January 16, 2006

Charles A. Moore's critique of Sri Aurobindo

The Indian Influence in American Philosophy: Emerson to Moore By Riepe, Dale Philosophy East and WestV. 17 No. 1/4 (1967) pp. 125-137 Copyright 1967 by University of Hawaii PressHawaii, USA Charles A. Moore (1901-1967).
With Moore we conclude this account, not because there are not many more younger American scholars with keen interest in Indian thought, but because with Moore begins a professionalism and decisiveness lacking in Indian philosophical studies before his time. With Moore, Indian philosophical studies approached maturity.
Although most of Moore's work was as an editor of books and his journal, he also wrote a notable body of articles about Indian philosophy. But his main concern was twofold: not only to help American philosophers understand Indian philosophy, but also to help Indian philosophers to understand Western thought. Nowhere does Moore defend the values of the West so sharply as in his critique of Sri Aurobindo's account of the West's alleged defects in philosophy. Moore retorts: "The West ... is not materialistic, is not a slave of science, is not devoted to the limitation that all reality consists of the physical, the vital, and the mental -- every one of the very many idealists in the entire Western tradition and in what has been called the "Great Tradition" would deny these allegations and interpretations." [34] Moore was unsparing in his insistence that science, reason, progressivism, humanitarianism, and social service cannot be fairly lumped together as being worldly and materialistic, as held by Sri Aurobindo.
Moore's own philosophical position emerges in his evaluation of what he considered Sri Aurobindo's real significance in bringing about an understanding between East and West. According to Moore, "[Sri Aurobindo] has shown the world that Indian philosophy in its fullness ... is able to meet not only the problems of man and his destiny in terms of the ultimate spiritual Absolute but also the problems of man's life and experiences in the here and now." [35] That Moore found in the integralism of Aurobindo "the true wisdom of the Indian mind" is not intended as irony. Moore calls it "a worldly as well as other-worldly, personal as well as impersonal, rational as well as intuitive, pluralistic as well as monistic, human as well as super-human philosophy." [36] It is to the everlasting credit of Aurobindo "that he has overcome the error of much limited thinking by pointing out the remarkable richness of the Indian tradition." [37]
In "One Step Beyond" Moore claims that "the general attitude of Indian philosophy ... is 'ultimate perspective.'" He believes that this implies that the Indian is willing to think things through thoroughly, whereas Western philosophers in general are, by an ever more iron-clad tradition than India is alleged to have, willing to go only so far and no farther in their speculation. [38] Indian philosophers, Moore says, demonstrate "one step beyond" in metaphysics through neti neti absolutism; in epistemology through intuition going beyond reason; and in ethics, in karma, renunciation going beyond the most extreme Western conceptions. Indians also go one step beyond in their views of ahi^msaa (non-injury) and (freedom, liberation). In ethics these views are part of the supposition in India that the ultimate value is spiritual. [39]
Moore replies to the claim that Indian philosophers do not make Western distinctions between philosophy and religion, and indeed have really a religious philosophy and little distinct philosophy at all, in his "Philosophy as Distinct from Religion in India." [40] First of all, he argues that philosophizing and religionizing may be indispensable to each other -- as theory and practice. "Only reasoned faith can give coherence to life and knowledge." This quotation from Radhakrishnan is repeated with approval by Moore. The West differs from India in pursuing knowledge and truth rather than in integrating the whole realm of human experience. 34. Charles A. Moore, "Sri Aurobindo on East and West," in The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo, Haridas Chaudhuri and Frederic Spiegelberg, eds. (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1960), p. 95. 35. Charles A. Moore, ibid., p. 98. p. 136

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