This book is a fresh presentation of multi disciplinary views on the distinctively Indian virtue ethical picture of human life. Fourteen written by scholars of philosophy literature political and economic sciences and classical studies all take up the notion of dharma and interpret it in broad terms so as to show that to lead a virtuous life is to lead a dharmic life. The portrayal of a dharmic life in these essays shows how Indian ethics both ancient and modern is a distinctive variety of virtue ethics. In highlighting this portrayal that involves the imagination this portrayal that involves the imagination of scholars of diverse discourses the book manages to extend the contours of virtue ethics as they appear in contemporary western ethical theory. This extension is a significant conceptual innovation as far as the discourse of virtue ethics is concerned.
Set against the background of the contemporary popularity of virtue ethics in the west this books project a unified picture of Indian virtue ethics by highlighting two interrelated purposes. First it canvasses the point that Indian ethics both in its classical and its modern shapes is basically founded upon the cultivation of those attitudes that conduce to the realization of a virtuous self. Second it draws out the various facets of virtues traditional and modern which bear a specifically Indian character. With these two aspects combined into a complex whole this work manages to present itself as a coherent set of ethical ideas with a distinctively Indian identity.
The book consists of fourteen essays written by scholars belonging to diverse disciplinary discourse philosophy political science literature economics and classical studies. As much it presents to the serious reader a multi perspectival Indian image of what it is life to lead a virtuous life and to aspire for human perfection.
Central to the Indian ideal of human perfection in the Indian tradition is the place of dharma in the overall scheme of life. While this centrality of dharma is recognized in the essays included in this book the virtue ethical interpretation of this central concept attempted in these essays is marked by a broader understanding of the concept adapted to the imaginative elucidation of the idea of a dharmic or virtuous life.
It is strongly believed that this book will be an eye opener to scholars in philosophy religion and cultural studies. It promises to set a new standard of ethic philosophical scholarship by expanding the horizon of virtue ethics as it appears in present western moral philosophy.
About the Author
D.C. Srivastava is associate Professor of Philosophy at Christ Church College Kanpur. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from Indian institute of technology Kanpur. He has also edited a book entitled readings in environmental ethics: Multi Disciplinary perspectives (Jaipur Rawat Publications 2005) and has published papers on different topics of Indian philosophy. His recent interest of research is in the area of Indian ethics.
Bijoy H. Boruah is Professor of philosophy in the department of humanities & social Science Indian institute of technology Kanpur. Currently he is visiting professor of philosophy at IIT Delhi. Professor Boruah has published papers on a wide range of topics in philosophy and literature. He ahs published a book entitled fiction and emotion a study in aesthetics and the philosophy of mind (Oxford Clarendon Press 1988) and has edited a book entitled social reality and tradition (Jaipur Rawat Publication 2006)
Our idea behind the publication of this book can be traced to the national seminar on Dharma virtue and Morality. The Indian ideal of Human perfection held in Christ Church College Kanpur in the year 2005. This idea was conceived as an attempt to invite multi perspectival thoughts on the content and character of the Indian way of understanding the good life taken as a moral life. Given the contemporary importance of virtue theoretic ethical reflections in western philosophy we were inspired to consider afresh the invaluable resources of traditional Indian wisdom dispersed in various directions of Indian thought and culture. Especially the ideal of human perfection projected in supra-human or transcendent terms had caught our attention as a key to classical Indian wisdom about the good life.
Majority of the essays included in this volume are the subsequently revised versions of papers presented in this seminar. Besides these a few other essays have been included here through special invitation to the authors. There is one essay by Satinder Mahajan that was already published in his book. The political authority a comparative study (Agra Y.K. Publishers 1986). We are grateful to the publisher of this book for their kind permission to reprint this essay in our volume.
We would like to extend our special thanks to all the contributors for their valuable essays collected in this volume. We are also grateful to the Indian council of philosophical research for funding the organization of the national seminar mentioned above finally our hearty thanks are due to Mr. Rajendra Agarwal of decent books for agreeing to publish our work and giving a the wider publicity we believe it deserves.
