What is the center of Indian philosophy?

Karl Potter (Presuppositions of Indian Philosophies, see here) relates all Indian philosophical systems to the fact that they are goal-oriented and all seek mokṣa ‘liberation’. Jonardon Ganeri (in his History of Philosophy in India, with Peter Adamson) introduces the subject in a similar way (see here), speaking of the fact of seeking the “highest good”. As often the case, Daya Krishna disagrees:

The deliberate ignoring of [the] […] twentieth century discussion […] is only a symptom of that widespread attitude which does not want to see Indian philosophy as a rationcinative enterprise seriously engaged in argument and counter-argument in its long history and developing […]. This, and not mokṣa, is its life-breath as it is sustained and developed by it. Those, and this includes almost everybody, who think otherwise believe also that Indian philosophy stopped growing long ago. (The Nyāya Sūtras: A new commentary on an old text, p. 8)

What do you think? Is there a common core to all Indian philosophical schools?

Comments and discussions are welcome. Be sure you are making a point and contributing to the discussion.

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3 thoughts on “What is the center of Indian philosophy?

  1. This is a fascinating question, Dr. Freschi. During the past 1.5 centuries, the Advaita Vedanta and Yoga aspects have certainly become more dominant because of the passionate and persuasive proponents of those schools. Historically, the tradition of Indian philosophy has been quite heterogeneous. I’ve always wondered to myself, “What about the atheistic strand within Sankhya? What are the final implications of Purva-Mimamsa?” The latter school also did not really require a transcendent Supreme Being. If Vaisheshika had flourished within the subcontinent, then would its adherents have developed a prototype for an empiric scientific approach? Would the Vaisheshika adherents have merged with the sceptical Carvaka strand and developed into a more pure empiric school.

    These are fascinating questions. Is there a common underlying unity despite this historical heterogeneity? This is plenty of food for thought.

    I am glad that you are coordinating this website, Dr. Freschi. I am merely a novice here. I am not a professional or academic scholar but I enjoy discussing the historical unfoldment of Indian philosophy. The nuances are fascinating. This is a very important endeavor, Dr. Freschi. Keep up the splendid work.

    • many thanks for this encouraging comment. And yes, you are right, fortune, even philosophical fortune, may depend on extra-philosophical reasons, such as the enthusiasm of one’s supporters, or their status. Let us not have the history of philosophy written only by those who won, by chance.

  2. Dear Elisa,
    My readings on Darshana makes me believe that there is a common core to all Indian philosophical schools, if they are recognized to be so. I deem that this is a unique characteristic of the darśanas. The common element that is evident is that every darśana, including the atheistic schools, had a founding project or a leitmotif at their advent. “Is it only mokṣa?” is another debatable question. However, the founding project had never been a block to see Indian philosophy as a ratiocinative enterprise. While each darśana had a founding project,it never made the system a finished product of thought carrying with it its own corrective frame work.
    J.N. Mohanty acknowledges that the historical development of a system shows that many old doctrines are reinterpreted, modified, rejected and added with new ones without losing an eye on the founding project.
    Thus the point that Daya Krishna makes is valid that Indian philosophy still grows. However, the starting point, even mokṣa, could act as a stepping stone in its growth.