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"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...
Etymologically, "Philosophy" (or related words in many European languages) means "love of knowledge/wisdom". That is the etymology in the West. In Indian context philosophy is called "dorshon", which etymologically means "vision" . I wonder what philosophy is called in Chinese or other cultures. What are the corresponding etymologies/connotations in those cultures?

"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...
En français (et dans les langues européennes) la "vision" a son mot dans "théorie" (du grec theorien).

"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...
I have just tried Google Translate and tried to find out the corresponding words for philosophy in different languages. I found,
  • in most languages the corresponding word is a derivative of "philosophy"; that is true for European languages (though I haven't checked all), even in Basque (I was expecting exception here) it is "filosofia"; true in Turkey, Swaheles, Arabics, Indonesia, Malay (which, I suppose, are non European languages)
  • In India, it is interesting. It is not "darshana" or "dorshon" all over the India. In Urdu it is a derivative of "philosophy". Derivatives of "darshana" -- which must have come from Sangskrit, meaning "vision" in English -- are found in Hindi and Bengali. In Kannada it is Tatvaśāstra -- which, I guess, means "Theoretical Studies" in English. In Telugu it is "Vēdāntaṁ" which seems to be meaning "pertaining to Vedas". 
  • In Thai, it is "Prạchỵā". I suspect it is not from "philosophy" (can anyone pls help here?)
  • In Chinese, : don't understand (can anyone pls help here?).  
  • In Japanese : don't understand (can anyone pls help here?). 
  • In Korean: it is "cheolhag" (철학), suspect it is not a derivative of philosophy
  • In Yiddish and Hebrew: don't understand (can anyone pls help here?).
So preliminary summary: There are at least 3 or 4 types of connotations for philosophy
  1. φιλοσοφία/Philosophy/Filosofia ... := LOVE OF KNOWLEDGE
  2. दर्शन/darshana ....:= VISION
  3. Tatvaśāstra   := THEORETICAL STUDIES
  4. Vēdāntaṁ := PERTAINING TO VEDAS
So, "vision" is etymoligically related with "theory" in European languages? Interesting! Does "Tatvaśāstra" (of Kannada) etymoligically/historically related with "darshana"?
I would request the  philosophers from various cultures/languages to help here. Especially, I need philosophers knowing/speaking Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Yiddish and Hebrew. 

"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...
Reply to J.C. Schwab
Merci beaucoup pour cette information. C'est bien utile. 

"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...
I should think that there is no common word for anything in any language. The word for or cognates of philosophy appeared  in different languages at different historical moments in different contexts, and have had  different meanings and connotations. It would be useful to see the different values of different related terms that suggest the meaning of the word, philosophy, without it being exactly the same thing.Isn't there a word like 'falsafia' in Persian-Urdu? How do the terms of pensée, philosophie and théorie differ in French, for example? In Malayalam, there are words like tattwachinta, chinta (pensée), darhanam (vision; a rather recent introduction). In Hindi, one even uses the term, darshanshastra (literally, 'vision science')? Strange are the ways of language, isn't it? Doesn't that make the task of philosophy even more difficult, irrespective of the word that one may use to refer to it?          

"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...
Reply to J.C. Schwab
C'est une information très utile. Merci!

"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...

You put it nicely :

 "It would be useful to see the different values of different related terms that suggest the meaning of the word, philosophy, without it being exactly the same thing."


But why "useful"? how? Maybe there is not much intrinsically "philosophical" collecting those data (But who knows? in the age of Experimental Philosophy ...). But at least it is very useful for pedagogical purpose. Why should we only tell our student that Philosophy is a Greek word meaning "Love of Knowledge"?  That seems a little parochial. Students, especially if they are newcomers, should have wide perspective; moreover they have to grasp the significance from their own background. I could only tell my students that besides "love of knowledge" there is also "vision". Then I started wondering what's about Chinese, Japanese ... . I couldn't tell them. That's why this discussion.


I am told that the Sanskrit word "dhyana" (means "meditation")  became "chan" in Chinese  and "zen"  (of  "Zen Buddhism" ) in Japanese. It might have some connection with philosophy in those cultures. Some Chinese or Japanese should help us!

"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...
I could have said, 'It would be better...' Even in the European context, what came up as philosophy in the modern 18th century context was not the same as, and legitimately different from what philosophy was  in Plato's time. The former had different goals and conceptual orientations from the latter. Thus, certainly there is no essence or constancy of philosophy. So, perhaps it is important to be able to convey the fact of the philosophical variations (both diachronic and synchronic) pedagogically. In my view, one should be aware that at each time and in each place one may be doing different things even though the label for them may remain the same. In other words, whether we call it 'darshon' or 'philosophy' what different philosophers are actually doing would be as different as the activities and works of contrasting figures like Bertrand Russell and Jean-Paul Sartre. Similarly, the darshon in Bangladesh national context and the darshon in West Bengal state in India could be quite different. I guess, one of the tasks of philosophy is to see differences, and not only sameness and similarities.         

"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...
Emphasizing the differences is crucial because of the threat of universal philosophical orthodoxy and the reality that some views will trump others in political life, not because of their superiority in insight but simply in virtue of accident -- mere power

emphasizing sameness gets us to the important realization that philosophy is as natural to human beings as breathing -- this is the basis of an ethos, a form of thoughtful benevolence
The mind is at work in thinking -- there are many ways to characterize this -- as love (with the word philosophy), as vision (vidya), as an account (darsana), as a social group (chia) -- studying these media of philosophical questioning in forms such as love, vision, story, social network, gives us more to reflect on in trying to figure out what the philosophical instinct amounts to, what it weighs metaphilosophically speaking

(philosophy, roughly = engaging in a critical relation with the inherited conglomerate -- not simply preserving it but asking about it, digging in -- or honoring or cherishing it with a critical consciousness and interrogating loyalty to it; which always outgrows present forms and creates new ones


"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...

Just a related thought from someone who has published, etc., but never came close finding a real job.Caveat emptor!

I wonder if the very large excess in job seekers over openings (surely due in part to reliance on adjuncts and temps.) isn't impeding good new ideas.

When there are a great many more applicants than jobs, hiring committees are free to select from a range of equally well-qualified applicants those whose work they can readily evaluate and whose interests, views, and values they share. There is a strong natural tendency to do this in any case. But when there are fewer jobs than applicants, committees may be forced to consider well-qualifed but somewhat unorthodox applicants. (Could a young, unknown Wittgenstein, without endorsement by Russell, find a job in any contemporary department that was not, of course, already massively shaped by his influence?). This tendency continues through tenure appointments, etc.

I wonder how many departments are even aware of this issue?


"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...
Thanks, for your pertinent views and for the redefinition... of philosophy. 

"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...
Reply to Greg P. Hodes
Perhaps you got the (right) thing in the wrong place... the wrong discussion forum.

"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...

I would rather like to keep myself open : whether there is variation or constancy (both diachronically and synchronically). Maybe we will end up finding a mixture of both; or, may be there are some family resemblances. Let us collect the data first.

We should, however, bear it in mind that data are not value-free. I am a bit worried about too much of variations. I can agree that the philosophy in context A differs from the philosophy in context B.  But the question is: How fine -- or, fine grained -- should be the contexts? We can individuate a context with respect to every individual, or even with respect to every moment/period of an individual. We are not, I guess, interested in that kind of extreme variations (unless we have other purpose).

I can see a problem with this example of yours:

the darshon in Bangladesh national context and the darshon in West Bengal state in India could be quite different.

Often emphasizing on that kind of difference involves a good deal of "politics, diplomacy or tricks" (I wish I could find a better expression for this). It is of course not desirable that philosophy should vary due to some sheer geopolitical variations; at least not for me. But I don't want to focus on that aspect now. I am rather alluding to some bad practice among the professionals. For example we have "Bangladesh Philosophy"; but that subject is created just to safeguard the jobs of certain opportunistic professionals  -- who are far from any kind of quests; I can hardly see any substance there -- in that kind of alleged philosophy. I think we should not differentiate the contexts by counting those kind of paltry wishes or tricks.

