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Historiography of Indian Philosophy: Reflections on Periodization and Conceptualization

Abstract

This paper provides one of the many ways of doing historiography, specifically concerning Indian philosophy. After making some general observations on the limitations of a historian and a historiographer in general—it would provide a brief analysis of the historiography of Indian philosophy by looking at the recent attempts at periodization. The development of 'Indian philosophy' as a label to a concept, issues concerning the use of darśana for its representation, and reeking it as a space of strange intellectual landscape by contemporary scholars are discussed subsequently. While using historiography implicitly as a methodological tool, an attempt is made to probe into the contemporary conception of Indian philosophy. Though it doesn’t claim to provide any determinate conclusions regarding either periodization or conceptualization of Indian philosophy, the paper emphasizes the need to probe these concerns further and the need to use a historiographical approach to such a study.

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Notes

  1. Following Robin Winks (1999: xiii) historiography can be described as ‘a study of how a subject has been written about, how trends and interests in research have changed’ and more importantly ‘how and why a people have come to comprehend themselves in a certain way’. Thus, historiography, for Winks, is more than a record of what has been written and is an examination of why a body of writing has taken the shape it has.

  2. Refer to Balaganapathi, D. “History of Indian philosophy: Analysis of contemporary understanding of the classical through colonial” in Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences, Journal of the Inter-University Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences, VOL. XIX, No. 1, 2012. pp 47–54.

  3. D. P. Chattopadhyaya and Daya Krishna have jointly edited a special issue of the Journal of Indian Council of Philosophical Research on the theme “Historiography of Civilizations” (June 1996) that includes diverse perspectives on historiography in general and Indian philosophy in particular.

  4. Intending to reconsider the chronological frameworks of different trends in Indian philosophy, Eli Franco organized a panel discussion on “On the Historiography and Periodisation of Indian Philosophy” at the 14th World Sanskrit Conference held in Kyoto in September 2009 proceedings of which are published later in 2013 with the same title.

  5. Please refer to my work “History of Indian Philosophy: Analysis of Contemporary understanding of the classical through colonial” in Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences, Journal of the Inter-University Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences, VOL. XIX, No. 1, 2012. pp 47–54.

  6. anvīkṣikī trayī vārtā daṇḍanītisćeti vidyāh l sānkhyam yógó Lókāyatam ceti anvīkṣikī ll.

    What does anvīkṣiki do? It helps people by testing the strengths of trayī, vārta and daṇḍanīti on the touchstone of reason. It stabilizes the mind both in good and bad times. It sharpens the skills of mind, speech and deeds.

    Dharmādharmau trayyām. Arthānarthau vārtāyām. Nayāpanayau daṇḍanītyām. Balābale chaitāsām hetubhih anvikshamānānvīkṣiki lókasyópakaróti, vyasane abhyudaye ca budhim avasthāpayati, prajnāvākyakriyāvaisāradyam ca karóti. (Arthaśāstra Chapter1.).

  7. baudham naiyanikam sankhyam jainam vaisesikam tatha l jaiminiyanca namani darsana nama munayoh ll (1.3).

  8. It includes the Lokayatas, Jainas, four schools of Buddhism (Madhyamika, Yogachara, Sautrantika and Vaibhāshika), Vaiśeṣika, Nyāya, Purva-mimamsa (Kumārila and Prabhākara), Sāṁkhya, Yoga, Vedanta of Sankara and the philosophy of Vedavyāsa (i.e., the philosophy of the Mahābharata). Interestingly, this list of 13 schools for the first time, includes philosophy of Mahābharata which was written by Vyāsa as one of the philosophical schools of Indian philosophy.

  9. This work mentions 16 Darsanas viz., Carvaka, Baudha, Arhata, Ramanuja, Madhva (with the name of Purana Prajna), Panini’s grammatical system followed by four Saivate schools, (Nakulisā, Saiva Sidhānta, Pratyabhijna and Raśeswara) Akshapāda, Aulukhya, Jaimini, Sāṁkhya, Patanjala and Sankara.

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Funding

Funding is provided by Institue of Indian Studies, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, South Korea under the project titled “Great Transition in India: A Korean Perspective on Indian Studies” sponsored by the Humanities Korea Plus (HK+) of the National Research Foundation of K.

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Correspondence to Balaganapathi Devarakonda.

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Devarakonda, B. Historiography of Indian Philosophy: Reflections on Periodization and Conceptualization. J. Indian Counc. Philos. Res. (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40961-022-00274-w

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Keywords

  • Historiography
  • History of Indian Philosophy
  • Periodisation
  • Indian doxography