Philosophies of East and West

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The dictionary meaning of the word ‘Philosophy’, as per Oxford & Thesaurus is- The study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence. Origin is from Greek word ‘philosophia’, means ‘love of wisdom’. ‘Philosophies’ is the plural of the original word.

Concise-Encyclopedia details of the word ‘philosophy’ are – literally the love of wisdom, a subject which deals with some of the most general questions about the universe, and our place in it. Philosophy differs from science, in that its questions can not be answered empirically, by observation or experiments; and differs from religion, in that its purpose is entirely intellectual, and allows no role for faith or revelation. Philosophy tends to proceed by an informal but rigorous process of conceptual analysis and reasoning. The major branches of philosophy are ‘metaphysics’, the inquiry into the most general features, relations, and processes of reality; ‘epistemology’, the investigation of the possibility, types, and sources of knowledge; ‘ethics’, the study of the types, sources, and justification of moral values and principles; and ‘logic’, the analysis of correct and incorrect reasoning. Philosophical issues can arise, concerning other areas of inquiry, for example, in art, law, religion, and science.

Philosophy of Science- A branch, often approached through the history of science, which studies the nature of scientific theories, explanations, and descriptions, and relates them to general philosophical issues in epistemology, logic, or metaphysics.


The Philosophy of Advaita-Vedanta is based on the sacred texts of the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Brahma Sutras, written in 1500 BC. Adi Sankara gave a systematisation and philosophical underpinning of this inquiry in his commentaries, which have become central texts in the Advaita Vedanta tradition.

Every acceptable philosophy should aid man in realising the purusarthas, the chief aims of human life.

* Dharma; the right way to life, the ” duties and obligations of the individual toward himself and the society as well as of the society toward the individual”:

* Artha ; the means to support and sustain one’s life :

*Kama ; Pleasure and enjoyment ;

*Moksha ; Liberation, release ;

According to Puligandla;

Any philosophy worthy of its title should not be a mere intellectual exercise but should have practical application in enabling man to live an enlightened life. A philosophy which makes no difference to the quality and style of our life is no philosophy, but an empty intellectual construction.

Advaita Vedanta gives an elaborate path to attain moksha. It entails more than self-enquiry or bare insight into one’s real nature. Practice, especially Jnana yoga, is needed to ” destroy one’s tendencies (vAasanA-s)” before real insight can be attained.

Liberation (Moksha)-

The aim of Advaita Vedanta is liberation, by knowledge of the identity of atman and Paramatman . According to Adi Sankara, knowledge of paramatman springs from inquiry into the sacred texts of the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, and Brahma Sutras. It is obtained by following the four stages of samanyasa(self- cultivation), sravana, listening to the teachings of the sages, manana, reflection on the teachings, and dhyana, contemplation of the truth ” that art Thou”.

Identity of Atman and Brahman-(readers who want to go more in-depth should read, jnana, prajna, and prajnanam brahma also)

Moksha is attained by realizing the identity of atman and paramatman. According to Potter,

The true Self is itself just that pure consciousness, without which nothing can be known in any way.

And that same true Self, pure consciousness, is not different from the ultimate world Principle, Paramatman [...]

[...] Paramatman (= the true self, pure consciousness) is the only reality (sat), since it is untinged by difference, the mark of ignorance, and since it is the one thing that is not sublimatable.

” Pure consciousness ” is the translation of jnanam. Although the common translation of jnanam is “consciousness”, the term has broader meaning of “knowing”; “becoming acquainted with “, “knowledge about anything”, “awareness”, “higher knowledge”.

” Parmatman” too has a broader meaning than ” pure consciousness”. According to Paul Deussen, Paramatman is :

* Satyam
* jnanam
* anantam

According to David Loy,

The knowledge of Paramatman is not intuition of Paramatman but itself is Paramatman

The same nuance can be found in satcitananda, the qualities of Paramatman, which are usually translated as ” Eternal Bliss Consciousness “, “Absolute Bliss Consciousness”, or “consisting of existence and thought and joy”. Satcitananda is composed of three Sanskrit words; sat (truth), cit (chit) (consciousness), ananda (bliss).

This knowledge is intuitive knowledge, a spontaneous type of knowing.

Mahavakyas – The Great Sentences

Mahavakyas, or “the great sentences” , state the unity of Paramatman and Atman, or”the inner immortal self, and the great cosmic power are one and the same”. There are many such sentences in the Vedas, however only one such sentence from each of the four Vedas is usually chosen,

1) pragnanam brahma from Aitareya Upanishad V.3 Rgveda

2) aham brahmasmi from Brahadaranyaka upanishad
I.4.10 Shukla Yajurveda
3) tat tvam asi from Chandogya Upanishad Samaveda
4) ayamatma brahma from Mandukya upanishad
II Atharvaveda


Advaitins believe that suffering is due to maya (also known as Mithya or Vaitathya ). Only knowledge of Paramatman can destroy Maya. At the relative plane Jiva and Iswara ” are regarded as different from and of a lower order of reality than the original consciousness that is the absolutely real (paaramaarthika) Brahman”. When Maya is removed, the truth of ” Brahma satyam Jagan Mithya Jivo Brahmaiva Na Aprah” is realised;

Brahman(the absolute- Paramatman) is alone real; this world is unreal; the Jiva or the individual soul is non-different from Brahman.

Such a state of bliss when achieved while living is called Jivanmukta .

Necessity of a Guru -

According to Sankara and others, anyone seeking to follow the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta must do so under the guidance of a Guru (teacher). It is the teacher who through exegesis of Sruti and skilful handling of words generates a hitherto unknown knowledge in the disciple. The teacher does not merely provide stimulus or suggestion.

Qualities of the Guru-

The Guru must have the following qualities(see Mundaka Upanishad 1.2.12):

1. Srotriya- must be learned in the Vedic scriptures and Sampradaya

2. Brahmanistha- literally meaning ‘established in Brahman’; must have realised the oneness of Brahman in everything, and in himself/herself.

The seeker must serve the Guru, and submit questions with all humanity in order to remove all doubts(see Bhagawad Gita 4.34). By doing so Advaita says, the seeker will attain Moksha (Liberation from cycle of births and deaths).
( My earlier blog titled ‘Hindu Philosophy of Advaita Vedanta (non-dualism),Nirguna and Saguna’ also should be read alongwith, for more knowledge about this philosophy)


Buddhism originated in India, historically founded by Siddhartha Gautama, well known all over as the Buddha(6th century BC). “Buddha” is also used as a title, meaning the “Enlightened one” . Theoritically any one who is enlightened is Buddha, and all beings are potential Buddhas according to Buddhism.

The core ideas of Buddhism include the Buddha’s teachings on three signs of being and the four Noble Truths. The three fundamental signs of being(tri-laksana) are: 1) Suffering (dukkha); Suffering is rooted in the very existence of all living beings in this world.2) Impermanence (annicca); there is nothing permanent in this universe; 3) non-self(anatman); there is no eternal and permanent Soul or change-less entity in the person.(this one is according to Chinese philosophy,and seems to be the reason behind China’s following Mao’s philosophy which was based on Marxism, about which we will read more in the following pages.)(We should notice the basic difference between Advaita Vedanta and Buddhism, eternal Soul and oneness of universe is the essence of Advaita, whereas Buddhism emphasises on Mind, so the two philosophies if joined together, that is Soul and Mind together can lead to the way to wisdom.)

Based on such an understanding , the four Noble Truths are presented as four closely related statements; 1) all life( birth, old age, sickness and death) is(filled with) suffering/dissatisfaction;2) the origin of suffering lies in clinging to or craving for things that can’t be permanent(such as sensual pleasure and self existence)(trsna); 3) one can be liberated from suffering or become enlightened (nirvana) by eliminating such craving;4) the way to eliminate such craving and achieve ‘nirvana’ is the Noble Eightfold path, which logistically consists of eight aspects/layers; right way of viewing(understanding), right thinking, right speech, right efforts, right action(conduct), right livelihood(right way of living), right mindfulness, and right meditative concentration.

The three signs of being, the four noble truths, and the noble eightfold path, are considered to be the Buddha’s central teachings and thus constitute the essence of Buddhist thought.

The Buddha’s life, the Buddha’s teachings(the Dharma),and the Buddhist community(the Sangha), are viewed as the three jewels of Buddhism.

There are two basic types of Buddhism. The first is “Hinayana Buddhism”, which is also called “Small vehicle” Buddhism. It emphasizes that each individual rides his own “small vehicle” to save himself/herself and takes self-enlightenment with wisdom as its ideal. This was the Indian Buddhism, or ‘Pali’ Buddhism(Buddhism delivered in the Indian Pali language). The other type is “Mahayana Buddhism”, also labelled “Great vehicle” Buddhism. This stresses that all individuals ride together in the Great vehicle towards Salvation(nirvana), and takes the compassionate Salvation of others as its ideal. Various forms of Chinese Buddhism belong to the tradition of ‘Mahayana Buddhism’. Geographically ‘Mahayana’ spread in north and east and is also called ‘Northern Buddhism’, while ‘Hinayana’(nowadays usually called ‘Theravada’ for some historical reason) is strong in south and southeast Asia and is thus also called “Southern Buddhism”. Though a minority trend within Indian Buddhism and in south/southeast Asia, ‘Mahayana Buddhism’ is now the mainstream Buddhism worldwide.

Buddhist Karma and Samsara–

In Buddhism, the term Samsara means reincarnation, transmigration, or the cycle or chain of birth and death. The term Karma means law of cause and effect, deed, or action. There is no Samsara without Karma; reincarnation takes place due to causal factor. Whenever a person does anything(acts, speaks, or even thinks), it produces a result, no matter how distant. This result is the effect of retribution of that action as Karma. According to Buddhism, one’s whole existence is made up of a chain of cause and effect; One’s present state is determined by one’s past ‘Karma’, and one’s destiny will be determined by one’s present ‘Karma’, good or bad. Consequently, what one does now will bear fruit in one’s future life. Because one’s birth and death will be repeated again and again. “Samsara’ itself is considered to be a chain of suffering. The root cause of the chain and all suffering is ignorance( avidya); the fundamental illusion of the existence of permanence. From ignorance comes a craving for and cleaving to things that can’t be permanent; the individual in a state of ignorance is thus bound to eternal ‘Samsara’ . The only hope for escaping this chain of suffering lies in replacing ignorance with enlightenment(Bodhi). All the teachings and practices of various Buddhist schools are attempts to contribute to enlightenment. The result of enlightenment is to achieve ‘nirvana’, or emancipation from the ‘Karmic’ cycle.


Confucius(551-479 B.C.) was born in the state of Lu, a region located in today’s Shandong province of China. Confucius was the key figure in the formation and development of Confucianism, into a movement of thought with philosophical significance. His teachings were written down by his followers over the centuries after his death. This text is called the Lun-yu(the Analects ).

Confucius’ primary concern is how one can morally cultivate oneself into a morally superior person, or a gentleman with ideal moral character. Behind Confucius’ ‘pursuit’ of the ideal moral character lies his understanding of the fundamental value of the human being, that the ultimate concern a person should have, is to strive to become a morally supreme person. Moral self-cultivation has to be pursued for its own sake, and with complete indifference to success or failure and to rewards, whether after death or during his lifetime.


(before fourth century B.C.) The identity of Lao Tzu is controversial. According to legendary account he was born in the state of Chu (roughly Hunan province now); Confucius once consulted Lao about rites. Traditionally Lao is credited with the authorship of Dao-De-Jing; He is the founder of Daoism, and is one of the two central figures of classical Daoism( the other figure is Zhuang Zi). Lao can be seen as a proxy figure who speaks for the ideas delivered in the texts.

Dao-De-Jing is one of the most important texts of Daoism, and of Chinese philosophy. As far as its emphasis is concerned, the text is a single volume of 81 chapters , which can be divided into two parts. The first part comprises chapters 1-37 and is the ‘Dao’, half of the text (Dao means Way or the way things are; ultimate reality or the Ultimate) (as the general metaphysical Dao ), the second part consists of chapters 38-81, the ‘De’, half of the text (the De is human virtue, or the manifestation of the Dao in human beings, that endows them with power). The text as a whole came to be known as the “Dao-de-Jing” (the classic of Dao and De). The short poetic Dao-De-Jing is the most frequently translated classical work of Chinese thought.


Japan seems to present two profiles of the west. One is that of a westernized nation, that is a major economic power in the world. Seeing the sky scrappers of Tokyo’s down town districts, hearing western rock or classical music even in village coffee shops, or tasting the French cuisine of its fine restaurants, it is easy for one to think of Japan as part of the western-based family of cultures. This face of Japan seems to confirm the interpretation that European rationality is dominating the world. We might be led to expect that with the passage of time, Japan will become, if anything, even more like the west.

Yet, there is also the other, non-western profile as well. It appears to the consternation of foreign business people, trying to establish western-like contractual relations with Japanese corporations. It appears to the frustration of social scientists in their attempts to apply to the Japanese context, western models of social, political, or economic analysis. It appears even to philosophers who have tried to study Japanese thought. Charles Moore( 1925-1993), the founder of the East-West philosophers conference half a century ago, felt able to write authoritatively about the ‘Chinese mind’ and the ‘Indian mind’. When he tried to write about the ‘Japanese mind’, however, he could do no better than call it ‘Enigmatic’. These reactions raise serious questions about how really ‘Western’, Japanese rationality has become.

In short Japan is a striking example of an Asian nation, that has been successful at western style industrialization, technological development, and capitalistic expansion. Still, it has somehow also kept much of its own values and modes of behaviour. Part of the answer is undoubtedly social and historical, and best left to the analysis of specialists in those fields. Part of it is also philosophical, however. Since the major influx of western ideas and technology into japan, in the later half of nineteenth century, Japanese philosophers have often addressed these very issues. In particular they have asked; 1) What the western form of scientific and technological thinking is and 2) How it might function in Japan, without eroding spiritual and moral values, traditional to East Asia.


The development of Marxist philosophy in China in the 20th century, is a remarkable facet of modern Chinese philosophy. Marxist philosophy is one of the three major components of Marxism, originally put forward by Karl Marx(1818-1883), the German philosopher and the founder of Communism, and Friedrich Engels(1820- 1895), Marx’s friend and collaborator.( The other two components are Marxist concepts of political economics and of Scientific Socialism).

Marxist philosophy consists of ‘dialectical materialism’ and ‘historical materialism’; the latter is viewed as an extension of the former, and looks at the nature and historical development of human society. It is noted that what Marx and Engels explicitly and systematically developed is historical materialism. A systematic elaboration of Marxist positions on metaphysics, epistemology, etc. (what is called dialectical materialism), has been largely developed by Marxist philosophers, including Chinese Marxist philosopher- Mao Ze dong(Mao Tse- dung).

The development of Marxist philosophy in China was largely implemented through the development of ‘dialectical materialism in China’, and came to fruition in Mao Ze-dong’s philosophical thought including his ‘ Marxist approach to knowledge’ in China.

Various forms of Materialism have developed in classical and modern Chinese philosophy. Generally speaking, Materialism is a western philosophical view, which holds that the world is entirely composed of matter. It is opposed to both idealism (Hegel, another German philosopher before Karl Marx, was an ‘idealist’, and Marx was a materialist and opposed Hegel fiercely) which holds that reality is fundamentally mental and spiritual in nature, and to mind-body dualism. In Marxist philosophy, materialism combines with the dialectical method, resulting in ‘dialectical materialism’. Dialectical materialism has developed in modern Chinese philosophy through the Marxist movement in China and the creative efforts of Chinese Marxist philosophers like Mao Ze-dong.

(Excerpts from ‘A History of Western Philosophy’ written by eminent philosopher Bertrand Russell)

The politics, religion, philosophy, and art, of any epoch in human history, are according to Marx, an outcome of its methods of production, and to a lesser extent, of distribution. I think’ he would not maintain’ that this applies to all the niceties of culture, but only to its broad outlines. The doctrine is called the ” materialist conception of history”. This is a very important thesis; in particular it concerns the historian of philosophy. I do not myself accept the thesis as it stands, but I think that, it contains very important elements of truth, and I am aware that, it has influenced my own views of philosophical development, as set forth in the present work. Let us; to begin with, consider the history of philosophy, in relation to Marx’s doctrine.

Subjectively, every philosopher appears to himself, to be engaged in the pursuit of something which may be called “truth” ; philosophers may differ as to the definition of “truth”, but at any rate it is something objective; something which in some sense everybody ought to accept. No man would engage in the pursuit of philosophy, if he thought that all philosophy is merely an expression of irrational bias. But every philosopher will agree that, many other philosophers have actuated by bias, and have had extra-rational reasons of which they were usually unconscious, for many of their opinions. Marx, like the rest; believes in the truth of his own doctrines; he does not regard them as nothing but, an expression of the feelings natural to a rebellious middle-class German Jew in the middle of the 19th century. What can be said about this conflict between the subjective and objective views of philosophy?

