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Eastern Philosophy refers very broadly to the various

philosophies of Asia. Notable among these are:

Indian Philosophy
Introduction
Indian Philosophy (or, in Sanskrit, Darshanas), refers to any of several traditions of philosophical thought
that originated in the Indian subcontinent, including Hindu philosophy, Buddhist philosophy, and Jain
philosophy (see below for brief introductions to these schools). It is considered by Indian thinkers to be a
practical discipline, and its goal should always be to improve human life.

Orthodox (Hindu) Schools


The main Hindu orthodox (astika) schools of Indian philosophy are those codified during the medieval
period of Brahmanic-Sanskritic scholasticism, and they take the ancient Vedas (the oldest sacred texts of
Hinduism) as their source and scriptural authority:

 Samkhya:
Samkhya is the oldest of the orthodox philosophical systems, and it postulates that
everything in reality stems from purusha (self or soul or mind) and prakriti (matter,
creative agency, energy). It is a dualist philosophy, although between the self and
matter rather than between mind and body as in the Western dualist tradition, and
liberation occurs with the realization that the soul and the dispositions of matter
(steadiness, activity and dullness) are different.
 Yoga:
The Yoga school, as expounded by Patanjali in his 2nd Century B.C. Yoga Sutras,
accepts the Samkhya psychology and metaphysics, but is more theistic, with the
addition of a divine entity to Samkhya's twenty-five elements of reality. The
relatively brief Yoga Sutras are divided into eight ashtanga (limbs), reminiscent of
Buddhism's Noble Eightfold Path, the goal being to quiet one's mind and achieve
kaivalya (solitariness or detachment).
 Nyaya:
The Nyaya school is based on the Nyaya Sutras, written by Aksapada Gautama in
the 2nd Century B.C. Its methodology is based on a system of logic that has
subsequently been adopted by the majority of the Indian schools, in much the same
way as Aristotelian logic has influenced Western philosophy. Its followers believe
that obtaining valid knowledge (the four sources of which are perception,
inference, comparison and testimony) is the only way to gain release from
suffering. Nyaya developed several criteria by which the knowledge thus obtained
was to be considered valid or invalid (equivalent in some ways to Western analytic
philosophy).
 Vaisheshika:
The Vaisheshika school was founded by Kanada in the 6th Century B.C., and it is
atomist and pluralist in nature. The basis of the school's philosophy is that all
objects in the physical universe are reducible to a finite number of atoms, and
Brahman is regarded as the fundamental force that causes consciousness in these
atoms. The Vaisheshika and Nyaya schools eventually merged because of their
closely related metaphysical theories (although Vaisheshika only accepted
perception and inference as sources of valid knowledge).
 Purva Mimamsa:
The main objective of the Purva Mimamsa school is to interpret and establish the
authority of the Vedas. It requires unquestionable faith in the Vedas and the regular
performance of the Vedic fire-sacrifices to sustain all the activity of the universe.
Although in general the Mimamsa accept the logical and philosophical teachings of
the other schools, they insist that salvation can only be attained by acting in
accordance with the prescriptions of the Vedas. The school later shifted its views
and began to teach the doctrines of Brahman and freedom, allowing for the release
or escape of the soul from its constraints through enlightened activity.
 Vedanta:
The Vedanta, or Uttara Mimamsa, school concentrates on the philosophical
teachings of the Upanishads (mystic or spiritual contemplations within the Vedas),
rather than the Brahmanas (instructions for ritual and sacrifice). The Vedanta focus
on meditation, self-discipline and spiritual connectivity, more than traditional
ritualism. Due to the rather cryptic and poetic nature of the Vedanta sutras, the
school separated into six sub-schools, each interpreting the texts in its own way
and producing its own series of sub-commentaries: Advaita (the best-known, which
holds that the soul and Brahman are one and the same), Visishtadvaita (which
teaches that the Supreme Being has a definite form, name - Vishnu - and
attributes), Dvaita (which espouses a belief in three separate realities: Vishnu, and
eternal soul and matter), Dvaitadvaita (which holds that Brahman exists
independently, while soul and matter are dependent), Shuddhadvaita (which
believes that Krishna is the absolute form of Brahman) and Acintya Bheda Abheda
(which combines monism and dualism by stating that the soul is both distinct and
non-distinct from Krishna, or God).

Heterodox (Non-Hindu) Schools


The main heterodox (nastika) schools, which do not accept the authority of the Vedas, include:

 Carvaka:
Also known as Lokayata, Carvaka is a materialistic, skeptical and atheistic school
of thought. Its founder was Carvaka, author of the Barhaspatya Sutras in the final
centuries B.C., although the original texts have been lost and our understanding of
them is based largely on criticism of the ideas by other schools. As early as the 5th
Century, Saddaniti and Buddhaghosa connected the Lokayatas with the Vitandas
(or Sophists), and the term Carvaka was first recorded in the 7th Century by the
philosopher Purandara, and in the 8th Century by Kamalasila and Haribhadra. As a
vital philosophical school, Carvara appears to have died out some time in the 15th
Century.
 Buddhist philosophy:
Buddhism is a non-theistic system of beliefs based on the teachings of Siddhartha
Gautama, an Indian prince later known as the Buddha, in the 5th Century B.C. The
question of God is largely irrelevant in Buddhism, and it is mainly founded on the
rejection of certain orthodox Hindu philosophical concepts (although it does share
some philosophical views with Hinduism, such as belief in karma). Buddhism
advocates a Noble Eightfold Path to end suffering, and its philosophical principles
are known as the Four Noble Truths (the Nature of Suffering, the Origin of Suffering,
the Cessation of Suffering, and the Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering).
Buddhist philosophy deals extensively with problems in metaphysics,
phenomenology, ethics and epistemology.
 Jain philosophy:
The central tenets of Jain philosophy were established by Mahavira in the 6th
Century B.C., although Jainism as a religion is much older. A basic principle is
anekantavada, the idea that reality is perceived differently from different points of
view, and that no single point of view is completely true (similar to the Western
philosophical doctrine of Subjectivism). According to Jainism, only Kevalis, those
who have infinite knowledge, can know the true answer, and that all others would
only know a part of the answer. It stresses spiritual independence and the equality
of all life, with particular emphasis on non-violence, and posits self-control as vital
for attaining the realization of the soul's true nature. Jain belief emphasizes the
immediate consequences of one's behavior.
Indian Political Philosophy:
The Arthashastra, attributed to the Mauryan minister Chanakya in the 4th Century B.C., is
one of the earliest Indian texts devoted to political philosophy, and it discusses ideas of
statecraft and economic policy. During the Indian struggle for independence in the early
20th Century, Mahatma Gandhi popularized the philosophies of ahimsa (non-violence)
and satyagraha (non-violent resistance), which were influenced by the teachings of the
Hindu Bhagavad Gita, as well as Jesus, Tolstoy, Thoreau and Ruskin.

Chinese Philosophy

Introduction
Chinese Philosophy refers to any of several schools of philosophical
thought in the Chinese tradition, including Confucianism, Taoism,
Legalism, Buddhism and Mohism (see below for brief introductions to
these schools). It has a long history of several thousand years.

History of Chinese Philosophy


It is known that early Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 BC - 1046 B.C. ) thought was
based on cyclicity, from observation of the cycles of day and night, the
seasons, the moon, etc., a concept which remained relevant throughout
later Chinese philosophy, and immediately setting it apart from the more
linear Western approach. During this time, both gods and ancestors were
worshipped and there were human and animal sacrifices.

During the succeeding Zhou Dynasty (1122 BC - 256 B.C. ), the concept of
the Mandate of Heaven was introduced, which held that Heaven would
bless the authority of a just ruler, but would be displeased with an unwise
ruler, and retract the Mandate.

The "I Ching" (or "Book of Changes") was traditionally compiled by the
mythical figure Fu Xi in the 28th Century B.C. , although modern research
suggests that it more likely dates to the late 9th Century B.C. The text
describes an ancient system of cosmology and philosophy that is intrinsic
to ancient Chinese cultural beliefs, centering on the ideas of the dynamic
balance of opposites, the evolution of events as a process, and
acceptance of the inevitability of change. It consists of a series of
symbols, rules for manipulating these symbols, poems and commentary,
and is sometimes regarded as a system of divination.

In about 500 B.C. , (interestingly, around the same time as Greek philosophy
was emerging), the classic period of Chinese philosophy (known as the
Contention of a Hundred Schools of Thought) flourished, and the four most
influential schools (Confucianism, Taoism, Mohism and Legalism) were
established.

During the Qin Dynasty (also known as the Imperial Era), after the
unification of China in 221 B.C. , Legalism became ascendant at the expense
of the Mohist and Confucianist schools, although the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.

- A.D. 220) adopted Taoism and later Confucianism as official doctrine.


Along with the gradual parallel introduction of Buddhism, these two
schools have remained the determining forces of Chinese thought up until
the 20th Century.
Neo-Confucianism (a variant of Confucianism, incorporating elements of
Buddhism, Taoism and Legalism) was introduced during the Song Dynasty
(A.D. 960 - 1279) and popularized during the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644).

During the Industrial and Modern Ages, Chinese philosophy also began to
integrate concepts of Western philosophy. Sun Yat-Sen (1866 - 1925)
attempted to incorporate elements of democracy, republicanism and
industrialism at the beginning of the 20th century, while Mao Zedong
(1893 - 1976) later added Marxism, Stalinism and other communist
thought. During the Cultural Revolution of 1966 - 1976, most previous
schools of thought, with the notable exception of Legalism, were
denounced as backward and purged, although their influence has
remained.

Major Schools
The main schools of Chinese philosophy are:

 Confucianism:
This school was developed from the teachings of the sage Confucius
(551 - 479 B.C.), and collected in the Analects of Confucius. It is a
system of moral, social, political, and quasi-religious thought, whose
influence also spread to Korea and Japan. The major Confucian
concepts include ren (humanity or humaneness), zhengming (similar
to the concept of the Mandate of Heaven), zhong (loyalty), xiao (filial
piety), and li (ritual). It introduced the Golden Rule (essentially, treat
others as you would like to be treated), the concept of Yin and Yang
(two opposing forces that are permanently in conflict with each
other, leading to perpetual contradiction and change), the idea of
meritocracy, and of reconciling opposites in order to arrive at some
middle ground combining the best of both. Confucianism is not
necessarily regarded as a religion, allowing one to be a Taoist,
Christian, Muslim, Shintoist or Buddhist and still profess
Confucianist beliefs. Arguably the most famous Confucian after
Confucius himself was Meng Tzu (or Mencius) (372 – 289 B.C.)
 Taoism:
Sometimes also written Daoism, Taoism is a philosophy which later
also developed into a religion. Tao literally means "path" or "way",
although it more often used as a meta-physical term that describes
the flow of the universe, or the force behind the natural order. The
Three Jewels of the Tao are compassion, moderation, and humility.
Taoist thought focuses on wu wei ("non-action"), spontaneity,
humanism, relativism, emptiness and the strength of softness (or
flexibility). Nature and ancestor spirits are common in popular
Taoism, although typically there is also a pantheon of gods, often
headed by the Jade Emperor. The most influential Taoist text is the
"Tao Te Ching" (or "Daodejing") written around the 6th Century B.C. by
Lao Tzu (or Laozi), and a secondary text is the 4th Century B.C.
"Zhuangzi", named after its author. The Yin and Yang symbol is
important in Taoist symbology (as in Confucianism), as are the Eight
Trigrams, and a zigzag with seven stars which represent the Big
Dipper star constellation.
 Legalism:
Legalism is a pragmatic political philosophy, whose main motto is
"set clear strict laws, or deliver harsh punishment", and its essential
principle is one of jurisprudence. According to Legalism, a ruler
should govern his subjects according to Fa (law or principle), Shu
(method, tactic, art, or statecraft) and Shi (legitimacy, power, or
charisma). Under Li Si in the 3rd century B.C., a form of Legalism
essentially became a totalitarian ideology in China, which in part led
to its subsequent decline.
 Buddhism:
Buddhism is a religion, a practical philosophy and arguably a
psychology, focusing on the teachings of Buddha (Siddhartha
Gautama), who lived in India from the mid-6th to the early 5th
Century B.C. It was introduced to China from India, probably some
time during the 1st Century B.C. Chinese tradition focuses on ethics
rather than metaphysics, and it developed several schools distinct
from the originating Indian schools, and in the process integrated
the ideas of Confucianism, Taoism and other indigenous
philosophical systems into itself. The most prominent Chinese
Buddhist schools are Sanlun, Tiantai, Huayan and Chán (known as
Zen in Japan).
 Mohism:
Mohism was founded by Mozi (c. 470 - 390 B.C.) It promotes universal
love with the aim of mutual benefit, such that everyone must love
each other equally and impartially to avoid conflict and war. Mozi
was strongly against Confucian ritual, instead emphasizing
pragmatic survival through farming, fortification and statecraft. In
some ways, his philosophy parallels Western utilitarianism. Although
popular during the latter part of the Zhou Dynasty, many Mohist
texts were destroyed during the succeeding Qin Dynasty, and it was
finally supplanted completely by Confucianism during the Han
Dynasty.

Korean Philosophy

Introduction
Korean Philosophy has been influenced by a number of religious and
philosophical thought-systems over the years, including Shamanism,
Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism:

History and Major Schools


 Native shamanism developed in Korea for millennia, although the
traditional rites and shamanistic practices were later deeply
influenced by Buddhism and Taoism. In Korea, a shaman is known
as a mudang, and she (it is usually a woman) seeks to solve human
problems through a connection to the spirit world. Korean
Shamanism held three spirits in especially high regard: Sanshin (the
Mountain Spirit), Toksong (the Recluse) and Chilsong (the Spirit of
the Seven Stars, the Big Dipper).
 Buddhism arrived in Korea from China during the Three Kingdoms
period (57 B.C. - A.D. 668), specifically in the year A.D. 372. Korean
Buddhism accepted and absorbed many shamanistic spirits, and
early schools like Samnon, Gyeyul and Yeolban attempted to
develop a new holistic approach to Buddhism in order to resolve
what it saw as internal inconsistencies in Chinese Mahayana
Buddhism. Soon Wonyung (later known as Hwaeom) became the
dominant school and then, in the 7th and 8th Century and after, the
meditation-based Seon school finally gained the upper hand. Seon is
a version of the Chinese Chan (or Japanese Zen) Buddhism, and it
developed in Korea particularly under the direction of Jinul (1158-
1210), the most important figure in Seon. Buddhism in Korea initially
enjoyed wide acceptance, even being supported as the state
ideology during the Goryeo Dynasty (also known as Koryo: 918-
1392), but it suffered extreme repression during the long Joseon
Dynasty (or Chosun: 1392-1910), when Neo-Confucianism became
dominant.
 Confucianism was the second major intellectual import from China
during the Three Kingdoms period, alongside Buddhism, although
the exact date of its introduction is not clear. Korean Confucianism
was, and remains, a fundamental part of Korean society, shaping the
moral system, the way of life, social relations between old and
young, high culture and is the basis for much of the Korean legal
system. During the Joseon Dynasty, Korean Confucianism (or,
arguably, Neo-Confucianism) was the primary system of belief
amongst the scholarly and military classes. Korean Confucian
schools were built, and there was even greater encouragement of
Confucian ideas and ideals such as chung (loyalty), hyo (filial piety),
in (benevolence) and sin (trust). Confucianism in Joseon Korea
flourished most notably in the 16th Century, under the guidance of
the country's two most prominent Confucian scholars, Yi Hwang
(Toegye) (1501–1570) and Yi I (Yulgok) (1536–1584).
 Taoism, largely shaped by the writings of the Chinese philosophers
Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, also arrived in Korea during the latter part
of the Three Kingdoms period, in A.D. 674. Korean Taoism enjoyed its
greatest popularity during the Goryeo Dynasty, especially in the
court and the ruling class. By the mid period of the Goryeo Dynasty,
however, Buddhism dominated Korea, subsuming other religions and
philosophies, including Taoism. Taoism never grew into an
autonomous religion or philosophy in Korea, being rejected by
Confucian and Buddhist elites, but it remains a minor but significant
element of Korean thought.

