Gymnosophists etc.

l.m.fosse at l.m.fosse at
Mon May 6 15:58:52 UTC 1996

So far, the discussion on philosophical influence and intellectual/cultural
loans has been extremely interesting and useful - some of the wisdom has
ended up in my database. I have a few questions and remarks:

RZ mentions Schopenhauer and Nietsche as classical examples of the
influence of Indic philosophy on European philosophy. Could somebody give
us a more detailed survey of exactly what this influence was. (Nietsche was
an acquaintance of Andreas, the Iranianist, but my reading of "Also sprach
Zarathushtra" (admittedly many years ago) did not impress on me the feeling
that Nietsche was much influenced the real "Zarathushtrian" thing). So:
which ideas did N. borrow from India? (I'll readily admit my ignorance of
the history of ideas here!) Also, a few remarks on the general influence of
Indic ideas on modern western philosphy would be appreciated. (New Age in
my opinion still has the status of a fad, and I think that people may lose
interest in such things as karma and yoga in some years. But it is
interesting to notice that as much as 30 percent of the Norwegians these
days believe in reincarnation. Reincarnation is an appealing idea, and it
is possible that it may have come to stay).

As for European antiquity, it quite correct that the Romans imitated the
Greeks. But if you read Cicero, you will find that this was not a matter
that was easily accepted by all Romans. Cicero comes across as a cultural
prophet trying to blow some thinking into an intensely practical and
anti-intellectual culture. This lack of intellectual creativity laid Rome
open to influences not only from the Greeks, but later on also from the
Orient. Check out all the Oriental cults (including Christianity) that came
to Rome in the first centuries of our era!

Having said this, we are still far away from a formula that would enable us
to deal with the problem of heritage as against borrowing as against
spontaneous development of the same idea in two different places (the
Newton - Leibnitz effect: Both discovered infinitesimal calculation [hope
this is the right word] at about the same time without influencing each
other). In the case of Indo-European culture, Indians, Iranians, Greeks,
Norsemen, and the Irish all show a number of cultural similarities. I would
still maintain that if an idea is persistently found throughout the
Indo-European area, it is a stronger hypothesis to assume that it is part
of a common heritage than to assume that it was borrowed in one particular
area (such as e.g. Greece) from another area. (I'll leave aside the
complicating possibility that a version of an idea found in one culture
influenced another version of the same idea in another culture).

Any comments?

Best regards,

Lars Martin Fosse

Lars Martin Fosse
Research Fellow
Department of East European
and Oriental Studies
P. O. Box 1030, Blindern
N-0315 OSLO Norway

Tel: +47 22 85 68 48
Fax: +47 22 85 41 40

E-mail: l.m.fosse at

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