"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...
Many good questions here.
Hypothesis: when someone begins to do philosophy (whatever this is, and perhaps identified by another word or phrase in a language other than the one we are using), he or she adopts a philosophical voice.  Then persons A, B, C have the voice in common or can all take up the position of this voice in their own contexts.  Most of a person's life is not conducted in this voice -- but for some people, much of it is.  They are expressly taking up a critical, interrogating voice and this is different than the voice of everyday life.  

But objections mount up, e.g. it does not look like Aristotle, Nietzsche, Mahavira, Confucius, Enrique Dussell, Mozi, the Ethnophilosophers, Montaigne, the Hanifs, Rousseau, Spinoza ... are all speaking with the same voice.  I don't think we can draw a limit on what philosophy is or can be; yet this is one of the things that philosophers like to do.  We have to be able to draw some distinctions.  I would say that the old wise man or wise woman in the village may be a philosopher, but only if he or she does more than preserve -- there has to be a critical element.  All the above thinkers or traditions offer criticism and are at odds in some way with the inherited conglomerate in which they live.

Some philosophers are e.g. philosophers -- they look at cases -- some philosophers are i.e. philosophers -- they state general principles.  Avishai Margalit explores this idea, drawing on Wittgenstein and Nietzsche.  So does Bernard Williams.  We can be critical in both cases -- if we look at cases and if we are trying to state principles -- but arguably the voice is different.  Aphorisms, logical analyses, jokes, comparisons, documentary work, storytelling -- it seems possible to express philosophy in all these forms, yet they do not seem like the same voice.  

I am attracted to an idea expressed by the Polish thinker Kolakowski who said that every thinker on this planet identifies with at least one thinker -- one model for thinking -- Socrates.  

The problem then is to find Socrates in many different guises -- ?

Philosophy is a difficult place to stand.  Usually the thinker becomes an advocate instead.  They may argue with us, but not with themselves.  They have put the love of truth behind them and say now that they have got hold of truth itself.  Their search has come to an end.

Hypothesis: philosophy has to include a critical element and engage in an ongoing search.  

"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...
this might imply that there are no philosophers; or that philosophy simply runs out in a person -- it runs its course

"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...
I think it's right to say that philosophy began in the streets and market places of a city (polis)  or a city-state and not in households or agricultural fields, and not even in places of worship. Therefore, it could not have distanced itself from politics or even from diplomacy. Philosophy as 'love of knowledge' would have involved not just one love of one knowledge, but rather several loves of multiple knowledges. Perhaps, it involved the intellectual encounters between the 'loves' and between 'knowledges.' Thus, it could not have eschewed either politics or diplomacy, and perhaps not even 'tricks.' If we begin to look at the question from the end, that is, of geopolitcs and of 'national identities,' I think it is possible to see that geographically or nationally or regionally adjectivized philosophies emerged as part of the desire for the establishment of (geo-)political and cultural identities in one form or the other. Identification of the words for philosophy in different cultural contexts or languages and trying to see the sameness or differences among them are also, it seems to me, part of the process of search for identit(ies), in one manner or the other. This is not always done in a conscious mode; the unconscious and the subjective makeup of the searcher could play a major role here. The chapter on Geophilosophies in Deleuze's What is Philosophy? gives some useful leads on this broad question.     

"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...

We are talking about philosophy – what it is and what it isn’t.  Which conditions are essential for the birth of philosophy?  What is the relation between philosophy as an explicit stance in the world – an attitude and a kind of work that a person engages in – and philosophy in relationship to groups of people?  Groups: e.g. philosophers who are partners in conversation; philosophers who are part of the same school; or philosophers who are members of a given culture. 


The text you cite (Deleuze&Guattari, What is philosophy?) seems to me an excellent choice for the topic, because it raises most of the big problems.   The text argues: philosophy is a strange kind of intensity (on the inside, psychologically) and a strange kind of negation (on the outside, as an attitude in society).  Philosophy on a psychological level is different than other things we feel, think and do and is characterized by being powerfully important, intense, striking, urgent.  Philosophy on a social level is a critical stance – it problematizes the social context in which the thinker is thinking.  In a sense then all philosophy is political philosophy because it is a critical engagement with a particular society. 


Deleuze argues that philosophy comes up in the polis – in the street, the marketplace – but as he spells out this idea he says more particularly that philosophy comes up in the Greek polis – “philosophy is a Greek thing” exclusively and there is no such thing as Chinese, Indian, Judaic, or Islamic philosophy.  He says that what these kind of expressions refer to is something very different than philosophy: wisdom, religion or spirituality, the canonical pithy sayings and norms of a given culture. 


He says further that the idea that there is a philosophy embedded in every culture is mistaken – the idea of ethnophilosophy or philosophy as the spontaneous underlying worldview of a people.  This must be the case:


First: because philosophy implies a critical element (problematizing a social context) and is not just the view itself; it is closer to being [a given cultural view + a critical consciousness directed at that view]. 


Second: because the only thing that we can actually call ‘philosophy’ is a very specific nexus [the Greek cultural view + a critical consciousness directed at that view]. 


Deleuze argues for his thesis about the exclusively Greek nature of philosophy on historical grounds and on conceptual grounds. 


His historical idea is that a very specific set of historic accidents created the Greek city states of Ionia, which are the first genuinely multilinguistic, multicultural, multireligious human settlements; the diversity of ideas in these communities challenged native ethnocentrism and led to the problematization of social mores that constitutes the central activity of philosophy.  In effect: I cannot hold that the only traditions that make sense are mine, as soon as I become aware of another social group with completely different traditions – especially if I am living right next to “the other” and begin to become familiar with their traditions.  The whole idea of tradition becomes questionable.  Then I have to set out on a new course of thinking – i.e. philosophical search. 


Regarding argument, Deleuze says that there is a huge difference between the Greeks and all other peoples, because the Greeks create a kind of thinking based on concepts, whereas all other peoples create thinking based on figures.  (I am not quite sure what he is getting at here – the gist seems to be that in the one case a people is forced into developing something like logic, but in the other case the people communicate mainly based on canonical pictures and stories). 


The above are some highlights of Deleuze’s argument.  Reflecting on all this, I think I have to accept his characterization of philosophy as a problematizing of a social context; to me this makes sense.  But I reject his claim that this kind of problematization happened only once, in one historical epoch and place, and that there are no other examples of this kind of explicit critical stance by a thinker or group of thinkers in relation to a given society. 


His historical claim about the root cause of the birth of philosophy in Ionia makes sense but is not the only plausible explanation for the big role that cities like Melitus play in the emergence of philosophical thinking.  The literature offers many others:


  • material prosperity and the beginnings of leisure
  • advances in technology, e.g. in shipbuilding, mapmaking and navigation
  • a maritime geography and adventuresome, seagoing wanderers
  • social-psychological evolution, the first instance of genuine personal individuality
  • the invention of alphabetic writing and literacy
  • rising equality of conditions, development of a merchant or ‘middle’ class
  • the first institution of democracy


Deleuze emphasizes urbanism, cosmopolitanism, the birth of cultural conflict and relativism – also foreign travel, contact with other communities, e.g. with Egypt, Persia and India – as the background to the development of the concept of conclusive proof as demonstration by deductive argument; but these other factors might also be significant or even decisive. 


Even if he is right about the history, it is not clear that this happened only once and only in one place.  People in ancient India, in ancient China and other places likely experienced the kind of cultural conflict and subsequent distancing from native traditions that he is talking about. 


I am sympathetic to Deleuze’s rejection of the idea of cultural-philosophy (his claim that there is no Chinese philosophy or Native American philosophy, etc) in the sense that philosophy is philosophy and (arguably) cannot only be germane to the culture in which it emerges.  If the thinking is philosophical thinking, then it makes a universal claim and can plausibly help enlighten human beings in all circumstances.  Still it makes sense to talk about Chinese philosophy and so on because most of the discussion in Chinese thinking is conducted in a specifically Chinese cultural context.  The term ‘Chinese philosophy’ is just a way of talking about a conversation that takes place with a certain vocabulary, a certain set of historical problems, among people who have a connection to a certain community or who become students of this conversation. 


Conclusion: philosophy is philosophy wherever it emerges – it is not the achievement of one culture or one history – it is a basic human possibility that comes out in many different ways. 