Modern Era
Under Japanese rule, from 1910, Shintoism became the state religion,
although Western philosophy, particularly the German Idealist
philosophers which were in vogue in Japan at the time, was influential.
After partition in 1945, North Korea's orthodox Marxism was loosely built
on the Confucian yangban scholar-warriors of earlier times, and
communist Maoism represents a latter day philosophical import from
China.

Japanese Philosophy

Introduction
Japanese Philosophy has historically been a fusion of both foreign
(particularly Chinese and Western) and uniquely Japanese elements.

In its literary forms, Japanese philosophy began about fourteen centuries


ago. Confucianism entered Japan from China around the 5th Century A.D. ,
as did Buddhism. Neo-Confucianism became most prominent in Japan in
the 16th Century. Also since the 16th Century, certain indigenous ideas of
loyalty and honor developed within the Japanese samurai or warrior class
were integrated. Western philosophy has had its major impact in Japan
only since the middle of the 19th Century.

However, in all of these cases, the philosophies were not imported


wholesale; rather, they were adapted, and selectively adopted.

History and Major Schools


Shinto is the native religion of Japan and, up until the Second World War,
its state religion. It is a type of polytheistic animism, and involves the
worship of kami (or spirits). It can be traced back to the earliest natives of
Japan, although it was significantly modified by the arrival of Buddhism in
the 6th Century. Shinto has no binding set of dogma, and the most
important elements are a great love and reverence for nature in all its
forms, respect for tradition and the family, physical cleanliness and
matsuri (or festivals dedicated to the kami). Shinto is not a philosophy as
such, but has greatly influenced all other philosophies in their Japanese
interpretations.
Buddhism definitively entered Japan (from its native India, via China and
Korea) in A.D. 550. Each major period after that - the Nara period (up to
784), the Heian period (794–1185) and the post-Heian period (1185
onwards) - saw the introduction of new doctrines and upheavals in
existing schools. The three main schools of Japanese Buddhism are:

 Zen Buddhism:
Zen, as a distinct school of Buddhism, was first documented in
China in the 7th Century A.D., where it was established as an
amalgamation of various currents in Indian Mahayana Buddhist
thought. It subsequently spread southwards to Vietnam and
eastwards to Korea and then Japan. Although the Japanese had
known Zen-like practices for centuries (Taoism and Shinto), it was
not introduced as a separate school until the 12th Century. It
asserts that all sentient beings possess a Buddha-nature, a nature of
inherent wisdom and virtue, which lies hidden in the depths of their
minds. Zen practitioners attempt to discover this Buddha-nature
within themselves, through meditation and mindfulness of daily
experiences. Zen sitting meditation, (such as the lotus, half-lotus,
Burmese or seiza postures) is known as zazen. The schools of Zen
that currently exist in Japan are Soto (largest), Rinzai (split into
several sub-schools) and Obaku (smallest).
 Pure Land (or Amidist) Buddhism:
Pure Land is a broad branch of Mahayana Buddhism and currently
one of the most popular schools of Buddhism in East Asia, along
with Zen. It is a devotional or "faith"-oriented branch of Buddhism
focused on Amitabha Buddha. Pure Land Buddhism teaches that
through devotion to just Amitabha, one will be reborn in the Pure
Land in which enlightenment is guaranteed. In medieval Japan it
was also popular among those on the outskirts of society, such as
prostitutes and social outcasts, who were often denied spiritual
services by society but could still find some form of religious
practice through worshipping Amitabha.
 Nichiren Buddhism:
Nichiren Buddhism is a branch of Buddhism based on the teachings
of the 13th Century Japanese monk Nichiren (1222–1282). It focuses
on the Lotus Sutra and an attendant belief that all people have an
innate Buddha-nature and are therefore inherently capable of
attaining enlightenment in their current form and present lifetime. It
was particularly popular among the merchants of Kyoto in Japan's
Middle Ages, and among some ultranationalists during the pre-World
War II era, and has something of a reputation for missionary zeal and
strident pushes to convert others.

Two other religions that were brought into Japan from mainland China are
Confucianism and Taoism. According to early Japanese writings,
Confucianism was introduced to Japan via Korea in the year 285 A.D. Some
of the most important Confucian principles are humanity, loyalty, morality
and consideration on an individual and political level. Taoism spread to
Japan in the 7th century. For more than 1,000 years, these religions have
had a significant impact on Japan's society. The rules of Confucianism in
particular have had major influence on ethical and political philosophy,
especially during the 6th to 9th Centuries and later after Meiji Restoration
of 1868.

