Swami Vivekananda is one of the greatest thinkers of Indian Renaissance. Vivekananda was moved with pity on seeing the impoverished state of the masses. He says:
“Material civilization, may even luxuries necessary to create work for the poor. Bread, I do not believe in a God who cannot give me bread here, giving me eternal bliss in heaven. Pooh! India is to be raised the poor are to be fed, education is to spread, and the evil of priest craft removed. No Priest craft, no social tyranny: More bread, more opportunity for everybody.”
According to Swami Vivekananda, social, economic and political reconstruction of the country is a pre-requisite for the spiritual uplift of the masses. When the people ask for food, to offer religion to a starving people is to insult them. To teach religious principles to a starving man is an affront to his self-respect. He criticizes strongly the failings and weaknesses of the people, the evil practice of untouchability, the feeling of caste superiority, priest craft and religious tyranny. He prefers to see the people as confirmed atheists rather than as superstitious fools, for the atheists may be of some use. But with regard to superstitions it holds away, the brain is bread, the mind is frozen and decadence engulfs life. So it holds good if the mankind become atheist by relying on reason rather than blindly believing in two hundred millions of Gods on the authority of anybody.
According to him freedom is the precondition for the human growth but freedom does not mean absence of obstacles in the way of social aggrendisement or economic exploitation. Commenting on the meaning of freedom he says:
“Our natural right to be allowed to use your own body, intelligence and wealth according to our will, without doing any harm to others, and all the members of a society ought to have the same opportunity for obtaining wealth, education or knowledge.”
He has expounded progressive ideas and vehemently opposed escapist doctrines like mysticism. He maintains that occultism and mysticism have destroyed the people. The need of the present is man making religion. Any-thing that weakens has to be rejected as poison. He stands for reason. He says that no genuine inspiration ever contradicts reason when such contradiction is found, it is to inspiration. Vivekananda’s outlook is essentially idealistic although it contains elements of materialism. Man’s objective is to identify with Brahman through self-purification and service of the people. Man is the centre of religion conceived by him. He, who has set out in search of God, ultimately recognizes man as the centre of this world. He calls upon the people to find God in man.
The only hope for India he lays in the common people, for the upper classes were exhausted physically and morally. He urges a radical transformation of the social order because all the members of a society ought to have the same opportunity for obtaining wealth, education or knowledge and declares that these rules governing the society which stand the way of the unfolding of the freedom are injurious and steps should be taken to destroy them speedily. To uplift the masses spiritual and secular education is necessary. He says:
“We have to give them secular education. We have to follow the plan laid down by our ancestors that is to bring all the ideals slowly down among the masses. Raise them slowly up. Raise them to equality. Impart . . . Secular knowledge through religion.”
n the whole idea of education, we find Swami Vivekananda summing up as the manifestation of divinity in man. He realizes the caste consciousness as a barrier to India’s progress. Casteism narrows restricts and separates the noble bond of humanity. For him the true measure of man is worth but not birth. The ultimate end of Swami Vivekananda is the good of all. He advocates the idea that man must strive for this end even to the point of sacrificing himself. The means to be adopted for realization of this ultimate end must also be worthy of that end.
Emancipation of women and uplift of the masses are the two important items in Swami Vivekananda’s programme of social regeneration of India. He could notice the downfall of Indian Society because of the continued neglect of women and masses. In India there are two great evils: he writes:
“Uplift of the women, the awakening of the masses must come first and then only can any real good come about for the country.”
That country and that nation, he says, which do not respect the women has never become great, nor will ever be in future. The state with the assistance of society can foster and promote the common interests of people, which can bring justice, honesty, peace etc. The state cannot have interests than the interests of the individual who form the society. The state is composed of individuals. Without virtuous individuals it is futile to expect the state becoming prosperous. He states:
“The basis of all systems social or political rests upon the goodness of man. No nation is great or good because parliament enacts this or that, but because its men are great and good.”
The major writings of John Locke (1632–1704) are among the most important texts for understanding some of the central currents in epistemology, metaphysics, politics, religion, and pedagogy in the late 17th and early 18th century in Western Europe.
Pleasure and Pain
The thread of moral discussion that weaves most consistently throughout the Essay is the subject of happiness. True happiness, on Locke’s account, is associated with the good, which in turn is associated with pleasure. Pleasure, in its turn, is taken by Locke to be the sole motive for human action. This means that the moral theory that is most directly endorsed in the Essay is hedonism.
