The Philosophical Traditions of India: An Appraisal
Eltschinger, Vincent, The Journal of the American Oriental Society
The Philosophical Traditions of India: An Appraisal. By RAFFAELE TORELLA. Translated by Kenneth Frederick Hurry. Varanasi: INDICA Boom, 2011. Pp. 269.
One can only welcome K. E Hurry's English translation of Raffaele Torella's masterly introduction to classical and medieval Indian philosophy, whose Italian original (11 pensiero dell'India: Un'introduzione. Rome: Carocci Editore) was published in 2008. For this book is much more than a new doxographic account of Indian philosophy. Reflecting more than thirty years of Torella's creative and exemplary interaction with philosophical and non-philosophical Sanskrit literature, this introduction abounds in insightful observations and new materials on the nature, the sociocultural background, the "archaeology," and the historiography of Indian philosophy. Besides a very learned introduction (pp. 7-32), the book comprises two main parts: "Brahmanic Philosophy and Environs" (pp. 33-120) and "Opponents of Brahmanic Culture: The Materialism of the Lokayatas, Jainism and Buddhism" (pp. 121-71). A fourfold "Excursus" ("The Form of the Texts," pp. 173-79; "Logic," pp. 180-83; "Knowledge and Truth," pp. 184-88; "Linguistic Speculations," pp. 189-96), two appendices ("Orality and Writing," pp. 197-21 1; "From the Sarvadarganasanzgraha: The Pratyabhijfia-Dargana," pp. 212-23), a bibliography (pp. 225-50), and three indices (pp. 251-69) round out the volume.
The book's introduction deals with the various (Western as well as Neo-Hindu) prejudices responsible for the denial of anything like "genuine" philosophy in ancient India. With most critics, Torella admits that no Sanskrit word (except perhaps the rare tattvajtianaisana) provides a satisfactory equivalent of 'philosophy' or 'philosopher': darlana (rather than being philosophy is a "world view," p. 15; see below), anviksiki (rather than philosophy, "a wider critical and investigative attitude that perennially tests the validity of the rules regulating human activities," p. 16), parikyaka (rather than a philosopher, "one who questions things instead of accepting them," p. 17). In this connection, the author engages in a stimulating discussion of the Neo-Hindus' emphasis on direct personal experience and the transformative character of Indian philosophy as dariana, and argues that this understanding of dartana is irrelevant for classical and medieval facts "since those connotations of the immediacy of personal experience and the all-inclusiveness they wished to attribute are alien to it" (p. 15). Simi-larly, he is ready to grant the absence of "pure theory" (together with "axiological neutrality" and the search for universal truths, one of the defining features of "philosophy" according to Husserl) in Indian philosophical literature, which more often than not is to be read within "ethical-religious contexts" and against the background of "soteriological-devotional preoccupation[s}" (p. 18). Note, however, that according to the author (p. 29), "the western critic himself is increasingly aware that 'pure' theory, free from conditioning, which by contrast is claimed to characterise western thought, is in actual fact nourished and guided by unconscious paradigms, and inevitably conditioned by contexts and cultural models." Does, then, the lack of personal flavor and impulse (notwithstanding Dharmakirti, JayarAgit, RaghunAtha iromani, pp. 20-21), of "any search for truth without some kind of pre-established directions," as well as the "virtual absence of conversion" (p. 18; note Torella's discussion of Mandana Migra, gankaranandana, and Vacaspati Mifra, pp. 19-20), plead against the existence of philosophy in ancient and medieval India? The answer to this question provides Torella with an opportunity to discuss the central notion of stastra-one of the most penetrating parts of the book (pp. 21-26). Finally, is "Indian philosophy" something like a contradictio in terminis due to the apparent conditioning of speculation by (mostly Vedic) revelation? …