Human beings are endowed with the faculty of reasoning that enables them to think and draw logical conclusions. This increases human knowledge beyond the small limit of perceptual knowledge.

Scientific Knowledge and Reason

Scientific knowledge is gained by the exercise of reason. Reason has brought tremendous progress in scientific knowledge and technology. But this progress raised the question of rationality of science itself. Thus, rationality has become a debatable philosophical issue now a day. Before entering in the debate it is necessary to understand this issue clearly.

Scientific Theories and Choice

Scientists postulate theories to explain some phenomena occurring before them in their experiments and observations. It is found that the same phenomenon could be explained by some other theory postulated by some other scientist (or group of scientists). Thus theories come in competition in course of explaining a phenomenon.

Then naturally a question arises about the choice of the theory. Which one of the competing theories should be accepted as a better theory than the other? Does science has a rational criterion to decide it or is it a matter of the collective choice of the community of the scientists? 

Opinions of the Philosophers of Science

20th century Philosophers of Science were divided on this issue. Some thinkers, like Sir Karl Popper, were of the view that science has within itself criterion of progress whereas others like Thomas Kuhn contend that it is a matter of choice of the community of scientists, and there is not strict scientific formula to make a decision in this regard.

View of Karl Popper

Karl Popper, who is supporter of objective rationality of scientific theory choice, argues that in the cases of competing theories  that theory is chosen which could predict newer facts and that theory is refuted which fail to do so or predict lesser number of facts.

This is the only way to rationally decide which theory is better. Thus the criterion of theory of choice is available within scientific enterprise itself and scientists can’t choose any theory apart from this criterion of progress.

View of Thomas Kuhn

Thomas Kuhn tries to  show that in cases of theory choice scientists don’t really have any criterion as Popper has indicated because in the light of one really have any criterion as Popper has indicated because in the light of one theory one sort of facts are predicted and in the light of the others. Scientists, according to Kuhn, work and postulate a theory under the influence of a particular paradigm of science and keep predicting facts deduced from that theory.


No theory is immediately refuted if some facts don’t accord with that.  Scientists keep working with that theory till a new theory makes an occasion of shift in paradigm. A paradigm is the shared belief of the community of the scientists regarding the explanatory power and efficacy of a theory. No new theory can prove its efficacy in advance; it takes long to practically test its predictions and to decide about its explanatory power.

Kuhn argues that theory choice can’t be made by any formula as indicated by Popper. It is the acceptance of a new paradigm by the community of scientists without any strict logical ground that bring about a revolutionary change in science.

Therefore, Kuhn holds that the rationality of scientific theory choice is dependent on the paradigm that is accepted by the community of the scientists as a matter of shared beliefs and there is no fixed scientific criterion or objective logic of this choice.

Nature of Rationality

Earlier it was believed that rationality is one and absolute. Now many thinkers, scientists, historians,  and writers contend that rationality  is paradigm or system relative. In this light people talk about multiple rationality also, i.e., many types of rationality.

Both Views are correct

It is not possible to decide which view about rationality is correct. In fact this kind of decision is not needed because a close philosophical reflection reveals that both the views of rationality are correct in their respective contexts. It is true that a purely objective general formula for theory choice neither in science nor in any other intellectual endeavor could be presented.

Human Choice

Human choice at such a deeper level essentially involves many subjective elements but once this choice is made no subjective elements are  permitted to go ahead in that system if that system is to be called a rational system at all. At every turn subjective elements are not and can’t be allowed.

Within a system once has to strictly and objectively adhere to certain rules to ensure rationality of the conclusions of that system.


Rationality could be accepted to be multiple or many in the sense that different systems don’t adopt the same set of rules for drawing conclusions. However, the recognition that these different sets of rule are necessary to ensure rationality of the conclusions within various systems make it clear that rationality is identifiable beyond the boundaries of different systems, and in this sense it is absolute and purely objective.

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Critical Method of Philosophy


One of the main characteristics of philosophical activities is criticism. Philosophers criticize. Philosophy carries out its function of criticism in two ways:

  1. Poking Holes
  2. Proposition Alternatives

First, philosophy pokes holes in propositions and arguments.  It examines propositions to see if they are meaningless, vague, ambiguous, or false; it examines arguments to see whether they are valid or invalid, sound or unsound.

More generally, philosophers test assertions and arguments to see how strong they really are. Appearances in this regard are often misleading – as most of us have learned through hard experience with advertisements, sales pitches, and promises.

A second way in which philosophers criticize theories is by proposing alternatives to them.

This function of philosophy is important because of the limitations of our individual experience and imagination.

Sometimes we ascribe greater strength to a theory than it deserves because we know of no alternative.

Why do philosophers poke holes in propositions and propose alternatives to whatever is claimed? Not because they are quarrelsome people, but in order to advance our pursuit of knowledge.

More abstractly, a proposed solution to a problem must be critiqued in order that we might determine:

  1. Whether it is an adequate solution to the problem.
  2. Whether it is the only adequate solution or one of two or more adequate solutions
  3. If the latter, whether it is superior, inferior, or equal to the other solutions.

