What counts as philosophy?

On the normative disguised as descriptive (SECOND UPDATE)

As a scholar of Prābhākara Mīmāṃsā I am well aware of how the normative is often disguised as descriptive. “It is seven o’ clock” says the mother, but what she means is rather “Get up! You have to go to school”.

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.)

Should we have more dialogues, or more Asian philosophy?

Readers will have surely read the article by Garfield and Van Norden on The Stone concerning the need to either admit more philosophical traditions into the normal syllabi or rename departments as “Institute for the study of Anglo European philosophy” or the like.
However, someone might have missed Amod Lele’s rejoinder, here. He starts arguing that “Western Philosophy” is not as bad a label as it might look like and then concludes saying that the inclusion of Asian Philosophy, etc., in the curricula should be based on its relevance, not on the wish to be more inclusive, e.g., towards Asian American students.
On Academia.edu, Cosimo Zene explains, again in connection with Garfield and Van Norden’s article, speaks in favour of the necessity to study “World Philosophies”.
Following Amod’s arguments, one can, perhaps, decide that a certain philosophical tradition should not be included in the curricula because, unlike Indian philosophy, it is neither “great” nor “entirely distinct”. Cosimo, by contrast, seems to claim that dialog is an end in itself, since it “probes” one’s thoughts as well as on the basis of political and ethical reasons (what else could help us in solving moot political issues, if we are not trained in mutual understanding?).

What do readers think? Do we need more dialogues (with whatever tradition), more space for the great traditions of Indian philosophy, etc., or a little of both?

Expanding the canon part n

We have discussed several times (see also here and here) about the problem of how Indian philosophers should be part of normal classes on Medieval philosophy, Epistemology, Philosophy of Language, etc. etc. Podcaster and scholar of Neoplatonism and of Falsafa Peter Adamson makes several interesting points on the Blog of the APA, in this post.

Buddhist morality and merciful lies

Amod Lele recently asked whether there is an emic Buddhist morality or whether this is only a Yavanayāna invention

from http://sebersole.wordpress.com

(i.e., an invention of contemporary Western-trained Buddhists). The question is in itself interesting, but the discussion it triggered is even more, since Jayarava (who blogs here) added the problem of the possible inconsistency of the doctrine of karman if one denies the continuity of the self. That there is a problem cannot be denied: Why should we care about the karman our actions accumulate, if it is not going to affect “us”?

Basic bibliography for Bhaṭṭa Jayanta

Suppose you want to undertake the study of Indian Philosophy and you want to read primary sources? Where should you start? I argued (in my contribution to Open Pages in South Asian Studies) that Bhaṭṭa Jayanta is a great starting point,

  1. Because he is a philosopher
  2. Because he deals with texts of other schools and thus aims at being understandable
  3. Because he is a talented writer

What happened at the beginnings of Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta?—Part 1

The starting point of the present investigation is the fact that between Rāmānuja and Veṅkaṭanātha a significant change appears to have occurred in the scenario of what was later known as Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta (the term is only found after Sudarśana Sūri). The Viśiṣṭādvaita Vedānta as we know it was more or less there by the time of Veṅkaṭanātha, whereas in order to detect it in the oeuvre of Rāmānuja one needs to retrospectively interpret it in the light of its successive developments. This holds true even more, although in a different way, for Rāmānuja’s predecessors, such as Yāmuna, Nāthamuni and the semi-mythical Dramiḍācārya etc.

Keywords: jnā– and vid

In the last week, two students have asked me about the distinction between jñā- and vid- and this made me think that it might be worth adding a new section to Andrew’s collaborative enterprise (see here and here) of mapping the technical vocabulary of Sanskrit. Since jñā- (and its derivatives, such as jñāna) and vid- (and vidyā, etc.) have different acceptations in various areas of Sanskrit, let me state, once again, that I will only focus on śāstric, philosophical Sanskrit.