Contributions of moral thinkers from India and the world

Moral thinkers

Rabindranath Tagore

The centre of Tagore’s philosophy was man of god. Even his concept of God was influenced by the humanism inherent in his outlook. The supreme reality thus according to Tagore, essentially human and could be realised only through love of man. Love of God was thus translated into love of human. Tagore in fact sought the origin of spiritual aspirations and the concept of god in the spirit of the unity expressed by the primitive man. In a discussion with Einstein, Tagore said, if there is any truth absolutely unrelated to humanity then for us it is absolutely non-existing. Tagore thus firmly believed that truth could be realised only in human society.

Politically Tagore believed that each nation and individual must have certain rights and through those rights he should be in a position to ‘his personality. At the same time he stressed people should have power and strength enough to realise their rights as without that strength it was impossible to retain rights even if extended by the rulers. He also stood for the individuals saying that States existed for the individual and its activities should aim at giving maximum freedom for attaining that liberty. He couldn’t reconcile himself with the then prevailing trend of british rule which was impersonal in character and which denied freedom, spiritual, economic and political, to the vast majority of the Indians. According to him freedom could be possible by adopting the policy of decentralisation of authority and giving, more powers to local self-government institutions.

Socially, Tagore believed that Indian society has very much degenerated mostly because of the policy of our social rulers who didn’t care to preserve our social institutions and allowed them to degenerate. He felt that social and political institutions should go side by side. He had faith in social solidarity and belief in ancient Indian culture and civilization. According to him political life was only a specialised aspect of social life and both could not be separated from each other. He quoted from Indian history that India always represented the synthesis of various philosophies and was very much broad-based. Therefore he believed that constructive efforts should be made to revive our ancient Indian culture.

He was educationally a revolutionary and strongly believed that there should be a system of education suited to India. It should be the system in which the cultures of east and the west should unite and where there should be a platform for understanding each other. In the words of G. Ramchandran, “Gurudev never accepted that the object of education was simply the accumulation of knowledge. He unhesitatingly proclaimed that education should give alround human personality in which the physical, the intellectual, the aesthetic and spiritual growth would be harmonised into one integral process. He, therefore, emphasised freedom and joy as of basic importance in the education of boys and girls. This meant elimination of physical punishment, examination and therefore of fear and everything humiliating restriction from Shanti Niketan system rather pattern of education”.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was one of the very few people who impressed an idea upon a historical epoch. That idea was nonviolence. Gandhi’s creed of non-violence insisted that people struggle for their rights should never violate their basic obligation to respect life.

Gandhi was both religious and open-minded, and saw all religions as paths to reach the same goal. He was inspired by the teachings of Jesus, in particular the emphasis on love for everyone, even one’s enemies, and the need to strive for justice. He also took from Hinduism the importance of action in one’s life, without concern for success.

Gandhi’s God was an immanent and his general philosophy of Hinduism becomes an ethic of political action. Gandhi’s approach to reality is religious rather than philosophical. He approached reality through non-violence. Non-violence is an integral part of every religion. He says that: “Non-violence is in Hinduism, it is in Christianity as well as in Islam. If non-violence disappears, Hindu Dharma disappears. Islam does not forbid its followers from following nonviolence as a policy.

After having studied the Bhagavad-Gita against the background of Indian culture and tradition, he has come to the conclusion that the central teaching of the Gītā is to follow truth and non-violence.  When there is no desire for truth, there is no temptation for untruth of violence but it maybe freely admitted that the Gita was not written to establish non-violence. The central teaching of the Gita is not violence but nonviolence. Violence is impossible without anger, without attachment, without hatred, and the Gita strives to carry us to the state beyond sattva, rajas and tamas, a state that excludes anger, hatred, etc., to one who reads the spirit of Gita, it teaches the secret of non-violence, the secret of realizing the self through the physical body.

Gandhi was not a visionary but he claimed to be a practical idealist. He was a man of action. It was the idealist that made him function as a practical man. He was also an irrepressible optimist. His optimism was based on the belief that man is endowed with infinite possibilities of development. His belief in the law as the ideal is unquestionable. It matters whether individuals fall short of the ideal. Though he was aware of the reality, his striving was always to reach the idea.

It is a means of focusing his attention to the ultimate goal. He has to tread the right path without digression. This is the yardstick by which man’s progress is measured. Gandhi’s philosophy was the direct result of human relations and it was in the sphere of human interaction that his plan of action took concrete shape. His approach was liberal and human. The world is there for all practical purposes. It is the field of greatest activity. No turning ones back to, or running away from, the world is Gandhi’s attitude. According to him:

“The world offers problems of man and he is made to solve them. This is what Gandhi thinks about man and the world. Thus, the world is an arena where man has to fight his battle for the conquest of life. The world is an active field. Man cannot remain inactive or static in it. His activity can be progressive as he is a progressive being pushed up by Nature which is never at a stand-still.”

Gandhi has faith in the fallible man who can improve his condition by cultivating a perfectly innocent heart incapable of evil. Thus, the fallible man, being a hindrance to his own self-development, can be corrected to follow the path of progress in the right spirit. It can only happen through life-education. Gandhi observes that: “It is not literacy or learning which makes a man but education for real life.”

Swami vivekanand

Swami Vivekananda is one of the greatest thinkers of Indian Renaissance. Vivekananda was moved with pity on seeing the impoverished state of the masses. He says:

“Material civilization, may even luxuries necessary to create work for the poor. Bread, I do not believe in a God who cannot give me bread here, giving me eternal bliss in heaven. Pooh! India is to be raised the poor are to be fed, education is to spread, and the evil of priest craft removed. No Priest craft, no social tyranny: More bread, more opportunity for everybody.”

