Department of Philosophy, Concordia University
Professor Justin E. H. Smith
Office: PR-402, SGW
Telephone: 514-848-2424 x 2504
Office Hours: T 12:00-14:00, or by appointment.
Course Description. An intensive, text-based survey of the main schools of systematic philosophy in the various classical Indian traditions, with some attention to the historical and cultural context in which these texts were produced. Specific topics of interest include theories of inference, causation, negation, knowledge, being, monism, dualism, skepticism and materialism. The primary focus of the course is on the traditions of orthodox or āstika commentary on the Vedas, but we will also consider the so-called non-orthodox or nāstika philosophical schools which do not recognize the authority of the Vedas, such as Buddhism and the materialist and atheist Cārvāka school. We will also be considering the prephilosophical, mythological and linguistic substratum that partially unites the European and Indian traditions in deep antiquity, as well as the much more recent impact of Indian philosophy in Europe in the 17th-19th centuries in the work of August Wilhelm Schlegel, Arthur Schopenhauer and others.
Throughout, it will be one of our foremost purposes to understand the various Indian traditions in a demystified and de-exoticized way: not as some timeless, absolute opposite of Western thought, but rather as emerging out of the same broad context of the Eurasian 'Axial Age' that also gave rise to classical Greek philosophy at a time when 'the West' and 'Europe' meant nothing like what they mean today. Although we will be surveying a vast range of schools and epochs, the main philosophical concentration of the course, towards which much of our early work in the semester will be leading, will be on the systematic and analytic school of Nyāya, focusing principally on logic and theory of inference, as well as the closely related atomist school of Vaiśeṣika, concerned mostly with metaphysics and natural philosophy.
No knowledge of Sanskrit is required to take this course (not to mention Pali, Tamil, Tibetan, Malayalam, etc.). However, you must be prepared to memorize a very large amount of Sanskrit technical vocabulary (many Indian philosophical terms have no precise English translation, so it's best to just learn the original), on which you will be tested at some point during the term.
Prerequisites: Advanced or graduate standing in philosophy, or instructor's approval. For students from outside philosophy, preference will be given to those who have completed coursework in Indology, South Asian comparative religion, or related fields. This is, above all, a course for students with an interest in doing serious, scholarly work on the history of systematic Indian philosophy. It is not for students who have yet to master the basics of scholarly writing, nor is it for students who are simply curious about India or about 'Eastern wisdom'.
If there are any students of Sanskrit in the course, we might wish to form a separate group to meet and read together one or two of the assigned readings in the original language.
Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore, A Sourcebook in Indian Philosophy, Princeton University Press, 1957.
In addition, a packet will be available at Copies Concordia (on Maisonneuve between Guy and Mackay).
Means of Evaluation:
- One midterm exam (40%)
- One final research paper on an approved topic, 12-15 pages (undergraduates)/15-20 pages (graduates) (50%)
- Class participation and discussion (10%)
SCHEDULE OF CLASSES
PART I: INTRODUCTION AND CONTEXT
Week 1: January 4.
What is philosophy? Is Philosophy by definition Western? Is there a clearly defined body of doctrines that we can characterize as 'Eastern'? How do we distinguish between philosophy and other related cultural spheres such as mythology and religion? And should we distinguish?
Readings: Karl Jaspers, Way to Wisdom: An Introduction to Philosophy (1981); G. E. R. Lloyd, The Ambitions of Curiosity: Understanding the World in Ancient Greece and China (1983); Jack Goody, The Logic of Writing and the Organisation of Society (1986); Goody, The Theft of History (2006) (all in packet).
Week 2: January 10
Who are the Indians? What do we know from Indo-European historical linguistics and archaeology? Common themes in Indo-European mythology and material culture. The place of Sanskrit within the Indo-European family, and its role in Indian history. The Sanskrit tradition: written or spoken? Pāṇini and the primacy of grammar in the Sanskrit system of learning.
Readings: Wendy Doniger, The Hindus: An Alternative History (2009); Richard B. Onians, The Origins of European Thought about the Body, the Mind, the Soul, the World, Time, and Fate (1951); Kirk, Raven, and Schofield, The Presocratic Philosophers (selections) (all in packet).
Week 3: January 17
The Beginnings. The life and world of the early Vedic authors; cosmological speculation in the Rig Veda (c. 1800 BCE); the priority of grammar in ancient Indian thought.
Readings: Rig Veda I.1, I.154. I.143, X.68, V.84, I.185, X.125, VIII.41, X.82, X.90, X.129, IV.23, X.190 (all in Radhakrishnan and Moore); Pāṇini, Aṣṭādhyāyī, Bk. 4 (excerpts, in packet).
Week 4: January 24
Epic Poetry and Codes of Law (c. 600 BCE-200 CE). Some difficulties of 'extracting' philosophy from works written in not-straightforwardly philosophical genres; God and the world in the Bhagavad-Gītā; dharma and mokṣa in the Laws of Manu; Vedanta philosophy in the Chāndogya Upaniṣad.
Readings: Radhakrishnan and Moore 129-145; 173-184; 192; Chāndogya Upaniṣad (excerpts in packet)
PART II: THE NĀSTIKA SCHOOLS
Week 5: January 31
The CĀrvĀka School. Why begin with the Nāstika Schols? The dialogue between orthodoxy and anti-orthodoxy. The doctrine of lokāyata (skeptical materialism).
