(4) Saptabhanginaya

It means dialectic of the seven steps or the Theory of Seven-Fold-Judgement.
To sum up, Jaina recognizes seven kinds of conditional judgement, each of which, being relative, is preceded by the word Syad. This is called Syadvada or Saptabhanginaya. (Ordinary logic recognizes two forms of judgement – Affirmative and negative)
Seven forms of Judgements are as follows :
  • Syat ASTI : A thing is real relatively
  • Syat NASTI : A thing is unreal relatively
  • Syat ASTI NASTI : Relatively, a thing is both real and unreal (This cannot be a criticism as we are taking different points of view here)
  • Syat AVAKTAVYAM : Relatively, a thing is indescriable.
  • Syat ASTI AVAKTAVYAM : Relatively, a thing is real and indescribable.
  • Syat NASTI AVAKTAVYAM : Relatively, a thing is unreal and indescribable.
  • Syat ASTI NASTI AVAKTAVYAM : Relatively, a things is real, unreal and indescribable.
Example of Saptabhanginaya takes time and space into consideration. Example : Syad table asti cha nasti cha.
This means, this table is as this time and this location while the fact that it isn’t at another location is also true. This conditional judgement, makes Jaina Philosophy highly tolerant. Almost all philosophical/religious different are due to mistaking partial truth as complete.
Criticisms :
  • In SAPTBHANGINYAYA, the last three are just recombination of what comes in the first four points. Last three points are superfluous and redundant.
  • THEY ARE SELF CONTRADICTORY (same thing has been defined as being real and unreal i.e SYAT ASATI NASATI) : Jainas defend themselves as they consider it to be different points of views. Hence this criticism is wrong and countered.

(3) Syadvada (Theory of Relativity of Knowledge/Propositions)

Probability may be skepticism and Jainas are not skeptic, not agnosticism, not theory of speculative knowledge. Hence SYADVADA isn’t theory of probability. The word SYAD here is used in the context or sense of “relative” and the correct translation of Syadavada is Theory of Relativity.
Reality has infinite aspects, and with out limited perspective, we can only know some aspects, and from each relative point of view (Due to soul in bondage). Thus, every proposition is an incomplete yet definite picture of reality, and thus all our judgement are necessarily relative, limited and conditional. (Human knowledge is necessarily limited, conditional relative)
Hence, the Epistemological theory of Jaina Philosophy disallows categorical/absolute prediction.
As an example, Jainas cite the old story of six blind men and the elephant.
Everything exists from the point of view of its own substance. When we say “This table exists”, we cannot mean that this table exists absolutely and unconditionally. Our knowledge of the table is necessarily relative. The table exists in itself as an absolute real and infintely complex reality, only our knowledge of it is relative.
There are three forms of judgement (That we make)
  • Durniti (Bad Judgement) : It is taking a relative point of view or partial truth as the whole and complete truth. (Taking partial truth as permanent truth)
  • Naya (Judgement) : It is taking a statement as it is, without labelling a condition of partial or absolute.
  • Pramana (Valid Judgement) : By prefixing “Syat”, before a Nyaya, we acknowledge that every judgement can only be partial or relative, and thus gain knowledge in its correct form.
So, every nyaya in order to become pramana or valid knowledge, must be qualified by SYAT.

Justifications of Syadvada : Jiva, due to beginningless ignorance, lose faith in Teerthankaras and hence fall in the trap of Kasaya (Passions), attracts Karmic particles. These Karma causes hindrance in attaining knowledge. Thus, all we know as relative, conditional.
  • To make our ideas errorless and authentic.
  • To promote religious tolerance and harmony
  • It provides a valid middle path between Buddha’s theory of momentariness(Ksanivada) and Sankara’s theory of eternity (nityavada), by accepting and harmonizing both.
  • Opens a liberal Path
  • Support religious pluralism, hence multi-culturalism.
Criticism :
a) Buddhist and Vedatins have called that Syadvada is Self Contradictory (same thing has been defined as being real and unreal i.e Syat asati nasati) : Jainas defend themselves as they consider it to be different points of views. Hence this criticism is wrong and countered.
b) Vedatins have criticized that Syadavada as a doctrine of probability or speculator. But it is not so, as it is a theory of relativity of knowledge (syadvada). All judgements are relative and conditional.
c) Sankara :
  • Without an absolute, the theory of relativity cannot logically sustained. The absolute presupposes the existence of Relative. Ultimately all is manifested in the Absolute itself. Other school accepts the logic that we have partial, limited, relative knowledge, but for considering something to be RELATIVE, we need to compare it with something ABSOLUTE.
Because without the relative, the absolute can exist, but if the absolute is discarded, the relative is also lost. Hence, the absolute and relative are not equally valid or true. The Jainas forget that organic synthesis and not arithmetic addition leads us to reality. (Admission of Kevaljnana, which is called pure, perfect and intuitive knowledge. This is an admission of absolute knowledge. Thus, Syadvada is not a completely consistent theory)
Jainism is Biased against Absolutism
  • If all truths are only partial, Syadavada also is only partially true and hence incomplete. But since they consider their metaphysics of Anekantavada as the only absolute to reach to Kevaljnana i.e they are the only one teaching the whole truth. They themselves are considering a HALF HEARTED ABSOLUTISM and hence become inconsistence.
d) In Saptabhanginyaya or seven fold judgement of Syadvada, the last three are just recombination of what comes in the first four points. Last three points are superfluous and redundant.

(2) Dravya (Substance)

That thing which possesses the characters (positive and negative) is Dravya. There are two kinds of characters found in every substance : essential and accidental. Essential ones or Gunas are attribues/qualities which have permanent essence while accidental substances are Modes which are Prayaya which are changing.
A substance or Dravya can thus be defined as something which possesses both attributes and modes or Gunas and Prayayas.
The Jainas view both change and permanence as Real. Every substance has combination of essential qualities called attributes and accidental qualities called Modes. In so far as substance has attributes, it is permanent and from its modes perspective it undergoes origin and decay.
Thus, to emphasise only on one aspect (ekanta) to the exclusion of other aspects would lead to commitment of Fallacy of Ekantavada. Both Buddhism which talks about Ksankivada and Vedatins which talk about Nityavad (change being absolutely unchanging) fall to this fallacy of Ekantavada.
Thus, both Vedantins and Buddhists commit the fallacy of Ekantavad (Leading to exclusive predication). As Jainism takes into account all partial views, their philosophical doctrine is Anekantavad. Change and Permanence both are real. The contradiction vanishes when we remember that any predication is relative and conditional.
Classification of Substance 
Substance are broadly classified into extended and non-extended substance. There is only one substance namely time which is devoid of extension. All other substances posses extension. They are called by the name Astikaya (which possess extension) and the one (Time) which doesn’t possess extension is Anastikaya.
Substances possessing extension (Astikaya) are subdivided into two kinds namely, the living (Jiva) and the non-living (Ajiva).
Souls/Jiva can again be classified into those that are emancipated and those that are in bondage. The souls in bondage are again of two kinds : those that are capable of movement and those that are immobile.
  • Examples of immobile living substances/astikaya jivas : earth, water, fire, air and plants. (They have only sense of touch)


  • The mobile living substances/astikaya jivas have different degress of perfection and variously possess two, three, four or five senses. Example : beasts, birds and men.
Non-living substance or Astikaya Ajiva possess extension which are Pudgala, Akasha, Dharma, Adharma.
  • Dharma and Adharma are the forces that cause movement and rest respectively.
  • Space or Akasha : The function of this Space is to accomodate all the Extended (astikaya) substances. It consists of Loka and Aloka. (Essentially different from that used in other schools of Philosophy)
  • Matter or Pudgal : It is an Astikaya Ajiva (has extension but is non living). Something which is liable of integration or disintegration (Just like the matter of Charavaka). While Jainas use it to define matter, Buddhists use it in the sense of a soul. Pudagala can further be subdivided into anu(atoms) which combine together to form compounds. Pudgala possess the four qualities of smell, taste, touch and color. Sound is not an original quality but a modification of air itself. (Along with light, heat, shape etc which are produced by accidental modifications/characteristics/prayayas of matter.) It is matter in subtle form, that constitutes Karma, infiltrates the soul, and binds it into Samsara.
Time : It is the only Anastikaya or Non extended substance. It doesn’t extend in space and is indivisible. It is not perceived, but inferred. They can be divided into real and empirical time.

