Socrates is one of the most prominent Greek philosophers of the Hellenistic Age. His powers of logical reasoning and the invention of the Socratic Method have left an enduring legacy on Western philosophy. The ideas spawned by him were given further life and shape by his bright pupil Plato, who also documented much of what Socrates orated to his audience. Although he was a prominent member of the Aristocratic class, his lack of deference to authority would ultimately lead to his tragic end. In this tragedy lies heroism and moral fortitude. Although deemed guilty by the then prevailing laws of Athens, he stands righteous in spirit. Even when given the choice between a life in exile or immediate execution, he chose the latter as a matter of adhering to principle. The following passages will elaborate this assessment.
Socrates was brought to trial by the democratic Athenian jury, which had scores to settle with prominent members of the previous regime. . . . Read More
Born in 384 BC and believed to have died on 322 BC, Aristotle remains the figure head of Ancient Greek philosophy. He also founded the Peripatetic school of philosophy, which remains in currency even today. Aristotle was widely regard during his time and continues to be revered through the ages. It is perhaps his common-sense approach to philosophy which has endeared and sustained him to academics and laypeople alike. While also expounding on such specialized subjects as physics, metaphysics, linguistics, biology and ethics, Aristotle theorized a great deal on poetry, music, theatre, rhetoric and government. The latter group of subjects is of common interest and appeal to a wide audience. This is one reason why he is considered a common-sense philosopher.
Also, during 3rd century BC, no advanced methods of logical deductions were devised yet. As a result, Aristotle had to employ simpler methods bordering on common-sense to perform his analyses. For example, with the limited . . . Read More
Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations hypothesis has attracted both appreciation and criticism. Considered to be a seminal social science work of recent times, Huntington’s theory places international conflicts at the level of civilizations as opposed to smaller identifiers like nation-states, religions, ethnicity, linguistic differences, etc. Huntington reckons that the qualifier of civilization is the broadest and most dominant feature in an individual’s personal identity, thereby making it the primary factor in geo-political events. There is much credence to this thesis, as a quick glance at history of last millennia will reveal. During ancient times, the chief source of identification came from the tribe or clan to which an individual belonged. Since life was harsh, brutal and short, there was no scope for identification beyond this narrow realm. But as civilization progressed our societies got organized in terms of kingdoms and other smaller autocratic . . . Read More
One of the major contributions of the Frankfurt School is the spawning of critical theory, the term first being coined by the Institute for Social Research at the University of Frankfurt. One other leading intellectual of the Frankfurt School (which was founded in 1923), is Max Horkheimer. In his 1937 essay titled ‘Traditional and Critical Theory’, he made important connections between mass culture and political economy. He noted that while ‘stored-up knowledge’ is the basis of traditional theory, critical theory “sought to understand the social world as changeable, thereby stripping reality of its character as ‘pure factuality’.” (Horkheimer, as quoted in Arato, 1993, p.221) He stressed the idea that critical theory is a broader project that mere increase of knowledge. In other words, its goal is no less than humankind’s liberation from slavery. In modern times, where the chattel-slavery system is now defunct, slavery manifests in . . . Read More
An element of my personal philosophy of life is related to the dynamics of ‘contentment’. Since the whole canon of Western Philosophy is centered on the causes, states and conditions of contentment, it is fair to say that my contribution through this narrative is a minuscule one. Yet, I would like to voice my assessment of this universal human concern and try to refine my theory through the responses it will elicit from the audience. I have synthesized my personal experience with a larger political event and have studied them both in a philosophical framework. I hope that the audience will eventually agree with me as they see the logic and weight of my arguments given below.
I would describe my personal philosophy of life as closely allied to Epicureanism. Although this school of thought is grouped under Hedonism, it is markedly more moderate in the principles it espouses. As opposed to Hedonism, which is living life for the sole purpose of sensory enjoyment, . . . Read More
Ambrose Bierce’s short story titled An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge is one of the classics of the art form. The story could be read from three different angles. First, the political angle provided by the American Civil War of the 1860s. Second is the cultural angle, whereby the unique flavors of the American South can be appreciated. Third, the story provides rich material for studying the psychology of impending death. This essay will extend the third angle and argue that though the hallucinatory sequence experienced by Peyton Farquhar is temporally brief, within it contain profound truths about the nature of human psychology and existence.
A striking aspect of the story is the non-linear plot structure employed by the author. The story is divided into four compact parts. Chronologically they are arranged in this fashion – 2,1,3,4 – which means the background information about Farquhar’s allegiance to the confederate cause is placed next to the event of his . . . Read More
Buddhism is a major religion in current times, but its origins goes back thousands of centuries. Having originated in North Eastern India, it had spread far and wide in the Eastern hemisphere, making it a dominant religion in the Asian continent. Buddhism has been in existence even before the rise of Judeo-Christians, making it stand second only to Hinduism in the chronological order for major surviving religions. But, Buddhism differs from most other major religions of today in that it offers practical and feasible solutions for universal human concerns. Buddhism is typically an Eastern religion for it focuses on human suffering and offers practical solutions to counter it. Rather than dealing with the paranormal and the supernatural, it is a practical philosophy toward life. In other words, Buddhism can be seen as offering psychological insights into the workings of the human mind, an understanding of which will benefit the individual subject. Both Buddhism and psychology can be . . . Read More
In a recent BBC online poll for finding the greatest thinker of the Millenium, Karl Marx came first. That Marx beat Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin and Stephen Hawking among other leaders in their fields amounts to a big statement of Marx’s relevance in the new millenium. The relevance of the results is magnified when we consider that neo-liberal capitalism has established itself as the dominant economic ideology today. With many leading economists of our time, including Thomas Friedman, Joseph Heath (and to a lesser extent Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz) not being critical of the capitalist ideology, the poll results give away the public pulse on this important issue. It is reasonable to assume that public sentiment and government economic policies (usually informed by contemporary economists noted above) are pulling in opposite directions. And the tensions created by these opposing tendencies are already giving rise to widespread social unrest, as shown by the . . . Read More
Orientalism as a geo-political and sociological concept has attracted much controversy. It remains author Edward Said’s definitive work, alongside other titles such a The Question of Palestine and Covering Islam. Orientalism as a scholarly work is the combined study and analysis of Oriental “philology, linguistics, ethnography, and the interpretation of culture through the discovery, recovery, compilation, and translation of Oriental texts”. (Windschuttle, 1999, p.30) Having been born into a Palestinian Christian family that later migrated to the United States, Said had the unique advantage of experiencing different perspectives on the issue of Palestine-Israel conflict as well as broader Arabian politics. His works on the subject of Middle East politics are informed by his first hand experiences at these places, as well as a careful study of preceding scholarship by Western intellectuals. The primary criticism in his book Orientalism, as also seen in the . . . Read More
Sociologist and philosopher Max Weber has contributed significantly toward our understanding of social and political institutions’ role in everyday situations. If economists such as John Kenneth Galbraith and, more recently, Joseph Stiglitz have brought clarity to the study of dominant institutions, it was Weber who paved the way for this field of study. Weber’s work on the subject were preceded by Karl Marx and succeeded by Michel Crozier, but it was he who conducted in-depth analyses, especially as applicable to practical everyday situations. And he, more than anybody else, brought the term ‘bureaucracy’ into mainstream sociological discourse.
Weber’s work dealt with such dominant socio-political institutions like religious authorities, the government, industrial corporations, etc. And in the case of the government, it is through bureaucracy that it interacts with the general population. Bureaucracy can generally be said to contain the . . . Read More