October 05, 2006

Moore defends the values of the West

The Indian Influence in American Philosophy: Emerson to Moore Dale Riepe Philosophy East and West, Vol. 17, No. 1/4 (Jan. - Oct., 1967), pp. 125-137doi:10.2307/1397052 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. ...

Babbitt claims that whereas Western philosophy has been "from the time of Locke ... a long debauch of epistemology," [21] it has not produced the answer to Kant's second question -- What must I do? Buddhism, on the other hand, is a path philosophy." [22] One must not only know the Four Noble Truths but act on them. Hence, it is a voluntaristic philosophy. But the trouble with romantic orientalism, which goes beyond the clear message of the Buddha, is that it is "picturesque surfaces," the locus of "the bower of dreams," a kind of "subrational spontaneity" and in Schopenhauer the Buddha is converted into a "heavy-eyed, pessimistic dreamer" whereas he was "one of the most alert and vigorous figures of whom we have historical record." [23]
19. Irving Babbitt, The Dhammapada (New York: Oxford University Press, 1936), p. 68.
20. Ibid., p. 71.
21. Ibid., p. 73.
22. A notion to become a central view of Karl Potter thirty years later in his Presuppositions of India's Philosophies (1963).
23. Irving Babbitt, "Romanticism and the Orient," On Being Creative (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.; The Riverside Press, Cambridge, 1932), pp. 241-243.
From the views of Babbitt we turn to those of George Santayana (1863-1952). His views on Indian philosophy are too extensive to receive full treatment in this short account. We know he recognized that in India and Greece "The first philosophers, the original observers of life and nature, were the best; and I think only the Indians and Greek naturalists, together with Spinoza, have been right on the chief issue, the relation of man and of his spirit to the universe." [24] Although he made relatively few references to Indian thought until after the First World War, from that time onward his writings increasingly related directly to it, or alluded to it, almost as if he felt that he should continue a tradition begun by Emerson and continued by Royce. Santayana continued until his death to search for parallels and differences in Indian philosophy, which gave him the requisite outings from the constricted European and American dialogue.
In 1954 he confessed that "Ancient philosophy was a great aid to me ... the more I retreated in time, and the farther east I looked, the more I discovered my own profound and primitive convictions." [25] Not only did Santayana look increasingly eastward in his last year, but he clearly differentiated his own assessment from that of Emerson. "I follow the Indians in their notion of Brahman, Spirit, in its essence, but of course not in its absolute status as the root of all things. It is the root, in an animal psyche, of the universe of appearances: but the real universe, with its movement and competion [sic] must first have produced the psyche with its interests and powers..." [26] Such was his note from the materialist clarinet...
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 superhuman philosophy." [36]
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.
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]
Review: [Untitled] Reviewed Work(s): The Integral Philosophy of Sri Aurobindo by Haridas Chaudhuri, Frederick Spiegelberg Review author[s]: V. Madhusudan Reddy Philosophy East and West, Vol. 11, No. 3 (Oct., 1961), pp. 176-178doi:10.2307/1396912 The essay by Charles A. Moore, discusses the many elements within the complex of Sri Aurobindo's thought which strike a familiar note to the Western mind ...About the Journal

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