Truth, relativism and western conceptions of indian philosophy

Asian Philosophy 8 (1):19 – 29 (1998)
We (relatively few) Western analytic philosophers who also work on classical Indian philosophy commonly encounter puzzlement or suspicion from our colleagues in Western philosophy because of our Indian interests. The ubiquity of these attitudes is itself revealing of Western conceptions of Indian philosophy, though their origins lie in cultural history often unknown to those who hold them. In the first part of this paper I relate a small but significant slice of that history before going on to distinguish and illustrate three different Western conceptions of Indian philosophy associated with three different approaches to India: the magisterial, the exoticist and the curatorial. I argue that none of these three approaches gives us an adequate conception of Indian philosophy: the magisterial approach is overly dismissive, the exoticist approach misrepresents the analytical achievements of Indian philosophy, and the curatorial approach fails to take seriously Indian philosophy's concern with truth. I advocate instead a different Western approach to Indian philosophy, an approach suggested by the Indian philosophers' own discussions of the problem of truth.
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