All this is preliminary to getting to the question you raised – whether philosophy emerges as part of a process in which a people establishes its identity – and based on the kind of thoughts that seem to come from reflecting on Deleuze’s project, I would say no: philosophy is not centrally about cultural identity.  First there is something like cultural identity and secondarily there is a kind of distancing/questioning project that takes off from this platform.  The new thing is philosophy proper and to me it makes sense to think that this could happen to an individual who lives in an agricultural society or pretty much any kind of society – it is possible that someone “wakes up” in the middle of some or other social context and begins to engage in philosophy.





"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...
Great! This ia an excellent argument. I think, willy-nilly, we are hitting upon one of the fundamental problems of philosophy: the relationship between words and things, in this case, between the word "philosphy' and its content. Also, it would be useful to see how a non-philosopher would look at 'philosophy' in different contexts and different historical situations. Its internal coherence may be seen to dissipate from the outside. (Especially when one begins to consider the lingustic modes that are employed to make it manifest.) This, I think would lead us to the question whether philosophy is or is not a natural obejct. Is it something a natural man has or has created as a natural object? These are some of the questions that bother me at present.   

"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...

Je m'excuse M. Shaheen et M. Manjali, d’être obligé de dialoguer avec vous en français, mes maigres connaissances de la langue de Shakespeare me confinent , hélas, dans les coulisses de la langue de Molière.

Je pense que l'observation de M.Manjali est très pertinente et je partage son point de vue quant ´la méthode pour traiter notre question.

Je revient encore a votre concept de « doshon » et le parallèle que j’ai fait avec le concept de « théorie ». Le mot initialement signifiait «un « groupe d'envoyés à un spectacle religieux, à la consultation d'un oracle ». « Théoros » en grec est un « spectateur » mais d'abord, et surtout, un « consultant d'un oracle » et « assistant a une fête religieuse ». En grec moderne « théorien » signifie encore « considérer ». L'origine par composition de « thea » (spectacle,théâtre) et « oros » (qui observe) pose un problème sémantique, la notion d'oracle étant première, et non celle de spectacle. Pour l’élément « thea » on a pu évoquer l’influence de « theos » (dieu). Ansi pour H. Roller, « théo-oros » correspond à « qui observe [oros] la volonté de dieu ». (Dictionnaire Historique de la Langue Française, Le Robert ISBN 2-85036-187-9).

Pour Démocrite, le terme désigne la vision d'un objet physique, c'est avec Platon que « théoria » signifie la contemplation, celle des êtres et du monde. La contemplation est considérée par Platon comme l'activité propre du philosophe. Aristote considère la contemplation comme étant l'activité la plus noble de l'homme parce que divine.

Le terme devient en français [je suppose qu'en anglais également], à partir du XVI siècle, synonyme de « connaissance purement rationnelle », peut être réinterprète par les Cartésiens dans leur querelle contre Aristote et les« préjuges empiristes ».

« la félicité est liée non pas à l’intellect et à la contemplation du divin, mais à la volonté et à sa liberté » (Descartes).

Je découvre également, que le concept de « Zhao » en chinois signifie « illuminer, regarder,connaitre,intuitivement) . Il désigne techniquement la fonction de la gnose, qui rappelle le rapprochement qui a été fait entre speculum-mirori et speculatio-contempler (P.Démiéville).

Ici la vrai connaissance est reflet ; elle est le fait de qui est semblable à un miroir. Cette notion de miroir modèle est reprise par de nombreux auteurs au cours de l'histoire de la pensée chinoise. Les taoistes contemplent et font apparaitre les divinités à l'intérieur d'eux mêmes. Pour le bouddhisme (Shenhui) l'esprit lui-même est rayonnement lumineux spontané ; cependant il ajoute que,lorsque la vision est totale, le rayonnement lui-même disparait. A l'aube du neo-confucianisme, Li Ao exploite le terme « zhao » pour caractériser la vision et l'écoute pures.

La notion la plus proche en Occident : la lumière par laquelle l’âme est éclairée qu'il faut contempler, la vision donnée par la lumière même de cette vision de Plotin (Ennéades, V,3,8 et 17). Pour lui toutes les réalités vraies viennent de la contemplation et c'est par celle-ci que se réalise l'unité de l'intelligence et de l'intelligible. (G.Redlow, Theoria, Berlin, Verlag der Wiss,1966).

Bien à vous.  

"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...
To go back to the question raised initially I could perhaps say that philosophy has this peculiar fate of having to deal with the problem of universal and local.Take for instance the problem of perception
:is it universal or local? A hard headed monolithic view of What philosophy is as bad as a host of diverse view trying to define philosophy.I think the truth is in between.The fact that philosophy could be a subtle form of domination of unconscious does not make it altogether a capricious enterprise.

"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...
Reply to J.C. Schwab
C'est génial, Juan. On peut penser le lien philologique (Indo-European) possibe entre theorien et darshan / dorshon. En sanscrit et les langues indiennes, 'darshan' a un sens premier de la 'vision,' du dieu. C'est le spectacle (interne) du dieu. Donc, le sens de la theorien / la philosophie dans ces deux langues, Grec et sanscrit, vien d'un spectacle ou d'une vision extrème, c'est-à-dire, une vision (interne: mentale) du dieu. Une théologié qui prècede la philosophie! Peut-être, c'était comme ça pour les pré-socratiques. J'attends votre reponse. Amicalement.

"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...

Let me do a little summing up here -- just to have a clear view of what we have discussed so far.  We have various questions, answers, hypotheses , or suggestions .

Q.1   Does the word "philosophy" along with its various equivalents/cognates in different cultures has a common content across the cultures?


At least three different answers/suggestions/hypotheses



There is no such common content across various cultures.

"there is no common word for anything in any language. The word for or cognates of philosophy appeared  in different languages at different historical moments in different contexts, and have had  different meanings and connotations. It would be useful to see the different values of different related terms that suggest the meaning of the word, philosophy, without it being exactly the same thing."-- Franson Manjali


A 1. 2

There is a common content though we label it  differently  in different  cultures/contexts.

Philosophy is a voice --  "a philosophical voice.  ...  Most of a person's life is not conducted in this voice -- but for some people, much of it is.  They are expressly taking up a critical, interrogating voice and this is different than the voice of everyday life  ...  philosophy has to include a critical element and engage in an ongoing search."  


"philosophy is philosophy and (arguably) cannot only be germane to the culture in which it emerges."


--  Steven Goldman


"philosophy has this peculiar fate of having to deal with the problem of universal and local."


-- Bijay Mahapatra.

A 1.3

Sometimes we even have quite different contents under the same banner.

" In my view, one should be aware that at each time and in each place one may be doing different things even though the label for them may remain the same." -- Franson Manjali


Q2.  Are the etymologies pertaining to different words for philosophy or related with philosophy somehow converge (historically)?

A2. I think  Juan Schwab shows that there is a link between "dorshon" and "theory". 


Q3.  That/those which we refer by philosophy or various cognate terms is/are social object(s) or natural object(s) ? (Franson Manjali raises this question)

A3. I would say it is obviously social. (Then we have to clarify the ontological status of a social object; whether, as a social object,  philosophy has any distinctive character tic  so that it is distinct from other disciplines)

"philosophy"/"dorshon"/? ...
Shaheen Mohammad Islam has made an excellent summary of our discussions

Q.1   Does the word "philosophy" along with its various equivalents/cognates in different cultures have a common content across the cultures?

A1.1 There is no such common content across various cultures.

A 1. 2 There is a common content though we label it differently in different cultures/contexts.

A 1.3 Sometimes we even have quite different contents under the same banner.

Q2.  Do the etymologies pertaining to different words for philosophy or related with philosophy somehow converge (historically/conceptually)?

A2. Yes, in given examples

Q3.  Are the things we refer to with words like ‘philosophy’ or various cognate terms social object(s) or natural object(s) ?

A3. Philosophy is social. (+ we have to clarify the ontological status of a social object; whether, as a social object,  philosophy has any distinctive characteristic)


I think question 3 and thinking about question 3 can help bring clarity to questions 1&2.

