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Primordial Being

Primordial Being Enlightenment, Schopenhauer and the Indian subject of postcolonial theory

Chetan bhatt

century Enlightenment philosophers – others could have been chosen – considered the place of ʻIndiaʼ and some of its religions and philosophies in their grand civilizational, cultural and philosophical chronographies. This is a difficult area whose complexities can be elided by the easier claim that there was no comparative philosophical project. Can the claims of postcolonial theory be unified with statements such as the following made by Arthur Schopenhauer, the main focus of this article?

Kantʼs philosophy is therefore the only one with which a thorough acquaintance is positively assumed in what is to be here discussed. But if in addition to this the reader has dwelt for a while in the school of the divine Plato, he will be the better prepared to hear me, and the more susceptible to what I say. But if he has shared in the benefits of the Vedas, access to which [was] opened to us by the Upanishads … if, I say, the reader has also already received and assimilated the divine inspiration of ancient Indian wisdom, then he is best of all prepared to hear what I have to say to him. [2] The function of ʻthe subalternʼ artifice is another aspect of postcolonial theory that is implicitly criticized below. In postcolonial theory, the genuinely subaltern cannot be figured as the subject of humanism and cannot be brought into any kind of representation-in-itself within the universal discourses of humanism or reason. The word of the Indian subaltern can seem like an ever-delayed moment of revelation that functions to provide the theoretical integrity of postcolonial theory. However, this unrepresentability is also applied rather widely by Spivak to a range of evidently non-subaltern phenomena, including the livedness of ʻeveryday Hinduismʼ as well as Vedantic ʻtheologicalʼ debates which, it is claimed, can at best only be inauthentically simulated in Western humanist Postcolonial theory, especially in the writings of Gayatri Spivak, has undertaken intricate critiques of specifically Western Enlightenment humanism and foundationalism and by extension the broad European philosophical tradition. While postcolonial theory in its deconstructive mode can face many ways at once in its claims about the West, Europe and (post)colonial India, it contains some consistent themes that can sharply demarcate European Enlightenment, conceived as science, truth, rationality and humanism, from its truly abject other, the colonized or the genuinely subaltern that can only be ʻimpossiblyʼ, if ever, articulated by or heard within humanist, rationalist paradigms. Spivak, for example, draws a very clear distinction between a universalizing German philosophical tradition and the world of the non-European, the former representing untainted and irreducibly Eurocentric philosophy that did not have a concern with ʻcomparativeʼ discipline:

Cultural and intellectual ʻGermanyʼ, the place of self-styled difference from the rest of what is still understood as ʻcontinentalʼ Europe and Britain, was the main source of the meticulous scholarship that established the vocabulary of proto-archetypal (ʻcomparativeʼ in the disciplinary sense) identity, or kinship, without direct involvement in the utilization of that other difference, between the colonizer and the colonized; in the nascent discourses of comparative philology, comparative religion, even comparative literature.… The field of philosophy as such, whose model was the merging of science and truth, remained untouched by the comparative impulse. In this area, Germany produced authoritative ʻuniversalʼ narratives where the subject remained unmistakably European. [1] This main claim of postcolonial theory forms the uneasy background for an essay that is primarily focused on how some eighteenthand nineteenth-discourse. There is a third theme emergent in recent postcolonial theory, relating to the distinction between elite and subaltern in the (post)colonial world in which the elite, another agile concept, is conceivable only in so far as it is a subject of knowledge (or ethics) within Western humanism and against which the genuinely subaltern lives on in some kind of dense, unrepresentable, unheard world with its own eco-logic that can be only impossibly narrated within the discourses of the Indian humanist elite. If these postcolonial arguments are new, it is also worth examining the possibility that they have entirely European historical or philosophical precedents.

The cradle of reason and the hearth of culture

After the mid-eighteenth century, Voltaire made several pronouncements about the primordial antiquity of Indian civilization and the superiority and rationality of ancient Indian culture in comparison with that of Europe: ʻAlmost every people, but particularly those of Asia, reckon a succession of ages which terrifies us.ʼ For Voltaire, like several Enlightenment thinkers, India received the first revelation and was the cultural hearth for world civilization. Indians were those ʻwhom we look upon as the first nationsʼ, ʻthe men who were the most anciently united into a body of peopleʼ. [3] India, for Voltaire, was also the primordial homeland of European peoples. Fundamentally, the example of ancient Indian culture, apprehended through some of the texts that were available in Europe in the mid eighteenth century, demonstrated for Voltaire and others a rational civilization that could be compared favourably with the superstitious, irrational and barbaric forms of institutional clerical authority that dominated Catholic Europe. It is well known that, in an extremely influential dispute, Voltaire mobilized the fact of the antiquity of Indian culture sharply against the chrono-logos of humankind that was presented in the Old Testament. Indian antiquity was marshalled on the side of reason against the Abrahamic, [4] Noachian and Mosaic chronography within Judeo-Christendom. Voltaireʼs understanding of Indian texts was initially based on a fabrication, claming to be ʻVedicʼ, that contained an invented dialogue between two Indian sages. [5] The ʻrationalistʼ arguments of one sage were contrasted with the idolatrous beliefs of the other, and provided Voltaire with his own justifications for ʻrational religionʼ against medieval superstition and arbitrary clerical power. Later, Voltaire had access to renderings of Hindu texts, often translated from Persian, but these did not alter his beliefs about Indian primordiality, nor that India was the cradle of reason and of world civilization.

To be sure, Voltaireʼs enthusiasm for India was not shared by many of the philosophes, who saw in India only barbaric or enlightened ʻdespotismʼ overseen by the religion of the Brachmanes that privileged both an internal turn towards metaphysical dissolution and ʻnothingnessʼ – a state often described as opiuminduced – and an obsession with caste purity which was forbiddingly intolerant and oppressive, and certainly not conducive to ideas of liberty or freedom of will. China was initially, though not exclusively, the favoured ancient source of inspiration for rationalist Enlightenment thinkers. However, the example of Voltaireʼs fascination with the rationality of India highlights a number of densely complicated themes about the imagination and judgement of India in Europe during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as the way this has been articulated in more recent postcolonial theory.

What is now called ʻthe universal humanist subject of Enlightenmentʼ can be said to have arisen as a product of the ʻcomparativeʼ philosophical world histories, histories of humankind and philosophical anthropologies whose writing preoccupied so many Enlightenment and Romantic thinkers. Where did the history of humanity begin? If ʻthe first abode of man was a gardenʼ, Herder asked, ʻWhere then lay the garden where the creator placed his gentle, defenceless creature?ʼ For him the traditions of Genesis and the mythologies and traditions of the Chinese, Tibetans, Arabs, Persians and Indians pointed to one place:

there can be no doubt … that this primal seat should be a region between the Indian mountains.

The land [described in tradition as] abounding in gold and precious stones, can hardly be any other than India, which has been known from the days of yore for these treasures. The river that flows round is the twisting, sacred Ganges; all of India recognizes it as the stream of paradise. [6] Herder, like many of his contemporaries, was familiar with some of the work of early British and European Orientalists, including Dow, Holwell, Halhed, Wilkins, Anquetil-Duperron as well as William Jonesʼs pioneering Asiatic Researches. [7] However, it has been argued that his main image of India was based on the translation of Kalidasaʼs classical Sanskrit play, Sakuntala, from which Herder derived his view of the Indian as ʻchild-likeʼ. [8] It is conventional, especially after the dominant interpretation of Hegel (though it was stated most clearly by Friedrich Schlegel), to read the representation of the primordiality of India within many such texts as one of the infancy (ʻcradlingʼ) of humanity which was superseded by the mature civilizations of Greece and then Europe. However, while such sentiments are clearly apparent in Herder, especially in his view of different countries contributing in a decisive way to the process of world history, there is a far more complex comparative judgement at work, certainly one in which allows a space for contemporary Europe to be contrasted unfavourably with both ancient and contemporary India. [9] We might call Herderʼs work a founding statement of ʻunity-indiversity multiculturalismʼ with all the problems that it entails: [The] history of humankind also needs to be observed and treated with humanity. In other words, we must examine even erring nations without prejudice, anger, hatred, envy, or slander; we must view them as brothers or as children [of a common God].

