The Purpose and Necessity of Philosophy

Max Mueller says that religion is the practical form of philosophy and philosophy is the rational form of religion.  So, religion is concerned with feeling, heart and spirit and philosophy is concerned with reason, mind and intellect.  The expression of human knowledge based on experience, thoughts, feelings, imagination, etc. appears in the form of paintings, drama, music, arts, religion, philosophy and so on.  Of the branches of knowledge Religion, Philosophy, Literature and Science are very important and vital because based on them only human life and activities go on since the dawn of civilization in the world. 
Main Branches of Knowledge

It can be said that Religion is all about the creative evolution of man meant for the general guidance of all with moral code of conduct to be followed for total salvation in life.  It is a system of faith and worship of God.  It shows the means to reach from manhood to divine hood and thereby solve all the problems on the way.  In short the functions of religion are to give peace, education and knowledge of life and the culture to achieve everything in order to make human life a complete one.

Philosophy is all about the love of truth and wisdom.  It is a no man’s land where synthetic interpretation is possible when other branches of knowledge have not touched on the matter or failed to do anything with it.  That is why philosophy is called as weltanschauung as intellectual construction of anything to a significant conclusion is possible.

Science analyses matter by observation on the basis of experiments to infer or prove the truth minutely in parts.  But the search or the discovery of truth by scientific analysis is possible only for the physical things and also experiments cannot be experienced.

In Art from inheritance, nature it is possible to express including metaphysical things by modifying from the know thing using one’s faculties something lively, forceful and beautiful beyond oneself, supernatural, etc. thereby effacing one’s personality to escape into the world of one’s creation in order to transcend one’s limitations to get satisfaction.

In Poetry religion, philosophy, science, arts and intellect are combined together in a unique way to express truths discovered through experience and exploration of the unknown, higher and supernatural things, i.e. in poetic literature only from the known matters it is possible to express unknown matters by exploring deeply and beyond intensively and extensively immanent and transcendental things.

No Man’s Land

Philosophy simply lies in the love and study of wisdom.  It is all about the ultimate purpose or truth and valuation of all things of human life such as birth, life, death and world and human interests in Universe, matter, mind, soul, spirit and God.  Poets, prophets, naturalists, romanticists, classicists, economists, historians, socialists, ethnologists, scientists, mathematicians, etc. have a say in philosophy.  It is not the property of any specialists or professionals or intellectuals and hence it is a no man’s land!  And so, anybody can explore, discover and investigate anything in this land!  As philosophy has extended and expanded into many fields like science, politics, etc. that were all functioning under its banner once have now made human knowledge unmanageably vast.  Therefore philosophy now specifically means according to Will Durant mainly five fields of study such as logic, aesthetics, ethics, politics and metaphysics.  Hence people have lost old charm and joy for it now!


In the past it was the philosophers who had brought knowledge and wisdom within the reach of everyone by their dialogues, conversations, lectures, speeches and writings.  Due to the efforts of the great philosophers religious control over the State changed, monarchy was displaced by democracy, blind religious beliefs were shattered by the bold scientific expositions of the truths to the people and so on.  In this respect the philosophers people cannot forget are Socrates, Plato, Spinoza, Kant, Spencer, Russell, Confucius, Sankara, Ramanuja, Radhakrishna and so on.

How Knowledge is Acquired

How human knowledge and wisdom are acquired by all had posed as great philosophical questions to many philosophers. According to John Locke human knowledge comes of sense-experience of matter and not purely of mind as it is like a clean slate in the beginning. Next Bishop George Berkeley refuted Locke’s analysis of knowledge that matter does not exist except as a form of mind and established that all matter is a mental condition and the only reality that we know directly is mind. David Hume, who came next, as per a wit “no matter, never mind” destroyed both the views of Locke and Berkeley in his TREATISE ON HUMAN NATURE and said that knowledge is perceived merely as ideas. The next philosopher Kant said that knowledge is gained through pure reason. So, we can say that knowledge is gained not only through the sense experience of matter but also through mind, ideas and reason.

The senior of these three philosophers and many others since then, Spinoza says that the best of philosophical knowledge is necessary and is most important of all things of man’s interests as through knowledge alone we can get freedom, happiness and peace. There is so much about knowledge. So, what can be said about human wisdom?  Human wisdom is a product of knowledge, observation, reflection and experience and so, wisdom comes of the maturity of human mind or human perfection only.

Modern Philosophy

According to Russell philosophy is very important and necessary because modern developments of the world and civilization depend on knowledge of science and technology.  But wisdom is necessary to judge which scientific pursuits are really essential before starting any scientific research.  According to him to make philosophy relevant to the modern world the old approach to it should be replaced by the new approach of common sense, mathematical reasoning, scientific analysis and logical inference, which is the essence of his philosophy. Therefore his scientific philosophy can be accepted as the best modern philosophy.

