Spiritualism or Materialism: A Philosophical Reflection of Swami Vivekananda’s Thought


Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), a synergy of flamboyance and spiritual depth, is one of the most prominent figures of modern times. His spiritualism inheres a deep concern for the poor. In his various speeches and writings, he emphasized the need of the material development of the poor. There is a misconception that he glorified religion and spirituality and ignored the basic material needs of the poor. This paper is an attempt to examine such allegations and misconceptions, and delineates his philosophy in a comprehensive way, that synthesizes spirituality and materialism. It also deals with the problem of ideological categorization of spiritualism and materialism.According to Vivekananda human beings are not just physical and material beings that exist to satisfy their senses but spiritual beings as well. It is this spirituality that unites humanity across the world at a higher level. But, mere spirituality is not enough. Therefore, he underscores the need for material development also.He was well aware about the condition of suffering humanity, living in abject poverty. He was of the opinion that to solve this problem we need not only Oriental spiritualism but also Occidental materialism. Whereas some scholars consider spirituality and materialism as opposing domains, Vivekananda perceives them as complementary and mutually beneficial. In this context he appreciated the work-ethics of Japan and America, which he had witnessed during his visits to these countries. This inclusive approach is the need of the hour for an overall development of human civilization.

Author Information
Satyendra Srivastava, University of Delhi, India

Paper Information
Conference: ACERP2018
Stream: Ethics - Comparative Ethics

This paper is part of the ACERP2018 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon