Learn Islamic & Indian Philosophy with 107 Episodes of the History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps Podcast

We post copi­ous resources for the study of phi­los­o­phy on this site, such that you can obtain a full col­lege-lev­el sur­vey under­stand­ing of the sub­ject on your own by tak­ing the many free class­es, lis­ten­ing to the many free lec­tures and pod­casts, and read­ing the many free texts, ebooks and com­men­taries you’ll find here. But sev­er­al of our posts have met with a sim­i­lar read­er objec­tion: where is the East­ern phi­los­o­phy?

The ques­tion could also be put to almost any aca­d­e­m­ic depart­ment of phi­los­o­phy. One answer I’ve often heard dis­miss­es it alto­geth­er. Phi­los­o­phy, some say, devel­oped in the West, first in ancient Greece, then in Rome, the suc­ceed­ing Chris­t­ian empire, and the sec­u­lar age that fol­lowed. It is a Euro­pean pur­suit and tra­di­tion. Oth­er cul­tur­al­ly par­tial crit­ics, who wish to appear enlight­ened, are will­ing to con­cede that “the world’s Mus­lims,” as Richard Dawkins tweet­ed a few years back, “did great things in the Mid­dle Ages,” at least pro­vid­ing a crit­i­cal bridge between the fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Scholas­ti­cism.

Islam­ic philoso­phers like Avi­cen­na and Aver­roes kept in dia­logue with the Greeks after Europe had for­got­ten them, and pre­served the only work of Aris­to­tle we have. But that was then. What have they done for us late­ly? Atti­tudes like this, argues phi­los­o­phy pro­fes­sor Peter Adam­son, are prej­u­dices with lit­tle basis in fact, and part of the rea­son for a dearth of high-qual­i­ty, acces­si­ble East­ern phi­los­o­phy resources in Eng­lish. Adam­son, who has made sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to the study of phi­los­o­phy online with his pod­cast, His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy With­out Any Gaps, fills in the gap with his series on Islam­ic and Indi­an phi­los­o­phy in sev­er­al parts.

For­ma­tive Peri­od—25 episodes

Phi­los­o­phy in Andalu­sia—25 episodes

East­ern Tra­di­tions—25 episodes

Begin­ning with phi­los­o­phy in the Islam­ic world in Episode 171, “East­ern Tra­di­tions,” at the top, Adam­son cov­ers “influ­en­tial thinkers of the twelfth cen­tu­ry like Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī and Suhrawardī, focus­ing on their lega­cy in the East­ern realms of cen­tral Asia and Per­sia, mov­ing on to the Ottoman, Safavid and Mughal empires, and end­ing with devel­op­ments in twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry phi­los­o­phy.” Against dis­mis­sive claims like Dawkins’ that these cen­turies were “a time of intel­lec­tu­al and sci­en­tif­ic decline in Islam­ic civ­i­liza­tion,” Adam­son argues they were “in fact a time of remark­able achieve­ment in fields like log­ic and astron­o­my as well as the var­i­ous dis­ci­plines of phi­los­o­phy.” See all three parts of the Islam­ic Phi­los­o­phy series above.

Adam­son shares the intro­duc­tion to Indi­an phi­los­o­phy, just above, with NYU’s Jonar­don Ganeri, and the two lay out a case for the tra­di­tion as “pri­mar­i­ly a way of life and search for the high­est good.” As usu­al, Adam­son brings on guest schol­ars and pro­vides a list for fur­ther read­ing on the podcast’s site. And as usu­al, his his­tor­i­cal frame­works are rig­or­ous and very well-researched. This series breaks into two main cat­e­gories (below). The sec­ond part of the series focus­es on the devel­op­ment of a for­mal tra­di­tion, the “sūtra (lit­er­al­ly ‘thread’)… a genre of writ­ing in which ideas were set forth in brief, apho­ris­tic form. Var­i­ous sūtras were tak­en as author­i­ta­tive and foun­da­tion­al for numer­ous schools of Indi­an thought, which devot­ed fur­ther com­men­taries to the sūtras.”

Ori­gins—17 episodes

Age of Sutra—15 episodes

As he has done with many of his oth­er series, Adam­son has adapt­ed the Islam­ic Phi­los­o­phy pod­casts in book form, Phi­los­o­phy in the Islam­ic World: A his­to­ry of phi­los­o­phy with­out any gaps, Vol­ume 3. His even-hand­ed­ness and eru­di­tion make this series a joy to lis­ten to, though he’d also encour­age us to read the philoso­phers he dis­cuss­es, if pos­si­ble. If you’re new to read­ing phi­los­o­phy, or to Adamson’s pod­cast, you’d do well to read his recent­ly post­ed All 20 ‘Rules for His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy,’ which he has brought togeth­er in one place as “guide­lines encap­su­lat­ing what I see as good prac­tice in study­ing the his­to­ry of phi­los­o­phy.” (Rule 8: “Read the whole text.”)

Many of these guide­lines rub up against the cur­rent ortho­dox­ies, assump­tions and, frankly, snob­beries of some con­tem­po­rary aca­d­e­m­ic phi­los­o­phy. Among these, “Rule 14: Take reli­gion seri­ous­ly” and “Rule 15: Be broad­mind­ed about what counts as ‘phi­los­o­phy.’” And for those who not only dis­miss but also embrace entire cul­tures’ philo­soph­i­cal tra­di­tions for one defin­ing reason—Indian thought is “spir­i­tu­al” or “non-vio­lent”; Islam­ic thought is “tol­er­ant” or “intolerant”—Adamson offers Rule 18: “don’t essen­tial­ize.” As becomes clear on even a cur­so­ry lis­ten to the pod­casts in these series, what we tend to believe about “non-west­ern” phi­los­o­phy oper­ates far in excess of what most of us actu­al­ly know about it.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy … With­out Any Gaps

Learn The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy in 247 Pod­casts (With More to Come)

The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy, from 600 B.C.E. to 1935, Visu­al­ized in Two Mas­sive, 44-Foot High Dia­grams

A His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy in 81 Video Lec­tures: From Ancient Greece to Mod­ern Times 

The His­to­ry of Phi­los­o­phy Visu­al­ized

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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