Indian Philosophy in English: From Renaissance to Independence

Indian Philosophy in English: From Renaissance to Independence

Indian Philosophy in English: From Renaissance to Independence

Indian Philosophy in English: From Renaissance to Independence


This book publishes, for the first time in decades, and in many cases, for the first time in a readily accessible edition, English language philosophical literature written in India during the period of British rule. Bhushan's and Garfield's own essays on the work of this period contextualize the philosophical essays collected and connect them to broader intellectual, artistic and political movements in India. This volume yields a new understanding of cosmopolitan consciousness in a colonial context, of the intellectual agency of colonial academic communities, and of the roots of cross-cultural philosophy as it is practiced today. It transforms the canon of global philosophy, presenting for the first time a usable collection and a systematic study of Anglophone Indian philosophy.

Many historians of Indian philosophy see a radical disjuncture between traditional Indian philosophy and contemporary Indian academic philosophy that has abandoned its roots amid globalization. This volume provides a corrective to this common view. The literature collected and studied in this volume is at the same time Indian and global, demonstrating that the colonial Indian philosophical communities were important participants in global dialogues, and revealing the roots of contemporary Indian philosophical thought.

The scholars whose work is published here will be unfamiliar to many contemporary philosophers. But the reader will discover that their work is creative, exciting, and original, and introduces distinctive voices into global conversations. These were the teachers who trained the best Indian scholars of the post-Independence period. They engaged creatively both with the classical Indian tradition and with the philosophy of the West, forging a new Indian philosophical idiom to which contemporary Indian and global philosophy are indebted.


DAYA KRISHNA, one of the most eminent Indian philosophers of the 20th century, says of Indian philosophy:

Anybody who is writing in English is not an Indian philosopher.… What
the British produced was a strange species—a stranger in his own
country. The Indian mind and sensibility and thinking [during the
colonial period] was shaped by an alien civilization.

[The British] created a new kind of Indian who was not merely
cut off from his civilization, but was educated in a different way. The
strangeness of the species is that their terms of reference are the
West.… They put [philosophical problems] in a Western way. (Inter
view, 2006)

Daya Krishna describes a gulf between philosophy as it was practiced in India during this period and authentic Indian philosophy. He characterizes it as follows:

This picture of Indian philosophy that has been presented by Rad
hakrishnan, Hiriyanna and others… [each of whom is an Indian, writ
ing philosophy in English during the colonial period] is not the story
of Indian philosophy. We have been fed on the Western presentation
of Indian philosophy, which hardly captures the spirit and history of
Indian philosophy.… If I were not to know Indian philosophy myself, I
would say that [their presentation] is wonderful, that it presents it clearly,
with great insight and understanding. Now that I know a little Indian

Thanks to Margaret Dodge, Francesca King, Kendra Ralston, and Shama Rahman for comments on an earlier draft of this essay and for research assistance on this project.

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