We may say in a broad way that Greek philosophy down to Aristotle, expresses the mentality appropriate to the City-State; that Stoicism is appropriate to a Cosmopolitan disposition; that Scholastic philosophy is an intellectual expression of the Church as an organization; that philosophy since Descartes, or at any rate since Locke tends to embody the prejudices of the commercial middle-class; and that Marxism and Fascism are philosophies appropriate to the modern Industrial State. This I think is both true and important. I think however, that Marx is wrong in two respects. First the social circumstances of which account must be taken are quite as much political as economic; they have to do with power of which wealth is only one form. Second social causation largely ceases to apply, as soon as a problem becomes detailed and technical. The first of these objections I have set forth in my book ‘Power’, and I shall therefore say no more about it. The second more intimately concerns the history of philosophy.

Marx fitted his philosophy of history into a mould suggested by Hegelian dialectic, but in fact there was only one triad that concerned him; Feudalism represented by the land-owner; Capitalism represented by the industrial employer; and Socialism represented by the wage-earner. Hagel thought of nations as the vehicles of dialectic movement; Marx substituted classes. He disclaimed always all ethical or humanitarian reasons, for preferring Socialism or taking the side of wage-earner; he maintained , not that this side was ethically better, but that it was the side taken by the dialectic in its wholly deterministic movement. He might have said that he did not advocate Socialism, but prophesied it. This however would not have been wholly true. He undoubtedly believed every dialectical movement to be in some impersonal sense, a progress, and he certainly held that Socialism, once established, would minister to human happiness, more than either feudalism or capitalism, have done. These beliefs, though they must have controlled his life, remained largely in the background, so far as his writings are concerned.

Considered purely as a philosopher, Marx has grave shortcomings. He is too political, too much wrapped up in the problems of his time. His purview is confined to this planet, and within this planet to man. Since Copernicus; it has been evident, that man has not the cosmic importance, which he formerly arrogated to himself. No man who has failed to assimilate this fact, has a right to call his philosophy Scientific.

There goes with this limitation to terrestrial affairs, a readiness to believe in progress as a universal law. This readiness characterized the 19th century, and existed in Marx as much as in his contemporaries. It is only because of the belief in the inevitability of progress, that Marx thought it possible to dispense with ethical considerations. If Socialism was coming, it must be an improvement. He would have readily admitted that, it would not seem to be an improvement to land owners and capitalists, but that only showed that they were out of harmony with the dialectic movement of the time. Marx professed himself atheist, but retained a cosmic optimism, which only theism could justify.

Broadly speaking, all the elements in Marx’s philosophy which are derived from Hegel are unscientific in the sense that there is no reason whatever, to suppose them true.

Perhaps the philosophic dress that Marx gave to his socialism had really not much to do with the basis of his opinions. It is easy to restate the most important part of what he had to say, without any reference to dialectic.

He was impressed by the appalling cruelty of the industrial system, as it existed in England a hundred years ago which he came to know thoroughly through Engels and the reports of Royal Commission. He saw that the system was likely to develop from free competition towards monopoly, and that its injustice must produce a movement of revolt in the proletariat. He held that, in a thoroughly industrialized community, the only alternative to private capitalism is State ownership of land and Capital. None of these propositions are matters of philosophy and I shall not therefore consider their truth or falsehood. The point is that if true, they suffice to establish what is practically important in his system. The Hegelian trappings might therefore be dropped with advantage.

Modern Europe and America have been divided politically and ideologically into three camps. There are Liberals, who still , as far as may be, follow Locke or Bentham, but with varying degrees of adaptations to the needs of industrial organization. There are Marxists, who control the government in Russia, and are likely to become increasingly influential in various other countries. These two sections of opinion are philosophically not very widely separated, both are rationalistic, and both, in intention are scientific and empirical. But from the point of view of practical politics, the division is sharp. It appears already in the letter of James Mill saying ” their notions of property look ugly”.

It must, however, be admitted that there are certain respects in which, the rationalisation of Marx is subject to limitation. Although he holds that his interpretation of the trend of development is true, and will be borne out by events, he believes that the argument will only appeal (apart from rare exceptions) to those whose class interest is in agreement with it. He hopes little from persuing, everything from the class war.
Marx is thus committed in practice to power politics, and to the doctrine of a master class, though not of a master race. It is true that as a result of the Social revolution, the division of classes is expected ultimately to disappear, giving place to complete political and economic harmony. But this is a distant ideal like the Second Coming; in the meantime, there is war and dictatorship, and insistence upon ideological orthodoxy.

The third section of modern opinion, represented politically by Nazis and Fascists differs philosophically from the other two, far more profoundly than they differ from each other. It is anti-rational and anti-scientific. Its philosophical progenitors are Rousseau, Fichte, and Nietzsche. It emphasizes Will, specially will to power; this it believes to be mainly concentrated in certain races and individuals, who therefore have a right to rule.

Until Rousseau, the philosophical world had a certain unity. This has disappeared for the time being, but perhaps not for long. It can be recovered by a rationalistic re-conquest of men’s minds, but not in any other way, since claims to mastery can only breed strife.

EASTERN PHILOSOPHY includes the various philosophies of Asia, including Indian philosophy, Chinese philosophy, Japanese philosophy, Iranian philosophy, Korean philosophy.

Broadly speaking the term Eastern philosophy can also include Babylonian philosophy, Jewish philosophy, and Islamic philosophy, though these may also be considered Western philosophies.


Arthur Schopenhauer developed a philosophy that was essentially a synthesis of Hinduism with western thought. He anticipated that the Upanishads( Vedanta philosophy of India) would have a much greater influence in the west than they have had. However Schopenhauer was working with heavily flawed translations of Upanishads, and many feel that(including Swami Vivekanand) he may not necessarily have accurately grasped the Eastern philosophy which interested him.

Recent attempts to incorporate western philosophy into eastern thought include the Kyoto school of philosophers, who combined the phenomenology of Husserl with the insights of Zen Buddhism. Wastuji Tetsuro, a 20th century Japanese philosopher attempted to combine the works of Soren Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Heidegger with eastern philosophy. Some have claimed that there is also a definite eastern element within Heidegger’s philosophy. Heidegger did spend some time attempting to translate the Tao Te Ching into German, working with his Chinese student Paul Hsaio. It has also been claimed that much of Heidegger’s later philosophy, particularly the sacredness of being, bears a distinct similarity to Taoist ideas. There are clear parallels between Heidegger and the work of Kyoto school, and ultimately it may be read that Heidegger’s philosophy is an attempt to turn Eastwards in response to the crisis in Western civilization. However this is only an interpretation.

The 20th century Indian philosopher sri Aurobindo was influenced by “German Idealism”, and his integral Yoga is regarded as a synthesis of eastern and western thought. The German phenomenologist Jean Gebser’s writings on the history of Consciousness referred to a new planetary Consciousness that would bridge this gap. Followers of these two authors are often grouped together under the term “integral thought”.

Swiss psychologist Carl Jung was deeply influenced by the I Ching. The I Ching(book of changes) is an ancient Chinese text from Shang Dynasty( Bronze Age 1700BC-1050BC), and uses a system of yin and yang, which it places into hexagrams for the purpose of divination. Carl Jung’s idea of Synchronicity moves towards oriental view of Causality, as he states in the foreword to Richard Wilhem’s translation of the I Ching. He explains that this Chinese view of the world is based not on science as the world knows it, but on chance.

The Sanskrit term for “philosopher” is “darshanika”, one who is familiar with the systems of philosophy, or “darshanas”.

India has a rich and diverse philosophical tradition dating back to the composition of the “Upanishads”(1500 BC). According to Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan , the oldest of these constitute”… the earliest philosophical compositions of the world.”

The main schools of Indian philosophy were formalised chiefly between 1000 B.C. to the early centuries A.D. Subsequent centuries produced commentaries and reformulations continuing as late as 20th century by Sri Aurobindo and Prabhupada among others. Competition and integration between various schools was intense during the formative years, especially between 800 B.C. to 200 A.D. Some like the Jain, Buddhist, Shaiva, and Advaita schools survived, while others like Sankhya and Ajivika did not, either being assimilated or going extinct.

Indian thinkers of antiquity (very much like those of the Hellenistic schools), viewed philosophy as a practical necessity, that needed to be cultivated, in order to understand how life can best be led. It became a custom for Indian writers to explain at the beginning of the philosophical works, how it serves human ends(purusartha). Recent scholarship has shown that there was a great deal of intercourse between Greek and Indian philosophy during the era of Hellenistic expansion.

Indian philosophy is distinctive in its application of analytical rigour, to metaphysical problems, and goes into very precise details about the nature of reality, the structure and function of the human psyche, and how the relationship between the two has important implication for human salvation(Moksha). Rishis centred philosophy on an assumption that there is a unitary underlying order in the universe, which is all pervasive and omniscient. The efforts by various schools were concentrated on explaining this order and the metaphysical entity at its source(Brahman , world soul or eternal soul). The concept of natural law(Dharma) provided a basis for understanding questions of how life on earth should be lived.


Modern Indian philosophy was developed during British occupation(1750-1947). The philosophers in this era gave contemporary meaning to traditional philosophy. Some of them were Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya, Raja Rammohan Roy, Sri Aurobindo, Rahul Sankritayan, Debi Prasad Chattopadhyaya, M.N.Roy, Indra Sen, Haridas Chaudhuri, Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, Anand Coomaraswami, Ramanna Maharshi, and Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan.

Among contemporary Indian philosophers, Osho and Jiddu Krishnamurti, developed their own schools of thought. Pandurang Shastri Athavale, U.G.Krishnamurti, and Krishnananda are other prominent names in contemporary Indian philosophy.


The “Arthashastra’, attributed to the Mauryan Minister ‘Chanakya’, is one of the early Indian texts devoted to ‘political philosophy’. It is dated 4th century B.C. and discusses ideas of Statecraft and economic policy.

The Political philosophy most closely associated with India is one of Ahimsa(non-violence), and Satya-graha(fight for truth), popularized by Mahatma Gandhi during Indian struggle for Independence. It was influenced by Indian philosophy, particularly the ‘Vedanta’ philosophy; as well as secular writings of Leo Tolstoy, Henry David Thoreu, and John Ruskin. In turn it influenced the later movements of Independence for civil rights, especially those led by Martin Luther King Jr. and to a lesser extent Nelson Mandela. In India even after achieving independence, people did not feel free specially during the regime of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, and a leader and freedom fighter of Mahatma Gandhi’s era, Jaya Prakasha Narayana(1902-1979), gave a call for ‘Total Revolution’, some details of which need mention here.


On 1st April 1974, Indira Gandhi, the then prime minister of India, attacked Jayaprakash Narayana for demanding dissolution of elected government. A silent student procession of 10,000 was held in Patna(Bihar) on 8th April 1974. Narayana advocated a program of social transformation by participation of youth in social activities. He called it ‘Total Revolution’(Sampoorna Kranti). Protests and closure of colleges and universities were also happened during 15th July 1974. Narayana called for three day state wide strike starting from 3rd October and addressed a massive public gathering on 6th October 1974.

On 18th November 1974, at a massive rally at Patna, Narayana spoke to outcast congress government of Indira Gandhi. Indira Gandhi dragged this conflict to election arena, and told to wait until next election. Narayana realized the importance of fighting within democratic system, rather than party less democracy, so he contacted opposition parties, which finally resulted in formation of ‘Janata Party’. This movement of JP(Jayaprakasha Narayana was fondly called by this nickname), turned into ‘Satyagraha’ and volunteers kept protesting at Bihar legislative Assembly, inviting arrests starting from 4th December 1974.

JP kept travelling all across India strengthening and uniting opposition parties to defeat congress. During this time Allahabad High court declared Indira Gandhi’s election to the Parliament in 1971, void on grounds of electoral malpractice(corrupt means). The court thus ordered her to be removed from her parliamentary seat, and banned her from contesting in elections for six years. It effectively removed her from Prime minister’s office. She rejected the call for resignation, and moved to Supreme court. She recommended president of India V.V.Giri to appoint A.N.Roy as Chief Justice of India to get favor in her case. JP opposed such moves of Indira Gandhi in his letters to her. But she was adamant like a dictator, and imposed the ‘Emergency’ on the nation to safeguard her position, on 26th June 1975. JP, opposition leaders, and dissenting members of her own congress party were arrested on that day. There was complete censorship on media. Nobody knew what was going on, not even Indira Gandhi knew the facts of excesses on ordinary citizens. Her son Sanjay Gandhi was doing horrors on public. Indira Gandhi was getting the wrong feed back about emergency and its effects, from her sycophants, and concluded in 1977 that things have changed and the tide in the country was in her favor.

So, Indira Gandhi revoked the emergency on 21 March 1977, and announced elections. It was under JP’s guidance that the ‘Janata Party’ fought those elections and defeated Indira Gandhi and her congress party very convincingly, and with a clear majority JP’s Janata Party was voted to power.

JP’s ‘Total Revolution’ involved many leaders of that time in India like, Morarji Desai, Jagjivan ram, George Fernandez, Charan Singh, H.D.Devegowda, I.k.Gujral, A.B.Vajpayee, L.K.Advani, Karpuri Thakur, Sharad Yadav, who worked together in a nonviolent movement based on political philosophy of India and succeeded in ousting Indira Gandhi’s congress, which was insensitive to the grievances of common men.


In appreciation of complexity of the Indian philosophy, T.S.Eliot wrote that the great philosophers of India “make most of the European philosophers look like school boys”. Arthur Schopenhauer(1788-1860) used Indian philosophy to improve upon ‘Kantian’ thought. In preface to his book ‘The world as will and Ideas’, Schopenhauer writes that ‘one who has also received and assimilated the sacred primitive Indian wisdom, then he is the best of all prepared to hear what I have to say to him’. The 19th century American philosophical movement ‘Transcendentalism’ was also influenced by Indian thought.

Max Muller in his lectures noted the striking similarity between Vedanta and the system of Jewish-Dutch philosopher Spinoza(1632-1677), saying the ‘Brahman’ as conceived in the Upanishads and defined by Sankara, is clearly the same as Spinoza’s ‘Substance’. Helena Blavatsky, a founder of the Theosophical Society also compared Spinoza’s religious thought to Vedanta, writing in an unfinished essay” As to Spinoza’s Deity- natura naturans- conceived in his attributes simply and alone; and the same Deity as natura naturata or as conceived in the endless series of modifications or correlations, the direct out flowing results from the properties of these attributes, it is the Vedanta Deity, pure and simple.”

(As described by Bertrand Russell, in his book “A History Of Western Philosophy”)

The distinctive culture of the Muslim World, though it began in Syria, soon came to flourish most in the Eastern and Western extremities, Persia and Spain. The Syrians, at the time of the conquest, were admirers of Aristotle, whom Nestorians preferred to Plato, the philosopher favoured by Catholics. The Arabs first acquired their knowledge of Greek philosophy from the Syrians, and thus from the beginning, they thought Aristotle more important than Plato. Nevertheless their Aristotle wore a Neo-Platonic dress. Alkindi ( the first to write philosophy in Arabic, and the only philosopher of note who was himself an Arab, translated parts of ‘Enneads’ of Plotinus, and published his translation under the title ‘The Theology of Aristotle’. This introduced great confusion into Arabic ideas of Aristotle, from which it took centuries to recover.

Meanwhile in Persia, Muslims came in contact with India. It was from Sanskrit writings, that they acquired, during the 8th century, their first knowledge of astronomy. About 830 Mohammed bin Musa al khwarazmi a translator of mathematical and astronomical books from Sanskrit, published a book, which was translated into Latin in the 20th century, under the title’ Algoritmi de numero Indorum’ . It was from this book that the west first learnt of what we call ‘Arabic’ numerals, which ought to be called ‘Indian’. The same author wrote a book on Algebra which was used in the west as a text book until the 16th century.

Persian civilization, remained both intellectually and artistically admirable, though it was seriously damaged by the invasion of the Mongols, in the 13th century. ‘Omar Khayyam’, the only man known to me, who was both poet and mathematician, reformed the calendar in 1079. The Persians were great poets. Firdausi(c.a.941), author of ‘Shahnama’, is said by those who have read him to be comparable to Homer. They were also remarkable as mystics, which other Muslims were not. The Sufi sect which still exists allowed itself great latitude, in the mystical and allegorical interpretations, of orthodox dogma; it was more or less neo-Platonic.

Two Mohammeden philosophers, one from Persia and one from Spain, demand special notice; they are Avicenna and Averroes. Of these the former is the more famous among Muslims, the latter among Christians.

Avicenna(Ibn Sina)(980-1037) spent his life in the sort of places, one used to think only exist in poetry. He was born in the province of Bokhara. For a while he taught medicine and philosophy at Isfahan; then he settled in Tehran. He was not a saintly character, in fact he had a passion for wine and women; Sometimes he was in hiding, sometimes in prison. He was the author of an Encyclopedia, almost unknown to the east, because of the hostility of theologians, but influential in the West, through latin translation.