Doctrine of Jiva
Jiva is conscious and Astikaya Dravya.
  • It is a conscious Pudgala.
  • Consciousness is the very essence of Jiva.
  • Like Monads of Leibnitz, Purush of Sankhya, Jivas of Jainism are qualitatively alike but quantitatively differ, i.e all are conscious but the degree of consciousness varies.
  • Their inherent nature is anantachatustaya, i.e Jiva has infinite knowledge, faith, bliss and power (F, K, B, P). It is Astikaya because it extends like Light but not like Matter (Astikaya Ajiva).
  • It is coextensive with body. (For Charavaka, so called “Soul” is nothing but consciousness in body)
Jainas give direct and indirect proofs for the existence of JIVA.
Proofs for existence of soul/Jiva :
  • Direct Proof : Through observation of its attributes/gunas (Consciousness) and modes/prayaya (happiness, sorrow, pain, pleasure etc.)
  • Indirect Proof : We can move own body at will, this proves there is a mover or soul, as matter is immobile by nature. Soul is fundamental truth that needs no proof.
Comparison :
  • N.V : Consciousness is accidental quality of soul (while for Jainas, consciousness is essential quality)
  • Shankara : Soul is Vibhu (all pervasive)
Broadly speaking, there are two kinds of Jivas :
a) Those who are liberated or emancipated (Mukta)
b) Those who are bound (Baddha).
The souls in bondage are two, i.e those which are capable of moving or those which are immobile.
  • Examples of immobile living substances/astikaya jivas : earth, water, fire, air and plants. (They have only sense of touch)
  • The mobile living substances/astikaya jivas have different degress of perfection and variously possess two, three, four or five senses. Example : beasts, birds and men.
BONDAGE : In Jainas philosophy, bondage means union of Karma Pugala with Jiva. Due to beginningless ignorance, Jiva loses faith in Teerthankaras and becomes vulnerable to passion known as Kasaya which are sticky substance being four in number : ANGER, GREED, PRIDE & DELUSION.
These Kasaya attract the flow of Karmic Pudagala towards Jiva, this flow is Asrava.
  • Asrava is of 42 kinds.
  • Asrava maybe Bhavasrava i.e it refers to changes in Bhava before the entrance of Karma Pudgala. It is just like body massaged with oil.
  • Dravyaashrava i.e changes after the entrance of Karma Pudgala, i.e sticking of karma pudgala with Jiva.
Liberation is separation of Karmic Pudgala with Jiva.
By possessing and practicing Tri-ratna i.e RIGHT FAITH, RIGHT KNOWLEDGE AND RIGHT CONDUCT, the flow of KARMA pudgala is stopped and this is SAMVARA.
Then already existing Karmic Pudgala are eliminated or exhausted. This is NIRJARA.
When the last of last particle is exhausted, Jiva regains its true nature of Anantachatustaya i.e JIVA has infinite Knowledge, Faith, Bliss and Power . It attains MOKSHA or KEVALAYA.
Liberated soul transcends this SANSAR and goes straight into SIDHHA SHILA and dwells there in eternal knowledge and bliss.
TRI RATNAS or three JEWELS together form the path of liberation.

(1) Theory Of Reality (Metaphysics of Jainism)

The Jaina metaphysics is a realistic and relativistic pluralism. It is called Anektavad or The Doctrine of Manyness of Reality. Jaina holds that there are innumerable material atoms and innumerable individual souls (spirit or jiva) which are all separately and independently real. And each atom and each soul possesses innumerable aspects of its own.
Every object possesses innumerable positive and negative characters. It is not possible for ordinary people, to know all the qualities of a thing. An ordinary person can know only some qualities of something. Human Knowledge is necessarily relative and limited and so are all our judgments. This epistemological and logical theory of the Jainas is called SYADVADA.
As a matter of fact, both Anekantvada and Syadvada are the two aspects of the same teaching – realistic and relativistic pluralism.
So, Metaphysics = Anekantavada
      Epistemology = Syadvada
Arguments for ANEKANTAVADA :
a) There are innumerable material atoms and innumerable individual souls which are all separately and independently real, having innumerable aspects of its own.
b) Experience proves that there are actually innumerable objects in this universe.
c) We find different kinds of knowledge. It proves a thing has a number of aspects.
d) When we perform a research, new qualities is found in an object. Hence, objects have innumerable qualities.
e) Plurality of JIVAS also supports ANEKANTVADA.
f) Definition of SAT supports ANEKANTAVADA. Here SAT(real) is defined as that which possess the three characteristics of production, destruction and permanence.
g) SAPT-BHANGI-NYAYA also supports it : Same object can have seven types of judgments.
h) Relativity of Knowledge also supports Anekatvada.
i)  Presence of different philosophical views regarding the number and nature of ultimate reality supports anekantavada.

(2) Charvaka’s Metaphysics

Charavaka’s metaphysics evolves out of its epistemology, that what can be perceived alone is real.
Regarding perception, Matter alone can be perceived in this world, and thus Charavaka accepts matter alone can be perceived in different material elements (earth, air, fire, water) thus, Charvaka concludes that Reality (matter) is plural. Hence, there view is Pluralistic Materialism.
(Recollect Charvaka’s Philosophy is positivist, atheistic, materialistic, pluralist and believes in Naturalism)

Jagat Vichar/World (Svabhavada + Yaddrechavada)
Note that Charvaka accepts four elements : EARTH, AIR, FIRE, WATER . It doesn’t accept AKASHA as it cannot be perceived. So Charavaka believe that the world is composed of these four elements. Everything in the world, including mind or consciousness is composed of or is a combination of these four elements. These elements are eternal, while their combinations undergo production-dissolution.
While other philosophies accept GOD as an efficient cause or prime mover or sustainer of the world, Charvaka believe that these four elements combine with each other to produce the world and its effects out of its own nature. They don’t accept GOD or a transcendental entity to explain this world. Hence, their philosophy regarding world is called NATURALISM or SVABHAVAVAD, as elements combine to result in this world out of their own nature. Also, world is a result of accidental combination of four elements, hence they support accidentalism in opposition (SVABHAVAVAD also called YADRECCHAVAD or Mechanistic Development of the world)

Soul/Jiva/Atma : Dehatmavad (Not perceiving soul different from Body) + Bhuta chaitanyavad (By product of Matter)
Charvaka refutes the existence of eternal, unchangeable, unmoved soul, which is generally accepted as independent from the body. (However it is very different from Buddhist view, who accepts rebirth of soul, its Avidya resulting in 12-nidar and in Buddhist view, matter is only one of the five skandhas of soul, and consciousness is separate from Matter, along with feelings, perceptions and Dispositions)
  • They accept consciousness because it is “perceived internally”. Generally, soul is inferred.
  • Although Charavaka admits consciousness, they do not consider consciousness separate from matter. They deny a soul as a substratum of consciousness. Consciousness is also a result of matter and the so called soul is nothing but matter embed with consciousness.
  • Regarding origin of consciousness, they propound Bhuta-Chaitanya-Vad, according to which consciousness is only a by-product of matter. When all the four elements combine in some particular proportion, consciousness is produced. Consciousness is always associated with the body, and is destroyed when the body disintegrates.
  • Example : Just as a combination of Aneka Nut, betel and lime produces red color, a combination of four elements produce consciousness. Just as Molasses get fermented to produce intoxicants. (Chemical change)
Arguments in support of Dehatmavad :
  • As long as the body is alive, consciousness is associated with it. As soon as the body dies, consciousness also ends. This that consciousness is integral to body.
  • From common experience, we attribute self as the body, as in statements like “I am fat, I am tall” etc. This indicates that consciousness is associated with the body
  • We do not perceive a soul independent from body. Thus, it cannot be independent of body. Soul is nothing but body which has consciousness. (Dehatmavad)
  • Thus all concepts such as Law of Karma, Leaver and Hell, rebirth, liberation becomes meaningless in Charvaka philosophy which thus leads to Hedonism.
Criticism :
  • Geeta says that existence (bhava) cannot come from non-existence (abhava). Material objects are derived from eternal material elements, but consciousness is not a material substance.
  • Cannot be perceived like other material objects, hence cannot be a by product of matter.
  • No logic in saying it is “perceived internally” when it is considered by product of matter.
  • If existence of soul surviving death cannot be demonstrated, its non existence too cannot be demonstrated.
  • Charvaka infers the non-existence of soul from its non-perception, which is contradictory to Charvaka’s epistemology. Moreover, if Charavaka does not perceive a soul’s survival post death, its existence too cannot be demonstrated.
  • If consciousness is regarded as property of body, memory, recognition, synthetic unity of conscious states become impossible. Cannot explain dreamless sleeps, epilepsy

GOD (Positivism : Only accepting observable facts)
Going by Charavaka’s epistemology, GOD’s existence is not accepted as GOD is not perceived.
Charvaka’s argues that people accept GOD because of three facts :
  • As the creator of the world (No need, Svabhavavad – accidental mechanistic development)
  • As governor of Law of Karma
  • As intellectual regulator/Source of soul
Now, Charvaka lays the Theory of Svabhavavad for the creation of this world.
Moreover, on the argument of design, there can be no proof for any intelligent design. Charvaka counters teleology with Accidentalism for the way of the world.

According to Charavaka liberation cannot be the highest goal of our life. Liberation means complete freedom from sorrow and suffering. But complete cessation of pain can only occur at death. But death cannot be the aim of life, and hence liberation/death cannot be the goal of life.
Moreover, liberation is related to concept of liberation of soul which is separate from matter and body. Since Charavaka rejects this theory in favor of Dehatmavad  + Bhutachaitnyavad (Soul being a by product of body and not being separate from matter), he doesn’t consider liberation.
According to Charvaka, Kama or maximization of pleasure is the ultimate aim of life. Eat, drink and make merry because when the body is reduced to ashes, how can you return to the world?

Charavaka accepts entities only on the basis of perception. But uses inference to refute all metaphysical entities for there non existence (Like rejecting soul by inferring it’s not existence). Logically, they cannot be refuted on the basis of perception. Indian Philosophy prescribe a disciplined way of life and extol the value of faith in order to intuitively realize the metaphysical realities, but Charvaka would not accept discipline, morality and faith as they believe in “eat, drink and make merry”.
Hence its ethical philosophy is Individual Hedonism.
Out of the four Purusharthas, Kama (Pleasure) is the only possible good, the highest aim of life, while artha is a means to achieve/sustain it.
Heaven is a myth. Liberation is an impossible ideal. Liberation = cessation of sufferings, which is only at death and death = cannot be final aim of life. Life is a mixture of pleasure and pain, thus, pleasure ought to be maximized and pain avoided. Since there is no rebirth, everything ends with this life, and there is no ever lasting or higher purpose.

