literature · synopses
Carmen Dragonetti /
On the Myth of the Opposition between Indian Thought and Western Philosophy.
Hildesheim – Zürich – New York: Olms, 2004.
(Philosophische Texte und Studien 74)
Georg Olms Verlag:
Website The conclusion they propose as a result of their study need not be accepted without qualification, namely, there is not an »Oriental thought« and a »Western Thought«, but only a »Universal human thought«.
The authors here are trying to show that there is an essential identity between Indian and Western philosophies until the sixteenth century in regard to subjects, methods, results, presence of irrationality, lack of freedom of thought and absence of truth for its own sake. In support of this thesis the authors compare doctrines of the most ancient texts of India like the Vedas and Upanishads and of the Samkhya philosophical system with the doctrines of Western philosophers, indicating several points of contact.
In fact the whole project of this publication might sound rather ironical to an Indologist, since the authors are labouring to prove the obvious. The question whether there is philosophy in India is irrelevant today. But then it is important also to place on record the origin of intercultural philosophy after a long dominant period of eurocentric thinking in the history of Western philosophy. It is not surprising then that this volume begins with a chapter on Hegel's opinion concerning the existence of Indian philosophy, since Hegel was a powerful opinion maker of his time and his views are repeated later by others.
According to Hegel philosophy could only be born in Greece and it could not exist in India, since such conditions that were conducive for the birth of philosophy did not exist in India. In fact the authors themselves point out the ethnocentric prejudice and uncritical attitude of Hegel towards Indian thought (62ff). At that time when Hegel was writing publication on India was scarce in Europe and in that sense he could be excused. But the problem is that even now there are others who still pass judgements on Indian thought without making the effort to examine the extensive literature available. The book under review is not merely meant for such uninformed readers, but does a valuable service to many younger scholars who are looking for the newer sources from an intercultural perspective.
This publication is useful also in another sense, namely, we need polylogues who are academically informed in more than one tradition to mediate between cultures. We need scholars who bring in materials from different sources, to facilitate intercultural thinking. In fact, there are publications on the increase in this direction like, for instance, Hindu God Christian God by Francis Clooney, where it is attempted to show to those who are familiar with one tradition that similar discussions on related phenomena are also available in another tradition. This will caution thinkers of one tradition not to absolutize their views, since the conclusions based on one tradition need not be taken as reliable.
Another salient feature of this work is that while presenting Indian Western thought comparatively they rely on original texts in their original languages (Sanskrit, Latin, Greek, German, French etc. with English translation) in which the theories are clearly expounded. But then the conclusion they propose as a result of their study need not be accepted without qualification, namely, there is not an
Hence this work is a valuable source for indological studies and the authors' effort to bring together these materials in one volume is commendable.