Harvard College Research Program Summer 2017

"Understanding of Moral and Political Thought in Pre-Modern Indian Philosophy"

During the Summer of 2017, I was provided grant funding from the Harvard College Research Program to conduct pre-thesis research on moral and political philosophy in pre-modern India.

Faculty Advisor: Parimal Patil, Professor of Religion and Indian Philosophy; Chair, Department of South Asian Studies

Purpose: To develop a substantially annotated bibliography of secondary source materials that capture the various schools of pre-modern Indian moral and political thought.


Indian philosophy is well known for having a conceptual framing of philosophies of epistemology and ontology. Texts and philosophers are primarily discussed in terms of commonality in ideas rather than based on time period or region. This has allowed ideas from various time periods and regions in Indian history to be put in dialog with each other to create a deeper understanding of both the intellectual context in which the ideas came about and the philosophies themselves. In turn, this has also allowed for contemporary conversations on epistemology and ontology that build on these schools of thought. A conception of moral and political Indian philosophy, similar to those that exist for epistemology and ontology, is necessary to allow for contemporary philosophers to engage with the vast resources of these texts.

Current approaches to moral and political philosophy in pre-modern India have either focused on them in the context of didactic religious teachings or have put them in conversation with Western philosophy. This has not allowed for an understanding of Indian ethics that both focuses on the presence of reason and argumentation as well as on engaging with the texts and schools of thought on their own philosophical terms. There is thus a need to create an understanding that allows us to use these texts as resources for contemporary philosophy, rather than focus on them solely through a historical lense. Here I aim to create an annotated bibliography of secondary sources organized and written within a pre-modern Indian context to create a framing of the texts in an authentic and pragmatic way that serves as the bedrock for further engagement with the texts.

Journal Articles