- Philosophy: The Next Step
Comparative Philosophy without Borders, edited by Arindam Chakrabarti and Ralph Weber (hereafter CPWB) is an outstanding and groundbreaking anthology that is also a prolegomena to all future philosophy, not just comparative philosophy. The anthology sets forward an agenda that is arguably the next step for philosophy. Chakrabarti and Weber have a dream (a dream that, in this reviewer’s mind, echoes the sentiments of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech “I Have a Dream”):
Our dream is that future fusion philosophy will shed its local epithets, even the epithet “comparative.” All good philosophy should be unapologetically, and, eventually, unself-consciously, comparative and culturally hybrid.(p. 237)
They point out that the use of “comparative” must be seen from the perspective of epistemic inequalities that are part of the historical condition in which philosophy continues to be housed, and from which it needs to be set free. Their hope has an early Wittgensteinian ring to it:
Once we have climbed up to the level playing field of global combative cooperative critical creative philosophy from the fetid wells of centuries of unacknowledged epistemic inequalities . . . , we can, it is hoped, throw away the ladder of comparison. We can then do just philosophy. . . .(p. 238)
While there are many works in comparative philosophy that one can read in order to get one’s feet wet or see where comparative philosophy is headed, it must be pointed out that this work is unique in the way in which it illuminates, through each piece, the ideology of doing philosophy without borders in a progressive, forward-looking way. Because of the depth and intricacy of each piece, I will focus my review on some portions of the “Introduction” and “Afterword/Afterwards” written by the editors. My goal is to engage the ideology of the anthology as opposed to the nuances of each individual piece.
The Ostensive Engagement
Aside from the wonderful “Introduction” and “Afterword/Afterwards,” CPWB brings together nine engaging and educational papers. The editors point out three unique [End Page 922] features of the volume. First, the choice of topics is not narrowly captured. CPWB engages topics from metaphysics to politics. Second, the choice of method is not singular. Although the title engages with doing philosophy comparatively without borders, it is not correct to describe the collection as one in which the authors take on the method of doing philosophy without borders as a single methodology. Rather, the volume engages a variety of methods that come from not holding on to borders that allow for only a single method to be used, such as conceptual analysis or phenomenological analysis. Below, I list the table of contents with a brief summary of each chapter, and following that I offer my general comments.
1. “Count Nouns, Mass Nouns, and Translatability: The Case of Tibetan Buddhist Logical Literature” by Tom J. F. Tillemans is a highly engaging piece that traverses the important terrain in the primary and secondary literature on the Tibetan Collected Topics “in light of the now classic arguments on intertranslatability and its philosophical limits” (p. 23).
2. “Translation, Interpretation, and Alternative Epistemologies” by Barry Hallen also engages work on translatability deriving from Quine. He “sets out . . . to examine, compare, and, in terms of topic, fuse the philosophy retrieved from the semantics of the West African languages of the Akan of Ghana, the Yoruba of Nigeria and of the English language . . . with regard to the underlying problematique of inter-translatability,” and he engages issues surrounding criteria for truth in natural language (p. 23).
3. “Resolving the Ineffability Paradox” by Chien-hsing Ho engages a broad range of traditions that discuss what he calls the “ineffability paradox.” The central question is: “how can one say that something is unspeakable without getting irretrievably implicated in paradox or self-refutation?” (p. 24).
4. “The Bowstring Is Like a Woman Humming: The Vedic Hymn to the Weapons and the Transformative Properties of Tools” by Laurie L. Patton “practices comparative philosophy crossing boundaries both of cultures as well as time...