According to Swami Vivekananda, social, economic and political reconstruction of the country is a pre-requisite for the spiritual uplift of the masses. When the people ask for food, to offer religion to a starving people is to insult them. To teach religious principles to a starving man is an affront to his self-respect. He criticizes strongly the failings and weaknesses of the people, the evil practice of untouchability, the feeling of caste superiority, priest craft and religious tyranny. He prefers to see the people as confirmed atheists rather than as superstitious fools, for the atheists may be of some use. But with regard to superstitions it holds away, the brain is bread, the mind is frozen and decadence engulfs life. So it holds good if the mankind become atheist by relying on reason rather than blindly believing in two hundred millions of Gods on the authority of anybody.

According to him freedom is the precondition for the human growth but freedom does not mean absence of obstacles in the way of social aggrendisement or economic exploitation. Commenting on the meaning of freedom he says:

“Our natural right to be allowed to use your own body, intelligence and wealth according to our will, without doing any harm to others, and all the members of a society ought to have the same opportunity for obtaining wealth, education or knowledge.”

He has expounded progressive ideas and vehemently opposed escapist doctrines like mysticism. He maintains that occultism and mysticism have destroyed the people. The need of the present is man making religion. Any-thing that weakens has to be rejected as poison. He stands for reason. He says that no genuine inspiration ever contradicts reason when such contradiction is found, it is to inspiration. Vivekananda’s outlook is essentially idealistic although it contains elements of materialism. Man’s objective is to identify with Brahman through self-purification and service of the people. Man is the centre of religion conceived by him. He, who has set out in search of God, ultimately recognizes man as the centre of this world. He calls upon the people to find God in man.

The only hope for India he lays in the common people, for the upper classes were exhausted physically and morally. He urges a radical transformation of the social order because all the members of a society ought to have the same opportunity for obtaining wealth, education or knowledge and declares that these rules governing the society which stand the way of the unfolding of the freedom are injurious and steps should be taken to destroy them speedily. To uplift the masses spiritual and secular education is necessary. He says:

“We have to give them secular education. We have to follow the plan laid down by our ancestors that is to bring all the ideals slowly down among the masses. Raise them slowly up. Raise them to equality. Impart . . . Secular knowledge through religion.”

n the whole idea of education, we find Swami Vivekananda summing up as the manifestation of divinity in man. He realizes the caste consciousness as a barrier to India’s progress. Casteism narrows restricts and separates the noble bond of humanity. For him the true measure of man is worth but not birth. The ultimate end of Swami Vivekananda is the good of all. He advocates the idea that man must strive for this end even to the point of sacrificing himself. The means to be adopted for realization of this ultimate end must also be worthy of that end.

Emancipation of women and uplift of the masses are the two important items in Swami Vivekananda’s programme of social regeneration of India. He could notice the downfall of Indian Society because of the continued neglect of women and masses. In India there are two great evils: he writes:

“Uplift of the women, the awakening of the masses must come first and then only can any real good come about for the country.”

That country and that nation, he says, which do not respect the women has never become great, nor will ever be in future. The state with the assistance of society can foster and promote the common interests of people, which can bring justice, honesty, peace etc. The state cannot have interests than the interests of the individual who form the society. The state is composed of individuals. Without virtuous individuals it is futile to expect the state becoming prosperous. He states:

“The basis of all systems social or political rests upon the goodness of man. No nation is great or good because parliament enacts this or that, but because its men are great and good.”

 

John locke

The major writings of John Locke (1632–1704) are among the most important texts for understanding some of the central currents in epistemology, metaphysics, politics, religion, and pedagogy in the late 17th and early 18th century in Western Europe.

Pleasure and Pain

The thread of moral discussion that weaves most consistently throughout the Essay is the subject of happiness. True happiness, on Locke’s account, is associated with the good, which in turn is associated with pleasure. Pleasure, in its turn, is taken by Locke to be the sole motive for human action. This means that the moral theory that is most directly endorsed in the Essay is hedonism.

On Locke’s view, ideas come to us by two means: sensation and reflection. This view is the cornerstone of his empiricism. According to this theory, there is no such thing as innate ideas or ideas that are inborn in the human mind. All ideas come to us by experience. Locke describes sensation as the “great source” of all our ideas and as wholly dependent on the contact between our sensory organs and the external world. The other source of ideas, reflection or “internal sense,” is dependent on the mind’s reflecting on its own operations, in particular the “satisfaction or uneasiness arising from any thought”. What’s more, Locke states that pleasure and pain are joined to almost all of our ideas both of sensation and of reflection This means that our mental content is organized, at least in one way, by ideas that are associated with pleasure and ideas that are associated with pain. That our ideas are associated with pains and pleasures seems compatible with our phenomenal experience: the contact between the sense organ of touch and a hot stove will result in an idea of the hot stove annexed by the idea of pain, or the act of remembering a romantic first kiss brings with it the idea of pleasure. And, Locke adds, it makes sense to join our ideas to the ideas of pleasure and pain because if our ideas were not joined with either pleasure of pain, we would have no reason to prefer the doing of one action over another, or the consideration of one idea over another. If this were our situation, we would have no reason to act—either physically or mentally. That pleasure and pain are given this motivational role in action entails that Locke endorses hedonism: the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain are the sole motives for action.

Happiness

Locke is very clear—we all constantly desire happiness. All of our actions, on his view, are oriented towards securing happiness. Uneasiness, Locke’s technical term for being in a state of pain and desirous of some absent good, is the motive that moves us to act in the way that is expected to relieve the pain of desire and secure the state of happiness. But, while Locke equates pleasure with good, he is careful to distinguish the happiness that is acquired as a result of the satisfaction of any particular desire and the true happiness that is the result of the satisfaction of a particular kind of desire. Drawing this distinction allows Locke to hold that the pursuit of a certain sets of pleasures or goods is more worthy than the pursuit of others.