Question 1 is going after the cosmopolitan idea of common humaneness as a basis for fellowship and the peculiar kind of fellowship that takes place as philosophical search.  If people from wildly different circumstances are able to recognize a critical-interrogative kind of awareness among people – people in their neighborhood and people very far away – also in records from ancient times and (imaginatively) in future societies – then there is a X factor that is discoverable in particular circumstances but transcends particular circumstances – so, e.g. the Greeks caught sight of this and named it ‘philosophy.’   Plato was able to talk about what Pythagoras and Parmenides were doing, but also use the same word to refer to this activity in Persia, Egypt and India – also (imaginatively) to Atlantis – and of course in the Republic.

This is the idea that Deleuze is defending when he links philosophy to happenings in ancient Ionia.  It seems obvious that philosophy emerges with precipitating conditions such as political pluralism, commercial cosmopolitanism, literacy and the breakdown of traditional religion.

Martin Heidegger argues against this line of thinking because he thinks that all genuine thinking has to be rooted in a specific place – a plot of ground – he was suspicious of thinking that tries to be at home in many places.  He identifies the cosmopolitan or metropolitan or multivariate culture as homelessness, rootlessness, not knowing who one is.  To me, Heidegger’s objections to the idea of cosmopolitan philosophy, i.e. universally possible/emergent critique and search, is merely a prejudice on his part; is a romantic notion – an unthought little bit of his thought that he hadn’t gotten to yet.  I would argue that if he applies his own principle uniformly, he cannot help but discover the thing he celebrates as philosophy in virtually every epoch and location.  It is part of being human or natural to humans or just something that human beings do.

The idea of cosmopolitan philosophy and the expectation that we will be able to find philosophy pretty much everywhere is somewhat like the idea that the Greeks had that the god that they worshipped as Zeus is worshipped in other places under a different name.  Alternatively, we could say that there is only one God and only one name for God; and all the other names for God, except for the one we praise, are mere idolatry and superstition.  This is somewhat like Deleuze’s idea that “philosophy is a Greek thing.”  You might as well say that religion is a Greek thing; or art; or morality.

To me, the critical consciousness and model of search begins on a small scale and grows by ever wider circles and spheres – exactly as impartial reasoning or impartial justice cannot be boxed in to a special circle of a special people for very long – it has to reach out beyond the small circle and apply itself to new situations.  I think the Australian philosopher Peter Singer’s arguments about this are persuasive.

But it is true that language makes for huge differences and that even in the same tradition it is hard sometimes to see a single thread running through very different ways of looking at the world – a common theme or characteristic that makes them all into examples of philosophy – or maybe a set of family resemblances.  Nietzsche and Kant and Wittgenstein all write in German and all are philosophers, but also: A 1.3 --- Sometimes we even have quite different contents under the same banner.

When we start to think about Q3.,  Are the things we refer to with words like ‘philosophy’ or various cognate terms social object(s) or natural object(s) ? – we see immediately that philosophy like art and religion is something that comes up in human cultural evolution – it has a social origin and context.  Arguably, it always grows outside that context and offers to enlighten people who are not members of the tribe in which these cultural forms arose.

Beaudrillard argues that when philosophy takes off from the cultural platform it is responding to, it is not simply reacting to the limitations of the home culture.  It is not just the child who wants to get some independence from the parents.  It is reacting to something, mediated by the culture, but transcending the culture.  And the thing it is reacting to, is the enigmatic situation in which we all stand every single moment of our lives.  Heidegger calls it Being, Plato talks about wonder, Wittgenstein talks about wondering about the existence of the world.  You are face-to-face with the fact that you are alive – you are self-consciously mortal – this is a peculiar state of mind and gets us into a critical, questioning, searching kind of life.  And then you notice that many people around you are asking the same questions.  Socrates, Buddha, Confucius did not talk to each other, but they are all talking to us.

I wonder if it is possible to build a sense of common humaneness out of this bare minimum of philosophical awareness and curiosity.

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Bijaya Mahpatra commented very briefly :

philosophy has this peculiar fate of having to deal with the problem of universal and local. 

It seems that philosophy itself can be local or universal.

Are we verging to realism versus nominalism debate? Steven Goldman seems to be holding a realist line, for he says:

there is a X factor that is discoverable in particular circumstances but transcends particular circumstances -- so, e.g. the Greeks caught sight of this and named it 'philosophy.'

On the other hand Franson Manjali seems to have a nominalistic  bent; for him

there is no essence or constancy of philosophy.

So philosophy is not only a "social object", if by an object we mean a particular -- something different from a universal; it is also a "social universal".

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There are some interesting ideas that we can can usefully follow in Juan's reply (in French) dated 10th September. I would like to provide an English translation of his text as soon as possible. Incorporating those ideas could make your summary even richer. Personally, I am interested in understanding the historically and culturally emerging (produced) normativity of philosophical discourses. In other words,the situatedness of both philosophy and the philosopher. What interests me is not attempting a nominalist account of the meaning of the word 'philosophy;' I doubt if the nominalism-realism opposition is at all relevant on the question we have at hand.  

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(chance for me to practice my French).

I apologize to M. Shaheen and M. Manjali for having to carry on the dialogue in French – due to my humble understanding of the language of Shakespeare – I will have to stay behind the curtain of the language of Molière.

 I think Mr. Manjali’s comment is very relevant and I share his views on the method we need to use to address this question.

 I return again to your concept of "doshon" and the parallel I make with the concept of "theory". The word originally meant "a group sent to/on the way to a religious spectacle, in order to consult an oracle.”  ""Théoros" in Greek is a "spectator" but first and above all, a "consultant of an oracle" and "attending a religious festival." Modern Greek "Theorien" still means "consider". The original composition of "thea" (entertainment, drama) and "Oros" (observing) poses a semantic problem – the idea of the oracle is primary, and not the show or thing that is seen. For the item "thea" we could discuss the influence of "theos" (god).  See on this H. Roller, "theo-oros" is "observing [oros] the will of God." (Historical Dictionary of the French Language, ISBN 2-85036-187-9 Le Robert).


For Democritus, the term refers to the vision of a physical object.  It is with Plato that "theoria" mean contemplation of beings in the world. Contemplation is considered by Plato as the philosopher's proper activity. Aristotle considers contemplation as the noblest human activity because it shares in the divine nature.


The term derives from French [I guess also in English], from the 16th century, synonymous with "purely rational knowledge" – perhaps reinterpreted by Cartesians in their dispute with Aristotelians and with the prejudices of the empiricists. 

 "Happiness is not linked to the intellect and contemplation of the divine, but to the will and its freedom" (Descartes).

 I also discovered that the concept of "Zhao" in Chinese means "illuminate, see, know, know intuitively.”  Technically it means the function of gnosis, which recalls the approximation that has been pointed out between seeing as mirroring and seeing as contemplating/thinking (P. Demieville).

 True knowledge shows itself in this image as something like what we see in a mirror – is a kind of reproducing.  This notion of mirroring is taken up by many authors in the history of Chinese thought.  The Taoists contemplated and made semblances of their gods within themselves.  Buddhists (Shenhui) mind itself is spontaneous light of illumination; however it adds to the idea in the image that when the vision is complete, the radiation itself disappears. At the dawn of neo-Confucianism, Li Ao uses the word "chao" to characterize the pure vision and pure hearing.

 The concept closest to this in the West – the light which is the soul’s object of thought, and by which the soul is enlightened – is Plotinus’ vision (Enneads, V, 3.8 and 17). For him everything real comes from the contemplation of this light; this is where intelligence and intelligible come together as one (G. Redlow, Theoria, Berlin, Verlag der Wiss, 1966).



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I want to revise one sentence of the above translation of a comment by Juan Carlos Schwab.    
The sentence is: "In Modern Greek "Theorien" still means "consider"."  I now see that this translation does not get at what M. Schwab is showing us.  The passage occurs in a discussion of the religious origins of the term 'theoria,' seeing a spectacle but also having a connection with rites and religious life.  The English word 'consider' means something like examine, look at, think about, reflect about.  But originally the term referred to looking at the sky -- to study, contemplate, deliberate, weigh the sky -- literally to 'be with' (con) the 'sky' (sider / sidus -- heaven, the stars).  Capturing the idea that man first began to take note of patterns by contemplating the heavens (?) -- also the idea of the human capacity to think a problem through (?) -- not sure how to translate the sentence into English to get both these senses

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Thanks for this excllent translation Juan's text. It's much better than what I could have hoped to do.Of course, the discussion has much to gain from his observations.

