- Daya Krishna and Twentieth-Century Indian Philosophy: A New Way of Thinking about Art, Freedom and Knowledge by Daniel Raveh
In a world where philosophy has become "global" and yet is mainly written by scholars educated and/or writing in "top" universities, where syllabi must become more "inclusive" yet conform to the same academic style, Daya Krishna's philosophy is distinctively refreshing and thought-provoking.1 Professor at the University of Rajasthan (Jaipur, India), prolific author, unremitting correspondent in journals, letters, and dialogues, anti-conformist regarding the norms of Western academia and irreverent toward the "inalterability" of the philosophical Indian traditions, Daya Krishna's creative and daring philosophical spirit is paid homage to by Daniel Raveh (Tel-Aviv University) in his book, Daya Krishna and Twentieth-Century Indian Philosophy: A New Way of Thinking about Art, Freedom and Knowledge.
The book is structured into an introduction and four chapters. Raveh proceeds from Daya Krishna's most noticed dialogical experiments to earlier, unremembered dialogues. He begins with Daya Krishna's explorations in Indian philosophy and the parallel dialogues that the latter pursued with pandits (traditional learned scholars of Sanskrit, who usually are not included in English-speaking Universities), referred to as the Saṃvad experiments (chapter 1). Daya Krishna dismantles conventional interpretations of Indian philosophy that are commonly accepted and repeated (such as the prevalence of mokṣa and the rigid number of puruṣārthas) and urges us to consider "thinking creatively" about (Indian) philosophy instead. How Daya Krishna conceives this idea is illustrated in chapter 2 with reference to the aesthetic realm. His creative thinking is further instantiated by his pluralistic conception of freedoms and their relation to knowledge, for which Daya Krishna engages with Indian and Western concepts of "freedom" discussed in chapter 3. Finally, in chapter 4, Raveh reminds us of Daya Krishna's dialogues on economy and development in his early years. This last chapter contributes in return to understanding Daya Krishna's later battle against an overemphasis of Indian spirituality in philosophy, owing to the manner spiritual communities are bound to economy [End Page 1] and society. In that sense, chapter 4 lays the foundation for the later critique exposed in chapter 1. Raveh's book thus masterfully reveals the diversity of Daya Krishna's interests and the unity of his philosophical project. Daya Krishna's ease at crossing philosophical traditions, his striking capacity to question the most accepted axioms, most visible in the variety of his lively dialogues, is distinctly depicted throughout Raveh's book.
Thus, in Raveh's own words, Daya Krishna's art of questioning philosophical traditions "emphasizes the continuity between his writings, the dialogic aspect of his work, and the task that he has taken upon himself, to shoot question-arrows at 'the beliefs,' many of them 'totally unfounded,' that constitute the conventional picture of Indian philosophy" (p. 9). These "question-arrows" refer to Daya Krishna's denunciation of the "myths about Indian philosophy" (2006, p. 3). These myths include such stereotypes as the association of Indian philosophy with mokṣa or liberation as its ultimate purpose, its essentially spiritual character, and its inalterable classification into orthodox and heterodox "schools." Thus, in his first chapter, "Toward a New Picture of Indian Philosophy," Raveh begins with Daya Krishna's struggle against these myths, i.e. against the frozen and unified conceptions of Indian philosophy. This brings us to reflect more fundamentally on how historiographies are made and how to challenge the sense of self-evidence that they entail. Interestingly, Raveh presents to his reader not only Daya Krishna's famous critique or "counter-perspective" of the myths of Indian philosophy, but also an alternative picture he proposes in the less-read Indian Philosophy: A New Approach (1997) in which his critiques ground a new "perspective."
Daya Krishna's analysis of the "myths" of Indian philosophy is the best-known of his numerous writings. However, the responses so far have mostly...