How did comparative philosophy evolve in the last sixty+ years? What is the difference between intercultural philosophy and comparative philosophy? All the answers can be read in the introductory essay to the first number of a new journal dedicated to comparative philosophy, namely Confluence.
The long and learned introductory essay, by Monika Kirloskar-Steinbach, Geeta Ramana and James Maffie (who are also the journal’s editors)is a detailed analysis of the evolution of comparative philosophy, taking the first number of Philosophy East and West in 1951 as a departing point and distinguishing among three phases in this evolution. The phases are to be understood as expressing a predominant orientation and are not watertight. In the first phase, philosophers tended to compare ideas of non-Western origin predominantly with Western ones. In the second phase, the moral role of the comparative philosopher comes to the foreground, since thinkers become aware of the need of a moral commitment to an equal treatment of the ideas one is comparing. Consequently, comparative philosophy reached beyond the comparison of non-Western ideas to Western ones, and included also the comparison of non-Western ideas with other non-Western ones. The third phase elaborates further on the moral character of the ideal comparative philosopher and on the political impact of her engagement.
Within the discussion, an interesting excursus regards the relation between the terms “comparative philosophy” and “intercultural philosophy”. The latter originated among authors of the German-speaking world as a reaction to the Western-centric perspective of the former. “Interculturality” in this sense indicates a shared space for discussion, in which participants are mutually interested in each other ideas and do not pretend to dictate the terms of the discussion. However, similar concerns are present also in philosophers who continue to call themselves “comparative philosophers” and this difference in names is often only the result of one’s different history.
Another asset of the introductory essay is the long bibliography, which is a mine of interesting authors and articles bridging philosophers working on very different areas of research and in different parts of the world.
A few pages at the end of the essay discuss the role of Confluence itself within this debate. Confluence aims at hosting discussions of comparative philosophy and at “making philosophy together”, so that authors are not forced to publish on Area Studies journals (as it has often been the case for me, given the general lack of interest of general philosophy journals for what has been thought beyond Seattle or Königsberg).
Thus, think at Confluence the next time you write something on Comparative Philosophy —and meanwhile download the first issue here.