Why should one engage in non-Western philosophical ideas? Two examples

A few days back, I discussed (here) why one should test one’s logical hypotheses against something alien, be it a Medieval paradox or a Sanskrit text (or anything in between).

Today, I came back to the same thought while reading Adriano Mannino’s post about the diffusion of theism among philosophers of religion. Adriano discusses the worries of some philosophers who think that “philosophy of religion” is in fact a disguised Christian apologetic and is, therefore, not philosophical at all. Personally, I think that apologetics can be (and often are) philosophically interesting, but should philosophers of religion want to reply to this attack, they could try to engage in religions and theologies different than their own or at least different than the Christian one. (By the way, if you are looking for an excuse to start doing it, have a look at this call for papers).

What are your favorite examples of the need of engaging with non-Western, non-contemporary, non-mainstream philosophical ideas?


Arthāpatti in the Mānameyodaya

The Mānameyodaya is the standard primer for Bhāṭṭa Mīmāṃsā epistemology. It is written in the clear style of other 17th c. primers and it is smooth and agreeable to read. These are just some of the reasons for choosing it for the first meeting of a virtual Sanskrit reading group initated by Malcolm Keating (see this post, which is also an open invitation for anyone to join). More in detail, we started reading the section on arthāpatti, which is an instrument of knowledge accepted by (Pūrva and Uttara) Mīmāṃsakas, but considered as a subset of inference by Naiyāyikas and other schools.

Are we sure we are appealing to “common” sense and not just to “English common sense”?

How much of our philosophical ideas are in fact conditioned by the language we use?
You can read, for instance, these critical comments on the Ten Commandments and their form in Hebrew. One way to avoid the risk of mistaking the appeal to one’s intuition with the appeal to one’s working language, is to test one’s ideas within different cultural milieus (see, in this regard, this post).
On a related vein, you might want to check this and similar posts by Gabriele Contessa on the need for Analytic Philosophy to welcome more scholars not having English as their mother tongue.

So, you want to edit a book? Or to participate in an edited collection? Read here first!

I have discussed here and here my analysis of authors as belonging to a continuum of which the two extremes are the category of “artists” (they want to impress with a great narrative, and see their writings as works of art) and that of “communicators” (they want to engage in discussion, and see their writings as open to modifications).

Free will in Rāmānuja

As frequently observed, free will was not a main topic in Indian philosophy, and discussions about it need rather to be looked for either at partly unexpected places (e.g., within logical discussions about agency) or in texts which are not primarily philosophical and in their commentaries, most notably the Mahābhārata and especially the Bhagavadgītā. Nonetheless, a precious exception is offered by a passage in a 11th c. theologian and philosopher, namely in Rāmānuja’s Vedārthasaṅgraha, which focuses on a constellation of topics quite similar to the one Western readers are accustomed to.

Do Mīmāṃsakas think that one “Ought to sacrifice”, or that one “Ought to sacrifice, given the condition x applies”? UPDATED

I am currently working with some amazing colleagues at the Vienna University of Technology on the formalisation of Mīmāṃsā deontic logic (for further information, read this post). One of the problems we are facing is that duties prescribed in Vedic prescriptions appear to be interpreted as regarding only specific eligible people, the adhikārins. For instance, one needs to perform a Kārīrī sacrifice if one desires rain, so that the duty to perform it does not apply generally to all. Even in the case of a sacrifice one has to perform throughout one’s life, such as the Agnihotra, the same restriction applies, since Mīmāṃsā authors interpret it as meaning that one has to perform it if one desires happiness, i.e., throughout one’s life, since one always desires happiness.

Garfield (and Daya Krishna) on intercultural philosophy and the power of languages

Jay Garfield’s research may interest you or not, but his methodological musings are worth reading anyway. Here I linked to the interview where he compared the exclusion of Indian philosophy from syllabi, justified on the basis of the fact that there are already enough Western philosophers to work on and one does not have time to focus on anything else, to the exclusion of female philosophers based on the motivation that “We have already enough men whose works we need to study”.
Now, I have just read (the German translations of) an article of him on Polylog 5 (2000), which recounts his adventures in intercultural philosophy.

DK award for an outstanding doctoral thesis on Sanskrit (and happy New Year)

The DK award for the outstanding doctoral thesis on Sanskrit, for theses submitted in the period 2012-2014, is for a scholar who is based outside South Asia.

The deadline is 31st January 2015.

Please see the details in the website of the IASS for the conditions and the list of previous awardees:

http://www.sanskritassociation.org (click on the Publications/DK Award button on the top)

Or: go directly to:


Thus, if you have defended your PhDthesis based on Sanskrit sources in the last two years, be sure to submit it.