Indian philosophy

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Question for listeners: I am considering (not promising!) that I might cover Indian philosophy, or even Indian and Chinese philosophy. Otherwise the podcast is not really "without any gaps." Would people prefer me to take (say) a year of episodes to do that after doing the medieval traditions as planned (Islamic world, Latin medieval, Byzantine), before moving on to the Renaissance and early modern European philosophy? Or would you rather I press on in the "Western" tradition? I have gotten some comments here on the website encouraging me to cover Indian thought but, aside from questions about feasibility (given my lack of expertise in this area), I am wondering whether what people would most like to hear about. In principle I could always return to attempt Indian and Chinese philosophy later on.

Kip on 3 May 2013

I love the idea of adding

I love the idea of adding indian and chinese philosophy to this collection.

Jake on 3 May 2013

I think it's worth a shot.

I think it's worth a shot. Trouble is Indian philosophy is so very different to Western, with the whole soteriological aim and the assumptions they have that we don't. But I also think it makes Western Philosophy more interesting, it gives a nice contrast. I think a year's too much. you either need just a few months, giving a very brief over-view of the major schools and what ties them together, or need to go into everything in sufficient depth, which'll take an age. So, I'd say just a few months, with a very brief over-view of the key points.

I say this as a very occasional listener. I should listen more, but this whole studying philosophy thing makes me adverse to doing it in my free time - so maybe my view should be ignored if the listeners disagree!

Gizawi on 4 May 2013

If you will cover them at all

If you will cover them at all I think you really should look at Indian and Chinese philosophy after you are finished with Western philosophy. Because the two are so vastly different from the legacy of Greek philosophy it makes more sense to tackle them separately, so that it doesn’t cut off the flow you are working with.

It is an exciting prospect that you might cover Indian and Chinese philosophy. I look forward to maybe one day hearing about the Nyaya or Kaibara Ekken on this podcast(I know Kaibara Ekken isn't Chinese, but he is Neo-Confucian, so he counts).

Ollie Killingback on 5 May 2013

It seems to me that Western

It seems to me that Western philosophy is more or less of a piece following from the Greeks. From the very little I have read of it, Eastern philosophy doesn't seem to me to fit in with that. It's a different world with different attitudes from the ground up. Therefore I think that taking a year to cover it would interrupt, rather than compliment, the work you are doing, quite apart from the effect on your work load.

I agree that not covering Eastern philosophy leaves a huge gap, but my own opinion is that you'd do better to finish the excellent work you're doing on the Western tradition, then take a short holiday and start again on the East.

From the self-interest point of view, the year's interruption might be enough, at my age, to mean that I never get to hear you on the later Western philosophers, which would be a shame, to say the least.

In reply to by Ollie Killingback

Yannick Kilberger on 5 May 2013

I wouldn't be so sure Eastern

I wouldn't be so sure Eastern Philosophy would not fit here. For starters when you get to Schopenhauer, Nietzsche & Heidegger it would be akward to avoid the reference. Also with some of the Post-Modern French philosophers if I remember correctly.

Also the Indefinite principle in the Upanishad kind of reminded me of the depiction of Being in Sartre's "L'être & le néant".

Finally when reading "Histoire de la Philosophie" directed by Brice Parain I found so many similarities between Chinese and ancienct Greek thought at about the same time that one wonders if there hasn't been some communication between the two.

I say don't go on a break, do the episodes "on the side" and distribute them during the holidays, because summer feels very long without my weekly dose of HoP.

In reply to by Yannick Kilberger

Gordon Tsang on 7 May 2013

It is very difficuit to make

It is very difficuit to make such broad sweeping comparison between Ancient Greek and Chinese philosophy, and their social context. There are many similarity and subtle difference. I will recommend you to read the recent works by GER Lloyd and Nathan Sivin, and Reding, who wrote a lot of comparative works on Greek/Chinese medicine and logic, respectively.

In reply to by Gordon Tsang

Yannick Kilberger on 7 May 2013

Well I opened the

Well I opened the aforementioned book at a random page (really!) of the Chinese Philosophy section (150+ pages) and found a citation from Confucius on recluses : "It is impossible to live in the society of birds and animals. If not with Man, whom will I associate with?"* and I can't help thinking about Aristotle's "the one who can't bear the company of his own kind is either a God or an animal"**. Similarities, not equation of thought.

It has been a while now since I've read this section by Nicole Vandier-Nicolas and I do not claim to have understood everything correctly but I remember clearly how the number of these occurences made a profound impression on me.

* Loosely translated from French.
** Even more loosely quoted from my ailing memory

In reply to by Yannick Kilberger

Gordon Tsang on 7 May 2013

You do realize most

You do realize most Confucianist are nominalist by their own "intuition", and Ancient Greek were the opposite.

Mohist is the only school in Ancient Chinese philosophy that attempt to create a logical system, and a metaphysical explanation for "names" and "meaning"..

