Contributions of Moral Thinkers and Philosophers from India and World

Mains Marks Booster     3rd August 2023        

Philosophical schools

Indian philosophies



Nyaya Philosophy

  • Nyaya school follows a scientific and rational approach. Sage Gautama is the founder of this school. 
  • Nyaya school banks upon various pramanas (mechanisms of attaining knowledge).
  • It believes that gaining knowledge through the five senses is the sole way of attaining liberation from the cycle of birth and death.

Sankhya Philosophy

  • Sankhya is the oldest of all philosophies put forth by the sage Kapila. 
  • It is a dualistic philosophy with Purusha (soul) and Prakriti (nature) in it. 
  • Advaita Vedanta derives its base from Sankhya School. 
  • Sankhya also devolves a philosophical basis for Yoga. It emphasizes the attainment of knowledge of self through meditation and concentration

Yoga Philosophy

  • Yoga school introduces the methods of the discipline of body and mind. 
  • Sage Patanjali is the founder of Yoga. Emancipation of Purusha from Prakriti by self-awareness through the discipline of body and mind is conceptualized by Yoga.
  •  It is believed that practising Ashtanga Yoga is the way to relieve oneself from past sins in order to make way for liberation.


  • This school deals with metaphysics. It was founded by the sage Kanada. 
  • It is an objective and realistic philosophy of the Universe. 
  • According to the Vaisheshika school of philosophy, the universe is reducible to a finite number of atoms, Brahman being the fundamental force causing consciousness in these atoms.

Purva Mimamsa

  • Purva Mimamsa school believes in the complete authority of Vedas. 
  • It is based on sage Jaimini’s Mimamsa Sutras
  • It emphasizes the power of yajnas and mantras in sustaining the activities of the universe. 
  • It states that a human being can attain salvation only by acting in conformity with the principles of the Vedas.

Uttara Mimamsa (Vedanta)

  • Vedanta school is a monistic school of philosophy that believes that the world is unreal and the only reality is Brahman. 
  • The three sub-branches of Vedanta are Advaita of Shankaracharya, Vishishta Advaita of Ramanujacharya and Dvaita of Madhwacharya. 
  • Uttara Mimamsa is based on Upanishads (the end portions of Vedas).


  • Sthitapragnya is a Sanskrit term that means 'steady wisdom' or 'one who is firm in wisdom.'
  • The concept of Sthitapragnya is introduced in Chapter 2 of the Bhagavad Gita, where Lord Krishna teaches Arjuna about the nature of the self and the path to liberation.
  • A person who has achieved Sthitapragnya is one who is free from attachments, desires, and aversions. Such a person remains calm and composed in all situations, whether pleasant or unpleasant, and does not get disturbed by external circumstances.
  • The path to becoming a Sthitapragnya involves the practice of self-discipline, meditation, and devotion to God. It requires a deep understanding of the teachings of the scriptures, and a commitment to living a life of integrity, compassion, and service to others.
  • The concept of Sthitapragnya is relevant even today as it offers a way to deal with the challenges of modern life and achieve inner peace and happiness.