The pursuit of true happiness, according to Locke, is equated with “the highest perfection of intellectual nature”. And, indeed, Locke takes our pursuit of this true happiness to be the thing to which the vast majority of our efforts should be oriented. To do this, he says that we need to try to match our desires to “the true instrinsick good” that is really within things. Notice here that Locke is implying that there is distinction to be drawn between the “true intrinsic good” of a thing and, it seems, the good that we unreflectively take to be within a certain thing. The idea here is that attentively considering a particular thing will allow us to see its true value as opposed to the superficial value we assign to a thing based on our immediate reaction to it. We can think, for example, of a bitter tasting medicine. A face-value assessment of the medicine will lead us to evaluate that the thing is to be avoided. However, more information and contemplation of it will lead us to see that the true worth of the medicine is, in fact, high and so it should be evaluated as a good to be pursued. And, Locke states, if we contemplate a thing long enough, and see clearly the measure of its true worth; we can change our desire and uneasiness for it in proportion to that worth. But how are we to understand Locke’s suggestion that there is a true, intrinsic good in things? So far, all he has said about the good is that it is tracked by pleasure. We begin to get an answer to this question when Locke acknowledges the obvious fact that different people derive pleasure and pain from different things.

Living the Moral Life

In order to behave in a way that will lead us to the greatest and truest happiness, we must come to judge the remote and future good, the “unspeakable,” “infinite,” and “eternal” joys of heaven to be our greatest and thus most pleasurable good . But, on Locke’s view, our actions are always determined by the thing we are most uneasy about at any given moment. So, it seems, we need to cultivate the uneasiness for the infinite joys of heaven. But if, as Locke suggests, the human condition is such that our minds, in their weak and narrow states, judge immediate pleasures to be representative of the greatest good, it is difficult to see how, exactly, we can circumvent this weakened state in order to suspend our more terrestrial desires and thus have the space to correctly judge which things will lead to our true happiness. While in the Essay Locke does not say as much as we might like on this topic, elsewhere in his writings we can get a sense for how he might respond to this question.

Locke states that we must recognize the difference between “natural wants” and “wants of fancy.” The former are the kinds of desires that must be obeyed and that no amount of reasoning will allow us to give up. The latter, however, are created. Locke states that parents and teachers must ensure that children develop the habit of resisting any kind of created fancy, thus keeping the mind free from desires for things that do not lead to true happiness . If parents and teachers are successful in blocking the development of “wants of fancy,” Locke thinks that the children who benefit from this success will become adults who will be “allowed greater liberty” because they will be more closely connected to the dictates of reason and not the dictates of passion. So, in order to live the moral life and listen to reason over passions, it seems that we need to have had the benefit of conscientious care-givers in our infancy and youth. This raises the difficulty of how to connect an individual’s moral successes or failures with the individual herself. For, if she had the bad moral luck of unthinking or careless parents and teachers, it seems difficult to see how she could be blamed for failing to follow a virtuous path.

Immanuel Kant

Towards the end of his most influential work, Critique of Pure Reason(1781/1787), Kant argues that all philosophy ultimately aims at answering these three questions: “What can I know? What should I do? What may I hope?” The book appeared at the beginning of the most productive period of his career, and by the end of his life Kant had worked out systematic, revolutionary, and often profound answers to these questions.

At the foundation of Kant’s system is the doctrine of “transcendental idealism,” which emphasizes a distinction between what we can experience (the natural, observable world) and what we cannot (“supersensible” objects such as God and the soul). Kant argued that we can only have knowledge of things we can experience. Accordingly, in answer to the question, “What can I know?” Kant replies that we can know the natural, observable world, but we cannot, however, have answers to many of the deepest questions of metaphysics.

Kant’s ethics are organized around the notion of a “categorical imperative,” which is a universal ethical principle stating that one should always respect the humanity in others, and that one should only act in accordance with rules that could hold for everyone. Kant argued that the moral law is a truth of reason, and hence that all rational creatures are bound by the same moral law. Thus in answer to the question, “What should I do?” Kant replies that we should act rationally, in accordance with a universal moral law.

Kant also argued that his ethical theory requires belief in free will, God, and the immortality of the soul. Although we cannot have knowledge of these things, reflection on the moral law leads to a justified belief in them, which amounts to a kind rational faith. Thus in answer to the question, “What may I hope?” Kant replies that we may hope that our souls are immortal and that there really is a God who designed the world in accordance with principles of justice.  In addition to these three focal points, Kant also made lasting contributions to nearly all areas of philosophy. His aesthetic theory remains influential among art critics. His theory of knowledge is required reading for many branches of analytic philosophy. The cosmopolitanism behind his political theory colors discourse about globalization and international relations. And some of his scientific contributions are even considered intellectual precursors to several ideas in contemporary cosmology.

Kant’s moral theory is organized around the idea that to act morally and to act in accordance with reason are one and the same. In virtue of being a rational agent (that is, in virtue of possessing practical reason, reason which is interested and goal-directed), one is obligated to follow the moral law that practical reason prescribes. To do otherwise is to act irrationally. Because Kant places his emphasis on the duty that comes with being a rational agent who is cognizant of the moral law, Kant’s theory is considered a form of deontology (deon- comes from the Greek for “duty” or “obligation”).

Like his theoretical philosophy, Kant’s practical philosophy is a priori, formal, and universal: the moral law is derived non-empirically from the very structure of practical reason itself (its form), and since all rational agents share the same practical reason, the moral law binds and obligates everyone equally. So what is this moral law that obligates all rational agents universally and a priori? The moral law is determined by what Kant refers to as the Categorical Imperative, which is the general principle that demands that one respect the humanity in oneself and in others, that one not make an exception for oneself when deliberating about how to act, and in general that one only act in accordance with rules that everyone could and should obey.

Although Kant insists that the moral law is equally binding for all rational agents, he also insists that the bindingness of the moral law is self-imposed: we autonomously prescribe the moral law to ourselves. Because Kant thinks that the kind of autonomy in question here is only possible under the presupposition of a transcendentally free basis of moral choice, the constraint that the moral law places on an agent is not only consistent with freedom of the will, it requires it. Hence, one of the most important aspects of Kant’s project is to show that we are justified in presupposing that our morally significant choices are grounded in a transcendental freedom (the very sort of freedom that Kant argued we could not prove through mere “theoretical” or “speculative” reason.