Readings: the Sarvadarśanasaṃgraha (14th century CE, Radhakrishnan and Moore, 228- 234); the Sarvasiddhāntasaṃgraha (10th century CE, Radhakrishnan and Moore, 234-235); the Tattvopaplavasiṃha (c. 8th century CE, Radhakrishnan and Moore, 236-246).
Week 6: February 7
Buddhism: Some General Themes
Readings: Nāgārjuna, the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (2nd-3rd centuries CE); The Dhammapada (Radhakrishnan and Moore, 290-328).
Week 7: February 14
Readings: Nāgārjuna, the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (2nd-3rd centuries CE); Dharmakīrti, the Pramāṇavārttikakārika (7th century CE); Fyodor Shcherbatskoy, Buddhist Logic (1930-32) (all in packet).
PART III: THE ĀSTIKA SCHOOLS
Week 8: February 21
Sāṃkhya ['enumeration of elements'] and Yoga
Readings: The Sāṃkhya-Kārikā (3rd century CE, Radhakrishnan and Moore 426-445; the Sāṃkhya-Pravacana Sūtra (14th century CE, Radhakrishnan and Moore 446-452).
Week 9: February 28
Mīmāṃsā (Pūrva Mīmāṃsā) [Critical reflection; 'pūrva' indicates 'prior'] and Vedānta (Uttarā Mīmāṃsā) ['Vedānta' indicates 'the end of the Vedas; 'uttarā' indicates 'later'. Thus Uttarā Mīmāṃsā is the critical reflection that comes later, namely, at the end of the Vedas]; the non-dualist philosophical system of Śaṅkara (788-c. 820 CE).
Readings: The Mīmāṃsā Sūtra (1st century BCE, Radhakrishnan and Moore 487-498); The Vedānta Sūtras of Śaṅkarākārya (8th century CE, Radhakrishnan and Moore 509-543).
Week 10: March 6
Nyāya ['Inference, recursion, syllogism'].
Readings: The Nyāya Sūtra (3rd century CE, Radhakrishnan and Moore 358-379).
Week 11: March 13
Nyāya, continued. Navya-Nyāya; the doctrine of negation.
Readings: the Tattvacintāmaṇi of Gaṅgeśa Upādhyāya (13th century CE); Bimal Krishna Matilal, The Navya-Nyāya Doctrine of Negation. The Semantics and Ontology of Negative Statements in Navya-Nyāya Philosophy (both in packet).
Week 12: March 20
Readings: the Vaiśeṣika Sūtra of Kaṅāda (c. 2nd century BCE, Radhakrishnan and Moore, 387); the Padārthadharmasaṃgraha (4th century CE, Radhakrishnan and Moore, 397-410).
Week 13: March 27
Readings: the Padārthadharmasaṃgraha (Radhakrishnan and Moore, 410-423).
PART IV: THE EUROPEAN RECEPTION OF INDIAN PHILOSOPHY
Week 14: April 3
The reception of Indian philosophy in Europe in the 17th-19th centuries
Readings: François Bernier, Travels in the Mughal Empire (1670); August Wilhelm Schlegel, excerpts from the Indische Bibliothek (1823, my translation); Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation (excerpts) (all in packet).
Additional Preparatory Reading:
Kisor Kumar Chakrabarti, Classical Indian Philosophy of Mind: The Nyaya Dualist Tradition, SUNY Press, 1999.
Ainslie T. Embree (Ed.), Sources of Indian Tradition, vol. I: From the Beginning to 1800, Columbia University Press, 1988.
Jonardon Ganeri, Semantic Powers: Meanings and the Means of Knowing in Classical Indian Philosophy, Oxford University Press, 1999.
Jonardon Ganeri, Philosophy in Classical India: An Introduction and Analysis, Routledge, 2001.
Stephen J. Laumakis, An Introduction to Buddhist Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, 2008.
Bimal Krishna Matilal, The Navya-Nyāya Doctrine of Negation: The Semantics and Ontology of Negative Statements in Navya-Nyāya Philosophy, Harvard University Press, 1968.
Bimal Krishna Matilal, The Character of Logic in India, SUNY Press, 1998.
Jitendranath N. Mohanty, Classical Indian Philosophy, Rowman and Littlefield, 2001.
Sanskrit Language Instruction:
Michael Coulson, Teach Yourself Sanskrit, McGraw-Hill, 1976.
Madhav M. Deshpande, A Sanskrit Primer, Michigan Papers on South and Southeast Asian Studies No. 47, Centers for South and Southeast Asian Studies of the University of Michigan, 1997.
Robert P. Goldman and Sally J. Sutherland Goldman, Devavāṇīpraveśikā: An Introduction to the Sanskrit Language, University of California Press, 1999.
Vaman Shivram Apte, The Student's English-Sanskrit Dictionary, Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1884  [ideal for learners].
Otto von Böhtlingk, Sanskrit-Wörterbuch in kürzerer Fassung, Saint-Petersburg, 1879-1889 [repr. Buske Verlag, 2003].
M. Monier-Williams, A Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Etymologically and Philologically Arranged, with special reference to Cognate Indo-European Languages, Delhi, Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1899 .