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[I can see in the preview that Sanjaya Talapatra has had a second posting -- where he mentioned Kant. But for some reason, unknown to me, I cannot get the full view of the posting. Is it same at the other ends too? Thanks to M. Goldman for translating M. Schwab's post into English. Thanks to M. Schwab and all others for their sincerity and seriousness. And my apology -- if I misread or misinterpret anyone's view. I face some trouble for writing (French) e with accent aigu; the technique is still secret to me -- M. Manjali and M. Schwab seem to have no trouble with that. ]

Let us focus on M. Schwab's beautiful posting. What strikes me at the outset is regarding the methodology he is alluding to. In fact he wrote
je partage son point de vue [ de M. Manjali] quant la methode pour traiter notre question
 -- that he shares M. Manjali's point of view regarding the methodology for addressing our question. What is the question? I guess it must be the one I posed in the beginning: What philosophy is called in Chinese or other cultures? Or,  what are the corresponding etymologies/connotations in those cultures? M. Manjali's response was
It would be useful to see the different values of different related terms that suggest the meaning of the word, philosophy, without it being exactly the same thing. ... How do the terms of pensee, philosophie and theorie differ in French, for example? In Malayalam, there are words like tattwachinta, chinta (pensee), darhanam (vision; a rather recent introduction). In Hindi, one even uses the term, darshanshastra (literally, 'vision science')?
So the methodology seems to be at least this much:

1) be careful about context-sensitivity:
We should be very careful that the meanings of "philosophy" or its equivalents/cognates are highly context-sensitive -- in the sense that each word or expression acquire very different meanings depending on its context (of origin?) (To me a classic example of this is M. Goldman's facing problem with translating  French <<considerer>> into English "to consider")
2) go for intra-language comparison:
Even in a same language we may have a number of parallel expressions; we can compare/contrast the meanings of them too.  
But we need more flesh for this methodology. Maybe M. Manjali or M.Schwab can give us more guidance. 

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The phrase “show some consideration” means: being thoughtful and then acting morally (he showed some consideration and turned the music down); being thoughtful and acting prudently (economic considerations forced her to delay her plans); being thoughtful and making a decision (showing some consideration for alternative ideas, he weighed his options and made his choice).  The word ‘consideration’ therefore seems to get at thoughtfulness in all sorts of situations – perhaps these fine differences are more important than the common idea of thoughtfulness.  In one case we are talking about being respectful of other people; in another case, we are talking about being practical and aiming at some end; in another case, the subject is thinking things through very slowly and carefully deciding. 

 Maybe this is what M. Manjali was trying to say – “there is no common word for anything in any language” – because if we embed the word in its many contexts and spell out all its connections, we will see a rich network that is never exactly matched in any other linguistic context. 

This seems right.  But the broad, big idea of ‘consideration’ in the abstract, the idea of thoughtfulness expressed with a term that etymologically suggests gazing at the stars – it is possible that we may be able to find very similar ideas in other languages – or similar ideas that rest on other metaphors and etymological connections  (thoughtfulness + stargazing, thoughtfulness + seeing, thoughtfulness + listening, thoughtfulness + benevolence). 

 Hypothesis: the word ‘philosophy’ gets at a certain activity (the one we are talking about) and makes this a theme with metaphors about love and wisdom.  In China, the term chia, ‘school’ is used in contexts such as Yin-Yang chia, Ju chia, Mo chia, Ming chia, Fa chia (Yin-Yang school, Confucianist, followers of Mo Tzu, School of names, Legalists) – the term chia is sometimes translated 'philosophy' and in different contexts can also refer to 'thinkers' or 'scholars' or the 'hundred schools' (the historical period in China between fifth through third century BC).  The term ‘philosophy’ and the term ‘chia’ do not stand in a one-to-one correspondence and the networks that these terms are part of are very different.  Thus – literally – “there is no common word for anything in any language.” – Yes.  But, arguably, when we are talking about what Pythagoras and Nietzsche are up to, and when we are talking about what Mo Tzu and Fung Yu-lan are up to, this is the same thing – the same aspect of human nature is in play and is developing itself -- whether we call it philosophia or chia or some other term ... (?)


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I was interested not only in the differential meanings of the words, philosophy and dorshon / darshan, which can be made evident without much difficulty, but also in the different historical routes taken by these words and what they represent. I think that philosophy and darshan, even if they are taken as translational equivalents, when one considers their differential historical routes, and the manner in which they get to be be practiced, would be quite different. One could be interested in the discontinuities in the terms for things and their meanings and the associated practices. What is interesting to note is the apparently seamless conjunction (i.e., ignoring the disjunction) between philosophy as 'love of wisdom' and what would have been the 'vision (internal spectacle) of god' which seems to me to be the primary meaning of the word 'darshan', and from which the word for philosophy is derived. This, I thought was in some ways parallel to the instance of the Gk. 'theorien,' which also seems to move from the sense of something like 'spectacle of god' to something like philosophy. One can notice such linguistic disparities (discrepancies?) elsewhere too. When Gk. 'politiei' becomes Latin 'res publica' or Republic, or ganatantra (literally, 'people's logic') in contemporary Hindi, what one gets are notions that carry the historical traces from different contexts. (Only recently I learnt that 'commonwealth' is a translation of res publica.) Britain therefore, even though is not a republic internally, is meant to be the head of the commonwealth (republic) of nations that it formerly colonized....One can go on indefinitely with these historical-cultural-political stories of words that might otherwise look innocuous. These, probably cannot be reduced to the nominalism-realism opposition. Perhaps one might have to pay more attention to the enigma of language itself.          

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I have been arguing with myself and testing the hypothesis, which I have held for quite some time, that philosophy is a human universal.  I came to this thesis by a fairly straightforward path.  As a young person I became fascinated with philosophy and read everything I could find.  I took degrees in the subject and, through long study and the opportunity to teach (and therefore learn even more), my curiosity wandered out of Western lands to all parts of the globe.  I began studying sources from India, China, Africa, South America, also studying ideas emerging in indigenous cultures of the American Southwest – e.g. from the Hopi nation and the Navajo people.  I also became familiar with the debates in Africa, for example, between thinkers who draw parallels between indigenous thoughtfulness and Greek models of thoughtfulness, and those who deny that there is any parallel and who insist instead that African thoughtfulness is sui generis and need not try to explain itself by referring to Western categories such as philosophy.  It seemed to me that it was not important what we called this thing – the X factor – critical interrogation emerging in a culture – it is not important that we call this ‘philosophy’ – but it also seemed to me that it was important to see that it is going on everywhere and in every period of history – thus not to make the mistake of thinking that this is something reserved for a privileged few.  This is more like a human universal, like dance, for example, or drawing – a kind of spontaneous expressiveness – rather than being reserved for a elite of Brahmins. 

Now I am questioning my simple-minded extension from The Republic to the I Ching to Black Elk Speaks and so forth.  M. Manjali’s argument suggests: words used in different languages, normally translated with the word ‘philosophy’ when the discussion is taking place in English, have radically different histories.  It is fine if we translate them from one language to another – there is nothing wrong with the translation.  But since the histories are so different, so are the practices that are described in these different words.  Perhaps, for example, this practice is reserved in some societies for people with a special pedigree or social standing.  Only people of an exalted sort are permitted to engage in it.  But in another culture it is considered completely ordinary and there are no social barriers to worry about.  If the social conditions that support or restrict what look like examples of a ‘similar’ practice in societies A, B, C are very different from society to society, then so, arguably, are these practices themselves.  We may call them by the same name, but this probably conceals as much as it reveals. 

This means that it is much more difficult to establish the validity of cultural invariants – practices that appear in many (if not all) cultures and which have the same basic significance in all of them.  As M. Manjali argues, these historical-cultural-political stories may look innocuous but they are not.  Lots is going on behind the scenes.

I fight against this idea because somehow it sounds to me like a return to the assertion of diverse very specific sui generis cultural traditions that we have inherited from the past and that we hang onto neurotically – instead of taking it all in and going on – going on in the project of constructing a common future for all people.

Then I argue against this naïve hope in a common future because it does not address the insane inequality that exists among cultures as they exist today – e.g. as constructed by economic history. 