Kant begins his argument from the premise that a moral theory must be grounded in an account of what is unconditionally good. If something is merely conditionally good, that is, if its goodness depends on something else, then that other thing will either be merely conditionally good as well, in which case its goodness depends on yet another thing, or it will be unconditionally good. All goodness, then, must ultimately be traceable to something that is unconditionally good. There are many things that we typically think of as good but that are not truly unconditionally good. Beneficial resources such as money or power are often good, but since these things can be used for evil purposes, their goodness is conditional on the use to which they are put. Strength of character is generally a good thing, but again, if someone uses a strong character to successfully carry out evil plans, then the strong character is not good. Even happiness, according to Kant, is not unconditionally good. Although all humans universally desire to be happy, if someone is happy but does not deserve their happiness (because, for instance, their happiness results from stealing from the elderly), then it is not good for the person to be happy. Happiness is only good on the condition that the happiness is deserved.

The Categorical Imperative

If a good will is one that forms its intentions on the basis of correct principles of action, then we want to know what sort of principles these are. A principle that commands an action is called an “imperative.” Most imperatives are “hypothetical imperatives,” that is, they are commands that hold only if certain conditions are met. For instance: “if you want to be a successful shopkeeper, then cultivate a reputation for honesty.” Since hypothetical imperatives are conditioned on desires and the intended consequences of actions, they cannot serve as the principles that determine the intentions and volitions of an unconditionally good will. Instead, we require what Kant calls a “categorical imperative.” Where hypothetical imperatives take the form, “if y is desired/intended/sought, do x,” categorical imperatives simply take the form, “do x.” Since a categorical imperative is stripped of all reference to the consequences of an action, it is thereby stripped of all determinate content, and hence it is purely formal. And since it is unconditional, it holds universally. Hence a categorical imperative expresses only the very form of a universally binding law: “nothing is left but the conformity of actions as such with universal law” (4:402). To act morally, then, is to form one’s intentions on the basis of the very idea of a universal principle of action.

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel handled effectively the integration of the princely states with his diplomatic skills and foresightedness. The problem of amalgamating 562 independent states with a democratic self-governing India was difficult and delicate. But it was essential to save India from balkanization, once the Paramountcy of British crown would lapse. Sardar Patel took charge of the states department in July 1947. He sensed the urgent and imperative need of the integration of princely states. He followed an iron handed policy. He made it clear that he did not recognize the right of any state to remain independent and in isolation, within India.

Sardar vallabhbhai Patel always raised his voice on several issues against exploitation and criticized the high-handedness of authority, the exploitative revenue policy of the Government and maladministration in the Princely states. He not only criticized the arbitrary policies of confiscation of movable and immovable properties, but also insisted on guarded regulations on land reforms and nationalization of key industries. His efforts to reform the Hindu religion and protect the people of other faiths reflected his longing for the right to religion. He encouraged the duly elected authority to bring restrictions through various legislative measures to freedom for all. Thus, his political value system was a fine synthesis of liberalism, conservatism and welfarism.

His vision of State was in tune with the pattern of his political values. In his concept, the State was founded and held together by a high sense of nationalism and patriotism. Individual liberty was to be in conformity with the provisions of the Constitution, to create a Nation-State, he pressed for the emancipation of backward communities and women and bring about Hindu- Muslim unity through the Gandhian constructive programme and skillfully utilised the higher castes for social integration and political mobilisation. Thus, he strengthened the plural basis of the nation-state by bringing electoral participation as effective political mobilisation. He saw a nation as ‘democratic in structure, nationalistic in foundation and welfarist in spirit and function’.

The process of the integration of the various states and the part played by Sardar in it, we realize the important role that Sardar had in the integration of the country. The states included Saurastra (including Junagadh) Hyderabad, Travancore, Cochin, Kashmir and other small states. Sardar’s role in each of these states was vital. The continuation of a divided and weak central government would in Patel’s mind, result in the wider fragmentation of India by encouraging more than 600 princely states towards independence. Between the months of December 1946 and January 1947, Patel worked with civil servant V.P. Menon on the latter’s suggestion for a separate dominion of Pakistan created out of Muslim-majority provinces. Communal violence in Bengal and Punjab in January and March 1947 further convinced Patel of the soundness of partition. Patel, a fierce critic of Jinnah’s demand that the Hindu-majority areas of Punjab and Bengal be included in a Muslim state, obtained the partition of those provinces, thus blocking any possibility of their inclusion in Pakistan. By August 15, 1947 all except Hyderabad, Junagarh and Kashmir acceded to India. He thereafter carried three fold processes of assimilation, centralization and unification of states. The states were amalgamated to form a union and that union was merged with the Union of India. He handled the Junagarh and Hyderabad crisis as a seasoned statesman. Nawab of Junagarh wanted to accede to Pakistan.The integration of the princely states thus acted as a synchronizing phenomenon and established a State of balance between chaos and segmentation and solidarity of the newly born Indian Union.

 

Kabir

Scholars differ about Kabir’s parentage, his family, the place of his birth, the time and place of his death etc. Instead of concentrating on various beliefs about Kabir’s life, the scholar deems it appropriate to side with the beliefs that are widely accepted. Scholars agree with the fact that Kabir belonged to the time of Sikandar Lodi and was a disciple of Swami Ramanand. Apropos this fact, most scholars believe that Kabir was born in 1455 and died in 1575.

At a very early stage, Kabir seems to have realised the fact that any kind of tenets, dogmas, precepts, principles and cult are counterproductive as far as true devotion is concerned as all these things breed dogmatism and fanaticism, which ultimately do not allow humankind to see the truth as it is. That is why, probably, many of his poems appear to urge to discard creeds and beliefs that embrace without any rational thinking.

Besides, Kabir appears to talk of the God that does not live at a holy shrine or a temple but within man. However, Kabir seems to say that ironically that is why people cannot notice God and oblivious of their real self they keep thronging at Kashi and Kaba:

How funny!

In the midst of water,

A fish thirsts for water,

The thing lies at home,

But searching for it,

In the woods, they roam.