For are they not all brothers of human reason and of every error of reason? [10]

For Herder, a founding reason, justice and language defined the essence of what it meant to be human (Humanität). It has been argued that the concept of Humanität was influenced by and gained stature for Herder because of ʻthe discovered relevance to it … of values from the Indian worldʼ that he found in his readings:11 if this is the case, then does the metaphor of what were conceived as ʻIndian valuesʼ already reside inside Herderʼs conception of universal humanity?

Against Rousseau, Herder argued that it was not inarticulate sounds that formed the basis of language. Some kind of fully formed, especially poetic language was natural to all humanity. Religion, for Herder, was also both its oldest and highest expression – and here Herder alluded to the possibility of primal philosophy. Furthermore, ʻall mankind are only the one and the same speciesʼ. [12] If the founding unity of humanity was in reason and justice, the diversity arose through the precision of the relation between what he called the ʻgenetic forceʼ of nature and the environment (ʻclimateʼ) in which it was manifest:

No people of Europe, let alone all of Greece, has ever been more savage than the people of New Zealand or of Tierra del Fuego. This can be expected if one takes the analogy of climate into consideration.

These inhumane peoples nevertheless possess humanity, reason, and language. No cannibals devour their own children or brothers; their inhumane practice is in their eyes a ruthless custom of war that preserves their courage and terrifies their enemies. It is, therefore, nothing more or less than the work of a crude form of political reasoning, which repressed the humanity of these peoples in the face of these few sacrifices to their country. [13]

The original cultural differences of humanity were described by Herder through the conceptions of Völker and Volk. From this cultural carapace – though in one important sense the term ʻculturalʼ is being used here to describe the moment of its modern creation – Herder strongly criticized Kantʼs preoccupation with ʻraceʼ. Kant was later to castigate Herder, and indeed Kantʼs authority was important for the unequivocal acceptance of the concept of ʻraceʼ and a warning against the admixture of ʻracesʼ. [14]

However, Herderʼs conception of the genetic force of nature, with which ʻclimateʼ acted ʻmerely as an auxiliary or antagonistʼ, provided for a wider epistemic field that could encapsulate powerful conceptions of cultural identity and cultural becoming based on an invocation of eco-logical, filial, naturalist, organicist and in some indeterminate way ʻhereditarianʼ ideas that did not need to rely on the resources of biology proper. The dense ecological relation between a specific branch of humanity and the particular environment in which it thrived resulted in its unique epistemological difference. Herder may have identified all such variations as inhabited by a primal reason, but we should note the contemporary resonance of the kinship established here between primal ecological harmony and epistemological rupture. If ʻthere is one race, the human race, [and] the differences are of cultureʼ, then the ʻcultureʼ of todayʼs cultural studies and postcolonial theory owes its foundation to this manoeuvre of Herderʼs. In particular we also note the oscillation between the universal Humanität of reason and justice to which one must appeal, and the particular and primeval ecological determination of Volk which one must be compelled to respect. Herderʼs conception of national culture was a strong one. For example, the cultural integrity of the Indian people under Brahmin hegemony, the latter seen by Herder as both oppressive and, through its education, enlightening, was one which rampant European colonialism, ʻlike the Mongol yoke before itʼ, was unable to annihilate. In the face of Brahmin ʻdominion over the soulʼ of the Indian, ʻwhich will endure, as far as I can see, as long as an Indian shall exist, all European institutions touch only the surfaceʼ. [15]

Herderʼs philosophy of the history of humankind is therefore based on a comparative and differential judgement of national cultures in which the ancient Indians were the Urvolk and the mountainous regions of India were not simply the primal Urheimat, but the cradle of human reason, emotion, poesis and aesthetic.

Prehistoric Being-in-itself

Kant had famously stated of India that: This is the highest country. No doubt it was inhabited before any other and could even have been the site of all creation and all science. The culture of the Indians, as is known, almost certainly came from Tibet, just as all our arts, like agriculture, numbers, the game of chess etc., seem to have come from India. [16]

Kant had said this in the context of a disagreement about the primordial homeland of humanity and against the view, derived from the speculative astronomy of Bailly (which Hegel was also to disparage), of an Arctic17 Urheimat. Kant was engaging with the speculations about primordiality that were to intensify considerably over the coming century around the Urvolk, the Ursprache, the Urheimat and the ʻUr-Mythusʼ. Kant also believed that an original and pure religion had been manifest in India and survived in some contemporary religious forms. [18] However, he had little sympathy with the celebration of all things Indian. For Kant, India was fundamentally an erosion, even if it had possessed an original state of primordial purity. Here Kant was echoing an established orientation towards India that was to find its theoretical-materialist fulfilment in the nineteenth century, via Hegel, in Marxʼs statement about the ʻAsiatic mode of productionʼ and his theory of ideology and religion. It was, however, in the aftermath and as a consequence of Kantian transcendental idealism that Indian metaphysics acquired a different resonance.

Hegel, in attacking the Romantic conception of history, had said in one of his lectures on world history :[I]t has been argued … that a primitive nation [India] once existed, and that all our knowledge and art has simply been handed down to us from it. This original nation, it is contended, existed before mankind proper had come into being, and is immortalized in ancient legends under the image of the gods; distorted fragments of its highly developed culture are allegedly also to be found in the myths of the earliest nations. And the condition of the earliest nations, as described in history, is represented as a gradual decline from the high level of culture that preceded it. All this is put forward with the claim that philosophy required it to be so, and that it is also supported by historical evidence. … We certainly owe very much that is valuable to the interest which has fired such historical research, but this research can also be indicted on its own testimony.

For it sets out to prove by historical methods that whose historical existence it has already presupposed. [19] This notion of perfect primeval condition does, however, contain a philosophical element – namely the realisation that man cannot have originally existed in a state of animal sensibility. [20]

Hegel was here sternly dismissing both Schellingʼs and Friedrich Schlegelʼs philosophies of history and the foundational place of India within them. Schlegel claimed the primordiality of the Indians, and that Indians were the first to see the face of God. [21] This was the first Revelation, which Schlegel saw as the original and purest form of the Christian religion. For Schlegel, however, Indians had committed the primordial wrong, the fall from grace. This was the start of degeneration and deterioration, ʻthe slow and gradual declensionʼ of India that signalled the fall of all humankind. In an instructive move, Schlegel inverted the temporality of natural Romanticism: a ʻdegenerationʼ from ʻlowʼ state of cultural development into ʻhighʼ modern culture became instead a degeneration from a ʻhighʼ state of ancient cultural development into a ʻlowʼ modern culture. [22]

