non-western philosophy as NOT philosophy

John Taber jataber at UNM.EDU
Sun Jun 10 16:34:08 UTC 2012

Dear Madhav,

My impression is that Anglo-American philosophers of the last century  
were more concerned with distinguishing philosophy from science than  
from religion. It seemed obvious to them that it is not religion,  
since it does not accept revelation as evidence. But they worried  
about what role remained for philosophy after so many of the  
disciplines that were traditionally part of it (physics, astronomy,  
psychology) had been taken over by the exact sciences. Noteworthy  
statements are: the last chapter in B. Russell's "The Problems of  
Philosophy," titled "The Value of Philosophy"; Isaiah Berlin's essay  
"The Purpose of Philosophy" (contained in "Concepts and Categories").  
Also G. E. Moore's "What is Philosophy?" in "Some Main Problems of  
Philosophy." Others will have other suggestions. These accessible and  
lucidly written attempts to define philosophy (there is of course no  
universally accepted definition) would be very helpful for students  
wondering how it is different from religion.

John Taber

On Jun 7, 2012, at 8:01 PM, Deshpande, Madhav wrote:

> Having taught the Introductory class for Indian Philosophy for a  
> number of years at the University of Michigan, I find that most of  
> the students in the class are second generation South Asian  
> students, and they know neither Indian nor Western philosophy, and  
> hence my class becomes a basic introduction to philosophical  
> thinking.  I have to try to distinguish the Indian Philosophy class  
> from my Introduction to Hinduism, and try to explain the distinction  
> between religion and philosophy, which is also a difficult  
> distinction for the students.  Would appreciate suggestions for  
> introductory readings that would make this distinction between  
> philosophy and religion.
> Madhav
> Madhav M. Deshpande
> Professor of Sanskrit and Linguistics
> Department of Asian Languages and Cultures
> 202 South Thayer Street, Suite 6111
> The University of Michigan
> Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104-1608, USA
> ________________________________________
> From: Indology [INDOLOGY at] on behalf of John Taber [jataber at UNM.EDU 
> ]
> Sent: Wednesday, June 06, 2012 5:50 PM
> Subject: Re: [INDOLOGY] non-western philosophy as NOT philosophy
> David,
> The idea that philosophy is a distinctively, even exclusively,  
> European phenomenon finds systematic expression in the continental  
> tradition (as Victoria Lysenko notes in her fine lecture): Hegel,  
> Husserl, Heidegger, in particular. (Nietzsche was a special case.)  
> Wilhelm Halbfass offers insightful and nuanced discussions of their  
> views in "India and Europe," Part I. I think one of the best "proof  
> texts" for this position is Husserl's "Vienna Lecture" (1935),  
> contained as an appendix in "The Crisis of European Sciencs and  
> Transcendental Phenomenology." (Perhaps Matthew Kapstein and  
> Jonardon Ganeri mention this text as well; at the moment I am not  
> where I can check.) It makes for interesting reading, especially  
> when read together with the "Crisis"; certainly, it is not complete  
> nonsense. The strength of Halbfass' work is that he is both critical  
> of this tendency and determined to understand it. The disparaging of  
> Asian thought in the analytic tradition is more anecdotal, and  
> usually takes the form of complaining that Asian philosophy is  
> lacking in worthwhile arguments, i.e., arguments that can be  
> employed in solving problems in contemporary analytic philosophy. B.  
> K. Matilal (the pioneer) and now many others have tried to dispell  
> this impression, but I think with mixed results.
> Yours truly,
> John Taber
> Philosophy Department
> University of New Mexico
> On Jun 4, 2012, at 9:51 AM, David Fiordalis wrote:
> Dear colleagues,
> On Sun, Jun 3, 2012 at 10:16 PM, <mkapstei at<mailto:mkapstei at 
> >> wrote:
> Some Indology subscribers may be interested in the
> following, from the electronic edition of the New York Times:
> As someone who will be teaching an intro course called "Philosophy  
> East and West" this coming academic year, the article Justin Smith  
> published in<> resonated with me. I'm  
> glad that Matthew Kapstein posted it to this list.
> This may not be the most appropriate forum to ask, but given the  
> wide reading of the members of this list, maybe some will have good  
> suggestions to the following query. I'm currently looking for are  
> clear, accessible statements -- proof-texts if you like -- from  
> Western philosophical literature of the claim that non-western  
> philosophy (Indian, Chinese, Islamic, African, etc.) is not  
> philosophy or is otherwise lesser in some respect. Most often, this  
> is an implicit assumption or one easily follows. I'm looking for a  
> few choice quotes or short readings that will make an impact  
> undergraduates with little to no prior exposure to the issue.
> Thanks for any suggestions you might have.
> Sincerely,
> David Fiordalis
> Linfield College

More information about the INDOLOGY mailing list