A Journey into the
Pathways of Philosophy
Dr. N C Ramanujachary
and Content of the term “Philosophy”
the context of Western thought and Eastern viewpoint)
words philos and
Sophia mean respectively ‘love of ‘and ‘Wisdom’ and thus the
term philosophy primarily means ‘love of wisdom’ in daily action.
Pythagoras first coined the term. According to him, men and women of the
world could be classified into 3 groups: 1. those that love pleasure 2.
those that love activity and 3. those that love wisdom. In his
perspective, the end of wisdom is progress and perfection or salvation in
terms of religious understanding. It
can be noted here that his division of
people into 3 classes corresponds to the 3 qualities(Gunas)
of Nature that constitutes them, viz. Tamas, Rajas and Sattwa.
The comparison is only to show that root ideas of wise men are
always the same and similar to the Universal Ancient Wisdom Religion, the
source of all.
claims that the purpose of philosophy is to enable the gain of
self-knowledge, through conceptual clarity. Plato views that the discovery
of reality or absolute truth, through dialectic, is the purpose of
philosophy. It was Aristotle
who suggested that the study of philosophy began with the notice of ‘awe
and wonder’ around and ‘investigation of the causes and principles of
things’ is the object. Totality of human knowledge tends to become
philosophy. Hegasias, a Cyrenaic philosopher, felt that the endeavor of
philosophy is to suggest ways and means of avoiding ‘pain’ in life. It
was Neo-platonists that suggested the purpose of philosophy to become one
with the Divine. For Descartes, philosophy is the elucidation of ultimate
truth. It starts with pushing skepticism to its limit, when certainty of
one’s own existence is revealed. Locke
believed that philosophy provides an analysis of ideas stocked in our mind
and the unpacking of those. Simon felt the purpose of philosophy is to
bring about harmony to the world. Hegel said philosophy presents the
absolute truth in absolute form. Classification and interpretation of the
experience of humanity is the purpose of philosophy, according to Cousin.
Spencer believes philosophy to be a synthetic discipline and is held
together by universal principles. He observed Evolution to be a basic idea
for this unity. For Bergson philosophy is basically an intuitive disciple,
while Whitehead felt it should develop through imaginative generalization
a categorical scheme applicable to all experience.
the Western Philosophy can be seen as under:
Pre-Scholastic Jewish period
Rationalists & Materialists (of
and the like.
The above is only to illustrate how different philosophers have
chronologically improved upon the theme and yet we see a derivation of
ideas based on human development.
No one of them is determinative and they necessarily stand as
‘spring board’ for our further effort. Humanism, Existentialism
developed much later keeping in view the need of philosophical outlook
touching the every day life and living, as also the progression in a wider
and unique manner. Philosophy was and is always a granary of idea.
Philosophy , In current times, it is reckoned as the quintessence of
anything and everything available in manifestation. Philosophy of any
subject of knowledge, including language and literature, is being
developed and thus the discipline is becoming the ‘undercurrent’ of
human being’s existence.
the orient, the study of the discipline is much ancient and deep.
had its pre-Vedic philosophy, Vedic, Upanishad variations, purely radical
materialistic studies, theistic presentations, personal and non-personal
approaches. These will be dealt with separately.
Chinese philosophy has the stalwarts like Confucius, Lao-Tze,
Ying-yang schools and later Buddhistic presentations.
has its own schools and the same position with all nations and races. No
segment of human population is devoid of philosophic thoughts, ever
developing and moving to unimaginable heights.
Historically, there have been travels of philosophers and
philosophic thoughts between the Greece and Orient, East and West and the
ideas got mixed, developed well and attempted to get at the ‘whole
truth’ of everything connected with existence. Ultimately a realization
has also dawned that there is neither East nor West but The Wisdom is One
and the Same throughout the globe/ cosmos. Wisdom gets transmitted
depending upon the needs of the people and their eligibility to receive
that. Wisdom is co-genetic of manifestation, and philosophy is the outer
expression of that. What is latent is being brought up gradually and
sequentially. The Spirit of the Objective and subjective natures of
existence are getting fused by philosophic knowledge.
A very honestly, sincerely codified knowledge of Philosophy was
available in India at a very early period of history, perhaps the
pre-historic times; but for historical and geographical reasons that got
eclipsed/ veiled and sidelined. Modern education and its systems
introduced a sort of aversion, hatred and neglect among the Indians
towards their own sciences and arts. Matters not easily understood are
classed as ‘superstitions’ and left off without any probe into their
being and structure. Indian way of “Mimamsa” encouraged such probe. It
is only since 19th century that Orientalists got interested and
studies such as Indology and Indosophy are coined indicative of the
special studied connected with
. It is almost accepted today by all scholars of the world that Ancient
Wisdom of the East, particularly
, because of its universality is the ‘mother of culture and
civilizations’ of the world nations.
Indian systems of philosophy
always suggested that ‘textual knowledge’ of scriptures is not enough
for total understanding of the subject. Interpretative faculty, reaching
at the lower depths and high peaks of the knowledge is necessary. This is
application of the study
of the goal.
to the Supreme wisdom
text is the hard base upon which all ‘inquiry’ starts. Text is to be
used as ‘spring board’ for all ideas. Extended meanings of the text
and contextual interpretations come to the fore when the mind is
‘open.’ Spirit of Inquiry means this much.
Philosophy, however much high placed it is for various reasons, must
be looked as a factor resultant to ‘human thinking’, understanding and
sequential developments thereto. As
Wisdom is not confined or concluded, philosophy is too open-ended.
There can be no conclusions whatsoever. Branches of study increase.
Inter-disciplinary studies do bring in unpredicted, unanticipated results.
To put it in different terms, analytical viewpoints of philosophic
study can be reduced to the following:
is the face of Wisdom (Jnana-mukha), it is the channel for its expression
(Jnana-vahini). It is also the mirror of such expression (Jnana-darpana).
It is the pathway to Wisdom and it is Wisdom itself.