Hegelʼs critique of Schelling and Schlegel could not, of course, recuperate the meaning Rousseau attributed to his own temporality. Hegelʼs and Schlegelʼs chronographies can be seen as travelling in opposite directions along a line that plots a desirable state of civilization against a judgement of civilizational worth in time; Rousseauʼs crosses this line obliquely. However, Hegel had to provide the location on a chronographic tabula for the existence of an early Indian philosophical tradition with which Hegel was very well acquainted. [23] This had to be a coordinate in relation to philosophical history. The empirical ʻscience of eventsʼ required metabolizing into ʻthat radical mode of being that prescribes their destiny to all empirical beingsʼ. [24] There is another, important factor which pressed Hegel: the ʻgreat historical discoveryʼ elaborated in Hegelʼs time of the connections between the Sanskrit language and Europe, including its ʻinsight into the historical links between the Germanic nations and those of Indiaʼ. [25] The chronographic and taxonomic organization of the system of kinship between languages was the opening created by the ʻarchaic criesʼ [26] that had been discovered in Sanskrit. Hegel argued that,Externally, India sustains manifold relations to the History of the World. In recent times the discovery has been made, that Sanscrit lies at the foundation of all those further developments which form the languages of Europe; e.g. the Greek, Latin, German. India, moreover was the centre of emigration for all the western world; but this external historical relation is to be regarded rather as a merely physical diffusion of peoples from this point.… The spread of Indian culture is prehistorical, for History is limited to that which makes an essential epoch in the development of Spirit. [27] This much is known about Hegelʼs views of Indiaʼs place in mere ʻgeneral historyʼ, or as ʻpre-historyʼ, and therefore its exteriority to philosophical history. [28] However, Viyagappa and Halbfass have presented more nuanced readings of Hegel that are advantageous for the arguments advanced below. For Hegel, India possessed a ʻtrue philosophyʼ based on a conception of an absolute, the indivisible substance of the universe from which Indians created a philosophy of pure, abstract Being-in-itself. Indian philosophy was for Hegel a highly developed but singular focus on substantiality. It was practically manifested in the other-worldly, dreamy, opiate state29 of the Brahmin apprehending the absolute. We can read this as an attribution of a kind of pure objectivity to Indian philosophy. However, for Hegel, it was content-less, regressively ineffable, an almost wilful and decided apprehension of pure substance that did not have subjectivity, form, particularity or determination. (Though, for Hegel, reason is also this infinite substance of the universe. [30] ) Indian philosophy was founded on an abstract negation of the subjective element, of the finite, the practical or the determinate. Hence, the elemental lack in Indian philosophy was both of the concreteness of the world, and of every subjective or multiple conception that lay beyond abstract unity. For Hegel, this lack was filled with imagination, fantasy, sensual abandon, and a representational excess of the illusion (maya) that was the phenomenal world.

The negation of subjectivity, particularity, determination, the concrete-in-the world also meant that Indian philosophy could not have a conception of dialectical mediation: no dialectic and thus no history. However, Halbfass has argued that in the movement of Spirit in history, the pure Being-in-itself of Indian philosophy is already contained in and available to the unfolding of Spirit in the European present. The ancient philosophies of India can stand guard against the egoistic excess that arises from pure subjectivity. Hegel paradoxically identified egoism with the German Romantics, who were obsessed with India for their own motives and had consequently misunderstood its philosophical warning. [31] For Hegel, the fundamental deficiency in the Indian world-view is that of its foundational incapacity to individuate Indians and bring them into a subjecthood of the kind enjoyed in European Enlightenment reason and humanism; its fundamental gift was to destabilize the excesses of European subjectivity. Hegel can be said to have instituted a paradigm in which the possibility of rational, humanist subjecthood – and consequently freedom – for the Indian subaltern is perpetually theoretically inconceivable. There is also a hauntology32 here in which ʻIndiaʼ travels across the sciences-disciplines of rationalists and romantics alike. Conversely, that Spirit might have come and gone from ancient India leaves it now only as decaying corpus, [33] an omnibus of archaic texts, a barely living body that finds fulfilment in the grotesque excess of somatic functions and pleasures, and a glimpse, through an opium haze, of ʻsubstanceʼ, but otherwise in a state of putrefying slumber. The spectre that haunted both Hegel and Schlegel was that of the stagnation and decay of modern civilization, for which the archaic corpus of India was variously poison, drug, remedy and recipe. [34]

The irrational mosaic

It was perhaps Arthur Schopenhauer who brought this into sharpest relief and ultimately forbidding resolution. For Schopenhauer the Indian corpus was a canon. If Hegel denigrated the unmediation of abstract Being by the concrete within Indian metaphysics, Schopenhauer was to privilege ʻthe Indianʼ conception of Being while his ontology displaced entirely the dialectic. Schopenhauer had already rejected the foundational basis of Hegelʼs claim through his dismissal of both Fichtean subjectivism (which Hegel identified as an example of ʻegoisticʼ philosophy for which Indian metaphysics might act as a rebuke) and materialist objectivism, and indeed of the limitations of sufficient reason that derived from any reflective philosophy of subject and object. If Hegel placed India outside of philosophical history because of its undialectical preoccupation with pure content-less Being-in-itself, Schopenhauer valorized precisely this aspect of Indian philosophy through his belief that it spoke to his completion of the project of post-Kantian Western philosophy. If, for Hegel, Indian philosophy was solely one of abstract unity, for Schopenhauer unity and the plurality were phenomenal objectifications that were sidestepped by the ʻreal determinationʼ of the noumenal ʻwillʼ which India had uniquely apprehended in other ways. Hegelʼs belief that Spirit was progress and history had direction was precisely the illusion (maya) that both Schopenhauer and ancient Indian philosophers had discovered. Similarly, if history was rationality, for Schopenhauer this claim was a subterfuge that masked blind directionless movement. Frivolously, Schopenhauer used the Upanishads to turn Hegel both sideways and on his head.

While Schopenhauer was initially close to intellectuals and writers influenced by the interest in India, and lived in a period where German ʻIndomaniaʼ was coming to fruition, there was an important practi-cal link between Herder and Schopenhauer in the figure of the enthusiastic German Indologist, Frederich Maier, a student and close friend of Herder, who was to introduce Schopenhauer in 1813 to ʻHinduʼ texts. [35] Another key influence was Karl Christian Frederich Krause, a philosopher and Sanskritist, [36] who both translated texts for Schopenhauer and apparently taught him how to meditate. [37] Schopenhauer had already written his dissertation on the basis for sufficient reason prior to his revelatory encounter with Anquetil-Duperronʼs anachronistic Oupnekhat, his rendering into Latin of a Persian translation of some of the Sanskrit Upanishads, the Hindu texts that creatively followed, commented on and elaborated Vedic ideas and introduced new ones. There is little question of the profound importance for Schopenhauer of the Upanishads, other Hindu texts, and early translations of (mainly Burmese) Buddhist texts that had become available in Europe. He was to say of the Oupnekhat that ʻit has been the consolation of my life and will be that of my deathʼ. [38]

