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Publication Details

Comprehension of Man in Old Indian Materialism

(Original title: Chápanie človeka v staroindickom materializme)
Filozofia, 24 (1969), 6, 641-651.
Type of work: Papers and Discussions
Publication language: Slovak
Replies to the problems of the sense of human life can be found not only in the philosophical and ethical conceptions of Buddhism and Jainism but also in the views of Indian materialistic thinkers. Indian materialism — though its thoughts have been preserved only in fragments and in the writings by its adversaries, is — together with Brahmanism, Jainism and Buddhism — one of the four big wholes of thought in early Indian philosophy. It can only be assumed that Indian materialism existed in rounded formulations of thought since the oldest times of the development of the philosophical thought in India. On the other hand, it can be proved that the individual, fragmentary materialistic tendencies are rather numerous in the works of a philosophical and literary character of the pre-Buddhistic as well as postBuddhistic period, and that not only in the works written in Sanskrit but also in those created in other languages. Even Indian materialism doeu not give up the search for the substance of being (e. g., it creates the theory of four elements), but its basic meaning consists in conceiving such a view of man and his relation to the world, which was in a sharp contradiction to Brahmanic doctrine. Indian materialists denied life after death and pointed out the inevitableness of death which is followed by nothing at all; this is their greatest merit and, at the same time, the most clean-cut difference from the idealistic and religious movements. The realization of this emptiness in which the life of human individuals vanishes, did not conttain common elements with the doctrine on nirvana. Although nirvana is sometimes characterized as „dissolution“, total impersonalization of man, reached, as a rule, by asceticism, it has always a positive meaning: the interruption of the eternal course of rebirths and the attainment of the state of merger in the Deity. However, for Indian materialists death was defined in a markedly negative way, without any eschatological and theological consolations. The denial of any other reality except for that which is „lived“, perceived and felt by man, created in axiology which can be found out in the teaching of Indian materialists, a certain vacuum which necessarily needs completing by an acceptable criterion of value. In this direction the new conception of death was not sufficient because death was, according to this conception, only a dividing line between being and non-being, between the fullness of the perceived world and the emptiness of its non-existence, of total decay and extinction of the percipient.
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