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Elaine M. Fisher

Abstract

This article explores neglected currents in Vīraśaiva intellectual history by way of narrating an institutional microhistory of a single monastic lineage, situated in the village of Hooli in northern Karnataka. The lineage of what is today known as the Hooli Bṛhanmaṭha exemplifies Vīraśaivism’s contribution to Sanskritic thought particularly through its close connection with the emergence of Śivādvaita as a philosophical school, best known for its expression in the writings of the sixteenth-century polymath Appayya Dīkṣita. As attested in understudied works of Sanskrit and Kannada, moreover, pontiffs of the Hooli lineage from the sixteenth century onward were actively involved in the early systematization of what is now the Pañcācārya Vīraśaiva community, a project that drew no hard and fast boundaries between Sanskrit and the vernacular, or śāstric philosophy and devotion.

Nicolas Roth

Abstract

Persian, Braj Bhāṣā, and Urdu literatures in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Mughal India evolved a common repertoire for the depiction of gardens. Drawing on earlier Persian and Sanskrit models but reflecting material developments of the time, including the influx of new American plants, this mode of writing gardens appeared primarily in a particular type of garden set piece in narrative or descriptive works, but also in references across genres. Apart from allowing for elaborate literary conceits, these conventions served to display knowledge and convey specific notions of material luxury and sensory pleasure.

Martin Gansten

Abstract

One of the earliest preserved Sanskrit works on Perso-Arabic (Tājika) astrology, the thirteenth-century Karmaprakāśa of Samarasiṃha (also known as the Manuṣyajātaka, Tājikatantrasāra or Gaṇakabhūṣaṇa), is examined with particular attention to subgenre, distinctive content and likely Arabic-language sources. On the basis of a comparison of the extant text of the Karmaprakāśa with excerpts attributed to Samarasiṃha by later Tājika writers, conclusions are drawn with regard to other works, now lost or misattributed, by the same author.

Francesca Orsini

Abtract

If we agree with the basic assumption that ordinary people and not only “professional” intellectuals have thought and discussed ideas and produced and exchanged knowledge, where in South Asian archives can we find examples of non-elite figures and their discourses like the sixteenth-century miller Menocchio, immortalised by Carlo Ginzburg in The Cheese and the Worms? If we want to look beyond the high languages of Persian, Sanskrit, and Tamil, with their established protocols and vocabularies of knowledge, where do we look, and what and who are we likely to find? Should we look only at individual “great thinkers,” systematic philosophies or genres that are recognizable as “philosophy” or as śāstra? Or, for Indian as for African languages, should we look for ideas in the languages themselves and in genres in which ideas have been discussed, be they proverbs (as repositories of received, often contrasting, ideas), or song-poems, sermons, anecdotes, fictional narratives, letters, records of conversations like Sufi malfūẓāt, and so on—whether “philosophical ideas” are expressed explicitly or are implicit in their arrangement? This essay offers four initial suggestions about what the appropriate and available genres for an intellectual history in Indian languages may be.

Lucian Wong

Abstract

This article argues that colonial Hindu attempts to universalise strategies of ‘inclusivism’ to negotiate religious diversity are, at times, marked by tensions and ambiguities that are indicative of the forceful persistence of restrictive concerns associated with pre-colonial Hindu inclusivist modalities. It does so by way of an examination of the writings of Kedarnath Datta Bhaktivinod (1838–1914), a prominent Gauḍīya Vaiṣṇava theologian and leader in late nineteenth century Bengal. The article demonstrates that, while Bhaktivinod’s early model of Vaiṣṇava inclusivism may instantiate the pervasive universalising impulse of modern Hindu discourse, close reading of his corpus reveals a significant transition in his strategy for dealing with diversity that is undergirded by an implicit shift in his experience-oriented epistemology. In sum, this transition problematises the notion that his inclusivist practice can be taken as a definitive index of rupture from pre-colonial Gauḍīya theology.

Series:

Guorong Yang

Editor/translator Paul J. D’Ambrosio, Daniel Sarafinas, Sharon Small, Ady van den Stock and Stefano Gandolfo

Analytic philosophy and Chinese philosophy are often seen as two completely different philosophical systems.1 Yet, from the perspective of Chinese philosophy, analytic philosophy does not merely constitute an existence of a philosophical “other,” nor is it just an incommensurable system of thought. Either from a historical review of Chinese philosophy or from the perspective of contemporary Chinese philosophy, the significance of having a solid understanding of the connection—and the possibility of establishing a connection—between analytic philosophy and Chinese philosophy cannot be overlooked.

