A Short Note on Christopher Bartley’s An Introduction to Indian Philosophy

Christopher Bartley, An Introduction to Indian Philosophy: Hindu and Buddhist Ideas from Original Sources (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015).

(Amazon; Bookshop)

The other day, while reading Christopher Bartley’s An Introduction to Indian Philosophy, I sent a text to a friend marveling at the fact that Indian philosophers like Ramakantha and Dharmakirti were debating ideas related to the self centuries ago that sound a lot like what we might hear from David Chalmers and Daniel Dennett today. But it takes some work to find these thinkers and their writings. For this reason, I’m grateful to Bartley for the volume he has created. This book introduced me to a wide variety of Hindu and Buddhist intellectual traditions with which I was unfamiliar. It made most apparent something I teach my students over and over again: “religions are internally diverse”.

Hinduism and Buddhism are oversimplified labels that we use for pragmatic reasons. Beneath these labels there are many Hinduisms and many Buddhisms. Bartley guides the reading through the dense arguments. The reading takes some work, or at least it did for me. (I purchased the book in May, 2022, and it’s only about 300 pp. of content!) But it’s worth it.

In my estimation, the major philosophical topics that this book addresses are the self, consciousness, cosmology, and epistemology. The reader will learn that Indian philosophers have been addressing questions centuries before Descartes, Hume, et al. Yes, the Indian milieu is different but I contend that Hindu and Buddhist philosophers are easily as thought provoking and challenging as their European counterparts

A year ago, I finished reading Bryan Van Norden’s Taking Back Philosophy, which passionately argued that we must include world philosophies into our philosophizing or start honestly labeling what we call “philosophy” more precisely as “Anglo-European philosophy”. I’ve taken his argument seriously, and in doing so, I feel like my brain has been stretched in a good way. Indian thinkers have been deeply engaging our world for millennia and we do ourselves a disservice if we ignore their contributions or mistakenly dismiss them as “religious”. I highly recommend Bartley’s book for anyone interested in world philosophies, the philosophical categories I mentioned above, or Indian traditions in general.


3 Replies to “A Short Note on Christopher Bartley’s An Introduction to Indian Philosophy”

  1. Sounds like you might also appreciate Siderits, Mark, Thompson, Even and Zahavi, Dan, eds. Self, No Self? Perspectives from Analytical, Phenomenological, & Indian Traditions. Oxford University Press, 2011.

    Liked by 1 person

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