Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Chart of "Eastern Philosophy"

I'll reproduce here a comment I left on Daily Nous about the newest chart of philosophy from a website called "Super Scholar." The chart is not good, for a number of reasons, from its selection of philosophers and relative emphasis (spending significant detail on Indian philosophy but not East Asian, Islamic, etc. leaves one with the impression that the latter are lacking in development, which is absolutely not true). I chose to focus on the section on Indian philosophy in my comment, which I encourage anyone who may be thinking about using this chart for research to read.

First, this chart would be better served not treating “Eastern philosophy” as a single discrete category. That would allow more space for properly treating the vast histories of philosophy in India, China, Japan, Korea, and so on. 
Second, in terms of its treatment of Indian philosophy, I am puzzled by the omission of the Grammarian tradition (Pāṇini, Patañjali, Bhartṛhari…) as well as the Nyāya, who are only represented as “Vaisheshika” in two terminal nodes, oddly characterized only as a “logical system to prove the Veda” (their concerns were much more wide-ranging). Similarly, Mīmāṃsā (note diacritical marks missing in the chart) is given only a single terminal node with Jaimini in 250 BCE, as if he is the last word and not the beginning! These three–Grammar, Nyāya, and Mīmāṃsā–are central to the “āstika” (so-called “orthodox”) tradition of Indian philosophy, and ought to be given more representation. One would be forgiven, reading the history of Indian philosophy in this chart, for thinking that the history of Indian philosophy is primarily Buddhism, which it is not. 
With just these problems noted–and there are more, but I think the point is clear–as well as the spelling errors throughout (“Patanjali” instead of “Patañjali”, “Vedanta” instead of “Vedānta”), I think they ought to go back to the drawing board.