What Kinds of Comparison Are Most Useful in the Study of World Philosophies?

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Nathan Sivin
Anna Akasoy
Warwick Anderson
Gérard Colas
Edmond Eh

Abstract




Cross-cultural comparisons face several methodological challenges. In an attempt at resolving some such challenges, Nathan Sivin has developed the framework of “cultural manifolds.” This framework includes all the pertinent dimensions of a complex phenomenon and the interactions that make all of these aspects into a single whole. In engaging with this framework, Anna Akasoy illustrates that the phenomena used in comparative approaches to cultural and intellectual history need to be subjected to a continuous change of perspectives. Writing about comparative history, Warwick Anderson directs attention to an articulation between synchronic and diachronic modes of inquiry. In addition, he asks: If comparative studies require a number of collaborators, how does one coordinate the various contributors? And how does one ensure that the comparison is between separate entities, without mutual historical entanglement? Finally, how does comparative history stack up against more dynamic approaches, such as connected, transnational, and postcolonial histories? Gérard Colas, for his part, claims that comparisons cannot allow one to move away from the dominant Euroamerican conceptual framework. Should this indeed be the case, we should search for better ways of facilitating a “mutual pollination” between philosophies. Finally, Edmond Eh first asserts that Sivin fails to recognize the difference between comparisons within cultures and comparisons between cultures. He then argues that the application of generalism is limited to comparisons of historical nature.


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How to Cite
Sivin, N., Akasoy, A., Anderson, W., Colas, G., & Eh, E. (2018). What Kinds of Comparison Are Most Useful in the Study of World Philosophies?. Journal of World Philosophies, 3(2), 75-97. Retrieved from https://scholarworks.iu.edu/iupjournals/index.php/jwp/article/view/2156
Section
Symposium
Author Biographies

Nathan Sivin

Nathan Sivin is Professor of Chinese Culture and of the History of Science, Emeritus, at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also an Honorary Professor at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He is co-author with Geoffrey Lloyd of The Way and the Word: Science and Medicine in Early China and Greece, and more recently of Health Care in Eleventh-Century China.

Anna Akasoy

Anna Akasoy is professor of Islamic intellectual history at the Graduate Center and Hunter College of the City University of New York. She teaches classes on Islamic intellectual history and the history, literature, and culture of the Islamic world. Her research interests include the intellectual history of the medieval Islamic world, in particular the relationship between mysticism and philosophy, as well as contacts between the Islamic world and other cultures. Her current research projects include a cultural history of falconry in the premodern Middle East and a study of the religious dimension of Alexander the Great in the Islamic tradition within the larger context of the classical heritage of the Middle East and Asia.

Warwick Anderson

Warwick Anderson is the Janet Dora Hine Professor of Politics, Governance and Ethics in the Department of History and the Charles Perkins Centre at the University of Sydney. He has taught at Harvard, Melbourne, the University of California, San Franciso and Berkeley, and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In 1988, as a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, he was a teaching fellow for Nathan Sivin.

Gérard Colas

A CNRS Senior Research Fellow, Gérard Colas is a Sanskrit philologist. Colas publishes about Indian epistemologies and how they tie in to religious problematics. The main questions touched upon are the icon, rites, Vaishnavism, theism, and deism. He also does research on the transmission of Sanskrit texts, paleography, and eighteenth-century missionary literature in Sanskrit and Telugu (Jesuits of the Carnatic mission and Halle-Tranquebar Pietists).

Edmond Eh

Edmond Eh obtained a doctorate in philosophy and religious studies from the University of Macau. He researches in comparative philosophy with a focus on intellectual virtue in the Aristotelian and Confucian traditions. He is currently Assistant Professor at the University of Saint Joseph, Macau. He teaches philosophy and academic writing at the Faculty of Religious Studies.