His philosophy is nearer to Aristotle and less neo-Platonic, than that of his Muslim predecessors. Like the Christian scholastics later, he is occupied with the problem of universals. Plato said, they were anterior to things. Aristotle has two views, one when he is thinking, the other when he is combating Plato. That makes him ideal material for the commentator. Avicenna invented a formula ‘Thought brings about the generality in forms’. From this it might be supposed that he didn’t believe in Universals apart from the thought. But it was not so, as we notice in his further writings. He wrote Genera- that is Universals- are at once before things, in things, after things. He explains this as follows. They are before things in God’s understanding. (God decides for instance to create cats. This requires that he should have the idea “cat”, which is thus in this respect, anterior to particular cats.) Genera are in things in natural objects.(When cats have been created, felinity is in each of them.) Genera are after things in our thought. (When we have seen many cats we notice their likeness to each other and arrive at the general idea “cat”.) This view is obviously intended to reconcile different theories.

Averroes(Ibn Rushd) (1126-1198) was born at Cordova(Spain), where his father and grand father had been cadis; he himself was a cadi. He was accused of cultivating the philosophy of ancients at the expense of true faith. Al-Mansur (the ruler of that period) published an edit to the effect, that God had decreed hell-fire for those who thought that truth could be found by the unaided reason. All the books that could be found on logic and metaphysics were given to the flames.

Shortly after this time the Moorish territory in Spain was greatly diminished by Christian conquests. Muslim philosophy in Spain ended with Averroes; and in the rest of the Muslim world a rigid orthodoxy put an end to speculation.

Ueberweg, rather amusingly undertakes to defend Averroes against the charge of unorthodoxy- a matter one would say, for Muslims to decide. Ueberweg points out that, according to the mystics, every text of the Koran had 7 or 70 or 700 layers of interpretation, the literal meaning being only for the ignorant vulgar. I would seem to follow that a philosopher’s teaching could not possibly conflict with Koran; for among 700 interpretations there would surely be at least one that would fit what the philosopher had to say.

Averroes was concerned to improve the Arabic interpretation of Aristotle, which had been unduly influenced by Neo-Platonism. He gave to Aristotle the sort of reverence that is given to the founder of a religion- much more than was given by Avicenna. He holds that the existence of God can be proved by reason independently of revelation, a view also held by Thomas Aquinas. As regards immortality, he seems to have adhered closely to Aristotle, maintaining that the soul is not immortal, but intellect is. This however does not secure personal immortality, since intellect is one and the same when manifested in different persons. This view naturally was combated by Christian philosophers.

Averroes like most of the later Muslim philosophers, though a believer, was not rigidly orthodox. There was a sect of completely orthodox theologians, who objected to all philosophies as deleterious to the faith. One of these, named Algazel, wrote a book called “Destruction of the Philosophers”, pointing out that since all necessary truth is in the Koran, there is no need of speculation, independent of revelation. Averroes replied by a book called “Destruction of the Destruction”. The religious dogmas that Algazel specially upheld against the philosophers were the creation of the world out of nothing, the reality of the divine attributes, and the resurrection of the body. Averroes regards religion as containing philosophic truth in allegorical form. This applies in particular to creation, which he in his philosophic capacity, interprets in an Aristotelian fashion.

Averroes is more important in Christian than in Muslim philosophy. In the latter he was a dead end; in the former a beginning. He was translated into Latin in the 13th century by Michael Scott; as his works belong to the latter half of the 12th century, this is surprising. His influence in Europe was very great, not only in the scholastic, but also on a large body of unprofessional free thinkers, who denied immortality and were called Averroists. Among professional philosophers, his admirers were at first especially among the Franciscans, and at the university of Paris.

Arabic philosophy is not important as original thought. Men like Avicenna and Averroes are essentially commentators. Speaking generally, the views of the more scientific philosophy come from Aristotle and the Neo-Platonists in logic and metaphysics, from Galen in medicine, from Greek and Indian sources in mathematics and astronomy, and among mystics religious philosophy has also an admixture of old Persian beliefs. Writers in Arabic showed some originality in mathematics and in chemistry- in the latter case as an incidental result of alchemical researchers. Muslim civilization in its great days was admirable in the arts, and in many technical ways, but it showed no capacity for independent speculation in theoretical matters. Its importance which must not be underrated, is as a transmitter. Between ancient and modern European civilization, the dark ages intervened. The Muslims and Byzantines, while lacking the intellectual energy required for innovation, preserved the apparatus of civilization- educational books and learned leisure. Both stimulated the west when it emerged from barbarism- the Muslims chiefly in the 13th century, the Byzantines chiefly in 15th century. In each case the stimulus produced new thought better than any produced by the transmitters- in the one case Scholasticism, in the other the Renaissance( which however had other causes also).

Between the Spanish Moors and the Christians, the Jews formed a useful link. There were many Jews in Spain, who remained when the country was reconquered by the Christians. Since they knew Arabic and perforce acquired the language of the Christians, they were able to supply the translations. Another means of transfusion arose through Muslim persecution of Aristotelians in the 13th century, which led Moorish philosophers to take refuge with Jews, especially in Provence.

The Spanish Jews produced one philosopher of importance, Maimonides. He was born in Cordova in 1135, but went to Cairo at the age of 30, and stayed there for the rest of his life. He wrote in Arabic, but was immediately translated into Hebrew. A few decades after his death, he was translated into Latin, probably at the request of Emperor Fredrick II. He wrote a book called ‘Guide to Wanderers’, addressed to philosophers who have lost their faith. Its purpose is to reconcile Aristotle with Jewish theology. Aristotle is the authority on the sublunary world, revelation on the heavenly. But philosophy and revelation come together in the knowledge of God. The pursuit of truth is a religious duty. Astrology is rejected. The Pentateuch is not always to be taken literally; when the literal sense conflicts with reason, we must seek an allegorical interpretation. As against Aristotle he maintains that God created not only form, but matter out of nothing. He gives a summary of the ‘Timaeus’(which he knew in Arabic), preferring it on some points to Aristotle. The essence of God is unknowable, being above all predicated perfections. The Jews considered him heretical and went so far as to invoke the Christian ecclesiastical authorities against him. Some think that he influenced Spinoza, but this is very questionable.

SIKH PHILOSOPHY– (15th Century)

The philosophy of Sikhism is covered in great detail in the ‘Guru Granth Sahib’, the Sikh holy text. Detailed guidance is given to followers on how to conduct their lives, so that peace and salvation can be obtained in this life, rather than the afterlife. The holy text outlines the positive actions that one must take to make progress in the evolution of the person. One must remember the creator at all times-’ it reminds the follower that the Soul is on loan from God who is ever merciful’, and that the follower must dedicate his/her life to all good causes- to help make this life more worthwhile.

The Sikhs must believe in the following values-

1) Equality- All humans are equal before God. No discrimination is allowed on the basis of caste, race, gender, creed, origin, color, education, status, wealth etc. The principles of universal equality and brotherhood are important pillars of Sikhism.

2) Personal Right- Every person has a right to life, but this right is restricted and has certain duties attached-simple living is essential. A Sikh is expected to rise early in the morning, meditate and pray, consume simple food, perform an honest day’s work, carry out duties for his or her family, enjoy life and always be positive, be charitable and support the needy.

3) Actions Count- Salvation is obtained by one’s actions- good deeds, remembrance of God- Naam simran, and Kirtan,

4) Living A Family Life- Sikhism encourages to live as a family unit, to provide and nurture children for the perpetual benefit of creation (as opposed to ‘sanyasa’ or living as a ‘monk’ which was and remains, a common spiritual practice in India.)

5) Sharing- It is encouraged to share and give to charity, 10% of one’s net earnings.

6) Accept God’s Will- Develop your personality so that you recognize happy events and tragic events as one and same, the will of God causes them.

7) The Four Fruits Of Life- Truth, Contentment, Contemplation, and Naam(in the name of God).

The Sikh gurus tell us that-

* Kill the Five Thieves- Our mind and spirit are constantly attacked by the five evils- Kaam(lust), Krodh(rage), Lobh(greed), Moh(attachment),and Ahankar(ego). A Sikh needs to constantly attack and overcome these five vices; be always vigilant and on guard to tackle these five thieves all the time.

* Positive human qualities – Sikh gurus taught the Sikhs to develop and harness positive human qualities, that lead the Soul closer to God and away from evil. These are Sat(truth), Daya(compassion), Santokh(contentment), Nimrata(humility), and pyar(love).


Greeks invented Western Philosophy.
Western philosophy begins with Thales, who fortunately can be dated by the fact that he predicted an eclipse, which according to the Astronomers, occurred in the year 585 B.C. Western philosophy therefore born at the beginning of the 6th century B.C. So if we calculate it from now, then it is six hundred years before Christ and two thousand years after Christ, the total of these two is two thousand six hundred years, which is the age of western philosophy.

Socrates’ importance in the development of western philosophy is such that, all the philosophers before him are lumped together by historians under the title ‘Pre-Socrates’. Since this blog is not about the history of philosophy, but about the philosophy which influenced the world, so we will not go into the details of Pre-Socrates era.

The idealist philosopher ‘Plato’ has the credit for writings about the life and works of Socrates.
In classical Greece, great attention was paid to the Oracles, uttered in the name of the God Apollo, by the entranced Priestesses in the shrine of Delphi. When asked if there was anyone wiser than Socrates, a priestess replied that there was no one. Socrates professed to be puzzled by this Oracle, and questioned one after another politicians, poets, and experts claiming to possess wisdom of various kinds. None of them were able to defend their reputation against his cross questioning, and Socrates concluded that the Oracle was correct , in that he alone realized that his own wisdom was worth nothing.

Socrates did not claim to possess himself the degree of wisdom which would keep him from wrongdoing. Instead, he said that he relied on an inner ‘divine voice’, which would interfere if ever he was on the point of taking a wrong step.

A true philosopher Socrates maintained, will have no fear of death. ‘Socrates was punished for corrupting the youth of Athens(Greece), in 5th century B.C., a series of the capital charges were impiety, the introduction of strange Gods etc.’ He was given death penalty by drinking a cup of poison, hemlock, and during this moment, after his meeting with his weeping wife, with their youngest child in her arms, he continued,” true philosophers care little for bodily pleasures, such as food, drink, and sex, and they find the body as a hindrance, rather than a help, in the pursuit of scientific knowledge.” Thought is best when the mind is gathered into itself and none of these things trouble it-neither sounds nor sights or pain, nor again any pleasure- when it takes leave of the body, and has as little as possible to do with it. So philosophers in their pursuit of truth, continually try to keep their souls detached from their bodies. But death is the full separation of soul from body; hence a true philosopher has, all lifelong, been in effect seeking and craving after death.

The narrative framework provided by Socrates’ imprisonment and death is commonly accepted by scholars as authentic; and certainly it is Plato’s account of these last hours which has held the imagination of writers and artists through the centuries.

Socrates begins to marvel at the new and immense horizons, that open up to the mind when it “understands”. For Plato the world of “ideas” is an unexplored terrain, that holds the key to everything.

Why is it hard for us to imagine the intensity of this wonder? Because the world of ideas and concepts has become too familiar to us. Knowledge and the sciences have developed to the point that we are now blas√© about all things intellectual, as if we could simply be indifferent to all of humanity’s achievements.

Most of us have a utilitarian view of ideas.(They help us to understand things, to control things, to make plans, to devise techniques and technical instruments etc.) But Plato has a vision of ideas that is enthusiastic in the literal sense of the word; they are possessed by a God. If he does not quite worship them, he still believes they possess a divine power, and he never fails to admire them in their unity and harmony.

It is going to take a strenuous effort to leave behind our familiar intellectual terrain. But if we do, we may find that philosophy is for the mind, what a trip to exotic places is for the body. coming home from a holiday, have not we gained something; relaxation, a tan, distraction? with philosophy, the benefit is quite simply, understanding.

About Plato, it’s typical that he never speaks in his own voice, but appears in dialogues in which Socrates is the protagonist. Even his most difficult and complex dialogues like ‘The Republic’(not to speak of ‘The Sophist’ or Parmenides)do not -strictly speaking- present his own doctrines. Platonism certainly existed as a doctrine, because the Academy, the school founded by Plato, survived until the very end of the ancient world and enjoyed an extraordinary influence, as it still does today. But Plato’s method is the dialogue. And the author is hidden behind his characters, often disguised by his ironic tone.

Aristotle, Plato’s student, also had an exceptional destiny(since he was the tutor of the future Alexander the Great and was for many centuries, considered the Philosopher).

He was a brilliant and subtle teacher. A comment has been ascribed to him;’ Plato was my friend, but my greatest friend was the truth.’

Aristotle was a logician, a physicist, a biologist, and a political theorist. He reconstructed both, Ethics and ‘First Philosophy’(which was not yet called metaphysics). No subject of inquiry was foreign to him. It is not surprising that he has had such an impact on posterity.


CHRISTIAN PHILOSOPHY,JEWS,ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY, AND ANCIENT PHILOSOPHY AFTER ARISTOTLE—(out of these we have already covered Islamic philosophy under the title ‘Muhammedan’ philosophy, considering it a philosophy of east)

Since the death of Aristotle, there have been many interruptions, countless things forgotten, and innumerable political and human dramas; Greece lost its political independence, the Roman empire itself collapsed, the library of Alexandria was destroyed by fire, Europe fell before the great invasions, and much else.

The advent of Christianity as the dominant, and then the exclusive religious doctrine, must have shattered the bonds, connecting cultivated Romans with their extraordinary Greek philosophical sources.

The church fathers attempted, in weaving these threads anew, to turn them to their own advantage. But it was much later and then thanks only to Arab sources, that Aristotle was translated into Latin. The roundabout routes that history has imposed. There have been so many obstacles between us and the knowledge of Greek philosophy.

Significant philosophical schools appeared and evolved in Greece and in the Roman world; stoicism, epicureanism, and Neo-Platonism. The lengthy period known as the Medieval ages or middle ages, had their own moments of intense intellectual activity. From Damascus to Andalusia, from Toledo to Paris, from Oxford to Louvain, there were translations of ancient philosophy and commentaries on them; each of the three monotheistic religions(Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), displayed extraordinary theological finesse; Algebra was invented and disseminated in the Arab world; the Christian west gradually revived the inspiration of the ancients, while making progress, in experimental knowledge of the natural world.

Saint Augustine (354-430) and Saint Thomas Aquinas(1225-1274) were remarkable thinkers, but they were also men of deep faith, and their work is so permeated by knowledge of the holy scriptures, and debates within the church, that direct access to their texts is almost impossible.

Emperor Augustus defeated Antony and Cleopatra in 31 B.C. In the centuries between the death of Alexander and the death of Cleopatra, the domains of Alexander’s other generals broke up into smaller kingdoms which one by one came under the sway of Rome, and eventually became provinces of its empires. These centuries in which Greek civilization flourished throughout all the lands and the Eastern Mediterranean, are known as the Hellenistic age.

In this period Greek colonists came into contact with widely different systems of thought. In Bactria at the far eastern end of the former empire, Greek philosophy encountered the religion of Buddha, energetically propagated by the Indian king, Asoka; two surviving dialogues tell the story of the conversion to Buddhism, of the Greek king, Menander. In Palestine Greeks met the Jews, who since their return in 538 B.C. from their Babylonian exile, had formed a strictly monotheistic community centred on the Temple worship in Jerusalem.

The best known philosophers in Athens in the generation after Alexander’s death were members neither of the Academy nor of the Lyceum( who in Athens carried on the work of their founders Plato and Aristotle), but founders of new rival institutions; Epicurus, who established a school known as ‘The Garden’, and Zeno whose followers were called ‘Stoics’, because he taught in the ‘Stoa’ or painted portico. The multiplication of schools in Athens reflected an increasing interest in philosophy as an essential part of the education of the upper classes.


It was Augustus’ reign as Emperor of Rome (Until AD 14), that Jesus was born, and crucified by Tiberius, the successor to Augustus, in Ad 30. This Jewish teacher(Jesus was a Jew, and was circumcised as per Jewish traditions. Jews like Muslims are circumcised at the time of their birth) living in a remote province of the empire, and unconcerned with the issues which had occupied Plato and Aristotle, was to have an effect on the history of philosophy, no less decisive than theirs. But the impact of his teachings was delayed and indirect.

It was 65 AD (that is much later than the crucifixion of Jesus), that Christian Gospels began to be written.

Jesus’ own moral doctrine, as reported in the Gospels, was not without precedent. In the sermon on the Mount, he taught that we should not render evil for evil; but that had been the teaching of Socrates in the ‘Republic’. He urged his hearers to love their neighbours as themselves; but he was quoting from the Hebrew Bible of Jews, written many centuries earlier. He insisted that we must refrain from not just wrongdoing, but from the thoughts and desires which lead to wrongdoing; in this he was in accord with Aristotle’s teaching that virtue concerns passion as well as action, and that truly virtuous passion, is not just continent but temperate. He taught his disciples to despise the pleasures and honours of the world; but so in their different ways did the Epicureans and Stoics.