Clearly, our problem solving effort will become more effective and satisfactory when asking these questions becomes second-nature to us.

We might define philosophy in its critical role as an unflinching analysis of all beliefs, including the ones that are most precious to us.  To study in details of this method, Thinking Philosophy by Richard E. Creel , is the best book.


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Reflective Method of Philosophy


Reflection is an important human activity in which people recapture their experience, think about it, mull over & evaluate it. It is this working with experience that is important in learning. We learn through critical reflection by putting ourselves into the experience & exploring personal & theoretical knowledge to understand it & view it in different ways.

According to John Locke, reflection is a form of experience. In this sense, it is purely internal. The ideas that are produced by reflection are the ideas such as love, hatred, pain, pleasure etc. Sometimes it is also interpreted as introspection.

Philosophers used exposition, synthesis, description, speculation, prescription, criticism etc.,  to discuss various concepts of philosophy and from these methods of philosophy originated. One of the important methods is ‘Speculative Method.” Philosophers speculate. The inherent limitations of synthetic philosophy and descriptive philosophy points beyond themselves to speculative philosophy.

Speculative philosophy “lets our all the stops”. It stops at neither the limits of scientific investigation nor those of ordinary experience. To do speculative philosophy is to ask whether there is anything more to reality rather than that which is revealed by science and ordinary experience.

The objective of speculative philosophy is to comprehend the whole of reality by means of reason, so if reason requires that speculative philosophers go beyond the limits of science and ordinary experience in order to account for the whole of reality, then they do so.

Reason is the primary tool of speculative philosophy.  We try the following by this:

  • To determine whether there is or may be more to reality than is given in ordinary experience.
  • To comprehend the whole of reality – analyzing it into its parts and then comprehending those parts in their dynamic relations to one another, even as the student  of a combustion engine must know not only the assembled whole but also the individual parts, and not only the individual parts but how they function in relation to one another in order to constitute a running engine.

We might say that “the whole and its parts” is the motto of the speculative philosopher.  The speculative philosopher, in his or her desire to account for the whole of reality, investigates the extent to which  reason does or does not require that we postulate the existence of things, such as God, matter, other minds, souls and dimensions of reality other than revealed by sensation and introspection,.

Some of the great works in speculative philosophy are by Plato, Aristotle, Lucretius, Plotinus, Augustine, Spinoza, Berkeley, Hegel, Marx, and Whitehead.  For more details study of speculative method and other things like “what philosophers do” may be studied in Thinking Philosophically by Richard E. Creel.

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Main Branches of Philosophy


  • Metaphysics : Metaphysics investigates the nature, structure and value of reality.


Defining Metaphysics

Metaphysics: Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that goes beyond the realms of science. It is concerned with answering the questions about identity and the world. The name is derived from the Greek words, Meta which means beyond or after, and Physika which means physics. Aristotle, one of the most well known philosophers, acknowledged Thales as the first known meta physician. The main branches of metaphysics are ontology, natural theology and universal science.

Problems of Metaphysics

There is a basic question about the ultimate substance as to how many substances are required to constitute this world? Here are some theories regarding this:

  • Dualism
  • Monism
  • Materialism
  • Spiritualism
  • Pluralism
  • Epistemology: Epistemology literally means “science of knowledge.”


Defining Epistemology

Epistemology: It deals with the definition of knowledge and its scope and limitations. It translates from Greek to mean ‘theory of knowledge’. It questions the meaning of knowledge, how we obtain knowledge, how much do we know and how do we have this knowledge? Some of the famous epistemologists are Descartes, Kant and Hume.

Problems of Epistemology

  • What is the nature of Knowledge?
  • What is the nature of the process of knowledge?
  • What are the sources of Knowledge? :Rationalism , Empiricism, Intuitionism.
  • What is the criteria of determining truth? : The Correspondence Theory of Truth, The Coherence Theory of Truth, The Pragmatic Theory of Truth.
  • Ethics : Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice, etc.


Defining Ethics

Ethics: It is concerned with questions on morality and values and how they apply to various situations. It can be divided into the branches of meta-ethics, normative and applied ethics. Ethics seeks to understand the basis of morals, how they develop and how they are and should be followed. Famous works on ethics are by philosophers as early as Plato, Aristotle, Kant and Nietzsche.

Problems of Ethics

The central questions raised in this course in ethics are :

(1) What is the nature of the life of excellence?,

(2) What is the ultimate worth of the goals you seek?

(3) What specific courses of conduct, in keeping with these goals, will help lead to the life of excellence?



  1. Social Philosophy:

Social Philosophy is one of the main and important branches of Philosophy. It is the thoughtful consideration of human society. It gives insight into the actual activities of human beings in the society.

Defining Social Philosophy

Social philosophy is the study of questions about social behavior and interpretations of society and social institutions in terms of ethical values.

For Bertrand Russell, ‘Social Philosophy seeks the conditions in which all the constructive tendencies of man (such as love and sympathy) Social marriage and education can provide maximum possible opportunities to produce the people who can save the world from future catastrophe.

