Beyond the Orientalist Divide: Hegel’s Gita
This paper closely examines Hegel’s Gita from the point of view of a theory of being and evaluates its consequences on his view of history and philosophy. Was there anything in the structure of a particular thought in the West in the nineteenth century, that reflected certain similarities with a particular thought in the East? The paper attempts to understand possibilities of a new line of enquiry, namely how much of the dialectic between two philosophies helps us to understand the inner dialectic within one philosophy, beyond Orientalism and contextualism, and enables us to read a work in question in its own right? Hegel’s larger enquiries and engagements with India suggest that they formed an essential part of his broader formulations on philosophy, world history, aesthetics, and religion, and of course logic. If for Hegel Spirit was to be fully itself, mediated by history and the understanding of freedom, then the analysis of Indian philosophy raised a problem intrinsic to West. Hegel’s long commentary on the Gita shows his struggle to engage with the distinctions between the ideas and images of the Gita and his own philosophy, including the question: was there any divine instruction, and any sense, in war and destruction. Hence, Hegel’s reflections on Indian philosophy raised the question of the purpose of philosophy itself.
KeywordsDialectic Orientalism Hegel Fantasy Fantastic symbolism Religion Gita World history
I am indebted to Andrew Brandel, Partha Chatterjee, Julian Reid, Pradip Bose, and early an anonymous referee for their helpful comments.