Philosophy in some cases amounts to ideology used to preserve the authority of a ruling power (the power has to be maintained because God commands it or because the Founders established it&so on).  Philosophy in another case is a cry of protest against an existing power.  Philosophy in another example tries to produces a synthesis of what is known up to a certain point in history.  And philosophy in a further case may have no bearing on temporal affairs at all.

Also: capitalism (some argue) has already become global and has established an order that applies to everyone on the planet – we are all consumers and potential customers for businesses.  Thus it may be that when we talk about common humanity and the universality of the project of thought, of criticism and questioning, we are only carrying out a process (one step further) that the underlying economic order has inscribed in us. 

When we are doing metaphilosophy, we have to worry about the following:

Are we addressing the past?  Or are we addressing the future?  Are we ignoring the inequities that underlie and perpetuate the current economic order?  Are we taking them into consideration and trying to adjust for them, address them, surmount them?  Are we working on the project of a common humanity?  Are we unwitting collaborators of a unjust order? 

What are the political and ethical implications of metaphilosophy, and how do philosophers go about the work of metaphilosophy in an ethical and politically astute manner?  Do political affiliations shape the way we construct the problems of metaphilosophy – or is metaphilosophy a field that we can explore without worrying about political-historical-cultural issues? 



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Wow! Very well written, M. Goldman. Thank you!

Let me try to clarify a relevant point here. As I hinted earlier, there seems to be -- at least -- a shadow of realism/nominalism tension in our discussion. So what I mean by this tension?

the view claiming that like a singular term a general term has (or can have) a reference, which is a universal (or a property), which is real -- not depending on me; and  which transcends or extends beyond various particulars/particularities/localities. The particulars can be classified under a common rubric because they instantiate the very universal.
Example: This is white, that is white too; they both share a commonality, whiteness; they are white because they instantiate that very single property -- whiteness.

Denies Realism: there is nothing real like that. The only commonality shared by those particulars is a term we label on them; this is a matter of history or convention or some kind of construction.
Example: This is white, and that is white; they both share a commonality -- that they are called, labelled, or named as "white". C'est tous

"Philosophy" can be a general term; in English, I suppose, it is an abstract and uncountable noun.

Critical remark:
It seems that the contrast between particularity and universality can be quite stark in natural world; like "this is white". Is this contrast that stark or evident in regard to the social phenomena like arts, religions, politics, languages, and so on? Is not "being white" or "being a dog" quite different from "being a case of philosophy"?

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I think Mohammed Shaheen has asked a very pertinent question concerning the particularity or universality of social phenomena like philosophy. 
If we wish to believe that philosophy is essentially thoughtfulness that is "more like a human universal, like dance, for example, or drawing – a kind of spontaneous expressiveness," then we soon run into trouble with this analogy. Philosophy, clearly is not based on physical activity like dancing or drawing, but on the other hand it may be thought of as an artistic activity in its articulation, as for example, Nietzsche would have like to. But more importantly, philosophy being essentially a discursive / dialogical / dialectical, at least when it has become institutionalised, it begins to yield 'metaphilosophy,' the main area that we are dealing with. The other human universals, that are mentioned, have not produced a meta-dancing or a meta-drawing. I recall what  Socrates had pointed as the distinction between domains involving use of language, and those like, painting and music, which do not involve it. (Plato's Cratylus). Concluding his discussion on the relationship between words and things, he said: "...every man should expend his chief thought and attention on the consideration of first principles:- are they or are they not rightly laid down? and when he has duly sifted them down, all the rest will follow." (We must add here that this could possibly be an interminable task.)

I should imagine, that depending upon the source, the given context and the intended destination, philosophy (in whatever name it appears) would contain and be conditioned by various elements: theology, poetry, art, science, ideology, etc. Obviously these involve different kinds of 'thougtfullness,' not just one. These would be evident in the manner in which the thoughtfulness is articulated in language (shall we say, in the 'language games'), where each word belongs to a network of words and meanings of its own or borrowed from elsewhere. The latter process perhaps involves a thoughtfullness which is far from a universal. It would be conditioned by contexts, interests and ideologies. I believe this is where the process of appropriation takes place. If that is so, a very special task of philosophy, and metaphilosophy will be to disappropriate what has been appropriated in specific cultural and linguistic contexts. The assumptioin of thoughtfulness as a metaphilosophical universal (unless we are talking of a mode of thinking that is essentially unconditioned),  seems to be framed by an anthropo-psychological perspective.            

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I am not very clear about Franson Manjali's view; cannot grasp the significance of the quote from Plato's Cratylus. At the end he writes,

The latter process perhaps involves a thoughtfullness which is far from a universal. It would be conditioned by contexts, interests and ideologies. I believe this is where the process of appropriation takes place. If that is so, a very special task of philosophy, and metaphilosophy will be to disappropriate what has been appropriated in specific cultural and linguistic contexts. The assumptioin of thoughtfulness as a metaphilosophical universal (unless we are talking of a mode of thinking that is essentially unconditioned),  seems to be framed by an anthropo-psychological perspective.

I guess "appropriation" and "disappropriation" are key terms here. Any further clarification?

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Hypothesis: philosophy is not a human universal.  Then, e.g. philosophy emerges in some cultures, but not in others.  This is the case either:

(1) necessarily, because these are ‘unphilosophical’ cultures – e.g. this is Hegel’s position in The Philosophy of History

Or: (2) accidently; as it were, some cultures have more practice in this than others – e.g. this is Habermas’ position in Postmetaphysical Thinking

Or: (3) uniquely; this is the position that Deleuze takes in his work What is philosophy? and is generally considered the standard view – i.e. philosophy has one and only one origin, in Ionia, in Miletus.  According to this last thesis, philosophy emerges in the confrontation of Ionian Greek trading communities with the high cultures of the East and with the Phoenicians and Etruscans in the West.  Philosophy is an original achievement of the Greeks in shaping the intellectual tradition of mankind; it irrupts away from static structures of religion; it implies literacy and takes shape in the form of texts that address themselves to a nascent reading public; it takes shape as prose writing rather than poetry – saying matter-of-factly what is the case rather than flying with inspiration and singing; it leads directly to mathematical and scientific thinking; and it is datable with the Anaximander fragment, which appeared one year before the conquest of Sardes by Cyrus, which occurred in 547 BC (see e.g. Zeller, Guthrie, Jaeger, Walter Burkert). 

Regarding (1) Hegel says that he is bringing the concept of reason to the study of history.  The propositions that he asserts about history have (for him) the value of strict reason.  They are not approximations – they are certainties that he has read from the essential properties of the historical peoples he is surveying – likewise history has a goal; and he makes many more pronouncements of equally striking generality.  He has an hierarchical vision and denies the exalted status of ‘philosophical culture’ to many peoples, ultimately reserving the pinnacle of philosophical achievement not to the Greeks but to his own German people and more particularly the German spirit as it is expressing itself in his own philosophy. 

We can quickly get a picture of the soundness of this judgment by citing a few of his judgments in the introduction to The Philosophy of History – some of which seem quite profound and thought-provoking and some of which seem like idiocies and base prejudices unworthy of a thinker of Hegel’s status.

Some of the former:

“The destiny of the spiritual world and the final cause of the world at large is for spirit to rise to the consciousness of its own freedom…This takes place in and as the history of philosophy…The conception of God constitutes the general basis of a people’s character…Religion is the sphere in which a nation gives itself the definition of what it regards as true…When this is finally apprehended as an intellectual conception, There is philosophy.” 

Some of the latter:

“The aborigines of America show a mild and passionless disposition, want of spirit, and crouching submissiveness…In African life the characteristic point is that consciousness has not yet attained to the realization of any substantive objective existence, as e.g. in God or law…For the soul of man, God must be more than a thunderer, whereas in Africa this is not the case…For them, the higher power is merely magic…slavery is to be explained by the fact that in some cases man has not yet attained a consciousness of his own freedom, and consequently sinks down to the level of a mere thing…” 

Hegel is an example of self-congratulatory history of philosophy in which the thinker’s people and perhaps even the ideas of the thinker himself stand for the ultimate achievement in the development of this thing we are talking about – philosophy. 