“Social philosophy studies the interactions and inter-relations that exist among men and their groups”.

Problems of Social Philosophy

Social Philosophy has two main functions namely Critical and Constructive. Social Philosophy studies the most fundamental laws which influence social cohesion, social progress, social change and social disintegration.

  • It seeks insight into the causes of social crimes, juvenile delinquency, child labor, honor killing, gender differentiation, injustice, and inequality.
  • It tries to find out the root causes of social pathology and suggests the remedies for it.
  • It seeks to discover and restore the social bonds that hold the mankind together.
  • It defines the social values such as common good, happiness, peace, security, justice, freedom, excellence/beauty, punctuality and discipline.


  • Aesthetics:


Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy which is concerned with definition, structure and role of beauty, especially in the art is called aesthetics.

Defining Aesthetics

The term “aesthetic” has been used to designate an experience, the quality of an object, a feeling of pleasure, classicism in art, a judgment of taste, the capacity of perception, a value, an attitude, the theory of art, the doctrine of beauty, a state of the spirit, contemplative receptivity, an emotion, an intention, a way of life, the faculty of sensibility, a branch of philosophy, a type of subjectivity, the merit of certain forms, or an act of expression.


Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy which deals with the nature of art, beauty, and taste, with the creation and appreciation of beauty. It is more scientifically defined as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiments and taste. More broadly, scholars in the field define aesthetics as “critical reflection on art, culture and nature.”


Problems of Aesthetics:


The philosopher wishes to know the answer to questions such as:

  • What is beauty?
  • What is the relation of the beautiful to the true and the good?
  • Are there criteria by means of which we can judge a work of art in an objective sense?
  • What is the art itself?
  • Is it a reproduction of a vision into ultimate reality?
  • To what extent does the sense of appreciation of beauty contribute to the enrichment of human life?6. Logic: Logic is the system or principles of reasoning applicable to any branch of knowledge or study.Logic: Among the branches of philosophy, logic is concerned with the various forms of reasoning and arriving at genuine conclusions. It includes the system of statements and arguments. It is now divided into mathematical logic and philosophical logic. It tries to avoid the imaginary or assumptions without real logical proof. Among the important problems that logic can have:
  • Problems of Logic
  • Defining Logic
  • Consistency, which means that no theorem of the system contradicts another.
  • Validity, which means that the system’s rules of proof will never allow a false inference from true premises. A logical system has the property of soundness when the logical system has the property of validity and only uses premises that prove true (or, in the case of axioms, are true by definition).
  • Completeness, which means that if a theorem is true, it can be proven.
  • Soundness, which means that the premises are true and the argument is valid.

Other Branches of Philosophy:

  • Philosophy of Education: Fairly self-explanatory. A minor branch, mainly concerned with what is the correct way to educate a person. Classic works include Plato’s Republic, Locke’s Thoughts Concerning Education, and Rousseau’s Emile.
  • Philosophy of History: Fairly minor branch (not as minor as education), although highly important to Hegel and those who followed him, most notably Marx. It is the philosophical study of history, particularly concerned with the question whether history (i.e. the universe and/or humankind) is progressing towards a specific end? Hegel argued that it was, as did Marx. Classic works include Vico’s New Science, and Hegel and Marx’s works.
  • Philosophy of Law: Also called Jurisprudence. Study of law attempting to discern what the best laws might be, how laws came into being in the first place, attempting to delimit human laws from natural laws, whether we should always obey the law, and so on. Law isn’t often directly dealt with by philosophers, but much of political philosophy obviously has a bearing on it.
  • Philosophy of Mathematics: Concerned with issues such as, the nature of the axioms and symbols (numbers, triangle, operands) of mathematics that we use to understand the world, do perfect mathematical forms exist in the real world, and so on. Principia Mathematica is almost certainly the most important work in this field.
  • Philosophy of Language: Ancient branch of philosophy which gained prominence in the last century under Wittgenstein. Basically concerned with how our languages affect our thought. Wittgenstein famously asserted that the limits of our languages mark the limits of our thought. Classic works include Plato’s Cratylus, Locke’s Essay, and Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.
  • Philosophy of Politics: Closely related to ethics, this is a study of government and nations, particularly how they came about, what makes good governments, what obligations citizens have towards their government, and so on. Classic works include Plato’s Republic, Hobbes’ Leviathan, Locke’s Two Treatises, and J.S. Mill’s On Liberty.
  • Philosophy of Mind: Study of the mind, attempting to ascertain exactly what the mind is, how it interacts with our body, do other minds exist, how does it work, and so on. Probably the most popular branch of philosophy right now, it has expanded to include issues of AI. Classic works include Plato’s Republic and Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, although every major philosopher has had some opinion at least on what the mind is and how it works.
  • Philosophy of Religion: Theology is concerned with the study of God, recommending the best religious practices, how our religion should shape our life, and so on. Philosophy of religion is concerned with much the same issues, but where Theology uses religious works, like the Bible, as it’s authority, philosophy likes to use reason as the ultimate authority.
  • Philosophy of Science: Study of science concerned with whether scientific knowledge can be said to be certain, how we obtain it, can science really explain everything, does causation really exist, can every event in the universe be described in terms of physics and so on. Also popular in recent times, classic works include Hume’s Treatise on Human Nature, Kripke’s Naming and Necessity, Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

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Relation of Philosophy with Science

philosophy science

Bertrand Russell said that the difference between philosophy and science is of the degree not of kind. Prof. Dewey also said that the roots of philosophy and science are the same. Here we will study the relationship between philosophy and science.

