Rethinking the Universality of Western Philosophy @ Link Wanderlust


What a western mind may think of philosophy is circumscribed more toward the western philosophy. Philosophies from India and China are ignored when you speak about the study of philosophy in western universities. This is strange for me as an Indian as in India, like fusion diets, Indians go heavy on a diet of multiple philosophies. There is the occasional explosion of conflicting ideas but, on the whole, there is a syncretism of ideas.

Julian Baggini was surprised that in his thirty years of study of canonical texts, western philosophy presented itself ‘as the universal philosophy, the ultimate inquiry into human understanding.’ Comparative philosophy was a more obscure discipline; so Baggini traveled around the world to understand more about philosophies other than his own, something he feels is essential to understand the sea of humanity.

Baggini explores many ideas like space and time. Time today is linear but in many philosophies, time has a more cyclical quality. Similarly, the idea of place varies from the here and the now to a universal connectedness. Baggini explains how the concept of universality of philosophy, although it has its benefits, is sometimes misused.

This “posing as universalism” is widespread and often implicit, with western concepts being taken as universal but Indian ones remaining Indian, Chinese remaining Chinese, and so on. To end this pretence, Jay L Garfield and Bryan W Van Norden propose that those departments of philosophy that refuse to teach anything from non-western traditions at least have the decency to call themselves departments of western philosophy.
The “pattern thinking” of Maori and Indigenous Australian philosophies could provide a corrective to the assumption that our values are the universal ones and that others are aberrations. It makes credible and comprehensible the idea that philosophy is never placeless and that thinking that is uprooted from any land soon withers and dies.

Read About Time: why Western philosophy can only teach us so much

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