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Philosophy and India (Ancestors, Outsiders, and Predecessors)

Philosophy and India (Ancestors, Outsiders, and Predecessors)
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Item Code: NAS228
Author: A. Raghuramaraju
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Language: English
Edition: 2013
ISBN: 9780198092230
Pages: 164
Other Details: 8.50 X 5.50 inch
weight of the book: 0.31 kg
About the Book

How can philosophy accomplish the mission that Bhattacharyya evokes of modern India? In exploring answers to this fundamental question, Philosophy and India critically assesses the contributions of seven of the country’s leading twentieth-century academic philosophers— Krishna Chandra Bhattacharyya, Akeel Bilgrami, B. K. Matilal, Daya Krishna, Satchidananda Murty, Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan—along with counterarguments posed by B. R. Ambedkar and T. R. V. Murti.

This work evaluates how Indian philosophers have reflected on the various aspects of modernity and colonialism, and have sought to address problems of modern Indian philosophy in the contexts of both classical Indian philosophy and modern Western philosophy.

It further delves into the relationship between Hinduism and Buddhism, and the connotations derived from the epic Mahabharata, as articulated by modern Indian philosophers.

In the process, the book reveals the state of academic philosophy in India, and the nature of engagement of modern philosophers with their ancestors, ‘outsiders’, and their predecessors.

Providing unique and powerful insights into understanding the tension between the past and present, the modern and pre-modern, Indian texts and the Western enterprise of philosophy, the book reinvigorates the relationship between philosophy and India and facilitates the possibility of further discussion and debate in the area.

About the Author

A. Raghuramaraju is Professor at the Department of Philosophy, University of Hyderabad. He has published widely in the areas of social and political philosophy; Indian philosophy; postmodernism and post-colonialism; bio-ethics; and science, technology, and society. His book Debates in Indian Philosophy: Classical, Colonial, and Contemporary was selected as one of the Outstanding Academic Titles of 2007 by choice, a premier magazine for reviews of academic books and e-media.


Rabindranath Tagore, a poet, was invited to deliver the inaugural Roresacniat address at the Indian Philosophical Congress. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, an Indian philosopher, internationally recognized for his work on the subject, was chosen as the President of India, the country’s highest office. The poet’s humble, wise, and fascinating address to the Congress has long been forgotten, and despite the global acclaim of Radhakrishnan, philosophy in India subsequently did not make a mark.

However, it is ‘in philosophy, if anywhere’, claims Krishna Chandra Bhattacharyya,

that the task of discovering the soul of India is imperative for modern India; the task of achieving, if possible, the continuity of his old self with his present day self, of realising what is nowadays called the Mission of India, if it has any. Genius can unveil the soul of India in art but it is through philosophy that we can methodically attempt to discover it. (1984: 386-7)

So, philosophy is the terrain that can systematically explicate the soul of India. It is philosophy that can accomplish the mission that Bhattacharyya evokes of modern India. In Bhattacharyya’s reckoning, philosophy is not just another subject. It is she central mode of knowledge that can carry on its shoulders the tasks of civilization.

Notwithstanding its true capacity and assigned centrality, philosophy in modern India has not lived up to fulfilling this task.

Taking cognizance of this history, this book embarks on the project of critically assessing the contributions of some of the serious academic philosophers of India. The book is divided into three parts. Chapters 1 and 2 discuss the project of offering Indian solutions for Western problems. The first chapter analyses Krishna Chandra Bhattacharyya’s offer of Advaita as a solution to the Kantian problem of the unknowability of the self. Unlike Gandhi, who sought for internal resources to deal with the problem of India and the West, Bhattacharyya traverses a path more akin to that of Bankim, Vivekananda, and Aurobindo. Without first seeking the solutions for Kant within the West, he offers solutions from India, or, more specifically, from Advaita. Similarly, Akeel Bilgrami, while discussing an entirely different problem, traverses the same path where he too without first seeking exemplars from the West, such as Socrates or Christ, offers Gandhi’s views of exemplar as a way out for solving the problems surrounding Western moral philosophy. In this context, I point out how their projects present an inverted version of colonial thematic. The colonial thematic, for instance, constructs India as a reservoir of problems and the West as a reservoir of solutions to those problems. The larger theoretical problem in these versions, the original colonial version and its inversion in Bhattacharyya and Bilgrami, persists in the underlying assumptions both make about the essentiality of East and West. I suggest an alternative binary, that lies between pre-modern and modern, which, being more inclusive and pluralistic, is closer to Gandhi than the East-West binary described earlier. The third chapter critiques the project of B. K. Matilal, who invests the epic Mahabharata with the task of incorporating ethics for Indian philosophy. This is problematic—while both Bhattacharyya and Bilgrami point out the limitations in Western philosophy and morality, Matilal strives to fill a lacuna in Indian philosophy, namely, that it does not include an ethical dimension. This chapter shows how the purview of ‘epic’ is greater than ‘ethics’ and Matilal’s offer falls short of a good bargain. One of the major surplus aspects of the epic is its capacity for regional access. In this context, the chapter discusses how the Mahabharata has, with the advent of modernity, entered the vernacular literatures, in disguise.

The second part has two chapters. The first chapter discusses the philosophical assumptions of the Samvada project undertaken by Daya Krishna and others. It lays bare the temporal imbalance underlying this project, that is, how this project tried to bring modern Western philosophy into dialogue with traditional Indian philosophy. The chapter argues that this imbalance is responsible for the failure of their project. The project failed because it recalled those classical texts that were sent on sabbatical with the arrival of modernity, and colonialism, in India. These texts, which largely inhabit a terrain comprising inequalities and hierarchies, are, with the entrance of egalitarian systems, not necessarily destroyed, but placed on sabbatical. Recalling these texts is bound to be counter- productive. The second chapter critically evaluates K. Satchidananda Murty’s assessment of the state of philosophy in Indian universities. Although Murty’s philosophical canvas is very wide, in his assessment of the state of philosophy in India, he fails to take into consideration the contributions from the sandhi period—the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This part of the book shows how both Daya Krishna and Satchidananda Murty are largely preoccupied with ancestors and outsiders and have grossly neglected their immediate predecessors. These predecessors, consisting of Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Gandhi, and others, seriously negotiated, with varying degrees of success, both ancestors and outsiders. This attempt by Gandhi and other nineteenth century contributions must be taken seriously and incorporated into any similar attempt to assess Indian philosophy in its current state.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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