Political authority and social justice. A philosophical study of Arthasastra

01 November 2022 → 31 October 2025
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Philosophy of humanities
    • Philosophy of religion
    • Social and political philosophy
    • Social ethics
Indian philosophy political authority social justice Philosophy Ethics and morality Gender Religion
Project description

The project investigates the fundamental philosophical and ethical concepts that influenced Kauṭilya and their impact on the social and political realm as reflected in the treatise “Arthaśāstra” (1- 2nd cent. CE). It offers a new interpretation of the text in the context of its cultural background, i.e. investigating non-Brahminical (mainly Buddhist and Jain) philosophical elements in the earliest recensions of the text. These, and related issues, constitute a starting point of a thesis that Kauṭilya was not a political realist mainly concerned with power and motivated by self-interest, as occasionally insinuated in topic literature by the Machiavellian alignment. Instead, he was a thinker committed to the well-being of others and the harmonious function of a society. The main part inquires on how the implicated key mechanisms of practical reasoning and principled action support social justice. It offers a thorough analysis of the directives, which specifically ensure collective success (artha) of a cosmopolitan community. The subsequent part discusses ‘political authority’ in three central questions: - to what extent is political authority an independent pursuit? - to what extent is it impacted by external institutions and social realities? - how should the ruler address the potential contradictions between the rules of institutions and the rule of law? Last, I reassess two cases of the applications of social justice: the status of women and environmental measures.