About

The name of this blog is an encomium to Steven Pinker’s book Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature. It’s one of those books that fundamentally changed the way I look at the world. The term Blank Slate, however, is used here in a completely different connotation. In meaning, it has more to do with Mao Zedong’s quote:

A blank sheet of paper has no blotches, and so the newest and most beautiful words can be written on it.

My desire is to keep my thoughts devoid, like a blank slate, of pre-conceived notions, biases and beliefs that owe their existence to the environment and tradition — to something other than my own rational, reflective thinking.

P.S. Make not mistake. I like that quote form Mao, but I am no socialist.

24 responses to “About

  1. Good blog, Vishal. Mao was a smart man, but I disagree with his philosophy.

  2. Vishal

    Siddharth, I would be putting it very mildly if I said “I disagree with Mao’s philosophy.”

  3. Great blog, Vishal!

    I love the way you’ve poured your views into words. I think I’ve found enough for my weekend reading-quota.

  4. Hi Vishal, really great blog! Very informative and crisp writing. I think I might spend some time mining your archives!

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  6. Hey Vishal. Just landed on this strip, ardent fan of Hitchens and I can understand how he is a tad too caustic for some. Like some variants of alcohol, its best not taken Neat in one go! Like the genesis of your blog name. I read somewhere somthing I come back to often”………..Most people reading this will already be fairly tolerant. But there is a step beyond thinking of yourself as x but tolerating y: not even to consider yourself an x. The more labels you have for yourself, the dumber they make you.”

    Like the spartan look and overall content so I am IN aka subscribed!

    • God Is Not Great was my first encounter with Hitchens, and like you mentioned, did often seem too polemic and acrid to me at that time. But over the years, as I read more articles and essays from him, I started to admire him. His recent articles after he was diagnosed with cancer has proved that there can be, and there certainly are, atheists in foxholes.

      I have been mulling over your very interesting comment about people assigning labels to themselves (i.e. identity) and then let that identity drive their reactions and thoughts. Amartya Sen has discussed the problem of (often singular) identity as a cause of violence and conflicts in modern world in his thoroughly enjoyable book ‘Identity and Violence’.

      Thanks for subscribing!

  7. Vishal,
    The title of your blog A BLANK SLATE is simply great and appealing.
    When one is zero in the beginning, say blank, it is easy to learn and appreciate new things and respond .
    One having half knowledge is biased and can not appreciate new developments nor have an inclinations for them.
    Well, I am happy about all and my sincere best regards.

    • Thank you! Being cognizant of our pre-conceived notions is one of the most important things if we were to make intellectual and moral progress. The human mind is shaped by evolution and it suffers from many biological/psychological traits that sometimes obstructs us from seeing the world in the correct light.

      Thank you again for your encouraging comments!

  8. I don’t know why it took me so long to get here, but now I feel I have really missed something too good for too long, nevertheless being a good of friend of son of Dr. J.U. Patel in won’t take that long to make it up. Way to go bro.. bravo…

  9. Saved as a favorite, I really like your blog!

  10. Hi,

    I am a regular at Baradwaj Rangan’s blog. I watched My Name is Khan just now, and was reading the review and going through the comments there, and came across yours.

    ‘I think the correct message should be “My Name is Khan, and I am an individual. Treat me like one.” ‘ This is the only mature/grown-up take I have found on this movie. You have captured something here, something we all have missed. It isn’t about being on the right side of the divide, it is the divide that we should reject. Bravo, sir.

    I have always believed that religion is a personal matter and has no place in public life; and it was heartening to see it reflected in your words.

    Thanks.

    • Chaitanya,

      Really appreciate your comments. There’s some engaging discussion on this topic in Amartya Sen’s Identity and Violence if you’re interested in reading about our identity driven existential confusion and folly of “singular affiliation falsehood”.

      BTW, I am fond of Rangan’s reviews as well. Very in depth and nuanced.

  11. Just landed on this blog from BR’s blog and I must admit it’s so nice, Vishal. I am a ‘numbers’ guy like you and we seem to have few other common interests as well. Loved the ‘Proofs without words’ most and it will take some time to dwelve into your long list of archives. Cheers!

    • Hey, glad that you liked those Proof Without Words posts, because (judging from the lack of comments/response) it appeared that I am the only one who really dig those visual proofs. 😦 I took a cursory look at See | Hear | Read today; looks interesting! Although, I must admit I hardly watch any Tamil movies and listen to Tamil songs (unless from ARR) any more. (I used to watch Tamil movies – with subtitles – years ago.)

      • That’s fine. I’ve started to come up with non-Tamil based posts as well of late. And you should return the favor and start watching Tamil movies soon 😉

        • I have been wanting to get back to watching some good Tamil movies. Especially after reading a BR review, I feel a strong urge to explore the cinema beyond just Bollywood and Hollywood. But I live in US, and it’s hard to get hold of Tamil DVD’s, and they rarely show non-Hindi Indian movies in theaters here.

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