Mini Courses of GS IV: Contribution of Moral Thinkers & Philosophers From India and World

Mini Courses of Ethics, Integrity, Attitude, Aptitude and case studies for IAS Mains Examination





From ancient times India has held strongly a belief in the reality of the Avatar, the descent into form, the revelation of the God-head in humanity. India has grown up and persisted as a logical outcome of the Vedantic view of life and taken firm root in the consciousness of the race. All experience, according to Vedantic philosophy, is a manifestation of God because He is the only existence and nothing can be except as either a real figuring or else a figment of that one Reality. Therefore, every conscious being is in part or in some way a descent of the Infinite into the apparent finiteness of name and form. But it is a veiled manifestation and there is a gradation between the Supreme Being of the Divine & there is a gradation between th the consciousness shrouded partly or wholly by ignorance of self in the finite. When the Divine Consciousness or Power assumes the human form and chooses the human mode of .action out of its eternal Self-Knowledge, when the Unknown knows Itself and acts in the frame of mental being and the appearance of birth, that is the height of the conditioned manifestation; it is the full and conscious descent of the God-head, it is the Avatar incarnate God. The fact about the existence of Sri Krishna both as the historical character and the Avatar was well established by the first century B. C. through various .religious legends and Puranas.


Manu’s theory of the coercive authority (danda) of the ruler, it can be firmly maintained that he (Manu) develops it along the lines of the old Arthasastra thinkers. He tells us that for the king’s sake, the Lord created in days of yore His own son Danda, the protector of all creatures, Law (dharma), formed of Brahma’s lustre: Danda is the king, the male, the director, and the ruler as well as the surety of observance of their duties (dharma) by the four orders (asramas I. Danda. he further tells us, rules all people; danda alone protects them: danda is awake when others are asleep, the wise declare danda to be identical with the law (dharma). Through the fear of danda. the author continues, all creatures, movable and immovable, “yield uieniselves lor enjoyment” and swerve not from their duties The whole world, as observed in Arthasastra texts, is kept in order by danda. good men are rare and it is through the fear of danda that the whole world “yields the enjoyment which it owes.”

Even the gods, the demons, the demigods, the goblins as w ell as the bird and snake deities, the author adds with magnificent exaggeration, “yield them- selves for enjoyment” only when the are tormented by fear of danda..
The king, we read, is a just inflicter of danda. who is truthful, who acts after due consideration, who is wise and who is conversant with Virtue, Pleasure and Wealth: the king who is voluptuous, partial and deceitful, on the other hand, is destroyed by the same danda which he inflicts: when the king swerves from his duty (dharma), danda strikes him down with his relatives and his kingdom, and more, it afflicts the whole world and likewise the gods and the sages. Regarding the ruler’s qualifications, the author remarks that danda cannot be inflicted justly by one without assistants or a fool or a covetous man, or one whose mind is unimproved, or one who is addicted to sensual pleasures, while it can be justly inflicted by one who is pure and truthful, who acts according to the canon; who has good assistants and who is wise.



The Buddha was born in 563 B.C. as Siddhartha to Shuddhodana the king of Kapilavastu in Nepal. His mother Mayadevi expired when he was just 7 days old and he was brought up by his stepmother UauUiim. Siddhartha was made to lead a very sheltered life as the astrologers had predicted that he would give up worldly pleasures to follow a different path. The King wanted to avoid this at all costs and so did not let him out of the palace. He hoped that Siddhartha would one day become king.


When Siddhartha had grown into an intelligent young man, he ventured out of his palace one day, and chanced on a few sights that changed the course of his life. He first saw a very old man who could barely walk, a sick man who was in a great deal of pain, and lastly a corpse. He had never been exposed to pain before, and so these sights had a deep effect on him. His servant explained that pain and death were inevitable. This made Siddhartha very sad and he started to rethink his life and began to try to fathom the reason of existence. Seeing him so thoughtful, his lather decided to get him married and get his mind off such serious topics. He was married to a beautiful princess culled Yashodhara. who Boon gave birth to a son who they called Kabul.



The great man is one who makes others great and who cames with L him the burden of the whole humanity. The greatest fact in the history of man on earth is not what he achieves materially or what he gains here, but the growth of his Soul from age to age in its search for truth. Those who take part in this adventure of the Soul secure an ever-lasting place 111 world history.

The greatness of Gandhi lies not in his heroic struggle for India’s freedom, bin in his ever striving for the Soul-force and in his insistence on the creative power of the Soul.


