Periodization and Historiography of Indian Philosophy.

Author:Freschi, Elisa
Position:Periodization and Historiography of Indian Philosophy - Book review
 
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Periodization and Historiography of Indian Philosophy. Edited with an introduction by ELI FRANCO. Vienna: De Nobili, 2013. Pp. viii + 388. 40 [euro].

We all do periodizations and we are all conditioned by the historiography of the subject we are examining. It is of crucial importance that we become aware of it or we will just unreflectingly assume that what we have learned to believe is the only possible truth. In this way, people who were born before ... (insert the right date according to your country and what you have learned) thought that the inferiority of a certain race or another was a natural fact and not an interpretation of (very controversial) historical data. Thus, Franco's book is more than welcome and it is hoped that it will initiate interesting debates among scholars. The twelve essays collected here follow two fils rouges: on the one hand the theoretical debate about periodizations (Franco, Lipner, Oetke, Bronkhorst, and partly also Pinchard and Eltschinger), on the other hand the discussion of specific instances of periodization (Patil, Eltschinger, Clavel, Pinchard), most notably of Erich Frauwallner's periodization (Franco, Motegi, Oetke, Bronkhorst). The remaining essays deal more concretely with given schools (Maas, Bansat-Boudon, Pinchard) or attempt different periodizations (McCrea, Eltschinger).

Franco's own introduction aptly shows how the periodizations we are used to while reading about Indian philosophy are historically determined (nineteenth and early twentieth century scholars, unsurprisingly, valued Vedic philosophy much more than we would today). Thus, one can come to discover that what one has learned in early Indological studies is far from uncontroversial and is rather the result of the success of one interpretative trend. More specifically, a reader may discover that she has most probably been implicitly influenced by Frauwallner's emphasis on a first "scientific" period--from Vedic times to the beginning of the second half of the first millennium A.D.--followed by a "religious" period--from Sankara to the eighteenth century--as well as from Madeleine Biardeau's tripartition: 1. formation of the systems, lasting until the end of the fifth century A.D.; 2. elimination of Buddhism, from Dignaga to Ramanuja; 3. Hindu philosophy, from Ramanuja to the sixteenth century.

More importantly, Franco's introduction implicitly suggests that even our own contemporary and scholarly informed periodizations will probably in some decades also be looked at in the same way as we look at Deussen's. The exercise of periodizing, thus, is shown to be inherently provisional, and readers are suggested to be cautious before thinking that someone has settled an issue forever.

This kind of methodological discussion is, however, not explicitly found in the introduction (perhaps because it is obvious for Franco, who at the end of his introduction writes "It goes without saying that every periodization presupposes a perspective," p. 25), but rather in Julius Lipner's contribution (which, accordingly, bears the title "The Perils of Periodization")....

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