Schopenhauer claimed a relation between Indian and European thought not because of philological or mythological similarities, but because of their philosophical affinities. [39] The question about the relationship between his philosophy of ʻwillʼ and ʻdenial of the will-to-liveʼ and Upanishadic and Buddhist thinking is particularly interesting. Schopenhauer later said of his philosophy of will that it arose when ʻthe Upanishads, Plato and Kant were able simultaneously to cast their rays into one manʼs mindʼ. He was to say of Kant that ʻThe “maya” of the Vedas [and] the “phenomenon” of Kant are one and the sameʼ, [40] the phenomenal world being the necessary illusion or delusion that we live. However, he also said of the relation between his philosophy of will and Buddhism ʻinasmuch as in my own philosophizing I have certainly not been under its influenceʼ, [41] though the strong influence of Buddhism came later in his work. Schopenhauer had probably read the Oupnekhat in late 1813 or early 181442 and had met Krause around 1815.43 In the first (1818) and second (1844) editions of The World as Will and Representation and in both volumes of Parerga and Paralipomena (1851), he repeatedly refers to the Upanishads and the Oupnekhat, the Vedas, the Puranas and the Bhagavad Gita, as well as the translations and writings of Colebrooke, Jonesʼs Asiatic Researches, Julius Heinrich Klaprothʼs Asiatische Magazin, the Transactions of the Royal Asiatic Society, the writings of the eighth-century Indian philosopher Shankara and numerous other Hindu and Buddhist sources. Magee has argued that the core elements of Schopenhauerʼs philosophy were fully formed at the time that ʻhe then almost immediately discoveredʼ their similarities to Hindu or Buddhist doctrines. [44] Certainly, his critique of the Kantian division of phenomena and noumena, and of the principle of sufficient reason were prior to his encounter with Hindu thinking. There is less clarity about the authority, rather than interpellative function, of Hindu and, later, Buddhist concepts that he often used in his development of the philosophy of ʻwillʼ. However, in The World as Will and Representation and in his later work there is a definitive engagement with Hindu and Buddhist ideas. While he often made associations between his and Hindu or Buddhist concepts, these were not uncomplicated identifications (for example, ʻphenomenonʼ is ʻmayaʼ, ʻwillʼ is ʻBrahmanʼ, the aporetic state of the ʻdenial of the will-to-liveʼ is ʻnirvanaʼ) but a more complex and fruitful expansion and negotiation with Hinduism and Buddhism through his own philosophy. [45]

Accepting with Kant that the mind imposes space, time and causality to create the phenomenal world available to its intuition or reflection, Schopenhauer famously began the first book of The World as Will and Representation:The world is my representation: this is a truth valid with reference to every living and knowing being, although man alone can bring it into reflective, abstract consciousness. [46] For Kant, the distinction between appearances and things is conclusive, but, for Schopenhauer, not concluded. The thing-in-itself, for Kant, is unavailable to us in-itself. It was the resolution of these distinctions between phenomenon and noumenon, and adjacently subject and object, appearance and essence, empirical reality and transcendental ideality that was Schopenhauerʼs objective. Schopenhauer rejected philosophical systems that started from either the subject or the object: these could at best only provide explanations based on the limit of sufficient reason, and which were valid only for the phenomenal world. If representation was the primary form of the division into subject and object, [47] what remained after we eliminated the form of representation and all forms subordinate to it that were explained by the principle of sufficient reason?

Schopenhauer started his discussion on the relation between subject and object by focusing on the body, and in this sense displaced the Cartesian privilege of mind over body that was arguably foundational to what later became sufficient reason. As my body acts, it objectifies my ʻwillʼ in an immediate way that is indivisible from that ʻwillʼ. Hence, my body may be my representation, but it is also, and otherwise, my ʻwillʼ. This is the excessive, unavailable to sufficient reason, to the relation of subject and object or causality that I also have with my body. [48] The body (and indeed sexual plenitude) was thus the privileged site of the objectification of the thing-in-itself.

Schopenhauer extended this conception of ʻwillʼ outward: the ʻwillʼ is the thing-in-itself of all things. Schopenhauer used several different conceptions of ʻwillʼ, but in this grand conception of ʻwillʼ Schopenhauer was referring to the in-itself of the universe beyond the phenomenal world, though this cannot be a simple identification with ʻthe realʼ. ʻWillʼ is foreign to the phenomenal forms in which ʻwillʼ appears or passes; nor can ʻwillʼ be identified as object or concept. The conditions of space and time and the plurality and differentiality of objects are examples of what Schopenhauer called the principium individuationis (ʻprinciple of individuationʼ) that is coextensive with and the condition for subjecthood and knowledge. It is the essential differentiability of phenomena that ʻseparatesʼ them from groundless and unconceptualized ʻwillʼ. ʻWillʼ also has no direction or purpose, no telos or history. For Schopenhauer, ʻwillʼ is ʻblind impulse, an obscure, dull urgeʼ, a ʻstriving devoid of all knowledgeʼ. [49] Schopenhauer also identified ʻwillʼ as the ʻwill-to-liveʼ since ʻeverything in nature presses and pushes towards existence, if possible towards organic existence, i.e., life, and then to the highest possible degree thereofʼ. [50]

One of Schopenhauerʼs conceptions of ʻwillʼ is the idea of oneʼs own will in self consciousness that is the basis for judging ʻthe illusion of plurality (Maya)ʼ, the form of objective apprehension in which the world of objects ʻalways meet with this one beingʼ. [51] The ʻwillʼ might be recognized as a ʻunityʼ that lies beyond the phenomenal world, and we may have ʻisolated glancesʼ of this unity in the relation of things in nature. [52]

We can also apprehend the consciousness of the knower ʻnot as an individual, but as pure, will-less subjectʼ. [53] This ʻwill-lessʼ subject is necessary for Schopenhauer because for him the world is a miserable, purposeless place, ʻthe battle-ground for tormented and agonized beings who continue to exist only by each devouring the otherʼ. [54] Conversely, the ʻwill-lessʼ subject of knowing is one of pure contemplation, ʻlost in the objectʼ, forgetting all individuality, ʻabolishing the kind of knowledge which follows the principle of sufficient reasonʼ, exemplifying a denial of the will-to-live, delivered from the miserable self, and which has become entirely one with objects. [55]

For Schopenhauer this was the start of what could be found in the soaring metaphysics of his beloved Indian wisdom. Hindu and Buddhist philosophy had recognized the world as a place of suffering and (because) of the blind, purposeless ʻwill-to-liveʼ. We cannot ʻescapeʼ this ʻwill-to-liveʼ since it is the true nature of all things. We might, however, apprehend it in a way that temporarily ʻhaltsʼ it. This apprehension cannot be willed, nor can one desire it: instead, it comes to one, from the outside. Crudely put, this is through the practices of the philosophies of what Schopenhauer called ʻthe denial of the will-to-liveʼ. Such practices may include renunciation, mystical apprehension or aesthetic contemplation (especially of music) that in some way ʻcease the worldʼ: the wheel of Ixion stands still. In the state of the ʻshaking off of the worldʼ, ʻseeing through the principium individuationisʼ, there is an apprehension of a kind of pure, ʻwill-lessʼ, subject-less Being-in-itself of the kind that Hegel criticized Indian philosophy for. This state of Being is complex and a site of a theoretical aporia in Schopenhauer. It cannot be a knowledge of ʻthe realʼ; instead, at the moment where one is at one with objects, purely in the world of representation, the ʻphenomenon comes into contradiction with itselfʼ and the in-itself of its true nature ʻultimately abolishes itselfʼ. In some important way, Indian consciousness had the capacity to first escape subjecthood, ego-hood and individuality, and then slip away altogether from the possibility of representation.

Schopenhauer contrasted this Hindu or Buddhist ʻrefusalʼ with the odious and false optimism of ʻthe will-to-liveʼ he saw in the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions. Those traditions contained founding errors: the belief in the creation of humankind out of nothing by a Creator or Deity in whom one must forever have monotheistic faith; a false conviction that humankind is free to will what it does in life; a belief in death as an ending; and a rejection of metempsychosis and the transmigration of ʻsoulsʼ. This led to an optimistic, cheery, ego-dominated and individuated orientation to life, a celebration of the ʻwill-to-liveʼ and hence to a disastrous misrecognition of what the world actually is. For the Western religious tradition, death is ʻthe great reprimandʼ for the ʻwill-to-liveʼ in a way that it cannot be for the Hindu or Buddhist.

