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3.1 Indigenous Philosophy

When humans shift from religious answers to questions about purpose and meaning to more naturalistic and logical answers, they move from the realm of myth to reason. In Greek, this movement is described as a move from mythos to logos, where mythos signifies the supernatural stories we tell, while logos signifies the rational, logical, and scientific stories we tell. Rather than seeing a decisive break from mythological thinking to rational thinking, we should understand the transition from mythos to logos as a gradual, uneven, and zig-zagging progression.

Indigenous thought has in the past been seen as wisdom lying outside the realm of academic discussion; however, recent scholarship has challenged this assumption. The philosophies of Indigenous African and North American peoples provide understandings of the self and of society that complement and challenge traditional Western ideas. The Maya possessed advanced understandings of mathematics and astronomy as well as metaphysical concepts of a solar life force. The Aztec had a highly developed epistemology that grounded truth within an understanding of an individual’s character and recognized the fundamental and total character of the universe as a godlike force or energy.

3.2 Classical Indian Philosophy

Indian philosophical traditions are a few centuries older than the earliest European philosophical traditions.

Philosophers from both Greek and India see philosophy as not just a theoretical activity but also a practical endeavor—a way of life. The earliest philosophical texts in India are the four Vedas. The Upanishads, a body of scripture added later, contain much of the philosophical core of these Hindu scriptures. According to this tradition, there is a rigid hierarchy to the cosmos that is reflected in the earthly world. Six darshanas, or schools of thought, emerged in Hindu philosophy, each pointing to a different path to seeing and being seen by a sacred being or beings.

The six principal darshanas are Samkhya, Yoga, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Mimamsa, and Vedanta. Samkhya holds that everything is composed of puruṣa (pure, absolute consciousness) and prakriti (matter). Liberation occurs when the mind is freed from the bondage of matter. The purpose of yoga is the stopping of the movement of thought. Only then do individuals encounter their true selves. Nyaya, which can be translated as “method” or “rule,” focuses on logic and epistemology. The Vaisheshika system developed independently of Nyaya, but gradually came to share many of its core ideas. Its epistemology was simpler, allowing for only perception and inference as the forms of reliable knowledge. The Mimamsa school was one of the earliest philosophical schools of Hinduism, and it was grounded in the interpretation of the Vedic texts. It sought to investigate dharma or the duties, rituals, and norms present in society.

3.3 Classical Chinese Philosophy

Early Chinese writings show the beginnings of the theory of yin and yang, the two fundamental forces that are characterized as male and female, dark and light, inactivity and activity. In Confucianism, the five constant virtues are benevolence (ren), righteousness (yi), propriety (li), wisdom (zhi), and trustworthiness (xin). The unifying theme among Daoist religions is a focus on a naturalistic, nontheological view of the underlying basis for morality and goodness. The general moral guidance of Daoism involves becoming aware of the dao, or the natural way of things, and ensuring that one’s actions don’t oppose those natural forces.

The most central doctrine of Mohist philosophy is the principle that every human being is valued equally in the eyes of heaven (tian). In contrast to Confucius, who emphasized the importance of care with distinctions, Mozi advanced the doctrine of inclusive care, following the principle that every human being has equal value in the eyes of heaven. The doctrine of inclusive care leads directly to the doctrine of anti-aggression because the greatest threat to human well-being and care is mutual aggression and war.

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