In reply to by Gordon Tsang

Gordon Tsang on 7 May 2013

That is not to say, they are

That is not to say, they are complete opposite of each other. But first of all, both Ancient Greek and Ancient Chinese philosophy is very diverse, so there will be obviously some philoophers agree on each other, and some doesn't.

Also in the period where Confucious and Socrates lived in, both Greek and China were an fragmented states ruled by various political entities, so it is even hard to compare whether their "social context" is similar or not, since even within one culture the social background can be quite diverse already.

And more importantly, both of them argues in a VERY different language in many ways. There is still a raging debate going on , about How will it affect their philosophical system, and will they create a difference in their philosophy.

So it is very hard to make a single judgement to say, whether both philosophy are "similar" or not, and to what extend they are..

Philosophy Gra… on 5 May 2013

As someone who would very

As someone who would very much enjoy learning about the Indian/Chinese traditions, I do think that the really nice continuous narrative you've been developing would be severely broken up by such a digression. The idea of doing another series on Indian philosophy later seems a better way to keep things together.

In reply to by Philosophy Gra…

Gordon Tsang on 7 May 2013

Actually there are some

Actually there are some interesting researches nowadays that shows European Scholastic philosophy and Islamic philosophy in the same period are influenced by the Tibetian Indian philosophy in the 11th century. Christopher I. Beckwith is one of the proponent of this view today, he proposes that the recursive method of scholastic philosophy, and the institution of colleges in Europe and Islamic world are influenced by the counterpart in Tibet.

Ferenc on 6 May 2013

I would love to learn more

I would love to learn more about Indian and Chinese philsophy, and given the enjoyment I have derived from your podcasts, I can only imagine how informative your delving into those subjects would be; nonetheless, I vote for you pushing on with the Western tradition, and head straight toward Descartes! I do agree with one listener who writes that when discussing Schopenhauer it would be rather awkward to avoid a discussion of Eastern thought, but I am sure you will digress when appropriate. Looking forward to more episodes!

In reply to by Ferenc

Gordon Tsang on 7 May 2013

Head straight on Descarte,

Head straight on Descarte, while ignoring all the Renaissance western philosophers?

Now this is philosophy with gaps as big as the Bering strait.

Curt on 7 May 2013

Hello Peter! Good of you to

Hello Peter!
Good of you to ask! Better to let rational minds prevail. Don't do it!!
Seriously, you have an excellent rhythm going, guided by experience gained pursuing your interests that, I'm assuming, have been primarily Western philosophy. If you jump into something that requires more research in order to produce the same quality, you'll be committed to making sacrifices in your 'other' life. The pressure might be enormous and have a major negative impact on your life and, by extension, mine, your only fan that really counts. You may recall the dead ends you've run into doing research in the past...would you want to commit to a podcast release schedule with so many pitfalls?
Just sayin'...
While I'm here, I'd like to express my heartfelt gratitude to God for cursing you with the desire to create something from which I derive so much pleasure! I'd also like to thank you for the entertainment recommendations - The General and the James Brown album. Both excellent!

In reply to by Curt

Gordon Tsang on 7 May 2013

This is not even a valid

This is not even a valid argument. Peter Adamson can just invite guest speaker to do subject that he is not familar but interested in.

Any academic with slight competence will be able to figure out who is the authorative person in the respective discipline quite easily, especially with the help of internet today when one can traces citations and references.

Yannick Kilberger on 7 May 2013

Also Peter you're being too

Also Peter you're being too easy on yourself. Indian Philosophy? What about Egyptian and Mesopotamian Pre-Philosophies?

Jesse Arlen on 8 May 2013

Hi Peter, I suggest going

Hi Peter,

I suggest going from Islamic/Medieval/Byzantine to Rennaissance. Then, if you are up for it, going back to do Chinese Philosophy at the end or as a separate podcast. I think you could do Indian philosophy either before Rennaissance or after with the Chinese philosophy. I think it would break the flow a little too much at this point, if you moved towards the Far East.

Love you podcast so much! I've shared it with so many people already! Thanks for everything,


Peter Adamson on 8 May 2013

Thanks for the comments

Thanks for the comments everyone! Just to reassure Gordon I wouldn't skip over the Renaissance to early modern, I will do whatever I do without any gaps. Also, by the way, either way I would continue the pattern of occasional interviews plus scripted episodes; doing it with interviews only wouldn't be practically feasible, I don't think, because lining up the interviews and doing them takes a bit of a logistics, and couldn't be done on such a regular basis. But it's definitely right that I could continue to profit from both advice and appearances from colleagues.

Freddie on 12 May 2013

Hi Peter, I'm definitely on

Hi Peter,

I'm definitely on the side of continuity. The narrative we have all been following works perfectly well introducing Eastern philosophy where it has context, but as it is so radically different from the continuous structure of Western philosophy that I think of when I hear the phrase 'History of Philosophy' that it would be nonsensical to introduce it at a turning point in the latter's history. It was very clearly pointed out in Episode 1 that this was going to be a history of Western Philosophy.