Charvaka has its own importance in the realm of Indian Philosophy.
Charvaka has saved Indian Philosophy from falling into the pitfalls of dogmatism. Many texts have Charvaka as Purvapaksa. Hence their argument developed by refuting Carvaka.
Charvaka’s way of enquiry is a free thinking approach, which refuses to accept traditional knowledge without doubt. Thus, Charavaka’s skepticism may have compelled other schools to provide sound arguments for their theories, rather than spreading on the basis of dogma. Indian system could then be enriched by the arguments of refutation to Charvaka’s philosophy by eminent philosophers.
Many contemporary western thinkers have opted for positivism(believing only in phenomena), atheism, in line with Charvaka philosophy. Moreover, Charavaka’s rejection of inference is in line with their rejection of validity of deductive logic (Logical Positivism, Hume)
Charavaka’s Philosophy may have motivated other schools to accept skepticism and doubt on different metaphysical question and thus eventually establish themselves in firm knowledge. Charvaka Philosophy is also demographically very popular in the world, hence called LOKAYATMATVAD.

Charavaka’s Ethics 
Gross Charvaka : Egoistic Hedonism
Refined Charvaka :  Hedonism + Secular Morality
Charavaka believes that pleasure is the highest aim of life and maximization of one’s own pleasure should be one’s main priority (Summum Bonum)
Law of Karma depends on immorality of soul, rebirth. However, Charvaka denies these concepts, regard soul as integral to body, by Dehatmavad, thus, denies/rejects GOD as moral governor. Pain is mixed with pleasure, but we should not reject pleasure as a result. This is like rejecting the grain because it is governed by HUSK.

By perception, according to Charvaka, we do find antecedence of one event and consequence as well, but invariable antecedence and unchangeable consequence are never perceived. These may be subject to change in space and time, i.e past, present, future and in different locations/circumstances.
Unlike Buddhist view, there is no invariable dependence of consequence on the antecedence, while unlike Orthodox schools, there is no invariable effect to every cause.
Repeated observation of one effect only produces an expectation in the mind in all circumstances but this is not reality. (This is similar to Hume’s theory of Impressions)

(1) Charvak’s Epistemology

Charavaka is also known as Lokayat, Nastik or Rationalist school of thought, also an Atheistic School. It is more of a philosophy of life rather than a Theory of Ultimate Reality. It is associated with men’s eternal urge for pleasure and there by established Hedonism.

Materialism : Matter is the only reality. According to Charavaka, there are four types of matter : Earth, Fire, Air and Water. Hence, it is a Pluralist School i.e having accepted above four realities as only and manifold realities. Consciousness and Body are byproducts of Matter.

Positivism : They believe only in positive facts, or observable phenomena. Hence, empiricists i.e believe only perceivable objects to be true.

The word Charvaka may means Materialist who believes only in eat, drink and making merry.

Charavaka Epistemology

The philosophy itself begins with its epistemology, and its epistemology is the cornerstone of Charvaka Philosophy, based on which the entire philosophy can be built. Charvaka was an empiricist and hence he only considered Perception as being a valid source of knowledge (praman). Out of the other four, he was vehemently against INFERENCE. According to him, inference is only a guesswork, sometimes true and sometimes false.

Positivist Epistemology : Believes only observable phenomena, hence perception or Pratyaksha is the only valid source of knowledge. All other Pramans are refuted on the basis of Pratyaksha alone. Perception is defined as power of perceiving through senses. When a sense organ comes into contact with any external object, perception takes place. Since there are five sense organs, namely eyes, nose, tongue, skin, ears, there are five types of perception based on each sense organ.

According to Charvaka, only perception gives us definite, non-erroneous, valid or undoubtable knowledge of reality. Charavaka doesn’t refute the other Pramanas, he rejects their validity.

Criticism : By means of perception as well, erroneous knowledge is possible. For example : Knowledge of snake in a rope. Thus, if Pramana is valid only because it gives undoubtable knowledge as propounded by Charvaka, even perception fails to be a valid Pramana.

Rejection of validity of other Pramans

a) Refutation of Inference/Anuman : Inference is accepted as a valid source of knowledge by all major Indian Schools of thought except Charvaka. It is also the means of Inductive and deductive logic in Western Philosophy.

Vyapti is considered as logical ground of inference, but Charavaka rejects it as baseless and claims that Vyapti can never be established.

Etymologically, inference or Anuman means after (ANU) + Knowledge (MAN)

In inference, we proceed from the perceived Hetu, to get the knowledge of the unperceived Sadhya (major term). This requires the existence of a concomitant, unusual, invariable, and unconditional relationship between the HETU and SADHYA called VYAPTI.

Thus, VYAPTI is the nerve or logical ground of inference.

The Charvaka challenges the validity of this VYAPTI to reject inference as a valid source of knowledge. Charvaka argues that Inference would be valid if vyapti can be established between HETU and SADHYA beyond doubt. However, he argues that this cannot be established, and thus inference becomes invalid.

Arguments against Vyapti : An example of VYAPTI would be “where there is smoke there is fire”

(i) By Inference : Hence, smoke becomes the HETU and fire becomes the SADHYA. According to Charvaka, this relation would be valid if for EVERY possible existence of smoke would be caused by a fire. But this invariable and concomitant vyapti cannot be established by inference, because doing so would result in the fallacy of petitio principi (Circular argument fallacy) and infinite regress, because the VYAPTI is need to prove the case in point would remain unproved. (To prove Vyapti, we need inference and vice versa)

(ii) Failure of Samanya Lakshan Pratyaksha (Fallacy of illicit Generalization) : The sphere of perception is limited. We cannot perceive all the cases of smoke and fire even at any present moment to establish a VYAPTI. Moreover, perception is confined to particular time and space, and cannot be extrapolated to the past, or future in order to use VYAPTI at all times. Perception, thus cannot provide us with a universal generalization. If we do so, we are resorting to the fallacy of illicit generalization. In such a case, inference would only be an uncertain leap from a known to unknown. Thus he rejects Nyaya’s view : Knowledge of VYAPTI is gained by means of SAMANYA LAKSHNA PRATYAKSHA.

(iii)Failure of Verbal Testimony/Shabdha : Charavaka first of all rejects VT itself from being a valid source of knowledge. Moroever, if vyapti would be proved on the basis of VT, then again it would lead to fallacy of petitio principii as VT’s validity too depends on Inference.

Thus, Charvaka concludes that since Vyapti cannot be proved by perception,inference and Verbal Testimony, inference cannot be valid. It remains mere guess work. It is based on psychological belief and not on logical laws. his is similar to Hume’s Laws of Association where he concludes that the cause-effect theory out of law of associations is not a rational necessity, rather a psychological one. It is only by accident that some events are validated by inference. Vyapti is contingent, not concomitant, universal or unconditional.

b) Rejection of VT by reliable person : VT of reliable person involves inference. We accept the VT of a reliable person because we consciously infer that his authority/knowledge is acceptable, or consciously generalize the validity of VT of reliable person based on his previous testimonies. Both involves inference which is unproved and would also lead to fallacy of petitio principi. Thus, a person’s authority cannot be proved or accepted.

Secondly, case in point, the Vedas, according to the Charvakas, are full of contradictions, meaningless and ambigious ideas. They are claimed to be written by a class of society for its own livelihood. However, this claim is self-contradictory, as the only manner it could be valid is if we accept validity of VT.

c) On the basis of uniformity of experience (As proposed by Nyaya-Vaisesika) : This is too rejected by by Charvaka

d) Cause and Effect Relation by N-V also rejected. (Charavaka, a hardcore empiricist doesn’t except anything without experience. How can he accept something he hasn’t experienced. Inherent nature of everything around might change in the future.) Causation itself is an kind of inference. To generalize that an “effect is preceded by a certain cause” is a generalized statement used as Vyapti. Thus, to argue the validity of Vyapti by using the Vyapti of causation and again vice-versa would again lead to fallacy of petitio principi. Moreover, causation itself is a result of fallacy of illicit generalization.

e) Refutation of Comparison (Upaman)

Upaman is regarded as a valid source of knowledge by Nyaya, Mimansa, Vedanta. Comparison is the knowledge of similarity between two objects.

According to Charvaka, we get knowledge of similarity by perception itself, thus there is no need to accept Upaman.

In another sense, it involves inference, when similarity between two objects is inferred. Since inference itself is invalid, Upaman by the means also becomes invalid.

Criticisms :

a) Jaina’s refutation of Charavaka’s rejection of Inference :
If Charvaka has to prove that Perception is the only valid source of knowledge, he has two options :
* Remain silent : This means there is no ground to accept argument
* Argue/Reason : But for reasoning, he has to take the help of
inference or VT! And this is contradictory. If Charavaka doesn’t accept inference, he can never participate in a discussion, as discussion requires inferring of other’s view point.
* If inference is invalid, by the reason that it may go wrong, then perception also cannot be a Pramana, as there is false perception (Snake in a rope) as well as hallucination.

b) Buddha’s refutation of Charvaka’s rejection of Inference :
* According to Sautrantika School of Buddhism, when an object is perceived by the senses, the mind recognizes the impression of the object already present in the consciousness, and through this impression the knowledge of the object is inferred (Same as Hume’s ideas and impressions). Thus, knowledge of external objects can be accepted only if inference is accepted.
* Buddhists again ask how Charavaka knows that his opponents admit the validity of inference? He cannot know by sense-perception what is going on in the minds of others, he will have to infer from the verbal statements of his opponents. Therefore, Charavaka must admit the validity of inference.

c) Nyaya’s refutation :
* There are several objects in this world which can’t be perceived but it is necessary to accept their existence like Ether, Manas, Space etc.
* In practical life, if we cannot accept inference, practical life would become difficult.

e) Kantian Logic of Refutation : By perception, we get body/matter of knowledge alone. Mere sensation cannot give knowledge unless the sense data is organized and reasoned upon. Thus, it is only through reason that we get form of knowledge, and thus perception alone is not a valid source of knowledge.