Modern Era
Later, Chinese Neo-Confucianism also made its way into Japan, where it
became ascendant during the Edo (or Tokugawa) period (1603 - 1868).
Japanese Neo-Confucians such as Hayashi Razan and Arai Hakuseki were
instrumental in the formulation of Japan's dominant early modern political
philosophy.

Kokugaku was a school of Japanese philology (the study of ancient


literature and the origins of language) and philosophy originating during
the Edo period. Kokugaku scholars tended to relativize the study of
Chinese and Buddhist texts and favored philological research into the
early Japanese classics.

Mitogaku refers to a 17th Century school of Japanese historical and


Shinto studies, originally commissioned to compile the History of Great
Japan in a Neo-Confucianist context, based on the view that historical
development followed moral laws. Around the end of the 18th Century,
Mitogaku expanded its remit to address contemporary social and political
issues, based on Confucianist and kokugaku thought, and eventually
became one of the driving forces behind the Meiji Restoration of 1868.
The Kyoto School is the name given to a 20th Century Japanese
philosophical movement centered at Kyoto University that assimilated
Western philosophy and religious ideas and used them to reformulate
religious and moral insights unique to the East Asian cultural tradition.

The term sometimes also includes Middle Eastern


traditions of philosophical thought, including:

Persian Philosophy
Introduction
Persian Philosophy (or Iranian Philosophy), due to a series of large-scale
political and social changes such as the Arab and Mongol invasions of
Persia, has initiated a wide spectrum of schools of thought. In general
terms, these can be split between the Pre-Islamic Period and the Post-
Islamic Period.
Pre-Islamic Schools
The Pre-Islamic schools include Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism and
Mazdakism:

 Zoroastrianism, which follows the teachings of Zarathustra


(Zoroaster) appeared in Persia at some point during the period
between 1000 - 588 B.C. Zarathustra was the first to treat the problem
of evil in philosophical terms, and is also believed to be one of the
oldest monotheists in the history of religion. His ethical philosophy
is based on the primacy of humata (good thoughts), hukhata (good
words) and hvarshatra (good deeds). He also founded a system of
rational ethics called Mazda-Yasna (Worship of Wisdom). The Avesta
and the Gathas are the primary collections of sacred texts of
Zoroastrianism, composed in the Avestan language. Little was
known of Zarathustra's ideas in post-Classical Western culture until
the late 18th Century, but he had a significant influence on Greek
and Roman philosophy.
 Manichaeism, (also spelled Manicheism), was founded by the
Persian religious preacher Mani (A.D.210 - 276). At its height, it was
one of the most widespread religions in the world, from North Africa
and Western Europe in the West, to China in the East. It died out
before the 16th Century, although a modern revival has been
attempted under the name of Neo-Manichaeism, and its influence
subtly continues in Western Christian thought via St. Augustine of
Hippo, who converted to Christianity from Manicheism. Manichaeism
claims to present the complete version of teachings only revealed
partially by teachers such as Zoroaster, Buddha, and Jesus. An
important principle of Manicheism is its dualistic
cosmology/theology, which it shared with Mazdakism (see below).
Under this dualism, there are two original principles of the universe,
Light (the good one) and Darkness (the evil one), which had been
mixed by a cosmic accident, tainting everything except God. Man's
role in this life is, through good conduct, to release the parts of
himself that belong to Light.
 Mazdakism, was founded by Mazdak (died c. 524 or 528), a proto-
socialist Persian reformer who claimed to be a prophet of God, and
instituted communal possessions and social welfare programs. Like
Manichaeism, Mazdakism posited a dualistic cosmology, but where
Manichaeism saw the mixture of good and bad as a cosmic tragedy,
Mazdak viewed this in a more neutral, even optimistic, way. Mazdak
emphasized good conduct, which involved a moral and ascetic life,
no killing and no eating flesh (which contained substances solely
from Darkness), being kind and friendly and living in peace with
other people. He downplayed the importance of religious formalities,
and criticized the strong position of Zoroastrian clergy, who, he
believed, had oppressed the Persian population and caused much
poverty.

Post-Islamic Schools
Early Islamic Philosophy was very influential in the rise of modern
philosophy, including the development of a strict science of citation; a
method of open inquiry to disprove claims; the separation of theology and
law, a precursor to secularism; the beginnings of a peer review process;
the first forms of non-Aristotelian logic, including temporal modal logic
and inductive logic; and even early theories of evolution.
The two main currents in early Islamic thought are Kalam (which mainly
deals with theological questions) and Falsafa (which is founded on
interpretations of Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism). To some extent,
some schools are also considered Western in their outlook, include
Avicennism, Illuminationism and Transcendent Theosophy (see below).

