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Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute


Author(s): Fernando Tola and Carmen Dragonetti
Source: Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Vol. 86 (2005), pp. 63-80
Published by: Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute
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Fernando Tola and Carmen Dragonetti*

Since many years we have been interested in a problem that

worries many scholars in Indology : Whether Philosophy existed in an

It is our idea that philosophical thinking has been an important part

of Indian tradition all along its history and that its origin can be traced
back to the Vedic epoch. Of course we admit that in Vedic texts
philosophical thinking still appears in a rudimentary form, as "preformations"
(we could say) that were to be developed in later centuries.

We know that it is not easy to give a definition of the word "philosophy

acceptable to all. The long series of articles concerning the notion
of "Philosophie", included in the Historisches Wörterbuch der Philosophie ,
Vol. 7, Col. 572-926, shows the great number of opinions that have existed
concerning this notion. We assume that philosophy basically is what in
Indian technical terminology is called a darsana , a peculiar way of
looking at the reality in which we live. This word is used to designate
what Indians and indologists consider to be the Indian "systems of
philosophy". We shall examine later on the validity of the opinion that
Western Philosophy is characterized by rationality, free thinking and search
of truth for its own sake, conceived as being the essential features of
philosophical thinking.

* We thank the National Agency for the Promotion of Science of Argentina for its support
for the accomplishment of a Project on Indian Philosophy, a part of which is constituted
by this contribution.
1 Already in 1 983 we published an article Filosofìa de la India included in our book Filosofìa
y Literatura de la India , Buenos Aires : Editorial Kier, pp. 65-71.

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64 Annals BORI, LXXXVI ( 2005 )

The existence of philosophy in Indian culture is

explicitly denied by many professors of Western p
philosophers and cultivated people in general, and
manuals or treatises of History of Philosophy or Ancien
starting from Greek Philosophy, do not include in them
They think, unconsciously or consciously followin
philosophy implies rational thinking, that rational t
from India and that consequently philosophy did not c
but only in Greece.

The debate between acceptance and denial of th

philosophy in Indian culture is not a minor question, s
the idea one has to adopt about Indian cultural tradition
has to take concerning many issues related to that trad

For instance, if one adheres to the negative op

existence of an Indian philosophical thought, one has t
generally held, simple and untenable opinion that I
religious irrationalistic explanations of reality ( dar
Western tradition that had constructed rationalist
reality (philosophical systems). This is one of the facto
myth of an "irrational India" opposing a "rational W
the above indicated consequence, another conseque
one accepts the non-existence of Indian philosophy: giv
always attributed in the West to philosophy, considered
effective factors to build up the identity of a culture,
adequate intellectual activities to promote sane rational
to conclude, if one affirms the absence of an India
Indian culture, just because of the lack of that pos
always been an inferior culture in relation to Western
believed to be the unique and privileged possessor of

Thus, we think that in order to have a right notion of Indian cultural

tradition, in itself and in its relation to Western cultural tradition, it is
necessary to give due attention to the problem of the existence or non-
existence of an Indian philosophy and to find a valid solution to it.

It has always been our idea that the only way to demonstrate the
existence of an Indian philosophy is to point out as many as possible Indian

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Fernando Tola and Carmen Dragonetti : Unity in Diversity ... 65

intellectual productions (ideas , theories , doctrines) that present similarities

with Western intellectual productions of the same nature , traditionally
considered philosophical productions.

The Indian philosophical productions are to be found for the most

part in the Indian dar sanas. However, in the first stages of Indian culture
such intellectual productions may also be found in texts that generally are
not considered dar sanas of philosophical nature.

The similarities presented by Indian and Western intellectual

productions may refer to the subjects they develop, to the attitudes of
their authors, to the nature of the postulates from which they start their
reasonings or on which these reasonings are founded, to the methods used by
the authors to reach their conclusions, and other similar factors of any
intellectual labour.

Two facts have helped us in our intent to carry out the demon-
stration of the existence of an Indian philosophy in the way just indicated
(by similarities found in Indian and Western intellectual productions).
Firstly, during a good number of years we have been doing research work
on Indian dar sanas, and secondly, during many years also we have been
reading and studying the works of Western philosophers.

