Philosophy simply lies in the love and study of wisdom. It is concerned with the ultimate purpose 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, naturists, romanticists, classicists, economists, historians, politicians, scientists, mathematicians, etc. have a say in philosophy.
No Man’s Land
Philosophy is not the property of any specialists or professionals or intellectuals and hence, it is a no man’s land. So, anybody can explore, discover and investigate anything in this land.
As philosophy has extended and expanded into many fields like science, politics, etc., which were all functioning under its banner once, have now made human knowledge unmanageably vast. Therefore philosophy now specifically means as per the view of Will Durant mainly five fields of study such as logic, aesthetics, ethics, politics and metaphysics. Hence people have lost the 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, Sankaracharya, Ramanuja, Radhakrishna and so on.
Knowledge and Wisdom
How human knowledge and wisdom are gained by men had posed to be 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 we say about human wisdom? We can say that human wisdom is the product of knowledge, observation, reflection and experience, which means that wisdom comes of the maturity of human mind or human perfection.
Finally, what is the use of philosophy? The answer to this question lies in the writings of Bertrand Russell. Philosophy is necessary and important according to the views of Russell. Modern developments of the world and modern civilisation depend wholly on the scientific researches on minute things whether they are really helpful or not to human life on the Earth. He says in his essay on Knowledge and Wisdom that first wisdom is necessary to judge what scientific pursuits are really essential and what scientific pursuits are irrelevant 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 and it is useful according to human culture to humanise modern knowledge to a great extent in the present world.
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.
Knowledge is Power
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.
Will of God
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.
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.
With the vast development of human knowledge it is not a difficult thing to decide what ambition one should have, what duty one should do and how life has to be lived. It is a noble thing to have for oneself as ambition the transformation of manhood to divine hood. The duty then will be to know God, to do works natural to one’s self and plan and live a natural life accordingly.
Is there really a God? What is the nature of God? And how can the duty for oneself be decided according to the Laws of Nature?
By seeing the foot prints on the sands of the beach we are able to say who has done it or who has gone that way. Scientifically it is discovered that the Moon rotating round the Earth was once the part of the Earth. The Earth and the other planets, we know, along with the Sun are considered to be one Solar system. By the Gravitational Force each planet rotates in a certain orbit round the Sun. Then the Stars are there. Like the foot prints created by some bear or man, these planets and the whole Universe with the living beings, matters, etc. must have been created by some power, whose natural function is present and continuously proceeds in everything everywhere; for example, we can quote the functions of the atoms in a molecule and the functions of the planets in a Solar system. This power present in everything everywhere activating everything wherever can be termed in a single word as God according to the attainment o human knowledge.
As and when human knowledge progresses this all pervading power can be understood still more clearly than as we know at present. As this all pervading power is not visible to the eyes of man it is considered to be a spirit. As the spirit does not have a size or shape or colour like the soul of man or any living beings, it is Nothing. With this power or spirit or soul only everything functions. So, God is the all pervading spirit or infinite power or Nothing. Therefore God is Nothing as well as Everything.
After coming to this conclusion it can be said that this God is an eternally infinite being; and man is a temporarily finite being, because for a certain period of duration called Time, man has size, shape, colour and occupies an area called place and a volume called Space. As man is a finite being it is totally impossible for him even to imagine how an eternally infinite being is. Indeed intellectual power is a great boon to man and because of this power man is rational, is able to understand mysteries and can interpret them. As this is so, by intellectual intuition only we can know what God is like and as God is a spirit, we can realise this power only with the help of our spirit. Therefore spiritual development is a must for man and without which it is quite futile even to talk about God.
Law, Justice, Dharma
We know that all the celestial bodies float spinning themselves in equilibrium position under the gravitational force in the Space like the ships, boats, logs, etc. on the ocean. There equilibrium has to be maintained. Otherwise, the whole show can’t go on forever. It is really an impossible wonder. But it is happening under Natural Laws which maintain the equilibrium of the Universe. These are all what we may say as God made laws. But there are also man made laws. These laws are there to maintain justice. So, everything goes on well because of justice. But his justice is meant only for the physical security of man. Then what sort of justice is governing the mind and the spirit of man? This justice is what Hindu religion calls by the word – Dharma. Therefore even if man escapes from the clutches of the laws of man, he cannot escape from dharma. Man has to maintain justice for his physical existence and has to maintain dharma for his mental and spiritual stability.
Hindu religion has classified various duties for various types of men according to their position in the society. They are 1. Brahman [priests, intellectuals, writers, etc.] 2. Chathriyan [kings, rulers, administrators, etc.] 3. Vysias [agriculturalists, traders, merchants] and 4. Sutras [workers, labourers depending on the above peoples]. As long as monarchy was in vogue this system was followed by the people in the society. Now democracy is in practice and the people choose the profession or job according to their nature, physical fitness and mind. Also, if they are men of thought they choose mainly knowledge or devotion or concentration as their mode of living and if they are men of action, they choose selfless action as their mode of living.
Even the Greek philosophers have discussed about justice. In The Republic Plato also while attempting to define what actually justice is, begins with the principle of the division of labour, which seems to be a part of the order established by nature for humanity at least when based on innate aptitudes. In it he finds not only an explanation of the origin and growth of States but an approach to an understanding of justice, which appear in a community when each man does the work for which he is suited best.
Socrates, therefore, “applies this principle to his Common Wealth dividing its citizens into three Classes – 1. the philosophers who rule the State, 2. the warriors who defend it and 3. the producers [farmers, artisans and tradesmen] who satisfy its economic needs. These groups correspond, he finds to the reason, the will and the appetites in man, who must be ruled by reason, if he is to attain that justice of the soul which results in each of his faculties performing its appointed task.” Therefore, justice is to do the job suitable to one’s nature so that one can maintain oneself physically, mentally and spiritually well.
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 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. Therefore the incarnation of God in the form of human being descending of formless infinite power into the form of finite being to lead the people to moksha or liberation is unthinkable, unimaginable and an illusion.
True Knowledge of God
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.
Dependence and Independence
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. Though Time, Space, Matter and causation look to be different independent things they are all interdependent with one another. By the finite nature of man everything looks to be separate and independent and illusion only. Interdependence is the law of the whole Universe while independence is the nature of the Absolute only. 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. Therefore the philosophy of Advaita is nothing but the theory of Unity in Diversity only.