Article

Indian Philosophy

Shyam Ranganathan

in Philosophy

ISBN: 9780195396577
Published online August 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0036
Indian Philosophy

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The label “Indian philosophy” refers to philosophy that originates from a cultural and linguistic sphere that in classical times would have been regarded as “India.” Classically, some of this philosophy hails from regions that are in the contemporary states of Pakistan and Nepal, though contemporary Indian philosophy is unambiguously Indian. Indian philosophy has a history and breadth of literary output comparable to that of Western philosophy. While its earliest known expressions are to be found in the presystematic musings of the sacred texts of the early Indo-European people of India known as the Vedas (c. 1500–500 bce, written in the precursor to Sanskrit, called Vedic), it quickly developed into a scholastic tradition of systematic philosophy. Each philosophical orientation, or darśana (literally meaning “view” or “perspective”), was defined by common, basic philosophical texts formed in many cases by the end of the 2nd century ce. Many of these texts were written in languages related to Sanskrit if not Sanskrit itself. The early texts were either memorized in whole or condensed into short aphorisms (sutras) that had to be decoded and commented upon by teachers in a class setting. The culture of philosophical encryption and mnemonics gave rise to a tradition of open debate among rival philosophical schools. As it was often considered rude in Indian philosophical circles to claim that one had original contributions to make to philosophy, medieval Indian philosophers (from the 2nd century ce until the arrival of European colonialism in South Asia) proffered novel philosophical theses, analyses, and arguments and wrote extensive tracts like their European counterparts under the guise of commentaries on earlier philosophical texts. Later the period of European colonialism gave rise to a renaissance in interest in Indian philosophy among many Indians educated in English, albeit as an ideological effort to articulate what is Indian and diametrically opposed to an equally essentialized “European” thought. The period of colonial rule culminated in the germination of a modern and indigenous philosophical scene in India. Much of the questioning in this tradition is metaphilosophical in character and forward-looking, with only tenuous connections to the earlier commentarial tradition. While a tradition of indigenous “pundit” scholarship continues to involve Indians in Indian-language instruction with scholarship and dialogue on traditional Indian philosophy in Indian languages, the modern tradition of Indian philosophy is often oriented to an English-speaking audience.

Article.  12387 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art ; Epistemology ; Feminist Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Metaphysics ; Moral Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Language ; Philosophy of Law ; Philosophy of Mathematics and Logic ; Philosophy of Mind ; Philosophy of Religion ; Philosophy of Science ; Social and Political Philosophy

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