is widespread disagreement on the application of value in any practice. A practice could signify something of value to one while it may imply a different meaning to others. Therefore our practices, most ones relating to morals and ethics, are fundamentally argumentative.

The professor concluded that judgements made about almost every practice is debatable and that philosophy is necessary to divulge into the inside of the very values that make up a practice. On the whole it was a very thought provoking and interactive session, with the Professor promising the students to come back for another fun filled yet informative lecture.

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