Conclusion : The Vedantins and Shunya-Vadins also reject inference but only at transcendental level, and not empirical level, because they refute the validity of all means of knowledge at the transcendental level. However, Charvaka rejects inference at empirical level itself and this rejection is self contradictory as to accept perception as valid source and reject inference is self contradiction.

Charavaka’s free thinking has helped other philosophy’s refine their argument and enriched the content of Indian Philosophy.



Equality is an important socio-political idea. It is modern and progressive, and is one of the defining features of modern day political thought. Society contains inequality ; so it is must for society to reform and made more equal.

In Ancient Greek city, the dominant philosophers were against the notion of equality. Plato while formulating the concept/theory of justice divided the society into three classes and demanded unequal rights for the different people from different classes. Aristotle gave the argument in favor of slavery which was based on inequality.

The idea of equality in the modern age came in prominence after revolutions in Britain (1649) and USA (1776) and in France (1789), which made right to equality by birth as their central plank.

In 19th century, Marxist and Socialist Philosophers emphasised on economic equality. The demand for equality is to mitigate the large number of existing economic, social and cultural inequalities and to bring in social improvement without created differences between the people. Equality is hence a perspective rather than descriptive value. The concern of most political theories is how to create equality while accepting inequality and to what extent can the state apparatus promote equality without violating or infringing liberty and individuality.

Meaning of Equality : It doesn’t mean uniformity. Its essence lies in absence of unfair and unreasonable discrimination between individuals on the basis of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth etc. Therefore equality means absence of inequality. Inequality is of two types : NATURAL inequality and Conventional Inequality. Equality aims at abolishing conventional inequalities or discrimination which are irrational and illogical.

Like liberty, equality can also be understood in its positive and negative aspects. In the positive sense, it meant “the availability of opportunity” so that everybody could have equal chance to develop his personality. It implies creation of adequate opportunities for the self development of all. In negative sense, it implies absence of privileges for anyone. Each person must be recognized as equal to every other and so nobody should be denied adequate opportunities for his self development. Equal treatment doesn’t mean similar treatment. Differences in treatment can be permitted within the concept of equality but the differences must be based on the differing needs of the individuals.

Explaining the meaning of equality, Laski writes that equality means :

a) Absence of special privileges : The will of one is equal to the will of others.
b) Equality means provision for adequate opportunities for all : Opportunities be given to everyone.
c) All must have access to social benefits and no one should be restricted on any ground. The things without which life is meaningless must be accessible to all.
d) Absence of economic and social exploitation

All these meanings suggest that equality is a positive thing, it can be understood in relation with the society and it needs certain leveling processes in the society. Equality doesn’t mean perfect or absolute equality, it neither means equality of treatment. But it definitely means equality of rights and duties, equality before law and equal protection of law. Absence of exploitation – social and economic – and absence of economic inequality – abolition of private property – are preconditions for any kind of equality in society.

The Indian Constitution is the best example of the modern concept of equality :

a) Article 14 of the Constitution of India provides for equality before the law & equal protection within the territory of India.

b) Article 15 (1) and (2) prohibit the state from discriminating any citizen on ground of any religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.

c) Article 16 says that there shall be equality of opportunity for all citizens in matters relating to employment or appointment to any office under the state.

d) Article 17 says that Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of untouchability shall be an offense punishable by law.

e) Article 18 (Abolition of titles):

– Article 18 says that no title, not being a military or academic distinction, shall be conferred by the State. No citizen of India shall accept any title from any foreign state.
– The awards, Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhuhan, Padma Bhusan and Padma Shri, called as The National Awards would not amount to title within the meaning of Article 18(i)

At the same time, reasonable restrictions have been placed which provides for special provisions for women and children (- Under Article 15 (3) & (4), the government can make special provisions for women & children and for a group of citizens who are economically and socially backward.)

Constitution also provides for DPSP’s in which state has been directed to work in such a way so as the citizens of India really become equal and the objective of welfare state is attained.

The Constitution of India treats everyone alike, but it treats some specially. These are the socially, economically and politically backward classes.

Normative and Descriptive Concepts

Normative concept is about intrinsic value, right and wrong, and/or virtues. The following are claims concerning normative ethics:

1. It is wrong to kill people just because they make you angry.
2. We should fight to free slaves when necessary, even when doing so is illegal.
3. Pain is intrinsically bad—we ought not cause pain without a good reason to do so.
4. It is reasonable for a person to give charity to those in need, even if no reciprocation should be expected.

Normative concepts thus ladens in itself wide range of socio-political concepts like “Justice”, “Liberty”, “Equality”, “Secularism” and “Humanism”.

Descriptive concepts on the other hand presents facts, which supposedly have an objective and a demonstrable existence. “Power”, Authority, Order, Law” are in this sense descriptive rather than normative.

Distinction between facts and values is often regarded as a necessary precondition for clear thinking. Where are values may be opinions, facts can be proved to be either true or false. Descriptive concepts hence become neutral.

Kinds of Equality

a) Legal Equality : Legal Equality stands for equality before law, equal subjection of all to the same legal code and equal opportunity for all to secure legal protection of their rights and freedom. There should rule of law and laws must be equally binding for all. In every society equality must be ensured in all these forms.

b) Political Equality : It stands for equal opportunities for participation of all in the political process. This involves

* Right to vote
* Right to contest elections
* Right to hold public office
* Right to criticize the government

c) Economic Equality : Economic equality does not mean equal treatment or equal reward or equal wages for all. It stands for fair and adequate opportunities to all for work and for earning of their livelihoods. It also means that primary needs of all should be met before the special needs of few are satisfied. The gap between rich and poor should be minimum. There should be equitable distribution of wealth and resources in the society.

Earlier liberals meant economic equality as choosing one’s trade or profession irrespective of his caste, creed or economic status. Today, it has a wider meaning :

* Economic resources shouldn’t be concentrated in a few hands which allow them to exploit the others.
* There shouldn’t be a wide difference between wages. Equal work should ensure equal pay.
* Right to work and right against unemployment.
* State should ensure enough public welfare measures to prevent people from becoming prey to dominant economic interests.

d) Social Equality : It stands for equal rights and opportunities for development for all classes of people without any discrimination.
Specifically, it stands for:

* Absence of special privileges for any class or caste or religions group or an ethnic group;
* Prohibition of discrimination against any one on the basis of caste, colour, creed, religion, sex and place of birth;
* Free access to public places for all the people, i.e. no social segregation; and
* Equality of opportunity for all people. It however accepts the concept of protective discrimination in favour of all weaker sections of society.

A modern central theme of social equality is to end gender inequality, to ensure equal status and opportunities to the women and to ensure equal rights of male and female children to live and develop.

e) Natural Equality : Natural equality is another type of equality. It implies that all men are born free and equal and are endowed with equal gifts and talents. It also means that the State should try to reduce inequality, rather than perpetuate it. The State should provide those social and economic opportunities that offer equal chances. Natural equality is rather an ideal and not an immediate reality. This ideal should be attained in a society as far as possible.

Marxist view of Equality : Marxism maintains that inequalities emerged with the emergence of private property and equality can be there only when private property is abolished. Marxism scientifically analyzes the issue of equality and property and associates it with the abolition of classes and establishment of a classless society. Only in a classless society can the egalitarian principle can be practiced. Lenin says that “We want to abolish the class and in this sense we are for equality”.

Marx maintains economic equality as the most fundamental and all other equalities are based on this. It doesn’t agree that the State can create equality in a class-divided society through welfare measures and economic policies.

Arguments in favor of social or material equality :

a) Strengthens social cohesion and community by creating a common identity and shared interests.
b) Enlarges freedom in the sense that it safeguards people from poverty and satisfies basic needs, enabling them to achieve fulfillment.
c) It is only meaningful form of equality in that all other equalities rest upon it : Genuine legal and political equality require that people have access to equal social resources.

Arguments against social equality :

a) Unjust because it treats unequals equally and therefore fails to reward people in line with their talents and capabilities.
b) It results in economic stagnation in that it removes incentives and caps aspirations, amounting to a process of “levelling down”.
c) It can be achieved only through state intervention, and a system called “Social Engineering”, meaning that it always infringes upon individual liberty.
d) It results in drab/dull uniformity, diversity is crushed and the vigor to grow as a society is lost.

Relationship between Liberty and Equality

Western Liberal political thought two contradictory positions can be seen :

* Liberty and Equality are antithetical or incompatible
* Liberty and Equality are complementary or compatible to each other.

According to first position (supported by Lord Acton, Hayek), human beings differ in theirs set of skills and abilities. Therefore, even if the same opportunities are provided, some will be more successful than others. The trend towards inequality can be countered only by suppression of talents and aspirations or by a comprehensive and continuous state intervention to equalize artificially the gifted and the ordinary. Both the measures are inimical to liberty :

a) Liberty and inequality are nature. Therefore, by nature liberty and equality are contradictory.
b) Liberty means negative liberty or absence of any restraint or coercion, whereas equality needs some restraints of some leveling, which is against the principles of liberty.
c) In order to create equality in society the powers of the State are to be increased and increase in the powers of the state will threaten liberty. Here liberty and authority are seen as opposed to each other. The argument gets support from political practice too. Many states have unnecessarily increase their powers and attacked the rights and liberities of citizens. Thus, liberity is opposed to equality on the ground that equality needs a positive state whereas liberty needs a negative or minimal state.
d) It is sometimes said that without capitalism, the power of the State cannot be checked and without this type of check. liberty is always in danger. Thus, capitalism is helpful to liberty.

