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