A Comparative Perspective for Functional Application of Scientific Temper in Southern Africa

Plessis, Hester Du


In celebration of the launch of a journal in India that will be dedicated to the advancement of the notion of scientific temper, it is apt to reflect on the possibilities of the impact that such a notion is likely to have once introduced in countries other than in India.

In a country like South Africa, which has its historical, emotional as well as political links with India established through the ideas of great statesmen such as Mahatma Gandhi, one finds similarities as well as differences in its historical development and post-liberation governance practices. A striking communality is that both countries were subjugated to British colonial rule. Both countries went through post-colonial changes that required new governance structures subject to new regulations and policies. New governance choices were made as result of visionary indigenous leaders keen to provide policies appropriate to serve the indigenous society. As a result the new policies were infused with each country’s respective cultural worldviews and histories.

One similarity of action between the two countries is the idealised protection of people’s indigenous knowledge systems. A striking difference, however, is the national efforts to protect people’s knowledge, identified as ‘scientific temper’ in India, and the wide ranging, culturally embedded perception of people’s inability of being ‘rational’ in Africa with the resultant disregard for African knowledge systems. This paper will explore this socio-political divide created through the subconscious ‘acceptance’ of people’s apparent inability of being ‘rational’ in Africa against the endorsement of a nation’s ability of ‘being rational’ through a constitutional obligation towards maintaining scientific temper in India.

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