All the Gospels represent Jesus as the son of God. Jewish philosopher Philo, a contemporary of Jesus had written treatises reconciling Platonism with the Hebrew Bible of Jews. But the gospel of St. John calls Jesus the word of God, one with God before the world began, is the very same as the human being Jesus, who had lived and died in Galilee and Judea. Before that there was no precedent for the idea that the God of monotheistic Judaism, a transcendent God as far from anthropomorphism, as the God of Xenophanes, Parmenides, and Plato, could take flesh and live among men. The Christian doctrine of the incarnation, provided fertile ground for the development of new subtle philosophical concepts, which affected people’s thinking, not only about divinity, but about human nature itself.

Christianity at first was preached by Jews to Jews, as a reformed Judaism. St. James and to a lesser extent St. Peter wished it to remain no more than this, and they might have prevailed, but for St. Paul, who was determined to admit gentiles, without demanding circumcision or submission to the Mosaic law. The communities of Christians that St. Paul established in many places, were, no doubt composed partly of converts from among the Jews, partly of gentiles seeking a new religion. The certainties of Judaism made it attractive in that age of dissolving faiths, but circumcision was an obstacle to the conversion of men. The ritual laws in regard to food were also inconvenient. These two obstacles even if there had been no others, would have made it almost impossible for the Hebrew religion to become universal. Christianity, owing to St. Paul retained what was attractive in the doctrines of the Jews, without the features that gentiles found hardest to assimilate (mainly circumcision and Mosaic laws).

The attitude of Christians to contemporary Jews, early became hostile. The received view was that God had spoken to the Patriarchs and Prophets, who were holy men and foretold the coming of Christ; but when Christ came, the Jews failed to recognize Him, and were thenceforth, to be accounted wicked. Moreover Christ had abrogated the Mosaic law, substituting the two commandments to love God and our neighbour; this also the Jews perversely failed to recognize. As soon as, the state became Christian, anti-Semitism, in its medieval form, began, nominally as a manifestation of Christian zeal. How far the economic motives by which it was inflamed in the later times, operated in the Christian empire, it seems impossible to ascertain.


The last great Greek pagan philosopher was Plotinus(Ad 205-270). Plotinus was an admirer of Plato but gave his philosophy such a novel cast, that he is known not as a Platonist, but as the founder of Neo-Platonism.

The dominant place in Plotinus’ system is occupied by ‘the One’. ‘One’ in ancient philosophy, is not to be thought of as the first of natural numbers in the series 1,2,3,4…., rather it is an adjective meaning ‘united’ or ‘all in One piece’. Plotinus derived this through Plato, from Parmenides, where Oneness is a key property of being. In a way, which remains mysterious, the One is identical with the Platonic idea of the Good. As the One, it is the basis of all reality; as the Good it is the standard of all value; but it is itself beyond being and beyond goodness.

Below this supreme and ineffable summit, the next level of reality is occupied by Mind or Intellect(nous). This is the product of One’s reflection on itself. It is the locus of the Platonic ideas, which both depend on it for their existence and form an essential part of its own structure. In contemplating ideas, Mind knows itself, not by a discursive process, but in a timeless intuition.

The next place below Mind is occupied by Soul. Soul, unlike Mind, operates in time; Indeed it is the creator of time and space. Soul looks in two directions; it looks upward to Mind, and it looks downward to nature, where it sees its own reflection. Nature in turn creates the physical world, full of wonder and beauty, even though its substance is such as dreams are made of. At the lowest level of all is bare matter, the outermost limit of reality.

These levels of reality are not independent of each other. Each level is dependent, causally but not temporally, on the level above it. Everything has its place in a single downward progress of successive emanation from the One. The system is impressive ; but however we may wonder, did Plotinus convince his hearers of the truth of these mysterious, if exalted, doctrines?

To see how he attempted to do so, we must retrace our steps and follow the upward path, from base matter to the supreme One. Plotinus takes as his starting point Platonic and Aristotelian arguments. The ultimate substratum of change, Aristotle had argued, must be something which, of itself, possesses none of the properties of the changeable bodies we see and handle. But a matter which possesses no material properties, Plotinus argues, is inconceivable.

We must dispense therefore with Aristotelian matter; We are left with Aristotelian forms. The most important of these was the Soul, which was the form of the human being; and it is natural for us to think, that there are as many Souls, as there are individual people. But here Plotinus appeals to another Aristotelian thesis; the principle that forms are individuated by matter. If we have given up matter there is nothing to distinguish matter; and so we conclude that there is only one Soul.

To prove that the soul exists before and after being linked to any particular body, and is independent of body, Plotinus uses very much the same arguments as Plato used in ‘Phaedrus’. He neatly reverses the argument of those who claim that soul is dependent on body, because it is nothing more than an attune-ment of the body’s Sinews. When a musician plucks the strings of a lyre, he says, it is the strings, not the melody, that he acts upon; but the strings would not be plucked unless the melody called for it.

But now the question arises; how can a One Soul, transcendent and incorporeal, be in any way present to individual, corruptible, and composite bodies? To solve the problem, Plotinus says we have to reverse the question, and ask not how Soul can be in body but how body can be in Soul? The answer is that body is in Soul, by depending upon it for its organization and continued existence.

Soul, then governs and orders the world of bodies. It does so wisely and well. But the wisdom which it exercises in the governance of the world is not native to it; it must come from outside. It can’t come from the material world, since that is what it shapes; it must come from something which is by nature linked to the ideas which are the models or patterns for intelligent activity. This can only be the World-Mind, which both constitute and constituted by the Ideas, which are the objects of its thought.

In all thinking Plotinus continues, there must be a distinction between the thinker and what he is thinking; Even when a thinker is thinking of himself, there remains the duality of subject and object. Moreover the ideas which are the objects of mind are many in number. In more than one way then mind contains multiplicity and is therefore composite. Like many other ancient philosophers, Plotinus accepted that whatever was composite must depend on something more simple. And thus we reach, at the end of our journey upward from formless matter, to the One and Only One.

Plotinus’ ideas were carried through Neo-Platonic school in Athens. Proclus(410-485) was famous in his time as the author of eighteen separate refutations of the Christian doctrine of creation. This Neo-Platonic school of Athens was the last flowering of pagan Greek philosophy.



The modern as opposed to the medieval outlook began in Italy with the movement called ‘Renaissance’. There is no hard and fast line dividing the middle ages(medieval ages), from the Renaissance, still less a date which can be assigned, when the one ended and the other began. The developments which were characteristic of the Renaissance, took place at different speeds in different spheres, and at different times in different regions. The impact of these changes on philosophy was fragmented and scattered, so that its history follows no clear line. From many sources, one would gain the impression that after Ockham(14th century) western philosophy hibernated during the 15th and 16th centuries, not to emerge until the time of Descartes, when it rose again in totally altered form.

Paris and Oxford, in their great days, had both been international universities. The universal use of Latin made academic communication and exchange easy. By the end of 14th century this was changing. In all the countries of Europe, vernacular literature began to thrive, and though Latin remained the language of academia, it was no longer the vehicle for the most vigorous expression of thought. In England for instance, English was the chosen medium of the best minds. The hundred years war between England and France, isolated Oxford from Paris, and each university went its separate way, impoverished.

Machiavelli(15th century), wrote ‘The Prince’. the best known work of Renaissance Political Philosophy.

‘Utopia’, written in Latin, by Thomas More, was a lively description of a fictional Commonwealth, addressed to an audience, which was agog for news of overseas discoveries.
Utopia( nowhereland ) is an island of 54 cities of 6000 households apiece, each with its own agricultural hinterland. There is no private property and nothing is ever locked up. Every one must work, and working day is 6 hours. Only few are exempted from manual work such as scholars, priests, or members of elected magistracies which rule the community.

Like Plato’s ‘Republic’, More’s ‘Utopia’ leaves his readers to guess how far the arrangements he describes are serious political proposals, and how far they merely present a mocking mirror, to the distortion of real life societies.


According to Bertrand Russell Reformation and counter-reformation alike, represent the less civilised nations against the intellectual domination of Italy. In the case of Reformation the revolt was both political and theological; the authority of Pope was rejected. In case of counter-reformation, there was only revolt against intellectual and moral freedom of Renaissance, Italy; the power of pope was not diminished, at the same time, it was made clear that his authority was incompatible with the easy going laxity of the Bourgeois and Medici. Roughly speaking the reformation was German, the counter-reformation Spanish. The wars of religion were at the same time, wars between Spain and its enemies, coinciding in date with the period when Spanish power was at its height.

The attitude of public opinion in northern nations towards Renaissance Italy is illustrated in the English saying of that time,

An Englishman Italianate
is a devil Incarnate

The three great men of the reformation and counter-reformation are Luther, Calvin, and Loyola. Their theology was such as to diminish the power of the Church.

Almost from the very beginning, there was a division among Protestants, as to the power of the state in religious matters. Luther was willing, wherever the Prince was protestant, to recognise him as head of the Church in his home country.

But, those protestants, who took seriously the individualistic aspects of the reformation, were as unwilling to submit to the king, as to the Pope. Gradually weariness resulting from the wars of religion led to the growth of belief in religious tolerance, which was one of the sources of the movement which developed into the 18th and 19th century liberalism.

Protestant success, at first amazingly rapid, was checked mainly, as a resultant of Loyola’s creation of the Jesuit order. Jesuit’s theology was the opposite of that of protestants; they rejected those elements of St. Augustine’s teaching which the protestants emphasized. They believed in ‘Free Will’ and opposed Predestination; salvation was not by faith alone, but both by faith and works. The Jesuits acquired prestige by their missionary Zeal, especially in the far-east. They became popular as confessors because(if Pascal is to be believed) they were more lenient, except towards heresy, than other ecclesiastics. They concentrated on education, and thus acquired a firm hold on the minds of the young. Whenever theology did not interfere, they gave the best obtainable education; they taught Descartes more mathematics than he would have learnt elsewhere; they urged catholic princes to practice relentless persecution, and, following in the wake of conquering Spanish armies, re-established the terror of the Inquisition, even in Italy, which had had nearly a century of free thought.

The results of reformation and counter-reformation, in the intellectual sphere, were first wholly bad, but ultimately beneficial. The Thirty Year’s war persuaded everybody that neither Protestants nor Catholics could be completely victorious; the diversity of creeds in different countries, made it possible to escape persecution by living abroad. Disgust with theological warfare turned the attention of able men, increasingly to secular learning, especially mathematics and science. These are among the reasons for the fact that while the 16th century after the rise of Luther, is philosophically barren, the 17th century contains the greatest names, and makes the most notable advance, since ancient(Greek) times. This advance began in science.


Almost everything that distinguishes the modern world from earlier centuries is attributable to science, which achieved its most spectacular triumphs in 17th century. The Italian Renaissance, though not medieval, is not modern; it is more akin to the best age of Greece. Plato and Aristotle, Aquinas and Ockham could not have made head or tail of Newton or Galileo.(this is the view of British English philosopher Bertrand Russell, although later on German Scientist Albert Einstein proved with his relativity and Quantum that actually Newton was not able to understand the head or tail of the universe. To know more in-depth details of how Einstein proved Newton’s theories of gravity as totally wrong, i’ll request the readers to go through my earlier blog’ politics, Scientific materialism vs Mindfulness and Science’.

The new concepts that science introduced profoundly influenced modern philosophy. Descartes who is considered the founder of modern philosophy, was himself the creator of 17th century science.

The 17th century was remarkable not only in astronomy and dynamics, but in many other ways connected with science.

Take the case of scientific instruments. The compound microscope was invented just before the 17th century, about 1590. The telescope was invented in 1608, by a Dutchman named Lippershey, though it was Galileo who first made serious use of it for scientific purposes. Galileo also invented the thermometer- his pupil Torricelli invented the barometer, Guericke invented the air pump. Clocks though not new, were greatly improved in the 17th century, largely by the work of Galileo. Owing to these inventions , scientific observation became immensely more exact and more extensive than it had been at any former time.

In mathematics differential and integral calculus were invented by German mathematician and philosopher Leibniz(1646-1716).

Newton’s law of gravitation , was very simple, and he considered matter as solid material, and time and space absolutes individuals. This was thought to be quite exact until 200 years after this thesis. In 19th century German scientist Einstein amended Newton’s theory, by proving that time and space are not absolutes but they vary with speed and mass, consequently proving Newton’s law of gravity also wrong. Einstein’s Quantum mechanics further rubbished Newton’s law of universe of solid material. In a way Einstein proved the existence of God scientifically.

Bertrand Russell was an atheist and his allergy to acceptance of the existence of god, which was proved by Kant philosophically and by Einstein scientifically, can be very well understood. Russell himself admitted while criticizing Karl Marx, that all philosophers are biased about themselves thinking that only they know the truth, hinting about a serious introspection of themselves.

Bertrand Russell deserves Credit and respect both, that at least he agreed to Einstein’s relativism and was ‘sufficiently satisfied’ of the view that time, motion are purely relative. This Russell said, combined with the amalgamation of space and time into space-time, has considerably altered our view of the universe from that which resulted from the work of Newton.

Galileo Galilei( 1564-1642) was indeed a distinguished philosopher of science, with a firmer grasp than anyone previously, of the importance of mathematics in physics. He was greatly influenced by Copernicus(1473-1543) who in a book, had proposed the hypothesis that the earth rotates around the sun, and that the sun not the earth, is the centre of the planetary system.

Using the newly discovered Telescope, Galileo was able to observe the mountains of the moon, and the spots on the sun; this showed that the heavenly bodies were made not out of Aristotle’s quintessence but of the same sort of material as our earth. His observations of the phases of Venus provided fresh evidence in favour of Copernicus’ heliocentric hypothesis. In brief period he was able to refute experimentally many of the aspects of Aristotle’s physics, which had been criticized.

Galileo’s work naturally made him unpopular with academics, who had a vested interest in Aristotelianism; but what got him into trouble with the Inquisition were his comments, on the relationship between the heliocentric hypothesis and Biblical texts describing the sun as moving through the sky. Galileo claimed that in these passages the sacred author was simply adopting a popular manner of speaking, which must give way to scientific certainty. Galileo argued with the Jesuit cardinal and recanted his theories, and the inquisitors sentenced him to indefinite imprisonment.

Galileo wrote ‘The Book Of Universe’ in the language of mathematics, and its letters are triangles, circles, and other geometrical figures, to understand which, one has to learn the letters and language in which it is written.

Francis Bacon(1561-1626) was another distinguished philosopher of science, during the renaissance period. In 1605 he wrote the first of his major philosophical writings ‘The Advancement Of Learning’, an elaborate classification of all possible sciences. He was educated at Cambridge, Grey’s Inn. He followed a career at the Bar and in House of Commons.


With Descartes (1596-1650), known as the founder of modern philosophy, things are totally different. He is typically modern because he wanted to start again from scratch. He received an exemplary education in the classics from the Jesuits, as he relates in his famous ‘Discourse On Method’(written in French, which was in itself a revolutionary act in the period). But he found that the vast bulk of material he was taught(including philosophy), appeared to have shaky foundation.

Descartes was not satisfied with what was merely probable; he wanted to know the truth, the truth about his existence, the truth about the existence of God, the truth of the matter, and to know it clearly and distinctly. Only mathematics, because of the certainty and evidence of its reasoning, would do for him.

From this, only two possibilities were open to Descartes; either he could pursue mathematics alone, and abandon everything else, or he could take mathematics as his model and perfect a method in line with the ‘right guidance of reasoning’ in both, the sciences and the conduct of life.

If Descartes had not chosen this second path, he would still be known today as the inventor of analytic geometry and ‘Cartesian’ coordinates, rather than the founder of modern philosophy. He would be surprised to find that his real fame rests, on his philosophical work, and that the scientific research he valued most, has been relegated to the background.

A century later, moving to the east, in Prussia(Germany)(now Kaliningrad in Russia), we must pay tribute to another giant of modern philosophy, Immanuel Kant(1724-1804).

A man of great learning- simultaneously a mathematician, a physicist, and a geographer- Kant became an original philosopher, relatively late in life(his greatest work, the ‘Critique Of Pure Reason’ was published when he was over sixty). Short, physically frail, nothing of Descartes’ manly and military character, a bachelor, methodical to the point of obsession, Kant was every inch the eminent professor.

His great reputation comes from the fact that his critical enterprise was conducted with a logic, a rigour, and a precision that have never been matched. Applying the same critical method to practice as to theory, he re-established morality on rational foundation, and rounded off his grand structure of knowledge, by examining aesthetic judgement and the meaning, of harmonious order in the sphere of natural phenomena. After Kant, nobody would ever do philosophy in the same way.

Every great philosopher shakes up the intellectual land scape and forces his contemporaries to ask questions in a new way. This was also the case with Hegel(1770-1831), the other great German philosopher, who was 30 years old in 1800. He was formed by the 18th century, but in his audacity he was a philosopher of the future( his dialectic was to be a powerful influence on socialist and revolutionary thought).

Hegel’s originality stemmed from the fact that he didn’t allow his personal tastes to dominate, but recorded, what he called ‘the truth of the whole’. Reason must learn to be reconciled, with even the most contradictory of realities.

For Hegel these realities included logical conditions and physical structures, not to mention the totality of the psychological, moral, and political spheres. Perhaps there is something excessive about this vast systematic enterprise. Yet it still fascinates and inspires, even when its central notion of contradiction itself keeps being contradicted.