Regarding (2) Habermas says that he is bringing the experimental method to the study of history (not the concept of reason).  From this perspective, philosophy is a kind of interpreter.  “Philosophy operates under conditions of rationality that it has not chosen” – “Philosophy has to implicate itself in the fallibilistic self-understanding and procedural rationality of the empirical sciences; it may not lay claim to a privileged access to truth, or to a method, or to an object realm, or even a style of intuition that is specifically its own.”  Philosophy is simply a tenacity in posing questions with a view towards universality – it surveys a region of experience and looks for the one in the many.  It tries to reconstruct the intuitive pre-theoretical knowledge of competent speakers; it trues to gain some distance from this background; then it problematizes and interprets.  “Some cultures have more practice than others in distancing themselves from themselves” – but we can expect to find some of this activity in all cultures.  Philosophy is both immanent (not to be found outside of contingent language games) but also transcendent (because it develops regulative ideas that are used to criticize and interpret existing practices). 

One of the important steps in Habermas’ argument – underlying his claim that this thing we are calling ‘philosophy’ is potentially a human universal and not the exclusive provision of one culture – though it is easier to see in some cultures and some cultures have developed it further – is a denial of Hegel’s idea.  Hegel reasons that some cultures have a kind of everyday unreflective or untheoretical vocabulary and way of looking at the world, whereas other cultures specifically develop a theoretical system and a philosophical consciousness.  Habermas cites Mary Hesse’s studies from the 1970s showing that everyday concepts like earth, sky, man, tree, fish are just as ‘theoretical’ and linked to causal laws as words like proton, atom, wave, electric current, quark.  There is always a theoretical underlayer.  The big idea here is that every human being, including people in ‘traditional’ cultures, does his own little bit of ‘reworking’ of the world-view handed down to him, in the course of applying it to everyday life in the light of his own interests.  This implies critical distance and the opportunity for criticism and new interpretations. 

Habermas’ way of putting this is useful for our discussion – his formula is “the unity of reason in the diversity of its voices.”  He thinks that when we look into the history of any given interpretive community we can see a few broad patterns: there are canonical texts and there is a tradition of preserving/interpreting/developing the ideas in these texts; the lines of development follow a set pattern (as laid out by Schnaedelbach and Tugendhat) of Being, Consciousness, and Language; that with the linguistic turn, self-consciousness reaches an apogee; this makes it possible for a human being to see what he or she is up to and also begin to recognize that the thinking/interpreting activity is taking place everywhere wher we can find a human face.  The more discourse in and between interpretive communities, the better; the more discourse, the freeer we are; the more discourse, the more we have a chance to give in to the “unforced force of the better argument” and establish more and more intersubjective agreements and broader results of consensus – that always have to be, and are, challenged again.

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I would like to see philosophy as something that began as non-philosophy, differently in different contexts, and something that may might become non-philosophy in diverse ways. If this hypothesis is correct, then there could not have been a human universal of philosophy, or philosophy as a human universal. Human activities or thoughts have taken different, unpredictable routes of articulation, and one of them arrived at philosophy, and another arrived at 'darshan' (in contemporary India) or 'dorshon' (in contemporary Bangladesh)  both of the latter being different, because of their actualisation in relatively different contexts, and both being different from the former.. The thoughts these entities entertain, and the manner in which these thoughts are entertained, are different, because the overall set of of (textual') references they deal with or expose themselves to are very different. This is why I suspect that dorshon in Bangladesh and darshan in India would have different contents, and both will have different contents from those of 'philosophy.' Perhaps, one is looking at the situatedness of different philosophical texts, and even more, of the philosophical acts. From a certain point of view, it is these differentials that contribute to the richness of philosophy, and which constitute it. And therefore, the instinct to move away from the reductive notion of philosophical universality. Any statement of philosophy or metaphilosophy that one makes would be adding a 'supplement' to these domains, without being entirely subsumed by them. (Heidegger had noted that there really cannot be a metalanguage, and we may add that there can really be no metaphilosophy.) Thus, when philosophy is submitted to metaphilosophical considerations, then 'philosophy' has received a supplement, in a way that 'dorshon' has not, precisely because, there isn't as yet, a meta-dorshon. It is the different configurations of preoccupations, texts, acts, contexts, etc., that make philosophy and dorshon two different entities, despite their assumed translational equivalence. One could add that saying that philosophy and dorshon are the same, or that they are different, involve two different kinds of philosophical act.         

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Digging into some problems of metaphilosophy, our conversation jumps into all sorts of traditional dilemmas: nominalism and realism, and different ways of conceiving the relation between [words-ideas-mental phenomena] and [things-objects-physical realities]; the difference between translational equivalence and rich-context-identity; [universal-abstract-ideal] vs. [local-concrete-real]; whether philosophy is a human universal or instead something that emerges in one culture specifically; ultimately there is the problem of defining philosophy itself. 

M. Manjali cited Plato’s Cratylus as a possible source for the conversation.  In the Cratylus, Plato brings Socrates into a discussion about language.  Socrates begins by noting that gods and men sometimes call the same things by different names; that Greeks and barbarians use different letters and syllables to point out the same things; that people everywhere try to point to the same things using gestures of many kinds; that language is somewhat like painting, which can portray the thing painted with better or worse skill.  Socrates acknowledges that he does not have any knowledge about this subject but instead he is merely entertaining human notions.  His partner in conversation, Hermogenes, cites Hesiod to the effect that even if we don’t have knowledge quite yet, it’s still good to “add a little to a little” and keep trying. 

The natural starting point seems to be what Aristotle later writes in On Interpretation: “spoken words are the symbols of mental experience and written words are the symbols of spoken words. And just as all men do not use the same writing, so all men do not make the same sounds in speech.  But the mental experiences, which writing and sounds directly symbolize, are the same for all, as also are those things of which our experiences are the images.”

Plato’s discussion in the Cratylus seems to imply that the process by which spoken language grows out of gestures is not entirely conventional, but in some cases relies on natural affinities between the sound we are using in speech and the thing in the world that we are pointing to.  His examples include the idea that the sound “rho” is naturally related to motion whereas the sound “lambda” is naturally related to smoothness.  However, he thinks that we should conduct our investigation of experience as much as possible in terms of things, rather than words, noting that this is the “nobler” and “clearer” way to go about constructing knowledge.  If we are looking at words and begin to wonder whether one word is better than another in describing a thing, we have to refer to a standard that, without using words, makes clear what is the case and uncovers the truth.  At the end of the dialogue he seems to be saying that this standard cannot admit of any kind of change – it has to be fixed and unchanging.  Otherwise our standard will “leak like a pot” or “resemble a man with a runny nose.”  Probably he is thinking that the only way we can figure out the relation between words and things is by referring our questions to the fixed standard of the eternal Forms. 

In the background here is the idea that there is a world of objects (including the things that people do) that everyone thinks about and talks about; but different peoples use different sounds to paint and address these same realities.

M. Manjali has argued for a different background picture here.  It is that, in effect, peoples using different vocabularies and engaging in different practices, stand opposite different realities or worlds.  They live in different worlds.  They can communicate with one another, from one language to another language, and with experience they can figure out how to translate a word in language A into a word in language B.  But the things and experiences that people A are engaged with are not the things and experiences that people B are engaged with – these are appreciably different and incommensurable contexts.  Words used in languages A and B, normally translated with the word ‘philosophy’ when the discussion is taking place in English, do not have the same significance, and are not conceptually equivalent, to what people mean when in English they use the word ‘philosophy.’  Since the histories and contexts and networks of association and practice are so different, the things named in language A and B and in English are not the same – contrary, for example, to Aristotle’s idea that “mental experiences, which writing and sounds directly symbolize, are the same for all [peoples], as well as those things of which our experiences are the images.”

M. Manjali makes the fascinating comment that he would like to begin with something that is non-philosophy, and that emerges in all sorts of different ways in different contexts, and which ends up as non-philosophy again in all sorts of diverse ways.

Thus he says: “human activities or thoughts have taken different, unpredictable routes of articulation, and one of them arrived at philosophy, and another arrived at 'darshan' (in contemporary India) or 'dorshon' (in contemporary Bangladesh), both of the latter being different, because of their actualization in relatively different contexts, and both being different from the former.”