On the other hand, equality and capitalism doesn’t go side by side. Liberty needs maintainence of capitalism and equality needs overthrow of capitalism. Thus, both are opposed (Concept by Milton Friedman)

Liberty and Equality are Compatible : Supported by Hume, Rousseau, Baker, Laski

a) Both have a common end : promotion of individual personality and to create a better social order.
b) Democracy is believed to be best way to protect liberty of the people but on the other hand, basic philosophical idea on which democracy rests is equality which can be seen in practice in the form of one person one vote.

Political liberty without economic equality is a myth : G.D.H Cole

Laski : Political liberty without economic equality is meaningless.




Justice is one of the important aims of the state. One of the earliest treaties on politics, Plato’s ‘Republic’ was an attempt to construct a just state. Therefore, a correct understanding of justice will help in evaluating different political systems, their policies and the ideologies on which they are based. Aristotle says justice is the reconciler and synthesizer of political values (“what answers to the whole of goodness”). It connects with the ideals like rights, liberty and equality.
Different views on justice:-

Justice’s meaning changes with passage of time. Thus what was justice in the past may be injustice in the present and vice- versa.

* There have been ‘egalitarian’ perception of justice where the highest place in accorded to the value of equality;
* The liberation perception in which liberty is ultimate value;
* The divine view in which justice is the execution of god’s will, the ‘hedonist’ makes ‘the greatest good of greatest number’ the criterion of justice;
* To the ‘harmonizer’ justice is the harmonizing of different elements and value to produce a satisfactory balance.

Some identifies justice with duty or with maintenance of peace and order; other view it as an elitist function. Thus, justice concerns the right of the individual as well as the social ordering of the society. It is legal and moral at the same time. In short, it is an ethical concept.
The root idea of justice is ‘jus’ meaning joining or fitting. It synthesis one political idea to other political ideal:-

1. Individual and state
2. Individual and society
3. Cementing and joining up human beings together.

Justice and law

The Roman lawyer= Idea of natural justice is positive law of the state. Civil law and national should be conformity with natural law. However this is abstract phrase, justice lies in enforcement of positive law. The symbol of justice is often portrayed as blindfold because it is supposed to be impartial.

Justice and discrimination

For Plato and Aristotle justice is “proportionate equality with the idea of righteousness”. Injustice arises when equals are treated unequally.

This means that if in a democracy there is discrimination on the basis of sex, it would mean treating the equals, unequally. Also it would be unfair to pit a heavyweight wrestler against a light weight one, Thus justice requires discrimination on the basis of differences, which is relevant to functions performed.

Plato’s theory of justice

Plato says rule of life should be based on functional specialisation. Man should practice on thing only to which his nature is best adopted (principle of “proper station”). This applies both to individual and society. The highest good of both the individual and the society is conserved, if we take it for granted that there is nothing better to a man than to do a work than he is best fitted to do, there is equally nothing better for the society that to see that each should be filling the station to which he is best entitled by virtue of the special element of his personality.

According to Plato three qualities of human souls are represented in the state in the form of three classes. Wisdom in the form of philosopher kings, courage in the form of soldiers and appetite in the form of procedures. Therefore Plato opinions that state is individual writ large; state is larger form of individual where three classes perform their response respective function and do not interfere in the affairs of other classes then justice is secured in the state or in other word state is a just state.

Therefore in Plato’s scheme justice synonymous to dutifulness. It may be compared within the notion of ‘swadharm’ explained in Indian text Gita

Three principles of Plato’s theory:

* Functional specialization

* Non-inference

* Harmony


* According to critics Plato’s theory of justice suffers from jurisprudential inconsistency. According to barker, Plato has ignored the legal aspect of justice.
* Plato’s theory of justice is elitist in nature because it aims at maintaining status-quo or equilibrium in the society. The principle of functional specialization and principle of non- interference restricts all form of class- mobility.
* He legitimized inequality. Plato divided society in three different classes and provided different rights. It can be compared to Indian Varna system.
* It may lead to totalitarianism.


* First to provide systemic theory of justice.
* Discuss justice for both individuals and state.
* Relevant in contemporary.


Aristotle’s theory of justice
While Plato’s theory of justice represent the radical view in that it sought to change the existing social order of his time. Aristotle’s theory of justice has conservative view it favors maintain the existing order. Justice is concerned with regulation of human relation. Three types of justice:

Distributive justice – Deal with the allocation of honours and wealth. Its basic principle is treating equals equally and unequal unequally. Aristotle rely on the prevailing customs and customary law for deciding as to who were equals or unequals. (Ex : CBDR)

Retributive justice : Deals with imposition of punishment and payment of damages. It requires full restoration of any loss involuntarily sustained in the course of transaction between individual members of the community.

Commutative justice : Seeks to determine the amount of one sort of goods or services to be rendered in return for another sort in voluntary transaction of buying and selling or letting and hiring. Its guiding principle should be full equivalence.

Also normally, the law does not interfere in instances of discriminatory treatment in private life. But if causes social harm, the state would be justified in interfering in it, like in instances of untouchability, some group are dined human rights. Therefore, a law against it would be just; also the separate facilities accorded cannot be truly equal. It is because of this that Dr. Ambedkar demanded the right of the entry to temples for schedule castes and opposed separate temples, schools or hostel for them. (Example : Problem of Untouchability, though prevalent in private life of Hindu Society, state was justified in enacting Protection of Human Rights Act,’95.)

Criticism :

* As far as the concept of retributive justice is concerned, perfect retribution is not possible.
* This theory of Distributive Justice serves the interest of particular class (Upper class)

J.W. Chapmen

Seeks to integrate the idea of justice in his principle of economic rationality of man and consumer’s sovereignty coupled with the individual claim of moral freedom. To him the first principle of justice appears to be the distribution of benefits, which maximise benefits in accordance with the principle of consumer’s sovereignty. The second principle is that a system is unjust if the material wellbeing of a few is purchased at the expense of many. It implies that justice requires that no one shall gain at the expense of another.

Distributive justice and economic justice

Distributive justice is subject to the condition of general welfare. In this way the idea of economic justice comes to imply a socialistic pattern of society. The task of economic justice is to provide employment, food, shelter and clothing, to every able-bodied citizen.

However, the Marxist view of justice has its origin in the area of economics. According to Marx, the positive law of the state is imposed on its member by the authority of the class, which controls the means of production. Law is determined by the economic interest of the ruling class. When private property is abolished and the working class controls the means of production, then the laws are bound to reflect the interest of the working class. Therefore the content of justice depends upon the class controlling the means of production.

Social justice

Social justice means availability of equal social opportunity for the development of personality to all the people in society, without any discrimination on the basis of caste, colour, sex or race. No one should be deprived, because of these differences, of those social conditions which are essential for social development. The issue of social justice is associated with social equality and social rights and these are depending on economic equality and rights. Social justice can be made available only in a social system where the exploitation of man is absent and where privileges of the few are not built upon the miseries of the many.

In a nutshell the term social justice implies a recording of social life in such a manner that the material and moral benefits of social efforts are not cornered by a tiny privileged class but accrue to the masses to ensure the upliftment of the lower, weaker and underprivileged sections. This involves a logical synthesis of liberty, equality and eternity in their substantive aspects.
John Rawls theory of justice

His theory of justice is liberal procedural and distributive. Rawls begins by describing justice as the first virtue of social institution and sets out to discover what principle of justice are most defensible. The primary domain over which justice operates is the distribution of goods. In Rawls theory these things are called ‘primary good’. They are of two types:

1. Social goods:- goods that are directly distributes by social institutions such as income and wealth opportunities and power, rights and liberties.

2. Natural goods:- goods like health, intelligence, vigour, imagination, natural talents which affected by social institutions but not directly distributed by them.

Original position:

This is hypothetical situation where these individuals who are formulating the theory of justice are under the veil of ignorance. In this situation contractors are guided by maximum rule.

In other words, everyone will choose kind of society which minimizes his possible losses and make sure that even the worst of person is not too destituted he turns out to be such a person.

Taking maximum advantage and distribution of primary goods, Rawls says that they would choose two principles of justice:

* Each person to have an equal right to most extensive basic liberties compatible with similar liberties to others.
* Social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that both are
* To the greatest benefit of the least advantaged and
* Attached to positions and officers are open to all under conditions of fair equality and opportunity.

After deciding about the principle according to Rawls , the next step is the choice of a constitution which satisfies the principles of justice and is best designed to lead to just and effective legislation. For this the constitution will have to protect liberty of conscience and freedom of thought, liberty of the person and equal political rights. After the establishment of constitution, people have to decide about the proposed bills and policies. Legislation is largely concerned with the achievement of long term social and economic goals as well as to fulfill the principle that requires the social and economic policies be aimed at maximizing the long term expectations of the least advantages under conditions of fair equality and opportunity.


* Marxists contend that Rawls has tried to determine the principle of justice in a hypothetical condition where people are deliberately kept behind a veil of ignorance. Any deliberation without the knowledge of prevailing social and economic conditions is meaningless.
* Libertarians argue that Rawls has sacrificed liberty for the sake of equality. Why should we force the meritorious and industrious to work for the benefit of the most disadvantages people?
* Communitarian point out that Rawl’s political philosophy does not grade any conception of good life as superior or inferior to others. This ethical neutrality evades the opportunity of the pursuit of the common good.

Nozock’s theory of justice

Robert nozick in his ‘ anarchy, state and utopia’ (1974) sought, to advance an alternative to Rawl’s theory of justice.

