Krishna Chandra Bhattacharya en 1901
Critique inaugurale de l'approche historiciste

Professor Krishnachandra Bhattacharya (1875-1949) was King George V Professor of Philosophy in the University of Calcutta in the mid-thirties. By common consent, he is the most original and creative among the academic philosophers of India, situating Indian thought in the perspective of the world-philosophy of his time and, what is most important in a philosophic context, creatively reacting to Western thought and thus making additions to the corpus of philosophy. Professor Bhattacharyya's task was thus vastly different from, and more complex than, the task of those who, at the turn of the century of British rule in India, contented themselves with just comparing and contrasting Indian and Western philosophical concepts: important as such work undoubtedly was, all that it amounted to was writing history of philosophy. The much-needed creative reaction to Western thought was possible on the part of Professor Bhattacharrya because, while he did react with a traditional mind (if we may say so), he did not continue traditionalism. As a true philosopher who does not ignore his historical milieu but on the contrary makes history contemporary, Professor Bhattacharyya exploited the big jolt that indian mind received through the West by trying to formulate, initially in Western terms, the logic of the notions or concepts of Indian thought and then bring out differentia of that logic. Only thus is one's mentality restored to oneself, only thus is any originality in thought possible.

K. Bagchi, Towards a Metaphysics of Self. Perspectives on Professor Krishnachandra Bhattacharyya's unpublished essay on “Mind and Matter”, Journal of Indian Philosophy, Vol. 9, 1981, pp. 19–37; spec. p. 19.

Lecture historiciste et lecture systématisante
Studies in Vedantism
, 1909

C'est une Dissertation écrite en 1901 pour la Premchand Roychand Scholarship de l'Université de Calcutta. L'Introduction est un document philosophique d'une importance cruciale, parce qu'elle formule avec précision la controverse exemplaire entre les Historiens occidentaux et les Philosophes indiens, entre le “critical historian” et le “systematic philosopher”. Krishna Chandra Bhattacharyya se livre à une critique en règle de l'approche historiciste de George Thibaut dans sa traduction commentée des Brahmasūtras et du commentaire de Sankara.

Une lecture philosophique est nécessairement une lecture systématisante

Introduction. p. VI


Here, then, we have to consider the special nature of the Upanishad texts. They may or may not have been revealed; but as they are, they are presented not as mere guesses from the outside to explain the facts of the Universe, not even as /p. VII/ leisurely philosophisings conducted on a necessary basis, but as embodying mystic intuitions, often the products of what has been called the mythologic imagination which sees philosophy in poetic symbols. There are sometimes attempts at reasoning, too, but then, by themselves they are hardly logically convincing, having not unoften an almost infantine [sic] naïveté [sic] about them. Now, the question here is, what should be our attitude towards these texts which, apparently at any rate, embody intuitions? So long as no obvious mark of spuriousness is discovered, they are to be regarded as genuine, though even a genuine intuition may be false in its content. The falsity, however, is not to be judged a priori but only after a strenuous endeavour to reproduce, if possible, the intuitions through such means as may have been laid down in the Sāstras, or, what we understand better, after an attempt to systematise all the texts into a well-rounded philosophy. The latter is the task which Sankara and other commentators have set themselves to accomplish. Hence admitting that the texts were never meant to be strung together into a system, it can still be held that the task of systematising is inevitably given to every student of the Upanishads.

Dr. Thibaut does not appear to have sufficiently distinguished the rôle [sic] of the philosophic systematiser from that of the critical or historical scholar when he lays down the caution that

“we must refrain from using unhesitantly and without careful consideration of the merits of each individual case, the teachings, direct or inferred, of any one passage to the end of determining the drift of the teaching of other passages.”

A commentator is certainly open to severe censure when he asserts that a text bears a certain meaning which it cannot bear in a particular context. But when he simply means that the truth embodied in a particular text is inadequately expressed and should be developed or rendered more explicit in the light of other texts, or when he interprets a mythologic metaphor differently in different passages under the conviction that it is a natural symbol of many correspondent truths of different potencies or grades, he is to be deemed as perfectly within his rights as a philosophic interpreter and systematiser. A philosophic commentator, especially on unsystematised texts embodying speculative truths, has a far wider latitude than a literary commentator. Exegetical interpretation here inevitably shades off into philosophic construction; and this need not involve any intellectual dishonesty.


La doctrine de la Māyā est nécessairement présente
si la doctrine de l'ātman-brahman est explicite


A misconception of the latitude allowed to philosophical systematisation may be traced in Dr. Thibaut's remarks on Sankara's doctrine of Māyā. He tries to demonstrate that Sankara's doctrine of Māyā is nowhere to be found in the Upanishads except probably in an underdeveloped form in a few doubtful passages, and contends that the doctrine should not, thefore, be read into other passages which are intelligible without it. Let it be granted for the present that the demonstration is satisfactory. Later on he admits that the doctrine of “the final absolute identification of the individual self with the universal self is indicated in terms of unmistakable plainness” (p. CXXII) in the Upanishads. Now if the point were discussed as one of philosophy rather than of historical scholarship, it would not be difficult to perceive that the doctrine of Māyā is a necessary corollary of this doctrine of the individual being Brahman in Moksha (absolute liberation): for it is only in this identification that he realises that individuality was an illusion and that the distinction of subject, object, etc., possible only through this individuality, was an illusion too.