(When an eminent public intellectual like Amartya Sen speaks, the legitimacy of the government stands either diminished or enhanced. In his criticism, he initiates a new public discussion we can draw upon. In his certificate of achievement, opposing voices lose courage. Disquiet now has to climb a higher mountain to be heard)
Professor Amartya Sen is probably the most renowned Indian intellectual anywhere today. His contribution to development thinking has been seminal and his work on moral philosophy, within the analytic tradition, stands among the very best. Books such as On Ethics and Economics, Development as Freedom, and his Introduction to Adam Smith’sThe Theory of Moral Sentiments, along with his extensive articles on rational choice and human capability, show his ability to bridge disciplines and, in the process, foreground important issues about the nature of what Malraux called the “Human Estate.” He deservedly enjoys a place among the most innovative and influential thinkers of the last 50 years. These stellar qualities of mind, and of public engagement, earned him the Mastership of Trinity College, Cambridge, the Thomas W. Lamont professorship, and professorship of economics and philosophy at Harvard, the Bharat Ratna, and the Nobel Prize in Economics. His fine distinction between “beings” and “functionings,” as key components of the idea of human development has given us, at just the right level of abstraction, crucial conceptual pegs by which to assess the working of Indian democracy. Prof. Sen has written extensively on India.