Smart, Weltgeschichte des Denkens

Ninian Smart (1927-2001), britischer Religionswissenschaftler, veröffentlichte im Jahr 1998 das Buch World philosophies, das 2002 auch in deutscher Übersetzung erschienen ist. Seine Darstellung der globalen Philosophiegeschichte ist insgesamt regional aufgeteilt und erfasst unter geographischen Aspekten fast die gesamte Welt, nur Australien und Polynesien erhalten keine eigene Darstellung. Neben der regionalen Einteilung ist die Darstellung zugleich historisch differenziert, so dass auch moderne Entwicklungen einbezogen werden. In programmatischer Hinsicht versteht Smart seinen Versuch wie folgt:

“We are living through one of the most transformative times in world history. Indeed, ours is the age when histories have come together into a single process. This is because of a blend of world wars and singular inventions. By pitting colonial powers against each other, World War I raged over virtually the whole globe, from the Somme to East Africa and from Tientsin to the Atlantic. World War II even more dramatically and deeply enmeshed the globe, and burned from Glasgow to Hiroshima and from Papua New Guinea to Murmansk. Satellite communications, jet airliners and computers have helped to knit together the globe in meshes of more or less instantaneous exchanges and almost time-free travel. In older days it was arduous or impossible to travel from one of the main centers of civilization to another. It took years to travel from Europe to East Asia, and hardly less from India. Great swathes of the world were unknown to the rest - the interior of Africa, large parts of South and North America, large stretches of Siberia and many islands of the Pacific. Regions were relatively discrete from one another, and so we are wont to think of countries' histories separately: we think of Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Tibetan, Persian, German, Italian history. But in our day, all these histories have flowed together to form, from now on, a single stream – world history. By the same token we are all (or virtually all) included in the processes of global economics, geopolitics and planetary ecology. From now on we are forced to think globally. And yet often our traditions of education and culture, especially in the West, because the West has not endured the impact of the West as a colonial power-source, lead us to think in terms merely of our own tradition.

Thus philosophy for many scholars and interested lay persons means Western philosophy, literature means Western literature, music means Western music and so on. In this book, I shall attempt to give a picture of the philosophies of all the world. It may be that from now on humans will speculate together in a global manner: but now more than ever it is vital to remember the diversities of the past. The varying centers of civilization and culture, together with their outlying peripheral civilizations, have contributed divergent themes to the sum of human thought. We need to be conscious of our ancestors of all races, religions and intellectual climates, who have helped to shape human living and human ideas. They can be our critics and can remain sources of ideas and new slants on things. Especially because we all belong to a cross-cultural world, the plural past can be amazingly invigorating. We can exploit several kinds and sources of riches. But the shape of a project of thinking about the world's philosophies depends on what we mean by 'philosophy' and its plural. The word, after all, is a Western word, and there is no guarantee that it has a clear equivalent outside of the West."

(Smart, Ninian: World philosophies. London 1998, S. 1f. