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Featuring leading scholars from philosophy and religious studies, The Bloomsbury Research Handbook of Indian Ethics dispels the myth that Indian thinkers and philosophers were uninterested in ethics.

This comprehensive research handbook traces Indian moral philosophy through classical, scholastic Indian philosophy, pan-Indian literature including the Epics, Ayurvedic medical ethics, as well as recent, traditionalist and Neo-Hindu contributions. Contrary to the usual myths about India (that Indians were too busy being religious to care about ethics), moral theory constitutes the paradigmatic differentia of formal Indian philosophy, and is reflected richly in popular literature. Many of the papers make this clear by an analytic explication that draws critical comparisons and contrasts between classical Indian moral philosophy and contemporary contributions to ethics.

By critically addressing ethics as a sub-discipline of philosophy and acknowledging the mistaken marginalization of Indian moral philosophy, this handbook reveals how Indian contributions can illuminate contemporary philosophical research on ethics.

Unlike previous approaches to Indian ethics, this volume is organized in accordance with major topics in moral philosophy. The volume contains an extended introduction, exploring topics in moral semantics, the philosophy of thought, (metaethical and normative) ethical theory, and the politics of scholarship, which serve to show how the diversity of Indian moral philosophy is a contribution to the discipline of ethics. With an overview of Indian moral theory, and a glossary, this is a valuable guide to understanding the past, present and future research directions of a central component of Indian philosophy.

I am a philosopher who specializes in Ethics, Political Philosophy, the Philosophy of Thought, Philosophy of Language and Philosophy of Religion, who has a research specialization in a Non-Western tradition of philosophy–namely South Asian philosophy, especially Indian moral philosophy.

My advanced training in philosophy is in very basic areas of Analytic philosophy (Philosophy of Language, Ethics, Metaethics, Political Philosophy). My dissertation was on the topic of translating value discourse, which traversed issues in Ethics and the Philosophy of Thought and Language. It drew from authors in the Analytic and Continental traditions, not to mention Translation Studies and Linguistic Anthropology. It was however informed by my interest and research into Non-Western philosophy.

My recent research has focused on Moral Theory across traditions. Whereas many philosophers think about such questions in the abstract, I have (for twenty years now) taken the Indian tradition of philosophy as my test case and have argued for positions within Metaethics that would allow us to understand the rich diversity of Moral Theory from the Indian tradition, in contradistinction to the older and implausible story that India (the tradition that gave us the idea of karma) lacks all Moral Theory or serious moral philosophical reflection. Answering these questions has taken me to a broader philosophical position on the nature of thought, truth and objectivity. These ideas were suggested by many of the Indian philosophies that I was trying to study accurately. Also, the project has resulted in other surprises: like moral theoretical options unheard of in the western tradition, but which solve philosophical problems. ~ ~ ~

I am a teacher of philosophy at York University, who teaches: broad introductions to philosophy, critical reasoning, ethics, political philosophy, Asian philosophy, the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of language —at all levels. Teaching is also an integral part of my research as it focuses on rendering accessible philosophy that might seem alien to audiences. To render accessible what is alien, and to make explicit what seems implicit, is identical to sound pedagogy in philosophy. ~ ~ ~ I am a translation theorist and translator. These two aspects of my work grew organically. While I wrote a dissertation on translation, I decided to translate a philosophical text from Sanskrit because I could not stand the translations on the market. Getting myself involved with the fine details of translation had a marked influence on my philosophical views and translation theory.


Recently I wrote to Professor Ranganathan to get his sense of how indigenous thought (philosophy) can be in conversation with western philosophy.  I was honored to recieve such a well thought out and detailed response to my inquiries.  I am including his responses  below.

[Ranganathan comments:]  I do  think though that the philosophical issues and challenges [provided by Indigenous philosophy] in studying the philosophy of colonized lands and cultures are going to be remarkably similar as they will generally be represented not as philosophy but as spirituality and religion.  So for instance, European philosophy is studied in philosophy departments. Non-European philosophy is usually not taught in philosophy departments but studied by social scientists in religious studies departments, and this is part of the pattern of offloading philosophy that is not European to nonphilosophers to be studied nonphilosophically.  I'd imagine it would be easier to find information on Indigenous thought from anthropologists than philosophers for the same reason.  This depiction of the alien as religious and spiritual and the European as the content of the secular  is the racialization of philosophy, from what I can see: once a philosophy is viewed not in terms of its own reasons but from the vantage of European thought, it {indigenous thought} seems irrational and mystical and then it is treated as not worthy of serious philosophical reflection. This then depicts the European tradition as the natural source of philosophy, including ethics and politics, and serves to justify imperialism
I do not have any research expertise in specific indigenous traditions, if by that you mean what we find in the Americas, Africa or Australia prior to European colonization.  Some traditions have an extra challenge, those those whose traditions are local to specific communities or regional languages---they will tend not to have a library of philosophical texts that were studied over large areas that survivor over time. In China and India, for instance, there are these bodies  of texts that have survived colonization but in part because there were languages of scholarship in which the texts survived in multiple collections and libraries (Sanskrit in India, Chinese orthography in China).......[the] challenge is often to locate or identify examples of African philosophy from what would otherwise seem like local cultural lore if we were not paying attention to their philosophical nuances and details. 

