Podcasts on Indian philosophy: An opportunity to rethink the paradigm?

Some readers have surely already noted this series of podcasts on Indian philosophy, by Peter Adamson (the historian of Islamic philosophy and Neoplatonism who hosts the series “History of philosophy without any gaps” —which I can not but highly praise and recommend, and which saved me from boredom while collating manuscripts) and Jonardon Ganeri.
The series has several interesting points, among which surely the fact of proposing a new historical paradigm (interested readers may know already the volume edited by Eli Franco on other attempts of periodization of Indian philosophy, see here for my review). They explicitly avoid applying periodizations inherited from European civilisations, and consequently do not speak of “Classical” or “Medieval” Indian philosophy. What do readers think of this idea? And of the podcast in general?

I have myself a few objections (which I signalled in the comment section of each podcast), but am overall very happy that someone is taking Indian philosophy seriously enough while at the same time making it also accessible to lay listeners. In this sense, I cannot but hope that Peter and Jonardon’s attempts are successful.

The series includes also interviews to scholars: Brian Black on the Upaniṣads, Rupert Gethin on Buddhism, Jessica Frazier on “Hinduism” (the quotation marks are mine only), myself on Mīmāṃsā. Further interviews are forthcoming. Criticisms and comments are welcome! (but please avoid commenting on my pronunciation mistakes.)

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

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7 thoughts on “Podcasts on Indian philosophy: An opportunity to rethink the paradigm?

  1. Dear Elisa, I am one of the ‘lay listeners’ you refer to, being a yoga student with an interest in Indian philosophy but definitely not a philosopher! I’ve been really enjoying the HPI podcast, and have listened to most of the episodes several times, including yours. I’m hoping the podcast will give me some perspective and help me identify topics for further study.
    I also bought Jonardon Ganeri’s book ‘Philosophy in Classical India’ (in the hope it would prove as engaging as the podcast, albeit more detailed). It’s perhaps not quite as easy to read as I had hoped (a glossary would have been helpful for non-philosophers) but I’m enjoying it nonetheless.
    I’m now off to check out your comments in the podcast comment sections….!

    • Dear Caroline,

      many thanks for your comment. Yes, Jonardon is a great thinker but he might be hard. In fact, I believe he is getting more accessible each year, so that the forthcoming book which will be the result of the series will probably be easy and smooth. Please keep me informed about your thoughts about the whole series, including the episodes on Yoga with Philipp Maas’ interview.

  2. The website may have abandoned “Classical” “Medieval” etc. But they still use even more archaic and inappropriate labels as “the Age of Sutra.”

    In my own writing and thinking, I am trying hard to locate *people* as the agents of creativity, thought, and change. Stated like this, it’s obvious, and I don’t think anyone would argue. Except, perhaps, fundamentalist Marxists, who might want to see the means of production as the main agents of chnage. Still, if we can agree that it is *people* who have ideas, *people* who think, argue, evolve philosophical thoughts, then expressions like “The Rise of Skepticism” also need to be superseded. This suggests some anthropomorphized entity “skepticism” that can have a life, growth, decline, etc.

    The anthropomorphiziation of ideas is greatly aided by the use of passive verbs with suppressed subjects. Thus, “skepticism was developed in the third century” easily goes to “skepticism developed in the third century”. By contrast, saying “George began to think about skepticism in the third century” is the kind of expression I prefer.

    So, two goals for me: centring all expressions of ideology on people as the agents. And avoiding the use of the passive with an unexpressed subject.

    • I have a great deal of sympathy for transforming our understanding of the history of anything from the implicit arrogance of subjective interpretations and towards a more charitable (and in my view more accurate) aesthetic appreciation of existence as you Dominik. I am currently pursuing a project to support the better comprehension of ancient philosophy (and particularly “Indian Philosophy” so-called) as “a vast project of inventing, defining, elaborating, and practicing a complex ‘care of the self’) (McGushin in Iftode, Cristian, ‘Foucault’s Idea of Philosophy as “Care of the Self:” Critical Assessment and Conflicting Metaphilosophical Views’, Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences, 71 (2013), 76–85 ) and “the only possible resistance to biopolitical normalization” by way of a rather speculative idea that it is only through “deliberation” we can understand ancient ideas of “liberation” connected to modern theories of temporal discontinuity.

    • Thanks for this comment, Dominik. I am very much a believer in human agency, but again and again I encounter people who are violently against it and rather highlight the importance of material aspects. I agree, anyway, that Peter and Jonardon may want to discuss their approach, at least in the forthcoming book.

  3. I’d like to read (your) “objections (which I signalled in the comment section of each podcast)” but I have been unable to find them on the podcast web pages.