This double activity, performed with the proposed aim, allowed

us to find out many similarities of the indicated kind in the Indian
dar sanas and in the Western systems of philosophy, and consequently
to assume that the traditionally accepted opposition between Indian
thought, as contained for instance in the dar sanas and many time labelled
by Westerners as "irrational" and Western philosophy , characterized by
them as "rational", is only a myth based on ignorance and eurocentric

As we shall see, the establishment of these similarities, have

important consequences that go beyond the problem of the existence of
philosophy in Indian cultural tradition.

We shall develop in what follows our general thesis of the existence

of an Indian Philosophy, under the form of four subsidiary theses.

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66 Annals BORI , LXXXVI ( 2005 )

First thesis

Up to the 16th century at least , in India on the one hand and in

Greece and Europe on the other , there was frequent reflection on the
same philosophical subjects , and it was carried out in the same way.

In his Prolegomena, p. 113, in Werke V, Suhrkamp ed. (= A 3, 4)

Kant refers to some scholars (Es gibt Gelehrte ...) "who think that nothing
can be said, which has not been said before" (... kann nichts gesagt
werden , was ihrer Meinung nach nicht schon sonst gesagt worden ist),
and immediately afterwards he expresses the idea that, as human under-
standing has reflected on innumerable subjects in many different ways
for many centuries now, it is difficult not to find new ideas to which some
old and similar idea does not correspond (... da der menschliche Verstand
über unzählige Gegenstände viele Jahrhunderte hindurch auf mancherlei
Weise geschwärmt hat , so kann es nicht leicht fehlen dass nicht zu jedem
Neuen etwas altes gefunden werden sollte was damit einige Ähnlichkeit hätte ) .
In his treatise Über eine Entdeckung nach der alle Critik Über reinen
Vernunft durch eine ältere entbehrlich gemacht werden soll , Vol. V, p. 364,
Suhrkamp edition (=BA 110, 111), Kant' refers to the same subject.

Kant rightly opposes the idea that nothing new can be said : it is
possible for new ideas to arise which do not have as predecessors similar
ideas. This is the condition sine qua non for the advancement of

We would like to add to Kant's opinion that, just as it is not

difficult to find new ideas to which some older, similar idea does not
correspond, it is also not difficult to find many ideas which are supposed
to be new but to which older, similar ideas do correspond - especially
if we broaden the geographical and chronological field of investigation.
This is the assumption that makes our research on the parallelisms
between Indian and Western thought possible, and that gives a much wider
range to Indian and European thought : they cease to be "Oriental" or
"Western" thought and instead become "Universal" thought.

The confrontation of Indian and Western ideas, theories and

doctrines implies a comparative activity.

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Fernando Tola and Carmen Dragonetti : Unity in Diversity ... 67

It is not necessary to carry out a detailed comparative study of

Indian doctrines and Greek or Western doctrines which are evidently
similar. Without going into details, it is sufficient to merely point out
some of the Greek or Western doctrines which present similarities to
Indian doctrines without taking into account the systems to which they

Moreover, we think that it is not possible to compare an

Indian Philosophical system as a whole with a Western system as a whole. In
general, Indian systems and Western systems start from different
postulates (such as re-existences and anäditva or beginninglessness on
the Indian side as opposed to a unique existence and a first beginning in
the Western systems) and this fact makes a comparison of both an
impossible task. However, we think that it is possible to point out Greek
or European doctrines which constitute elements of Greek or European
systems and present similarities to Indian doctrines which are in turn
elements of certain Indian systems.

Helmuth von Glasenapp used to say that systems of thought are

like large mosaic paintings each one of which represents a different scene :
all of them have many small pieces of material (glass, tiles, etc.) of similar
or identical color and form in common. It is impossible to compare a
mosaic painting as a whole with another as a whole, but it is possible to
discover identical or similar pieces in each of them. The same thing
happens with philosophical systems : as wholes they may be utterly
diverse, but it is possible to find in each of them doctrines that can rightly
be compared. This is the sort of comparison which we think is necessary
when we examine whether there was such a thing as philosophy in India
or not.

