Rational thinking in the realm of the management of state (kingdom) was so much fostered in India that it evolved to a political philosophy of effective values. Kautilya or Vishugupta, 391-296 B.C., us a representing authority of Political Philosophy in India. Plato, the great Greek philosopher, 4th century B.C. , stands to be the most elegant exponent of political philosophy of Greece and Western world. Hence, a comparative study of Arthasatra and The Republic is a demanding and delightful pursuit. This book stands on the specifics of issues, as delineated in Arthasastra and the Republic, namely, i) state and society, ii) the king, virtues and duties, iii) status of women, iv,) philosopher and saintly king v) education vi) concept of virtue vii) whether and justifies the means viii ) individual and social morality ix ) concept of happiness x) soul, immortality of soul xi ) concept of war and other issues having incisive enquiry. It exorts to grasp their views on the issues. It is a delightful experience, brain storming thought, to sail though the comparative study concerning the political philosophy of the two contemporary great philosophers of distant worlds. Like comparative study concerning the political philosophy, comparative study of philosophy awaits to be a lively area to understand the world civilization in a better way.
Enriching and inspirational, it will be very useful for the general institutes, libraries and individuals in India and all over the world.
Dr. Sanghamitra Dasgupta (b. 25the February, 1974) born in a family with intense nationalist spirit as persons of her predeceasing generation participated in the revolutionary struggle for national freedom movement and suffered long imprisonment. Standing throughout first class in her education, had a natural inclination for study of History and Philosophy from Jadavpur University, Kolkata and presently teaching in Dept. of Philosophy in a reputed Govt. College, Wes Bengal. A systematic approach of a Comparative study on the political Philosophy of Contemporary two great thinkers at two different parts of the ancient world is a perceptive and complicated task done by her.
She is credited with participation, presentation and acceptance of papers in many national, international conference seminars, symposia etc. and has authored essays and articles on different issues of Political Philosophy in different periodicals and presently engaged on a research work on “The Concept of war- eastern and Western Political Philosophy”.
Although the present discourse has been planned to delineate what two great thinkers at two parts of the world of 3rd century B.C. had thought about the state and its governance in their treatises, Plato in the Republic and Kautilya in Arthasastra, this attempt of comparative study invites attention to some intrinsic similarities in the realm of thought of the two greats of two civilizations.
In those days the civilizations at different parts of world were much segregated ones from the others due to geographic distances and peculiarities. Hence, Indian and Greek thoughts had their own, respective characteristics. Yet, there had been thoughts of similar dispositions and schedules though articulated in each one's own way of expressions.
This discourse is neither on issues picked up at random nor on issues selected very finically from their two treatise/s— books. The significant issues concerning ethics, morality, system of education, maintenance of law, women's role, war etc. and some other pragmatic questions including finance and defense etc. in the matter of governance of a state have also been considered in the area of discussion.
This discourse of a comparative study would not be possible if I did not find navigation by the substantial and excellent suggestions from Professor Dr. Ratna Dutta Sharma, Jadavpur University, Prof. Dr. Dikshit Gupta, Calcutta University. Dr. Kumar Mitra, Ravindra Bharati University, Prof. R. Dutta Sharma helped me in organizing my ideas. I owe a great debt of gratitude to my parents, Sri. Asoke Dasgupta and Smt. Rini Dasgupta for their love, continuous support and their interesting and valuable discussions with me. I would like to thank my husband, who helped me in preparing the manuscript.
I am also greatly indebted to Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture. Kolkata; Chandernagore College, National Library, Kolkata for allowing me to use their rich collection of books for my work.
My heartfelt thanks are for the Standard Publishers (India), New Delhi for arranging the publication of this work which would not be possible had it been not done by them.
Plato, Socrates’ s pupil since 407 B.C. unto the death of Socrates in 399., was born in a noble family of Athens in 427 B. C. and had already studied music, poetry, philosophy, painting etc. before he met Socrates.
Plato’s life can be divided into three periods. The years of receiving education years, from the great Socrates and others, assumed for eight years, a period of long travels to the countries of Egypt, Italy, Cicey for about ten years after the death of Socrates; the period from returning Athens, creating Academy, teaching, writing till his death in 3478 B.C. This period is assumed to be for forty years-education illustrious disciples, creating dozens of dialogues up to his death at the age of eight two .
‘The Athens that Plato grew up in was a democracy of a universal and direct kind. All adult male citizens could and were expected t play a part in decision making and the business of government (slaves and women were totally excluded from any such activity). The city was proud of its democratic mode of government and Athens’ military and commercial expansion in the fifth century, to the point where she effectively ruled the large number of other Greek cities, was seen as confirmation of it’s excellence forms of government (typeified in the current ideology by Athen’ s rival Sparta) but the democracy was disliked by many members of aristocratic families, including some of Plato’s relatives, and when in 404B.C. Athens surrendered to Sparta at the end of a long and demoralizing war, they collaborated in imposing a dictatorship of thirty oligarchies (including Plato’s cousin and uncle)
This political development deeply influenced Plato’s concept of state I Republic and here , Plato opined that he ideal state must be governed by the “philosopher ruler” and it shouldn’t have a democratic form of government.
