Classical World Philosophy

Understanding that the dispensation of our current philosophical tradition requires the study of the work of our ancestors. This is the study of the classics philosophy which helps to connect the ideas of today’s and their history. 

 

The richness of the field of classical philosophy is often not discussed and most of it is focused on the greek tradition. But history is the tool that challenges some of these notions. One particularly by telling how philosophers from different part of the world had similar line of inquiry and in the flux of time influenced each other. This is the wonderful part of studying classical world philosophy where one can makes these connections and makes some send of the conditioning of our modern world. 

The Treatise of Zera Yacob, 1667

Zera Yacob

It would be obscure to found that the highest ideals of the western enlightenment period can be a found by an unheard Ethiopian man who worked in a cave. But that was Zera Yacob, who wrote The Treatise investigating the idea of reasons and a big repertoire of philosophical questions. 

 

The book defends the argument of rationalism and criticised believers of astrologers and soothsayers like his predecessors. He discusses the supremacy of inquiry through scientific rationality and reasons. And believed that every person has the capability to practice it. 

In contrast to other enlightenment peers, Yacob criticises the idea of slavery and believed that all humans were created equal. He puts forward a universal argument against discrimination among humans.  He also critiques organised religion — Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Indian religions — and equally in chapter 4 and 5 of the book. 

 

‘Is everything that is written in the Holy Scriptures true?’ 

 

His reasons are theistic and sometimes agnostic in nature and argues for seeking truth through the natural world. Reading the book, we can be seen to engage with Yacob’s idea of principle of harmony and its relation with ethics and morality. Also realise and began to question the canon of enlightenment thinkers and elevate Yacob in part of that. 

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Mencius, 300BC

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Mencius

One of the most important textbook in Chinese philosophy and perhaps in the world, The Mencius is a record of conversations, anecdotes, and imagined interviews with warring lords, disciples etc. by the Confucian philosopher Mencius (Mèngzǐ). The book explores his ideas on government, human nature, and other topics concerning moral and political philosophy. 

 

One of the famous ideas from book explores the existence of an intrinsic human nature which is good. An innate tendency of humans towards benevolence, righteousness, wisdom, and propriety. The reasons are used to argue that with such characteristic, individuals can achieve harmony with mankind and the universe. A directly contrast with his contemporary Yang Zhu who argued that human nature is motivated by self-interest.

 

The other part discusses the Confucian style of a good ruler. A type of benevolent politics which is sensitive to the suffering of others. This is addition to a discussion of the evil of war which can bring upon society. The book has become an important addition in the understanding of human nature, virtues, and the complex notion of the intersection between humaneness and rightness in the current climate. 

Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way), 2-3rd Century

Nāgārjuna

One of the most important and influential text of Buddhism and Indian philosophy is the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (The Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way) by Nāgārjuna. It is the foundational text of the Mahāyāna philosophy, which is one of the schools of thought in buddhism, the other being Hinayana. The text is addressed to common people, kings, and understanding metaphysical and epistemological treatise. 

 

The main philosophy of Nāgārjuna’s middle way is based around the notion of emptiness (śūnyatā) which has been part of the philosophical tradition in India for thousands of years. The emptiness here is not a nihilistic interpretation, but an engagement of the substance (svabhāva) of being independent and unchangeable which exist and does not exist. 

 

The book aim is not to present an accurate account of the nature of the world, but to bring about a cognitive change, a change in the way in which the world appears to us. It is by learning the perceptive mechanism to understand the way we perceive our surrounding. 

 

The ability of the this great text is to question and rethink some of the ways we view “truth” — agreement with commonly accepted practices and conventions. Anyone reading this book, will have a new way of thinking about their surrounding. 

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Avicenna (Great Medieval Thinkers), 2010

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The link between east and west ideas of philosophy of science wouldn’t have been developed without Ibn Sinha  known as Avicenna in Latin. A polymath, who contributed in the field of logic, natural science, psychology, metaphysics, theology, and medicine. Considered as being part of the Islamic golden age, Ibn Sinha engaged and translated various greek, roman and Indian philosophical text which makes him an important individual in world philosophy. 

 

One of his main contribution is his argument for the existence of god which is known as Proof of the truthful. It states that there must be a "necessary existent” an entity that cannot not exist, which is brought our through arguments in the book. This comes to know as his Islamic conception of god

 

The book goes through Ibn Sinha insights to address a whole series of issues that had troubled earlier philosophers working in both the ancient Hellenistic and medieval Islamic world. In addition, it also fundamentally changes the direction philosophy took, certainly in the Islamic East, but even in the Jewish and Christian milieus. The importance of his work is resonated by the great theologian al-Ghazal who asserted that if one could show the incoherence of Avicenna's thought, then one would have demonstrated the incoherence of philosophy in general.