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date: 14 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter analyzes the cultural features in the ancient world that led to the emergence of philosophy as a distinct cultural activity and examines the way in which Indian philosophy, in contrast to the cases of Greece and China, may be understood in relation to these cultural features. It examines the influence of the technology of writing, as well as of natural-scientific inquiry, especially in the domain of health and medicine, and the transregional importance of literacy and science for the project of philosophy, while also showing that Indian philosophy functions throughout the classical and into the modern period as a relatively discrete intellectual activity. Finally it shows, by comparing the French materialist philosopher Pierre Gassendi with Indian philosophers in the mid-1660s, how differences in the two philosophical traditions’ relationships to literacy and science continued to play a role in the perception of a philosophical divide between these two traditions.

Keywords: philosophy, science, literacy, orality, Āyurveda, Greece, China, François Bernier

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