From the Gandhian application of socialism, however, it must none thought that Gandhi was a mystic or his socialism was only a matter of the mind. He was intensely practical and his principle was that the life of the individual should get all possible expression only in the context of society. He added to this the possibility of application of non-violence and truth in all activities and thought. Gandhian idea in general and Gandhian socialism in particular is no mere theory, not merely an intellectual grasp or philosophical satisfaction which can be attained by simple speculation and thinking. The most particular and significant aspect of Gandhian socialism is the emphasis which Gandhi laid on the internal aspect of life.



Nature and circumstance were both kind to Jawaharlal Nehru. He was bom into the Kashmiri Brahmin community, the must aristocratic suh-casie in the Hindu social system. His father was a distinguished and wealthy barrister, modem, urbane, highly cultivated and lavishly generous.

As an only son-and the only child for eleven years-Jawaharlal was the focus of concentrated affection. He had. too. the leisure and learning of an English aristocrat in the secure atmosphere of the Edwardian Age-private tutors, Harrow. Cambridge and the Inner Temple. When he was drawn to the political arena soon after his return to India, his path was eased by the guidance and support of his father and Gandhi. Prime Minister Nehru recalled this head-start in a modest portrait of his past seen forty years later. “growth to public prominence, you know, was not by sharp stages. It was, rather, a steady development over a long period of time. And if I may say so,” he added dryly, I began at fairly high level.” The benefits of aristocratic background and higher Western education were not without price. Security was accompanied by an overwhelming paternalism which hindered his growth to self-reliance. This tendency to depend on a strong, decisive and older man a marked feature of Nehru’s character in his adult life. Even before the death of his father in 1931 he had already transferred this dependence in large measure to Gandhi, who served as guide, counsellor and father-confessor in matters both political and personal. After Gandhi’s death the habit continued but in a less pronounced manner. Indeed, it was not until his early sixties that Nehru emerged mostly from the shadow of the two men who exercised more influence on his character than all other persons.

Nehru’s education in England accounted for his realistic approach to the problems of life and his scientific attitude of mind. He would fight for his country’s freedom against the British rulers in India, but he could not forget what he owed to his English training or ways of thought. “Personally I owe too much to England in my mental make, up ever to feel wholly alien to her,” he frankly avowed, “and do what I will, I cannot get rid of the habits of mind, and the standards and the ways of judging other countries as well as life generally, which I acquired at school and college in England.” It is this again that made him realize how much English language and literature have meant to India and her people, though he was a passionate believer in the resurgence of the Indian languages and in their replacing English in the near future. Nor did he forget the deep debt of gratitude that Mahatma Gandhi and Aurobindo Ghosh, Rabindranafh Tagore and Radhakrishnan owe to English or that they drew their inspiration as much from teachings of Burke and Mill, Ruskin and Tolstoy, Lincoln and Thoreau as from the Vedas and the Upanishads, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the Bhagvad-Gita and the gospel of Buddha. He always impressed on his countrymen the need for a spirit of restraint in the solution of problems, both at home and abroad; his success in this direction had enabled him to see that India continues to be a member of the Commonwealth.

“Patriotism is no longer enough; we want something higher, wider and nobler.” A lover of his country, proud of her past, eagerly looking forward to an equally splendid future for her, he was no narrow nationalist as most politicians and patriots tend to become. To him the whole of humanity was one; the denial of freedom to a people whether in Indonesia or in Israel, made him take up their cause with the same fervour with which he fought for India’s freedom. “What are we interested in world affairs for ?” he asked. “We seek no domination over any country. We do not wish to interfere in the affairs of any country, domestic or other. Our main stake in world affairs is peace, to see that there is racial equality and that people who are still subjugated should be free. For the rest we do not desire to interfere in world affairs and we do not desire that other people should interfere in our affairs.

A man of wide vision and broad outlook, Nehru did not subscribe to the doctrine that the end justifies the means. He writes that a worthy end should have worthy means leading up to it. That seems not only a good ethical doctrine, but sound practical politics, for the means that are not good often defeat the end in view and raise new problems and difficulties. And then it appears so un­becoming, so degrading to the self-respect of an individual or a nation to submit to such means, to go through the mire. Again and again Nehru told his audiences, both in India and abroad, that this principle of right means up to right results should be adopted in international relations also.

