How can philosophy accomplish the mission that Bhattacharyya evokes of modern India? In exploring answers to this fundamental question, philosophy and
India critically assesses the contributions of seven of the country’s leading twentieth-century academic philosophers-krishna, Satchidananda Murti, Ananda k.
Coomaraswamy, and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan-along with counterarguments posed by B. R. Ambedkar and T. R. V. Murti.
This work evaluates how Indian philosophers have reflected on the various aspects of modernity and colonialism, and have sought to address problems of both
classical Indian philosophy and modern Western philosophy. It further delves into the relationship between Hinduism and Buddhism, and the connotations
derived from the epic Mahabharata, as articulated by modern Indian philosophers. In the process, the book reveals the state of academic philosophy in India, and
the nature of engagement of modern philosophers with their ancestors, ‘outsiders’, and their predecessors.
A. Raghuramaraju is Professor at the Department of Hyderabad. He has published widely in the areas of social and political philosophy; Indian
philosophy; postmodernism and postcolonialism; bio-ethics; and science, technology, and society. His book Debates in Indian philosophy: Classical, Colonial,
and contemporary was selected as one of the Outstanding Academic Titles of 2007 by CHOICE, a premier magazine for reviews of academic book and e-media.
Rabindranath Tagore, a poet, was invited the inaugural Presidential address at the Indian Philosophical Congress. Sarvepali Radhakrishnan, an Indian
Philosopher, internationally recognized for his work on the subject, was chosen as the President of the Indian, the country’s highest office. The poet’s humble,
wise, and fascinating address to the Congress has long been forgotten, and despite the global acclaim of Radhakrishnan, philosophy in India subsequently did not
make a mark.
However, it is ‘in philosophy, if anywhere’, claims Krishna Chandra Bhattacharya,
So, philosophy is the terrain that can systematically explicate the soul of India. It is philosophy that can accomplish the mission that Bhattacharyya evokes of
modern India. In Bhattacharyya’s reckoning, philosophy is the not just another subject. It is the central mode of knowledge that can carry on its shoulders the
tasks of civilization.
Notwithstanding its true capacity and assigned centrality, philosophy in modern India has not lived up to fulfilling this task. Taking cognizance of this history,
this book embarks on the project of India. The book is divided into three parts. Chapters 1and 2 discuss the project of offering Indian solutions for Western
problems. The first chapter analyses Kantian Chandra Bhattacharyya’s offer of Advaita as a solution to the Kantian problem of the unknowability of the self.
Unlike Gandhi, who sought for internal resources to deal with the problem of India and the West, Bhattacharyya traverses a path more akin to that of Bankim,
Vivekananda, and Aurobindo. Without first seeking the solutions for Kant within the West, he offers solutions from Indian, or, more specifically from Advaita.
Similarly, Akeel Bilgrami, while discussing an entirely different problem, traverses the same path where he too without first seeking exemplars from the West,
such as Socrates or Christ, offers Gandhi’s views of exemplar as a way out for solving the problems surrounding Western moral philosophy. In context, I point
out how their projects present an inverted version of colonial thematic. The colonial thematic, for instance, constructs India as a reservoir of problems and the
West as a reservoir of solutions to those problems. The lager theoretical problem in these versions, the original colonial version and its inversion in
Bhattacharyya and Bilgrami, persists in the underlying assumptions both make about the essentiality of East and West. I suggest an alternative binary, that lies
between pre-modern and modern, which, being more inclusive and pluralistic, is close to Gandhi than the East-West binary described earlier. The third chapter
critiques the project of B. K. Matilal, who Indian philosophy. This is problematic-while both Bhattacharyya and Bilgrami point out the limitations in Western
philosophy and morality, Matilal strives in Indian philosophy, namely, that it does not include an ethical dimension. This chapter shows how the purview of ‘epic’
is greater than ‘ethics’ and Matilal’s offer falls short of a good bargain. One of the major surplus of the epic is its capacity for regional access. In this context, the
chapter discusses how the Mahabharata has, with the advent of modernity, entered the vernacular literatures, in disguise.