And Kautilya’s Arthasastra – in the first place ascribes itself to the famous Brahmin Kauitlya , also named a sBishnugupta and patronymic Chanakya. It is generally said that he was instrumental in overthrowing Nanda Dynasty and installing Maurya Chandragupta on the throne. The work is placed to date from the period 391-296B.C. and the scholars, in general, agree that its archaic style is well in agreement with the claim of the period. Kautilya is regarded to be renowned not only as a king – maker but also for being the greatest Indian exponent of the art of government , the duties of king, ministers, officials, and the method of diplomacy. That the work (Arthasastra) dealing with all such matters was written by him is also recognized by other eminent early Indian writers and they have, as such, quoted freely from the work (Arhasastra).
Of all Plato’s works(thirty five dialogues and thirteen letters are transmitted under his name –most of the letters and the definitions are considered to be spurious, although it seems likely that several of the letters including the philosophically important letter- seventh letter-are genuine). The Republic has been most important. It is Magnum Opus. In the Republic politics, ethics, aesthetics, metaphysics and religion etc. are dealt with. The vast range of issues is presented by Plato’s inimical style of ever brilliance.
The Republic is having many such interpretations of which one contradicts the other. Plato has been seen as a conservative, a revolutionary, a fascist, a communist, a very practical reformer and also an ineffective dreamer. Some of these interpretations are more fanciful than others, but those have some footing in the text. A book that comes down through the ages and that gives rise to such extreme disagreements over what it is saying is not certainly a book easily comprehendible.
It has been stated about Arthasastra that it is '....the greatest book written in India on statecraft twenty three centuries ago: Kautilay's Arthasastra. Though India had a distinguished lineage of statesman, administrators, jurists and political philosophers, and the political wisdom of the country was founded reflected over the entire field of Indian ecclesiastical and secular literature, from time to time, in pithy aphorisms, the science and the art of statecraft was systematically presented only by Kautilya in his Magnum Opus. Kautilya can be said to dominate the entire field of Indian statecraft, as Samkara dominated the much more crowded field of Indian philosophy.'
Plato's the Republic is a quest for ideal state. The Greek thinker reflected upon the ideal state and tried to determine its characteristics. His concept of the ideal state can be a model even for the present day political thinkers because in his thought the ideal state was that which could actualize welfare for maximum number of citizens. The metaphysical and ethical treaties of the Greek thinkers, particularly Plato, evolve to actualize maximum welfare for its citizens.
Kautilya, in his Arthasastra, also creates exposition of statecraft concerning morality, ethics," dharmadharmau" and pragmatic aspects for the welfare of its citizens in a well-governed state. Arthasiistra states that the science of statecraft should be given the high priority as good governance and virtuous state-management keeps the society injustice and peace and a just and peaceful society can witness industrious development where an ideal society can be flourished.
Plato's ideal state is meant for and is equally a part of an ideal society and Kautilya's endeavour to delineate an ideal statecraft is also entailed for good living in an ideal society.
The concept of ideal state, as delineated in Republic and in Arthasastra is yet enticing as it includes all the major ingredients of a modern welfare state — harmonious, prosperous, stable and morally developed.. Plato's as well as Kautilya's concept of ideal state can be studied with a global human concern for a better society.
Hence, an analogous discussion stands imperative on some aspects of the Republic and Arthasastra to understand how the two thinkers in two different parts of the then world at almost the same time in the 3rd century B.C. had thought on such interconnected complex philosophical subjects. But at no moment, it should be forgotten that while Plato, discussing a wide variety of human knowledge and problems including those of epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, psychology, social and political philosophy, education reigns high as a philosopher so much so that the entire history of western philosophy remains engaged with him yet. Kautilya, on the other hand, was a statesman-writer who propounded the idea of ethics, morality and policies of a state management that inculcates virtuous life in a society. In spite of these much diverse subjects a parallel discussion between Republic and Arthasiistra is imperative in the quest for ideal state as both these treaties interconnect various disciplines — metaphysics, ethics, epistemology, political science etc. and thus form comprehensive ideas of state and state management as a whole.
The comparative study , as delineated above, shall include as to how general philosophical theories are reflected through their concept of state and how the different metaphysical and ethical presuppositions are operating behind those concepts of ideal state.
All these avenues reveal how two minds in two parts of the world in 3rd century B.C. thought on such interconnected complex philosophical subjects which, in the complex contemporary times, nonetheless, have yet the relevance.
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