Western Philosophies

  • Ancient Greek philosophy
  • This school of thought includes the work of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, who sought to understand the nature of reality, ethics, politics, and knowledge. 
  • They believed that reason was the key to understanding the world and sought to uncover universal principles and laws that governed human behaviour.
  • Medieval philosophy
  • During this period, philosophers such as St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas attempted to reconcile Christian theology with the works of ancient Greek philosophers. 
  • They explored questions related to God, faith, and morality, and sought to understand how humans could achieve salvation.
  • Renaissance philosophy
  • This period saw a renewed interest in humanism, individualism, and the revival of classical antiquity. 
  • Philosophers such as Machiavelli, Descartes, and Bacon focused on the role of the individual in society, the nature of knowledge, and the scientific method.
  • Enlightenment philosophy
  • Also known as the Age of Reason, it emphasised reason, science, and progress.
  • Key thinkers included Locke, Hume, and Kant, who sought to understand human nature, ethics, and political theory through empirical observation and logical analysis.
  • Continental philosophy
  • Emerging in the 19th century, it emphasises subjective experience and social criticism. 
  • Prominent figures include Hegel, Nietzsche, and Foucault, who explored questions related to power, identity, and the nature of reality.
    • Stoicism:
      • It is a philosophy that originated in ancient Greece and was founded by the philosopher Zeno of Citium in the early 3rd century BC. 
      • One should strive to live a life of virtue, rationality, and self-control, and that one should not be overly attached to material possessions or external circumstances, as they are often beyond our control.
      • Individuals should focus on what they can control and accept what they cannot control. This means that we should not be attached to things that we cannot control, such as the opinions of others or external events like natural disasters. 
      • Instead, we should focus on developing our own virtues, such as wisdom, courage, and justice, and strive to live in accordance with reason.

    Eastern Philosophies

    • Hinduism
      • One of the oldest philosophical traditions in the world, Hinduism is a complex and diverse system that includes a wide variety of beliefs and practices. 
      • It emphasizes the interconnectedness of all things and the pursuit of self-knowledge through meditation, yoga, and other spiritual practices. 
      • Key concepts include karma (the law of cause and effect), dharma (one's duty or righteous path in life), and moksha (liberation from the cycle of birth and death).
    • Buddhism
      • Founded by Gautama Buddha in the 5th century BCE, Buddhism emphasizes the impermanence of all things and the pursuit of enlightenment through the Eightfold Path, which includes right understanding, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and concentration. 
      • Buddhists believe that suffering arises from attachment and craving, and seek to overcome these through meditation and ethical behaviour.
    • Confucianism
    • A Chinese ethical and philosophical system founded by Confucius in the 5th century BCE, Confucianism emphasises the importance of education, social order, and moral behaviour. 
    • Key concepts include ren (benevolence), li (ritual propriety), and zhong (loyalty and honesty)
    • Confucians seek to cultivate these virtues through education and practice, with the ultimate goal of creating a harmonious society.
    • Taoism
      • A Chinese philosophical tradition dating back to the 6th century BCE, Taoism emphasizes the harmony of nature and the cultivation of inner peace through meditation, simplicity, and non-action. 
      • Key concepts include the Tao (the underlying principle of the universe), wuwei (non-action or effortless action), adyin and yang (complementary forces that balance each other). 
      • Taoists seek to align themselves with the Tao and live in harmony with nature.
    • Zen Buddhism
      • A Japanese Buddhist school that emphasizes the practice of meditation and the attainment of enlightenment through direct experience rather than intellectual understanding. 
      • Zen practitioners seek to cultivate mindfulness and awareness in all aspects of life, with the ultimate goal of realizing one's true nature.
    • Sufism
      • A mystical Islamic tradition that emphasizes the pursuit of divine love and knowledge through meditation, music, and other spiritual practices. 
      • Sufis believe that the ultimate goal of human existence is to attain unity with God, and seek to achieve this through various forms of spiritual discipline.
    • Jainism
      • An ancient Indian religion that emphasizes non-violence, self-control, and the pursuit of enlightenment through asceticism and meditation. 
      • Jains believe that all living beings are interconnected and should be treated with compassion and respect. 
      • They also practice strict vegetarianism and often engage in fasting and other forms of self-denial as a means of purifying the soul

    Various approaches linked with different philosophies

    • Means vs Ends Approach
    • This approach emphasizes the importance of both the means and the ends of any action. It asserts that the means used to achieve a goal must be just and ethical, not just the end itself. 


    • If a politician uses unethical means such as bribing voters to win an election, even if the end result is good governance, it would still be considered morally wrong.
    • Golden Mean
      • This concept comes from Aristotle's philosophy and emphasizes finding a balance between excess and deficiency. The idea is that virtuous behavior lies in finding the middle ground between these two extremes. 


