- Remembering Daya Krishna and G. C. Pande:Two Giants of Post-Independence Indian Philosophy
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Daya Krishna was the public face of Indian philosophy in the first half-century after Indian independence. Nobody on the Indian scene in that period came close to him in influence or in contribution to the profession. Nobody else in the world thought as hard or as fruitfully about the relation of Indian philosophy to that of the rest of the world, and nobody else dared to think as creatively and even as heretically about the history of Indian philosophy itself. To be sure, the Indian philosophical scene during this period was always a vibrant and creative matrix of thought, and many contributed to that fertile mix, but for all of the talent, diversity of thought, and creativity it comprised, Daya Krishna stood alone as an institutional and intellectual leader.
The range of Daya Krishna’s contribution is immense. He wrote dozens of important philosophical articles and books on a wide range of topics, including the philosophy of language and logic, epistemology, ethics, social and political philosophy, the philosophy of history, aesthetics, and the philosophy of the social sciences, as well as on the history of Indian philosophy and on the enterprise of cross-cultural philosophy. He frequently appeared as a distinguished lecturer at universities, research institutes, and major international conferences, and many of these lectures were later published and themselves became the topics of subsequent seminars. He provided years of sage leadership at the University of Rajasthan, contributing to the training of two generations of younger philosophers.
Daya Krishna was a regular participant in cross-cultural philosophical exchanges, both within and outside India. He was a guest at the East-West Center and a participant in several East-West Philosophers’ Conferences. But in India he is better known for “the Jaipur experiment” and its successors at Pune, Sarnath, Tirupati, and Srinagar, in which traditional Indian pandits met with scholars of modern philosophy to discuss contemporary philosophical topics from the standpoint of the Indian philosophical [End Page 459] traditions. The best known of his projects along these lines is the Saṃvāda project, which brought Nyāya pandits and scholars of contemporary Western philosophers together in Pune in 1983 to discuss Russell’s theory of descriptions and related topics in logic and the philosophy of language. The last decades of his life were devoted to the editing of the “Jaipur Ṛg Veda,” as yet unpublished, which promises an iconoclastic reading of that classical text.
In all of these projects, it was Daya Krishna’s aim both to historicize Indian philosophy and to free it from its history. He never saw these goals as being in tension or even as paradoxical. And he was right. On the one hand, he decried the ahistorical approach to pigeonholing Indian philosophers and philosophical texts into isolated, putatively homogeneous siddhantas. Doing so, he argues, occludes differences, obscures connections, elides progress, denigrates the progressive and creative nature of commentary, and devalues Indian philosophy itself and the vibrancy of Indian civilization in its intellectual manifestations.
On the other hand, he decried with equal passion the reduction of Indian philosophy to its own history. To treat Indian philosophy as an object of primarily curatorial interest, he argued, was also to deprecate Indian intellectual life, to treat Indian civilization as dead and a source not of contemporary ideas but only of anthropological or historical insights. Indian philosophy, he emphasized, is as much a living tradition as is Western or Chinese philosophy, as indebted to its own history as is any other great intellectual tradition, and as progressive and concerned with ideas of current interest as any other philosophical tradition. To study Indian philosophy is hence not simply to be a historian but to be a practitioner. And Daya Krishna was emphatically both historian and practitioner.
Moreover, he argued, the tendency toward ahistorical siddhanta theory and the tendency toward reductive historicism suffer equally from...