It is a truism of history that democracy is the best form of government, because it preserves the highest human values. That is why, India has chosen democracy. And Nehru was so hopeful about its success in India that he remarked. “We will resist the imposition of any other concept here or any other practice.” But he quite reasonably thought, as we all think, that war puts an end to the very values that democracy cherishes. It was his firm belief that “democracy, in fact, is a casuaty of war in the world today. It does not mean to function properly any more. That has been the tragedy of the last two World wars and something infinitely worse is likely to happen if there is another war.”


Scattered throughout his voluminous writings are fragments of a world outlook, each reflecting the primacy of one of these strands at a given point in time. Nowhere is there a systematic effort to integrate them into a consistent personal and political philosophy for Nehru was an eclectic in intellectual matters. Nevertheless, he did set down his mature reflection in his Discovery of India. These merit special attention, perhaps, because as late as 1956,29 a dozen years after they were penned, Nehru termed them his most considered thoughts on ‘Life’s Philosophy.



Jayaprakash Narayan, born in a middle-class family of Bihar, received his education both in India and U. S. A. While still a young boy, he became an ardent nationalist and leaned towards the revolutionary cult of which Bengal was the noble leader at that time. But before his revolutionary leanings could mature. Gandhi’s first non-cooperation movement swept over the land as a strangely uplifting hurricane. He had an unusual experience of soaring up with the winds of a great idea.

While under the spell of Marxism, J. P. Narayan was much impressed by the Marxian philosophy of revolution. It seemed to him a surer and quicker road to the freedom of a country and the emancipation of its masses than Gandhi’s technique of civil disobedience and non-cooperation. The thrilling triumph of the great Lenin in Russia, accounts of which he consumed with unsatiated hunger, seemed to establish beyond doubt the supremacy of the Marxian way to revolution. Also, Marxism stood, he felt, for equality and brotherhood-the qualities without which freedom is not enough. He interpreted the word ‘freedom’ and showed his leaning: towards Marxism in the following lines: “. It must mean freedom for all-even the lowliest-and this freedom must include freedom from exploitation, from hunger, from poverty. I cannot say what were the early experiences that had laid the foundations in the subconscious mind of sympathy with poverty and suffering. But the latent sympathy certainly was there, and it was awakened and brought to ill the surface of conscious living by Marxism.” At this time he was not very certain about Gandhi’s stand on the vital question of equality which captivated him as much as the ideal of freedom.


Although a Marxist, Jayaprakash Narayan never became a protagonist of Russian communism. He had a deep moral revulsion against the atrocities of Russian Bolshevik party. In the ‘thirties he had favoured the united popular front with the communists, which he, in 1940, denounced strongly, and after that he became one of the foremost critics of the authoritarian regimentation of Russian communism.


For nearly twenty-four years, from 1930 to 1954, Narayan worked as a socialist. He had been the foremost leader, propagandist and spokesman of Indian socialism. Mahatma Gandhi had accepted him to be the greatest Indian authority on socialism. He not only took the initiative in the formation of the Indian Socialist Party in 1934, but also showed a remarkable genius in popularizing the party and its programme.

In 1934, Jayaprakash Narayan realized that socialism could be the real basis of India’s freedom. In a resolution submitted to the Ramgarh Congress of 1940, he advocated collective ownership and control of all large-scale and heavy production. He moved that the state should nationalize heavy transport, shipping, mining and the heavy industries. As such, his earlier socialism showed an impact of the ideas of American and British socialists.
He writes in his book. From Socialism to Sarvodaya, recapitulating his old impressions about Russia, the home of communism: “The Russian revolution had started as a people’s revolution mat had the active support of the broad masses of Czarist Russia, but Lenin converted it into a minority revolution when he forcibly dissolved the Constituent Assembly in which he was in a small ‘ minority and seized power with the help of rebel soldiers and the urban working class. The subsequent miscarriage of the revolution and distortion of socialism to my mind was the direct result of a forcible seizure of power by a minority.”

As a socialist, he believed in the urgency of economic problems of the country, and he, therefore, stressed the need for solving the economic problem first. There is no apparent inevitable connection between economic causation and cultural reality. But it is also true that without the satisfaction of basic economic needs cultural creativism is a sheer impossibility.

Hence Jayaprakash pleaded for the eager maintenance of the conditions that were indispensable for the realization of equality of opportunities. Thus economic minimum is a prime precondition for the resplendence of the fruits of culture.


Jayaprakash completely broke away with Marxism and turned to Sarvodaya philosophy. He attempted to reinterpret the basic-question of individual behaviour that he was to exhibit in the realm of politics from an ethical viewpoint. The study of matter is an objective exploration, whereas that of consciousness is subjective realization.