In Schopenhauerʼs discussion of the Hindu and (some) Buddhist ideas of metempsychosis and palingenesis, we get a sense of how his post-Kantian ontology and an atheism both dominate and negotiate with Hindu and Buddhist philosophies. For Schopenhauer, the subject and the object were essential to each other as a consequence of the form of representation; both resided in the realm of phenomena ʻexcessiveʼ to which is the ʻwillʼ as noumenon. The extent to which one lived in ego was the extent to which one had not apprehended the connection and unity of all things; hence, death was regarded as annihilation.

The egoistic fear of death was contrasted with Hindu and Buddhist philosophies. The latter emphasized existence as an original necessity, rather than an accidental creation, in which the fact of oneʼs individual existence necessarily implied accepting the infinite time and infinity of changes that preceded it. ʻEvery possible state has already exhausted itself without eliminatingʼ the possibility of oneʼs individualʼs existence. Similarly, this ʻimmanent proof of the imperishableness of our real inner natureʼ (the ʻwillʼ) must show that if we were to live in a happy state this would have already occurred in the infinity of time that has elapsed. Conversely, we should have ceased to exist if we could have. [56] ʻ“I perish, but the world endures,” and “The world perishes, but I endure,” are not really different at bottom.ʼ [57] Schopenhauer compared this idea with the Buddhist conception of nirvana as ʻnothingnessʼ; he also frequently used the famous Upanishadic declaration tat tvam asi (ʻThou art that!ʼ) to show the imperishable identification with the universe that existed (ʻwillʼ) and which, in the same way, was also ʻvoidʼ.

Schopenhauerʼs discussion of ʻmetempsychosis after the critique of Kantʼ contained at its core an endogenous dimension to Schopenhauerʼs strong attachment to Hinduism and Buddhism that is often glossed (together with his misogyny) in the English Schopenhauer literature. It is stated clearly in his laudatory discussion of Anquetilʼs Oupnekhat. Schopenhauer was very much aware that suspicions had been raised about the veracity of Anquetilʼs translation, especially since direct translations from Sanskrit sources of the Upanishads and parts of the Vedas were available in Europe. Schopenhauer rejected these in preference for Anquetilʼs translation:

how thoroughly redolent of the holy spirit of the Vedas is the Oupnekhat!… From every page we come across profound, original and sublime thoughts, whilst a lofty and sacred earnestness pervades the whole. Here everything breathes the air of India and radiates an existence that is original and akin to nature. [58]

Schopenhauer, however, immediately followed it thus:

And oh, how the mind is here cleansed and purified of all Jewish superstition that was early implanted in it, and of all philosophy that slavishly serves this!

For Schopenhauer, Judaism was culpable for the philosophy of the blind ʻaffirmation of the will-to-liveʼ that he detested and that he found in Christianity and in the philosophies that existed in his day (such as Hegelʼs). Schopenhauer contrasted ʻthe Sublimeʼ Oupnekhat with other translations of Indian texts he had read. With some exceptions, such as August Wilhelm von Schlegelʼs translation of the Bhagavad Gita, and Colebrookeʼs translations of sections of the Vedas, most ʻhad the opposite effect on meʼ. Schopenhauer complained about the ʻpaddingʼ to the original texts, ʻwherein I notice something foreignʼ. The texts were Europeanized, Anglicized, ʻFrenchifiedʼ. ʻOnly too often is there in them also a trace of the foetor Judaicus[59]

The phrase ʻfoetor Judaicusʼ (and ʻthe Jewʼs pitchʼ) occurs many times in Schopenhauerʼs work. It is a potent, heavily overdetermined symbol of medieval anti-Semitism in which the ʻfoul stenchʼ of Jews was ʻpunishmentʼ for their ʻcrimesʼ against Jesus and against Christianity. It evokes both the host desecration libel and the blood libel in which, respectively, Jews were alleged to have desecrated Christian churches to recrucify Christ, and Jews were alleged to kill and drink the blood of Christians in the belief that it would eliminate the fetid odour. The foetor Judaicus was contrasted with ʻthe odour of sanctityʼ emanating from the Christian body. Foetor Judaicus is also at the core of the anti-Semitic symbolization of the Jew as disease, parasite, filth and the source of death. Foetor Judaicus represented for Schopenhauer a contingent, historical and foreign contamination by ʻJewish metaphysicsʼ of an authentic, pristine and primal wisdom that arose in India. Schopenhauer indeed bemoaned ʻthe great misfortune that the people whose former culture was to serve mainly as the basis of our own were not, say, the Indians or the Greeks, or even the Romans, but just these Jewsʼ, [60] one of his many such expressions.

If Voltaire can be said to have legitimized (though not initiated) an Enlightenment polarization between the civilizational arche-histories of the Hindu-Buddhist and the Judeo-Christian, within which modern European civilization must be compelled to find for itself a place in history, Schopenhauer refined this polarization with a second hauntology of the death and putrefaction of Western civilization that leaves Judaism isolated in the history of the world. This was because Christianity, according to Schopenhauer, also had ʻHindu blood in its veinsʼ and was ʻIndian in spiritʼ. In the figure of Adam, Christianity symbolized nature. In the original sin, it symbolized ʻthe affirmation of the will-to-liveʼ. However, Christian teaching also symbolized ʻfreedom as the kingdom of graceʼ and of grace or salvation coming, unwilled, from outside to oneʼs apprehension or intuition. This for Schopenhauer was that very ʻdenial of the willto-liveʼ of which Christ was the personification, and which was abundant in the philosophia perennis of Hinduism and Buddhism. Those who rejected this view of Christianity were clinging to a ʻJewish doctrine of faithʼ that was an accidental accretion to its original teachings and of which they must be purified. Schopenhauer made frequent and unambiguous contrasts between Hinduism and Buddhism (and those aspects of Christianity that he thought accorded with them) and Judaism (and Islam); the Brahmins and Buddhists against the Jews. Schopenhauer did indeed believe that Jesus must have been Indian.

the ‘noumenal hindu’ in postcolonial theory

The path elaborated above from Voltaire and Herder through Hegel and into Schopenhauer is an attempt at a strategically provocative rewriting of the accepted place of what was conceived as ʻIndianʼ or ʻHinduʼ civilization in Europe during Enlightenment. The narrative can also be read as a scurry through the philosophy of primordial cultural hearth, of ancestral blood communities, of the authority of ʻraceʼ, of the philosophy of lost unity, the inevitability of history, and the metaphysics of will and of dissolution that results in an identification of oneʼs primordial being with a community of others or with cosmic nature. Some of these philosophical tendencies were a prelude to (were they necessary for?) National Socialism.

The article concludes with a strategic interpretation of a few claims of postcolonial theory in Gayatri Spivakʼs writings. [61] The focus of the discussion below is about some of the claims that postcolonial theory has advanced about humanism, subjecthood, and the ʻineffabilityʼ within humanist discourse of non-European or non-Western or genuinely subaltern ʻlivednessʼ. Postcolonial theory can make the explicit or metonymic assertion that it is the most sophisticated and indeed theoretically the only immanent and sustainable critique of Western imperialism and colonialism that can also maintain a persistent critical vigilance against collusion with either Western, claimed ʻnativistʼ or diasporic identitarian epistemologies, the latter two bearing a catachrestic relation to the nineteenth-century nationalist, colonial or humanist episteme of their European adversary. The methodological manoeuvre in deconstruction which can rigorously interrogate the excessive to meaning in rationalist, humanist, or logocentric discourse is characteristically utilized by Spivak to create a theoretical space to argue for the excessive nature of the ʻgenuinely subalternʼ, the ʻThird Worldʼ, ʻHindu polytheismʼ, or the gendered not-yetsubject for any Eurocentric or Western humanism, within which they are always in-themselves unspoken or unheard.