Without self knowledge,

The world is false,

Be it Mathura or Kashi.

Here, Kabir seems to believe that as a fish lives in water and is surrounded by water, human beings live in God and are surrounded by God but they are still away from God because in vain they seek Him outside.

Kabir’s devotion looks to be not a blind devotion born of an impulse. Rather it seems to be an application of his belief in logic and evidence. The researcher holds that Kabir scoffs at the prevalent ritual of chanting God’s name on beads, despite the fact that in Hindu and Muslim religions chanting God’s name is believed to liberate one from suffering of this life.

This kind of egalitarianism, seems to be a need of the time when Kabir lived, as society was presumably divided into various strata of hierarchy and those belonging to the lower strata were believed to bear the brunt of inhumane discrimination, ostracism and untouchability. Thus, Kabir might have opposed differentiation made on the basis of castes not because he is a social reformer but because he is a rationalist in his thinking and a humanist at heart.

Kabir seems to believe that a person has to be careful of what he speaks and ensure that his words do not hurt anybody. It is observed that though means of communication have increased, communication between two people has decreased because people unnecessarily indulge in grumbling about and criticising others. Consequently nobody is ready to listen. If a person speaks words imbued with love, other people will love to hear him. On the other hand, if he keeps bitching about others, he will alienate a lot of people and lose his friends. As a result, a person will be left alone and the loneliness will tear him asunder. Thus, being polite in our speech is very much essential for social solidarity.

Socrates

Socrates believed the best way for people to live was to focus on the pursuit of virtue rather than the pursuit, for instance, of material wealth. He always invited others to try to concentrate more on friendships and a sense of true community, for Socrates felt this was the best way for people to grow together as a populace. His actions lived up to this standard: in the end, Socrates accepted his death sentence when most thought he would simply leave Athens, as he felt he could not run away from or go against the will of his community; as mentioned above, his reputation for valor on the battlefield was without reproach.  The idea that there are certain virtues formed a common thread in Socrates’ teachings. These virtues represented the most important qualities for a person to have, foremost of which were the philosophical or intellectual virtues. Socrates stressed that “the unexamined life is not worth living ethical virtue is the only thing that matters.”

It is argued that Socrates believed “ideals belong in a world only the wise man can understand”, making the philosopher the only type of person suitable to govern others. In Plato’s dialogue the Republic, Socrates openly objected to the democracy that ran Athens during his adult life. It was not only Athenian democracy: Socrates found short of ideal any government that did not conform to his presentation of a perfect regime led by philosophers, and Athenian government was far from that. It is, however, possible that the Socrates of Plato’s Republic is colored by Plato’s own views. During the last years of Socrates’ life, Athens was in continual flux due to political upheaval. Democracy was at last overthrown by a junta known as the Thirty Tyrants, led by Plato’s relative, Critias, who had once been a student and friend of Socrates. The Tyrants ruled for about a year before the Athenian democracy was reinstated, at which point it declared an amnesty for all recent events.

Socrates’ opposition to democracy is often denied, and the question is one of the biggest philosophical debates when trying to determine exactly what Socrates believed. The strongest argument of those who claim Socrates did not actually believe in the idea of philosopher kings is that the view is expressed no earlier than Plato’s Republic, which is widely considered one of Plato’s “Middle” dialogues and not representative of the historical Socrates’ views. Furthermore, according to Plato’s Apology of Socrates, an “early” dialogue, Socrates refused to pursue conventional politics; he often stated he could not look into other’s matters or tell people how to live their lives when he did not yet understand how to live his own. He believed he was a philosopher engaged in the pursuit of Truth, and did not claim to know it fully. Socrates’ acceptance of his death sentence after his conviction can also be seen to support this view. It is often claimed much of the anti-democratic leanings are from Plato, who was never able to overcome his disgust at what was done to his teacher. In any case, it is clear Socrates thought the rule of the Thirty Tyrants was also objectionable; when called before them to assist in the arrest of a fellow Athenian, Socrates refused and narrowly escaped death before the Tyrants were overthrown. He did, however, fulfill his duty to serve as Prytanis when a trial of a group of Generals who presided over a disastrous naval campaign were judged; even then, he maintained an uncompromising attitude, being one of those who refused to proceed in a manner not supported by the laws, despite intense pressure. Judging by his actions, he considered the rule of the Thirty Tyrants less legitimate than the Democratic Senate that sentenced him to death.

Socrates’ apparent respect for democracy is one of the themes emphasized in the 2008 play Socrates on Trial by Andrew David Irvine. Irvine argues that it was because of his loyalty to Athenian democracy that Socrates was willing to accept the verdict of his fellow citizens. As Irvine puts it, “During a time of war and great social and intellectual upheaval, Socrates felt compelled to express his views openly, regardless of the consequences. As a result, he is remembered today, not only for his sharp wit and high ethical standards, but also for his loyalty to the view that in a democracy the best way for a man to serve himself, his friends, and his city—even during times of war—is by being loyal to, and by speaking publicly about, the truth.”

Plato

In Plato’s Republic we see one of the earliest attempts at a systematic theory of ethics. Plato wants to find a good definition for “justice,” a good criterion for calling something “just.”  Maybe justice is “telling the truth and paying one’s debts.” But no, Plato says, for sometimes it is just to withhold the truth or not return what was borrowed.

How about “Do good to one’s friends and harm to one’s enemies”? But that doesn’t work, says Plato, because any definition of justice in terms of “doing good” doesn’t tell us much. It only repeats the question, “What is good (just)?”  Plato’s suggestion for “justice” is twofold: justice for the state, and justice for the soul.

Justice for the state is achieved when all basic needs are met. Three classes of people are needed: artisans and workers to produce goods, soldiers to defend the state, and rulers to organize everything.  But you cannot have a just state without just men, especially just rulers. And so we must also achieve justice of the soul.

Plato believed the soul had three parts: reason, appetite, and honor. The desires of these three parts conflicted with each other. For example, we might have a thirst (appetite) for water, but resist accepting it from an enemy for fear of poison (reason). Justice of the soul requires that each part does its proper function, and that their balance is correct.