    • Courage could be seen as a virtue that lies in the middle ground between cowardice and recklessness.
    • Madhyam Marg
      • This is a concept from Indian philosophy, particularly Buddhism and Hinduism, which means the "middle way." It emphasizes finding a balance between extremes and avoiding attachment to worldly pleasures. 


    • In Buddhism, the path to enlightenment involves avoiding both asceticism and indulgence.
    • Mahatma Gandhi
      • Gandhi was a prominent figure in India's struggle for independence, and his philosophy emphasized nonviolence, truth, and morality. 
      • He believed that the means used to achieve a goal were just as important as the goal itself, and he famously said, "Be the change you want to see in the world."
    • Justice Approach
      • This approach emphasizes fairness and equality, especially in terms of access to resources and opportunities. 
      • It seeks to create a just and equitable society by ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and have equal access to basic necessities. 


    • Policies that provide free education and healthcare to all citizens can be seen as reflecting a justice approach.
    • Utilitarianism
      • This ethical theory asserts that the best course of action is the one that maximizes overall happiness or pleasure for the greatest number of people. 


    • Building a new hospital might cause some inconvenience to nearby residents, but it would ultimately benefit society as a whole.
    • Deontology
      • This approach to ethics emphasizes duty and moral obligation, regardless of the consequences. It asserts that certain actions are always right or wrong, regardless of their outcomes. 


    • lying is considered morally wrong even if it helps to avoid negative consequences.
    • Virtue Ethics
      • This approach focuses on cultivating virtues or character traits such as honesty, compassion, and generosity, rather than adhering to specific rules or principles. The idea is that if individuals have virtuous character traits, they will naturally act ethically. 


    • A doctor with a strong sense of empathy and compassion is more likely to provide high-quality care to patients.
    • Objectivism
      • This philosophical system was developed by Ayn Rand and emphasizes reason, individualism, and self-interest. It asserts that individuals should pursue their own self-interest and that this pursuit is ultimately beneficial for society as a whole. 


    • A successful entrepreneur who creates jobs and contributes to economic growth is seen as benefiting society through their self-interested pursuits.
    • Existentialism
      • As mentioned earlier, existentialism emphasizes individual existence, freedom, and choice in the face of uncertainty, anxiety, and mortality. It highlights the importance of authenticity and personal responsibility in creating meaning and purpose in life. 


    • A person who chooses to pursue a creative career that aligns with their values and passions, despite the risk of financial insecurity, is embodying existentialist ideals.

    Convergence and divergence between Eastern and Western schools 

    • Similarity-
      • Both Western and Indian philosophies share a concern with fundamental questions about the nature of reality, knowledge, and ethics.
      • Both traditions have developed complex systems of thought that have influenced many aspects of culture, society, and governance.
      • Both Western and Indian philosophical traditions have engaged in debates about the existence of God or ultimate reality and the role of religion in human life.
      • The concept of morality and ethics is central to both Western and Indian philosophies.

              Western Schools of Thought

            Eastern Schools of Thought

    • Focus more on individualism, rationality, and empirical observation.
    • Influenced by Greek and Roman thinkers
    • The concept of the self refers to individual identity
    • Prioritizes scientific temperament and technological progress
    • Emphasis on holism, intuition, and spiritual experience.
    • Indian philosophy has its roots in ancient Hindu and Buddhist traditions
    • The concept of self is interrelated to the interconnectedness of all beings
    • Indian philosophy values tradition, contemplation, and inner transformation

