Ethics and The History of Indian Philosophy by Shyam Ranganathan Sale -8%

Ethics and The History of Indian Philosophy

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Ethics and The History of Indian Philosophy
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Ethics and the History of Indian Philosophy, by Shyam Ranganathan, presents a compelling, systematic explication of the moral philosophical content of the history of Indian philosophy in contrast to the received wisdom in Indology and comparative philosophy that Indian philosophers were scarcely interested in ethics.

Unlike most works on the topic, this book makes a case for the positive place of ethics in the history of Indian philosophy by drawing upon recent work in metaethics and meta morality, and by providing a thorough analysis of the meaning of moral concepts and PHILOSOPHY itself- in addition to explicating the texts of Indian authors. In Ranganathan's account, Indian philosophy shines with distinct options in ethics that find their likeness in the writings of the Ancient in the West, such as Plato and the Neo-Platonists, and not in the anthropocentric or positivistic options that have dominated the recent Western tradition.


Shyam Ranganathan specializes in ethics, the philosophy of language and Indian Philosophy. He holds a BA (Guelph) and an MA (University of Toronto) in Philosophy, an MA in South Asian Studies (University of Toronto) and is completing a PhD dissertation in philosophy (York University). His dissertation, Translating Evaluative Discourse; the Semantics of Thick and Thin Concepts, is drawn from research in metaethics, translation studies and the philosophy of language and deals with the general problem of translating philosophy and ethics across languages and cultures. He is the acting area editor for Indian philosophy for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy and teaches various philosophy courses, including Asian Philosophy. At the time of this publication, his other writing projects included papers on metaethics, semantics and translation, as well as a manuscript titled The Moral Philosophy of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra: Translation and Commentary.


Shyam Ranganatha's book, Ethics and the History of Indian Philosophy, persuasively presents a detailed and comprehensive account of ethical theories in Indian philosophy. It is a significant addition to works on this topic and must be welcomed with enthusiasm and seriousness. Very few works are available on Indian ethics, and this book sumptuously contributes to the progressively dwindling list of recent studies in the area.

The first distinguishing feature of this work lies in the way it situates its task against the received wisdom in Indology and comparative philosophy that has systematically expressed misgivings regarding the very existence of the concept of Ethics in Indian philosophy. Stalwarts such as B. K. Motilal have maintained that Indians, except for cursory forays into the subject, have "seldom discussed" moral philosophy. In refuting this claim, Ranganathan refuses to take modern, positivistic Western ethics as canonical and escapes the limitations of trying to locate ethics in Indian philosophy in terms of this loaded comparison. On his account, Indian ethics is not reduced to what could, at best, be seen as a derivative discourse. Instead, he rejects the approach of treating modern, positivistic Western ethics as a formidable universal benchmark, and situated the recent Western incursions into the discussion as merely one instance of ethics. Rightly so.

The strength of this volume lies in Ranganathan's efforts at the very outset in identifying the meaning of moral concepts and of "ethics". By asking or a substantively neutral ground of what ethics is, he redresses the limitations posed by extant literature on comparative philosophy and ethics, which often reduces ethics everywhere else to a poor cousin of the Western canon. In identifying the definition of moral philosophy, he rejects the orthodoxy and the prevalent conservatism in Indology that invariably disqualifies anything ethical from the purview of Indian philosophy. Instead, he makes a case for a reformist view, one that allows us to reconsider contemporary practices of interpreting the meaning of "dharma" by depicting it both as a moral phenomenon but also as designating an arena of moral discourse that the use of the concept might envelop. Moreover, a discourse that the use of the concept might envelop. Moreover, accepting the reformist view makes it possible that a term like "dharma" stands for one concept with a clear moral meaning.

In order to establish that "dharma" is a moral term in the language of Indian philosophy, Ranganathan beings by delineating what a moral term means rather than embarking on a specific discussion on dharma. The necessary external reference specific discussion on dharma. The necessary external reference for arriving at this definition is found in the Anger Inclination Thesis, which he claims is inclusive and captures the essential nature of moral statements. After making a case or the Anger Inclination thesis in order to arrive at an accurate definition of a moral statement, according to which morality is always related to an inclination to get angry over the violation of the evaluative import of a statement, he goes on to prove that "dharma" of classical Indian thought qualifies as a moral term. Specifically, he demonstrates that "dharma" possesses a singular meaning and is the equivalent of "ethics" or "morality" in the context of Indian philosophy.

Having discussed the views on the dharma of philosophers from the major schools of Indian philosophy, and having convincingly demonstrated that they have a clear and unambiguous idea of the ethical, he concludes that the majority of Indian philosophical schools have, indeed, affirmed the reality of morals as a sphere if values. He also points out that there are many accounts of the subject matter of ethics in the West that have failed to track the historical domain of ethics. This conclusion is premised on the deft philosophical move asking for an independent definition of ethics, or even philosophy, and a plea for not getting ensnared by recent fashions, however important they might seem at the present moment.

The second distinguishing feature of Ranganathan's work becomes clear when we Recall the already existing, though not always evident, comparative axis in the realm of intellectual activity in India, particularly the philosophical one. In the prevailing comparative mode, popularized by philosophers like Matilal, J. N. Mohanty and others, classical India is invariably compared with contemporary Western philosophy creating an imbalance of time, temporality and category. Ranganathan corrects this imbalance through his brilliant and magisterial use of Western and Indian sources across the relevant continuum of time and geography. The writer's sensitivity to methodology and his provocative thesis goes a long way in making this book indispensable to any study of Indian ethics. It also opens new vistas in the arena of ongoing philosophical debates and its salience will not remain limited to the study of Indian ethics alone.


Foreword i
Preface v
References ix
Part I: Introduction
Chapter 1: Introduction 3
1.1 Problem of Ethics in Indian Philosophy 3
1.2 The Problem of "Dharma" 5
1.3 Approach to the Problem 9
Part II: Dharma
Chapter 2: "Dharma" as a Moral Term 13
2.1 Extention and Intention 13
2.2 Key Philosophical Terms 22
2.3 Definitions of Moral Statements 31
2.3.1. Social Content and Conduct 35
2.3.2. Categoricality and Universalizability 38
2.3.3. Importance and Overridingness 43
2.3.4. Blame Inclination 47
2.3.5. Conformity 50
2.3.6. Punishment 52
2.3.7. Anger Inclination 53
2.3.8. Composite Accounts of Moral Statements 66
2.4 Definition of Moral Terms 70
2.4.1. Subsidiary Features of Moral Terms 72
2.4.2. Double Role of Some Moral Terms 74
2.4.3. Meaning of Moral Terms 74
2.4.4. Studying Moral Terms 76
2.4.5. Terms that Designate the Field of Moral Concern 78
2.4.6. Some Criticism Considered 79
2.5. Anger Inclination and Debate 85
2.6. The Meaning of "Dharma" 91
2.6.1. Modern Notion of "Dharma" 91
2.6.2. Traditional Meaning of "Dharma" 95
2.6.3. "Dharma" and the Fact-Value Distinction 98
2.6.4. When Moral Failings are not Frowned Upon 100
2.7. An Argument for the Reform View 105
Chapter 3: The Classical Meaning of "Dharma" 113
3.1. Arguments Against the Reform View 116
3.1.1. Argument for the Principle of Charity 116
3.1.2. Evolutionary Perspective on Language 119
3.1.3. Argument from Empiricism 120
3.1.4. Argument from Analogy 120
3.1.5. Problem with Translating Formal Moral Terms Consistently 121
3.1.6. The Character of Indian Philosophy 122
3.1.7. Grammatical Argument for Equivocality 122
3.1.8. Appeal to Authority 124
3.1.9. Qualified Criticism 124
3.1.10 Charge of Equivocation 125
3.1.11 Argument from Family Resemblance Theory 126
3.1.12. Falsifying Evidence: Morally Reprehensible Dharmas 127
3.2. Defence of the Reform View 129
3.2.1. Debate Maximization 129
3.2.2. Constancy in Language 132
3.2.3. Inference to the Best Explanation 134
3.2.4. Response to Argument from Analogy 135
3.2.5. Translation and Paraphrase 136
3.2.6. Indian Philosophy is not a Dispassionate Endeavour 139
3.2.7. Response to Grammatical Argument for Equivocality 140
3.2.8. Response to the Appeal to Authority 141
3.2.9. Response to a Qualified Criticism 143
3.2.10. Response to the Charge of Equivocation 147
3.2.11. Response to the Family Resemblance Argument 147
3.2.12. EVIL ETHIC 155
3.3. Metatheoretical Considerations 157
3.4. Critics' Reprisal 158
3.5. Four Theories of "Dharma" in Review 167
Part III: Implications of the Moral Meaning of "Dharma"
Chapter 4: Indian Axiology 181
4.1. The Purusartha Explanation of Indian Ethics 181
4.2. The Summum Bonum and Indian Ethics 184
Part IV: Moral Philosophy
Chapter 5: Ethics in Philosophy 189
5.1. What is Ethics? 190
5.2. On the Pursuits that Answer to "Ethics" 194
5.3. "Moral Philosophy"? 201
5.3.1 What Does "Philosophy" Mean? 202
5.3.2. Substantive Accounts of Philosophy 206
5.3.3. Extensions of Moral Philosophy 210
5.4. Indian Moral Philosophy? 213
Part V: Explication of Indian Ethics
Chapter 6: Introduction to Indian Ethics 219
Chapter 7: A Buddhist Debate in Ethics 227
7.1. Buddhism and the History of Indian Philosophy 227
7.2. Dependent Origination and Dharma 228
7.3. Noble Truths and the Path 235
7.4. Early Buddhist Justificative Ethics 236
7.5. Mahayana Ethics 238
7.6. Buddhism and Indian Ethics 242
Chapter 8: Jainism 245
8.1. Sectarian Differences 245
8.2. Historical Background of Jainism 246
8.3. The Kriyavada-Akriyavada Debate 249
8.4. Motion and Moksa 251
8.5. Important Moral Terms in Jain Literature 253
8.6. Jain Criticism of Early Buddhist Ethics 254
8.7. Jainism and Negative Utilitarianism? 255
8.8. Implications of Jain Ethics 258
Chapter 9: Sankhya and Yoga 261
9.1. Background of Sankhya and Yoga 261
9.2. Common Framework 263
9.3. Moral Significance of the Gunas 265
9.4. Akriyavada and Kriyavada 267
9.5. Dharmamegha Samadhi 273
9.6. Yoga's Technical Use of "Dharma" 274
9.7. Contrast 276
Chapter 10: Nyaya and Vaisesika 279
10.1. Nyaya 280
10.2. Vaisesika 281
Chapter 11: Purvamimamsa 287
11.1. Vedic Foundationalism 287
11.2. Dharma and Artha 288
11.3. Who is Eligible to Practise Dharma? 291
11.4. Motive and Consequences 293
11.5. Eternality, Meaning and the Vedas 296
11.6. Noncognitivism 298
11.7. The Greatest Good 299
11.8. Is Purvamimamsa a Unique Ethic? 300
Chapter 12: Vedanta 305
12.1. Versions 305
12.2. Basic Vedanta Doctrine 307
12.3. Agency and the Problem of Evil 308
12.4. Animal Sacrifices 311
12.5. Advaita 313
12.6. Visistadvaita 319
12.7. Dvaita 324
Chapter 13: Carvaka 327
13.1. Our Knowledge of the Carvaka 327
13.2. Possible Carvaka Axiology 329
13.3. Is the Arthasastra Materialist Ethics? 331
13.4. Was there ever a Carvaka Ethic? 333
Chapter 14: Summary of Indian Ethics 335
14.1. Justificative Ethics 335
14.2. Moral First Principales 341
14.3. Dharma and the Other Purusarthas 344
14.4. Reality of Morality 346
14.5. Analysis of Moral Concepts 347
Part VI: Conclusion
Chapter 15: On the Importance of Ethics to Indian Philosophy 353
15.1. Dharma Philosophy 353
15.2. Importance of Indian Moral Philosophy 357
15.3. Moksa Philosophy 359
15.4. Moksa and Dharma 362
15.5. Moral Philosophy; East and West 363
Bibliography 367
Index 385


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