At this point I think I can formulate my question as follows.  We begin with human activities and thoughts – presumably of a similar kind – and in different contexts, after some elaboration, these thoughts and practices get labeled as ‘philosophy’ or ‘darshan’ or ‘chia’ and a great many other such terms.  If these terms do not have some common core of meaning, or if they have no family resemblance or generic relatable network of signifiers, then (arguably) they have nothing to do with one another and cannot really be part of the same research program – e.g. the program of conducting research in metaphilosophy.  They are just a bunch of unrelated phenomena.  Thus my question: we are conducting a conversation right now; is this conversation an example of philosophy? – or metaphilosophy – or darshan – or dorshon – or chia?  Let us suppose even further that in this conversation, all of the participants speak a different language, and yet all are able to understand the other participants' languages, and translate the other participants’ ideas, back into their native tongue.  -------- Then: What is it that we are doing in this conversation? 

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 Gentlemen, please correct me if I sound utterly naive and vague in what follows.Even though Kant got off from from his dogmatic slumber by Hume in order to ground sense experience lest it should succumb to the former's radical skepticism,one could hardly take him to be arguing against a single isolated individual of England.Rather he was a part of the  "global" tradition of questioning which manifests in one or other form across cultures.To give one example Advaita Vedenta in Indian tradition also tries to ground our experience in its own unique way.So what is evident is the common anxiety or wonder to go beyond what is given.Needless to say that with the historicist turn in philosophy one starts to suspect whether this mode of doing philosophy has any monopoly over other modes such as tracing a particular mode of questioning to its socia-political background.But then the question arises as to whether our embeddness in history forecloses possibility of dialogue across cultures.Philosophically asking," Do I have sufficient evidence to believe that a paricular region's philosophy never was in dialogue with its counterpart other ."The idea of rigid cultural boundries,with its disparate terminoligies to charecterise philosophy, seems to me a reflective move preceded by what bounds us together-the pre reflective die sache selbst,of which language is a key feature.The point I want to make is that philosophy dwells in that ontological realm of "openess" which,though confined to man,nonetheless goes beyond him.                   

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Yes, I agree that the singularity of our conversation has to be taken into consideration. I should think that it cannot be called philosophical or metaphilosophical solely one the basis of the name of the discussion forum where it is taking place. An ordinary conversation can rise to be philosophical or metaphilosophical, and vice versa, what is purported to be philosophical can become ordinary or nonphilosophical. But, I think these thresholds are important, just as the threshold between dorshon and philosophy or that between dorshon and non-dorshon, or even between darshan and dorshon. One could also be interested in the threshold(s) between 'thoughtfulness' and philosophy/dorshon, or between one act or philosophy and another. Now, consider what happens when (and if) philosophy becomes dorshan or when dorshon becomes philosophy -- discursively, institutionally and historically. I think, because of the material constitution of the two distinct 'systems' of discourses, there are two different philosophical acts involved here. The fact that the two systems are framed differently make it difficult for me to believe that they can be reduced to a 'human (philosophical) universal of thoughtfulness.' I hope it is clear that what is at stake is not a relativist position as per which humans think differently because of their use of different languages or being in different cultures. The emphasis here is that humans have experienced different kinds of discursive struggles and strivings which are reflected in their philosophical positions and postures. In this context, I am trying to think of the difficult threshold on the one hand  between modern philosophy and religion in the European context (not ignoring that there has been lately a 'theological turn' in phenomenological philosophy), and that of religion(s) and darshan/ dorshon in the south Asian context. (One may think of other similar thresholds.) For me these material encounters have precedence over an evanescent notion of 'thoughtfulness.' I think it is very difficult to establish a match between thoughtfulness and philosophy in any historical-institutional sense. I imagine, philosophy will continue to be the domain of thoughtful struggles involving encounters, crossing of thresholds, each time singular. And each singularity being part of the plurality the philosophical process.     

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Bijaya Mahapatra has thought a very thought-provoking thought – I wonder if we can think it for a moment.

Some steps in this thought: Heraclitus responds to Pythagoras and the Milesians; Kant responds to Hume; Han Fei Tzu responds to K’ung Tzu.  But these exchanges are not really about a given individual in Samos and another in Ephesus, or about a German and an Englishman.  There is something happening on a global scale and it manifests itself in different cities and times.  Within a society, there is ‘the given’ in a place and in an epoch – but backing up we can see the aspiration-beyond the-given manifesting itself in many such places at the same time, and in many periods of history. 

In many cases we see that the aspiration-beyond-the-given as it emerges in a given society has already intersected with other societies and other accounts of aspiring-beyond-the given.

India and China and Europe are different enough to count as traditions and seem preoccupied with different questions, but many intersections between them help to define them –

Pythagoras, it is said, travelled to Egypt.  Plato journeyed to Sicily.  Leibniz studied the I Ching.  Schopenhauer was immersed in the Upanishads.  Li Chih-Tsao translated Aristotle into Chinese in the 1620s.  Many Western thinkers have travelled and taught in China – e.g. John Dewey and Bertrand Russell lectured at the University of Peking in 1919.  Aristotelian thinking enters India by 150 BC at the latest, as we can see in the Malindapanha.  Buddhism enters China sometime between 520 and 526 CE. 

These kinds of intersections are as much a part of history as periods in which cultures turn inward and reject otherness as alien and erroneous.  In some cases a tradition defines itself by inclusion and in others by excluding. 

Let us say that there is what M. Mahapatra calls a “global tradition of questioning” – I am thinking that this is aspiration-beyond-the-given that manifests itself across cultures.  If we start looking at this, one question that jumps out is whether traditions around the globe are in contact or have been in contact or will be in contact – and, as the above examples show, this is common.  But another theme emerging in this thought is whether everywhere around the globe simultaneously and in every period of history, a Weltanschauung or spiritform or problematic of being takes shape and challenges thinkers around the globe to face similar problems with the different resources within reach within a native tradition – also with ideas learned from study abroad. 

Arguably, the entire world, or at least a great part of it, faced a new problematic of being in the epoch of world wars.  Common themes of response emerged in many places around the globe – a reawakened and powerful sense of personal responsibility; a radical voluntarism and sense of creative personal self-definition; a focus on the enigma of sheer existence and the peculiar consciously-transient character of human being – historians today call this period ‘existentialism’ and list thinkers from many countries who contributed to it – thinkers from Germany, France, Spain, Japan, Denmark, England, Algeria, Israel, China, India, Mexico…

One model for the history of philosophy makes use of the concept of progress.  Karl Popper takes this approach in works like Conjectures and Refutations. He thinks that one thinker responds to another by looking again at the same problematic and trying to surpass it.  He devises the formula P1 ^ TT ^ EE ^ P2 (P1 is the original problem, TT is trial theories to address the problem, EE is error elimination after ‘natural selection’ of unworkable theories, P2 is the restated problem).  A difficulty with this model is that philosophy is in roughly, if not exactly, the same state it was in many centuries ago.  Philosophy in the distant past, philosophy today and philosophy in the distant future, did, does and will wrestle with many of the same problems – though not all. 

Another model for this history is less temporal and more spatial – surveying the terrain of question-space.  There are still many positions in question-space that few travellers have visited – over time many different positions get staked out and, gradually, most of the map gets laid out.  This makes the history of philosophy something like a gradual survey of the topology of thoughtspace. 

Another model is social – something like what Randall Collins attempted in The Sociology of Philosophies.  This approach looks at social groups and ways in which they get founded, grow, accept of reject members, gain influence, wax and wane, rivalries between groups, absorption and schism, taking authoritative and disfavored positions serially and many other kinds of social interactions and developments.  Philosophy on this model is like religious association or any kind of in-group/out-group dynamic. 

Suppose – differently than all these ideas – that everywhere or virtually everywhere there is a world-problem, unfolding in time, differently cognized and spoken and felt in varying contexts, and philosophy is a way of encountering and responding to this problematic as aspiration-beyond the-given and interrogation, critique, naturalism…

M. Mahapatra’s statement is that “philosophy dwells in that ontological realm of "openness" which, though confined to man, nonetheless goes beyond him.”  I am trying to think some of the steps on the way to this thought. 

Somehow, each searcher (at a given place and time) is connected to other searchers (in other places and times) and especially to the state of the world-problematic in the epoch (the here and now) in which the search is taking place…