Philosophy as a Practice of Freedom in Ancient India and Ancient Greece

Katherine Louise Wharton
Education in ancient India begins with a ritual initiation (Upanayana) in which the student is reborn from the womb of the teacher. This image reflects the method of transmission of revelatory knowledge. The student memorises sacred verses by replicating his teacher's recitation. This thesis contrasts this image of replication with the image of midwifery that Socrates uses to describe his educational method. Socrates claims to be barren of wisdom. He does not pass down any knowledge but instead
more » ... watches over the birth of his student's ideas. Both the ancient Indian and the Socratic systems of education claim to free the student but they both affirm completely different forms of freedom. Socrates frees the student to think for themselves, but the ancient Indian method frees the student by means of inherited revelation. This thesis compares philosophical practices of freedom which rest on commitment to tradition with those that rest on the rejection of tradition. Chapter One examines the way that the student is committed to the ritual tradition in the Brahmanical Upanayana. Chapters Two and Three discuss the relationship between the student and the ritual tradition in the Upanisads. Chapter Four analyses Socrates relationship with democratic culture. Chapter Five interprets the midwife metaphor in detail and compares the Socratic method of education to the Brahmanical and Upanisadic methods. This thesis contrasts philosophical practices of freedom that are founded on a value of trust or faith (sraddha) in tradition with those that are founded on a value of testing or examination (elenchus). It aims to challenge the Socratic principle of limitless questioning and defend the philosophical value of predetermination, non-agency and perfect obedience.
doi:10.25501/soas.00028915 fatcat:yvjf2ccchrewnijosvstxsekmy