I view this as a serious challenge for the problem here is not that such Indigenous cultures do not have philosophy but we might not know much about it given the contingencies of history.  They might have composed great treatises but if they do not survive history we don't know about it. This does not mean that they did not exist. Oddly, it's the cultures that tended to have a wider spread or reach that tended to keep their texts over time, but these were usually colonizing cultures."
 [end of quote]

I think Ranganathan's views are dead on and consistent with what I have learned both academicallyh and experientially.  The fact that there are no surviving archives as a resaon to dismiss oral traditions is a challenge that we need to think about. Is the written source the only acceptable sources of communication; what about non-verbal dance, what about other forms of verbal communication - poetry, legends, storeis, and so forth, I - for one - hold them as acceptalbe accounts that - when considered together with other texts and expresions - can be counted in as reliable sources of which to premise the development of arguments for truth claims.

​Bruce Ferguson 



Part I: Western Imperialism, Philosophy and Ethics (Shyam Ranganathan) 
1. Moral Philosophy: The Right and the Good 
2. Philosophy, Religion and Scholarship 
3. The West, the Primacy of Linguistics and Indology 
4. Beyond Moral Twin Earth: Beyond Indology 
5. Interpretation, Explication and Secondary Sources 

Part II: Moral Theory 
6. The Scope for Wisdom: Early Buddhism on Reasons and Persons – Jake Davis 
7. Jaina Virtue Ethics: Action and NonAction – Jayandra Soni 
8. Patañjali's Yoga: Universal Ethics as the Formal Cause of Autonomy – Shyam Ranganathan 
9. Nyaya Consequentialism – Kisor Chakrabarti 
10. Mindfulness and Moral Transformation: Awakening to Others in Santideva's Ethics – William Edelglass
11. Three Vedantas: Three Accounts of Character, Freedom and Responsibility – Shyam Ranganathan

Part III: Applied Ethics 
12. Medical Ethics in the Sanskrit Medical Tradition – Dagmar Wujastyk 
13. Toward a Complete and Integral Mimamsa Ethics: Learning with Madhava's GARLAND of Jaimini's Reasons – Francis X. Clooney, SJ 

Part IV: Ethics and Politics 
14. A Study in the Narrative Ethics of the Mahabharata – Edeltraud Harzer 
15. Ethics of M. K. Gandhi: Non-Violence and Truth – A. Raghuramaraju 
16. The Ethics of Radical Equality: Vivekananda and Radhakrishnan's Neo-Hinduism as a form of Spiritual Liberalism – Ashwani Peetush 


Indigenous Peoples and Scholars of Indian Philosophy Meet over Philosophy and Colonization

Just say'in...

Shyam Ranganathan, Philosopher

York University

Dr.  Meena Dhanda,Phd

Indian Philosopher Working In England

Dr. Meena Dhanda is a Reader in Philosophy and Cultural Politics at the University of Wolverhampton. She migrated from the Indian Punjab to the U.K. as a Commonwealth Scholar at Oxford University in 1987. She has published two books: a monograph, The Negotiation of Personal Identity (Saarbrüken: VDM Verlag, 2008) and Reservations for Women (ed.) (New Delhi: Women Unlimited, 2008). From 2007, Meena has engaged in transdisciplinary studies connected with caste/race, publishing several papers including: ‘Punjabi Dalit Youth: Social Dynamics of Transitions in Identity’, (Contemporary South Asia, 2009); ‘Runaway Marriages: A Silent Revolution?’, (Economic and Political Weekly, 2012); ‘Certain Allegiances, Uncertain Identities: The Fraught Struggles of Dalits in Britain’ (Tracing the New Indian Diaspora, 2014); ‘Do only South Asians reclaim honour’? (‘Honour’ and Women’s Rights, 2014); ‘Anti-Castism and Misplaced Nativism’ (Radical Philosophy, 2015). She has been an active member of the Society for Women in Philosophy UK for more than 25 years.

NOTE: "Hindu" is the name of a religion that was more or less invented by the British, to include most all Indian thought.  The contributors to this volume are mostly not Hindu. I was born "Hindu" but I don't know if I would call myself that. Hindi is a language from north India.  The texts that the Handbook of Indian Ethics speak about are largely in Sanskrit. (Dr. Shymar Ranganathan)

Shyam's Website