Asian traditions of knowledge: The disputed questions of science, nature and ecology

Abstract
The search for 'ecological insights' in venerable Asian traditions of thought prompts questions about how such traditions understood humans in relation to nature. Answers which focus on philosophical and religious ideas may overlook culturally important understandings of people and places articulated within scientific and medical thinking. The paper tentatively explores the prospects for gleaning a form of ethics of place from the study of traditional Hindu and Chinese medical sources. Although there are serious problems with the idea that any unadulterated assimilation from other traditions can take place, these sources can be thought of as incorporating a place-centred (topocentric) ethic. By looking closely at Francis Zimmerman's study of Hindu medicine, it is argued that a poetics of place can be ascribed to Ayurvedic discourses on health and disease. It may be possible to associate a similar poetics with classical Chinese medical worldviews, these being reconcilable with-though not the same as-contemporary ecological understandings of humans in relation to the world. Although no pristine reconstruction of Asian traditions of medical thought can be made, the conclusion of the present paper is that it would be wrong to dismiss these traditions as 'antienvironmental', based purely on the study of philosophical and religious texts.
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Andrew Brennan (2004). The Birth of Modern Science: Culture, Mentalities and Scientific Innovation. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 35 (2):199-225.
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