Dharma and Dao: Key Terms in the Comparative Philosophy of Religion
This chapter proceeds from the assumption that “religion” is not an immediately obvious cross-cultural category and argues for framing the question of ineffability through terms and categories internal to non-European traditions. For example, before the terms “philosophy” and “religion” were translated into East Asian languages, early encounters with European Christians show Japanese scholars and officials attempting to classify foreigners according to local categories—categories rooted in discourses dating back to at least Song-dynasty China on the differences and similarities between traditions such as Buddhism, Daoism, and Ruism (i.e., Confucianism). With attention to the indigenous terms and categories used to describe these Asian traditions, we find insights into the question of ineffability unimaginable on a Eurocentric model alone.
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