The main Post-Islamic schools include:

 Mu'tazilism is an Islamic theological school of thought, based mainly


around Basra and Baghdad (modern day Iraq). It was influenced by
Greek and Hellenistic philosophy, and expanded the use of ijtihad
(independent thought) to open questions of science and society. The
Mu'tazilites focused on the Five Principles (Divine Unity, Divine
Justice, Promise and Threat, the Intermediate Position, and
Advocating the Good and Forbidding the Evil). The most celebrated
proponent of Mu'tazilism was 'Abd al-Jabbar (935 - 1025), after
which Mu'tazilism declined steadily and significantly.
 Ash'arism is a school of early Muslim speculative theology founded
by the theologian Abu al-Hasan al-Ash'ari (874 - 936). It marked the
12th-14th Century peak of innovation in Muslim civilization, and
permitted philosophical methods to be applied to science and
technology. In contrast to the Mu'tazilite school of theologians, the
Ash'arite view was that the comprehension of the unique nature and
characteristics of God are beyond human capability and that, while
man has free will, he has no power to create anything. The most
influential work of this school's thought was "The Incoherence of
Philosophers", by the Persian polymath al-Ghazali (1058 - 1111),
which laid the groundwork to "shut the door of ijtihad" in subsequent
centuries in all Sunni Muslim states.
 Avicennism was founded by Avicenna (also known as Ibn Sina), an
11th-century Persian Islamic philosopher. By the 12th Century (the
Islamic Golden Age), it had become the leading school of Islamic
philosophy. Avicenna attempted to reconcile Western
Aristotelianism and Neo-Platonism with Islamic theology, and his
metaphysics were very influential on the Western Scholastics and
St. Thomas Aquinas among others. He initiated a full-fledged inquiry
into the question of being, in which he distinguished between Mahiat
(essence) and Wujud (existence). He proposed an ontological
argument for the existence of God as the first cause of all things,
and developed his own system of Avicennian logic which had
replaced Aristotelian logic as the dominant system of logic in the
Islamic world by the 12th Century.
 Averroism was founded by the 13th Century Arab philosopher
Averroës (also known as Ibn Rushd) and was based on his
interpretations of Aristotle and the reconciliation of Aristotelianism
with the Islamic faith. Among his main ideas were: that there is one
truth (but at least two ways to reach it, through philosophy and
through religion); that the world is eternal; that the soul is divided
into two parts, one individual and one divine; that the individual soul
is not eternal; that all humans at the basic level share one and the
same divine soul (monopsychism); and that the resurrection of the
dead is not possible. While it had relatively little influence in the
Islamic world, which was then dominated by Avicennian philosophy
and Ash'ari theology (see above), Averroism became very influential
in medieval Europe, especially among the Scholastics, and it can be
argued that it eventually led to the development of modern
secularism.
 Illuminationism is a school of Islamic philosophy founded by the
Persian Sufi Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi (1155 - 1191) in the 12th
Century. It is a combination of Avicenna’s early Islamic philosophy
and ancient Iranian philosophical disciplines, dressed up with many
new innovative and mystical ideas of Suhrawardi's own, although it
is often also described as having been influenced by Neoplatonism.
To the Illuminationists, essence is more important than existence,
and intuitive knowledge is more significant than scientific
knowledge. They use the notion of light, as the name suggests, as a
way of exploring the links between God (the Light of Lights) and his
creation, and takes the physical world to be an aspect of the divine.
 Transcendent Theosophy (or al-hikmat al-muta’liyah) was developed
and perfected by the Persian philosopher Mulla Sadra (Sadr al-Din al-
Shirazi) (1571 - 1640), the foremost representative of the
Illuminationist school of philosopher-mystics, and commonly
regarded by Iranians as the greatest philosopher their country has
ever produced. It is one of two main disciplines of Islamic
philosophy live and active today.
Arabic Philosophy
Introduction
Arabic Philosophy refers to philosophical thought in the Arab world that
spans Persia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Iberia, although, as a
particular center of intellectual endeavor, Persian Philosophy is often
treated separately. Some schools of Arabic thought, including Avicennism
and Averroism are also often considered within the traditions of Western
philosophy.

History of Arabic Philosophy


The first great Arab thinker is widely regarded to be al-Kindi (801 - 873 A.D. ),
a Neo-Platonic philosopher, mathematician and scientist who lived in Kufa
and Baghdad (modern day Iraq). After being appointed by the Abbasid
Caliphs to translate Greek scientific and philosophical texts into Arabic,
he wrote a number of original treatises of his own on a range of subjects,
from metaphysics and ethics to mathematics and pharmacology. Much of
his philosophical output focuses on theological subjects such as the
nature of God, the soul and prophetic knowledge.

His near-contemporary, the Persian (or possibly Central Asian) polymath


al-Farabi (872 - 950 A.D. ), made use of the logical treatises of Aristotle and
the practical political philosophy of Plato, and employed arguments for the
existence of God which would only make their way into the Christian
tradition in the 13th Century. He is credited with over one hundred works
and his output, aimed at synthesis of philosophy and Sufism, paved the
way for Avicenna's later work.

The 11th-century Persian Islamic philosopher Avicenna (also known as Ibn


Sina) attempted to reconcile Western Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism
with Islamic theology, and his metaphysics were very influential on the
Western Scholastics and St. Thomas Aquinas among others. He proposed
an ontological argument for the existence of God as the first cause of all
things, and developed his own system of Avicennian logic.
The 13th Century Arab philosopher Averroës (also known as Ibn Rushd)
has been described as the founding father of secular thought in Western
Europe. He lived in southern Spain and Morocco and based his work on
interpretations of Aristotle and the reconciliation of Aristotelianism with
the Islamic faith. Devoted to the teachings of Aristotle, he often disagreed
explicitly with his Islamic predecessors, particularly with the Ash'arite al-
Ghazali and Avicenna.

