19th century philosophy, east and west

Sam Pawlett rsp at uniserve.com
Fri Jan 28 00:07:31 PST 2000

Michael Pollak wrote:
> Does anyone know of a good book that treats the reception of early Indian
> philosophical ideas (early buddhism and the Upanishads) by European
> thought in the 19th century? I'm especially interested a good account of
> Schopenhauer -- how far he was an innovator in this department, and how
> far simply a leading representative of a broader trend. Any and all
> suggestions appreciated.

Hi MIchael,

As far as I know Schopenhauer is the only 19th cent. philosopher who used Eastern thought in his system and was the first to bring the Upanishads to western attention. There are a few contemporaries who talk about eastern philosophy; Derek Parfitt, Robert Nozick and Arthur Danto. Nozick is into the Indian stuff.

There is no substitute for reading Schopenhauer himself, he is one of the greatest prose stylists (even in translation), a pure delight to read, despite his reactionary politics, extreme misogyny and his view that "life is a brief interruption of an otherwise blissful non-existence". The best book on Schopenhauer is the one by Bryan Magee. He discusses S's relation to the east. There's also Gardiner and the great Jesuit historian Copleston, attracted to Schopenhauer for obvious reasons.

Here's some Schopenhauer:

"We find the direct presentation in the Vedas, the fruit of the highest human knowledge and wisdom, the kernal of which has finally come to us in the UPanishads as the greatest gift of the 19th century."World as Will and Representation V1 383

"The tragic side of error and prejudice lies in the practical, the comic is reserved for the theoretical.For example, if we were firmly to persuade only three persons that the sun is not the cause of daylight, we might hope to see it soon accepted as general conviction. In Germany it was possible to proclaim Hegel, a repulsive and dull charlatan and unparalled scribbler of nonsense, the greatest philosopher of all time. For twenty years many thousands have stubbornly and firmly believed this, and even outside Germany the Danish Academy denounced me in support of his fame and wished to accept him as summus philosphus These ,then, are the disadvantages involved in the existence of the faculty of reason, on account of the power of judgement. To them is also added the possibility of madness. Animals do not go mad, although carnivora are liable to fury, and graminivora to a kind of frenzy." Ibid v1 70.

Sam Pawlett

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