A comparison, no matter how superficial, between Indian and

Western doctrines, besides being necessary with regard to the problem of
the existence of Indian philosophy, can help us to understand, accept and
evaluate Indian thought under better conditions. This comparative
procedure allows us to discover that Indian thought is not as remote
from Western thought as is generally believed, since many things tha
were thought in India and may appear strange, exotic or even absurd to us
were also thought in the West and enjpyed a profound acceptance for
long time.

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68 Annals BORI, LXXXVI ( 2005 )

In the last years we have been dedicated to a rese

this special topic of the similarities between Indian and Western
philosophical thought. In 2003, in a booklet entitled Sobre el mito de la
oposición entre filosofìa occidental y pensamiento de la India, sub- ti tied El
sistema filosófico Sãmkhya : Dualismo Espíritu/ Materia. Materialismo
sui generis. Evolucionismo Ateismo, and published by our institutions,
Fundación Instituto de Estudios Budistas FIEB , we made known the first
results of this research work; in it we offered examples of similarities
between subjects, ideas, concepts, doctrines of the orthodox Hinduist
philosophical system Sãmkhya and of the Western, Greek and European

Other results have just appeared in March 2004, in a book of 293

pages, in English, published in Germany by Olms Verlag, On the Myth
of the Opposition between Indian Thought and Western Philosophy.

In this book we present a great number of similarities between

ideas, theories and doctrines expressed, on one side, in the Vedas, the
Upanishads and the Sãmkhya system and on the other side, by Western
(Greek or European) authors. In this book we offer the original Sanskrit
texts containing the Indian theories and doctrines with our English
translation and then the corresponding Western texts, Greek, Latin,
German, English, French, Italian, with our own English translation in
order the readers may have by themselves a direct access, and in a way
that leaves not place to any doubt, to the amazing and irrefutable similarities
we adduce.

We give now an example of the similarities between Indian and

Western thought that are revealed by a study of this kind.

The Sãmkhya theory of causality, the so called satkãryavãda

which maintains that the effect pre-exists in its cause before its manifestation
has a perfect correspondence with the ideas exposed and accepted by
Hegel (Wissenschaft der Logik, first part, second book, third section,
third chapter, pp. 223-228 of Suhrkamp edition of Hegle's Werke), by
St. Thomas (Summa Theologiae, I, 2, 19, 5), and finally by Leibniz
(Catena mirabilium demonstrationum de summa rerum, in Philosophische
Schriften I, p. 6, Insel Verlag ed.).

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Fernando Tola and Carmen Dragonetti : Unity in Diversity ... 69

Other similarities of the same nature are shown in detail by us in

our mentioned English book :

doctrines expressed in the Vedas and, in the West, by Orphies

and Neoplatonists : myths of creation', Plotinus : the one as the origin
of everything', Goethe, Saint Augustine and Leibniz : The exaltation of
the effects of action in the human destiny ;

The stoics, the poet-philosopher Manilius, Guillaume de Conches,

Honorius ď Autun, and Arnaud de Bonneval: the cosmic order;

- or expressed in the Upnishads and, in the West , by*

the stoics and Descartes : the soul as a blow of air'
the Pre-socratics, Aristotle, Marcus Aurelius, Scotus Erigena : the notion
of arché or the Principle , origin, foundation and end of everything;
Descartes and Spinoza : the notion of substance and the relation of the
spirit with mental functions ;
Plato, Aristotle, Manilius, Petrus Abelardus, Adelard of Bath, Saint
Augustine, Saint Basile, Cornelius Agrippa, Giordano Bruno, Leibniz,
and Schelling: the anima mundi or 44 soul of the world"',
Spinoza : the abstract-impersonal notion of the Supreme Principle ;
Saint Augustine, Raimundus Lullius and Hegel : the triadic structures ;
the Stoics, Plotinus, Synesius of Cyrene and Proclus : the
correspondences between the macrocosm and microcosm;

