A Comparative History of World Philosophy: From the Upanishads to Kant

A Comparative History of World Philosophy: From the Upanishads to Kant

A Comparative History of World Philosophy: From the Upanishads to Kant

A Comparative History of World Philosophy: From the Upanishads to Kant

Synopsis

A Comparative History of World Philosophy presents a personal yet balanced guide through what the author argues to be the three great philosophical traditions: Chinese, European, and Indian. The book breaks through the cultural barriers between these traditions, proving that despite their considerable differences, fundamental resemblances exist in their abstract principles. Ben-Ami Scharfstein argues that Western students of philosophy will profit considerably if they study Indian and Chinese philosophy from the very beginning, along with their own. Global in perspective and content without loss of attention to detail, the book is written with clarity and infused with an engaging narrative voice. Organized thematically, it presents in virtually every chapter characteristic views from each tradition that represent similar positions in the core areas of metaphysics and epistemology. At the same time, Scharfstein develops each tradition historically as the chapters unfold. He presents a great variety of philosophical positions fairly, avoiding the relativism and ethnocentrism that could easily plague a comparative presentation of Western and non-Western philosophies.

Excerpt

Because I hope that newcomers to the history of philosophy will be among the readers of this book, I have taken care to explain whatever I think they need to know. the book begins with the reasons for studying philosophy comparatively and with the difficulties raised by such study, and it ends with a view of philosophy that is personal but that rests on all of the preceding discussion. the philosophers dealt with represent certain attitudes, schools, and traditions, but they are remembered most interestingly and accurately as individuals. So even though I have had to omit a great deal and make schematic summaries, I have in each instance tried to suggest the philosopher's style, density, and order of thought. in its later chapters the book tends to grow more difficult and elaborate, like the philosophies it deals with; but the early chapters prepare for the later ones, and, whatever the difficulty, I have always written as simply and clearly as I can.

To avoid making a long book forbiddingly longer, I have limited not only the number of philosophers dealt with but also the range of thought by which each of them is represented. Plato, for example, is limited to his theory of Ideas and Kant (except in the later discussion) to his Critique of Pure Reason. in keeping with the needs of a particular comparison, I have sometimes drawn a broad sketch and sometimes entered into details. When it has seemed natural, I have shared my own views with the reader—there is no good reason to pretend that I am a neutral, disembodied voice. But however I judge each philosopher's thought, I have committed myself to expound it with a minimum of bias.

My interpretations of individual philosophers are not meant to be new in any basic sense, and they are bound, as I have implied, by the old ideal of accuracy Disproportions in the number of pages allotted to different . . .

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