The 14th Century Ash'arite philosopher and scholar Ibn Khaldun (1332 -
1406), born in present-day Tunisia, is considered one of the greatest
Arabic political theorists, and his definition of government as "an
institution which prevents injustice other than such as it commits itself" is
still considered a succinct analysis. He is sometimes credited as a
"father" of demography, cultural history, historiography, the philosophy of
history, sociology and modern economics for anticipating many elements
of these disciplines centuries before they were developed.
Babylonian Philosophy
Introduction
Babylonian Philosophy can be traced back to early Mesopotamian wisdom,
which embodied certain philosophies of life, particularly ethics. These are
reflected in Mesopotamian religion (much of which revolved around the
identification of the gods and goddesses with heavenly bodies) and in a
variety of Babylonian literature.

History of Babylonian Philosophy


Their reasoning and rationality developed beyond empirical observation at
a very early date. Esagil-kin-apli's medical "Diagnostic Handbook", dating
back to the 11th Century B.C. , was based on a logical set of axioms and
assumptions, including the modern view that, through the examination
and inspection of the symptoms of a patient, it is possible to determine
the patient's disease, and the chances of the patient's recovery.
During the 8th and 7th Centuries B.C. , Babylonian astronomers began
studying philosophy dealing with the ideal nature of the early universe,
and began employing an internal logic within their predictive planetary
systems, an important contribution to the philosophy of science.

It is possible that Babylonian philosophy had an influence on Greek,


particularly Hellenistic philosophy. The Babylonian text "Dialogue of
Pessimism" contains similarities to sophism, Heraclitus' doctrine of
contrasts, the dialogues of Plato and Socrates' dialectical method of
inquiry.

Basic Concepts
There are four prominent concepts in Babylonian philosophy which have
carried over to many different philosophical schools and movements in
different parts of the world:

 All things are the result of organic evolution (so a Creator is not
needed and the way is open for Man to think that he helped in his
own creation and evolution and that he therefore has, in his own
self, the power for his advancement).
 The human intellect has pre-eminence (the educational systems of
the day are enmeshed in this ideology).
 Promiscuity and sexual abandonment permeate all of society (and is
all but encouraged, even if it often results in the break-down of the
home and marriage).
 A total state or welfare society or, arguably, totalitarianism is the
natural path to follow (thus, the State - or in some cases organized
religion - will act for the people, think for the people, do everything
for the people).

Jewish Philosophy
Introduction
Jewish Philosophy refers to philosophical inquiry informed by the texts,
traditions and experiences of Judaism (as opposed to just any
philosophical writings which happened to be written by Jews).

Ancient Era
Among Jewish philosophers of note in ancient times are:

 Philo of Alexandria (20 B.C. - A.D. 40) was a Hellenized Jewish


philosopher born in Alexandria, Egypt. He tried to harmonize the
wisdom of the Ancient Greek philosophers with his Jewish religious
beliefs, and thereby justify and defend those beliefs. In practice,
however, he chose selectively those tenets of the Greeks which
served to justify the points he wanted to make, and conveniently
ignored the rest.
 Jesus of Nazareth (c. 7 B.C. - A.D. 26) was a 1st Century Jewish teacher
(and sometimes considered a philosopher) from the Galilea area of
Palestine (modern day Israel), who is the central figure of
Christianity (in which he known as Jesus Christ, meaning "The
Anointed One"), a major Islamic prophet and an important figure in
several other religions. The main sources of information regarding
his life and teachings are the four canonical Gospels of the New
Testament: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Some of Jesus' most
famous teachings come from the Sermon on the Mount (including
the Beatitudes and the Lord's Prayer), and he often employed
parables, such as the Parable of the Prodigal Son and the Parable of
the Sower. His teachings encouraged unconditional self-sacrificing
love for God and for all people, service and humility, the forgiveness
of sin, faith, turning the other cheek, love for one's enemies as well
as friends, and the need to follow the spirit of the law in addition to
the letter.

Medieval Era
Many Early Medieval Jewish philosophers (from the 8th Century to end of
the 9th Century) were particularly influenced by the Islamic Persian
Mu'tazilite philosophers: they denied all limiting attributes of God and
were champions of God's unity and justice. Over time, the Ancient Greek
Aristotle came to be thought of as the philosopher par excellence among
Jewish thinkers.