True Knowledge

Those who don’t believe in any religion go to philosophy to know the truth. Philosophy has almost unveiled the eluding truth, but the pursuit is still on as there cannot be a nobler thing to do than to pursue after the truth. Whatever it is, by intellectual thinking only man has gained more and true knowledge of anything and everything from the Self to the Space. This is mainly because in this field only any question can be asked on anything to know the truth. Philosophies of Sankara on Advaita or monotheism, Plato on THE REPUBLIC and modern philosophies of Spinoza, Kant, Spencer, Russell and philosophical teachings of Ramakrishna, Vivekananda, J. Krishnamurti and Aurobindo contribute much to human knowledge and basing them only many useful philosophical ideas are developed for the progress of mankind.  Materialists have denied the existence of soul, spirit, Universal Consciousness, God, immortality, etc. and supported single life, physical and mental aspects of human beings only. On the other hand, on abstract ideas like time, spirit, mind, immortality, etc. many philosophers have expressed wonderful interpretations for the understanding of anyone. But the quest for knowledge of Truth is very high in every one of them.


Various views have come from researches on how man gets knowledge. According to Spinoza the first type of knowledge we get from hearsays, the second type from experience, the third type higher than these two from reasoning by deduction or induction and the fourth type far higher and superior than all the three from intuition just as we know mentally the answer of a problem in Mathematics without working out the steps from the beginning to the end. This intuitive knowledge is the most important and reliable one. Using this knowledge Spinoza has written a treatise on Ethics just like proving a Geometrical theorem or rider by using the method of Chess game. That is why he is called as the father of modern philosophy to many philosophers who came afterwards. So, this knowledge is real power, freedom and happiness.

For Spinoza, God is everywhere; and everything is within this power. The Will of God is the same as the Laws of Nature but not God and Nature are one. So, it is good to go according to the Laws of Nature. Mind and matter are inextricably united in such a way that either of them cannot exist without the other and so, both of them are not separate entities. A well informed knowledge or intellect only can help to know when love has to rule and when power has to rule. Of all the things only a good and perfect thought can remain immortal as far as immortality is concerned. There is so much about intellectual knowledge from Spinoza that they are really thought provoking and useful forever. 

David Hume

According to John Locke in his essay on Human Understanding through sense-experience only mind knows everything as it is fresh and blank in the beginning. But Berkeley argues that knowledge of matter or other abstract things is gained through mind only and so, mind is everything. David Hume in his Treatise on Human Nature established that knowledge is gained on “no matter, but never mind.” Through sense-experience, mind, etc. weak or strong impressions are formed. But from the strong impressions only ideas of things, etc. are formed in the minds of human beings.


After Spinoza, Kant only revolutionised human thought and cast his influence on many intellectuals, poets, etc. His famous philosophical treatises worth to be quoted are Critique of Pure Reason, Critique of Practical Reason, etc., in which he says that pure reason on sense-experience or no experience of past, present or future knowledge is obtained. While analysing the inherent structure of mind or innate laws of thought he says that knowledge is transcendental. Mind is not a silent spectator but an active organism that moulds and shapes perception of events i.e. memory of the mind stimulus is transformed into perception and perception is transformed into conception or ideas.

Perception is disordered stimulus; conception is ordered perception. Science is ordered conception and wisdom is ordered life. Ideas of religion are based not on pure reason but on morality, the substance of acquired conscience by evolution.

Sri Aurobindo

After the birth of the Earth, man has evolved from the smallest of small single life cell. After the evolution of man no other creature greater than man has evolved. According to Sri Aurobindo after the physical evolution, evolution of the mind is going on in man and after the mental evolution, evolution of the spirit will take place in man. With the evolution of the spirit man will reach the divine hood and will lead the divine life, he envisaged.

Though we are not aware perhaps the people like Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, etc. who have reached divine hood and living divine life must be existing somewhere in the world just waiting for the time to achieve successfully moksha. So, by the attainment of intellectual knowledge it is an acceptable fact that divinity is already involved in the evolution of man.


Sankara asks it is of what use worrying about liberation without having true knowledge of God. Before anything knowledge is very, very important. Without knowledge it is impossible even to know God. Provided with the intellect of Sankara and the loving heart of Buddha, Swami Vivekananda says that it is certainly possible to introduce Sankara’s philosophy of Advaita [Monotheism] as the Universal religion as it has all the necessary ingredients in it to clarify all kinds of doubts, satisfy and guide all types of people in the world. God is everything everywhere, immanent, transcendental, Ultimate Reality, Truth, Love, Absolute, perfect, independent and infinite though called by many names and worshipped in many forms under many religions.

All the matters in the Universe including Nature, World and man are in the imperfect and incomplete state and not only are they involved in the process of evolution towards perfection and absoluteness but also inter-dependent with one another. Therefore Time, Space, Matter and causation which are in the chaotic state are interdependent but all the matters put together in order provides completeness, perfection or Absoluteness. Infinity is perfect comparable to a colourless glass whereas finiteness is imperfect comparable to different shades of colour. It is the same for man also. Man is in the process of evolution. But, by his own efforts, if he completes the process of evolution, Man certainly can achieve freedom, immortality, absoluteness and infinity!


More by :  T. A. Ramesh

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