What is Science?

Literally the word ‘science is derived from a Latin word ‘Scientia’ means knowledge. Therefore, science is knowledge.  When we use word ‘science’, it also refers scientific knowledge, scientific methods and different branches are sciences to e.g. physical science, biological science and social sciences etc.

Science generally defined as ‘a systematic body of knowledge relating to a definite department of nature.   This definition of philosophy implies that:

  1. Science gives systematic and well-organized knowledge. Scientific knowledge is claimed to be exact and certain.
  2. It has a limited field. It deals with a particular phase of nature or experience rather than with the whole.
  3. Its methods are generally accepted as analytic.
  4. Science aims at the formulation of general laws in order to explain events in nature.
  5. Science yields quantitative results. In brief, science is a method of objective investigation with the purpose of describing and interpretation the world in exact and quantitative terms.

Characteristics of science:

By the above definition and description we can assign the following characteristics to the Science:

  • Science is based upon observations and experiments
  • Science is based upon reason
  • Scientific knowledge is objective knowledge
  • In science observations needs no proof.
  • Causation is an important concept in science.
  • Factuality is the basis of scientific results.
  • There is certainty in scientific results.
  • Science is a systematic study of knowledge.
  • Relation between Science and Philosophy
  • The relationship between science and philosophy may be discussed under the following lines:
  • Philosophy critically analyses the results of all sciences and present a synoptic view of the life and world. C.D. Broad says that the object of philosophy is to take over the results of the various sciences, to add to theme the results of the religious and ethical experiences of mankind and then to reflect upon the whole. The hope is that, by this means, we may be able to reach some general conclusions as to the nature of the universe and as to our position and prospects in it.
  • Both Science and Philosophy are engaged in the search of truth.
  • Philosophy examines scientific method.
  • Both are critical in nature.
  • Philosophy integrates sciences and examines scientific assumptions.
  • Scientific research influences philosophical progress.
  • Philosophy guides the future course of scientific process.
  • Philosophy provides a constructive criticism of sciences.
  • Difference between Philosophy and Science
  • Philosophy and Science have different scope and problems.
  • The attitudes of philosophy and science are different.
  • Science and Philosophy differ in their methods.
  • Philosophical Conclusions are different from these of sciences.
  • Philosophy and science are engaged in different activities.
  • Philosophy and Science has much in common. Both grew out of the reflective, inquiring and are prompted by an impartial love of truth. Both attempt at understanding the world. But their approaches are different. Science has its goals-description, prediction experimentation and control while philosophy aims at interpretation, in finding the purpose and value in life.



Relation of Philosophy with Religion

religion and phil

Religion is primarily said to be a set of beliefs, a belief in some unseen power i.e. God who is controlling the world and a belief in life after that.  Philosophy of religion is concerned with much the same issues, but where Theology uses religious works, like the Bible, as its authority, philosophy likes to use reason as the ultimate authority.

What is Religion?

According to the philologist Max Müller, the root of the English word “religion”, the Latin religio, was originally used to mean only “reverence for God or the gods, careful pondering of divine things, piety” . It is a strong faith in supernatural spirit or God. Several thinkers defined religion via various definitions and according to their tradition. Some definitions are given below:

  • Mathew Arnold: Religion is nothing but morality touched with emotions.
  • Immanuel Kant: Religion is the recognition of all our duties as divine commandments.
  • Sri Aurobindo: The inmost essence of religion is the search for God and finding the God.
  • William James: Religion is the feelings, acts and experiences of individual men in their solitude.

We can say that religion is a belief in a power not ourselves which makes for righteousness and a desire to come into harmonious relation. Religion emphasizes the pursuit of some higher values which cannot be explained with the help of natural laws.

Characteristics of Religion:

There are following characteristics of a religion:

  • Every religion gets its start from the teachings of a particular prophet.
  • Every relation has its own scripture which is the sacred book for its followers who regards every part of its text as final authority.
  • Every religion propagates a special mode of worship, fixes up a place of worship and sets up an order of priests for management of religious affairs.
  • Every religion preaches a definite way of life and outlook based on a special philosophy of life which is different from one religion to another.
  • Religion of basis of confidence and morality.
  • Religion is based on emotions and beliefs.
  • Religion is the basis of virtues.
  • Religion is an inspiration of happiness and peace.

