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Monday, December 6, 2010

Indian Philosophy and working on a team

Indian Philosophy has still not reached the consideration it deserves within Western studies. Apart from historical reasons, this can be explained as a result of the lack of viable editions and translations of Sanskrit philosophical texts. Again, this absence is also due to the many tasks required by the editor and/or translator of such texts. On the one hand, one needs both philological and philosophical skills. On the other, Indian philosophers themselves were not specialists of only one subject and rather discussed with scholars of different affiliations. The very texture of Indian philosophical texts is made of objections and various replies held by exponents of both the so-called "orthodox" traditions (that is, the traditions which accept the authority of the Vedas) and of Buddhist (partly also of Jainist and materialist) ones. Hence, team work is not just a desideratum in Indian studies. In many cases (especially among young researchers who may not have acquired wide-ranging knowledge about the whole Indian Philosophy) a team of specialists in the different philosophical traditions is the prerequisite for a sound study of Indian texts.

Did readers working on their own find a different solution?

4 comments:

michael reidy said...

My own feeling about this coming from a pure philosophy background, as you would expect,is that a basic grounding in general philosophy is essential to an understanding of special philosophy. Again and again I have seen swamis and pandits who probably dream in Sanskrit absolutely failing to understand the classical aporiai of Vedanta.

Anonymous said...

Je crois, chère Elisa, que le manque d'intérêt pour la philosophie indienne est la cause, et non la conséquence, de la pénurie de textes et de traduction. Ce manque d'intérêt est bien réel : on peut suivre, en Occident, un cursus universitaire complet de philosophie pure - 5 années de cours, dont des cours encyclopédiques - sans jamais entendre parler d'un seul texte indien. Peut-être Heidegger nous en suggère-t-il la vraie raison quand il nous parle de l'histoire de la métaphysique et de l'oubli de l'être ?
Bernard Lombart

elisa freschi said...

Michael, you are obviously right. But the question is: why is not Indian philosophypart of the "basic grounding in general philosophy" you refer to? Why is "general philosophy" tantamount to "Western philosophy"? As Bernard wrote, it is interesting to note that one can take a degree in "Philosophy" totally ignoring the very existence of non-Western authors (apart, possibly from some elements of "Hebrew" or "Islamic" philosophy). I am not advocating a space for classes on "Indian philosophy" (as a sort of philosophical ghetto), but rather of Indian authors and ideas being discussed along with their Western counterparts.

elisa freschi said...

Bernard, thanks for your comment and suggestion. You might be right as for Heidegger… but more basically I would suggest that the lack of interest and the lack of tools for the study of Indian philosophy constitute a sort of Catch 22. It is hard to get interested into something you cannot approach.

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