Hegel’s India: A Reinterpretation with Texts

Presenting all of Hegel’s writings on and about India, this work shows how much effort Hegel expended on what he ultimately characterised merely as fantastic, subjective, wild, dreamy, frenzied, absurd, and repetitive. If Indian art, religion, and philosophy, are so grossly inadequate, what explains his life-long fascination in this unparalleled way?

This reinterpretation of Hegel argues that Indian thought haunted Hegel, representing a sort of nemesis to his own philosophy. Further, it indicates that the longstanding critical appraisals of Hegel are incommensurate with his detailed explorations of Indian thought. Hegel distinguished his own thought on two grounds. The first was to focus on freedom and to rail perpetually against the caste system. The second was to indicate the necessity for dialectical mediation, and thus to reprove the stasis of Indian thought. But did Hegel ever manage to exorcise the evil twin that beset his work?

Shedding new light on Indological and Hegelian studies, this book systematically presents all of Hegel’s writings on and about India for the first time, including translations of his lesser-known essays on the Bhagavad-Gita and the Oriental Spirit, along with a substantive reinterpretation and a bibliography.

“In our postcolonial times, Hegel’s thoughts on India seem to allow only one reaction: an outright rejection of Hegel’s racist Eurocentrism. Hegel’s India takes the challenge of a detailed reading of Hegel’s texts with a surprising result: behind Hegel’s dismissal of India, there lies not only his profound fascination with India but also an uncanny proximity between India’s ancient wisdom and Hegel’s speculative thought. Beneath Hegel’s India, we can discern the traces of what would have been India’s Hegel. [This book] provides a model of how a dialogue between different cultures should be practiced, beyond the confines of Eurocentrism and historicist relativism.”

—Slavoj Žižek, International Director, the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, University of London, UK

“From the very beginning the depth of Hegel’s engagement with India and with Indian philosophy has been consistently underestimated. This volume makes a compelling case for a reassessment and it does so at a time when Western philosophy faces renewed challenges for its Eurocentrism. Hegel’s India belongs front and center within that debate for the new perspective it offers.”

—Robert Bernasconi, Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of Philosophy, the Pennsylvania State University, USA

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