If two propositions are contradictory, Hegel will describe this as a conflict between them; One proposition will go out to do battle against another, and achieve defeat or victory against it. This is called ‘dialectic’, the process by which one proposition ( the thesis) fights with another (the antithesis), and both are finally conquered by a third (the synthesis).

The existence of spirit is said, by Hegel, to be a matter of logic. Just as he sees history as a manifestation of logic, so he tends to see logic in historical, indeed military terms.

The subject matter of logic is the absolute, the totality of reality familiar to us from earlier philosophers as ‘Being’.

Hegel often refers to the Absolute by the word ‘God’.


Descartes’ ‘Meditations’ and Kant’s ‘Critique Of Pure Reason’,are the most important works of modern philosophy, dealing with the concept of God, which has played a most vital role in philosophy.

On the question of the existence of a single divine creator, there are as many arguments for as against. Reason wanting to prove (or to disprove), the meaning of the universe,is defeated, frustrated, by the oppositions that it can not, through its own efforts, overcome.

When you find yourself at an impasse, what do you do? You retreat and change strategy. And that is what Kant suggests.

” I have overcome knowledge to make room for faith”. When Kant refers to his own passing from the theoretical to the practical in these words, is he trying to say that we need to give up scientific knowledge for the sake of our conversion to religion?

Kant’s point, first of all, is that we can’t approach practical problems in the same way as theoretical ones. In the realm of the practical, it’s a question not just of knowing, but of desire and will. If a rational basis for practical life is both, desirable and possible, a supporting principle will have to be found. This principle is once again God, but a God whose existence can’t be proved and who can’t be represented; a moral God, a God we come to believe in as the result of a rational conviction, and as an ultimate guarantor of our actions.


The religion Kant preaches is one within the limits of reason alone. It is a religion utterly removed from superstitious practices, or even adherence to Church. It is a religion purified into the shape of a feeling, a feeling of profound respect for that ‘moral law’, that Kant believed is inscribed within our hearts; ” The starry heavens above us and the moral law within us.” This is the famous conclusion of the “Critique of Practical Reason”.

Starting with the harmony of the senses, we must move upwards to a deeper and invisible harmony. Philosophy inherited this model from Plato, and keeps returning to it.

Given the rational nature of this moral religion, it is easy to understand how Kant’s disciples(especially in the 2nd half of the 19th century) could end up among the ranks of the positivists, the heirs of August Comte(1798-1857). Yet this should also be a bit surprising, because the positivist school held that the age of ‘theology had ended’. To be whole heartedly positivist, would not we need to eliminate even a moral God? Actually positivism is very aware of a fundamental problem here. Even if religion is false, even if it rests only on myths( which are utterly fantastic narratives), it has and will continue to have an irreplaceable social role, for it enables humans to live together on good terms. What other ways are there to fulfil this function, to provide the glue for social cohesion? Despite its faults and even its dangers(the potential for fanaticism), all religions bind together, while theoretical knowledge no matter how truthful, can offer nothing to our practical needs and desires. In the later part of his life, Comte thought he could resolve this problem by creating a new positivist religion, with its own temples, rituals and so on. It was a total failure. But he did identify a problem that must be faced by our advanced societies, transformed as they are by science and technology; how is it possible to find(or rediscover) a form of social cohesion, that can hold society together and assure its members a harmonious life?

No doubt, we will object that religion has been intolerant for too long and too often. Everyone believes, he/she can work out the truth on his/her own. Yet Jesus who preached love, said to Pontius Pilate “I am The Truth”. Pontius Pilate’s philosophy on the other hand, was sceptical; ‘What is truth?’ he asked. A free thinker will remark that such scepticism is much less dangerous than the attitude that proclaims itself to be truth. History testifies to this; the intolerance that threatens all religious thinking is manifested everywhere, in wars of religion. persecutions, the Inquisition, and today the spread of fundamentalism.

So, should philosophy be for or against religion? Philosophy can remain agnostic, but it must do its bit, and contribute to the understanding of a phenomenon, central to human history. It can help us to respect what is worth respecting, both, in the religious attitude and in its rituals of worship, celebration, prayer, and love. For faith, has inspired many sacrifices and acts of devotion. And countless human beings find consolation in religious observance, especially in the face of death.

Is the conflict between philosophy and religion then, really inescapable? Yes, if you believe that Lucretius in the first century B.C. was right to warn his contemporaries against religion. No, if you listen to the message of Pope John Paul II who, in his encyclical ‘Faith and Reason’, said that philosophy “is like a mirror where human culture is reflected” and is “often the only common ground for understanding and dialogue with those who are outside our faith.”

How can we not be grateful for this recognition of philosophy’s role? How can we not encourage this dialogue, since philosophy itself has been in it from the ancient Platonic days.


Philosophy is a serious affair, too serious we might say. Religion, duty, moral law- But doesn’t a balanced life also include rest and relaxation ? Don’t we need play to counter balance the serious activity ? And what kind of wisdom are we talking about, if it leaves about happiness?

Early Greek philosophers questioned; should not the aim of the good and just life, the philosophical life, be the achievement of a certain happiness? Is not this legitimate?

Now, how to define happiness? Health, money, sexual or romantic satisfaction, academic or athletic success, will be mentioned often. Admittedly, all these factors contribute to happiness in a big way. Yet do they constitute happiness itself?

It would be easy to list numerous examples of depression among beautiful, intelligent, rich, young people who seem to have all they could want. What was it that they lacked? At the other extreme there is ‘Diogenes’, living naked in his barrel and proclaiming himself happy. His response to the emperor Alexander, who had come to consult him;’ you are blocking my sunlight.’ Of the two men who is happier, Diogenes, the down-n-out, content with everything, or the despot, thirsty of ever more conquests, who would die on the verge of insanity, in the depths of Asia?

It is undeniable that a psychological and subjective component features in happiness’s complex recipe. When Aristotle considered happiness to be the soul’s equilibrium, enjoyed by the virtuous man, who has succeeded in living a life of study and leisure, he had a point. We may complain that this philosophical ideal is too measured and rational. But Aristotle was aware of this objection. First of all he acknowledged the relativity and fragility of human happiness in the face of destiny, adopting his own adage, the old saying ‘no one can be called happy before his last day’. And furthermore, he was very aware that most people prefer a life of immediate pleasure. Some will opt for a life of honour and achievement, but very few indeed will turn to the best life, the truly philosophical life.

If Aristotle is right, happiness has to be earned and created. Certainly it depends partly on lucky chances. Epicurus gave a formula for happiness; happiness is an absence of suffering. Of course that is not to be dismissed lightly, but isn’t it an old man’s dream of being secure and cocooned in his own private world?

In any case, should happiness be set up as an absolute goal? As per Kant, the aim of a rational and moral action, must never be happiness. It is only acceptable if it comes as a bonus. In other words, above all and before everything else, we must want to act in accordance with duty, and never in order to obtain the rewards of happiness. Either those rewards will come or they won’t.

There is a residue of ‘Stoicism’ in this attitude; accept what happens with resignation, as long as our soul remains inwardly content. To fret and concern ourselves, about what does not depend on us is unreasonable. Let’s be master of our own dwelling- that is, of our mind. Kant does not pursue happiness, but he does nor refuse it either. Like the Stoic, he is prepared for anything, since he has done his duty.

No doubt, we will find all these notions, Stoic as well as Kantian, much too austere. But they do have the merit of making us reflect on the limitations of happiness, especially if it is conceived in a selfish manner.

The question of happiness is absolutely central to philosophical thought. Each one of us, before we rush headlong towards happiness, must ask ourselves about our own ideal, and know how to place the bar at a reasonable level; above narrow selfishness and bit lower than heavenly bliss.


Ockham–(1288-1348) was scholastic philosopher who is famous for his ‘Ockham’s razor’, which says that’ entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity’. This is taken to mean that the simplest idea or theory is usually the correct one.

Early Modern Period philosopher Thomas Hobbes(1588-1679), was an English philosopher remembered for his work on political philosophy. His 1651 book’ Leviathan’ established the foundation for most of western political philosophy from the perspective of ‘Social Contract’ theory.

John Locke(1634-1704) was an empiricist at the beginning of modern philosophy. So, in contrast to Rene Descartes( French philosopher who is considered the founder of modern philosophy), he held that all the objects of the understanding are ideas, and ideas exist in the mind. Locke believed that our being the same person from one time to another consists, not in our having the same soul, but rather the same series of psychological connections.

George Berkeley (1685-1753)- was an Anglo-Irish philosopher. He was an idealist. He believed that this world was given logic and regularity by some other force, which Berkeley concluded, was God.

David Hume (1711-1776)- was a Scottish philosopher whose ideas regarding Free will, causation, personal identity, morality still inspire discussion.

19th century philosopher Bentham( 1748-1832) is famous for ‘Utilitarianism’, which he described as “the greatest happiness or greatest felicity principle”.
John Stuart Mill(1806-1873) was also an Utilitarian philosopher.

Bertrand Russell( 1872-1970) and Moore ( 1873-1958) two British philosophers, led the revolt against ‘British Idealism’ in favour of analytic philosophy.


The intellectual life of the nineteenth century, was more complex than that of any previous age. This was due to several causes, first; the area concerned was larger than ever before; America and Russia made important contributions, and Europe became more aware than formerly, of Indian philosophy, both ancient and modern. Second; science which had been a chief source of novelty since the seventeenth century, made new conquests, specially in geology, biology, and organic chemistry. Third; machine production profoundly altered the social structure, and gave men a new concept of their powers, in relation to the physical environment. Fourth; a profound revolt, both philosophical and political, against traditional systems in thoughts, in politics, and in economics, gave rise to attacks upon many beliefs and institutions, that had hitherto been regarded as unassailable. The revolt had two very different forms, one romantic, the other rationalistic. The romantic revolt passes from Byron( 1788-1824), Schopenhauer( 1788-1860), and Nietzsche( 1844-1900), to Mussolini( 1883-1945) and Hitler( 1889-1945). The rationalistic revolt begins with the French philosophers of Revolution, passes on, somewhat softened, to the philosophical radicals in England, then acquires a deeper form in Karl Marx( 1818- 1883) and issues in Soviet Russia.

As far as science is concerned, what Newton( 1642- 1727) was to the seventeenth century, Darwin( 1809- 1882) was to the nineteenth century, both can be termed as the scientists of mythical proportions. Both of them have the credit of converting the universe into a solely material and physical world, devoid of soul, mind, and God. Karl Marx, who after coming to England from Germany, twisted Hegelian philosophy under the influence of Newton and Darwin, converting it into scientific materialism, creating class conflicts, in the garb of science and Hegelian Dialectic. So in a way, some of these nineteenth century crusaders, have declared themselves as God, and took the matters under their total control, till Albert Einstein came into picture and refuted scientifically with an ally in the form of America. Thus began the phase of spirituality in America.


Transcendentalism was a philosophical movement developed in twenties and thirties of nineteenth century, in United States, as a protest against the general state of culture and society. Particularly the state of intellectualism, at Harvard university, and the doctrine of the Unitarian church taught at Harvard Divinity school. Among the transcendentalists core belief was the inherent goodness of both people and culture.

Transcendentalists believed that society and its institutions, particularly organized religion and political parties, ultimately corrupted the purity of the individual. They had faith that people are at their best when truly ‘self reliant’ and independent. It is only from such real individuals that true community could be formed.

Transcendentalism developed as a reaction against eighteenth century rationalism. John Locke’s philosophy of ‘Sensual’, and the ‘predestination’ of New England Calvinism. It is fundamentally a variety of diverse sources such as texts like Vedanta( Upanishads) and various religions and German idealism.

The publication of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay of 1836′ Nature’, is usually considered the watershed moment, at which, transcendentalism became a major cultural movement. Emerson wrote in his 1837 speech ‘The American Scholar’; ‘we will walk on our own feet; we will speak our own minds;….A nation of men will for the first time exist; because each believes himself inspired by the divine soul, which also inspires all men.’ Emerson closed essay by calling for a revolution of human consciousness, to emerge from the brand new idealist philosophy.

So shall we come to look at the world with new eyes. It shall answer the endless inquiry of the intellect- what is truth? and of the affection; what is good? by yielding itself passive to the educated will. …Build, therefore your own world. As far as you confirm your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its great proportions. A correspondent revolution in things will attend the influx of the spirit.


Is a spiritually focused or philosophical interpretation of New Thought beliefs. Started in the nineteenth century, today the movement consists of a loosely allied group of religious denomination, secular membership organization, authors, philosophers, and individuals, who share a set of beliefs concerning metaphysics, the law of attraction, healing life force, creative visualization and personal power.

The 1915 International New Thought Alliance (INTA) Conference- held in conjunction with Panama Pacific International Exposition(PPIE), World’s Fair that took place in San-Francisco- featured New Thought speakers from far and wide- The PPIE organizers were so favorably impressed by INTA convention that they declared a special ‘New Thought Day’ at the fair and struck a commemorative bronze medal for the occasion which was presented to the INTA delegates led by Annie Rix Militz.

By 1916 the International New Thought Alliance had encompassed many smaller groups around the world, adopting a creed known as the ‘Declaration of Principles’. The Alliance is held together by one central teaching; that people, through the constructive use of their minds, can attain freedom, power, health, prosperity, and all good, molding their bodies as well as circumstances of their lives. The declaration was revised in 1957, with all references to Christianity removed, and a new statement based on the ” inseparable oneness of God and Man”.

There are regular conventions and conferences today, including those hosted by the major denomination, Agape international spiritual center and others.

Belief Systems of the New Thought Alliance-

* Infinite Intelligence or God is omnipotent and omnipresent.

* Spirit is the ultimate reality.

* True human self-hood is divine.

* Divinity attuned thought is a positive force of good.

* All decease is mental in origin.

* Right thinking has a healing effect.

Divine Science, Unity church, and Religious science, are organizations that developed from the New Thought movement. Each teaches that infinite intelligence of God is the sole reality. New thought adherents believe that sickness is the result of the failure to realize this truth. In this line of thinking, healing is accomplished by the affirmation of oneness with the infinite intelligence of God.

John Bovee Dods( 1795-1862), an early practitioner of New Thought, wrote several books on the idea that, decease originates in the electrical impulses of the nervous system and is therefore curable by change of belief. Later New Thought teachers, such as the early 20th century author, editor, and publisher William Walker Atkinson, accepted this premise. He connected his idea of mental states of being, with his understanding of the new scientific discoveries in electromagnetism and neural processes.

New Thought publishing and educational activities reach approximately two and half million people annually.


An important influence on western philosophy was neo-Vedanta, a modern interpretation of Hinduism which developed in response to western colonialism, with Advaita Vedanta as its central doctrine. Due to the colonization of Asia by western world, since the 19th century, an exchange of ideas has been taking place between the western world and Asia, which also influenced western religiosity. Unitarianism, and the ideas of universalism, were brought to India by missionaries, and had a major influence on neo-Hinduism via Ram Mohan Roy’s Brahmo Samaj. Roy attempted to modernize and reform Hinduism, taking over christian social ideas and the idea of universalism. This universalism was further popularized and brought back to the west as neo-vedanta, by swami Vivekananda(1863-1902).


Another major influence on western philosophy was the Theosophical society, which searched for ‘secret teachings’ in Asian religions.It has been influential on modernist streams in several Asian religions, notably neo-Vedanta, the revival of Theravada Buddhism, and Buddhist modernism, which have taken over modern western notions of personal experience and universalism, and integrated them in their religious concepts.

The influence of Asian traditions on western philosophy was also furthered by the Perennial philosophy, whose main proponent Aldous Huxley(1894-1963) was deeply influenced by swami Vivekananda’s neo-Vedanta, and the spread of social welfare education and mass travel after world war II.


After the second world war, spirituality and religion became disconnected. A new discourse developed in which (humanistic) psychology, mystical and esoteric(inner) traditions, and eastern religions, are being blended, to reach the true self, by self disclosure, free expression, and meditation.

Among other factors, declining membership of organized religions and the growth of secularism, in the western world, have given rise to this broader view of spiritual philosophy. The term “spiritual” is now frequently used in contexts in which the term “religious” was formerly employed. Both theists and atheists have criticized this development.

Programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous use non-religious spiritual approaches to help people recover from addictions. A study found a robust association between an increase in attendance to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, with increased spirituality and decreased frequency and intensity of alcohol use. The research also found that the program was effective for agnostics and atheists.


In the early 21st century, embodied cognition has gained strength as a theory of mind-body-world-integration. Philosophers such as Shaun Gallaghar and Alva Noe, together with British philosopher Andy Clark defend this view, seeing it as a natural development of pragmatism, and of the thinking of Kant,Heideggar and Merleau Ponty among others. African American philosopher Cornel-West is known for his analysis of American cultural life with regard to, race, gender, and class issues, as well as his association with pragmatism and transcendentalism.

Alvin Plantinga is a Christian analytic philosopher, known for the position that belief in the existence of God is properly basic, and his model version of the ontological argument for the existence of God. Michael C. Rea has developed Plantinga’s thought by claiming that both naturalism and supernaturalism are research programmes that have to be adopted as a basis for research.


