Irresolution and Agency
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Irresolution and Agency book
This chapter locates the ideal agent in the figure of Yudhiṣṭhira, who he places alongside Hamlet and Antigone. Yudhiṣṭhira, in asking the most questions in the epic, epitomizes irresolution, yet, paradoxically, this very vacillation suggests a novel model of agency which is simultaneously a mode of self-discovery and self-making. By problematizing received codes of conduct, Yudhiṣṭhira actively creates ethical dilemmas for himself; by entertaining far-ranging alternatives to a course of action, he tries to be inclusive of other perspectives. This is a quest for a genuinely human basis of morality not tied to either a kṣatriya or brahmin dharma, but expands the boundaries of both. Through his doubts, ambivalences and immersion in contradictions, Yudhiṣṭhira shows a firmness of action at the end of the Mahābhārata, as being resolved not to abandon the dog despite Indra’s persuasions for the contrary. Chakrabarti sees in Yudhiṣṭhira a Renaissance Self combining the active with the contemplative to embark on an unfinished quest for a svadharma that grounds an agency open to exploring radical future possibilities. The ‘infinite determinability’ of what it means to be a human being or an agent now comes to mark a distinctive human agency ‘plunged unremittingly in agonized choice’.