Relationship between Philosophy and Religion

  • Both religion and philosophy are normative in nature.
  • Religion and philosophy are complementary.
  • Philosophy is helpful in the development of religion.
  • Philosophy interprets assumptions of religion.
  • Religion broads the scope of philosophy.
  • Both make man optimistic.
  • Philosophy and Religion are related as theory and Practice.
  • Philosophy renders Religion more intelligible by explaining it.
  • Religion provides religious data to Philosophy.
  • Religion can complete the philosophical explanation of life.

Difference between Philosophy and Religion

When we discuss the difference between philosophy and religion, the following points should be noted:

  • The aim of Philosophy and Religion are different.
  • The problems of Philosophy are different from those of Religion.
  • The attitudes of Philosophy are different from that of Religion.
  • The methods of Philosophy and Religion are different.
  • The activities of Philosophy and Religion are different.
  • The nature of conclusion obtained from Philosophy and Religion are different.
  • The effect of philosophy and religion on the individual and society is different.

It is sometimes said that the study of philosophy being critical is likely to disturb our religious beliefs. This should not lead us into forgetting the intimate relation of philosophy and religion. Philosophy may be disturbing especially if the religious creed is narrow. But if it is broad and simple, philosophy strengthens it. Bacon said that a little philosophy inclined men’s mind to atheism, but depth in philosophy brings man’s mind to religion. Indeed, philosophy should help us to our fundamental religious beliefs on a solid intellectual foundation and so relieves us of much perplexity and doubt.

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Ethics and Social Philosophy : Good life and Good Society

Good Life

The good life is one in which what someone does and feels leads to and is constitutive of their fulfillment, also called happiness. Such happiness is neither primarily an experience; nor is it found as a consequence of following moral laws. Rather, happiness is fundamentally an activity: it is the state of the person who is living without hindrance the life that becomes a human being .To put it even more strongly, individual people do not make a society: society makes the individual. It is society that gives someone the language, rationality and symbols that make their individuality possible; it is these things that enable them to make themselves, possess themselves and be free.


In Indian tradition we can find a good discussion of Good Life and Good Society in the following texts:

  • (i) Panchatantra
  • (ii) Hitopadesha
  • (iii) Jataka Katha
  • We will discuss here the major aspects of above mentioned text.
  • Panchatantra (पन्चतन्त्रम् / Panchatantram)

Panchatantra (पन्चतन्त्रम् / panchatantram) stories are famous among young and adults alike all over the world. Panchatantra was written in Sanskrit in 200 BC by a great Sanskrit scholar named Vishnu Sharma. It traveled to Persia, Greece and then Europe. Since the original composition, it has been translated into more than 50 languages and is famous in many countries.

Conduct in Life

Panchatantra is a collection of animal stories (fables) each giving valuable insight into politics, moral code of conduct, and practical wisdom. In essence it teaches Neeti Shashtra or A Book Of Wise Conduct In Life, through animal stories. It teaches the practical aspects of life like – understanding people; choosing reliable friends; coming out of difficult situations wisely; and living in peace while facing deceit, hypocrisy and many problems in life.

Five Tantras:

  • The five tantras in Panchatantra are:
  • Mitra Bheda / मित्रभेदः / mitrabhedah (Enstrangement Of Friends)
  • Mitra Samprapti / मित्रसम्प्राप्तिः / mitrasampraaptih(Winning Of Friends)
  • Kakolukiyam / काकोलूकीयम् / kaakoluukiiyam (Of Crows & Owls)
  • Labdha Pranasam / लब्धप्रणाशम् / labdhapranaasham (Loss Of Gain)
  • Aparikshita Karakam / अपरीक्षितकारकं / apariikshitakaarakam(Rash Deeds)

Teachings of Panchatantra

  • Panchatantra has five tantras or principles/formulas. Each tantra starts with a main or root animal story with other stories inside the story. The main story forms the basic frame of the entire tantra. The characters in a story tell other stories, based on different situations or contexts. The thread of stories completes one tantra. Each story gives valuable insight into politics and practical wisdom as the essence or moral of the story is always close to what a person will face in day-to-day life.
  • Hitopadesha (हितोपदेश / Hitopadesha)

Hitopadesha (हितोपदेश / hitopadesha) is a collection of animal stories which are famous among young and adults alike. It was written in Sanskrit (11th or 12th century AD) by the Sanskrit scholar Narayana Bhatta. Just like Panchatantra, intention of Hitopadesha is to cover major branches of political wisdom, moral code of conduct, and practical wisdom. Hitopadesha has the following four sections:

  • Mitra Laabha / मित्रलाभः / mitralaabhah (Gaining Friends)
  • Suhrudbheda / सुरुभेधः / surubhedhah (Causing Dissension Between Friends)
  • Vigraha / विग्रहः / vigrahah (Separation)
  • Sandhi / सन्धि / sandhi (Union)


The author has included in his text experts from the Panchtantra, the Ramayana, the Mahabharat, the Puranas, the Smrtis, the Dharma Shashtra, and Chanakya Neeti etc. Stories in Hitopadesha are mostly derived from Panchatantra. Out of the five tantras in Panchatantra Narayana Bhatta adapted stories from four tantras. Besides this he added 18 more stories to his compilation. Hitopadesha holds that the Purusarthas as central for giving a direction to human life: Virtue, wealth, salvation, pleasure:

“The life where these aims absent be a he goat’s udder gives the measure of its futility. “(Pravastavika Sloka :26)

The above statement makes us clear that in the classical India world view the pursuit of wealth and sensuous desires were recognized as legitimate for living a comfortable worldly existence. Wealth gives one confidence in conducting one’s day to day existence. Poverty demoralizes an individual and shakes his self-confidence.