Justice of the soul merges with justice of the state in that men fall into one of the three classes depending on how the three parts of their soul are balanced. One’s class depends on early training, but mostly, persons are born brick-layers, soldiers, and kings – depending on the balance between the three parts of their soul.

To bring about the ideal state, Plato says, “philosophers become kings… or those now called kings … genuinely and adequately philosophize.” Among other things, the philosopher king is one who can see The Good, that transcendent entity to which we compare something when we call it “good.” The idea of the philosopher-king still appeals to philosophers today, though it has rarely been achieved. It is against this ideal state, ruled by philosopher kings, that Plato can compare other forms of state. The state under martial law (Sparta) is the least disastrous. Oligarchy (Corinth) and democracy (Athens) are worse, and tyranny (Syracuse) is the worst. These problem states come from a lack of justice in the soul. For example, a state of martial law comes from the restriction of appetite by the wrong soul-part: honor instead of reason.

Raja ram mohan roy

During the late 18th century (what was known as the Dark Age), the society in Bengal was burdened with a host of evil customs and regulations. Elaborate rituals and strict moral codes were enforced which were largely modified, and badly interpreted ancient traditions. Practices like child marriage (Gouridaan), polygamy and Sati were prevalent that affected women in the society. The most brutal among these customs was the Sati Pratha. The custom involved self-immolation of widows at their husband’s funeral pyre. While the custom in its original form gave choice to the women to do so, it gradually evolved to be a mandatory custom especially for Brahmin and higher caste families. Young girls were married to much older men, in return for dowry, so that these men could have the supposed karmic benefits from their wives’ sacrifice as Sati. More often than not the women did not volunteer for such brutality and had to be forced or even drugged to comply.

Raja Ram Mohan Roy was abhorred by this cruel practice and he raised his voice against it. He spoke freely and took his views to the higher ups in the East India Company. His passionate reasoning and calm perseverance filtered through the ranks and ultimately reached the Governor General Lord William Bentinck. Lord Bentinck sympathised with Roy’s sentiments and intentions and amid much outcry from the orthodox religious community, the Bengal Sati Regulation or Regulation XVII, A. D. 1829 of the Bengal Code was passed. The act prohibited the practice of Sati Daha in Bengal Province, and any individual caught practicing it would face prosecution. Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s name is thus etched forever as a true benefactor of women not just for helping abolish the custom of Sati, but also raising his voice against child marriage and polygamy, while demanding equal inheritance rights for women. He was also a great opponent of the rigid caste divisions of his time.

Ram Mohan Roy vehemently opposed the unnecessary ceremonialism and the idolatry advocate by priests. He had studied religious scriptures of different religions and advocated the fact that Hindu Scriptures like Upanishads upheld the concept of monotheism. This began his quest for a religious revolution to introduce the doctrines of ancient Vedic scriptures true to their essence. He founded the Atmiya Sabha in 1928, and the first meeting of this new-found religion as held on August 20 that year. The Atmiya Sabha reorganised itself into the Brahma Sabha, a precursor organisation of the Brahmo Samaj. The primary facets of this new movement were monotheism, independence from the scriptures and renouncing the caste system. Brahmo religious practices were stripped bare of the Hindu ceremonialism and were set up following the Christian or Islamic prayer practices. With time, the Brahma Samaj became a strong progressive force to drive social reforms in Bengal, especially women education.

Ram Mohan viewed education as a medium to implement social reforms so he came to Calcutta in 1815 and the very next year, started an English College by putting his own savings. He wanted the students to learn the English language and scientific subjects and criticized the government’s policy of opening only Sanskrit schools. According to him, Indians would lag behind if they do not get to study modern subjects like Mathematics, Geography and Latin. Government accepted this idea of Ram Mohan and also implemented it but not before his death. Ram Mohan was also the first to give importance to the development of the mother tongue. His ‘Gaudiya Byakaran’ in Bengali is the best of his prose works. Rabindranath Tagore and Bankim Chandra also followed the footsteps of Ram Mohan Roy.

Swami vivekanand

The most famous disciple of Ramakrishna was Nerendranath Dutta. Who became renowned as Swami Vivekananda. After the death of Ramakrishna in 1866 Vivekananda came forward to fulfil his mission. Vivekananda was born in Calcutta in 1863 in a Kayasta family. He was well educated in school and college. First he was attracted towards Brahmo Samaj and then drank deeply into the philosophy of John Stuart Mill, Hume and Herbert Spencer. Then he was persuaded to visit Ramakrishna.

Vivekananda realized the value of Western materialism. The scientific achievements and the material happiness of the West impressed him deeply. He desired for the combination of Indian spiritualism and Western materialism for a happier life of a man. He then made it a mission of his life to awaken the Indians from the slumber to a new life. He believed that man had divinity and the spark of spirituality in him.  Every individual therefore should give up fear and rise from degradation and be a noble man. By preaching about spiritual unity he advocated for a sense of national unity which attracted millions of Indians to his side. To organize social service and to infuse a sense of unity among men he founded an order to the Sanyasis or monks called Rammakrishna Mission in 1897.

Vivekananda condemned blind beliefs. He wanted to see every Indian as a modern man with a modern and rational outlook. He therefore said that I would rather see every one of your rank atheists than superstitious fool, for atheist is alive and you can make something of him. But if superstition enters, the brain is gone, the brain is softening, and degradation has seized upon the life.

Vivekananda told his countrymen to be tolerant towards each other. “We reject none, neither theist, nor pantheist, monist, polytheist, agnostic, nor atheist, the only condition of being a disciple is modelling a character at once the broadest and the most intense”, he said. He further said, “I shall enter to the mosque of the Mohammedan; I shall enter the Christian’s church and kneel before the crucifix; I shall enter the Buddhist temple where I shall take refuse in Buddha and his law, I shall go into the forest land sit down in meditation with the Hindu who is trying to see the light which enlightens the heart of everyone. Not only shall I do these but I shall keep my heart open for all that may come in the future.”

