Engaging Advaita: Conceptualising liberating knowledge in the face of Western modernity

  • Date:
  • Location: Ihresalen, Hus 21, Thunbergsvägen 3H, Uppsala
  • Doctoral student: Odyniec, Pawel
  • About the dissertation
  • Organiser: Institutionen för lingvistik och filologi
  • Contact person: Odyniec, Pawel
  • Disputation

This dissertation is a study of modern Indian philosophy.

It examines three engaging articulations of the Advaitic notion of liberating knowledge or brahmajñāna provided by three prominent Indian philosophers of the twentieth century, namely, Badrīnāth Śukla (1898-1988), Krishnachandra Bhattacharyya (1875-1949), and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1888-1975). Particular attention is paid to the existing relation between their distinctive conceptualisations of liberating knowledge and the doxastic attitudes that these authors professed towards the Sanskrit intellectual past of South Asia and the presence of the Western Other.

In the main, it argues that the profound differences to be found, on the one hand, in Śukla’s elucidation of this key Advaitic notion and, on the other, in Bhattacharyya’s and Radhakrishnan’s take on the same, betray their commitment to two radically different doxastic attitudes. Classifying these into (a) non-dialogical and (b) dialogical in relation to the Western Other as well as into (c) exegetic and (d) hermeneutic in relation to the Sanskrit intellectual past of South Asia, it contends that, in comparison to the conceptual scheme and the parameters of intelligibility that shaped and underpinned the precolonial Advaitic discourse on brahmajñāna in Sanskrit, there is a certain kind of epistemic discontinuity in the dialogical cum hermeneutic stance taken by Bhattacharyya and Radhakrishnan that is not to be found in the non-dialogical cum exegetic engagement enacted by Śukla. It suggests that this particular sort of discontinuity, absent as it is from Śukla’s elucidation of the process of knowing Brahman, reflects the far-reaching commitment of Krishnachandra Bhattacharyya and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan to appropriate the precolonial Advaitic notion of liberating knowledge hermeneutically and to conceptualise it in the face of Western modernity, that is, rendering it meaningful in terms and within the parameters of intelligibility of the Western Other in order to contest what they took to be a troublesome predicament of Western modernity.

By examining their ways of engaging with the Advaitic notion of liberating knowledge, this dissertation contributes to the on-going debate about the nature and the driving forces of modern Indian philosophy.