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George Gale

For various reasons, I ended up talking quite intimately with Chandra about his first years in the UK doing advanced work. He told me that there was exactly one main-line scholar who treated him as an equal: Milne.Indeed, their correspondence shows the strong mentorship Milne provided. After finally succeeding--even against the opposition of Eddington--he decided that it was time to leave that unhealthy environment and go the the US, which he did. He was still quite bitter about how he was treated.
So even in the case of an observably brilliant scientist, prejudice against him qua Indian, and qua colonial, was still rampant in the 30s. Yet another barrier.

Chris Stephens

Thanks for this Mohan. Maybe I should post this below Katzav's post, but I was struck by this: Katzav remarks, about philosophy by Indian philosophers in JPhil "It did not, however, engage with the millennia old tradition of philosophy that had its origins on the Indian Subcontinent."

Currently, one difference between a journal like Journal of Philosophy and Phil Review is that JPhil explicitly says it won't consider articles that are primarily historical. Phil Review, of course, does (and has).

Maybe someone can answer a question I'm curious about: was there a certain point at which JPhil decided not to publish any work that was primarily history of philosophy? Or has it always been that way? (and was it that way in the 50s and 60s?) If so, that seems like a relevant fact for Katzav's JPhil narrative.

Of course, a further question could be asked about the extent to which ordinary language philosophy and more formal analytic philosophy at that time was still rooted in a certain historical tradition.

Still: there are at least two separate questions here, one about Indian philosophers publishing in these journals, and a separate one about the Indian historical tradition, and its relevance and connection to people working elsewhere in the World.

Joel Katzav

The short answer to Chris is that JoP did publish full-length papers in the history of philosophy in the 1960s, though it did not publish many such papers. Also, when modern Indian philosophers engaged with the history of philosophy it was often not primarily historically, e.g., they might do so in order to bring out a neglected point in logic.


Hi Chris, JPhil does occasionally publish historical articles, but one can discern some non-historical interest in them. M. R. Ayers' famous article on Locke vs Aristotle on natural kinds was published there, for instance, and a number of papers by Robert Adams, some on unlikely topics like divine necessity. There is plenty in the Indian philosophical tradition that could be discussed in the context of similar contributions to logic and metaphysics. And I wish more of it did find its way into non-historical discussions.

Of course, as you realize, my point is that there were very few people in India in the mid-twentieth century who had the network or the resources to produce anything of Adams-like relevance to contemporary questions.

Joel Katzav

Thanks for your post Mohan. I will just briefly register my disagreement. I am aware of much of what you say, but don’t think it explains the changes I’ve been discussing, including the disappearance of modern Indian philosophy from JoP in the late 1950s; it is the kind of explanation that might seem good in the absence of familiarity with the details. The reasons for my disagreement are partly the continued publication of work by some of the authors I discuss in Western journals in the 1960s, partly the fact that venues they continue to publish in match the venues other ‘philosophical refugees’ turned to, partly the precise timing of the changes in JoP, partly that I don’t (as a result of reading their work) share your view of the limitations of some of the relevant authors and for other reasons. More constructively, you raise a number of other important issues that are worth further discussion. One such issue is how the sense of inferiority you refer to affected what second-generation academic Indian philosophers were writing. Another issue is the institutional setup of modern Indian philosophy. An interesting, relevant fact is that the Philosophical Quarterly (the original Philosophical Quarterly, that is) ceased publishing work in 1966 (after 41 years in print). Perhaps I will blog about these topics.


One more observation. My daughter, who has a Masters in Economics, was surprised by the very existence of foreign exchange controls when she read this post. This was one reason why ordinary Indians were isolated back in the fifties and sixties. My mother, a worldly and sophisticated woman, travelled outside India only once. I left India for the first time when I went to graduate school. Travel was, for economic and also technological reasons, a rare luxury. Foreign goods, including books and journals, were restricted.

