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Samvada: A Dialogue Between Two Philosophical Traditions.

This is a very unusual book--perhaps a genuine example of "comparative philosophy" (rather than another jejune debate as to its possibility). It too proceeds from a seminar, held in Poona in 1983, but instead of an international cast, its participants were all Indians (Daya Krishna, it might be noted, attended also the above conference). And instead of bandying about the latest international buzzwords in the international language, this conference sought to confront specific problems of recent English and German philosophy, through their ablest Indian exponents, and their analogues or contrasts in the Indian tradition itself, expressed, as often as not, in Sanskrit. The book is half in English, half in Sanskrit--the pundits attending are allowed to respond in their proper idiom! The aim, as M. P. Rege makes clear in the introduction, is both to engage the pundit in the process of (Western) academic debate, and to unburden this latter of its hauteur (largely self-assumed) in taking the former as a mere object of curiosity and comment.

The entire seminar was devoted to various theses of Bertrand Russell on the nature of the proposition and signification generally ("words denote individuals," "the meaning of a sentence is a proposition," etc.); an effort was made both to develop these theses in Sanskrit and elicit critical responses in that medium. The Anglophone participants (who include, in addition to Rege and Daya Krishna, Ashok Kelkar, K. T. Pandurangi, Sibajiban Bhattacharyya, S. R. Bhatt, S. S. Dixit, and V. N. Jha) contributed commentary and question (much of which is produced nearly verbatim in the text), and even, at times, found themselves on the defensive. Of course, one might justly say that the topics chosen were tailor-made to engage pundits versed in Nyaya and Mimamsa--but the amazing thing is that this seminar represents the first time a formal effort has been made to involve the Indian learned tradition in structured academic discourse--as something other than an "object" belonging essentially "to the past".

It is ironic that while we talk endlessly of the "Other," its most valued and genuine instances vanish before our eyes. As the above seminar shows, dialogue is the only mode that gives much hope of either "same" or "other" persisting much longer.
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Publication:The Journal of the American Oriental Society
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jan 1, 1993
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