- or expressed in the Sämkhya system and, in the West , by

Kant, Wolf, the Manichaeans : Dualism;
Melissus, Empedocles and Lucretius : the principle ex nihilo nihil;
Hegel, Saint Thomas and Leibniz ; the conception of the identity of the
cause and the effect ;
d'Holbach, Schelling, Leibniz and Bonnet : the conception of matter
and of its constituent elementos;
Anaxagoras and Schelling : the constitution and nature of matter,
Heraclitus, the Stoics, Aristotle, Orígenes, Leibiniz, J. W. Petersen :
the theory of the eternal return ;

Aristotle and Saint Thomas : the proofs of the existence of a transcendent

entity ;

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70 Annals BORI, LXXXVI ( 2005 )

Descartes and Leibniz : the relation between the

matter, body;
Orphies, Pythagoras, Empedocleš, Plato, and man
as well as modern authors : the belief in transmigra
Leibniz : the notion of subtle body, the problem of
evil in the world ;
d'Holbach : atheism.

The above example refers to similarities in relation to subjects of

the philosophical reflection. Now we shall point out a similarity in
relation to the method frequently adopted by Indian and Western
thinkers, which strongly reduces in both cases the credibility of their

In Indian Brahmanical or Hinduist tradition, for instance, there

exist beliefs that come from the Past, it would be better to say : that are
imposed by the Past, such as the belief in reincarnation, in the existence
of an íšvara (Lord, God), in the infallibility of the Šruti (Revelation).
These beliefs are unconsciously taken for granted by a great number of
thinkers; they are for them indisputable assumptions that do not need to
be demonstrated. They can be called " cultural dogmas" (similar to the
other dogmas that are found in other Indian traditions). These beliefs are
based on faith rather than on the observation and establishment of facts or
on valid rational arguments. The force they possess is incomparably
stronger than the force of the arguments that some times are adduced to
support them. It could be said that the fact of being based on faith gives
them more strength than if they were based on logical argumentation. We
do not discuss or call in question the value of faith as a foundation for a
belief, but we think that what cannot be denied is that an act of faith
cannot be considered as a rationalistic mental process. Many Brahmanical
or Hindu thinkers used these cultural dogmas as starting point, basis or
postulate to construct upon them their doctrinaire systems.

It is necessary to remark here that, even if Indian thinkers used

some of their cultural dogmas, to which authority is attributed a priori
(a procedure which could be considered as an example of non-rational
behaviour), as a starting point, basis or postulate to construct their
doctrinaire (philosophical) systems, nevertheless these same thinkers in
their argumentations submit themselves to the strictest requirements of

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Fernando Tola and Carmen Dragonetti : Unity in Diversity ... 71

reason and logic. We can question the validity of their cultural dogmas ,
but we cannot find logical defects in what they construct on the basis of
these dogmas : their systems of thought.

We must acknowledge the fact that the same opinion can be

expressed with regard to Western thinkers (we could even say with regard
to thinkers belonging to any culture) : although following the most rational
and logical requirements in their reasoning, they construct their theories on
frail bases or postulates, which are nothing other than their own cultural
dogmas. Their theories are true constructions of granite and steel upon clay

Among the Western cultural dogmas are the belief in the Christian
God, the belief in an immortal soul, the authority of the Christian texts,
the infallibility of the Bible, etc.

Descartes, for instance, referring to himself in the preface to his

Discours de la méthode , in Oeuvers de Descarts , Ch. Adam & Paul Tannery
edd., Vol. VI, p. 1, clearly says :

Y existence de Dieu & de Fame humaine , ... sont les fondaments de

sa Métaphysique .

Also, in the Sexta Responsio to the objections made against

his Meditationes de prima philosophia, in Oeuvres de Descartes, Vol. VII,
pp. 429-430, he affirms :

... nempe incipiendum est a Dei cognitione ac deinde aliarum omnium

rerum cognitions huic uni sunt subordinandae
"... certainly it is necessary to begin with the knowledge of God
and thereafter the knowledges of all the other things have to be
subordinated to that sole [knowledge]".

And in his Epistola , Vol. VII, p. 1 , which precedes his Meditationes De

Prima Philosophia , in quibus Dei existentia & animae humanae à corpore
distinction , in a more forceful way he says :

... nam quamvis nobis fidelibus animam humanam cum corpore non
interire , Deumque existere,fìde credere sufficiat ... Et quamvis omnino

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72 Annals BORI , LXXXV/ ( 2005 )

verum sit , Dei existentiam credendam esse , quoniam in s

docetur & vice versa credendas sacras scripturas , quo
a Deo ...

In his french version, Vol. IX, Oeuvres , p. 4 :

... Car ò/en g«7/ hows suffise à nous autres qui sommes fideles , d
croire par la Foy qu'il y a vn Dieu & que fame humaine ne meu
point auec le corps , ... Et quoy qu'il soit absolument vrayt qu
faut croire qu'il y a vn Dieu , parce qu'il est ainsi enseigné dan
les Saintes Escritues & d'autre part qu'il croire les Saintes Escriture
parce qu'elles viennent de Dieu ...
"... Then although for us who are believers (fideles) it is sufficient
to believe by Faith that the human soul does not perish with the bod
and that God exists ... And although it is absolutely true that it is
necessary to believe in the existence of God, because this has be
taught in the Holy Scriptures, and vice versa it is necessary to belie
in the Holy Scriptures, because they come from God ..."

From these texts of Descartes emerges the important function

which corresponds to faith and the Holy Scriptures, i.e. Revelation
in relation to the subjects of the existence of God and the immortality of
soul that are for Descartes - and for many Western thinkers - the fundament
subjects of philosophy.

Nicolaus of Cusa (1401-1464) in his De docta ignorantia III,

Chapter XI (Mystéria fidei), had already extolled the value of faith in
relation to the christian revealed truths as starting point and foundation
of knowledge and reason.

We give the text and translation of the passage of the mentioned

work De docta ignorantia on which Nicolaus of Cusa expresses his idea in
relation to the value of faith, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft ed., 2002,
p. 74 :

Mayores nostri omnes concordanter asserunt fidem initium esse

intellectus . In omni enim facúltate quaedam praesupponuntur ut
principia prima , quae sola fide apptehenduntur , ex quibus intelligentia
tractandorum elicitur : Omnem enim ascendere volentem ad doctrinam
credere necesse est his , sine quibus ascendere nequit.

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Fernando Tola and Carmen Dragonetti : Unity in Diversity ... 73

Ait enim Ysaias : "nisi credideritis, non intelligetis " Fides igitur
est in se complicans omne intelligibile. Intellectus autem est f idei
explicatio. Dirigitur igitur intellectus per fidem, et fides per intellectum
extenditur. Ubi igitur non est sana fides, nullus est verus intellectus .
Error principiorum et fundamenti debilitas qualem conclusionem
subinferant , manifestum est. Nulla autem perfectior fides quam ipsamet
Veritas , quae lesus est.
"All our elders concordantly assert that faith is the beginning of the
[activity of] reason, since in every discipline certain things are
presupposed as first principles, which are grasped by the mere faith,
from which the understanding of the subjects to be dealt with is obtained.
It is necessary that anyone who wants to ascend to [the truth of]
a doctrine believe in those [principles], without which he is unable
to ascent [to that truth], since Isaiah has said : "If you do not believe,
you will not reach knowledge." Thus faith embraces in itself all
what is intelligible. At its turn reason is the revelation of [the truths of]
faith. Thus reason is guided by faith and faith is increased by reason.
So where there is not a correct faith [i. e. the Christian one; afterwards
the author will say Christi sanissima fides, "the most correct faith in
Christ"], there does not exist a reason, which leads to truth. It is
obvious which kind of conclusion is provided by an error in the
principles [from which one starts] and weakness in the foundations.
There is no faith more perfect than the very truth which Jesus is."

The " cultural dogmas", which we have referred to correspond to

the " principia prima " mentioned by Nicolaus of Cusa, with the
following difference : for us the " cultural dogmas " are relative to each
culture and for Nicolaus of Cusa, the "first principles" are the Christian
truths to which he grants an absolute value, but that for us are mere dogmas
belonging to Christan Western Culture.

Second thesis

In the history of Greek and European philosophies, we can find

what is usually ( correctly or incorrectly ) called manifestations of irrationality'
in many forms and these are as numerous as they are in the history of Indian

Aš a consequence of the comparative study of Indian darsanas

and Western systems of philosophy, it is possible to reach the conclusion

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74 Annals BORI , LXXXVI ( 2005 )

expressed in the above indicated thesis, not only

centuries corresponding to the ancient (Greek) and me
periods, but also the centuries that came after. Greec
never been characterized by rationality only and India h
submitted to irrationality, as many Western authors hav
to point out. In both regions of the world, we can find
of a dominant irrationality and a limited rationality,
itself only timidly and was not a predominant or excludin
birth of Pallas Athena from the head of Zeus has never be

Many ideas, theories and doctrines both in Indian dar sanas and
Western philosophical systems are based on mere beliefs or are conclusions,
logically deduced from mere beliefs. As we have said, without discussing
or calling in question the value possessed by these beliefs, what must be
admitted is that such a kind of ideas, theories and doctrines are not of a
rationalistic nature, on account of the nature of the foundation that supports

In the Upanishads, for instance, are found many texts that affirm
that the world is a triad and that everything in it is constituted by three
elements or components. In the Rgveda and Brãhmanas which are texts
which chronologically precede the Upanishads many exampels of triadic
groups are also found. The Triadic concept of reality which manifests
itself in the just mentioned texts was to be developed a few centuries later
by the Sãmkhya philosophical system in its theory of the three gunas ,
which are conceived of as the components of Matter. Matter, by virtue of
its evolution, gives rise to the entire material and psychic empirical
reality. The gunas as constituents of Matter are present in everything
and the diversity of beings and things depends on the diversity of the
proportions in which they are mixed together in beings and things.

This triadic interpretation of reality has a very old archaic origin,

derived from the peculiar and previleged nature attributed to certain

In the West we find many instances of a similar triadic conception

of reality.

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Fernando Tola and Carmen Dragonetti : Unity in Diversity ... 75

The Trinity doctrine that affirms that God is One and Three, is one
of the most important Christian beliefs. It is difficult to understand, to
explain, and of course also to demonstrate it : it is a dogma of faith.
Notwithstanding the belief nature of the Trinity dogma, it has served as
an order principle in European culture. St. Augustine wrote his treatise
De Trinitate trying to establish that the triadic structure of the Trinity is found
in the mental processes that take place in man. Raimundus Lullus expounds
in his Nova Logica a completely Trinitarian concept of the world
endeavoring to discover in creation a reflex and an image of the Christian
Trinity, giving universality to the triadic model, and finding triadic
structures in all the aspects of reality. And Hegel and many other
Western philosophers were fond of triadic structures in their philosophical
constructions. Cf. M. Piclin, Les philosophes de la triade ou V historie de
la structure ternaire , Paris : Vrin, 1980.

We must add, as another kind of non-rationalistic ideas, theories

or doctrines, those that do not have the support of observed real facts, that
are, when they are examined, nothing else than mere fanciful mental

In India and in the West are found many intellectual products of

this kind that are seriously taken as philosophical doctrines. The union of
matter (human body) and spirit (soul) was a problem both for Indian
and Western thinkers, and both imagined fanciful solutions for it - even
extravagant solutions.

The Sãmkhya philosophical system solved the problem having

recourse to a comparison : the union of matter and spirit consists in that
the spirit reflects itself in matter- let us add : as the light of a lamp on
any object. It is nothing else than a comparison, which does not establish

In the West the union of matter and spirit received several

solutions. Descartes thought that the soul moves the pineal gland and this
in turn propels the animal spirits towards that part of the body that the
soul wants to move by means of them. Descartes' disciples were not satisfied
with this explanation and proposed the system of the "occasional causes",
adopted also by Malebranche, according to which it is God himself who
moves that part of the body that the soul wishes to move. Leibniz, who does

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76 Annals BORI, LXXXVI ( 2005 )

not accept that system, thinks that it would force

"moving" miracles all the time or to count on the assis
help Him to move all the limbs that are moved in t
Leibniz proposed a new system under the beautiful nam
harmony". According to this system God creates two a
would say two robots ): one is the soul, the other one is
automates for robots) are programmed in their smalles
way that, when a certain movement is produced in one,
occurs in the other which exactly corresponds with the
case of the two robots and in that of the two clocks ca
(another example used by Leibniz), there are physical m
the case of the soul and the body, there is a psychic "m
and a physical "movement" in the body. Really human
even within the realm of the sternest philosophy.

Besides rationality, freedom of thought and the search

own sake are considered as essential attributes of philo
Western philosophy.

Our opinion is that philosophical thought ha

subjected to many limitations, both in India and in the
few instances have Indian and Western thinkers been able to rid
themselves of beliefs, i.e. the cultural dogmas imposed on them by the Past.
Thinking must arise in agreement with them and be subordinated to them
and consequently it cannot be considered free. It is why a great part of Western
philosophy, as being founded on Christian dogmas and as not daring to
abandon the limits that these dogmas imposed on it, is nothing else than
"Christian philosophy", in the same way as the majority of Indian
daršanas are tightly bound to any of the great Indian religions, specially

Nevertheless, we also think that, within the limits imposed by

cultural dogmas, intellectual freedom existed to a much greater degree in
India than it did in the modern European world. Tolerance was not a
specific characteristic of Christian Europe.

We base this assumption in relation to Indian intellecutal freedom

on facts such as the following ones : the acceptance by Hindusim, as
orthodox systems of thought, of systems which present large and obvious
differences amongst themselves; the acceptance of different Vedãnta

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Fernando Tola and Carmen Dragonetti : Unity in Diversity ... 77

schools with great oppositions amongst themselves; the fact that,

although power in India has generally been held by people adhering to the
Hinduist dar sana (philosophical and religious point of view), violence has
never been used against adherents of other daršanas; and the fact that the
appearance of the Buddhist daršana , which negated the very foundation of
Hinduist society, religion and philosophy, did not lead to bloody religious
wars or ideological mass persecutions of any kind.

As for the idea that philosophical thinking is a search for "truth for
its own sake", let us say that this has been of very limited application in
the history of Western philosophy. If the criterion of "truth for its own sake"
were applied strictly, many schools of philosophy would be eliminated
from the history of philosophy. Examples from Greece would be Stoicism
and Epicureism, whose efforts were directed towards finding the correct
way of living in order to enjoy peace and happiness; an example from
mediaeval Europe would be Christian philosophy with its mainly religious
preoccupations. We would also reach the same conclusion if we were to
analyze the works of many of the great modern European philosophers,
whose real aim was often only to demonstrate, via their phiosophical
reasoning, a certain religious thesis, to which they forcibly adhered a priori.

Leibniz composed his Théodicée with the aim of demonstrating

God's justice and goodness. At the beginning of his treatise Causa Dei ,
Leibniz clearly indicates his purpose when writing his Théodicée.
Apologetica Causae Dei tractatio non tantum ad divinam gloriam , sed
etiam ad nostram utilitatem pertinet, ut tum magnitudinem ejus; id est
potentiam sapientiamque colamus, tum etiam bonitatem et quae ex ea
derivantur y justitiam ac sanctitatem amemus , quantumque in nobis est

"The apologetic treatise of the Cause of God concerns not only the
divine glory, but also our own advantage, in order that we worship
His greatness, i.e. His power and wisdom and also in order that we
love His goodness and whatever derives from it, His justice and sanctity
and that we imitate them as much as it is possible to us."

Western philosophy never forgot that it had been during many

centuries the anelila theologiae ("the servant of theology") and that as such
it had to follow and obey its domina ("mistress") - whose severity during
centuries is well-known - and to have always in mind her interests and

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78 Annals BORI, LXXXVI ( 2005 )

preoccupations; the samskãras (impressions or habits or

by this servile condition survived in philosophy for a t
usually admitted.

As for Indian philosophers, they were clearly awar

of their activity as such had an aim external to th
attainment of the Supreme Good, i.e. Liberation fr
nihsreyasãdhigama(Nyãyadarsana 1. 1). Y esto no fue pa
para su labor racional. Ellos fueron más conscien
existían entre su actividad filosófica ysu religión.

The Indian position is clearly expressed, as we s

Nyãyadarsana (Science of Logic) in sütra 1,1. Gautama a
the 'knowledge of the true nature" of the sixteen logi
the sütra enumerates, the "obtention of the Supreme G
pramãnapar ameyasamšay aprayojanadr stãntasiddh
tattvajnãnãn nihsreyasãdhigamah. Cf. Gautama, Nyäyasütras and Vãtsyãyana,
Uddyotakara and Väcaspati Mišra commentaries ad locum. Indian philosophers
were more conscious of the unavoidable links of their philosophical activity
with religion.

Third thesis

Such a thing as philosophy did exist in India.

If, in the history of Indian thought and of Greek and European

philosophies, we can find similar subjects, approaches and solutions as well
as a similar coexistence of the so-called irrationality, submission to
authority and subordination of philosophical thinking to other aims in
conjunction with the opposed attitudes, we are authorized to affirm that
philosophy, as it is conceived in the West, did also exist in India. This
thesis is a consequence derived from the similarities between many ideas,
theories, concepts, doctrines and methods found in the Indian daršana and
in the Western systems of philosophy as well. Another consequence from
these similarities is the elimination of the myth of the opposition between
Indian thought and Western philosophy. Finally, these similarities provide
us with a firm basis for new approaches and perspectives in the
study, understanding and evaluation of philosophical traditions in

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Fernando Tola and Carmen Dragonetti : Unity in Diversity ... 79

Fourth thesis

The comparison between Indian and Western philosophical

thought must limit itself to confront both as they manifested themselves
before the 17th century, or even in the centuries that followed, but in this
last case only when and if they maintained certain forms of the philosophies
found previous to that date, prolonging them.

In what precedes we have referred several times to the comparison

between Indian and Western philosophical ideas, theories, doctrines
and methods. This comparison must have a terminus ante quern : the 17th
century A. D. This date has not been arbitrarily chosen.

From the 16th century onwards, a series of factors appeared in the

West; as the coming forth of modern science and the modern scientific
mind, the discovery of the New World, the increase of European economic
and military power, the weakening of ecclesiastical authority and the
limitations it imposed on thinking and the consciousness of the equality
of individual rights and liberties. These factors gave a new course to
universal history and led to modern culture. From the 17th century onwards,
Western culture in all its expressions began to adopt a wholly novel form,
which was different from all previously known forms, many times
extraordinarily valuable, and which succeeded in imposing itself worldwide
to differing degrees. India was able to take part in this transformation in
a profound way only since the middle of the 20th century due to historical
circumstances. To compare Indian thought before the 16th century with
Western thought after that date would be to compare two things, which
belong to two completely incommensurable epochs as a result of the
intrusion of the factors indicated.

We can compare Indian and Western thought under these chrono-

logical conditions. In this way we can inquire as to what they have in
common, what they have which differs and in which respect one of them
stands out in relation to the other; we can inquire whether India anticipated
certain philosophical theories (for instance in the field of epistemology and
of idealism) and was able to adopt attitudes (for instance with regard to
freedom of thought and tolerance), which did not appear in the West until
much later. This way of going about things will allow us to give a fairer and
wiser answer to the question as to whether there is such a thing as Indian

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80 Annals BORI , LXXXVI ( 2005 )

The great emphasis we put in the similarities bet

Western philosophy points at the Unity of both culture
not surprise, since both have a common past : the m
European people in whose culture the West as well as
but this unity also must not make us forget the Dive
both cultures manifested themselves in history, devel
them their proper characteristics, their peculiar individua
Coexistence of Unity in Diversity - as when the same bl
into the different pipes of an organ makes them resoun
musical effects.

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