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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 63

An Idealist View of Life has a marked mystical foundation in the theory of knowledge. In this regard, it may be said to express the main Hindu tradition in philosophy. This is one reason for its importance. The other is the author’s familiarity with Western philosophy and science. Though his general standpoint guides him, there is no turning away from crucial problems.

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Radhakrishnan’s Idealism

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 282

Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan recognizes that the term “idealism” needs definition. It is clear that he is not a subjective idealist of the mode of the early George Berkeley. Nor does he much concern himself with Hegelian rationalistic Idealism. Rather, his emphasis is on the relation of value to reality. The truly real is replete with value. The alignment is with the Upanishads in India and the outlook of the Platonists, especially that of Plotinus, the father of the Western tradition of mysticism.

The book reflects the meeting of the East and the West. The broad sweep of Radhakrishnan’s thought brings together Hindu classic thinkers with the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, and with the Anglo-American idealists Francis Herbert Bradley and Josiah Royce. Less attention is paid to Western naturalism and realism. That is both the strength and the weakness of the book. It stands out as an excellent example of its perspective, and it has both scope and verve.

Radhakrishnan’s general argument is that the ideal world, which alone is real, lies beyond the phenomenal one of appearance yet is tied in with it and dominates it. Spirit is working in matter that matter may serve spirit. In a sense, matter is an abstraction and not a concrete reality, such as spirit. That is why materialism can be absorbed and transcended. It is doubtful whether Western materialists would accept this thesis, but it goes quite logically with the author’s outlook. For him, the center of the universe is the transcendent, the Absolute, Brahma, that which has aseity, being. However, despite this assurance—rather, because of it—he is sympathetic with other points of view because they have their partial truth.

Religion and Mysticism

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 630

The first of the eight lectures concerns itself with the modern challenge to the religious outlook on the universe as a result of scientific and social thought. Here the author confronts psychology specialists Sigmund Freud, John B. Watson, and Émile Durkheim. The second lecture notes contemporary movements such as humanism, naturalism, and logical positivism. These are tied in with science. In all this, the author is frank and well informed. He is not trying to defend specific orthodoxies. Like the Buddhist, he has no tradition of particular doctrines in geology and biology. Science is to be accepted but has its limits.

It is in the third lecture that Radhakrishnan states the basic claims of the religious consciousness, especially at the mystical level. He introduces intuition as a way of knowledge alternative to that of sense perception or discursive conception. He puts forward the claim for an integral apprehension of ultimate reality. It is a knowledge by identity that transcends the distinction between subject and object. Here, of course, is where dispute arises. Those who do not have the mystical vision are likely to deny its significance.

In the fourth lecture, Radhakrishnan develops the idea that scientific certainty is not the only kind of certainty available to us. A query may, of course, be raised as to the scientific claim that is usually more modestly put as an affair of working hypotheses. However, the author is ready to admit that, in the mystical...

(The entire section contains 3579 words.)

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