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Book: Exploring Hindu Philosophy

Chapter: Conceptual Constellations

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.42874


An inquiry into Hindu philosophy is also an inquiry into what “philosophy” means. Often Hindu worldviews are dismissed as multiple varieties of irrational mysticism, on the assumption that systematic forms of reasoning are absent in them. In truth, these worldviews are shaped by complex interplays of reason, revelation, experience, and tradition. Hindu philosophers defended their distinctive standpoints partly by generating fine-tuned definitions of concepts such as perception, causation, and reality. These definitional exercises are often shaped by forms of analogical reasoning that are based on everyday objects. Some of the central traditions of Hindu philosophy are Sāṃkhya, Yoga, Nyāya, Vaiśeṣika, Mīmāṃsā, and Vedānta. They should be viewed not as fixed “schools” but as clusters of ideas and practices. Their defenders extensively debated topics related to what truly exists (“ontology”), the means of knowing what there is in the world (“epistemology”), and the pathway towards human flourishing in a world suffused with suffering.

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