Indology, what is it good for?
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This paper discusses the role that indology plays and has to play in society. It argues that, just as indology needs an open and tolerant society in order to be practised in a meaningful sense at all, society needs historical disciplines including indology in order to remain open and tolerant. The most important potential, and all too often actual, enemies of openness and tolerance are traditions of various kinds. Traditions claim to possess knowledge about the past, and use this presumed knowledge to impose their vision on the present. Historical scholarship is the principal if not only means at the disposal of an open and tolerant society to act as counterweight against the forces of tradition. The reasoned criticism of all traditions without exception is therefore a central task of indology, as it is (or should be) of other historical disciplines.
1 This paper was read read at the University of Cracow in the context of a seminar on “The future of Indology”, 7–8 May 2009.
2 J. Israel: Enlightenment Contested. Philosophy, Modernity, and the Emancipation of Man 1670–1752. Oxford 2006.
3 Israel 2006, p. 42.
4 D. Lopez: Buddhism & Science. A Guide for the Perplexed. Chicago 2008.