All along one must see that the purpose of human existence is not simply running after pleasures because the body is ephemeral. It is constantly moving towards death, thus the pursuit of bodily pleasure does not give one’s contentment only a virtuous life can give satisfaction. Regarding the acquisition of wealth and worldly pleasures the text says that only a person ready to work hard can enjoy wealth.

The Hitopadesha contains interesting stories to instruct the young in their conduct with others. The necessity of following dharma is all along highlighted and emphasis laid on choosing the company of good people. The author has given several kinds of prudential advice to the young in their relationship to the opposite sex since the text is written by a male and addressed to men, it clearly displaying a male orientation in seeing interpersonal relationships.

There is a great emphasis on the importance of education for the attainment of perfection. It is stated that education alone beings out the humanity in a person. The parents who do not educate their children are like their enemies. Education and the company of good people is the source of generating the right kind of values in the young. Thus Dharma (righteousness) in the real sense lies in truth, forgiveness, fortitude and non-covetousness, rituals can be practiced simply for effect.

Good life is in harmony with others and with the rest of nature. The best way to achieve this harmony is by living a virtuous life because that alone generates contentment. The society that Hitopadesha visualizes is structured in terms of the four casts having their specific functions. Consequently the ideal society according to this weltanschauung is a society where members of each caste perform their function in a meticulous and dedicated manner.

  • Jataka Katha (Stories)

Jataka Katha (stories) are a collection of over 550 Buddhist stories of wisdom preserved in Jatakas or Tripitaka. These were composed between 300 BC to 500 AD. These stories are written in Pali language (not Sanskrit, but said to be a decedent of Sanskrit language) spreading the wisdom of right thinking and right living. Though not written in Sanskrit, it should be mentioned along with other Sanskrit scriptures.

Contents of Jatakas

Jataka means the birth story. It is believed that Siddharth before becoming Buddha, took birth in different forms and attained Bodhisattva. In each birth Bodhisattva took different forms like elephant, deer, monkey, bird, or sometimes a man. But, in each life he spread the message of justice wisdom, common sense, caution, trust, kindness, humility and compassion.


In western tradition a lots of discussion can be found for Good life and Good society from ancient time to modern time. Aesop’s fables is the best example for it. Aesop’s Fables or Aesopica refers to a collection of fables credited to Aesop, a slave and story-teller who lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 560 BCE. His fables are some of the most well known in the world. The fables remain a popular choice for moral education of children today.

Aesop and Indian Traditions

Aesop’s fables and the Indian tradition as represented by the Buddhist Jataka Tales and the Hindu Panchatantra share about a dozen tales in common although often widely differing in detail. There is therefore some debate over whether the Greeks learned these fables from Indian storytellers or the other way, or if the influences were mutual.

Stories & Concern

Many stories included in Aesop’s Fables, such as The Fox and the Grapes (from which the idiom “sour grapes” derives), The Tortoise and the Hare, The North Wind and the Sun, The Boy Who Cried Wolf and The Ant and the Grasshopper are well-known throughout the world. These fables focus our attention on the following three concerns:

  • Directions of Self-Perfection
  • Practical wisdom for living a successful life.
  • Ways of living in harmony with other beings.

Self-perfection lies in inculcating the certain values in one’s life. Amongst these are non-covetousness, honesty, friendliness and contentment. There are several stories which clearly highlight the dangers associated with greed, value of honesty etc. There are several such stories containing practical wisdom to live a successful life. The purpose of these tales is to help children imbibe values in their lives. There values are transmitted through tales rather than through direct instructions because one remembers stories more easily and the force of the narrative is much greater in convincing one to follow certain practices.

Reading these fables which originate from different cultural backgrounds one becomes aware of the universality of the ethical values propounded in them. We realize that to live a harmonious life we need to be kind, honest and sincere. A life of selfishness and hypocrisy is both pragmatically counterproductive as well as morally debased. It is the same with greed it is neither practically viable nor helpful in generating self-satisfaction and contentment.

Difference between Aesop’s Fables and Hitopdesha

There are one difference between Aesop’s Fables and Hitopdesha that the former is confined to pragmatic concerns for self-perfection in living a harmonious and successful life but the latter raises metaphysical questions regarding the goal of human existence. That is why there is a reference to purusarthas- Dharma, Artha , Kama and Moksha. It is stated that it is only in human life that the pursuit of purusarthas is possible. This reference to the final goal of human existence does generate a balance in our life because it helps us to see our life is attained to this final purpose that we can truly live a good life conductive to happiness. And such citizens can generate a happy society because society depends on the way its members conduct themselves.

