Theories and philosophies are as much habitations of the mind as of locations, both of which have been seen as a preserve of the Western world. While this sounds commonsensical for the large part of modern humanity, it is equally true that theoretical conscience and philosophical wisdom and reasoning, have evolved in all societies. However, they are generally perceived as the bearers of traditional knowledge rather than the ground for new thinking. This has been starkly evident in the case of modern social and human sciences, where theory has been singularly Western in orientation. In this presentation, I seek to broach these issues as the problem of tracing the presuppositions or the purva-pakshas of the rise of the Indian modern. For this purpose this presentation charts the three moments of history, critique, and constructive theory to look into the ways in which the ground of the Indian modern was laid out. The first part looks in the ways in which Euro-centrism in modern thought was a result of the rise of comparative method, to which the search for autochthonous moments and Archimedean points of cultural and intellectual forms emerged as parallel developments. In the second part, I look into different realms of modern knowledge systems beyond Europe as they were mainly flagged in the areas of philosophy, literature, and history. In the end, I consider the realms of Indian thought, language habitations, and social imaginary for a possible task of constructive theory. I tend to argue that the asymmetries of the theoretical or philosophical kinds need a revisiting of these three purva-pakshas or presuppositions. Based on this any possible imagination of social and human sciences beyond the Euro-centric frames would require refiguring the conceptual, linguistic, and social realms in tandem. This way the emerging alternate frames would become as much the ground for specificity as of plurality.
* Purva-paksha: The term ‘purva’ literally means that which is prior and ‘paksha’ is known to be the side, flank, or wings. Purva-paksha is thus the recognition of the existing, alternate, and contending views.
Rakesh Pandey is Associate Professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi. He studied ancient history and philosophy, following it up with a postgraduate degree in modern history. His doctoral work was on the making of archaic and classical forms of cultural knowledge in colonial India at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Pandey’s research interest is in the area of the cultural and intellectual history of modern India, with particular focus on knowledge formations, philosophy of culture, and moral orders. He is currently working on a monograph dealing with aspects of colonial archaism together with a study on interpretations of precolonial textual traditions in North India and another on philosophical aesthetics and the anti-modern focusing on Ananda K. Coomaraswamy among others.
This event is part of the lecture series:
ZMO Colloquium winter semester 2019/2020
Thinking and Re-Thinking the World in the Decolonial Era: Thinkers and Theorizing from the Global South
ZMO, Kirchweg 33, 14129 Berlin