The untold story about Greek rational thought: Buddhist and other Indian rationalist influences on sophist rhetoric
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During the fifth and the early fourth century B. C. E.. Greek Sophist rhetoricians developed rational thinking in many fields such as in epistemology, anthropology, sociology, religion, and politics. Despite the popular belief that the traditional Greek society provided the influential sources for sophist rationalists, the dissertation argues that Greeks sophist thinkers-Protagoras, Gorgias, Antiphon, Critias, and others-were mainly influenced by Buddhist and other Indian rationalist thinking that was prevalent in India prior to the rise of the Greek sophist movement. This dissertation is the first in-depth study of Buddhist and other Indian rationalist influences on Greek sophist rhetoric. After the introduction that prepares the background for the discussion in the dissertation, Chapter II deals with the natural origin and development of Indian rationality. As a reaction to the social difficulties caused by the metaphysical and ideological concepts invented by the early Hindu tradition, Indian skeptics, materialists, Jains, and Buddhists developed rational argument against Hindu beliefs. In this development, the Brahmin myths of creation, transmigration of the soul, and Brahma were challenged vigorously by the rationalist traditions. Also, the competition between the orthodox Hindu beliefs and the rationalists' free inquiry about those beliefs gave rise to other rhetorical techniques such as style, organization, and presentation of arguments. Chapter III discusses the parallel development of rational thought in Greece with attention to the possible influence of Indian concepts on Greek thinkers from the sixth century B. C. E. Attention is drawn in this chapter mainly to Pythagoras, Empedocles. and Democritus, the forefathers of Greek sophist rhetoric, as the followers of Indian rational concepts. Chapter IV discusses in detail the similarities between Indian and Greek rational thought. Here, the rationalist concepts of Protagoras, Gorgias, and several other sophist thinkers, as well as their techniques in presentation, are closely evaluated in the light of Indian rationality in order to indicate a possible Indian influences on the Older Sophists. Chapter V reveals more evidence of possible influence, easy accessibility to Indian concepts in Greece and in Persia, and the ancient routes of communication between India and Greece.