The study of matter, the objective exploration, science in short, is necessarily amoral. The Marxists (and the materialists generally), having reduced consciousness to a behaviour of matter, naturally knocked the bottom out of ethics.

They talk a good deal no doubt of revolutionary ethics, but ihm is nothing more than the crassest application of the theory that the end justifies the means Once an individual persuades himself, sincerely or otherwise, that he is on the side of the revolution (or the Party of the People), he is free to commit any infamy whatsoever.


About 20 years before India gained its freedom, Christian missionaries from Yugoslavia came to India to render humanitarian services. They were extremely affected by the conditions of poverty rampant in India and so invited people from their country to serve here. Amongst these was a special girl called Agnes Goxa Bojaxiu, who is today known as Mother Teresa.


Agnes was born on August 27, 1910 and was just 19 years when she came to Calcutta on January 6, 1929. And she never left this country. Her aim in life was to serve the sick and the poor and she dedicated her full life towards this purpose. She would roam the dangerous dark and dirty streets of Calcutta at night, covering the cold and offering food and shelter to the poor. When she first arrived in Calcutta, she had just Rs. 5.00, and was helped by a priest. She lived in a small room for 9 years, where she nursed the ill back to health. Compassion, dignity and sympathy marked her every action.


Through her efforts she managed to open several institutions to help the downtrodden e.g. ‘Missionaries of Charity’, ‘ Nirmal Hriday’, and ‘Shishu Bhavan’ which houses the mentally and physically challenged children. Mother Teresa was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and the Bharat Ratna in 1980. Besides these she also received the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Peace (1972), Ramon Magsaysay Award (1962) and the Templeton Foundation Award (1973). As the Mother- General of the Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa has a thousand Missionary institutions working under her.

Despite all the public acclaim, national and international honours, mother Teresa remained humble, kind and generous till the end. The Florence Nightingale of India passed away in September 1997.

Indian history has been witness to only one female Prime Minister - Indira Gandhi. She was the third Prime Minister of India and the daughter of the first - Pandit Jawarharlal Nehru. Her charm, intelligence and charisma made her a powerful statesperson. much loved and admired by her people.




Plato’s meeting with Socrates was a turning-point in his life. Socrates, Plato’s guide and muster, was a person of grotesque, almost repulsive appearance: short and stout, with a snub nose, large prominent eyes, thick lips, full of wit and irony, ready to take ajoke against himself a good mixer, no respecter of persons. Plato, his disciple, presented a complete contrast. He had been brought up in comfort, and perhaps in wealth; he was a handsome and vigorous youth-called Plato, it is said, because of the breadth of his shoulders he had excelled as u soldier, and had twice won prizes at the Isthmian games. Philosophers are not apt to develop out of such an adolescence. But Plato’s subtle soul had found a new joy in the ‘dialectic’ game of Socrates; it was a delight to behold the Master deflating dogmas and puncturing presumptions with the sharp point of his question; Plato entered into this sport as he had in a coarser kind of wrestling; and under the guidance of the old ‘gad-fly’ (as Socrates called himself) he passed from mere debate to careful analysis and fruitful discussion. He became u very passionate lover of wisdom, and of his teacher. “I thank God,” he used to say, “that I was born Greek and not’ barbarian, freeman and not slave, man and not woman; hut above all that I was horn in the age of Socrates.”


Aristotle was born in either 385 or 384 B.C. at Stagira, a Mecedonian city some 350 kilometres to the north of Athens. Aristotle’s father, Nicomachus, was a doctor of considerable ability, who finally rose to be the chief physician at the court of Amyntas II. King of Macedonia. While in the hitter’s service, he wrote a number of books on medicine and natural science. Aristotle’s mother, Phoestis, was a native of Chalcis. By reason of his father’s profession, the young boy became a member of the guild of Asclepaidae (named after Asclepius or Aesculapius, the Greek God of Medicine), since the medical profession was hereditary in mat confraternity. He had every opportunity and encouragement to develop a scientific bent of mind; he was prepared from the beginning to become the founder of science.

His early acquaintance with natural science had a profound effect upon his way of thinking. Not merely did it turn his interests in a particular direction the direction of analysis, experiment, and classification-but it caused him finally to strike out on an original line of his own. This new departure in thought has affected all subsequent enquiry whether scientific, philosophical, political or ethical. For the ideas and conclusions of Aristotle have entered into our common traditions of thought, so that we speak with his idiom even though we may protest ignorance of his writings.