In India, a guru is a recognized sage or wise man, a master whom others are willing to follow, sometimes over a long period of time. Predating the hippies of nineteen sixties, many turned to escape noisy and materialistic civilization, in search of serenity and the meaning of life.

This path is worthy of respect. But is it philosophical in the deepest sense of the word? As, the search for a kind of wisdom, yes, it is. There are historical links between ancient Greece and India, going back to the time of Alexander’s overreaching and foolhardy expedition, in the 3rd century B.C. (In fact the ancient philosophers called ‘Gymnosophists’- meaning ‘naked wise man’- may have been the disciples of imitators of practices observed in India)

There is an impression that western philosophy is too abstract. So there are good reasons for taking the route of meditation and pilgrimage, and those who find their guru and change their life, have done something worthwhile.

It is true that sages and holy men deserve our serious attention. But no one should hesitate to ask questions that might at first seem incongruous; ‘what are the criteria, upon which we are basing our judgement?’ ‘what exactly is the line of reasoning, we are following?” what if the guru is deluding himself and us?’

In philosophy, as in science, whether or not a given explanation is valid, does not depend on the person who presents it. It’s not a matter of age, or tone of voice, or reputation.

If a theorem is not true just because the mathematics teacher who expounds it is handsome, then the same goes for philosophy.

Does a hypothesis stand up to analysis? Is a line of reasoning absurd ? Is a certain thought worth concentrating on? Such questions deserve to be considered for their own sake, freely and calmly. So much the better if the professor is appealing, intelligent, and seductive. But don’t get the two things mixed up. If someone is presented as a guru, beware!

Everyone knows the famous photo of Einstein(1879-1955), sticking out his tongue. He was a great man, who could have set himself up as a guru, but he refused to do so. That refusal is genuinely philosophical attitude.

So, a critical mind is absolutely essential to a philosophical approach. Thanks to it, any trust we place in this or that professor, master, guru, will be well founded, solid, and enlightened. It is this critical mind, philosophers help us to acquire.


No answer; the question is too philosophical and does not seem soluble.

Is philosophy unique in being unable to answer its own questions? If they can’t be answered, wouldn’t it be preferable to stop asking them?

Certainly the question ‘Why?’ is awkward. Next to it, the question ‘What is this or that?’ seems completely sensible. It is content to search for the essential constituents of a thing(its essence). The question ‘Why’ is more ambitious, but equally ambiguous; it is asking simultaneously about the cause and the purpose.

Science can not and should not respond to questions concerning the possible projects of God or nature.

A critical philosopher, a positivist, does not respond to questions dealing with the meaning of the universe, the possible existence of god, the possible survival of the soul. These are questions, insoluble for us humans within the limits of our finite knowledge. Philosophy, they say, therefore should not go beyond these limits.

Yet this has not always been the attitude of philosophers, and even today it is not invariably the case.

Quite the contrary, the philosophers known as meta-physicists did claim, they could provide definitive and confident answers to these questions. At times they have reached remarkable heights of ingenuity. This is true of Leibniz(1646-1716) for example. To the question of the existence, he replied ‘Because of the principle of the best of all possible worlds.’Now, is this principle, as arbitrary and ridiculous, as a reading of Voltaire’s(1694-1778) ‘Candide’ would lead us to believe? Poor Candide lives through the most awful events, and his tutor, Pang-loss, a discipline of Leibniz, continually justifies all these evils in the name of the famous Leibniz-an law. The comedy is very effective, yet we are more Leibniz-an than we think whenever we analyze the meaning of a series of events and find that, to understand it, the sense of the action requires that, some suffering be tolerated in order to achieve a higher objective. But Leibniz went much further than that, since he argued that God created the world by following this ‘Logic of the best’; and it becomes for him a key for everything. Thus he could respond with an indisputable answer to the question of the ultimate origin of all things, and why they exist.

It can not be denied that our question risks taking us beyond what we can determine and beyond the very limits of our experience. Precisely on that account it responds to an uneasiness that has never ceased to haunt the human race, and that keeps resurfacing.

Metaphysics is the part of philosophy, that contemplates ultimate questions, those that deal with the meaning of life, the existence of God, the immortality of soul, the oneness of the world. For some, it is the crowning achievement of philosophy; for others, it is a philosophy’s most dangerous and illusory temptation. At the very least, we need to be aware of the problem.


Freedom is a big word, though we see examples of it around us every day. But to what degree are these examples we see, manifestations of true freedom?

The first reaction of most young people is to think that freedom means the absence of constraints. To be free is to do what we want, when we want, the way we want; without being monitored by parents, teachers, or big brothers. And above all freedom means not having to work.

It’s a perfectly understandable attitude, but it does not really capture what freedom is. The stakes are pretty high. Does freedom simply mean refusing anything imposed on us by other people? Shouldn’t freedom contain something positive in relation to others and to ourselves?

To think oneself free is not necessarily the same as being truly free. Am i free in relation to my instincts, my basic desires? I am influenced by my membership of a group, by images, by opinions expressed on TV and so on. The Dutch philosopher Spinoza(1632-1677), showed that the human condition is dependent on its relation to natural conditions and one’s own passions. Yet he believed that understanding these dependencies teaches us what it is to be free. A clear sighted acceptance of the inevitable is the highest form of freedom.

I can chose either to understand or misunderstand what happens to me. Thus the notion of choice is essential. On the one hand, it implies that i retain the power of decision; on the other, i am never faced with only one single and exclusive possibility.

There is only freedom of choice when the options are not equivalent, and the choice will make a difference. There is a famous story of an animal, who died because it could not chose between oats or hay, since it was equally fond of both. It is true that there are cases where the stakes appear equal on both sides, and the only way out of an awkward situation is to ask,’heads or tail?’. The answer is a matter of chance, but the choice of method is itself an act of freedom.

Perhaps we are beginning to have a better sense of what makes an act free. First of all, it must have been willed, decided upon. A reflex is not free; if fire burns me, i pull my hand away. On the other hand, if, because of some crazy bet, i keep my hand in the fire to prove my courage, this is an act of freedom.

When we are young, we start off by thinking we are free, when we reject all constraints; later, we understand that certain constraints, those we learn to impose on ourselves, may allow us to discover new possibilities in life. This prospect is not impossible to imagine. The freest act is the most clear-sighted act, the act chosen for its own sake. Why don’t we consider the decision to think freely, and disinterestedly, the act of philosophizing, as precisely one of the freest of all possible acts? It is an act through which i become fully autonomous- that is- capable of legislating my own actions.

If not all acts are free in the same way, should freedom itself depend on the degree of enlightenment it brings? Or is every man free in so far he is a man? If this is the case, we must not simply identify the capacity for being free, with the enactment of freedom. we still don’t know how freedom can be made concrete in the world.


When i set even the most basic rules, or standard of behavior for myself, i am exercising my freedom. Is that sufficient?

The rules of practical conduct are only maxims, Kant told us. They are absolutely relative. We must ascend to a higher level, to the level of the ‘moral law’ itself.

According to Kant, i am not truly autonomous, if i am not aware that the very principle of my action depends on my will. My actions will be valuable(in my own eyes) only if they follow the promptings of my conscience.

To say that i’m responsible means that i can vouch for my own actions and justify them. When i take responsibility of my freedom, i must constantly question my relations to others. Moral freedom is a freedom vis-a-vis others and for others.

But what makes this freedom moral? The word ‘moral’ hasn’t always had a good press, especially with young people. Moralize means to give advice, that is annoying because, it is constraining. We are back to constraint.

As a matter of fact, when we talk about moral freedom, the narrower problem of moral conduct and its rules is only part of the picture. The term ‘moral’ indicates that this freedom is characteristic of individuals engaged in interpersonal relations, and who have habits and customs(‘mores’ n Latin). So moral freedom reflects a general fact about us; that we live in a society made up of free individuals who, as members of society, must accept or reject a certain number of rules and forms of behavior. Moral freedom is the general framework of any society, whether or not it has the power to exercise freedom.

So how do we get from moral freedom to political freedom? Well, of course, things don’t happen just like that. It is not as if first of all we have responsible subjects, and then we get society. Clearly, in advanced societies like ours we can decide to create any number of associations, from athletes organization to arts groups. But the phenomenon called ‘the body politic’ does not arise in such an artificial fashion. Before individuals demanded their freedom, there were city-states, kingdoms, and then states.

Without going too far back, let’s think about antiquity. In Egypt, for many centuries, the ‘Pharaoh’ relied on a priestly caste (like, Hindu kings relied on Brahman caste), to preserve the dominance of heirarchical order. In such a society there is no such thing as a free subject. Political freedom in the modern sense, was not universal even in Greece. It certainly did not exist in Sparta. Even in Athens, where democracy was founded, the institution itself appears only in the 5th century B.C., after which it was constantly threatened and subjected to challenge. Major political thinkers, Plato and Aristotle were not democrats; they favored rule by elite, be it authoritarian or moderate. By the time we get to Rome, even under the ‘Republic’ only the citizen is considered free. But he has duties towards the city, and the exercise of his freedom depends strictly on those duties, on his responsibilities and office, and on his place in the city.

From a political point of view, freedom is not only a very late acquisition(not until the 18th century could it become a principle, with the American and then the French revolutions), but also painstakingly defined and circumscribed. Each individual is free only as long as his freedom doesn’t endanger the freedom of others. And ‘freedom’ can be defined as guarantee offered by a civilized state to every subject or citizen as long as everyone respects the common rule.

Political freedom can exist only in a stable state where, by law, each member is promised well defined rights, as well as having duties. In a constitutional monarchy or a democracy of the sort that exists as a rule among the present nations of Europe, the U.S.,Japan,India,Australia,Canada and happily a number of other nations around the world, political freedom should go hand in hand with moral freedom.

Yet it must also be noted that, even after the fall of the Soviet Union, the balance between political and moral freedom is often lost or, as in dictatorships or tyrannies, out of question.

One problem is that moral freedom can remain purely theoretical( Kant, who defined the principles of morality in abstract terms, frequently inspires this objection). Similarly, political freedom is not always much more than a word or a slogan. In both these cases philosophy can offer the necessary impetus to clearer thinking. The philosopher stands for freedom combined with responsibility. Therefore he has a role to play when freedom or freedoms are threatened. But he can’t make them respected on his own. The love of freedom is good to be shared, as long as no one is exempt from its duties.


Did Freud have the last word on desire and it’s complex relationship with consciousness? I think Hegel had a brilliant intuition whose impact had been more decisive than Freud’s. For Hegel man/woman is a being who always desires more than the simple satisfaction of natural needs, because he/she desires something no inanimate object can provide; he/she wants recognition. Human desire is infinite; it wants to be infinitely desired. Yet how else can one be infinitely desired, if not by another human being? The struggle that determines the humanity of man/woman is the struggle for recognition, whose paradigm is the confrontation between master and slave( in which the slave struggles and works, so that he/she will not be reduced to a thing).

What do we desire most? We now have the beginning of an answer; to be recognized for who we are, as creatures of infinite freedom and responsibility. But are we ourselves fully aware of what we are? Do we really know what other people expect of us? The struggle for recognition is never ending, because our desires are hostage to our unconscious, and we need to understand them better, in order to communicate with them.


Nietzsche(1844-1900), although not a political philosopher, was the favorite of Nazis, who wanted to make him one of their prophets( or rather should we say’prophet of doom’). To see him as a blend of anarchist and the aristocrat would capture his spirit more faithfully.

Since Plato, western philosophy has had to confront politics, and has tried to think through the principles and aims of political life. Philosophers have been tempted to offer themselves as advisers to rulers, for better or for worse.

Common sense reminds us that ideas don’t pay the bills. It is certainly true that an exceptional political philosopher, will not necessarily be an effective statesman. A philosopher reflects on his principles, he does not himself have to put them into practice. The fact that Plato failed with the tyrants of Syracuse,Sicily does not diminish the interest of his”Republic”, which has nurtured political reflection for, 2500 years.

What is the situation today? We should know how to benefit from all the experience gained from the lessons of history- about the organization of society, about different constitutions, about forms of government. It is obvious that political philosophy, the beneficiary of an entire tradition of thought, has become on its own account, a rich and complex area of specialization, full of precedents and references that are useful, for considering the eventful development of the world.

But yet again, reality is not what it should be. As Hegel remarks, men hardly ever learn from the lessons of history. For all the advisers, archives full of information, computer simulations and programs, that governments have at their disposal, what they most often respond to are the imperatives of the moment, and the pressure of powerful interests. It is rare to come across an occasion when philosophers might have a direct influence on the course of events and political decisions.

Philosophy’s greatest temptation has been, and still is, the idea of Utopia, the dream of an ideal society. Is the idea of Utopia healthy or dangerous? Its supporters assert that utopia stimulates and refreshes the spirit; without it the politics will be reduced to the dreary realities of management. Utopia’s adversaries consider it dangerous; the denial of the world’s realities leads to a contempt for human beings. Robespierre, Stalin, and Hitler were Utopians. Robespierre, sought a virtuous, and incorruptible society, while Stalin wanted an absolutely egalitarian and disciplined society, and Hitler, a racially pure one. We know the results.

Political philosophy should take into account the realities of society. Aristotle does so, when in ‘Politics’, he analyses the different types of constitution possible; democracy, monarchy, aristocracy. For him the best regime is not a distant ideal. It is a ‘happy mean’; how can men be made to live together harmoniously and under the rule of Justice?

The lesson here is valid for all times and involves making a distinction between society in general(with its different types of group formation, from the family to the clan, the association etc), and the state, which is an institution, a legitimate and sovereign political power with a territory, a currency, an army and so on.

One of the tasks of contemporary philosophy, in this context, is to become aware of specifications of politics in the modern sense. Many of the problems that need to be dealt with are technical( for example establishing budgets, administration, judiciary, armies, civil services, management of personnel). Does it follow that the whole of the political sphere will become ‘technical’? That a Prime minister for his cabinet is nothing but a manager? What should be the role of politics in respecting moral imperatives? For the citizen, is there a role of intervening in the state, that allows both rights and duties to be respected? All these are important questions for a responsible political philosophy.

According to Bergson(1859-1941), any genuine man of action must be a thinking man, and vice versa. Which is to say that philosophical thought must be the flip side of political action, its critical and reflective alter ego. If not, the health of the body politic can’t be guaranteed.


According to the Bible, it is a result of sin that Adam and Eve were able to eat from the tree of knowledge; as a consequence, they were expelled from paradise.

The symbolism is very powerful. The knowledge of good and evil is a double edged sword. Things were simple when we lived in a state of innocence; once that was lost, we had to assume the burden of choice and responsibility.

But responsible towards whom or what? The first answer that comes to mind is towards his/her own conscience. But was it really conscience that gave rise to those first prohibitions, that marked the boundaries of good and evil( ‘Thou shalt not murder’,'Thou shalt not steal’, ‘Thou shalt not commit adultery’)? Bergson, a French philosopher, perhaps drawing on the memory of the forbidden fruit, formulated a simple hypothesis that is worth keeping in mind; it is primarily social prohibition that determines the boundaries of right and wrong, good and evil. The earliest moralities are self contained- that is, ordained strictly by the rules of social behavior. Each member of the group, clan, or tribe knows exactly what he can or can’t do. The ‘idea of good’ only gradually becomes independent of this restricted social origin; Only in Plato does it finally appear as the transcendent idea of good in itself, placed at the summit of the ethereal world of ideas.

If we are happy with this theory of social origin of good and evil, isn’t it tempting to extend it to the developed societies of today? Then there will be no question of an absolute good and evil, only prohibitions relative to the state of society. This kind of relativism would justify any transgression as long as social sanction and repression did not exclude it.

Yet relativism makes it impossible to establish a morality that is stable and coherent. Bergson can transcend relativism, because he sees the moral sense as progressively acquiring universality and inwardness until it reaches the status of ‘open morality’; one that relies less on prohibition than on incentive on the life force, or the love for others. Here social rules are not ignored, but their narrowness is overcome by a deepening of the moral sense, not by regression.

We can’t ignore the fact that humanity is capable of the worst, as well as the best, and that the myth of the devil represents this extreme possibility of radical destruction.

In our time, a form of evil has emerged that is perhaps more dangerous than the all-conquering vice; indifference. This cries out for serious analysis, as we can’t be indifferent to its consequences. To claim that everything is equally valid is untenable. But this attitude is widespread and insidious, circulating like a kind of sub-culture or byproduct of our civilizations. Encouraged by a passive and excessive consumption of TV and the lack of any critical alternative, this attitude explains how the unjustifiable can so easily become commonplace. How gratuitous violence, cruelty, and insensitivity become banal and systematic.

The response our societies make is clearly inadequate. A campaign of repression will crush the most disadvantaged, and spare the crimes of the elite. We must recognize an evolution where moral judgement, respect for others, and awareness of higher values, have been replaced by consideration of power and domination.

