Some Thoughts on Ancient Civilizations' Trinity of Philosophy, Religion and Economics

By Sharma, Soumitra | The Journal of Philosophical Economics, Autumn 2017 | Go to article overview

Some Thoughts on Ancient Civilizations' Trinity of Philosophy, Religion and Economics


Sharma, Soumitra, The Journal of Philosophical Economics


Introduction

In above context, at least three important facts should be recognized. First, that human history is an excellent teacher. It is continuous and there are no gaps in it. If at all, there are, these are the gaps in our memory and knowledge alone. Second, that human nature and behaviour have not changed fundamentally, over the course of history. Over time, factors such as enhancement in individual's knowledge, development in science and technology, political and socio-economic conditions, impact of religion etc. had only partial and temporary effects (see Braudel, 1993). Third, nothing begins from afresh as it has already been there in the past, in some form or the other. Thus, past and future are very much related. Future is just an embryo in the womb of the past. To look at the future one must look at the past.

This paper, by looking at the history of civilizations, tries to look back at the functioning of the then existing mechanism of socio-economic order by examining the relationship between three fundamental spheres of human life - philosophy, religion and economics. Naturally, the question arises, why to go back to the history? The answer could probably be: Because, for one or the other reason, these civilizations were considered 'great'. Historians suggest various reasons, such as, the vast geographical area these covered, their military might, their economic growth and trade record, their efficient public administration, for their deliverance of socio-economic welfare to larger section of people, or their contributions to architecture, science, medicine, technology, and their cultural legacy etc.

From ancient history, interestingly, enough, we learn that humans have consistently fought to create a better future. Visions of intellectuals, rulers, men of faiths, and business people have helped shape civilizations to progress. But, underneath this progress were also sown the seeds of their downfall, for relatively soon the future visions of an 'endless' progress ended abruptly (in a relative sense) for reasons of wars, natural disasters, poor socio-political management of societies, etc. As continuity and recovery are natural processes, again and again, these civilizations started their rebuilding, but their past determined their future, and rarely any of these rose to its glorious past again.

Human history, further, suggests that Homo sapiens have trotted the land for over 250.000 years, but organized civilizations have existed only since 5000 BC. In the dawn of time, some grand civilizations of the ancient world emerged on the banks of great rivers: Sumerian, Babylonian and Assyrian on the Euphrates and Tigris, Egyptian on the Nile, pre-Indian along the Indus, Chinese along the Yellow River, Dravidian and Aryan in Indus basin and Ganges-Yamuna valley and so on. Only, Israeli and Persian civilizations survived in mountainous and desert lands, but after great struggles. Geographically, in different parts of the 'Old World' these civilizations and cultures produced prosperous societies with highly developed philosophies and religious beliefs of their own.

This short study is organized into four sections: While 'Introduction' sets forth some basic thoughts for consideration, the section on 'Philosophy, Religion, Arts and Economics', tries to examine the ideological structure of a mutual relationship of these segments; the following section, 'The trinity of Philosophy, Religion, and Economics', develops some arguments that put to doubt the claimed thesis of relationship; and the 'Concluding remarks', are gist of the entire exercise.

Philosophy, Religion, Arts and Economics [1]

Since humans have been able, they have used philosophy, literature, religion, art, music, history and language to understand and record our world. Progress in each field had neither been parallel nor continuous. Each segment did make some strides at one or the other point on the time scale, depending on the political, religious, cultural and economic circumstances. …

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