In recent times there has been an increased focus on non-Western philosophical traditions and their place in the world. This shift is a consequence of socio-political, and economic changes that the world has witnessed lately. Each successive historical phenomenon whether colonialism, post-colonialism, or globalization has led to the reconceptualization and transformation of philosophy as a discipline. Post-colonization has shifted focus from the Eurocentric ‘Self’ to the indigenous ‘Other’. Indian Intellectual history also followed its own course reflecting the developments in the West. In this paper, I would like to draw attention to the non-Vedic, atheist traditions of Buddhism, its various sects and the materialistic schools of Carvāka/Lokāyata of the classical period in Indian philosophy. I would like to argue that these early atheistic, rational traditions apart from offering alternative methods of reasoning and thinking, embody modern democratic values of justice, equality, and liberty. Indian atheistic (Śramaṇa/nāstika) traditions were borne out of skepticism against the established, ritualistic, caste-based dominant oppressive systems of premodern India. These schools did not just address everyday existential problems of man but also suggested alternate egalitarian, socialist form of government where each individual could truly develop to his or her own capabilities as opposed to a monarchy. Finally, in conclusion, I argue how the study of debates of premodern India within and across diverse, disparate traditions offers vital insights and solutions to current issues plaguing modern India such as identity politics, social and religious freedom, and economic inequity amongst many others.
Narmada Poojari, University of Hyderabad, India
Stream: Philosophy - Philosophy and Religion
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