Gita, Doxography, Polemic: Comparative Reflections on Genre in Indian Philosophy
Andrew J. Nicholson, Stony Brook University
With responses by Vishwa Adluri of Hunter College.
Whether or not we accept that philosophy is a universal human phenomenon, it is clear that the modes in which it is expressed—the types of texts that we have labeled as “philosophical”—vary from culture to culture. The checkered legacy of comparative philosophy in the 20th century often involved the attempt to de-contextualize the tenets of Asian philosophers in order to compare them with more familiar figures in the history of western philosophy. Questions of textuality and genre were usually left to Indologists and Sinologists. This has led to the tendency to ignore or downplay the “workliness” of non-western philosophical texts, even as historians of western philosophy have increasingly paid attention to the ways in which the form and content of philosophical texts are deeply intertwined (e.g., in Socratic dialogue and Kierkegaard’s pseudonymous works). In this paper I will try to rectify this situation in some small way by discussing three genres of philosophical texts composed in Sanskrit: gitas, doxographies, and polemics. In highlighting some of the foreign characteristics of such pre-modern Indian works, I hope to uncover certain presuppositions and to raise questions about what lies inside and outside the boundaries of philosophy as they are understood in the modern academy.
Andrew J. Nicholson is Assistant Professor of Hinduism and Indian Intellectual History at Stony Brook University. He holds degrees in Religious Studies (M.A., University of Chicago), Philosophy (M.A., DePaul University), and South Asian Languages and Civilizations (Ph.D., University of Chicago). Professor Nicholson is co-director of the American Academy of Religion's Yoga in Theory and Practice Consultation, an associate of the Columbia University Seminar on South Asia, and a trustee of the American Institute of Indian Studies. He has been the recipient of Fulbright-Hays, Robert Bosch Stiftung, and University of Chicago Committee on Southern Asia Studies fellowships. His most recent project, an annotated translation of the 8th century Īśvara Gītā, will be published by the State University of New York Press in 2013. Professor Nicholson’s previous book, Unifying Hinduism: Philosophy and Identity in Indian Intellectual History (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), received the award for Best First Book in the History of Religions from the American Academy of Religion in 2011.
Friday - APRIL 13, 2012
Rm. 101 in the Department of Religion 80 Claremont Avenue