Series:

Guorong Yang

Editor/translator Paul J. D’Ambrosio, Daniel Sarafinas, Sharon Small, Ady van den Stock and Stefano Gandolfo

Attempts to understand Chinese philosophy as philosophy have a unique history.1 It can be investigated in the context of Western philosophy or from the perspective of Chinese philosophy itself.

Mainstream Western philosophy, beginning with Hegel, does not properly situate Chinese philosophy. In Lectures on the History of Philosophy, Hegel mentions Chinese philosophy but does not incorporate it into his definition of what counts as philosophy. In his view, Kongzi (“Confucius”) (d. 479 BCE) is “China’s major philosopher,” but his thought is merely common-sense ethics: “In his thought, there is no analytic philosophy at all.” Although, says Hegel, the Yijing 易经 (“Book of Changes”) involves abstract ideas, it is not profound, it arrests at thinking of the most superficial.2

After Hegel, it seems that the mainstream Western philosophical understanding of Chinese philosophy continued as before. For major Western philosophers, Chinese philosophy never appeared on the horizon. One notices this in the courses offered in the philosophy departments of famous Western universities today: the most prestigious universities in Europe and North America, including Harvard, Oxford, Princeton, Cambridge and more, do not have Chinese philosophy as part of their curriculum. In these universities Chinese philosophy can be found only in departments such as East Asia, Religious Studies, History, and others that are not philosophy. This phenomenon again suggests that, in comparison to its Western counterpart, Chinese philosophy is not considered philosophy in the genuine sense.

On the other hand, once philosophy had taken the form of an academic discipline in modern China, it inspired a number of different arguments about how to understand it. The question “Is Chinese philosophy a philosophy?” has become a source of controversy. Here we ought to mention the phrase “Explain China through China.” The original meaning of this direction is to explain Chinese learning through Chinese scholarship. According to this view, when one employs the concept of philosophy to explain Chinese thought, one is already approaching the subject through a Western framework. Such an argument is based on the premise that philosophy is distinctly Western, and that therefore using the concept and term to analyze Chinese thought will cause the loss of the original form and meaning of the subject.

In the rather extreme discourse of explaining China through China, we find a certain tendency: first to reconstruct philosophy as the history of philosophy; then to reconstruct the history of philosophy as intellectual history, and finally to reconstruct intellectual history as academic history. Contained in this pattern of reconstruction is the question of whether Chinese philosophy can be a modern academic discipline. These competing contexts create an unavoidable problem for basic efforts to understand Chinese philosophy.

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Guorong Yang

Editor/translator Paul J. D’Ambrosio, Daniel Sarafinas, Sharon Small, Ady van den Stock and Stefano Gandolfo

In its original meaning, philosophy appears as the search for the individualization and variation of wisdom.1 In Chinese philosophy, the reflection of wisdom unfolds through the pursuit of human nature and dao, which achieves its concrete realization through the application of a series of questions. Based in the historical development of ancient Chinese philosophy, modern Chinese philosophy has returned to wisdom in a new aspect and has continued the contemplation of wisdom in a new form.

Series:

Guorong Yang

Editor/translator Paul J. D’Ambrosio, Daniel Sarafinas, Sharon Small, Ady van den Stock and Stefano Gandolfo

Series:

Guorong Yang

Editor/translator Paul J. D’Ambrosio, Daniel Sarafinas, Sharon Small, Ady van den Stock and Stefano Gandolfo

In the history of Chinese thought, “gong” 公 (“public,” “general,” “to make public”) and “zheng” 正 (“central, “straight/upright,” or “to align/correct”) have been differentiated in terms of epistemological and value connotations.1 On the epistemological level, gong relates to an objective perspective, and zheng has connotations of conforming, corresponding, or consistency. In terms of value meanings, gong is primarily related to “public,” but it is not completely identical to the modern notion of “public.” Its meaning involves transcending individuality and privacy. The value implications of zheng indicate integrity, fairness, and appropriateness, while simultaneously connoting binding commitment or restraint and norms. The use of the cognate gongzheng 公正 often refers to the value meaning (of these terms). Speaking to value perspectives, gongzheng generally reflects the fair and impartial treatment of every member in a group. As a traditional concept gongzheng differs from zhengyi 正义 (i.e. the standard translation for “justice”); but there is a potential for communication between gongzheng and principles of justice (zhengyi).