Through these words he could impress upon every Indian a sense of brotherhood that resulted in strengthening the unity of Indians. Vivekananda condemned the Indian orthodox in harsh terms “Our religion is in the kitchen, our God is in the cooking-pot, our religion is: do not touch me, I am holy”. He narrated that superstitions had destroyed much of Hindu spirituality. By reminding those of their spiritual value Vivekananda generated the spark of self-confidence among the Indians which indirectly infused a sense of democratic consciousness as democracy rested on self-respect and individuality of every man.

Vivekananda drew the attention of Indians towards the values of Western ways of life. He opened the link between Indian minds and external things. The West appeared to him as the land of material civilization. The spirit of that civilization to him was essential for Indian progress. Therefore he declared “From the great dynamo of Europe, the electric flow of that tremendous power vivifying the whole world, we want that energy, that love of independence, that spirit of self-reliance, that immovable fortitude, that dexterity in action, that bond of unity of purpose that thirst for improvement”.

Aristotle

Aristotle is one of the greatest thinkers in the history of western science and philosophy, making contributions to logic, metaphysics, mathematics, physics, biology, botany, ethics, politics, agriculture, medicine, dance and theatre. He was a student of Plato who in turn studied under Socrates. Although we do not actually possess any of Aristotle’s own writings intended for publication, we have volumes of the lecture notes he delivered for his students; through these Aristotle was to exercise his profound influence through the ages. Indeed, the medieval outlook is sometimes considered to be the “Aristotelian worldview” and St. Thomas Aquinas simply refers to Aristotle as “The Philosopher” as though there were no other.

One of Aristotle’s most influential works is the Nicomachean Ethics, where he presents a theory of happiness that is still relevant today, over 2,300 years later. The key question Aristotle seeks to answer in these lectures is “What is the ultimate purpose of human existence?” What is that end or goal for which we should direct all of our activities? Everywhere we see people seeking pleasure, wealth, and a good reputation. But while each of these has some value, none of them can occupy the place of the chief good for which humanity should aim. To be an ultimate end, an act must be self-sufficient and final, “that which is always desirable in itself and never for the sake of something else” (Nicomachean Ethics), and it must be attainable by man. Aristotle claims that nearly everyone would agree that happiness is the end which meets all these requirements. It is easy enough to see that we desire money, pleasure, and honor only because we believe that these goods will make us happy. It seems that all other goods are a means towards obtaining happiness, while happiness is always an end in itself.

According to Aristotle, happiness consists in achieving, through the course of a whole lifetime, all the goods — health, wealth, knowledge, friends, etc. — that lead to the perfection of human nature and to the enrichment of human life. This requires us to make choices, some of which may be very difficult. Often the lesser good promises immediate pleasure and is more tempting, while the greater good is painful and requires some sort of sacrifice. For example, it may be easier and more enjoyable to spend the night watching television, but you know that you will be better off if you spend it researching for your term paper. Developing a good character requires a strong effort of will to do the right thing, even in difficult situations.

Another example is the taking of drugs, which is becoming more and more of a problem in our society today. For a fairly small price, one can immediately take one’s mind off of one’s troubles and experience deep euphoria by popping an oxycontin pill or snorting some cocaine. Yet, inevitably, this short-term pleasure will lead to longer term pain. A few hours later you may feel miserable and so need to take the drug again, which leads to a never-ending spiral of need and relief. Addiction inevitably drains your funds and provides a burden to your friends and family. All of those virtues — generosity, temperance, friendship, courage, etc. — that make up the good life appear to be conspicuously absent in a life of drug use.

Confucius

Confucius lived during the Spring and Autumn period (777 BC to 476 BC) of the Eastern or Later Zhou Dynasty (770 BC – 256 BC).  It was a time in China’s history when the great Zhou dynasty had broken down and the country was divided among rival factions.  Confucius traveled from State to State to teach what he believed to be the best approach to government and civilization.

Wherever he went, he sought positions in government as an advisor or administrator, but only briefly held a few such posts.  While he attracted a large number of students and followers, his views and advice were not popular among the kings nor were they considered practical.  A number of his students were able to make successful careers in government; perhaps they were more flexible or more politic.

The writings of Confucius would seem to appeal to a feudal lord.  Confucius taught that the subordinate owed obedience and honor to his superior.  This began in the home where the father was held to be the absolute ruler.  The family was to follow him in all decisions and look to him for guidance and wisdom.  This principle, filial piety, was then applied to the organization of civilization and government.  The individual household owed allegiance and obedience to the local ruler who in turn honored and obeyed those above him.

Confucius relished the idea of ceremony and promoted it as a means to serve as a visual and behavioral reminder of rank.  The external signs or rituals of society were to regulate both day to day exchanges as well as the ceremonies of State.  Rank was dignified by rituals as well as privilege.  Each rank would have specific roles in religious and political ceremonies and would be limited to certain ceremonies they could conduct.  Included in the idea of ceremony were the clothes that you were to wear, the insignias on the clothing or your carriage, the style of hat worn on special occasions, where you could and could not walk, and even the colors you were allowed to use in clothing and decoration.  Only the Emperor was to use and wear certain colors of gold, crimson, and purple.

One would think that rulers would embrace such a militaristic organization of the population.  However, Confucius also taught that rulers must be responsible to their subordinates.  They earned their privilege through promoting the welfare of the populace.  When a father or a ruler betrayed that trust, the children or the subjects had the right and duty to disobey, to overthrow the ruler.  At heart he was a humanist.  When Confucius did manage to secure a position in court in one of the kingdoms, he didn’t last long.  The kingdoms were preoccupied with war. Resources which Confucius thought should be spent on benevolence were channeled into either defense of territory or the acquisition of new territories.