Philosophy should not confuse ‘what is’, with ‘what should be’. It can intervene on two levels; to assess what reality is, and to develop criteria for making judgement. However responsible philosophy may be, and indeed because it is responsible, it can nonetheless never exclude the hypothesis, that there may be something which can transcend good and evil.


What is the point of art? One can be satisfied by eating, drinking, sleeping, making love. Wouldn’t some people consider this the ideal life? But as a life, is it not pretty close to that of an animal? Without curiosity, without any interest, except satisfying immediate appetites, how could that be a truly full life?

In contrast to this, genuine art can enchant us, disturb us, and make us dream. Thus it takes us beyond mere instinct. How does one become artistic, appreciate art, develop a strong desire for it? For music, painting, dance, acting, with their power of fascination, can bring us joy and transform our lives, or so we believe.

Just as with philosophy, first we have to know, where to start. We have to learn how to listen, to look, to have mastery of our body, before reaching the highest aesthetic levels. Before we can attempt to play the guitar, or to draw, to dance, or to act, without being ridiculous, we need to acquire technique. Not in the technological sense, but we do use certain means, because we want to achieve certain results. We begin with what our senses, capabilities, and emotions can do; we try to transform them, to improve our capabilities, until we can perform in a way, that was impossible in the beginning. Thus, with the piano, we start with, sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, ni….sa; we play simple scales; then, day by day we move on to more and more complicated exercises. Our fingers become more agile, our ear sharpens, we read the music more rapidly, and so on.

In the first instance then, art is a technique. Technique and art are so close that it is often difficult to distinguish between the two. After listening to a good concert of a great artist, don’t we say,’ what an amazing technique!’? And if a building (like Taj Mahal), is perfectly made, don’t we call it a work of art? There is a simple reason for this. Producing art is not like breathing or eating; art is a human activity that transforms material elements, subjects them to a metamorphosis. But what’s the point? Why do we do it?

Couldn’t we object by saying,’ what is art good for?’ Certainly we could call such an objection ‘Utilitarian’. Utilitarianism states that humanity could and should stick only to those things, that are strictly useful. But where does the ‘useful’ begin and end? Isn’t it also useful to be distracted, to play, to dream? Any theory restricting the human being to the most basic needs, brings us back to the first scenario; a humanity that eats, drinks, sleeps, with no other aim in view, with no possibility of rising any higher. Alas, we can think of experiments of this order in history, Chinese society under Mao, being one example.

Art uplifts, demands, and transfigures, and that’s why it disturbs. If it begins on a purely technical level, it does not remain there. How does art detach itself from technique? Kant’s response to this was ingenious; art introduces disinterestedness and ‘free play’ into activities that are initially just functional. If i play the piano solely to warm up my fingers, that is not art. If i repaint my shutters, that is not art, either. If i do my exercises in the morning, it’s not dance. All these activities are technical to varying degrees. But there are songs by singers like Lata Mangeshkar, that are masterpieces of emotion and simplicity, yet they uncover a dimension of play and freedom, that makes us forget our everyday worries.

Does art also elevate us above the realm of morality. The autonomy, essential for the freedom of the creator or the art lover, has not been respected always. The debate is still going on; just how far should artistic freedom extend?


It is true that, in principle, no human problem is alien to philosophy. But no matter how intelligent and hardworking he is, no philosopher can master all the problems, especially in a world constantly being transformed by the rapid development of science and technology, as well as changing ways of life. That is why, at its highest levels, the study of philosophy must ‘specialize’; metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, logic, philosophy of science, philosophy of technology, aesthetics, philosophy of religion, political philosophy, are so many largely autonomous fields of study.

Does this mean that it is now impossible to practice pure philosophy for its own sake? Kant thought about this difficulty, and his response was this; ‘you can’t learn philosophy, for there is no such thing as final philosophy, universally valid. You can only learn to philosophize.’ In other words, we don’t learn philosophy as if it were the sum of different branches of knowledge; the danger of becoming a philosophical encyclopedia is therefore not a real problem. One learns to philosophize by arguing, reasoning, raising pertinent questions, and examining them critically, and by acquiring intellectual maturity.

The Kantian answer is as valid for the beginner as it is for a philosopher.

What matters is to make a start with thinking. Once we start to acquire a certain knowledge, we will familiarize ourselves with the vocabulary of philosophy, learn to pose an issue, to examine its aspects, organize discussion, and gradually approach the great writers.

Kant’s lesson must not be neglected by the professional philosophers, who have already accumulated a lot of knowledge. They may be knowledgeable in philosophy, but have they forgotten to philosophize? Should not they be astonished in each new experience, and relearn to philosophize?

Bergson has some justification, when he says that, all true philosophy turns on simple intuition.

Let’s try this intuition on the question of Hamlet ‘To be or not to be..?’ Is this ‘either—or’ not the philosophical question par excellence.

As Shakespeare conceives it, the problem is whether, by ending our life, we would know a sleep from remorse, or the prospect of final judgement. Expressed as the problem of ‘being’,(which the famous philosophical poet Mirza Ghalib also had expressed in his following couplet),

Na tha kuchh toh khuda tha,
kuchh na hota toh khuda hota,
duboya mujhko hone ne,
na hota main toh kya hota !!

the question becomes instead a decision, which every person can take in relation to his own life.

For Camus(1913-1960), this is the most important problem in philosophy. As he writes, at the beginning of his essay’ The Myth of Sisyphus’ ; ‘There is only one truly serious philosophical problem’; Suicide. To judge whether life is worth living or not, would be to answer the fundamental question of philosophy; Camus’ response to the question, intended to be the most concrete of all questions, takes the form of a reflection on the human condition. Yes, the human condition is absurd; man/woman is a being who must suffer, often without reason; but he/she has the privilege of consciousness, and the power to dispose off his life. But renouncing the struggle, choosing annihilation, is not the courageous solution. Camus directs his attack against the nihilistic concept of suicide, because it treats life with contempt and indifference. To choose the heroic solution, is to assume the most noble burden; the freedom of accepting life in all its tragedy.

Can we decide if life has meaning, before we have thought deeply about the very notion of meaning, the meaning of reality, about being itself? In this case, the question ‘to be or not to be?’ is no longer an immediate existential problem, but something abstract and distant. It is no longer limited to the petty problem of my personal survival. It becomes a question of being as opposed to the void, to non-being. When i think about being, i can also imagine its non-existence. But when i think i am contemplating nothingness, is this ‘non-being’ only a derivative concept, deduced by subtracting what does exist- as Bergson thought? Or, even if it does sound paradoxical. must we recognize nothingness as an agonizing reality-as Heidegger(1889-1976) maintained in his lecture ‘What is metaphysics?’ In that case, Hamlet’s question takes on a much more enigmatic meaning.

Is this meaning too abstract? Perhaps, but we wonder in the face of being, in the face of the very fact that there is ‘being’. This astonishment should be hailed and held precious, since it may be the most philosophical act of all.


Behaviorism, a theory originating in the U.S., in early 20th century, has had considerable success and permeates every aspect of contemporary life and consumer society. We experience its effects all the time, usually without even being aware of it. For example, advertising works on a rudimentary, but large scale level in a way that is quite simply designed to manipulate our consciousness and our unconscious. What sort of people are advertisers targeting, with their barrage of questions and images? Free and responsible men and women? They are merely ‘consumers’, created by sampling a significant portion of population. Television and films are even used to transmit’subliminal messages’, images slipped in so quickly that they can’t be perceived but nonetheless have an effect.

It is obvious that every aspect of our society has been transformed by technology. Its effects have been positive in many areas; travel, communication, everyday conveniences, our health and comfort. However, does this mean that our thoughts, our attitudes, and our emotions should also be determined by technology? And isn’t this exactly how we are being pushed by all the ‘marketing’ techniques, mentioned above? It is no longer good enough to use reasoned argument to convince or persuade people. We are being conditioned, even compelled to accept that a certain brand of jeans or shoes is ‘trendy’ or ‘cool’; the image of super-sleek, trim bodies is meant, to remind us of low-fat yoghurt and food products. All this reduces us to a few simple behavioral reflexes. How far are these forms of manipulation going to go? Are we going to let ourselves be persuaded and not react, not use our critical faculties?

We only hope that, intelligent young people will refuse to be transformed entirely into mere consumers. However education and culture have something to do with it. A critical mind does not fall from the sky; it has to be acquired, built up and perfected.

Further, if we do emphasize so strongly the negative aspects of our consumer society, it’s because they reveal a more general problem, that philosophy should not underestimate; whether life and existence should be viewed solely from a technological point of view? At the level of biology and medicine, how far should we go in the use and improvement of artificial reproductive techniques? Manipulation of the genetic code and, may be in the near future, cloning? At the psychological and moral level, is it right to think of other people merely as means? For example, are parents only useful for housing and supporting me? Are my friends there to amuse me and do me favors? Does my girl or boy friend exist only to give me pleasure? And so on. If this is the case, then a purely mechanistic view of human life is the only one that will prevail. And then what will humanity have come to?

Technology, traditionally defined, is using means to achieve an end. But these ends must be clearly perceived and lucidly chosen. When technologies were still simple and small in scale, the relation between means and ends was easy to see. In our civilization, technology is omnipresent; it has even become a social issue. It is integrated and internalized in the way we function. Above all it is much more than a pile of tools, equipment and machinery. Technology has never been more efficient and subtle than when it is able to converge with the sciences. Computer science is typical of the ‘techno-sciences’, because it involves at the same time, mathematical models(software programs), and complicated electronic equipment(hardware). No one can deny that this ‘techno-science’ has contributed powerfully to the transformation of our lives.

Whatever their conveniences and advantages may be, can computers replace us as the judge of our actions, and their motives? Computers can certainly help us and inform us, but would we on that account program our life with no other objective except efficiency? Besides, what kind of efficiency would it be? We are returning to our original questions; what is just and what is unjust, what is right and what is wrong, and how can we decide? These are not the questions, technology can answer.

(From “Consciousness and Its Place in Nature” by David Chalmers, an Australian philosopher born in 1966- Oxford University press 2002, ” Zombies versus Materialists” by Robert Kirk- proceedings of the Aristotelian society,supplement 66(1974))

As philosophers use the term, Zombie is a creature that is micro-physically identical to a human being, and thus produces behavior, that is indistinguishable from that of a normal human being, but lacks any sort of consciousness in the phenomenal sense. Zombies behave as if they are in pain when you stick them with a pin, and they will report that they are in pain, but they don’t experience any painful sensation.

Many philosophers have recently claimed that we can coherently imagine the existence of Zombies. This claim is taken to imply the possibility of Zombies, a claim that in turn is taken to imply that falsity of physicality. The Zombies after all are by definition exactly like us physically. But if, two creatures alike physically can differ with respect to consciousness, it seems to show that consciousness is something over and above the physical.

( John Searle ” Minds, Brains, and Programs” (1980), “Minds and Brains without programs” (1988))

Is it possible to make a computer, intelligent, or give one a thinking mind, just by having it run the right computer program? John Searle’s(born 1932) famous Chinese Room argument is intended to prove that this is not possible. Searle says that if he does not understand Chinese language solely on the basis of running the right rules, then neither does a computer understand solely on the basis of running the right program. And what goes for Chinese, goes for other forms of cognition as well. Just manipulating symbols according to a program, is not enough by itself to guarantee cognition, perception, understanding, thinking and so on and so forth. So strong ‘Artificial Intelligence’, is decisively proved wrong.


Time to draw up a clear balance sheet, on the question of the relation between philosophy and the sciences. A great many of the major philosophers have been scientists; but today it is the literary figures who make the running in philosophy, and philosophy is a discipline that is taught in the faculty of arts. Moreover, we have seen at large, variety of positions; some philosophers like to think that they are scientifically rigorous, others assume a contrary position taking all kinds of liberties with rational or positivist methods. How are we going to find our way? For the answer, we will draw on two methods, the first historical and the second analytical.

Historically western philosophy and science arose together, in Greece, under the name of ‘episteme’, knowledge of what is. Science itself has never formed a homogeneous bloc. The first sages of Greece were astronomers, physicists, moralists, and even doctors, all at once. It is only when we come to Plato that we see the first distinction between mathematics and philosophy as such. But distinction is not separation, and even lesser is it opposition. At the entrance to his philosophical ‘Academy’, Plato had these words written; ‘Let no one ignorant of geometry enter here.’ For him, geometry is a first absolutely essential stage in the ascent to the world of ideas. The platonic tradition is so positively inclined towards mathematics, that Galileo could find support in Plato( against the Aristotelians), when he founded mathematical physics in the modern sense. But Aristotle himself, although less of a geometer than Plato, was a great logician, and a Biologist without equal. In his day he was a tremendous scientist. And if we line up the great modern philosophers, starting with Bacon( pioneer of the experimental method), Descartes( inventor of analytic geometry, expert in mechanics, optics, cosmology),Leibniz( inventor of the calculus), we see that the divorce between science and philosophy is relatively recent.

So, is it even necessary to speak of a divorce? Let’s focus our minds on the present delimitation in the fields of science and philosophy.

In principle, every science has a determinate object; mathematics studies numbers and quantitative relationships; physics material nature; biology living things. In fact in our time each of these sciences has divided the scope of its work into increasingly narrow subdivisions. In physics for example, theoretical physics is distinguished from the physics of elementary particles, also from condensed-matter physics, from astrophysics, and so on. Can philosophy be a science like all the others? If philosophy lacks a specific object, reflecting instead on the conditions in which the other sciences are possible, the reply must be in the negative. Yet this reply, in its turn, can be understood in a negative and a positive sense.

Negatively the conclusion would be that philosophy can not be a rigorous form of knowledge, like the other sciences. Accordingly, it must be either rejected or made strictly subordinate to the sciences. Positively, only philosophy examines the fundamental questions that the sciences themselves can not raise, without transgressing the very limits that define them. If a biologist wonders, ‘what is life?’ he is no longer being a biologist. In actual fact, scientists frequently ask themselves philosophical questions regarding their own discipline. The most lucid of them do so deliberately and with self awareness- that is without intending to preach either to their scientific colleagues or to philosophers. They are extremely conscious of the difficulty of the enterprise.

Einstein(1879-1955) managed to formulate his own philosophical proposition, such as “God does not play dice”, or ” The most incomprehensible thing about reality is that it is comprehensible”. He never confused these reflections with his scientific work.

It is because it’s in the nature of philosophical thinking, to be both general and fundamental that philosophy was long given the privilege of being considered’ the queen of sciences’. No one would support such a view now.

There are those who are tempted to invert the priorities here, looking down on any concern, that is not scientific. Is not such ‘hard’ scientism an over-reaction, more passionate and less rational than it pretends to be, trapped in an overly schematic concept of science, and misunderstanding the possibilities of rigor and analysis that belong to the work of philosophy?

Those philosophers who adopt a scientistic position,if they resort to argument,remain philosophers( this is the case with Carnap(1891-1970) and the neo-positivists of the Vienna school). Their main concern is to show that philosophy can assert itself as a rigorous discipline as long as it renounces its earlier claims. Although this concern is in principle perfectly respectable, its concrete consequences warrant further discussion. Every thing depends on the extent of the ‘remainder’, the domain designated as the preserve of philosophy.

Following on from this, we have the right to pose a few more questions to the scientistic thinkers. Is their concept of rigor overly restrictive? Is there only one way to arrive at truth? Is there only one kind of truth?

( Karl Popper’s “Philosophy of Science”-1957,and “Conjectures and Refutations ;the Growth of scientific knowledge”-1963)
Karl Popper(1902-1994) is considered one of the most influential philosophers of science of the 20th century. He is perhaps best known for his criteria of demarcation between science and pseudo-science. Troubled by the presumed scientific status of some theories popular in his time- most notably, Marx’s Theory of history, Freudian Psycho-analysis, and Alfred Adler’s Individual Psychology- Popper was determined to identify some criteria by which to distinguish scientific theories from pseudo-scientific theories. This criteria known as falsifiability, was for Popper the mark of a scientific theory. According to Popper, a theory is scientific, only if it makes prediction that can be tested, and potentially shown to be false. If a theory is not falsifiable in this way and can only be confirmed with cumulative supporting evidence, then it is pseudo-scientific. For example Einstein’s theory of general relativity predicts that rays of light from distant stars will be deflected by the sun’s gravitational field. During a solar eclipse in 1919, astrophysics confirmed that starlight was in fact deflected by the sun, and by almost precisely the amount predicted by Einstein. So, Einstein’s theory of general relativity is a scientific theory, according to Popper’s criteria, because it made a falsifiable prediction.


Do the sciences have an answer for everything? In one essential sphere, they need to be taken over and guided, and that sphere is ‘Ethics’. There is no science that can tell us if the exploitation of atomic energy, the exploration of space or the possible cloning of human beings, is morally good or bad. And even if it has to take into account more and more scientific information, ethics is not itself a science. Its interest in ends puts it at the very heart of philosophy.