He equates justice with entitlement; entitlement should be based on justice. He has identified three sources through which various goods are acquired by individuals:

* Their selves- their bodies, brain cells, etc. they have absolute right over them,.
* The natural world- land, water resources, minerals etc.
* The things people make by applying themselves to the natural worlds like all agricultural and industrial products.

Principle of entitlement:

* Initial acquisition: The method whereby an individual comes to appropriate some previously unowned bits of the natural world. Those who come to settle in an uninhabitated continents may legitimately acquires its land and natural resources on first come first served basis. As long as nobody is made worse off by their doing so. This means that this mode of acquisition should not result in creating scarcity for others- a condition which may scarcely be satisfied. This is similar to the condition spelled out in John Locke’s second treatise on government. In case of similar acquisition viz as long as enough and as good is left for others.
* Voluntary transfer: It applies to all property whether acquired through initial acquisition or by using one’s labour in the natural world, if I use others labour and pay them as per market rates, I become owner of the product of their labour. This must be based on voluntary, contract, without force or fraud. In all such transactions, an individual shall be treated as end-in-itself and not as a means to others’ end. This is similar to moral principle enunciated by Kant. Hence a contract through which an individual sells himself or any other individual to slavery will be void.
* Rectification: This is precisely the area where the state or the international community will be justified to intervene in order to restore justice. (EXAMPLE : Kulbhushan Jadav case and ICJ coming in between to rectify.) Nozick concedes that the history of the world abounds with involuntary transfer as well as unjust acquisition of natural resources. As long as economic disparities result from voluntary transfer. Nozick is not bothers. But if some country has gained control power rare natural resources depriving others of their legitimate share. (Britishers in India) Noziclk would step in to register his protest.

Procedural justice and substantive justice

The notion of procedural justice is closely related to the tradition of liberalism. According to this viewpoint, the function of justice is to regulate the mutual relations between individual and groups. Hence, the quest for justice should aim at evolving reasonable rules which should be applied impartially to all the categories. Freedom of contract is the mainstay of procedural justice. It treats the rules of market economy as the model rules of human behavior.

The idea of substitutive justice correspondence to the philosophy of socialism. It holds that test of justice in society consist in ascertaining whether the poor and the underprivileged have adequate opportunity to improve their lot. It demands that the opportunities of self-development should be progressively extended to the underprivileged and disadvantaged sections of the society.



The concept of liberty occupies an important place in social political ideals. It has been a magic word in history, inspiring millions to revolt against absolute authority of any type, religious, social, political or economic. Where ever individuals suffer from injustice, they invoke the name of liberty. In this sense, history is a record of the unending struggle for liberty. The history of mankind reveals that liberty is the fundamental value that goes to make up the ethos of man and gives meaning and significance to human civilization. Human beings consider liberty necessary for the attainment of happiness and for the development of the diverse capacities of their personality.

“Liberty” and “Freedom” are terms which are generally used interchangeably. The idea of freedom presupposes absence of restraints. Freedom of choice and will implies a kind of freedom. It is the freedom to select one possibility among others. Generally, we talk of freedom of will in the moral realm. When we use the term freedom in the social or political context, it means the freedom to carry out what one has chosen to do. The restraint may be either due to the deliberate action of other persons or may be removable by the deliberate action of other person.

Development of the Concept of Liberty

Though Liberty and other Political ideals systematically developed in the modern age, ancient and medieval philosophers also talked about these ideals, though in different form.

For Greek statesman Pericles, freedom meant advancement and political activity for full citizens. For Greeks, liberty meant participation in the affairs of the state or society. However, Socrates and Plato did not accept the notion of individual liberty against the society or the state.

During the Medieval period, liberty was associated with the liberty of the soul and was deemed to lie in salvation. Christianity ruled out the question of liberty on this earth.

In modern age renaissance, reformation and industrial revolution brought the question of individual liberty at the forefront.

In its rising phase, liberty was highly individualistic. It was regarded as liberty “from the state”.

Later on in the nineteenth and twentieth century the concept of positive liberty is the form of “Liberty through the state” developed in the writings of Green, Laski, Barker etc. Marxists and Socialist thinkers developed their own notion of freedom “as creativity”. In this was liberty developed as a fully-fledged concept.

Meaning : The term liberty has meant different things to different philosophers.

At one stage of history, the thought concerning liberty looked as it as “absence of restraints” in the free competition of men involved in achieving “the other satisfactions of life”. In this context, liberty meant “an atmosphere where the law is silent and where state interference is the least”.

But soon this contradiction was removed and liberty was made to stand on a wider perspective. With the change in the circumstances, attention was drawn to the means which the state or the social institutions could provide and which were considered necessary for the attainment of liberty. This led to a comprehensive conception of the nature of liberty but still it could not get rid itself of the old conception completely. We refer to these two stages in the development of liberty as “negative” and “positive” liberty.

In the Marxist tradition, liberty was seen as conditioned by the structure of unequal relations in the capitalist society. Liberty for the Marxists therefore cannot be defined in the abstract but it has to be done only in relation to the prevalent social relations and the material conditions of production.

They define liberty as the “realization of creative potential of the individuals”.

Liberty and License

When liberty is interpreted as the absence or removal of all restraints on the actions of individuals in utter disregard of the interest of other individuals, liberty degenerates into license.

License means the abuse of freedom, it is the print at which freedom becomes excessive. Where as liberty is usually thought to be wholesome, desirable and morally corrupt.

Two aspects of Liberty :

a) Negative Liberty : The concept of Liberty as emerged from the theory and practice of early liberalism is known as Negative Liberty. This conception found classical expressions in the writings of John Locke, David Hume, Adam Smith, Herbert Spencer and J.S Mill.


* Negative Liberty believes that liberty is absence of restraints. Liberty implies that the individual has some assured private sphere, that there is some set of circumstances in his environment with which others cannot interfere. J.S Mill saw it as a “circle around every individual human being”, ” a space entrenched around”, “a reserved territory”.)
* State should be a limited state.
* Law and Liberty are contradictory.
* There is a distinction between Liberty and Conditions of Liberty.
* State should not intervene in the economy. Therefore they supported the policy of Laissez Faire.
* Liberty and Equality are contradictory. Criticism of the negative conception of liberty.

b) Positive Liberty : The positive conception of Liberty associates liberty with society, socio-economic conditions, rights, equality and justice. Laski, Barker, Rawls are the supporters of this notion of liberty. It is the “positive power” or “capacity of doing or enjoying something worth doing/enjoying”.

According to Laski :

* Liberty is essential for man’s material and moral development. Like Justice and Equality, it is not an empty social idea floating in the air, but drives its specific content and meaning from a particular social and historical milieu in which it has to be understood. In the present context, it is not absence of restraints but a positive condition for free and full development of the individual in the society.
* All restraints are not evil. Positive liberty affirmed that restraints in some contexts are not antagonistic to liberty but its guarantee.
* Law and Liberty are complementary.
* The state is not an enemy of liberty but its best promoter. The duty of the state is not to leave the individual alone but, through positive action, create conditions and opportunities for the realization of liberty.
* Liberty and equality are complementary to each other.

Freedom cannot exist without conditions of freedom.

The difficulty with this argument is that it implies that someone else. (E.g The government knows better what is good for you. Therefore he (or it) should have the right to impose it on you in your own interest! This, it is argued can very easily lead to dictatorship and Fascism.

The Views of Macpherson

In the recent years Macpherson has presented a forceful case for positive liberty. He calls this “development liberty”. He says, “the division will be better marked if we change the name of positive liberty to developmental liberty”. Defining the concept he says, “positive liberty is liberty to act as a full human being”. A man’s positive liberty is virtually the same as what I have called a man’s power in the development sense.” Macpherson maintains the liberty means the capitalist mode of production, based on private property, should be replaced some other liberty of another individual. He says, “since each individual’s liberty must diminish or destroy the liberty of another individual, says that the only sensible way to measure individual liberty is to measure the aggregate net liberty of all the individuals in a given society.” So the measurement of liberty is the total liberty available to all the members of the society. Thus Macpherson gives importance to the social dimension of liberty.

The Main Points :

* Liberty is not the absence of restraints, rather it is the presence of those socio-economic and political conditions without which liberty cannot be realized.
* The object of liberty is the development of man as a social being.
* Without proper opportunities and social conditions liberty cannot be realized.
* Rights are necessary for liberty and are related to justice, morality and equality.
* The liberties of an individual must correspond with social welfare.
* The duty of the state is to create positive conditions for the realization of liberty and for this the state can limit the liberties of some individuals. However, the government must be a responsible government. The state is not viewed as an enemy of personal liberty.
* Liberty is a social requirement of social man and it is not given to asocial and anti-social beings.