Confucius seldom stayed in a place for a long time.  Either the kings and dukes didn’t have much patience with the idea of tempering their power and he was quickly dismissed or he would leave in disgust when prescribed rituals were violated.  He despaired when he would witness minor nobles engage in the rituals of kings.  He felt insulted when the proper courtesies due his rank were abridged or forgotten altogether.  He left disciples and students behind who had been exposed to a radical form of thought.   Perhaps, in part. because he traveled so extensively, Confucian thought spread widely following his death.  His students carried it to all corners of China.  It influenced other forms of Chinese philosophy such as that of Mencius and the Legalists.  As a philosophy it was a deliberate consideration of the function and responsibility of government and society.  It contained a moral code that applied to the minutia of greeting a friend as well as to the proper function and ethics of government.   By the time that the King of Qin (221 BC) conquered the neighboring States and declared himself as Shi Huang Di, Emperor of China, Confucianism was a powerful force.  As one of his first acts as emperor, Huang Di ordered that all of the books of Confucius should be burnt and the Confucian scholars executed.  Huang Di then embarked upon a total reorganization of society and government, one based on absolute power, forced labor, conscripted military, and central control.  In a few short years he was able to join and lengthen the Great Wall, build roads, dig canals, and build the great mausoleum at Xi’an for himself.  The violence and disrespect for traditional values led to the overthrow of the Qin dynasty only 21 years after its inception.  The Han dynasty, which replaced it, returned to Confucian principles and lasted until 220 AD.

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam

The three keys to a corruption-free country must play their part: Showing his faith in three key societal members, Dr Kalam firmly believed that the father, the mother and the teacher have a humungous role to play in making a difference to the nation. He taught us that a country can only become a nation of beautiful minds if these members play their part correctly.

Values are always open to change, for better or for worse. Corruption refers to a situation where poor values supersede good values. Since nobody is born corrupt, this implies that a poor upbringing or a poor experience of socialisation has damaged the individual’s sense of propriety. Therefore, if the right values are to remain instilled in an individual, it is important that value education begins as early as possible. This emphasizes the role of the family. Since a child’s first socialization is his/her parents, this makes it vital for the father and mother to display and reinforce good values e.g. a father who does not obey traffic signals will raise a child who shows disregard for the same. A mother who discriminates between her son and daughter will encourage chauvinistic mindsets in her children. A child’s first formal socialization is the school. This makes it vital for teachers to reinforce the values inculcated by the parents and taught by books e.g. a teacher who tolerates a lack of punctuality, is subconsciously teaching the student that punctuality is not a necessary virtue. If these three members uphold the right values and guide the children conscientiously, future generations will have a clear distinction between right and wrong and will abhor rather than aspire to corruption.

Devotion is necessary: Dr Kalam always wanted people of his nation to succeed in their mission. And, his mantra for success was single-minded devotion to the goal. He stressed that to be devoted, is to bear fruits of success.

Difficulties help you enjoy success: Dr Kalam’s suggestion to someone who has continually failed in his efforts is to never give up. It is through difficulties and failure that one truly enjoys the fruits of his labour. He advised people of the nation to beat their difficulties raw.

Always Be Humble: Dr. kalam  was always humble with the people and that made him a great leader. As a youth it is very important for you to be humble that helps you to build healthy relationship with the people and creates a good image about you in their minds.

Dr. APJ Kalam was surely one such grand human being whose achievements, humility, sincerity, hard work, positivity and never-give-up outlook had and would always impart a great moral fillip for all, at every stage of life.

One of the most important characteristics of an ideal role model is never to give up hope and hard work in the face of oddities. Life is ready to throw challenges at different stages but a true winner is the one who does not get vulnerable to the unfavorable situation and keeps on finding ways to beat the challenge and fight right up to success. Dr. Kalam had been one such gallant fighter since his childhood and its bravery to face challenges with a smile right as a kid that has duly elevated to the cult status of a role model for all.

The much revered ISRO project direct and former head of India hailed from a poor family in Rameshwaram. His father was a boat owner of modest means and found it hard to run the family alone. Dr. Kalam had this dream to make it big one day since his childhood and despite his underprivileged situation. Thus, when he saw that it was getting hard for his father to make both ends meet, he took to selling newspapers, along with continuing his education. It was his utmost dedication to his studies; in spite the different oddities in his surroundings that earned him the scholarship to study his desired aerospace engineering from Madras Institute of Technology.

The poor boat-owner’s son, who used to sell newspapers to help out his dad  as a lad, went on to become a scientist at DRDO and later the honorary project director of ISRO, under whom India’s first ever SLV-III deployed the famous Rohini satellite back in 1980. In 2002, the great man was elected as the 11th President of India and he has also been a revered recipient of all the highest civilian awards of the country. He was felicitated with Bharat Ratna, Padma Bibhushan and Padma Bhushan added to several other prestigious honors from esteemed bodies all across the country and the world.

  1. sreedharan

Work with honesty, others will co-operate: Sreedharan has help thousands of people to success. But when asked, he has not claimed a method to his leadership. He has simply done his best, with full devotion and with a sense of honesty. People have looked up to him and in return have reciprocated by doing their best too.He has set an example. People have followed. He is a man who has led people by his personal power though he wielded immense positional power.

Focus on Goals Not Politics: Shore up your perseverance and prepare for maximum resistance, especially by Focus on Goals Not Politics: Shore up your perseverance and prepare for maximum resistance, especially by political expediencies. “I don’t know why some bureaucrats are not able to function. They should have the courage to stand up to their convictions and take decisions and not leave everything to the politicians,” says Sreedharan. He followed this principle throughout his career.

Delhi Metro Rail Corporation chairman E. Sreedharan has said that the education system should be able to instil moral values, ethics, culture and integrity in students more than giving them lessons in science, mathematics or other subjects.

Emphasising the importance of imparting value education, ‘Metro Man’ Dr E. Sreedharan has observed that the success of any governance institution or commercial venture is ultimately dependent on its ethics and value system.  “For any undertaking, success should be measured not in terms of its profit margins, but the values – such as punctuality, integrity, professional competence and commitment to society – it builds across its structure and the changes it brings about both within the culture of institution and beyond it,” he said

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