The aim of ethics assigned by Aristotle was ‘to live a good life’. But determining what constitutes ‘good’, is not straightforward; between the useful, whose limitation we have realized, and the good in itself- radiant like a dazzling star- there is the Just. But isn’t this simply a timid compromise to avoid violence and conflict? Or is it rather the lucid, if complex, elaboration of all the best solutions we can find, and the best decisions we can take to ensure social harmony and individual happiness? If the latter, we must construct ” A Theory of Justice”( by American philosopher John Rawls(1921-2002)), even if justice should never remain theoretical. We have to see the practical side of philosophy. How can we work through it without a concern for truth? Theory and practice are closely linked; a theory that does not lead to actual practice remains abstract; a practice lacking clarification by theory is comparable to a car driving at night without headlights.

To declare that philosophy’s theoretical side is the search for truth seems obvious. If there is a difficulty, it lies in the singular designation; does it refer to truth in general or to ‘ The Truth’( assuming that there’s a higher and unique truth)?

When Pontius Pilate and Jesus had their extraordinary confrontation, The Roman procurator posed the philosophical question par excellence; ‘what is truth?’Is it not in fact philosophy’s task to show how this search for truth is an infinite and impossible quest? If the other response offered, that of Jesus(who presents himself as’ the way, the truth, and the life’) demands faith, then it is not philosophical.

The philosophical search for the truth can not claim to be exclusive without contradicting itself. For truth is not written in capital letters. Philosophy’s unique privilege is not that it can present its own truths, as superior to religious or scientific truths. Rather, it is privileged because it reflects on the very notion of truth and on the conditions that govern valid judgement. Hence philosophical thinking must be specific and narrowly conceived, not like the search for a general truth. Philosophical thought appears only at the end of a cultural evolution, that has already enabled humanity to discover many different truths at many different levels.

Is it necessary to reject everything that claims to be true? Aristotle’s answer is ‘ no one is left completely out of the gate.’He means that truth is not unified and is not given as a whole, but reveals itself bit by bit through experience and trial.( hum toh kya hain woh farishton koh azmata hai, banakar humko mitata hai phir banata hai, aadmi tootkey….sau baar juda hai yaaro……jiska koi nahin…..). Philosophy’s role is not to condemn errors, but to correct and overcome them, confirming as true only those claims whose truth and validity can be tested, which must lead us to pose questions such as the following; ‘is truth a function of the form of judgement itself, or it is a matter of a correspondence with external reality?”Is a true judgement irrefutable?”Are there truths that can not be demonstrated?”Is logical truth the only kind of truth?’and so on and so forth.

Truth and justice, justice and truth; they are the two sides of an appropriate banner for philosophy. Yet what is a banner, but a sign of pride, a sign of identity. It is what a noble fighter might use to rally members of his clan, his family, or his nation( one could well imagine the philosophers thus grouping themselves on a battlefield, but is not philosophy primarily the love of wisdom, and does not it speak to every one without grouping?) or the world.( ek lafze muhabbat ka adna sa fasana hai, simtey toh dile aashiq phailey toh zamana hai….)

(ref-’The Classical Utilitarians’ by Jeremy Bentham – published in 2003, ‘Taking Animals seriously; mental life and moral status’ by David De Grazia, 1996, ‘The Basic Argument for Vegetarianism’ by James Rachels, 2007, and ‘All Animals Are Equal’ by Peter Singer, 2002)

The ethics of relations between human and nonhuman animals is a minor topic in the history of western moral philosophy.Philosophers have given it more attention since nineteen seventies, when Peter Singer’s work prompted much thinking about the interests of nonhuman animals. Singer’s signature claim is that the same interests of nonhuman animals and humans deserve the same degree of moral considerations. At the time he pressed the analogy with contemporary liberation movements, saying that nonhuman animals were unfairly denied moral status, just as women and people of color had been unfairly denied moral status. However Singer’s judgement of social status and claims of oppression contribute less to its philosophical merit than the impetus he gave to rethinking of criteria of basic moral status. The argument presented here makes claims about moral status explicit.

This argument has had more influence among non-philosophers than any philosophical argument of the past 50 years, with the possible exception of John Rawls’ ‘A Theory of Justice’ and Thomas Kuhn’s ‘ The Structure of Scientific Revolution’. Although the argument concludes that vegetarianism is morally required, the consideration adduced in its premises can be extended to moral judgement about using nonhuman animals in research, manufacturing, entertainment, and companionship.

The argument for ethical vegetarianism starts by asserting that the ability to suffer is the ground of basic moral consideration. A being deserves basic moral consideration if it deserves consideration of its own sake. In contrast something deserves derivative moral consideration if it deserves consideration for the sake of something else.

The ethical vegetarianism argument aims to show that nonhuman animals deserve basic moral consideration.

A being deserves basic moral consideration just in case we are morally required to take its interests into account when deliberating about what to do. The ability to suffer is roughly coextensive with sentience, the capacity to experience pain, pleasure, frustration, and satisfaction of desires. Anything that deserves basic moral consideration is said to have interests. If so, then any being that can suffer has an interest in avoiding suffering. Things that can not suffer might merit derivative moral consideration even when they do not merit consideration for their own sake.

Knowing that a being deserves moral consideration is necessary, but not sufficient for moral judgement. In addition, we need to know how various beings’ interests stand in relation to one another. The equal consideration of interests principle is an independent premise telling us that interests themselves are equal, regardless of the kind of being that has the interests. Thus, the equal consideration of interests principle asserts that the criteria of moral consideration, the ability to suffer, applies to both nonhuman and human animals. Thus, the same suffering ought to have the same weight in judging the rightness or wrongness of our actions, whether a human or nonhuman experiences the suffering.

The conclusion of this argument is that, causing a being to suffer without adequate justification is morally wrong. And consequently concluding that eating meat is morally wrong. The premises introduce the factual claims that industrial production of meat involves confining,killing, and causing animals to experience pain, and that by eating meat one participates in confining, killing, and causing pain.

Singer’s earlier statement of the argument is his “All animals Are Equal” published in 1974 in ‘ Philosophical Exchange’. The journal is not widely available, but the article is frequently anthologized. The quotation below is from singer’s ‘ Unsanctifying Human Life’.

If a being suffers, there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. No matter what the nature of being, the principle of equality requires that its suffering be counted equally with the like suffering- insofar as rough comparison can be made- of any other being. If a being is not capable of suffering, or of experiencing enjoyment or happiness, there is nothing to be taken into account. This is why the limit of sentience ( using the term as a convenient, if not strictly accurate shorthand for the capacity to suffer or experience enjoyment or happiness) is defensible boundry of concern for the interests of others. To mark the boundry by some characteristic like intelligence or rationality would be to mark it in an arbitrary way. Why not chose some other characteristic, like skin color?

The racist violates the principles of equality by giving greater weight to the interests of members of his own race, when there is clash between their interests and the interests of those of another race. Similarly, the speciesist allows the interests of his own species to override the greater interests of members of other species. The pattern is the same in each case. Most humans are speciesists. I shall now describe some of the practices that show this.

For the great majority of human beings, especially in urban, industrialized societies, the most direct form of contact with members of other species is at mealtimes; we eat them. In doing so, we treat them purely as means of our ends. We regard their life and well-being as subordinate to our taste for a particular kind of dish. I say “taste” deliberately- this is purely a matter of pleasing our palate. There can be no defense of eating flesh in terms of satisfying nutritional needs, since it has been established beyond doubt that we could satisfy our need for protein and other essential nutrients far more efficiently with a diet that replaced animal flesh by soybeans, or products derived from soybeans, and other high protein vegetables and their products.

It is not merely the act of killing that indicates what we are ready to do to other species in order to gratify our tastes. The suffering we inflict on the animals while they are alive is perhaps an even clearer indication of our speciesism, than the fact that we are prepared to kill them.

(REF-’The Will to Believe,The Human Immortality’ by William James,by Dover publications, 1956, and ” William James’s ‘The will to Believe,The Human Immortality’ and ‘The Ethics of Self Experimentation’” by Jennifer Welchman, 2006)

William James in his 1896 lecture,”The Will to Believe” gave an argument for holding on to religious beliefs, even in the face of insufficient evidence. James’ stated target in his lecture is W.K.Clifford, a philosopher who had argued in his’ The Ethics of Belief’ that’ it is wrong always, everywhere, and for everyone to believe anything upon insufficient evidence’. James’ strategy in “The Will to Believe” is first to identify what he thought would be a point of agreement with Clifford; specifically that our two fundamental duties as believers are to believe truth and avoid falsehood. James then goes on to agree partially with Clifford that at least ordinarily when someone believes upon insufficient evidence, he is irrational. This is because while believing upon insufficient evidence, does contribute to the pursuit of true belief(since the belief might be true), when someone believes upon insufficient evidence, he is usually violating his duty to avoid false belief.( since he didn’t wait for sufficient evidence before believing)

Where James disagrees with Clifford is, on whether believing upon insufficient evidence always involves, violating our duty to avoid false belief. Specifically James argues that, there exist beliefs for which the evidence of their truth would only become available, after we believed them, and therefore waiting to believe until we had sufficient evidence, would be a self defeating wait. To illustrate with an example, suppose that one has just finished medical education, and he/she is trying to decide whether to join a research team working to discover a cure for cancer. Now, to make such a substantial commitment to the search for a cure, James would argue that he/she must believe that a cure exists to be found. That is, he/she would be fooling himself/herself, if he/she thought that he/she could make such a momentous career choice while continuing to suspend belief about the existence of the cure he/she is looking for. At the very least, most people would need such a belief to sustain them, during the times in which their research was going poorly. That being said, sufficient evidence that such a cure exists, wouldn’t be available until well into the search for one. Therefore, a belief in the existence of a cure for cancer is a belief for which the evidence of its truth, only becomes available after we believe that a cure exists.

Similar to a cancer researcher’s belief in the existence of a cure, James holds that religious belief is required before evidence of its truth can become available. While this would seem to justify religious belief only for those who make a career of religious research, James argues that religious belief is justified even for ordinary believers in virtue of the peculiar way its evidence depends upon their belief. In the preface to the published version of his “The Will To Believe” lecture, James fills in this last step of his argument.

If religious hypothesis about the universe be in order at all, then the active faiths of individuals in them, freely expressing themselves in life, are the experimental tests by which they are verified, and the only means by which their truth or falsehood can be wrought out. The truest scientific hypothesis is that which, as we say ‘works’ best; and it can be no otherwise with religious hypothesis.Religious history proves that one hypothesis after another has worked ill, has crumbled at contact with a widening knowledge of the world, and has lapsed from the minds of men. Some articles of faith, however, have maintained themselves through every vicissitude, and possess even more vitality today than ever before. The freest competition of the various faiths with one another, and their openest application to life by their several champions, are the most favorable conditions under which the survival of the fittest can proceed.


Plato’s finest dialogue ‘The Symposium’, is devoted to love, to the God of love,Eros, and to different forms of love. In the course of a convivial dinner party, each of the guests makes an effort to speak in praise of love.

Plato does not conceal the fact that love is also responsible for delirium and distraction, because it first desires beautiful bodies made of flesh and blood, and so falls far short of ideal purity. It implies that Plato completely outlawed physical love, which is not the case at all. What is true on the other hand, is that he believed that physical love needs to be illuminated by the higher harmony,of which it is a reflection. Further it represents one phase of our ascent towards the beautiful and the good. ‘Platonic love’ reveals how much philosophy, if it remains in touch with life itself, moves us the way desire moves us, leading us to transcend ourselves and inspiring us with enthusiasm, drawing us towards the divine.

The respective roles of physical desire and attachment to a person, continue to provoke discussion throughout the philosophical tradition. While sexuality was repressed for many hundreds of years, today its vindication intrudes in every aspect of life- all too often in forms that are violent or artificially manipulated by advertisements and the media. We have passed from one extreme to the other.

Do we know the right tasks for a philosophical way of thinking that is conscious of recent developments, and has been enlightened by the discoveries of psychoanalysis and the human sciences? We do know that it should not reduce human love to its most basic expression. Instead it should consider human love in all its different forms, with tolerance and sympathy, and it should give love the chance to contribute again to the search for wisdom. American philosopher Stanley Cavell ( born 1926- aged 87) put it this way- “Philosophy is the education of grown-ups”.


Wisdom is the practical aim of philosophy. But it is outdated. Almost invariably sage is presented as a venerable old man, impressive or genial, very rarely with the features of a young girl or young man. Our age prefers extremes. Moderation repels.

Solomon had already judged that wisdom is impossible without the help of God. The monotheistic religions distrust any heightened state of soul that might be attained independently of divine grace. Clearly wisdom has very few friends.

Even western philosophy is not so sure about wisdom. Socrates, whom the oracle at Delphi designated the wisest of men, refused the title, and inaugurated this false modesty that involves saying one is only a lover or friend of wisdom. Differentiating himself from those early Greek philosophers who did not hesitate to call themselves-Sages(Sophie- in Greek).

Wisdom is something ‘sought after’ rather than possessed. But why is it considered so difficult, if not impossible, for human beings to achieve? We can understand why the religions dependent on the Bible maintain this impossibility, because for them it is the result of Adam’s sin. But why philosophy unsure?

It is philosophy’s lucidity about the human condition, feeble and controlled by passion, that leads it to scepticism and can even drive it to disenchantment.

Descartes had a more measured and confident position; lacking the sovereign, omniscient wisdom that is the privilege of God, man can endeavor to master his passions, learn how to know them,and, if he knows how to limit his desires, attain a state of bliss adapted to his own limits( just as a small vessel is easier to fill than a large one).

This is how modesty can point the way on the path to wisdom. It seems to be true that the exercise of philosophy, teaching us to be clear about the world and about ourselves, can teach us moderation and thus also the beginning of wisdom.

While our technological society emphasizes adaptation and flexibility, our decision makers(rulers) fuss about integration, responsibility, the sense of citizenship. The question of individual balance, the sense of what counts in life, seems to be downgraded to a mere accessory. And those who refuse the dominant model are considered dropouts; Our society wants to be efficient, controlling and profitable.

Something like a serious examination of what really should count in life, something a bit like pilgrimage to the source after all, is required. This does not inevitably mean a trip to India. A living practice of philosophy always includes a personal side in addition. So it is up to us to take it from here.


Is the present period in the history of western philosophy beginning at the end of the 19th century with the professionalization of the discipline and the rise of Analytic and Continental philosophy.

The Phrase ” Contemporary philosophy” is a piece of technical terminology in philosophy that refers to a specific period in the history of western philosophy. However the phrase is often confused with Modern philosophy(which refers to an earlier period in western philosophy), Post Modern philosophy ( which refers to Continental philosophers criticism of Modern philosophy), and with a non-technical use of the phrase referring to any recent philosophic work.



Not long after the formulation, The Western Philosophical Association, and portions of the American Psychological Association merged with the American Philosophical Association to create what is today the main professional organization for philosophers in United States, That is AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL ASSOCIATION. The association has three divisions- Pacific, Central, and Eastern. Each division organizes a large annual conference. The biggest of these is the EASTERN DIVISION meeting which usually attracts around 2000 philosophers and takes place in a different east coast city each December. The Eastern division meeting is also America’s largest recruitment event for philosophy jobs, with numerous universities sending teams to interview candidates for academic posts. Among its many other tasks, the association is responsible for administering many of the profession’s top honours. For example, the Presindency of a Division of the American philosophical Association is considered to be a professional honour, and the American Philosophical Association Book prize is one of the oldest prizes in philosophy.

The largest academic organization devoted to specifically furthering the study of continental philosophy is the Society for Phenomenology and Existential philosophy.

Since the start of the 21st century, philosophers have also seen the growing utilization of blogs as a means of professional exchange. A few notable milestones in this development include an informal listing of philosophy blogs begun by philosopher David Chalmers which has since become a widely used resource by the profession. The establishment of a partnership between Ethics blog,PEA Soup and the prominent journal Ethics, to post featured articles for online discussion on the blog, and the role of blogs like, what is it like to be a woman in philosophy?, in bringing attention to the experience of women in the profession.


Contemporary Continental philosophy began with the work of Franz Brentano, Edmund Husserl, Adolf Reinach and Martin Heideggar, and the development of the philosophical method of phenomenology. This development was roughly contemporaneous with work by Gottlob Ferge and Bertrand Russel, inaugurating a new philosophical method based on the analysis of language via modern logic( hence the term ” Analytic Philosophy”).

Analytic and Continental philosophers often hold a disparaging view of each other’s respective approach to philosophy, and as a result work largely independent of each other. While Analytic philosophy is the dominant approach in most philosophy departments found in english speaking countries (e.g. U.K., U.S., Canada, Australia), as well as Scandinavia, Continental philosophy is prevalent throughout the rest of the western world( e.g. France, Germany). Some contemporary philosophers argue that this division is harmful to philosophy and thus attempt a combined approach(e.g. Richard Rorty–1931-2007).

Analytic and Continental philosophy share a common western philosophical tradition up to Immanuel Kant. Afterwards analytic and continental philosophers differ on the importance and influence of subsequent philosophers on their respective traditions. The German Idealism school which developed out of work of Kant in 1780 and seventeen nineties and culminated in Hegel, is considered an important development in philosophy’s history by many continental philosophers, but was thought to be repudiated by Bertrand Russel, Moore and many analytic philosophers.


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