Tuesday, June 09, 2009

We have not only failed in providing theoretical systems but also failed in realising this as a problem

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Book Review Analysis of Indian philosophical system
S. PANNEERSELVAM The Hindu Tuesday, Jun 09, 2009
ENDURING COLONIALISM — Classical Presences and Modern Absences in Indian Philosophy: A. Raghuramaraju, Oxford University Press, YMCA Library Building, Jai Singh Road, New Delhi-110001. Rs. 545.

The Indian philosophical tradition has two periods: the classical and the modern. The author is of the view that, unlike in the classical period, there has been no new philosophical system or text in India in the contemporary period. With this as the backdrop, he explains, in the book under review, the contributions made by a contemporary Indian thinker, Veddera Chandidas, a known Telugu novelist who also served as Professor of philosophy at the Sri Venkateswara University in Tirupati. Though he was successful as a novelist, his philosophical views have not received the serious attention of the peers. His book, Desire and Liberation: The Fundamentals of Cosmicontology, is analysed by the author from the Indian and Western philosophical standpoints.

Notion of absence
One of the important philosophical themes is the notion of absence which involves pre-existence, post-existence, and non-existence. There are scholars who believe that colonialism has destroyed many philosophical systems in India. The author’s criticism that there was no significant text or philosophy during the colonial period may not be valid. During the colonial period, though there was no construction of philosophical system as in the classical period, the focus on man and his existential problems were not ignored. This is reflected in the philosophy of Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Gandhi, K.C. Bhattacharya, and many others. The traditional concepts were interpreted to suit man and his place in the society, thus exhibiting the interrelation between tradition and modernity.

The author says: “Philosophy could have played a major role and come with new theoretical system. We have not only failed in providing theoretical systems but also failed in realising this as a problem.” This view can be challenged. There has been a serious discussion on philosophical concepts, combining both theory and practice. Perhaps he is trying to look at contemporary Indian philosophy in comparison with the Western system, and this may not be correct.

According to him, Chandidas’ work is a complete metaphysical text and hence he tries to place it in the philosophical tradition and makes an analytical study by comparing the text with Indian systems such as Buddhism, Advaita, and Sankhya and also with those of modern thinkers like Descartes, Hume, Bergson, Hegel, Deleuze, and Foucault. One can understand his intention to place the text in the modern philosophical context. But then, any comparison has to be natural, not a forced one, and there should not be any ‘extra-reading’ of the text. This is one of the hermeneutical guidelines. Permanence

The first chapter explains the various aspects of permanence — pre-existence, existence, and post-existence. According to the Indian tradition, existence is caused by desires, and liberation is considered as devoid of desire. In the second chapter, the author shows how in Chandidas, we find a distinction between the ontic and the ontological. The ontic is structural and metaphysical, whereas the ontological is functional and empirico-physical. There is also the fusion of both which sustains oneness and plurality. The third is on the significance of creativity in Chandidas’ text, and here the comparison is with Roland Barthes, T.S. Eliot, Foucault, Deleuze, Bersani, and so on. Creativity as a multi-directional fusion is novelty, repetition, and aesthetic. In chapter four, Chandidas’ understanding of the nature of reality, causality, and temporality is examined.

The author shows how Chandidas’ notion of causality differs from the Indian conception and how it is related to the idea of process. The fifth chapter analyses ‘desire’, and the author is of the view that Candidas’ conception is more complex than that of Deleuze. For Chandidas, desire is continuous and multi-directed and is grounded in contradictoriness, and he thinks that liberation is not cessation of desire, but a perpetual process of intensification.

The author needs to be commended for presenting a difficult philosophical text in a simple and easily understandable way. His approach to the text is exemplary and the publication will certainly be of interest to specialists and students of philosophy alike.

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