Sources:                                                                                                                                                                     Notes were taken from “ Idea of Excellence, Perfection, Good Life and Good Society” in B.A. Philosophy, Paper-I (pp.20-33) (book unknown).

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Morality in Public life


The term “morality” can be used either descriptively to refer to some codes of conduct put forward by a society or,  some other group, such as a religion, or  accepted by an individual for her own behavior or  normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.

Morality in Public life

Morality is an attempt to discover the nature of the good life and then to live by it. The task of morality is to seek those principles which enable men to live at their best in their personal lives and community relationships. The moral thinker tries to reflect and understand the ways of living and the principles which enable men to live life best in their personal and inter-related lives with others.

Principles of Morality

We are living in a period of rapid social change. If men are to live whole some lives and to grow, they need to cultivate certain fundamental principles and attitudes. In order to have an orderly and disciplined social life, we must come across mutually acceptable principles, agreements, and understanding of each other’s’ interests and needs.

Public life is usually regulated by customs, rites and rituals and conventions: legal and political rules, religious convictions. Ethics is primarily concerned with understanding the basic principles of living a good life and judging actions as good or bad. It weighs the factors involved in judging actions good or bad by applying the basic principles. These principles are the guides to actions and make public life worth living.

Individual and Morality

To a great extent individual way of acting, feeling and thinking are controlled by the group. What is customary becomes the habit of the individual. Morality makes us what we are as an individual and as a society. In order to have a prosperous life and society we must do what is morally good in any instance. If moral rules are not followed, then the society would be converted into anarchy because of lack of rules and regulations.

Public morality refers to moral and ethical standards enforced in a society, by law or police work or social pressure, and applied to public life, to the content of the media, and to conduct in public places. It also refers to generalized conception of human relations and their actions. Public good presupposes having the minimum acceptable moral standards which ensure a tolerable quality of moral life.  Moral principles are the guides to actions and make public life worth living. Human ends are achieved practically and we get direction from guiding principles.

Thinkers on Morality

Hume and Aristotle emphasized on the social good and claimed that morality must be grounded in human nature. It must be based on the potentialities and capabilities of the agent and an understanding of the social organizations of which they are members.  Human nature has great potentials and capabilities for being good and evil.

Morality is not merely a formal study of principles nut how far can they be applied in promoting public and personal life. Ethics is the search for universal principles for evaluating human actions good or bad and principles of morality define code of conduct and gave the humans ability to distinguish their way of living.

The Utilitarianism

The utilitarian school stresses the importance of social welfare or public good rather than individual welfare and defined the highest good in terms of the pleasures of the greatest number of peoples.

The term utility means by Bentham “the property of any object where by it tends to produce benefits advantage pleasure, good or happiness.” Bentham believed that individual or private good simultaneously increases general and public good.

Mill is of view that there is a powerful natural sentiment, the social feeling of mankind, the desire to be in unity with our fellow-creatures in human nature. Man conceives himself as a member of an institution. For him the social state is at once natural and necessary as an inseparable part and destiny of human being. The individual learns by living in society; that his interests are promoted by cooperation with others.

Public Private Morality

We are all driven by our conscience to do what is morally right for public life. Without morals there would be no society. Aristotle says, “good of society’s greater than good of individual.” Morals make it possible forms of live in a society as a community with laws and regulations.

Private and public morality cannot be easily distinguished as the morals of an individual have a significant impact on society as a whole. Ethics is the search for universal objective principles for evaluating human conduct. Public life could be regulated by implementing moral rules.

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Morality in Personal life

p morality

The function of personal morality is to help each of us realize the meaning of our life in the world through being a person and living the personal life of a self in the world. All persons can do and must input values just in the process of being persons. Our personal morality just is the sum of our input values; the meaning of our lives just is a function of our personal morality in our personal circumstances.

Morality for personal life suggests that all progress in human life has been possible because of the liberties extended to human beings with a minimum interference by the external authority.

Whether individual is a means to the enlargement of political state or political government is beneficial to mankind, in general and individual in particular. Is not that man made a step forward the road to progress by producing fire and adapting and changing the environment according to his needs.

The individual is the true reality of life. He is a cosmos himself, he does not exist for the state, nor for, the abstraction called ‘society’ or the ‘nation’ which is only a collection of individuals. Man himself is the source of progress and motive power of evolution.

Individual good has always conflicted with the public or social good. The creative individuals have confronted with the tradition and customs and raised a voice against perverted and corrupt practices by the privileged persons in power. the conflict between egoism and altruism has made the history of mankind.

Man pursues for the better world for this own good, for his liberty. Social, religious or political authorities harass the individual most. Only mutual aid and voluntary co-operation is the basis for a free individual and associational life than an authoritative and devastating power.

Man as an individual is the unit of all social life. Culture and civilization is the relation of the degree of liberty and economic opportunity that the individual enjoys. Social unity of man-made laws , human dignity and true emancipation of the individual.