Rousseau, though a philosophe in the eighteenth century French sense, was not what would now be called a philosopher’. Nevertheless he had a powerful influence on philosophy, as on literature, education, religion, taste and manners and politics, and it is hardly an exaggeration to say with Lanson that he is to be found at the entrance to all the paths leading to the present. Whatever may be our opinion of his merits as a thinker, wc must recognize his immense importance as a social force.

This importance came mainly from his appeal to the heart, and to what, in his day, was called ‘sensibility. He is the father of the romantic movement, the initiator of systems of thought which infer non-human facts from human emotions, and the inventor of political philosophy of pseudo-democratic dictatorship as opposed to traditional absolute monarchies. Ever since his time, those who considered themselves reformers have been divided into two groups, those who followed him and those who followed Locke.



Edmund Burke was not of the type of an armchair thinker but like Machiavelli, he was primarily a man of political action. He did not set forth explicitly the principles on winch his conception of state rests; he did no give, for instance, an elaborate analysis of human nature that Hobbes thought necessary to base his political theory, or propounded a moral and social principle which Bentham made use of to establish his idea of ‘greatest good of the greatest number.’ Nevertheless, he developed certain principles during the course of his dealing with some concrete contemporary political issues.

Burke had an opportunity to apply his notions and principles to many political problems of first importance. He defended forcefully the party or cabinet system of government against the system of administration by the monarch and the ‘king’s friends’, which George III modeling himself on Queen Elizabeth-was trying to reintroduce. The king was determined not merely to reign hut to rule. This meant completely reorienting the direction of Government. Since the settlement of 1688 the king had chosen for his ministers men acceptable to Parliament. Now an effort was made to choose only ‘king’s men’ as ministers and to bend Parliament to the king’s will as transmitted through his ministers. This was to be done by persuasion, bribery, or any other means available. Unfortunately, it appeared that Parliament was only too willing to be won over to the king’s cause and, what was perhaps worse, was prepared to use the same high-handed methods in its dealings wiih the people that the king used towards it.


Against the dogma of popular sovereignty, Burke’s argument was that in a well-established and well-ordered state the individual will or a number of such wills are not the residence of sovereignty. His real reply may be seen in his doctrine that the state that follows nature is necessarily aristocratic. Nature itself reflects ;i kind ol aristocracy in its order of things. A natural aristocracy is to be seen in every “large body rightly constituted.” In a nation, it is seen in “the class of those who by birth, wealth or intellect have a particular fitness for public functions.” As to the theory of constitution, Burke had nothing positive to offer beyond the appreciation of the British Constitution. According to him, constitution is not made; it grows or develops in response to the needs of time, and its evolution reflects the wisdom and experience of the people. Burke regarded the British Constitution, with its checks and balances, as the best. “The whole scheme of our mixed constitution is to prevent anyone of its principles from being carried as far as, taken by itself and theoretically, it would go.”



Karl Marx was born on May 5, 1818 in the city of Treves (Rhenish Prussia). His father was a lawyer, a Jew, who in 1824 adopted Protestantism. The fanuly was well-to-do, cultured hut not revolutionary. He studied jurisprudence, history and philosophy at Bonn and Berlin Universities. He concluded his course in 1841, submitting his doctoral dissertation on the philosophy of Epicurus. In his views Marx at that time was still a Hegelian idealist. In Berlin he belonged to the circle of ‘Left Hegelians’ (Bruno Bauer and others), who sought to draw authentic and revolutionary conclusions from Hegel’s philosophy.

In September 1844, Friederich Engels came to Paris for a few days, and from that time forth became Marx’s closest friend. They both took a most active part in the then seething life of the revolutionary groups in Paris (of particular importance was Proudhon’s doctrine, which Marx thoroughly demolished in his Poverty of Philosophy, 1847), and, vigorously combating the various doctrines of petty bourgeois Socialism, worked out the theory and tactics of revolutionary Proletarian Socialism, or Communism (Marxism). In the Spring of 1847 Marx and Engels joined a secret propaganda society called the Communist League, took a prominent part in the Second Congress of the League (London, November 1847), and, at its request, drew up the famous Communist Manifesto, which appeared in February 1848. With the clarity and brilliance of genius, this work outlines the new world-conception, consistent materialism which also embraces the realm of social life, dialectics, the most comprehensive and profound doctrine of development, the theory of the class struggle and of the historic revolutionary role of the proletariat-the creator of the new Communist society.

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