I don't think this was ever a question of validity or clarity. That could go on enough within any broad conception of rational thought. Neither do I think that you would do Eastern Philosophy a disservice, although undoubtedly the relative lack of familiarity would make that much more difficult. It is fundamentally the supreme awkwardness in trying to fit a more extremely separate tradition beside and inside a tradition already itself beset by differences and splits .E.g. analytic/Continental, pagan/Christian, Islamic/Byzantine/Latin. It is a feat that these can be dealt with themselves without bringing in another mode of thinking that does not share common origins and which for over a millenium had no contact or dialogue with the one we know and love.

Thank you for the good work on the podcasts,


elithea on 12 May 2013

this is a puzzlement. i

this is a puzzlement. i guess, did the indian and chinese philosophy have any impact on western philosophy at the time! ...i already know it did, didn't it with at least berkeley? so i guess the ideal way to do it would be to do a parallel podcast with these, or each of these, which could be merged when such time comes--except that you are only one person and can't do more than one thing at a time....i would be willing to have te pace of this podcast slowed down by a ractor of three but (unless this is extant work for you?) your head might explode and then where woud we be?

soo it's a puzzlement and i can't decide's definitely necessary, of course. perhaps, since the western tradition doesn't need any more reification, wandering down side roads might be preferable?... i don't know, sorry. since my own concerns are the transfer of ancient to modern, through medieval and especially renaissance, i would love to find some concurrence earlier than the enlightenment, but equally would abhor any reinforcing of some "big break" in the continuum...

Freddie on 15 May 2013

Is the ultimate issue here a

Is the ultimate issue here a choice between continuity and completeness? To some extent yes but it also seems to me to be mostly a false dichotomy. To break the flow up in the near future to cover Eastern Philosophy would make the gradually progressing story of philosophy more complete for the sake of a more sensical continuation, but as has been pointed out, one of the advantages of separating the traditions is that they can be approached each as wholes in a thorough way without having to introduce other means of inquiry. Eastern philosophy's story can be told at a later date.

Splintering branches and traditions are little different from subjects- we find it easier to study things separately even though the world is much more holistic than these differentiations allow. For example, it is unquestionable that a knowledge of history enhances our understanding of political thought, and vice versa, but these probably should be talked about within their own terms.

elithea on 16 May 2013



In reply to by elithea

Freddie on 17 May 2013

On the question of my example

On the question of my example with subjects? Because they are independant of one another and both subject to outside influences that they do not share. To be fair most people wanting to know about history do not wish to be filled in on what a few intellectuals thought at the time. It isn't ideal to separate them but my point was that if we start talking about all related categories which overlap on a Venn diagram to give us a discourse of its own, then it becomes a very slippery slope and we can't cope with it very well.

It's not really that relevant to the original question. I apologise.

Siberia on 7 July 2013

I would question the

I would question the "Western" and "Eastern" distinctions, without sounding simplistic. If it is not possible to draw clear demarcations between the two - given that they do tackle similar human and physical issues - without an Orientalist justification, then perhaps it needs to be questioned here as well.

Of course, how well the thoughts are woven together, given that they are not often found together even in books, depends a lot on the host. It will mean a longer (richer?) route and a lot of work, it should be worth it!

Josh Lee on 24 November 2013

I want this podcast to

I want this podcast to continue for as long as possible and to cover as many topics as possible. I like the idea of adding Indian and Chinese philosophy at some point. I have no opinion on when you should do it.

Dan Woolley on 24 November 2013

Hi Peter and other listeners,

Hi Peter and other listeners,

I definitely want the podcast to cover Indian and Chinese philosophy. In fact, I want it to cover as many areas as possible.

Contrary to those thinking that adding I and C philosophy in after medieval traditions will throw the flow of the podcast, I actually think it would be a welcome change. The fact that eastern philosophy is so different from what we know western philosophy is an exciting prospect for me. I want to listen to different things! As others have noted, there is probably connections that can be made between eastern and western philosophy and thus the 'without any gaps' tagline remains true.

Unlike the Pet Shop Boys..... We want you to Go East!

In reply to by Dan Woolley

Yannick Kilberger on 31 January 2014

It's no use. Once there you

It's no use. Once there you only want to Journey to the West...

Iain on 31 January 2014

Rather than follow arbitrary

Rather than follow arbitrary boundings, could you not follow the pathways of ideas...? COLLINS' magnum opus helpfully provides little graphics of the links. That way you could start jumping around all over the place.

The Indian way should get more attention because of its epistemology. The Chinese focus too much on ethics, and i doubt the latter had much idea-spread to the West.

Filipe on 9 February 2014

Yes! I came to the blog to

Yes! I came to the blog to (1) congratulate and thank you, and (2) to see if there were plans for including "eastern" philosophy as well. So yes please!! =D

In reply to by Filipe

Peter Adamson on 12 February 2014

(1) Thanks very much! and (2)

(1) Thanks very much! and (2) Yes, there are plans... I will make an announcement about this in a couple of months I think.

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