Spivakʼs condensation of ʻthe Enlightenmentʼ into a project of ʻscience and truthʼ [62] and her theoretical investment in claiming that there was no (German or European) comparative philosophical project is a stratagem which needs to be sustained in order to make certain foundational arguments about Orientalism, colonial discourse, postcolonialism and ʻdecolonized spaceʼ. However, the association of primordial ʻIndiaʼ or Indian philosophy with reason cannot be conceived as liminal, let alone a foundational difference, nor is there a completed and concluded, irreducibly European (undifferentiated) subject of reason and humanism that can be contrasted with its obstinate antipode, (the notyet-subject of) India or Hinduism. Something like a project of ʻcomparative philosophyʼ was also important in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Not only did a form of ʻcomparative philosophyʼ exist in its own right, as well as through its sometime adjacent ventures (such as philosophical anthropology), but it can be difficult indeed to comprehend the better-known eighteenthand nineteenth-century ʻcomparative sciencesʼ of philology and mythology without recourse to the resources of the former. For Voltaire, and in different ways for Herder and Schopenhauer, the subject of humanism or reason was not essentially European. For Schopenhauer, indeed, the subject of reason was not ʻthe Jewʼ (ʻReason does not belong to Judaismʼ), but the Indian, who had both comprehended and surpassed reason. Even Hegel, in conceding an abstract philosophy of Being to the primordial Indian, seems to imply within the terms of his own philosophy its coming into reason.

The reduction of Enlightenment to a project of science and truth is also problematic. Voltaireʼs oeuvre cannot be placed in solely rationalist, scientific or romantic camps. It would be as difficult to situate Schopenhauerʼs ʻcompletionʼ of the Kantian and Humean project, and his philosophy of the natural sciences, through a different idea of lost unity derivable from the Upanishads or the elite Buddhist canon. To affix the label ʻRomanticʼ or ʻanti-rationalistʼ to Schopenhauerʼs philosophy would be seriously misleading – and there are tendencies that would make this association only because of Schopenhauerʼs interest in the East, such that the philosophies of the East can only be prefigured as Romantic.

If the perceived antagonism in the relation between Enlightenment and Romanticism is muddied, a range of other analytical directions become possible and allow for a consideration of the differentiated places of non-Europeans in the European idea of founding civilization and cultural hearth. The question, then, becomes one about the inadvertent complicity with European and non-European discourses of civilization, culture and elite. There are parallels between eighteenth-century Enlightenment and Romantic discourse and the contemporary critiques of the latter that share an investment in what is essentially the possibility of a modified recovery of Indian civilization. Its cost is the effacing of the ʻpeople without culturesʼ and the ʻcultures without civilizationʼ. If one wants to put it in those terms, ʻthe figureʼ of the complex and differentiated ʻIndianʼ other is kept intact for the academic gaze precisely because its study elides the ʻcannibalsʼ of Tierra del Fuego and New Zealand, the ʻAborigineʼ of Australia or the Andaman Islands, or the German colonial subjects in ʻTanganikyaʼ, Namibia or Togo. A subjected marginality is required for an authoritative discourse of the other civilizations that can be framed within a critique of Europe but can also sanction the idea of civilizational timetables. With very few exceptions, the exteriority of ʻthe sub-Saharan Africanʼ or ʻthe Aborigineʼ sustained the tabula of the scale and reach of civilizations and the philosophies of civilizational time they entailed, and which were virtually universally written about in the world histories, philosophical anthropologies and philosophies of history that were fashionable in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The condition of demarcation as an elite civilization was the basis of appropriation into the timetables of historical development, genius or stagnationIt can also be a small step from stating that the Hindu texts encountered in the West were so grossly distorted as to be meaningless to claiming that they were tabula rasa. This is an innocence that continues to be maintained by the memory of the suffering of colonial victimhood and now neo-imperialism. The substantive content of the Hindu text becomes irrelevant in the face of its Western appropriation or distortion. The Hindu text is unwritten at the moment of its colonial appropriation. Alternatively, there is a founding incommensurability from a European hermeneutic gaze, and hence Hindu writing is always invisible. Perhaps the text has been so radically misapprehended that it is nothing more than a new creation that is in its entirety European. However, the actual texts that informed eighteenthand nineteenth-century Europe were primarily renderings of the foundational, mainly northern Indian, Sanskrit, Vedic and Vedantic elite Brahminism (but could also include the texts of northern Indian Vaishnavaite sectarian traditions). The representation in the seventeenth, eighteenth or nineteenth century of the actual Brahmin of India, rather than the philosophies of ʻhisʼ primordial ancestors, is more complicated, ranging from complete revulsion to a sometimes highly qualified respect to almost adoration. The aspects of Hinduism that were usually monstrous to the European imagination were, in the main, aspects of bhakti, tantra, shudra, dalit, adivasi and various southern Indian texts, beliefs and practices (but could also include elite and non-elite sectarian, primarily Shakta and Shaivite, traditions). With some Dionysian exceptions, the European preference was for Sanskritic, Brahminic world-views of which the others were seen as, and were genuinely though differentially, subordinate. Caste, hierarchy, ideas of nobility and purity, and varieties of Rig Vedic and Manusmriti xenology and ethnology were read by Europeans both into and out of the Hindu corpus. Many of these ideas were archaic but foundational legitimations for existing caste and gender domination. It can be accepted that Brahminic, but by no means only Brahminic, texts contained very important philosophies. It can also be accepted that there existed processes of European distortion that might have been unauthorized in every sense by the texts. However, while an antagonistic corrective to the fabrication and denigration of elite Indian texts within European discourse may be a necessity, as would a critique of the persistent charisma of Christianity in Western philosophy, these critiques can only be sustained on the basis of a complicity with elite cultural and civilizational claims within Hinduism. Do archaic, nineteenth-century or contemporary Hindu conceptions of dasyus, dasas, mleccha, varnashramadharma, jati, dharma and adharma, stri-dharma, sati, ethical systems founded on ideas of ʻnobilityʼ, ʻpurityʼ or ʻthe will to actionʼ, or the social and political systems authorized by the Manudharmashastra or the Arthashastra become innocent at the moment that it is established that they were subject to Western humanist recuperation, distortion or invention? Does arya become harmless at the point at which it is demonstrated that its racial inflexions were fabricated in nineteenth-century Britain or Germany?

Postcolonial theory can paradoxically magnify this elite comparative civilizational quest even while it can claim to undertake a critique of Indian elites. Spivak has certainly come very close indeed to confirming the unique and special nature of elite Hinduism which cannot be brought into a (ʻmaximally tracingʼ, presumably universal-humanist) discourse that is claimed to be based on Semitic conceptions of the religious. [63] In criticizing the Christian or monotheistic frame from which Jean-Luc Nancy elaborates the relationship (or lack of) between philosophy and the body after ʻthe death of Godʼ, Spivak counterposes what she calls the ʻeveryday polytheismʼ of Hinduism, as well as the irrecuperability in Western humanist or Eurocentric discourse of the livedness of ʻeveryday Hinduismʼ, and of what she claims is otherwise mistakenly called in Western discourse the distinction between dvaitin as ʻdualistʼ and advaitin as ʻnon-dualistʼ. There is no theoretical or polemical system or vocabulary, she claims, within which the dense livedness of ʻeveryday Hindu polytheismʼ or of dvaita-advaita (dualism/nondualism) can be made available. ʻEveryday polytheismʼ is only capable of being brought meaningfully into Western discourse as the anecdote of a ʻnative informantʼ constituted in Western humanism, though this manoeuvre only confirms its ineffability. Academics in India are (rather startlingly) also criticized for being unwilling or unable to take on such tasks.

