The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity

The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity

Amartya Sen

Language: English

Pages: 409

ISBN: 031242602X

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In sixteen linked essays, Nobel Prize--winning economist Amartya Sen discusses India's intellectual and political heritage and how its argumentative tradition is vital for the success of its democracy and secular politics. The Argumentative Indian is "a bracing sweep through aspects of Indian history and culture, and a tempered analysis of the highly charged disputes surrounding these subjects--the nature of Hindu traditions, Indian identity, the country's huge social and economic disparities, and its current place in the world" (Sunil Khilnani, Financial Times, U.K.).

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the Indian subcontinent (stretching into what is now Afghanistan), with the largest of these councils is of particular interest, since he was strongly ·�Alexander, we learn from Arrian, responded to this egalitarian reproach with the same kind of admiration that he had shown in his encounter with Diogenes, even though his own conduct remained altogether unchanged ('the exact opposite of what he then professed to admire') . See Peter Green, Alexander of Macedon, 356-3 23 B . C. : A Historical

arvaka's reasoned scepticism, Aryabhata's astronomical and mathematical departures, Kalidasa's dazzling poetry, Siidraka's subversive drama, Abul Fazl's astounding scholarship, Shah Jahan's aesthetic vision, Ramanujan's mathematics, or Ravi Shankar's and Ali Akbar Khan's music, without first having to check the religious background of each. In that large tradition, there is indeed much to be proud of, includ­ ing some ideas for which India gets far less credit than it could plau­ sibly expect.

circumstances, the notion of individual liberty . . . first became explicit in the West', Isaiah Berlin has noted: 'I have found no convincing evidence of any clear formu­ lation of it in the ancient world. n4 This view has been disputed by Orlando Patterson. rs Patterson's his­ torical arguments are indeed interesting. But his thesis of a freedom­ centred tradition in the West in contrast with what happened elsewhere seems to depend on attaching significance to particular components of Western

mass education ( an inheritance from the British period but not adequately remedied yet) compounds the dissociation of elite science and mathematics from the lives of the non-elite. Acceptance of the achievements of Indian spirituality tends to look less 'alienated' from the masses than the achievements in fields that demand more exacting formal education. Thus, the exoticists' praise of India is more easily accepted by those who are particularly careful not to see India in elitist terms. The

as the duration of eclipses based on the diameter of the moon and other relevant param­ eters. The techniques involved drew on methods that were established by Aryabhata and then further developed by his followers in India such as Varahamihira and Brahmagupta. Yang Jingfeng, an eighth-century Chinese astronomer, described the mixed background of official Chinese astronomy thus: - Those who wish to know the positions of the five planets adopt Indian calendrical methods . . . . So we have three

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