In response to Joel's point at 10:49, I don't think that the "second generation" was able to keep up with the developments of the sixties. P. T. Raju's paper, "Actuality," in JPhil 1958, which I read when I was preparing to write this post, illustrates the point. It's an elegantly written piece, and certainly meets the standards of the journal. And, by the way, it cannot be said to lie completely outside the analytic province. But it takes a view of logic and modality that was already twenty years out of date, and completely out of fashion ten years later. Raju had travelled to the US and maintained a correspondence with philosophers of his own age. He would have been taken by surprise by the sudden emergence of modal semantics in the sixties, and he would have had no way of coming to appreciate its importance. (Don't forget that analytic philosophers of that generation treated possible worlds with Quinean disdain.) My teachers were in the same boat. I had to wait until I got to Stanford to hear the words "modal logic."


Joel Katzav

First, a correction about P. T. Raju; he was a first-generation modern Indian philosopher (he was born in 1904 and was publishing in the 1930s). And, yes, his paper makes substantial concessions to Western, and analytic, philosophy. Raju knew how to adapt his writing to his readers and found value in diverse philosophical traditions. In addition, Raju is a nice example of an interesting philosopher who was forced to migrate from journal to journal because of the intolerance of analytic philosophers. He continues to publish articles and books well after JoP’s doors are closed to him, and publishes in JoP after PR’s doors are closed to him.

As for the supposed technical challenges of 1960s analytic philosophy, this is a bit of a (for analytic philosophy) self-serving myth. Yes, there were parts of analytic philosophy that could be quite technical, but we shouldn’t exaggerate how demanding the techniques were – the technical side of analytic philosophy wasn’t like, say, chemistry, engineering or physics, which required years of formal training – or exaggerate the extent to which these techniques were required. JoP was itself hardly a technical journal. The bulk of the work that appears in it in, e.g., 1964, isn’t very demanding. On the contrary, many papers within it demand relatively little: familiarity with a narrow range of authors, familiarity with no more than one approach to philosophy, little or no knowledge of areas outside of philosophy, no knowledge of formal methods, etc. The relatively undemanding nature of much of analytic philosophy did not, of course, harm its popularity in later years.

You also assume a narrative of progress in your story, along with criteria for what matters in philosophy. You claim that Raju and others couldn’t contribute to a certain line of inquiry. But these writers had their own approaches to philosophy and their own views about what mattered in philosophy. Moreover, part of what the takeovers in Mind, PR and JoP (and other journals!) did is feed a certain narrative of progress. They legitimated, without real argument, certain views about how to do philosophy, about what is of value in philosophy and about whether progress has occurred. Alternatives came to seem (to some) old fashioned or pointless as a result of the takeovers and, indeed, were not allowed to develop properly. The narrative of progress is thus partly explained, and partly undermined, by my story; trusting this narrative in order to explain what actually happened seems, to me, to be suspect.


I am saying, very simply, that there are ways of dealing with necessity that Raju did not know of. I do indeed think that discovering these ways constituted progress, but let's not argue about this. My more general point is that content matters in philosophy. Philosophy cannot be described as a series of formal or content-disregarding institutional decision points. A narrative that abstracts away from content can't capture what happened. You may be right that analytic philosophy demands knowledge of only certain techniques. But formal technique isn't what's important to the application of modal semantics to necessity; rather, it's understanding (say) how Hintikka comes at that technique differently from Marcus, or Follesdal, or Kripke. That's not mathematics; it's philosophy. I think you are neglecting my first narrative here, that of the buoyancy of analytic philosophy in the mid-twentieth century. It is more central here than that of post-colonial exclusion. The kinds of philosopher Raju met on his US tour—I wonder if it was Fulbright sponsored—and later corresponded with were equally excluded from JPhil. (He mentions W. F. Goodwin of the University of Wisconsin. JSTOR doesn't record any publications by Goodwin in the "top three" journals, but perhaps this is not the name under which he published.) Which makes me wonder: why do you think Raju's most natural venue was these three journals. It's as if I tried to publish in Deleuze Studies and complained of post-colonial exclusion when I got rejected.


Joel Katzav

And I am saying, very simply, that your appeal to the challenge of keeping up with 1960s philosophy is based on a false presupposition and is irrelevant; it was not in general hard to do (I say this without accepting any alleged limitations of Raju or the absence of a philosophical community in India) and, further, part of what needs to be explained is why there was a requirement that people do philosophy in the prescribed way. Content does matter, as I have argued; it was partly an intolerant commitment to a narrow version of critical philosophy that explains what was going on in JoP. The details of the history of modal logic you cite are not important to what went on in JoP at the time. As for the buoyancy of analytic philosophy in the 1950s, it is partly explained by philosophical partisanship of the kind I have been discussing. Finally, Mind, PR and JoP played a central role in shaping mid-century twentieth academic philosophy, so being excluded from these journals would be a legitimate complaint from philosophers at the time even if it is not one that I have voiced in my posts. But perhaps we have said enough on this topic for now. Feel free to conclude.

Chris Stephens

Hi Joel,

Thanks for the response.

I don't know that this is relevant to your historical claims, but I found it interesting. Currently, in its memo to authors, JPHIL says "The Journal of Philosophy does not publish papers that are primarily historical or expository, nor does it accept unsolicited book reviews."

I was curious when this started, it seems to be around 1967. I think that's when the first inserted the following under "Note to Contributors" "Since there exist reputable journals specializing in the history of philosophy and of ideas, the editors, though willing to consider, are not likely to accept articles primarily expository in character."

They then add "The editors continue to be particularly interested in papers that explore the borderline between philosophy and the special disciplines."

Again, this first remark seems like an important difference between PHIL Review and JPHIL, and it also seems connected to the rise of analytic philosophy.

Joel Katzav

Thanks for looking this up Chris; I probably should have said more in response to your previous post. Anyway, I think you are correct that it is only in 1967 that the policy regarding history is explicitly put in place, and 1967 is too late to be relevant to the question why there was no engagement with traditional Indian philosophy in 1950s JoP. Further, early to mid-1960s JoP still includes enough primarily expository/historical work for me to hesitate to project what was going on in the late 1960s back in time; the journal can still be thought of as being open to historical/expository work, as long as it is of the right people (A. W Levi’s ‘Wittgenstein as Dialectician’ comes to mind as an example as does, among others, E. W. Van Steenburgh’s ‘Berkeley revisited’). In any case, while there was some modern Indian philosophy published in Mind and PR that was purely/primarily historical (The last of Radhakrishnan’s Mind papers comes to mind here – sorry can’t remember its name), the philosophers in question were not really primarily focused on publishing expository or historical work, and were certainly able to drop any explicit reference to Indian philosophy when needed or to engage with it in a way that was not primarily of historical interest. So while there may be something to your proposal, it is not something I would feel particularly confident in endorsing. I’m inclined to emphasize more that engagement with non-Western philosophy was excluded by JoP than that it was the history of philosophy/purely expository work which was the issue.

Bharath Vallabha

Matthen seems to be ignoring what struck me as Katzav's most salient point: that there were more publications by Indian authors before 1950 in the "top three" journals because the idealist, pragmatist and process enabled a natural connection in philosophical content to themes and ideas being pursued by many Indian philosophers even in colonial times. Once brought to light as Katzav does, this strikes me as important and true.

The myth that Katsav is questioning, which is central to analytic philosophy, is that only it is cosmopolitan and inclusive, whereas the idealist philosophers Russell and Moore were reacting against, and the idealist and process philosophy Quine and Sellers were reacting against, were unscientific and so also uncosmopolitan and uninclusive. Analytic phil has obviously enabled a great deal of inclusion, as it is global. But acknowledging this doesn't require the myth that pre-analytic philosophies in Europe and America were incapable of engaging or fostering cross cultural philosophy. The data Katsav points out brings this out to some extent.

This all is a matter of content of philosophy, of how now to foster greater engagement of philosophical traditions, and not only about self confidence or resources, and lack thereof. In some obvious ways Russell, Wittgenstein, Quine, Rawls, Lewis enabled greater global interaction philosophically. But equally importantly, in some ways they and the traditions they were a part of also made global interaction harder and discarded earlier histories of such interactions. If current philosophy is to be more inclusive, in content, surely thinking about the latter is of great importance.

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.


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