Difference between Negative and Positive Liberty

a) Negative Liberty gives more weight to the personal aspect of man and regards liberty as inherent in the personality of an individual. The positive view of liberty looks at in the social context and maintains that it is based on the socio-economic and political conditions of society.

b) The negative view regard liberty as the absence of restraints, whereas the view of positive liberty emphasizes the positive conditions for the realization of liberty.

c) The negative view assumes that the State in an enemy of personal liberty, while the positive view assigns the responsibility of creating the positive conditions for the liberalization of liberty to the state.

d) The negative liberty emphasizes the personal and political aspects of liberty whereas and the positive view emphasizes the social and economic aspects of liberty.

e) The view of negative liberty does not associate it with rights, equality, morality and justice; the positive view regards liberty, equality and justice mutually related.

f) The view of negative liberty supports the negative state with minimum functions and the positive view supports the positive state with welfare functions.

g) The negative view is based on the market concept of society – that it is composed of atomized individuals having natural liberty. The positive view emphasizes the social aspect of man.

h) Liberalism supported negative liberty in its earlier phase while positive liberty has been supported mainly during the present century. Socialism also supports the positive view of liberty and maintains that only by the abolition of private property the necessary conditions for the realization of liberty can be established.
Kinds of Liberty :

a) Personal or Civil Liberty : Personal or civil liberty refers to a sphere of human actions in which the individuals are left to their own choice without being restrained by the state or other individuals or social groups. Generally they involve, freedom of thought and belief, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of movement freedom from social or physical coercion unless sanctioned by law, freedom of assembly, freedom to hold property and freedom to seek constitutional remedies in case any of the above freedom is violated.

b) Political Liberty : Political freedom involves freedom to participate in the political processes and in making political decisions. Modern democratic states seek to ensure political liberty of citizens by the following well known rights. It encompasses :

* Freedom to vote
* Freedom to stand for election
* Freedom to hold public offices
* Freedom to express views on all issues
* Freedom to seek accountability from the rulers

c) Economic Liberty : It is a freedom to pursue one’s livelihood and opportunity to obtain full value of one’s labor. In classical liberalism, economic liberty can be understood as freedom of trade and free market in which state doesn’t interfere.

New liberals however argue that mere freedom of trade deprives a vast number of people of their livelihood. For them, economic liberty means absence of constant fear of unemployment, presence of relative security of the terms and conditions of labor, adequate leisure right to arbitrate the conditions of employment, provision of public utilities etc.

d) National Liberty : Refers to the freedom of nations to determine their own internal and external affairs unrestrained by other states. This liberty confers on the people and the nations the right of self determination to seek their own distinctive identity and political independence.

Marxist view of Freedom : Marx states that the class character of the state in the capitalist society, reduces “freedom” to a class phenomenon. The Marxist interpretations regarding the real meaning and nature of liberty depend mainly on the nature and scope of economic liberty available in the pattern of social life. In the burgeois theory and practice, freedom is basically elitist and racist. Marx clearly mentioned that true freedom cannot be attained in a bourgeois society. Marx clearly mentioned that true freedom cannot be attained in a burgeois society. Bourgeios or capitalist society is characterized by the private ownership of means of production. It is a class divided society and in such a society freedom becomes the privilege of the capitalist class. All civil and political liberties are enjoyed by a particular class and majority of the society is deprived of these liberties. The Marxists argue that as long as the means of production remain in the hands of the capitalist class there can be no universalistic notion of freedom. The capitalist system of production is characteristized by constraint or necessity – a condition under which man’s life is governed by laws of nature that are independent of man’s will. So, only socialization of the means of production can help society to tide over this crisis, ushering in a new era of freedom.

The Marxist view of freedom is different from that of the liberal view. As Marx says, “man’s right to freedom is based not on association of man with man, but on the contrary, on the isolation of man from man. It is a right to this isolation, the right of the limited, secluded individual.”

The Marxist view emphasizes the need for creating new socio-economic conditions conducive to the enjoyment of freedom by all, as distinguished from the limited freedom of the propertied class in the capitalist society. So freedom cannot be secured by retaining the capitalist system even after necessary readjustments are made. True freedom can develop and grow only in a new socialist, classless society that would come into being after liquidation of the capitalist state.

J.S Mill : John Stuart Mill is one of the finest and the most moving essay on liberty. It makes an eloquent and powerful plea for liberty of thought and expression. It offers a defense not merely against the state interference but also against the pressures of the society, public opinion and religious orthodoxy on the affairs of the individual.

“Man is sovereign(Supreme) over his body(action), mind and soul(Speech and Thought)” – Mill

According to Mill liberty is the highest political ideal because the ultimate goal of human life is development of personality which is possible only in an atmosphere of liberty.

Mill defines liberty as non-interference of state and society in the thought process and personal action and rational interference of state and society in the thought process and personal action and rational interference in those actions which affect the society.

According to Mill there are two aspects of freedom :

* Freedom of thought, speech and expression
* Freedom of action

He supports absolute freedom in the domain of thought, speech and expression. Unless absolute freedom of opinion and sentiment – scientific, moral and theological – is guaranteed, a society is not completely free. His famous dictim was “If all mankind minus one were of one opinion and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power would be justified in silencing mankind.

He based freedom of opinion and expression on three grounds : a) Any opinion we silence may be true b) Though the silenced opinion may be erraneous, it may be partly true and because the prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely the complete truth, it is only by the collusion of adverse opinion may be completely true, it will inevitably becoming a dogma, prejudice and formula unless it is exposed to the challenge of free discussion.

Regarding freedom of action, Mill divided the activities of the individual into two parts :

a) Self Regarding b) Other-Regarding

The self regarding action may include those matters which affect the individual himself, having no concern with others.

Other regarding actions are those actions of the individual which affect the society as a whole. In self regarding actions, he again supports absolute liberty. But he permits state intervention in other regarding actions. At this juncture we can clearly see the emerging idea of positive liberty is Mills Philosophy though his overall emphasis is in the favor of negative liberty.

Criticism :

a) Barker says that Mill has glorified liberty but Mill didn’t formulate a philosophy of rights to protect liberty.
b) At maximum placed, Mill seems to be a supporter of negative liberty which according to Barker is empty notion of liberty.

Abstract Individual : According to Barker, Mill divides human action into self regarding actions and other regarding actions that means these are some actions of individual (self regarding) which affect the individual (self regarding) which affect the individual directly or indirectly affects other members of society. There Mill is talking of an abstract individual.

b) Mill’s emphasis on unrestricted freedom of speech and expression may lead to many social problems. For example : Contempt of court or judiciary, security of state, harm to public morality and harm to dignity of follow beings.

c) Uninterrupted freedom of speech of expression may lead to social tension and social violence.

Significance :

a) Mills arguments = logically sound
b) Mill = tried to combine together both negative and positive liberty by formulating non interference in self regarding action and logical interference in other regarding action
c) Mill’s view on liberty are very important to protect the individual from the dictatorship of state and society.

Therefore, in contemporary days also in the era of growing intolerance and social censorship, Mill’s views on liberty may be used as justification for liberty.
Freedom and Responsibility

Satre says “Man is free”. Freedom does not mean a property of existence. “To be” is identical with “to be free”. Existence and freedom are the two aspects of the same coin. Man has no other option than to choose. One can say “A man may be guided by others”. Satre says that man himself has chosen to be guided by other. This decision is also taken by man himself. Man when guided by other also chooses to be guided by others. Here too he is free.

Man has free choices in all cases. Man always finds himself in certain situation and in every situation there are many possibilities and he is compelled to choose one of those possibilities. It does not mean that he cannot be influenced by others. He can be. But it is on the man to accept a particular influence or to reject command or other from superior are also open to man to abide or go against. Satre refers to Abraham’s story. One day God commaned (ordered) him t sacrifice the dearest things. He sacrified his dearest son. Satre says there that even here Abraham was free to choose. He was free to either obey god or not obey him. So he was free. Always the choice is made by man ultimately.

Satre points out limitation in freedom. One can’t choose his/her family. These things are called faciticity. These are factual conditions : socio-political condition, death etc. are limitation to freedom.

a) A limitation becomes a hurdle only if I choose. If I don’t choose, there is no hurdle. (A thing appears to be limited because a person choose. If you don’t choose, there is no limitation) eg a locked room is limited, when one wants to go out.

b) Even in a limited condition there are several options/alternatives.

c) Finally, some people confused to equate choice with successes. Freedom of choices doesn’t mean the freedom to succeed. Freedom doesn’t mean successful action. Man is free to choose, not to act successfully. Freedom is not destroyed by failure. Successful doing and freedom are different things. Therefore man is completely free in this sense.

Along with freedom comes responsibility. Man is free and is also responsible for choices and his actions. Man always finds himself in certain situations and every such situation provides you with many possibilities and he is compelled to choose from one of these possibilities.

If man is free, he is responsible for what he chooses. If man is angry, he has chosen to be angry. Earlier Satre said even the moods and situation is chosen by man. Man is completely responsible for his decision. One cannot give excuses. There is no escape route/go at for ones decision. Freedom is necessarily connected with responsibility. More freedom means more responsibility.

Responsibility creates strength – when a man chooses something, he assigns value. If it is value then it should be for others also, i.e by a particular choice I’m not only responsible for myself I become responsible for others as well.

This realization increases the feeling of anguish and anguish at times becomes unbearable. (As others may not agree with your choices)

Anguish is tormenting and unbearable. It is painful, full of anguish. So people often try to avoid responsibility. If one avoids responsibility.

What is to be done : Bad Faith

There are a number of ways a person tries to avoid responsibility such as circumstances, fate, God. If there’s a decision which is really of great important one do not postpone it.

* Any attempt to skip from responsibility is bad faith.
* People try to make other things responsible like God, circumstances etc.

One is in inauthentic existence. Satre calls it Bad Faith. Procrastination is a type of BAD FAITH. There are two types of Bad Faith :

* One is “playing the role”. He gives an example of a waiter in a restaurant.

A waiter in a cafe employed for 5-6 hrs. But waiter wears persona (mask) of waiter which he’s not. Waiter takes his role seriously and forgets that he’s a real human being and waiter is a part timejob. He forget that so he becomes polite, most likely, but everywhere he isn’t waiter. He changes his whole personality and starts playing role of waiter. So, most of us assume the role which is assigned to us by society. We become Prisoner of Image and forget our real thing, creative-choice etc. This happens with inauthentic beings.