Spivak also contrasts the ʻexpansivenessʼ of Nancyʼs conception of ʻcorpusʼ with a Derridean ʻconcentrationʼ, a dense focus at the limit of contradiction, which she applies to what she says were articulated reductively in Western humanist discourse as the abject victims of the devastating cyclone that hit Bangladesh in 1991. In the ecological, spatial world-view of the inhabitants of the coastal areas of Bangladesh, subject to the patterns and cycles of the forces of nature, living what seems to be articulated by Spivak as a happy existence congruent with nature, the conceptual humanist schemes of disaster relief or the necessity of migration, refuge, property and aid are ineffable. Their lives can be articulated in humanist discourse only at the risk of not hitting the contradiction with that discourse which is their everyday, lived ʻeco-logicʼ. It is striking here that Spivak institutes a naturalized ecology of the subaltern as the basis for its epistemological incommensurability with Western humanism.

There may not be much to disagree with in a critique of the Christian frame of and metaphors within Nancyʼs discussion. However, there are complex ethical commitments when it is done in the name of some (whatever) kind of Hinduism. Christianity and Christian or, for that matter, Islamic monotheism are not foreign to India (and were not so prior to the colonial period); to institute that division in the 1990s between a grounded Hinduism and an imperializing (Chris-tian or Islamic) monotheism is troubling, even though Spivak makes the declaration of her opposition to what she calls Hindu communalist ʻidentity politicsʼ.

Spivak also utilizes that old bifurcation between Hinduism and the Judeo-Christian-Islamic traditions to sustain a critique of the subject of Enlightenment rationality and humanism which, for some philosophers of Enlightenment, was formed precisely through the same division, but with India marshalled on the side of reason. It may be accepted that this was an entirely Western project. However, what is to be made of the similarities between the Hegelian and the postcolonial theoretical vision of the Indian as only impossibly articulated within a European humanist or rational subjecthood?

Spivakʼs claim about the necessary academic unfulfilling of aspects of Hinduism, such as the ʻlivednessʼ of dvaitin and advaitin, also requires sweeping away the historic indigenous and wide-ranging elite caste discussions in India which have come down to us as dvaita–advaita commensurabilities and distinctions, and which have preoccupied various strands of Indian Vedantic philosophy since at least the early medieval period. Similarly, the use of the term ʻeverydayʼ cannot elide the circumstance that discussions of the ethical systems of the Upanishads and the Gita were ʻeverydayʼ discussions primarily for elite Brahmins.

Postcolonial theory has become an important pedagogic source, often and disastrously the main source for Western academics and students for their knowledges about historical and contemporary India. While postcolonial theory often performs critical gestures about elites in the Third World or the diaspora, their status is not clear, because the disciplinary focus and indeed most of its material tends to focus on either highly elite mainly Brahminic, Sanskritized, Vedic, Vedantic and already comprehensively Hinduized Indian traditions. The erasure of the ʻIndian Muslimʼ in this work might even be viewed as a gesture.

Today, the phrase ʻHindu dharmaʼ is a deadly one, inseparable from the civilizational claims in which it is manifestly embedded. The claim that one can attempt to use Hindu dharma as the basis for a different, nonWestern ethical project, untainted by the Semiticized Hinduism of the nineteenth century, unmarked by communalist claims, still has unique conditions of possibility unmistakably indebted to northern Indian Vedic or Vedantic Brahmin traditions in their attempts to create a singular dharma. That claim has also been an explicit component of the elitist projects of northern Indian Brahminism (since at least the mid nineteenth century), as well as of varieties of caste-Hindu and sampraday devotion that have already prefigured the place within or outside Hindu dharma of women, sudras and dalits. One can certainly argue against these conceptions of dharma for a progressive ethical dharma, but at the cost of the erasure of irreducibly secular possibilities, the latter in an important sense inconceivable in posthumanist postcolonial theory. This is aside from that other hard rock: Hindutva neo-fascists have been making this same proposal about Hindu dharma in relation to Western ethical systems since at least the 1920s in a totalitarian project that also conceives Hindu ontologies to be exceptional, hermeneutically irrecuperable and for which there can be no full understanding in a Western discourse from which they will persistently slip away. [64]

The idea that there is a primal ineffability of (what is now known as) Hinduism or the world-view of the Hindu in the face of Western philosophical or Judeo-Christian traditions is also a comprehensively European, Enlightenment claim. It is positively articulated in Hegelʼs conception of the Indian philosophy of pure Being-in-itself that cannot be fully conceived in the terms of subjecthood or practical determinateness available to Western philosophy. It is stated differently in the ʻwill-lessnessʼ and ʻextinctionʼ that were imperative for Schopenhauerʼs philosophy. It is a Schopenhauerian claim that Hindu and Buddhist philosophical systems are precisely unsignified or incommensurable in those Western philosophies based on the JudeoChristian or reflective philosophical tradition for which the subject is unmistakably European. The Hindu desires to slip away from the world of subject, object and representation. Spivakʼs valorization of the incommensurable and hard contradiction of the ecological, nature-driven world-views of the ordinary populations living in flood areas against the Bangladeshi doctors and relief workers who can only articulate them in terms of humanist subjecthood also has systematically Western conditions of philosophical and cultural possibility. For these coastal populations, there is no ʻdeathʼ of the kind conceived in humanism, despite the horrors nature inflicts on them. They live with(in) nature, indifferent or unreceptive to a humanism that is forcibly attempting to compel them to subjecthood. This is the other side of Herderʼs unresolved eco-logic of nature, that exhalation of nature in culture that demarcates a people as epistemologically distinctive, even as the Humanität imposes its understanding on their lives and actions. It is also there in Schopenhauerʼs ʻdenial of the will-to-liveʼ that identifies an aporetic cosmology and a different relation to death and nature. Here the distinction between posthumanism and anti-humanity dissolves, for Schopenhauerʼs Hindu or Buddhist, as much as for the victims of cyclones.


I would like to thank John Solomos, Kirsten Campbell, Parita Mukta and Jane Hindley for their comments.

1. ^ G. Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason, Routledge, London, 1999, p. 8, emphasis added.

2. ^ A. Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation Volume I (1818), 1969, trans. E.F.J. Payne, p. xv.

3. ^ Voltaire, The Philosophy of History (1766), Philosophical Library, New York, 1965, pp. 9, 69, 73.

4. ^ Voltaire used an existing argument that Abraham derived from the Indian idea of ʻBramʼ. Ibid., p. 69.

5. ^ The text was the Ezourvedam procured by the library at Paris, which Voltaire believed was translated by a Brahmin and was not ʻthe Vedam itselfʼ but a sequel.

Ibid., p. 77.

6. ^ J.G. Herder, Reflections on the Philosophy of the History of Mankind (1784–91), Book VI, in J.G. Herder, On World History, ed. H. Adler and E.A. Menze, trans. E.A.

Menze and B. Palma, M.E. Sharpe, New York, 1997, pp. 220–21.

7. ^ R. Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance: Europeʼs Rediscovery of India and the East, 1680–1880, Columbia University Press, New York, 1984, p. 59.

8. ^ See, for example, J.W. Sedlar, India in the Mind of Germany, University Press of America, Washington DC, 1982, p. 30.

9. ^ ʻIt is also incontestable that the Brahmins formed their people to such a degree of gentleness, courtesy, temperance and chastity, or at least have so confirmed in them these virtues, that Europeans, compared to them, frequently appear as impure, inebriated and deranged.ʼ

Herder, Reflections, Book VI, p. 241.

10. ^ J.G. Herder, ʻFragment of an Essay on Mythologyʼ (c. 1782–92), in J.G. Herder, Against Pure Reason: Writings on Religion, Language and History, trans. M. Bunge,

Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1993, p. 80.

