Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Has Philosophy Lost Its Way? -- Vaidya on the Case of Indian Philosophy

I haven't cross-posted anything from the Indian Philosophy Blog here in a long time (the last time was this post almost a year ago).  The topic of the present post is somewhat related to one of my recent posts on this blog ("On the Shallowness of Modern Life -- Why We Think We Don't Need Philosophy, and Why We're Wrong").  Enjoy!

Dr. Anand Vaidya (

My philosophy colleague Anand Vaidya has written a series of new posts over at the Blog of the APA (American Philosophical Association). Anand is responding to some recent discussions about the value of philosophy as a discipline and whether philosophy has, as Robert Frodeman and Adam Briggle put it, "lost its way." In Part One, Anand explains that much of the discussion revolves around two differing trajectories that Western philosophy has taken.

One trajectory sees the institutionalization of philosophy in the academy as a bad thing, something that robbed it of its quest to answer questions concerned with the good life and social justice. The other trajectory sees the institutionalization of philosophy as a continuation of its function in modern philosophy and a move that ultimately enabled philosophy to flourish in answering and contributing to the production of knowledge and better ways of being.

But much of the discussion has focused on Western philosophy, so he asks,

... what can be said of the development of other kinds of philosophy, such as Chinese Philosophy, Indian Philosophy, Latin American Philosophy, Africana or African American Philosophy, or Feminist Philosophy?

In Part Two, Anand looks to Indian philosophy as another possible trajectory. Drawing on the characterization of Indian philosophy in the work of J. L. Shaw, Anand discusses three terms that can be taken to mean something like "philosophy": moksa-śāstra, ānvīkṣikī, and darśana.

... within Indian culture, mokśa-śāstra is an engagement with individual, social, and environmental suffering. [...]
Ānvīkṣikī, which derives from the work of Kauṭilya (350-275 B.C.E.), a leading political philosopher of ancient India, has three meanings: (i) the lamp of all the sciences, (ii) a resource of methods for doing actions better, and (iii) a shelter for all virtues. [...]
... in contrast to mokśa-śāstra and ānvīkṣikī, darśana aims to provide one with the means for realizing truths in one’s mind so as to operate from them in action. The goal of this area of inquiry is to practice and promote certain values.

From here, Anand argues that these terms represent a different trajectory for philosophy.

Although there are three different terms and activities, the union of these three activities, under Shaw’s interpretation, is the proper referent of “philosophy.” More importantly, it is true that all the schools of Indian philosophy, such as Advaita Vedānta, Nyāya, Buddhism, Jainism, Cārvāka, and Mīmāṃsā offer both a theory of reality and a practical guide to life. Hence, Indian philosophy does not, cannot, and would not end with theoretical beliefs alone that are divorced from virtue.

Read the full posts here and here. Part Three should be available on the Blog of the APA soon.

(Cross-posted to the Indian Philosophy Blog)

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