Philosophy ETDs

Publication Date

Spring 5-4-2017


This study examines nineteenth-century German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel’s appraisal of philosophies of India. In Hegel’s time, classical Indian texts such as the Vedas, Upaniṣads, and Bhagavadgītā had only recently been translated into European languages, and were generating tremendous controversy. Hegel carved out a unique and hugely influential position by devotedly reading fledgling translations of source texts alongside European interpretations, attempting to comprehend the philosophical significance of Indian thought. Hegel’s legacy proved deeply problematic, however, both because his views were not entirely consistent or unambiguous over time, and because his evident relegation of Indian ideas to pre- or unphilosophical status became the dominant practice among Europeans and Westerners through the twentieth century even while Hegel’s star, relatively speaking, went into a period of decline. While Hegel spent much more time and space discussing Indian philosophy in detail than did many philosophers who succeeded him in Europe and elsewhere, today his philosophy is too-frequently either reflexively labeled Eurocentric to legitimize ignoring or summarily dismissing it, or studied and written about exclusively in the context of “Western” ideas as if India were of little or no serious concern to him.

This work first situates Hegel’s interest in and attention to Indian ideas in the context of the philosophical trends of Spinozism and Romanticism that he sought to navigate from his earliest forays into theology and philosophy. It then interrogates his analyses and judgments of Indian philosophical systems over the course of his career, revealing the increasing depth and innovation in his engagement with India over time while also critiquing his readings of Indian texts and his characterizations of Indian thought and culture. In doing so, it endeavors to supply the complete account of Hegel’s approach to Indian philosophy in its full complexity.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Adrian Johnston

Second Committee Member

John Taber

Third Committee Member

Brent Kalar

Fourth Committee Member

Iain Thomson

Fifth Committee Member

Shannon Mussett




Hegel, Indian Philosophy, History of Philosophy, Comparative Philosophy, Eurocentrism

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