About the Book
World View and Theory in Indian Philosophy explores the complex and rarely investigated relation between world views upheld by Indian philosophers and philosophical theories they developed. What was the actual background (social, cultural, religious, linguistic, etc.) of world views and philosophical concepts in ancient and classical India? How did world views influence philosophical theories developed in ancient and mediaeval South Asia? Is it at all possible to draw a distinction between a philosophical theory and a world view in Indian context?
These are by no means trivial questions, and the insight gained through their analysis in the context of Indian culture can also contribute to our better understanding of philosophical enquiry in other cultural contexts where philosophy was cultivated.
A number of world renowned scholars have contributed to this volume, exploring major philosophical schools such as Buddhism, Jainism, Anviksiki, Nyaya, vaisesika, Mimamsa, Vedanta, Sankhya, Yoga, materialist as well as legal schools of thought. The reader will find illuminating insights into how Indian philosophers viewed the foundations of reason, how they rationalised emotions and comprehended their role, how they understood the concepts of the individual or self vis-a-vis impersonal ism and where roots of Indian epistemology and logic may lie, among other matters in this timely volume.
Piotr Balcerowicz is professor of philosophy and South Asian studies at the University of Warsaw, also specialises in intercultural relations, conflict management and contemporary history of Asia. An author of about 90 publications and editor of several volumes on Indian philosophy, religion and culture, is also a founder of an NGO Education for Peace which brings development aid to countries of Asia and Africa.
How can we know that our brain (consisting apparently of cool and moist tissue) allegedly is neither an organ providing control over actions of our bodies nor responsible for our mental processes, including information processing, thinking and rationality, but an organ meant solely to cool hot blood heated up in our hearts? As Aristotle argues, 'Since everything needs its opposite [to counterbalance it], so that it preserves its moderation and the mean (for it is in the mean, not in either of the extremes, that true essence and rationality lies), nature has developed the brain to counterbalance the region of the heart along-side the heat contained in it. .. ' (On the Parts of Animals 652b). Such a conclusion was not merely driven by a lack of adequate understanding of physical structure and functions of living organisms in Ancient Greece and Aristotle's general presupposition that everything needs its opposite to counterbalance it, which provided a theoretical scheme for his endeavour to describe the workings of human body and its anatomy. In fact, his conclusion, which seems so counterintuitive from the viewpoint of modem science, which allocates the site of all mental processes precisely in the brain, was influenced by a dualistic world view which juxtaposed inert matter, e.g. bodies (including celestial bodies) and souls, as the singular conscious agents that trigger all motion in the universe, expressed by the Stagirite just a few lines before the above reasoning: 'Indeed, nutrition and causing motion of the body are the functions of the soul' (On the Parts of Animals 652b). Ergo they cannot belong to the body and its brain. Rationality and source of motion had therefore to lie outside of the body, composed of inanimate matter, and such a world view consequently left no room for even a faint possibility that the brain could perform any operations and tasks which are nowadays associated with it.
The above case can serve as an illustration of how our theories, including philosophical theories and whole philosophical systems, are effectively affected by preconceived beliefs and are construed within a conceptual frame-work imposed by a particular world view, to which we have been acculturated and which often proves much more rigid and inflexible then one would expect.
Philosophers are humans, flesh and blood and belief, in whom rationality and irrationality meet like in any other omnivorous or vegetarian human. Philosophical systems and theories are, in theory at least, constructed rationally and supposed to fulfil a requirement of consistency, whereas world views often are not. When dealing with, say, what is good, desirable, useful, pleasurable etc., ethics as a system is a theory, whereas morality understood as people's set of beliefs on how to live properly is not. In traditional societies world views, one of whose roles was to provide an explanation for things we objectively could not (or subjectively did not want to) investigate fully rationally and thoroughly, were often shaped by religious convictions. In addition, world views were equally an emanation of a particular social set-up (including power structure) and a position a particular individual or group occupied within it, and when it expresses the group's interests of social, economic and political nature, they become ideologies.
But a question arises whether we can at all speak of world views or ideologies in Indian philosophies or theoretical systems (scientific, legal etc.), or in classical Indian culture in general? Further, provided we could answer the above in the positive, what would be the way to draw a differentiating line between a philosophical theory and a world view in India so that it could be equally meaningful and useful in our cultural analysis of Indian cultural and intellectual context?
Clearly Indians were not exception, and we may justifiably expect that we can indeed speak of world views and ideologies also in India which had their palpable impact on how theoretical (Philosophical, legal and other) systems were constructed and on how the understanding of certain ideas and notions was affected, and often restricted by the way one believed the world was or should be. Also in India such world views and ideologies which nurtured philosophical theories were frequently of religious nature, but not exclusively.
What was then the actual background of world views and ideologies which were at work while particular philosophical theories were being developed in India? How far was social, cultural, religious, linguistic and other factors influenced the way philosophical theories where moulded? And to what degree, if at all, the same factors informed world views and ideologies? Did language have any traceable impact on the formation of world views, ideologies or philosophical theories? Did philosophical ideas and legal theories reflect social structure, power set-up or political institutions? And vice versa, were theories and philosophical concepts of how the society and the state should function reflected in institutions in classical Indian society? What was the actual relationship between world views and theories in India? Were the relations between 'background' phenomena on the one hand and ideologies and theories on the other universal or specific to pre-modern India? Are conceivable findings to these questions merely India-specific or can one extrapolate results obtained from the study of Indian traditions and cultures to other regions of the world? Can these findings tell us anything universal about what it means to be human, to have a world view, to entertain a belief or to rationally develop an explanatory theory?
These are the considerations and reflections, mediating between research on the Indian tradition of thought and other branches of cultural studies, which informed a range of analyses compiled into the present volume. Some of these contributions, albeit not all, were presented in person by the authors during the International Conference 'World view and theory in Indian philosophy', which was held in Barcelona, Spain, between 26-30 April, 2009 (for a detailed programme of the Conference see below p. 11). This Congreso Internacional 'Teoria e ideologia en las filosofias de la India' was at the same time the first conference on South-Asian Studies held in Spain, which attracted most (if not all) Spanish Indologists with an intention to boost South-Asian studies in the Iberian Peninsula.
The Organising Committee of the Conference comprised as organisers Piotr Balcerowicz (no academic affiliation), Johannes Bronkhorst (Universite de Lausanne), Claus Oetke (Stockholm University), Martin Sevilla Rodriguez (Universidad de Oviedo) and Jose Virgilio Garcia Trabazo (Universidade de Santiago de Compostela). The Co-organiser was Casa Asia (www.casaaisia.org) which provided the (absolutely marvellous!) venue for the conference. The advisory board of the Organising Committee included Juan Arnau (CSIC, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Cientificas) and Juan Luis Vermal (Illes Balears). The Conference was sponsored by the grant under the Antoni Montserrat Programme 2009, summoned yearly by Casa Asia, without which the conference could not have taken place.
I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to express, on behalf of the organisers of the conference and myself, most profound thanks to Casa Asia and its most friendly and efficient staff for the excellent co-operation and organisation as well as for the generous Antoni Montserrat grant. I personally fell most obliged to my dear colleagues who were conference organisers and advisers for their invaluable involvement in the conference as well as to Eva Borreguero, the director of Eucational Programmes of Casa Asia, Barcelona, for exemplary collaboration.
The present volume appears as Volume Five of the series Warsaw Indological Studies edited by the undersigned, and its publication is in part supported by the Faculty of Oriental Studies, the University of Warsaw.
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend