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Classical Indian Philosophy

A history of philosophy without any gaps, Volume 5

Peter Adamson and Jonardon Ganeri

Publication Date - 27 April 2022

ISBN: 9780192856746

432 pages
9.2 x 6.1 inches

In Stock

Adamson and Ganeri present a lively introduction to one of the world's richest intellectual traditions: the philosophy of classical India.


Peter Adamson and Jonardon Ganeri present a lively introduction to one of the world's richest intellectual traditions: the philosophy of classical India. They begin with the earliest extant literature, the Vedas, and the explanatory works that these inspired, known as Upaniṣads. They also discuss other famous texts of classical Vedic culture, especially the Mahābhārata and its most notable section, the Bhagavad-Gīta, alongside the rise of Buddhism and Jainism. In this opening section, Adamson and Ganeri emphasize the way that philosophy was practiced as a form of life in search of liberation from suffering.

Next, the pair move on to the explosion of philosophical speculation devoted to foundational texts called 'sutras,' discussing such traditions as the logical and epistemological Nyd=aya school, the monism of Advaita Vedānta, and the spiritual discipline of Yoga.

In the final section of the book, they chart further developments within Buddhism, highlighting Nagārjuna's radical critique of 'non-dependent' concepts and the no-self philosophy of mind found in authors like Dignāga, and within Jainism, focusing especially on its 'standpoint' epistemology. Unlike other introductions that cover the main schools and positions in classical Indian philosophy, Adamson and Ganeri's lively guide also pays attention to philosophical themes such as non-violence, political authority, and the status of women, while considering textual traditions typically left out of overviews of Indian thought, like the Cārvāka school, Tantra, and aesthetic theory as well.

Adamson and Ganeri conclude by focusing on the much-debated question of whether Indian philosophy may have influenced ancient Greek philosophy and, from there, evaluate the impact that this area of philosophy had on later Western thought.


  • The fifth volume in the most readable and entertaining history of philosophy
  • Short, lively conversational chapters with vivid and humorous examples
  • Assumes no prior knowledge--ideal for beginners and anyone who wants to read philosophy for pleasure
  • No gaps! Tells the whole story, not just the most famous bits
  • A self-standing volume--may be read independently of others in the series
  • Meets the demand for the growing interest in Asian philosophy in the West

About the Author(s)

Peter Adamson received his BA from Williams College and PhD in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame. He worked at King's College London from 2000 until 2012. He subsequently moved to the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen, where he is Professor of Late Ancient and Arabic Philosophy. He has published widely in ancient and medieval philosophy, and is the host of the History of Philosophy podcast.

Jonardon Ganeri is a Fellow of the British Academy. He is the author of Attention, Not Self (2017), The Self (2012), The Lost Age of Reason (2011), and The Concealed Art of the Soul (2007). Ganeri's work draws on a variety of philosophical traditions to construct new positions in the philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and epistemology. He became the first philosopher to win the Infosys Prize in the Humanities in 2015.


"The ideal introduction to Indian philosophy for someone new to the field. The notes and bibliography provide ample opportunity to delve deeper into the subject matter... I cannot recommend this book highly enough." -- Joerg Tuske, Salisbury University, Philosophy East & West

"An astonishing intellectual tour de force written in an accessible and engaging style." -- Paradigm Explorer

Table of Contents

    1. Begin at the End: Introduction to Indian Philosophy
    2. Scriptures, Schools, and Systems: A Historical Overview
    3. Kingdom for a Horse: India in the Vedic Period
    4. Hide and Seek: The Upanisads
    5. Indra's Search: The Self in the Upanisads
    6. You Are What You Do: Karma in the Upanisads
    7. Case Worker: Panini's Grammar
    8. Suffering and Smiling: The Buddha
    9. Crossover Appeal: The Nature of the Buddha's Teaching
    10. Carry a Big Stick: Ancient Indian Political Thought
    11. Better Half: Women in Ancient India
    12. Grand Illusion: Dharma and Deception in the Mahabharata
    13. World on a String: The Bhagavad-gita
    14. Mostly Harmless: Non-Violence
    The Age of the Sutra
    15. A Tangled Web: The Age of the Sutra
    16. When in Doubt: The Rise of Skepticism
    17. Master of Ceremonies: Jaimini's Mimamsa-sutra
    18. Innocent Until Proven Guilty: Mimamsa on Knowledge and Language
    19. Source Code: Badarayaa's Vedanta-sutra
    20. No Two Ways About It: Sakara and Advaita Vedanta
    21. Communication Breakdown: Bhartrhari on Language
    22. The Theory of Evolution: isvarakrsna's Samkhya-karika
    23. Who Wants to Live Forever? Early ayurvedic Medicine
    24. Practice Makes Perfect: Patañjali's Yoga-sutra
    25. Where There's Smoke There's Fire: Gautama's Nyaya-sutra
    26. What You See Is What You Get: Nyaya on Perception
    27. Standard Deductions: Nyaya on Reasoning
    28. The Truth Shall Set You Free: Nyaya on the Mind
    29. Fine Grained Analysis: Kanada's Vaisesika-sutra
    30. The Whole Story: Vaisesika on Complexity and Causation
    31. A Day in the Life: Theories of Time
    32. The Wolf's Footprint: Indian Naturalism
    33. Mind out of Matter: Materialist Theories of the Self
    Buddhists and Jainas
    34. We Beg to Differ: The Buddhists and Jainas
    35. It All Depends: Nagarjuna on Emptiness
    36. Motion Denied: Nagarjuna on Change
    37. No Four Ways About It: Nagarjuna's Tetralemma
    38. Taking Perspective: The Jaina Theory of Standpoints
    39. Well Qualified: The Jainas on Truth
    40. Change of Mind: Vasubandhu and Yogacara Buddhism
    41. Who's Pulling Your Strings? Buddhaghosa on No-Self and Autonomy
    42. Under Construction: Dignaga on Perception and Language
    43. Follow the Evidence: Dignaga's Logic
    44. Doors of Perception: Dignaga on Consciousness
    Beyond Ancient India
    45. In Good Taste: The Rasa Aesthetic Theory
    46. Learn by Doing: Tantra
    47. Looking East: Indian Influence on Greek Thought
    48. The Buddha and I: Indian Influence on Islamic and European Thought
    49. What Happened Next: Indian Philosophy After Dignaga