* Second way is “Treating oneself as material things”

E.g Young boy and girl – intellectual talk. One day boy holds girl’s hand. Girl has to decision. But she doesn’t takes decision and sensation occurs in their body and mind. Hand in boy’s hand and mind not taking decision.

Bad faith is self deception. It is also similar to telling lie to oneself. Here the speaker deceives himself.

Authentic existence means admitting the responsibility of what a man does or chooses.

* If a man realizes his freedom and responsibility, he’s an authentic being.
* If he tries to escape from the responsibility he is inauthentic and he is a fallen being.



Socrates: Philosophical Life

The most interesting and influential thinker in the fifth century was Socrates, whose dedication to careful reasoning transformed the entire enterprise. Since he sought genuine knowledge rather than mere victory over an opponent, Socrates employed the same logical tricks developed by the Sophists to a new purpose, the pursuit of truth. Thus, his willingness to call everything into question and his determination to accept nothing less than an adequate account of the nature of things make him the first clear exponent of critical philosophy.

Although he was well known during his own time for his conversational skills and public teaching, Socrates wrote nothing, so we are dependent upon his students (especially Xenophon and Plato) for any detailed knowledge of his methods and results. The trouble is that Plato was himself a philosopher who often injected his own theories into the dialogues he presented to the world as discussions between Socrates and other famous figures of the day. Nevertheless, it is usually assumed that at least the early dialogues of Plato provide a (fairly) accurate representation of Socrates himself.

Euthyphro: What is Piety?

In the Ευθυφρων (Euthyphro), for example, Socrates engaged in a sharply critical conversation with an over-confident young man. Finding Euthyphro perfectly certain of his own ethical rectitude even in the morally ambiguous situation of prosecuting his own father in court, Socrates asks him to define what “piety” (moral duty) really is. The demand here is for something more than merely a list of which actions are, in fact, pious; instead, Euthyphro is supposed to provide a general definition that captures the very essence of what piety is. But every answer he offers is subjected to the full force of Socrates’s critical thinking, until nothing certain remains.

Specifically, Socrates systematically refutes Euthyphro’s suggestion that what makes right actions right is that the gods love (or approve of) them. First, there is the obvious problem that, since questions of right and wrong often generate interminable disputes, the gods are likely to disagree among themselves about moral matters no less often than we do, making some actions both right and wrong. Socrates lets Euthypro off the hook on this one by aggreeing—only for purposes of continuing the discussion—that the gods may be supposed to agree perfectly with each other. (Notice that this problem arises only in a polytheistic culture.)

More significantly, Socrates generates a formal dilemma from a (deceptively) simple question: “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” (Euthyphro 10 a) Neither alternative can do the work for which Euthyphro intends his definition of piety. If right actions are pious only because the gods love them, then moral rightness is entirely arbitrary, depending only on the whims of the gods. If, on the other hand, the gods love right actions only because they are already right, then there must be some non-divine source of values, which we might come to know independently of their love.

In fact, this dilemma proposes a significant difficulty at the heart of any effort to define morality by reference to an external authority. (Consider, for example, parallel questions with a similar structure: “Do my parents approve of this action because it is right, or is it right because my parents approve of it?” or “Does the College forbid this activity because it is wrong, or is it wrong because the College forbids it?”) On the second alternative in each case, actions become right (or wrong) solely because of the authority’s approval (or disapproval); its choice, then, has no rational foundation, and it is impossible to attribute laudable moral wisdom to the authority itself. So this horn is clearly unacceptable. But on the first alternative, the authority approves (or disapproves) of certain actions because they are already right (or wrong) independently of it, and whatever rational standard it employs as a criterion for making this decision must be accessible to us as well as to it. Hence, we are in principle capable of distinguishing right from wrong on our own.

Thus, an application of careful techniques of reasoning results in genuine (if negative) progress in the resolution of a philosophical issue. Socrates’s method of insistent questioning at least helps us to eliminate one bad answer to a serious question. At most, it points us toward a significant degree of intellectual independence. The character of Euthyphro, however, seems unaffected by the entire process, leaving the scene at the end of the dialogue no less self-confident than he had been at its outset. The use of Socratic methods, even when they clearly result in a rational victory, may not produce genuine conviction in those to whom they are applied.

Apology: The Examined Life

Because of his political associations with an earlier regime, the Athenian democracy put Socrates on trial, charging him with undermining state religion and corrupting young people. The speech he offered in his own defense, as reported in Plato’s Απολογημα (Apology), provides us with many reminders of the central features of Socrates’s approach to philosophy and its relation to practical life.

Ironic Modesty:
Explaining his mission as a philosopher, Socrates reports an oracular message telling him that “No one is wiser than you.” (Apology 21a) He then proceeds through a series of ironic descriptions of his efforts to disprove the oracle by conversing with notable Athenians who must surely be wiser. In each case, however, Socrates concludes that he has a kind of wisdom that each of them lacks: namely, an open awareness of his own ignorance.
Questioning Habit:
The goal of Socratic interrogation, then, is to help individuals to achieve genuine self-knowledge, even if it often turns out to be negative in character. As his cross-examination of Meletus shows, Socrates means to turn the methods of the Sophists inside-out, using logical nit-picking to expose (rather than to create) illusions about reality. If the method rarely succeeds with interlocutors, it can nevertheless be effectively internalized as a dialectical mode of reasoning in an effort to understand everything.
Devotion to Truth:
Even after he has been convicted by the jury, Socrates declines to abandon his pursuit of the truth in all matters. Refusing to accept exile from Athens or a commitment to silence as his penalty, he maintains that public discussion of the great issues of life and virtue is a necessary part of any valuable human life. “The unexamined life is not worth living.” (Apology 38a) Socrates would rather die than give up philosophy, and the jury seems happy to grant him that wish.
Dispassionate Reason:
Even when the jury has sentenced him to death, Socrates calmly delivers his final public words, a speculation about what the future holds. Disclaiming any certainty about the fate of a human being after death, he nevertheless expresses a continued confidence in the power of reason, which he has exhibited (while the jury has not). Who really wins will remain unclear.
Plato’s dramatic picture of a man willing to face death rather than abandoning his commitment to philosophical inquiry offers up Socrates as a model for all future philosophers. Perhaps few of us are presented with the same stark choice between philosophy and death, but all of us are daily faced with opportunities to decide between convenient conventionality and our devotion to truth and reason. How we choose determines whether we, like Socrates, deserve to call our lives philosophical.

Crito: The Individual and the State

Plato’s description of Socrates’s final days continued in the Κριτων (Crito). Now in prison awaiting execution, Socrates displays the same spirit of calm reflection about serious matters that had characterized his life in freedom. Even the patent injustice of his fate at the hands of the Athenian jury produces in Socrates no bitterness or anger. Friends arrive at the jail with a foolproof plan for his escape from Athens to a life of voluntary exile, but Socrates calmly engages them in a rational debate about the moral value of such an action.

Of course Crito and the others know their teacher well, and they come prepared to argue the merits of their plan. Escaping now would permit Socrates to fulfil his personal obligations in life. Moreover, if he does not follow the plan, many people will suppose that his friends did not care enough for him to arrange his escape. Therefore, in order to honor his commitments and preserve the reputation of his friends, Socrates ought to escape from jail.

But Socrates dismisses these considerations as irrelevant to a decision about what action is truly right. What other people will say clearly doesn’t matter. As he had argued in the Apology, the only opinion that counts is not that of the majority of people generally, but rather that of the one individual who truly knows. The truth alone deserves to be the basis for decisions about human action, so the only proper apporoach is to engage in the sort of careful moral reasoning by means of which one may hope to reveal it.

Socrates’s argument proceeds from the statement of a perfectly general moral principle to its application in his particular case:

One ought never to do wrong (even in response to the evil committed by another).
But it is always wrong to disobey the state.
Hence, one ought never to disobey the state.
And since avoiding the sentence of death handed down by the Athenian jury would be an action in disobedience the state, it follows Socrates ought not to escape.
The argument is a valid one, so we are committed to accepting its conclusion if we believe that its premises are true. The general commitment to act rightly is fundamental to a moral life, and it does seem clear that Socrates’s escape would be a case of disobedience. But what about the second premise, the claim that it is always wrong for an individual to disobey the state? Surely that deserves further examination. In fact, Socrates pictures the laws of Athens proposing two independent lines of argument in favor of this claim:

First, the state is to us as a parent is to a child, and since it is always wrong for a child to disobey a parent, it follows that it is always wrong to disobey the state. (Crito 50e) Here we might raise serious doubts about the legitimacy of the analogy between our parents and the state. Obedience to our parents, after all, is a temporary obligation that we eventually outgrow by learning to make decisions for ourselves, while Socrates means to argue that obeying the state is a requirement right up until we die. Here it might be useful to apply the same healthy disrespect for moral authority that Socrates himself expressed in the Euthyphro.

The second argument is that it is always wrong to break an agreement, and since continuing to live voluntarily in a state constitutes an agreement to obey it, it is wrong to disobey that state. (Crito 52e) This may be a better argument; only the second premise seems open to question. Explicit agreements to obey some authority are common enough—in a matriculation pledge or a contract of employment, for example—but most of us have not entered into any such agreement with our government. Even if we suppose, as the laws suggest, that the agreement is an implicit one to which we are committed by our decision to remain within their borders, it is not always obvious that our choice of where to live is entirely subject to our individual voluntary control.

Nevertheless, these considerations are serious ones. Socrates himself was entirely convinced that the arguments hold, so he concluded that it would be wrong for him to escape from prison. As always, of course, his actions conformed to the outcome of his reasoning. Socrates chose to honor his commitment to truth and morality even though it cost him his life