    Philosophical Thoughts

    • Socrates and the Oracle of Delphi
      • In ancient Greece, Socrates was renowned for his wisdom and philosophical insights. 
      • According to legend, he once visited the Oracle of Delphi and asked if anyone was wiser than him. The Oracle replied that no one was wiser than Socrates because he alone recognized the limits of his own knowledge.
    • Buddha and the Beggar
      • One day, as Buddha was walking through a village, a beggar approached him and asked for some money. 
      • Buddha replied, "I'm sorry, I have nothing to give you." The beggar then asked, "Well, what do you have?" Buddha replied, "I have everything. That's why I have nothing to give."
    • Confucius and the Madman
      • Confucius once encountered a madman who was wandering around shouting at people. 
      • When someone asked Confucius how to deal with such a person, he replied, "Treat him like anyone else. He too is a human being."
    • Epictetus and the Slave Master
      • Epictetus was a Stoic philosopher who was born into slavery. Despite his low status, he became renowned for his wisdom and teachings. 
      • Once, his slave master was berating him for teaching philosophy to others. Epictetus calmly replied, "You may fetter my leg, but not even Jupiter himself can control my thinking."
    • Tagore and Einstein
      • Rabindranath Tagore, the Indian poet and philosopher, met with Albert Einstein in 1930. 
      • During their conversation, they discussed the nature of reality and the interconnectedness of all things. Tagore argued that science and spirituality were not mutually exclusive but complementary perspectives on the world.
    • Descartes' Dream Argument
      • In his "Meditations on First Philosophy," the French philosopher René Descartes questions whether we can trust our senses, arguing that it is possible that all our experiences are just a dream or an illusion. 
      • This argument highlights the role of scepticism and critical thinking in philosophy.
    • Confucius and the Tree Cutter
      • According to legend, Confucius once saw a man felling a tree with a dull axe. He asked the man why he didn't sharpen his axe, to which the man replied that he was too busy cutting the tree to stop and sharpen the tool. 
      • This anecdote illustrates Confucius' emphasis on preparation, planning, and attention to detail.
    • Aristotle's Golden Mean
      • Aristotle believed that virtuous behaviour lies in finding the middle ground between excess and deficiency. 
      • He called this balance the "golden mean." This concept emphasizes the importance of moderation, balance, and self-control in achieving ethical behaviour.
    • Simone de Beauvoir's Cafe Encounter
    • In her book "The Ethics of Ambiguity," the French existentialist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir recounts an encounter she had in a cafe with a young woman who expressed her desire to live a life free from constraints. 
    • This conversation led de Beauvoir to reflect on the nature of freedom and responsibility, as well as the challenges of living an authentic life.

    Contemporary philosophical thoughts

    • Postmodernism
      • The emergence of fake news and “alternative facts” in recent years has highlighted the need to critically examine the role of language and power in shaping our understanding of reality. 
      • Postmodernism’s emphasis on challenging dominant narratives and questioning the nature of truth is particularly relevant in this context.
    • Feminist Philosophy
      • The #MeToo movement and ongoing discussions about gender and diversity in the workplace have brought issues of gender inequality to the forefront of public discourse. 
      • Feminist philosophy offers valuable insights into these issues and highlights the ways in which traditional philosophical concepts have excluded or marginalized women.
    • Environmental Philosophy
      • Climate change and other environmental crises have underscored the urgent need for sustainability and responsible stewardship of the planet. 
      • Environmental philosophy emphasizes the interconnectedness of humans and nature and offers valuable perspectives on how to address these challenges.
    • Existentialism
      • The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us of the uncertainty and mortality that are inherent aspects of the human condition. 
      • Existentialism’s emphasis on individual freedom, choice, and responsibility in the face of adversity is particularly relevant in this context.
    • Neurophilosophy
      • Recent advances in neuroscience have raised fundamental questions about the nature of consciousness and identity. 
      • Neurophilosophy seeks to engage with these questions and offers a bridge between the sciences and humanities.
    • Global Philosophy
      • In an increasingly interconnected world, cross-cultural dialogue and understanding are more important than ever. 
      • Global philosophy offers a valuable perspective on different philosophical traditions from around the world and promotes mutual respect and cooperation across cultural boundaries.