A question concerning the history of Samkhya

gruenendahl gruenen at MAIL.SUB.UNI-GOETTINGEN.DE
Fri Jan 12 07:32:20 UTC 2007

In the last paragraph of his essay entitled "WHY DID RATIONALITY THRIVE, BUT 
HARDLY SURVIVE ...?" (Asiatische Studien 53, 1999, pp. 491-512), Jan Houben 
makes cursory mention of two papers by Erich Frauwallner, best known perhaps for 
his "Geschichte der indischen Philosophie" (1953). Apart from that work and an 
article of 1958, Jan Houben includes a bibliographical reference to two papers 
Frauwallner published before the Second World War (Houben 1999:507, note 40: 
"Cf. FRAUWALLNER 1938 and 1939").

Jan Houben makes no further reference to these pre-WW2 articles, being a two-
page abstract of a conference paper published in the Zeitschrift der Deutschen 
Morgenländischen Gesellschaft (ZDMG 92, 1938, pp. *9*-*10*), and the full version 
of that same conference paper, published in the Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde 
des Morgenlandes, (WZKM 46, 1939, pp. 267-291).

Here is the context of Jan Houben's bibliographical reference to Frauwallner's 
papers (1999:507):
"The observation that rationality was relatively strong in early Samkhya has been 
made, in varying formulations, by earlier scholars (...). In pre-second world-war 
Europe, explanations for such large cultural phenomena commonly involved the 
notion of races and their inborn propensities and capacities."

Now, if we hypothetically transpose the said historical observation to another 
sphere, viz., contemporary concerns that rationality may not survive the onslaught 
of irrationality for much longer, it may be asked what lessons the history of 
Samkhya may provide for the present. The question to which I invite special 
attention is how these lessons, if any, can then be brought to the awareness of a 
wider public. If this can be achieved, it may well add to the renown of our field of 
learning as a bulwark of rationality, and thus help to secure its future.

I'm obliged to Jan Houben for drawing my attention to his essay, which shows that 
Frauwallner's "notion of races" remains within the general conceptual framework of 
that period. This confirms my own assessment (publ. in Festschrift Gustav Roth; 
see esp. 2006:227-230), showing that the contributions of Frauwallner and other 
indologists to the ZDMG (vols. 1938-1944) show no connection with an "ideology of 
the 'purity of race'".

REFERENCES (select) to Jan Houben's essay in recent postings to this list:
direct: Thu, 4 Jan 2007 00:36:07
indirect: Fri, 5 Jan 2007 03:19:49, and passim

satyam eva jayate

Reinhold Grünendahl


Dr. Reinhold Gruenendahl
Niedersaechsische Staats- und Universitaetsbibliothek
Fachreferat sued- und suedostasiatische Philologien
(Dept. of Indology)

37070 Goettingen, Germany
Tel (+49) (0)5 51 / 39 52 83
Fax (+49) (0)5 51 / 39 23 61
gruenen at mail.sub.uni-goettingen.de

In English:

GRETIL - Goettingen Register of Electronic Texts in Indian Languages

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