11. ^ R. Taylor, ʻThe East and German Romanticismʼ, in R.

Iyer, ed., The Glass Curtain Between Asia and Europe, Oxford University Press, London, 1965, p. 190.

12. ^ J.G. Herder, Reflections on the History of the Philosophy of Mankind (1784–91), Book VII, ed. F.E. Manuel, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, 1968, p. 5.

13. ^ Herder, ʻIdeasʼ, p. 90.

14. ^ ʻThus we can judge with probability that the intermixture of races … which gradually extinguishes their characteristics, does not seem beneficial to the human race – all pretended philanthropy notwithstanding.ʼ I. Kant, Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View (1796–98), trans. V.L. Dowdell, Southern Illinois University Press,

Carbondale and Edwardsville, 1978, p. 236.

15. ^ Herder, Reflections, Book VI, p. 241.

16. ^ Quoted in L. Poliakov, The Aryan Myth: A History of Racist and Nationalist Ideas in Europe, Heinemann,

London, 1971, p. 186.

17. ^ Schwab, The Oriental Renaissance, p. 349.

18. ^ W. Halbfass, India and Europe: An Essay in Understanding, State University of New York Press, Albany, 1988, pp. 60–61. This has been a very useful source of ideas for some of the directions taken below.

19. ^ Compare Schellingʼs mobilization of Hindu creation metaphors in attacking the presuppositions of Hegelʼs philosophy in F.W.J. Schelling, On the History of Modern Philosophy (c. 1833–87), trans. A. Bowie, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1994, pp. 147–8.

20. ^ G.W.F. Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History – Introduction: Reason in History (1822–1831), trans. H.B. Nisbet, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1975, pp. 132–33, emphasis added.

21. ^ F. Schlegel, ʻOn the Language and the Wisdom of the Indiansʼ, in Aesthetic and Miscellaneous Works (1808), trans. E.J. Millington, Henry G. Bohn, London, 1849.

22. ^ F. Schlegel, The Philosophy of History, trans. J.B. Robertson, Henry G. Bohn, London, 1847 (fifth, revised edition), p. 93.

23. ^ The Indian texts that Hegel knew and used were extensive and included the work of Jones, Colebrooke,

Wilkins and Halhed as well as Wilhelm von Humboldtʼs essay on the Bhagavad Gita on which Hegel made an extensive commentary that is seen as definitive of his view of Indian philosophy and its possibility for ethics. See I. Viyagappa, G.W.F. Hegelʼs Concept of Indian Philosophy, Universita Gregoriana, Rome, 1980, pp. 266–74, for a full list of Hegelʼs sources; Halbfass, India and Europe, pp. 85–6. See also M. Hulin, Hegel et lʼOrient : Suivi de la Traduction Annotée dʼun Essai de Hegel sur la Bhagavad-Gita, Vrin, Paris, 1979.

24. ^ M. Foucault, The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences, Tavistock, London, 1970, p. 219.

25. ^ Hegel, Lectures on the Philosophy of World History, p. 135.

26. ^ Foucault, The Order of Things, p. 233.

27. ^ G.W.F. Hegel, The Philosophy of History, trans. J. Sibree, Prometheus Books, New York, 1991, pp. 141–42, emphasis added.

28. ^ For an assessment of Western critiques of Indian conceptions of time and historicity, see R. Thapar, Time as a Metaphor of History: Early India, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1996.

29. ^ Both Hegel and Marx used the opium metaphor to describe, respectively, Brahminism and religion in general.

The drugged religious bliss in The German Ideology is perhaps the superstructure to the base of ʻthe Asiatic mode of productionʼ in the Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy.

30. ^ Hegel, The Philosophy of History, p. 9.

31. ^ See Halbfass, India and Europe. We can also read this as two antagonistic sides of ʻthe active principleʼ in which Hegel could criticize Romantics like Schlegel for a celebration of Oriental stasis, while the Romantics saw their mission as one of dynamic vitality. See also C. Schmitt, Political Romanticism, trans. G. Oakes, MIT Press, Cambridge MA, 1986.

32. ^ J. Derrida, Specters of Marx: The State of Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International, trans. P. Kamuf,

Routledge, London, 1994, p. 51.

33. ^ J.L. Nancy, The Birth to Presence, trans. B. Holmes et al., Stanford University Press, Stanford CA, 1993, p. 189.

34. ^ J. Derrida, Dissemination, trans. B. Johnson, Athlone Press, London, pp. 70–71. At least India was a remedy for Schlegel, for a period. He, like many of his Romantic peers, converted to Catholicism. We find the Indian metaphor as poison, drug and remedy in turn-of-century thinking about Western decline, of which Oswald Spengler and René Guenon are important markers.

35. ^ On Maier, see A.L. Willson, A Mythical Image: The Ideal of India in German Romanticism, Duke University Press, Durham NC, 1964, pp. 93–104.

36. ^ It can also be easy to forget that Saussureʼs work was as a Sanskritist and scholar of Indo-European languages in both Paris and Geneva. While now known principally for his Cours as the founding text of structuralism, the only book he wrote was the Memoir on the Original System of Vowels in the Indo-European Languages, 1879.

37. ^ R. Safranski, Schopenhauer and the Wild Years of Philosophy, Harvard University Press, Cambridge MA, 1991, pp. 201–2.

38. ^ A. Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena, Volume II, trans. E.F. Payne, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1974, p. 397.

39. ^ Sedlar, India in the Mind of Germany, p. 47.

40. ^ A. Schopenhauer, Parerga and Paralipomena Volume I, trans. E.F. Payne, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1974, p. 422.

41. ^ A. Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation Volume II, trans. E.F. Payne, Dover, New York, 1969, p. 169.

42. ^ B. Magee, The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1997, p. 15.

43. ^ Safranski, Schopenhauer, p. 201.

44. ^ Magee, The Philosophy of Schopenhauer, p. 15. See also Sedlar, India in the Mind of Germany, p. 232.

45. ^ See Halbfassʼs discussion, India and Europe, pp. 113–20.

46. ^ The World as Will and Representation, Volume I, p. 3.

47. ^ Ibid., p. 25.

48. ^ Ibid., p. 100.

49. ^ Ibid., p. 149.

50. ^ The World as Will and Representation, Volume II, p. 350.

51. ^ Ibid., p. 321.

52. ^ Ibid., p. 323.

53. ^ The World as Will and Representation, Volume I, p. 195.

54. ^ The World as Will and Representation, Volume II, p. 581.

55. ^ The World as Will and Representation, Volume I, p. 199.

56. ^ The World as Will and Representation, Volume II, pp. 488–9.

57. ^ Ibid., p. 507–8.

58. ^ Parerga and Paralipomena, Volume II, p. 397.

59. ^ Ibid.

60. ^ The World as Will and Representation, Volume I, p. 232.

61. ^ Spivak, A Critique of Postcolonial Reason, ch. 1; G.

Spivak, ʻResponse to Jean-Luc Nancyʼ, in J.F. MacCannell and L. Zakarin, eds, Thinking Bodies, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1994.

62. ^ Spivak, Critique of Postcolonial Reason, p. 8.

63. ^ Spivak ʻResponseʼ, pp. 37, 39–43.

64. ^ There are many possible references here, but see D.

Upadhyaya, Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya – Ideology and Perception Part II: Integral Humanism, compiled by V.V. Nene, trans. M.K. Paranjape and D.R. Kulkarni,

Suruchi Prakashan, New Delhi, 1991; S.R. Goel, Defence of Hindu Society, Voice of India Press, New Delhi, 1993.

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