The second part has two chapters. The first chapter discusses the philosophical of the Samvada project undertaken by Daya Krishna and others. It lays bare the
temporal imbalance underlying this project, that is, how this project tried to bring modern Western philosophy into dialogue with traditional Indian philosophy.
The chapter argues that this imbalance is responsible for the failure of their project. The project failed because it recalled those classical texts that were sent on
sabbatical with the arrival of modernity, and colonialism, in India. The texts, which largely inhabit a terrain comprising inequalities and hierarchies, are, with the
entrance of egalitarian systems, not necessarily destroyed, but placed on sabbatical. Recalling these texts is bound to be counterproductive. The second chapter
critically evaluates K. Satchidananda Murty’s assessment of the state of philosophy in Indian universities. Although Murty’s philosophical canvas is very wide, in
his assessment of the state of philosophy in India, he fails to take into consideration the contributions from the sandhi period-the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries. This part of the book shows how both Daya Krishna and Satchidananda Murty are largely preoccupied with ancestors and outsiders and have
grossly neglected their immediate predecessors. These predecessors, Consisting of Vivekananda, Aurobindo, Gandhi, and others, and seriously negotiated, with
varying degrees of success, both ancestors and outsiders, The attempt by Gandhi and other nineteenth century contributions must be taken seriously and
incorporated into any similar attempt to assess Indian philosophy in its current stated.
The last part also has two chapters. Both chapters critically examine the attempts to absorb Buddhism into Hinduism. The first chapter presents a critique of
Ananda k. Coomaraswamy, whose cultural nationalism seeks to co-opt Buddhism as part of Hinduism, by providing a common cultural and aesthetic for the
two. While presenting internationalism as the core of India nationalism, he draws his resources form the Asoka period, but credits Hinduism with having
provided them. Similarly, the next chapter in this part discusses S. Radhakrishnan, who also explain away the radical project of Buddha and Buddhism, and
portrays it as part of Hinduism. This move brings into the discussion Ambedkar, who bolsters the differences between Buddhism and Hinduism, and T. R. V.
Murti, who highlights the mutual influences across the two philosophical systems.
Thus, this book brings to bear critical perspectives on some of the major Indian philosophers’ discussion on the West, modernity, classical Indian philosophy, and
modern Western philosophy. The critical evaluation of the work of these prominent philosophers will enable us to take stock of the strengths, while also making
us aware of the limitations, or even weaknesses, that prevail in the practice of philosophy in This distance between the expected and the actual state of affairs,
with respect to Indian philosophy, can clarify methods of reinvigorating philosophical activity in Indian, thereby enabling it to undertake the larger tasks that
Bhattacharyya apportioned to it. This will not only enrich the discipline but make the discipline fulfil its irreplaceable, and previously assigned, tasks.
There are work that deal with contemporary Indian philosophy, such as Contemporary Indian Philosophy, edited by S. Radhakrishnan and J. H. Muirhead (1952),
Spirit of Indian, edited by Robert A. McDermott and V. S. Naravane (2010), and Indian Philosophy in English: From Renaissance to Independence, edited by
Nalini Bhushan and Jay L. Garfield (2011). These make contemporary writing in Indian philosophy available to a modern audience. As a means of advancing
beyond what is already available, this book makes a critical evaluation of contemporary Indian philosophers. While identifying how contemporary Indian
philosophers re-wrote their ancestors, and responded to outsiders, this work identifies important themes that philosophy in India might take up for further
discussion, and thereby extend its purview while enriching its resources. This stock-taking to the contribution of contemporary Indian philosophers belonging to
the twentieth century will enable us to establish a productive and creative relationship between Indian and philosophy, thereby preparing the ground for
‘discovering the soul of Indian’, as envisaged by Bhattacharyya.
There are some inevitable repetitions that I have retained, in the hope that instead of making the reading monotonous, they work like the chorus in a song or the
thread in a garland of flowers, to sustain continuity with reminders.
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