Society as a voluntary association is for the mutual protection and common good. Hobbes maintained that man is made by external forces acting upon him; i.e. he learns to be good by obeying the arbitrary rules of the social order. The basic thought involved in egoistic theory is that public welfare can best be enhances by egoistic pursuits;.

Adam Smith, an egoist believes that the harmony of egoistic interests will be guaranteed by the strength of man’s natural sympathy. His sympathy will get as an inevitable and natural check against egoism.

All rational creatures have a capacity to experience a feeling of pleasures or pain when viewing or contemplating human conduct. This is a fundamental part of moral sense. This feeling of pleasure or displeasure is not developed in all people, but may be corrupted by bad training or poor cultural surroundings.

We all are answerable to what we do. The respectable public life should be morally scanned corruption is a blot on morally good life.

We are expected to live up to moral standards to lead a peaceful, happy, and good life, where good life does not imply materialistic living standards. It implies living an honest life which takes care of human freedom, quality and justice for all. Moral goodness is inherent in every human being.

There is a moral sense as a part of human nature, an ability or capacity to recognize right or wrong qualities of acts in the same way that one is able to recognize green or red qualities in the objects.

If man is selfish by nature as Hobbes said, he has the feelings of sympathy and benevolence as promoting the interests of other persons. Without the cooperation of others a person cannot pursue his goals. Morality is pursued not only for private good.

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Individual and Society

Individual and Society

Man is a social animal. He lives in social groups in communities and in society. Human life and society almost go together. Man cannot live without society. Man is biologically and psychologically equipped to live in groups, in society. Society has become an essential condition for human life to arise and to continue.

Individual and Society

In present days different thinkers have conjured up a controversy upon the question of the relation between society and individual but all agree that this relation is an intimate one. The relation of the individual to society is very close and intimate. The development of the individual depends very much upon the social environment. Each individual can preserve his individuality, perform his function and release his own end in so far as he remains in harmony with others. Owing to this intimate connection every individual unconsciously promotes the general well-being, even when apparently pursuing his own private ends.

Theories on the Relation between Individual and Society

When we discuss the relationship, we found the following theories:

Social Contract Theory

A famous theory among the many theories propounded upon the subject of society-individual relation, is the Social Contract Theory. In the 17th Century , Thomas Hobbes wrote in his famous book “Leviathan” that society was founded in order to save man from his vicious, animal and egoistic tendencies.

According to Adam Smith and his followers, the society is an artificial device made by man in order to circulate mutual economy. In the 18th century, the French philosopher Rousseau supported theory animatedly in his renowned treaties “Social Contract”, saying that individuals compromised amongst themselves and constructed society. Among other supporters of this theory are John Locke (1622-1704) and Hobhouse (1588-1679).

According to this theory, everyone was born equal and free in outside society. People agreed among themselves and formed society and invested it with some rights. In this way, society is an artificial structure and it has no right to confiscate the natural rights of the individual. Society can exercise it control over individual. Society can exercise its control over individual rights only in so far as it has been possessed with rights.

Organics Theory of Society

Another theory in the subject of the society-individual relation is the organic theory. According to this theory society is complex organic being whose structure ad working resembles the individual being and which also evolves to an identical set of laws. The cells of this social anatomy are the people. Organization and institutions are its articles.

In the words of Spencer, “Social structure can be compared to an animal body whose system of nutrition has its counterparts in society in the industrial and agricultural system the circulatory system with the heart, arteries and veins, corresponds to the communication and transport system of a nation, the nervous system to the government, and so on.”

Theory of Group Mind

Another theory propagated about the relation of the society and individual is the theory of Group Mind. The Idealist and Group mind theories treat society as mind. In the words of Plato, “Civil Society is a mind writ large.” Hegel has written, “Society as manifested in the state, is a natural organism representing a phase of the historical world process or Absolute. The state, not the individual, is the real person…. the individual has reality only in so far as he is a member of the state.”

Among the many supporters of this theory are Green, Bradley, Bosanquent of England, Emerson of America and Wunde and Wangner of Germany. Durkheim has discoursed in the same vein, “ Social mind is an existence distinct (not apart) from the mind of the individuals, and is superior to them. This mind or collective consciousness is the higher from of psychic life. It tends to absorb the individual mind from which it differs not only in the richness of content but also in kind.

Criticism of above Theories

Maclver and other modern sociologists treat the social contract theory as false. This theory is based neither upon historical facts nor logical truths. The existence of society and individual cannot be conceived of separately.

The major defect of the organic theory is that the relation between body and cell has been assumed identical to the relation between body and cell has been assumed identical to the relation between societies and individual. But these relations are distinctly different.

Contract theory and the organic theory contradictory to each other and the third theory where the conception of social mind is redoubtable. The only thing which corresponds to all of these theories is their universal acceptance of an intimate relation between individual and society. As Maclver and Page express it, “ No one can be an absolute individualist any more than anyone can be an absolute socialist for the individual and society interact on one another and depend on one another.”


Notes were taken from Ganpat Rai & Veena Kapoor, “ Individual and Society”, Philosophy (BA Ist), USOL, 2009-2010, pp. 40-48.

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