On Locke’s view, ideas come to us by two means: sensation and reflection. This view is the cornerstone of his empiricism. According to this theory, there is no such thing as innate ideas or ideas that are inborn in the human mind. All ideas come to us by experience. Locke describes sensation as the “great source” of all our ideas and as wholly dependent on the contact between our sensory organs and the external world. The other source of ideas, reflection or “internal sense,” is dependent on the mind’s reflecting on its own operations, in particular the “satisfaction or uneasiness arising from any thought”. What’s more, Locke states that pleasure and pain are joined to almost all of our ideas both of sensation and of reflection This means that our mental content is organized, at least in one way, by ideas that are associated with pleasure and ideas that are associated with pain. That our ideas are associated with pains and pleasures seems compatible with our phenomenal experience: the contact between the sense organ of touch and a hot stove will result in an idea of the hot stove annexed by the idea of pain, or the act of remembering a romantic first kiss brings with it the idea of pleasure. And, Locke adds, it makes sense to join our ideas to the ideas of pleasure and pain because if our ideas were not joined with either pleasure of pain, we would have no reason to prefer the doing of one action over another, or the consideration of one idea over another. If this were our situation, we would have no reason to act—either physically or mentally. That pleasure and pain are given this motivational role in action entails that Locke endorses hedonism: the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain are the sole motives for action.
Locke is very clear—we all constantly desire happiness. All of our actions, on his view, are oriented towards securing happiness. Uneasiness, Locke’s technical term for being in a state of pain and desirous of some absent good, is the motive that moves us to act in the way that is expected to relieve the pain of desire and secure the state of happiness. But, while Locke equates pleasure with good, he is careful to distinguish the happiness that is acquired as a result of the satisfaction of any particular desire and the true happiness that is the result of the satisfaction of a particular kind of desire. Drawing this distinction allows Locke to hold that the pursuit of a certain sets of pleasures or goods is more worthy than the pursuit of others.
The pursuit of true happiness, according to Locke, is equated with “the highest perfection of intellectual nature”. And, indeed, Locke takes our pursuit of this true happiness to be the thing to which the vast majority of our efforts should be oriented. To do this, he says that we need to try to match our desires to “the true instrinsick good” that is really within things. Notice here that Locke is implying that there is distinction to be drawn between the “true intrinsic good” of a thing and, it seems, the good that we unreflectively take to be within a certain thing. The idea here is that attentively considering a particular thing will allow us to see its true value as opposed to the superficial value we assign to a thing based on our immediate reaction to it. We can think, for example, of a bitter tasting medicine. A face-value assessment of the medicine will lead us to evaluate that the thing is to be avoided. However, more information and contemplation of it will lead us to see that the true worth of the medicine is, in fact, high and so it should be evaluated as a good to be pursued. And, Locke states, if we contemplate a thing long enough, and see clearly the measure of its true worth; we can change our desire and uneasiness for it in proportion to that worth. But how are we to understand Locke’s suggestion that there is a true, intrinsic good in things? So far, all he has said about the good is that it is tracked by pleasure. We begin to get an answer to this question when Locke acknowledges the obvious fact that different people derive pleasure and pain from different things.
Living the Moral Life
In order to behave in a way that will lead us to the greatest and truest happiness, we must come to judge the remote and future good, the “unspeakable,” “infinite,” and “eternal” joys of heaven to be our greatest and thus most pleasurable good . But, on Locke’s view, our actions are always determined by the thing we are most uneasy about at any given moment. So, it seems, we need to cultivate the uneasiness for the infinite joys of heaven. But if, as Locke suggests, the human condition is such that our minds, in their weak and narrow states, judge immediate pleasures to be representative of the greatest good, it is difficult to see how, exactly, we can circumvent this weakened state in order to suspend our more terrestrial desires and thus have the space to correctly judge which things will lead to our true happiness. While in the Essay Locke does not say as much as we might like on this topic, elsewhere in his writings we can get a sense for how he might respond to this question.
Locke states that we must recognize the difference between “natural wants” and “wants of fancy.” The former are the kinds of desires that must be obeyed and that no amount of reasoning will allow us to give up. The latter, however, are created. Locke states that parents and teachers must ensure that children develop the habit of resisting any kind of created fancy, thus keeping the mind free from desires for things that do not lead to true happiness . If parents and teachers are successful in blocking the development of “wants of fancy,” Locke thinks that the children who benefit from this success will become adults who will be “allowed greater liberty” because they will be more closely connected to the dictates of reason and not the dictates of passion. So, in order to live the moral life and listen to reason over passions, it seems that we need to have had the benefit of conscientious care-givers in our infancy and youth. This raises the difficulty of how to connect an individual’s moral successes or failures with the individual herself. For, if she had the bad moral luck of unthinking or careless parents and teachers, it seems difficult to see how she could be blamed for failing to follow a virtuous path.