Thought and Context: Philosophy on the Eve of Colonialism

  • V. Sanil
Part of the Sophia Studies in Cross-cultural Philosophy of Traditions and Cultures book series (SCPT, volume 11)


Unlike other disciplines in humanities and social sciences, philosophy has been hesitant in taking its colonial and post-colonial contexts seriously. Colonialism belongs to the external history of philosophy. Hence, it is often seen as a temporary disruption in a living tradition of thought or as a harbinger of philosophy proper. Such an external perspective does not help us in understanding the work of Indian philosophers who while living under colonialism actively engaged with both Eastern and Western thought but felt that philosophy of their time had lost its vitality and soul. This essay argues that to study philosophy under colonialism, we need to clarify the relationship between philosophy and its historical context . We discuss Sheldon Pollock’s idea of the death of Sanskrit to formulate the temporality of a tradition that can live through multiple deaths. We defend Quentin Skinner’s use of speech act theory to study philosophy and deepen Jonardon Ganeri’s idea of intellectual context of intellectual traditions in India. Using the insights of historians such as Sanjay Subramanian et al. and philosophers such as Roland Barthes , we argue that the bearer of the marks of context is neither the proposition nor the text, but the texture of discourse for which the photograph is an exemplary instance.


Pollock Ganeri Skinner Speech act Swaraj Context Time 


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© Indian Institute of Advanced Study 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Humanities and Social SciencesIndian Institute of Technology DelhiDelhiIndia

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