Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Joint Ph.D. Program in Study of Religion

First Advisor

Naomi Reshotko, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Sarah Pessin

Third Advisor

Albert Hernandez


Action, Contemplation, Intellection, Intuition, Virtue, Wisdom


In this study, I argue that Plato, Augustine, and Gandhi hold in common the view that (1) in order to develop understanding of ultimate reality one must--in addition to engaging in contemplation of that reality--engage ethically in the practical world, and (2) in order to engage ethically in the practical world, one must also seek to understand ultimate reality through contemplation.

Much of what is original in the dissertation emerges at the level of the sub-theses I present in support of these ideas. I examine (1) and (2) in Plato by offering a reinterpretation of his conception of dialectic--the practice by which he says we pursue knowledge of the Forms. Focusing on the Republic and Philebus, I argue that dialectic for Plato consists in more than just the various types of the question-and-answer method. He also considers practical experience an essential element of the practice, and closely links dialectic to ethical participation in Forms and the development of a kind of practical expertise guided by noêsis (intuitive insight, understanding).

I examine (1) and (2) in Augustine by analyzing his account of the relationship between the human mind and the divine ideas. Particular attention is given to (1). I show how, on Augustine's view, one can cultivate not just knowledge (scientia), but divine wisdom (sapientia) while engaged in endeavors associated with the active life. We shall see that Augustine finds it possible for the mind to process mutable and immutable reality simultaneously, and that, as the mind purifies and reforms itself, ethical engagement in temporal affairs does not necessarily hinder--and often enhances--the mind's ability to apprehend intelligible objects.

I examine (1) and (2) in Gandhi through an analysis of his conception of the inner voice, prayer, and the life of selfless service. Particular attention is given to (1). Even more than Plato and Augustine, Gandhi believes that we come to know and live in harmony with the eternal by pursuing it while engaging ethically in the world. Still, echoing these authors, he maintains that our ability to epistemically access the divine is not just "a kind of `open sesame' which has just to be shown to the millions"--cultivation of the inner voice requires discipline and constant effort, as well as a radical transformation in worldview.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Brian Timothy Keady


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

211 p.


Philosophy, Ethics, Epistemology