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Exploring global humanity through philosophy: Comparative Philosophy

Comparative Philosophy, also known as Cross-Cultural Philosophy is a subcategory of philosophy that dwells on finding solutions to world-wide problems through the exploration of sources across cultural, linguistic and philosophical streams. The goal of comparative philosophy is to incorporate all the philosophies that are present across all of humanity. Comparative philosophy is very different from area studies philosophy in the sense that area studies philosophy focuses on just one particular culture’s philosophy, while comparative philosophy focuses on global humanity philosophies as a collective. It is also different from world philosophy, as it aims to draw upon all the philosophies that have existed from the beginning of mankind, while world philosophy comprises a philosophical system that is based on the fullness of global traditions involving thought. 

Comparative philosophy as a field of philosophy was a recent discovery. It draws its influence from the studies conducted by Westerners on the recognition of other traditions. However, these studies cannot be classified as cross-cultural philosophy studies as it lacked engagement from other traditions apart from the Western culture. In Asia, however, different cultural traditions and cultures mixed and mingled more frequently than in the West. For instance, Buddhism spread from China into India, and it was met with many philosophical reactions, especially from Confucian and Daoist scholars. Although some of these opinions were hostile, it proved to be a great start from comparative philosophy in this region. Chinese Buddhism, similarly, made its mark in other Asian countries as well including Korea, Japan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. Due to this frequent cross-cultural exchange, there was a lot more discourse on works comparing Eastern and Western philosophies in the Asian countries. 

Sri Aurobindo and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan were two of the earliest voices from India who challenged Western philosophies and presented Indian philosophical theories and comparing as well as joining Eastern and Western philosophies and religions. The Japanese philosopher, Nishida Kitaro, opened up the portals of cross-cultural philosophy in that region with her work, ‘An Enquiry Into The Good’, that covered the creative and cultural appropriation of Western philosophy and religion. This perspective was rooted in Mahayana Buddhist teachings that still prevail today. In the West, comparative philosophy is still to this day, not as widely accepted as it is in the Eastern region. 

The role of comparative philosophers is to reveal in their work the dissimilarities between the different comparative approaches and showcase their philosophical significance. Comparative philosophy does not set out to create a new philosophical tradition such as world philosophy. It is not a new philosophy but a different kind of philosophy. The aim of comparative philosophy is to learn a new way to understand philosophy as a language and explore a new way of talking. A comparative philosopher seeks to inhabit a developing a new viewpoint that creates a new way of looking at humankind. 


Q1. How does Comparative philosophy differ from traditional philosophy? 

Traditional philosophy deals with ideas that are compared between thinkers who belong to one tradition, while comparative philosophy deals with the comparison of philosophical ideas between different traditions and cultures. 

Q2. How does Chinese philosophy differ from Indian philosophy? 

At its core, Chinese philosophy does not focus on dogmatics and religion, while Indian philosophy focuses largely on religion and spirituality as the basis for this discipline. Indian philosophy emphasises the role of the Atman in philosophical ideas.