This volume intends to achieve two things that are closely related with one another with the unified purpose of projecting a picture of Indian virtue ethics against the background of the contemporary popularity of virtue ethics in the west. First it is to canvass the point that Indian ethics both in its classical and its modern shape is founded upon the cultivation of virtuous attitudes and character. The second aim is to day out the various facets of virtues traditional and modern which bear a specifically Indian character. The basic purpose of this volume is thus to present Indian virtue ethics as a body of ideas and characteristics with its distinctive identity.
This projection and the articulation of the content so projected need not however imply its theoretical insularity and pragmatic impenetrability with regard to other traditions of virtue ethics. Rather Indian virtue ethical deliberations are intended to contribute to the development of a more comprehensive and a deeper conception of the good life conceived of as a life of virtues.
There is no denying the fact that human wisdom is always to be viewed and appreciated in a global world civilizational frame of mind. The manifold repository of wisdom of diverse traditions of humanity is to be reflected upon both critically and receptively so that such reflections result in deepening our self conception as actual and or potential members of a virtuous humanity wisdom is certainly not a static treasury of lasting virtues a finisher product of a cultural period of humanity but a dynamic spiritual content of human self consciousness filtered through different ages and experience of the collective psyche. Hence any ethical theory centered on virtues cannot ignore the cumulative and creative resources of human wisdom across time and space.
The volume on dharma and ethics is conceived along this line of thinking on human wisdom. More precisely the volume is presented to the serious reader as an Indian picture of the virtuous life set against the larger background of virtues that are woven into the fabric of western civilization. This is course more implicit than explicit. Such efforts are hardly manifest in ethics philosophical scholarship of contemporary times expert a comparative study recently published under the title conceptions of virtue east and west and edited by two Chinese philosopher scholars Professor Chong Kim Chong and Yuli Liu. We the editors of the present volume have felt that it is high time a similar attempt is made from within India.
This volume consists of fourteen papers written by scholars of diverse disciplinary discourses such as philosophy political science literature economics and classical studies. While this mixture of different disciplinary perspectives lends a composite character to the present work there certainly prevails provides the required unity of purpose to the composite whole some of the selected papers are revised versions of the earlier drafts presented in a seminar on Dharma virtue and Morality. The Indian ideal of human perfection which was held in Christ church college Kanpur a few years ago others except one are obtained from selected scholars upon request.
Indian virtue ethics is primarily founded on the notion of dharma which has more than one meaning and is open to many diverse interpretations. But a central meaning of this concept directly bound up with the etymology of the word is the idea of upholding or sustaining human life of course the life so upheld or sustained is the good life in some idealized sense of goodness that involves the vital role of various virtues cherished by a civilization. The selection of the articles in this volume is made in keeping with this central meaning of virtue. One might therefore say that Indian ethics is dharmic ethics and dharmic ethics is virtue centric ethics. Thus a few essays in this volume take up the notion of dharma quite directly. This group of essays which constitutes the bulk of the essays in the book discusses the nature of purusarthas of which dharma is a prominent stage and concept and then explores the different categorical schemes of dharma attuned to the teleologcially structured levels of human life. The most fundamental and important distinction between sadharana dharma and visesa dharma is elaborated as a way of unfolding the complex content of dharma as such.
One essay in this group entitled what is it like to be a virtuous Moral person? By Bijoy H. Boruah defines dharma in its pristine sense as the ethical essence of all the religious having eternal value the experiential character of righteousness. Boruah’s essay focuses on the metaphysical foundation of dharmic ethics and that foundation is said to be a certain ethical outlook of the human self. What is crucial in any virtue centric ethical theory is the character of moral agency that is the moral attitude that characterizes the human individual in his or her relation to other individuals and the world. There is in other words a significant relation between the self of the agent and the individuality that embodies that agency. Boruah argues that morality in the deep sense requires that human individual’s sense of agential individuality is so attenuated that he or she comes to exercise agential power in the ego neutral spirit of a universal self. This transition from thick agential individuality to thin individuality of the ideal moral self is what constitutes the virtue ethical journey of human life.
While dharma as a universal principle of eternal value is metaphysical in character and hence admits of no context specific variation at this higher level of human existence there still is the lower level of practical spatio-temporally specific contexts of life which require appropriately flexible adoption of universal values of dharma. Societal and individual necessities are such that the manner of appropriation and application of eternal and universal values needs to be adequately sensitive to these necessities. Visesa dharmas are a testimony to such sensitive formulation of ethical principles and their practical application in society.
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