“Narrative” of the Indian Roots of Rationalism

Johannes Quack

in Disenchanting India

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199812608
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919406 | DOI:
“Narrative” of the Indian Roots of Rationalism

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This chapter outlines how and why the Indian rationalists trace their roots back to the Vedic materialism of the Lokayatas and the legendary Carvaka, as well as to criticism of religion within early Buddhist teachings and the bhakti movement. A summary is provided as to why it is problematic to apply modern concepts like atheism or rationalism to pre-modern worldviews, and why it is difficult to find historical evidence to support this “narrative” of a shared intellectual history. At the same time it is argued that the rationalists attempt to use this genealogy to counter the criticism that rationalism is a “Western” concept first imposed on India by the British, and now by the rationalists on their fellow Indians.

Keywords: Lokayata; Carvaka; materialism; Buddhism; bhakti; criticism of religion; atheism; intellectual history; western rationalism

Chapter.  3975 words. 

Subjects: Hinduism

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