Enlightening the unEnlightened: The Exclusion of Indian Philosophies from the Western Philosophical Canon

In Sonia Sikka & Ashwani Peetush (eds.), Asian Philosophies and the Idea of Religion: Beyond Faith and Reason. Oxon, UK: Routledge. pp. 76-105 (2021)
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My purpose in this paper is to challenge the continued exclusion of Indian philosophies from the Western philosophical canon on the supposed basis that such philosophies are really religion, mysticism, and mythology. I argue that many schools of Indian philosophy, such as Advaita Vedānta, resist and problematize historically particular Euro-Western conceptions of both philosophy and religion, and the conceptual borders between them, where philosophy is understood as grounded in various substantive notions of reason and rationality, defined as a purely theoretical enterprise. In addition, I question the predominant tendency to see philosophy as opposed to “religion”, which is often presumed to rest on faith in a Judeo-Christian conception of God: The singular and wholly other, creator of all souls, ex nihilo, the ultimate judge of humankind, where salvation is granted in proportion to the intrinsic value of faith. I suggest that Advaita challenges these prevailing conceptions. A part of my larger purpose is to dislodge the view that the Euro-Western philosophical enterprise constitutes the universal, neutral, and objective standard from which all other approaches to philosophy are to be judged as legitimate. My hope is to lay some of the groundwork required to re-think dominant historical and conceptual categories from a broader global perspective, with the aim of developing a deeper and more plural understanding of the diverse nature of both philosophical and religious inquiry.

Author's Profile

Ashwani Kumar Peetush
Wilfrid Laurier University


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