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The Naturalistic Tradition in Indian Thought

The Naturalistic Tradition in Indian Thought
Item Code: NAU178
Author: Dale Riepe
Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd
Language: ENGLISH
ISBN: 9788120812932
Pages: 317
Other Details: 9.00 X 6.00 inch
weight of the book: 0.47 kg
About The Book

The author has demonstrated strong and important naturalistic elements and attitudes in Indian system of Philosophy down to the sixth century. Yet with such an auspicious development, with a longer continuous tradition than Greece had, as misfortune struck India, first, during the period of continuous conflict among the principalities (500-1000), then, during the Muslim Theological supremacy (1000-1650), and finally, during the colonial age of European trade rivalry (1650-1947), naturalism in India was nearly totally replaced by various forms of idealism which tried to make pleasant an imaginary life when the natural one was frequently intolerable. As naturalism grew increasingly stronger in Europe (and Japan), it grew markedly more feeble in India (and China), until in the twentieth century, particularly since India gained Independence (1947), it again began to raise its ancient and honourable standard in the new India.

Part of India’s attempt to understand nature can be told in the history of Indian naturalistic and proto-scientific thought. The author has tried here to sketch the main outlines of Indian naturalism as it appears in both systematic and unsystematic speculation before its decline in the Indian Middle Ages, which began about the time of Muhammad.


The greatest romance cannot equal the story of man's con-quest of nature, a part of which is his conquest of himself. Magnificent histories of science and technology recently have told the story of man's development of techniques for the understanding, prediction, and control of nature in the Near East, the Middle East, Western Europe, and, most recently, in China. However, a comprehensive account of India's science and technology has yet to be written, including a thorough examination of the world's debt to India in mathematics, astronomy, pharmacology; its debt going back to the third millennium B.C. to the pottery wheel, textiles (cotton), the Indus script, and two-wheeled carts; its debt going back to 1000 B. C. to iron-making techniques and somewhat later to crucible Steel. Part of India's attempt to understand nature can be told in the history of Indian naturalistic and protoscientific thought. We have tried here to sketch the main outlines of Indian natural-ism as it appears in both systematic and unsystematic speculation before its decline in the Indian Middle Ages, which began about the time of Muhammad.

Modest interest has been shown publications on India that point out the naturalistic and protoscientific elements &ring the golden age of Indian philosophy (ca. 600 B.C. -A. D. 500). This trend, although never strong, may be said to have begun in the nineteenth century with T. H. Colebrooke's earliest writings on Hindu philosophy, read by Hegel in 1823, a year before its publication, and thereafter rapidly disseminated throughout Europe from London to St. Petersburg. A much more outspoken attempt to reveal naturalistic trends in early Indian thought was published by C. Schoebel as "Naturalisnne du Rig-Veda et son influence sur la societe indienne" in 1852. This was followed by the Works of H. H. Wilson in 1862, and M. V. Vassilief's Le Bouddhisme ses dogmes son histoire et sa litterature, translated from the Russian in 1865.

Just before the turn of the last century, Richard Garbe's Philosophy of Ancient India appeared in 1897. Other significant works to follow were A. F. R. Hoernle's Studies in the Medicine of Ancient India in 1907, Luigi Suali's Introduzione alto studio della filosofia indiana in 1913, Brajendranath Seal's The Positive Science of the Ancient Hindus in 1915, and Alfred Hillebrandt's "Zur Kenntnis der indischen Materialisten" in 1916.

After the first World War, in 1920, Richard Fick published The Social Organisation in North-East India in Buddha's Time, which began auspiciously:

The time is past when people used to think that so far as ancient India was concerned, it was enough to consider only Brahmanical literature. The view that for ancient Indian culture and ancient Indian life, we require only to consider Brahmanical sources, is necessarily one-sided, because . . . their authors immersed in the priestly views, the world which surrounded them, material as well as spiritual, existed only so far as it related to the sacrifices with their litany. No wonder that this world which the Brahmanas interpreted in their own way appears so foreign and so strange to us.

Following this, Sir Arthur Berriedale Keith published his Buddhist Philosophy in India and Ceylon in 1923, and Giuseppe Tucci his "Linee di una storia del materialismo indiano" in 1926. Four years later Betty Heimann's Studien zur Eigenart indischen Denckens appeared. In 1938, S. Santinatha published The Critical Examination of the Philosophy of. Religion and Jadunath Sinha his Indian Realism.

After World War 11 a number of works appeared, among them those of M. N. Roy, editor of several humanistic journals in Calcutta, and of Erich Frauwallner and Walter Ruben. Ruben had al-ready written many articles and books on India from a naturalistic point of view, culminating in his Geschichte der indischen Philosophie (1954) and Beginn der PhilosoPhie in Indian, Vol. I (1956). Debiprasad Chattopadhyayd’s Lokayata, A Study in Ancient Indian Materialism (New Delhi: Peoples Publishing House, 1959), which has just reached me, promises to be an impressive addition to the literature just mentioned. Despite these efforts and scattered monographs on Indian medicine, mathematics, and chemistry, such as Benoy Dumar Saricar's Hindu Achievements in Exact Science (1918), not a great deal had been done to give a unified account of Indian naturalism, particularly in English.

Many Westerners have carried on a tradition, partially stimulated by sympathy with the Indian independence movement from the time of Annie Besant (1847-1933), of praising Indian thought for the very beliefs that were rapidly finding disfavor among intellectuals of a naturalistic and scientific bent in the West. This has led to unfortunate results, not the least of which was to make Indian thought suspect of considerably more mysticism and irrationalism than it actually contained, leaving the field of Indian-studies outside of philology to the philosophical idealists.

A survey of the material available in European languages alone revealed the somewhat startling fact that Indian philosophy contained a considerable amount of philosophical naturalism. The outspoken naturalism of the Carvakas had, of course, been pointed out by many Indian philosophical idealists, usually as a lamentable accident on the turbulent ocean of Indian thought. But the systematic examination of the various early Indian systems still needed to be done. A thorough study of Indian philosophy in its connection with Indian medicine, alchemy, astronomy, mathematics, and technology must still be made. If this book is of any assistance or encouragement in that direction, we shall be gratified.

Our approach is simple. We shall first define what we mean by naturalism (roughly synonymous with protoscience), contrast it with what we mean by idealism, and then attempt to explain to what extent naturalistic thought or trends are to be found in the golden years of Indian philosophical thought. This period extended from 500 B. C. or slightly earlier to A. D. 500 or slightly later. It includes the inception of nearly every great school of Indian thought.

In this early period it is difficult to separate what we call "naturalistic" from the "protoscientific." We hold that the naturalistic outlook is significantly also the scientific outlook; therefore, wherever naturalistic ideas have germinated in Indian philosophy, there protoscientific ideas are present. That these ideas did not always come to fruition at the same speed as in Italy and the northern part of Western Europe requires no apology. A satisfactory account giving the historical reasons for this has probably not yet been written.

Our major concern is to make explicit whatever naturalism we have found in the materials available to us, for the most part in European languages. We think of this as an initial study for someone proposing a more complete account that will include further details of specific technological developments. We hope also that this book may serve as an introduction to the vast literature of Indian thought for those who have previously resisted looking into it.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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