The Great Divide

Chakravarthi Ram-Prasad writes in Prospect:

Essay_prasad Kumarila claims that something that is called an “I” exists, established by the fact that an I is constantly present in thinking. Sankara, however, argues that this only shows that there is subjectivity —the presence of consciousness—not that there is an object named “I.” The apparent existence of an objective self is an illusion, created by the logic of the grammatical use of “I” in language.

Strange names, certainly. Strange thoughts? Anybody who has read philosophy in the west will not think so—provided that Kumarila (7th century) is replaced with Descartes (17th) and Sankara (8th) with Kant (18th). The point is not the polemical one about whether it was Indians or Europeans who had these thoughts first (the ancient Greeks and early Islamic thinkers are also in the running). The point is not that the Indians deserve study because they thought like Europeans. The point is simply that, for many reasons, the Indian thinkers are unknown to contemporary western philosophy, and are likely to remain so. The same is true of Chinese thinkers.

More here.