Sanskrit Knowledge Systems on the Eve of Colonialism

George Thompson GthomGt at CS.COM
Mon Feb 11 00:32:24 UTC 2002

A brief, tardy, addendum to Jan Houben's response to George Hart's objections
to the notion of Sanskrit knowledge systems:

In fact, there are at least a few Classicists who would accept, if not quite
approve of, the term "Latin Knowledge Systems."  Admittedly, Classicists are
generally more comfortable with traditional terms like "epistemology," but
some readily recognize that a term like "Sanskrit knowledge systems"  refers,
by synecdoche, not to a language, strictly speaking, but to a linguistic
community. If we can talk about a Sanskrit poetics, why not Sanskrit
knowledge systems?

I think that classical languages like Latin and Sanskrit [and Tamil!] are
nicely suited to the task of converying traditional knowledge systems.  In
fact, I cannot think of another thing that classical languages actually do.
In this sense, they are not at all like natural languages.

Like others, I fail to see how a colloquium on Sanskrit knowledge systems
necessarily "assumes that all important and significant works in India during
the period under consideration were written in Sanskrit."

Anyway, George, it is encouraging to see that you continue to carry on the
good fight for Tamil, after all these years.


George Thompson

In a message dated 2/7/02 8:19:21 PM Eastern Standard Time,
j_e_m_houben at YAHOO.COM writes:

> re: Sanskrit Knowledge Systems
> > I doubt if you could find any
> > Latinist who would approve the
> > term "Latin Knowledge Systems."
> How about Greek-Latin Knowledge Systems in Europe
> from ca. 0-1700 C.E. (vis-a-vis Celtic, Germanic,
> Gothic Knowledge Systems which gradually
> disappeared)? Esp. from 500 C.E. having a special
> link with the Church (with church rituals in
> Latin), with philosophy and emerging sciences, as
> far as allowed by the Church and Christianity,
> preferably in Latin, legal knowledge systems of
> justice and injustice (Inquisition!) preferably
> in Latin. The systems were of course not closed
> but to see how and why they interacted and with
> what, they are to be studied.
> If a Latinist does not approve of the idea of
> Latin Knowledge Systems it is perhaps because
> these had gradually become so all-embracing and
> all-pervading that nothing was left in Europe to
> compare and contrast these Systems with (Systems
> still plural, with countercurrents also in Latin)
> -- until the Orient ... and then there were
> indologists ...
> Jan Houben

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