Thursday, 9 October 2014

The True Rasa of Indian Thought

The idea planted by Matilal that the theological and mystical elements of Indian thought ought to be avoided by philosophers has taken root. He himself swerves around Sankara who falls foul of the closed minded definition of what counts as philosophy in analytic circles. The bewildering fatuity of the continental/analytic divide is accepted by a large part of the Anglo-American tradition so how can they make the leap to an understanding of the interwoven elements of Indian philosophy that dares to ask: what is conceptual analysis for?

The problem is that when one attends only to the acceptable face of Indian thought what is left may be depreciated by Western logicians.

Compared with the logic of the ancient Greeks, Indian logic is not very impressive. It must be emphasized, however, that – unlike the logic of the Arabs – it developed independently of Greek though. While it may be granted that the logic of propositions may have been anticipated by some Buddhist logicians, it does not seen that much progress was made. The logic of noun expressions asserted itself more firmly, as in the five-member syllogism and its variants, but it never reached the level of Aristotle's syllogistic. The development of Indian logic was severely handicapped by the failure of its logicians to make use of variables. As a result, no logical principles could be stated directly; they had to be illustrated by standard examples or described metalinguistically (i.e. in talk about the language in which they might have been stated ). Finally, in Indian thought, logical topics were not always separated from metaphysical and epistemological topics (on the nature of being and knowledge, respectively). It must be remembered, however, that present knowledge of the development of logic in India is incomplete and that it may have to be revised in the light of future research.
( from Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th.Ed.1991 Logic, the History and Kinds Of Nicholas Rescher ed.)

Dr. Ganeri whose plea for a cosmopolitan attitude to philosophy has been circulating recently
is of the Matilal lineage as it were. Following that line is evident from his introduction to the 2001 Indian Logic: A Reader in which he claims that the accentuation of the spiritual element in Vedanta is an internalisation of an orientalist attitude which neglects the logical and rationalist strain of thought. True after its fashion, I suppose, but the diabolism of it is that the focus on the analytic is also an internalised image of 'real' philosophy.

Where is the true rasa? 'Leave the pickles' I always say in my local Indian restaurant.


elisa freschi said...

Michael, I see your point, but could not we leave Ganeri with his logical skills investigate into Navya Nyaya while others keep on enjoying reading Ramanuja (my case) or Sankara? Do we really need to argue about what is truly Indian philosophy, instead of doing both (given that both have been so badly neglected?)?

ombhurbhuva said...

I agree with that. It's also true that powerful and ambitious people can take the study of Indian Philosophy in a certain direction, not that this affects me as a general reader of course nor you as a scholar. Our taste has been formed. It's not an either/or situation. I got an exposure to both 'Continental' and 'Analytic' thought before opposed camps became a thing.

That it (Ind.Phil) is even being talked about is a good thing.

skholiast said...

I don't doubt that when you sift through the millennia of Indian thinking with the sieve of "Does-it-look-Greek," you can wind up with a fw shiny examples that get you a gold star as "promising" from Aristotle, with little knowing looks exchanged among the faculty. I suspect more than one generation of Indian scholars interiorized this under the impact of colonialism. Then of course, the Hindutva reaction gears up in the other direction. How to do philosophy under such conditions? Same as it ever was. Ganeri's project does get a gold star from me for asking after the institutional conditions for cosmopolitanism in philosophy, which has too often been treated as a no-brainer: we've got the universities. So far this has not worked very well.

PS. That quotation from the Britannica article is -- I don't even know what to say.

ombhurbhuva said...

Having brought it up I should have a go at parsing that quote:
(a) True: With Aristotle as ancestor you are off to a flying start and a tradition has been established which is consistently built on against which other traditions may seem trifling.
(b) False: Indian Logic is a different beast altogether and not to be assessed by Western forms or explained by them. It is inductive, empirical craftsman’s reasoning that stays close to facts.
(c) Neither True nor False simply Orientalist projection which assumes that having a propositional logical system guarantees rigorous reasoning. In red ink - requires more meta theory. Santayana boasted that he had never taken a logic class.

Ganeri’s Indian Logic is on - good intro. by him.