Thursday, November 18, 2004

Greek philosophy Vs Indian philosophy

Western philosophy traces its roots to Greek philosophy. Greek philosophers, beginning around 640BC (Thales of Miletus) to third century AD, developed various branches of philosophy. Their secular/scientific way of reasoning gave birth to glorious western ‘renaissance’ centuries later.

Around the same time Indian philosophers, Vaidiks, Budhists and others, were developing their own axioms for all their observations of the world. But their solutions have not stood the test of the time. While Europe went on to became dominant power in the world, Indian society degraded. Its recovery could begin only when it came in contact with western colonial powers and their philosophies and institutions.

Many western philosophers felt Indian philosophy couldn’t come out of the concept of God or of some supreme power and give its observations more objective solutions. In simple words, there was no practical way of verifying the theories.

Recently, I was reading about Greek philosophy and I came across a very interesting commentary about Greek arguments. Like Indians of that era, Greeks used to have debates to put forth their ideas. But unlike Indians, Greeks soon found out shortcomings of such arguments.

They realized that a person with stronger oratory skills and verbal power could effectively argue and win even when his arguments were weak. Moreover, many professional oratory groups, Sophists, who would argue anything for money, held sway in such debates. Understanding the futility of this arrangement, they went on to develop empirical way of verifying the theories. But in India, Vaidiks were obsessed with debates. In their literature, they would claim challenging other schools of thoughts and defeating them in debates. Though there were humourous comments(by other Vaidiks of the same period, check out Panini and Snake's conversation in the mailing list) about Vaidiks' obsession with ‘tarka’(arguments), nobody seriously challenged the usefulness or practicability of such an arrangement to further ones ideas.

Possibly, it’s one of the wrong steps in the evolution of Indian philosophy.

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