 Saadia Gaon (892 - 942) is considered one of the greatest of the


early Jewish philosophers. His Emunoth ve-Deoth (originally called
Kitab al-Amanat wal-l'tikadat or the Book of the Articles of Faith and
Doctrines of Dogma), completed in 933, was the first systematic
presentation and philosophic foundation of the dogmas of Judaism.
In it, he posits the rationality of the Jewish faith, but with the
restriction that reason must give way wherever it contradicts
tradition: dogma must take precedence over reason.
 Solomon Ibn Gabirol (Avicebron) (1021 - 1058) was a Spanish-Jewish
poet-philosopher and one of the first teachers (or revivers) of
Neoplatonism in Europe. Although, (like Philo before him), Avicebron
was largely ignored by his fellow Jews and made little impression on
later Jewish philosophers, he exercised a considerable influence on
the Scholastics of medieval Christianity, including Albertus Magnus
and St. Thomas Aquinas.
 Bahya ibn Paquda lived in Spain in the first half of the 11th Century,
and was the author of the first Jewish system of ethics, written in
Arabic in 1040 and translated into Hebrew in 1180 under the title
Chovot ha-Levavot (Duties of the Heart). He was an adherent of
Neoplatonic mysticism and inclined to contemplative mysticism and
asceticism. Bahya eliminated from his system every element that he
felt might obscure monotheism or might interfere with Jewish law.
 Judah ha-Levi (Yehuda Halevi) (c.1075–1141) was a Spanish Jewish
philosopher and poet. He made strenuous arguments against
philosophy in his polemical work Kuzari, and expounded his views
on the teachings of Judaism, which he defended against the attacks
of the Karaites (a sect which rejected the rabbinical works and oral
law of the Mishnah and the Talmud, in preference for sole reliance
on the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible, as scripture).
 Moshe ben Maimon (Maimonides) (1135 - 1204) was a Jewish rabbi,
physician, and philosopher who lived in Spain, Morocco and Egypt.
Although his copious works on Jewish law and ethics initially met
with much opposition during his lifetime, subsequently his works
and views came to be considered a cornerstone of Jewish thought
and study, and his influence on the non-Jewish world was profound.
Maimonides declared that it can only be said of God that He is, not
what He is, and he established thirteen principles of faith which he
stated that all Jews were obligated to believe. Maimonides
foreshadowed the Scholastics and undoubtedly influenced them,
although he also maintained many doctrines which the Scholastics
could not accept.
 Levi ben Gershon (Gersonides) (1288 - 1345), a French Rabbi and
philosopher, is best known for his work Milhamot HaShem (Wars of
the Lord), a criticism of some elements of Maimonides' syncretism
of Aristotelianism and rabbinic Jewish thought. In contrast to the
theology held by the majority of Orthodox Judaism, Gersonides held
that God limited his own omniscience concerning foreknowledge of
human acts. He also posited that people's souls are composed of
two parts: a material, or human, intellect (which gives people the
capacity to understand and learn); and an acquired, or agent,
intellect (which survives death, and can contain the accumulated
knowledge that the person acquired during their lifetime).
 Hasdai Crescas (1340 - 1410) is best known for his Or Hashem (Light
of the Lord). Crescas' avowed purpose was to liberate Judaism from
what he saw as the bondage of Aristotelianism, which threatened to
blur the distinctness of the Jewish faith.
 Joseph Albo (c. 1380 - 1444) was a Spanish rabbi and theologian,
known chiefly for his Ikkarim, a work on the fundamental Jewish
principles of faith, which he limited to three: belief in the existence
of God, belief in revelation and belief in divine justice, as related to
the idea of immortality.

The Arabic-Jewish philosophers of the Middle Ages were essential in


preserving the continuity of philosophical thought from the classical
philosophies of Ancient Greece through to the Muslim and Christian
scholasticism of the Medieval period and beyond.

Mystical Jewish Philosophy


Kabbalah refers to a set of esoteric teachings and mystical practices that
form an alternative to traditional Jewish interpretations of the Tanakh
(Hebrew Bible) and especially of the Torah (the name commonly given to
the first five books of the Hebrew Bible). It is a set of beliefs followed by
some Jews as the true meaning of Judaism, while rejected by other Jews
as heretical and contrary to Judaism. The Zohar is widely considered the
most important work of Kabbalah. With its wide dissemination in the
Jewish world of the Middle Ages, it became the mainstream Jewish
theology, side-lining the earlier schools of philosophy that had expressed
Jewish belief in the framework of Greek thought.

Hasidic philosophy is the thought and teachings of the Hasidic movement


founded by Baal Shem Tov (1698 - 1760), which expressed the Kabbalisic
tradition in a new paradigm in relation to man, and so could be conveyed
to the Jewish masses.

Modern Era
One of the major trends in modern Jewish philosophy was the attempt to
develop a theory of Judaism through existentialism, as exemplified by the
work of Franz Rosenzweig (1886 - 1929).
Perhaps the most controversial forms of Jewish philosophy that developed
in the early 20th Century was the religious naturalism of Rabbi Mordecai
Kaplan (1881 - 1983) whose theology was a variant of John Dewey's
philosophy.

Another important figure in 20th Century Jewish philosophy is Martin


Buber (1878 - 1965), a cultural Zionist active in the Jewish and
educational communities of Germany and Israel. His work centered on
theistic ideals of religious consciousness, interpersonal relations and
community, and his major interest was in ontology (the study of reality
and existence).

The distinction between Western and Eastern is of course somewhat arbitrary and
artificial, and in some respects even misleading. For example, Indian and Chinese
philosophies are at least as distinct from each other as they are from Western Philosophy.

Ancient Babylonian philosophy can be considered Eastern in some ways, but it almost
certainly had a strong influence on Greek, particularly Hellenistic, philosophy. It can be
argued that Persian, Arabic and Jewish philosophies are much closer in nature to Western
philosophy than Eastern, and the geographical and historical links are much closer.
In many cases, the philosophical schools are indistinguishable from the various religions
which gave rise to them (or vice versa).

Very broadly speaking, according to some commentators, Western society strives to find
and prove "the truth", while Eastern society accepts the truth as given and is more
interested in finding the balance. Westerners put more stock in individual rights;
Easterners in social responsibility. It has been argued that the essence of the Eastern
world view is the awareness of the unity and mutual interrelation of all things, which are
inseparable parts of a cosmic whole.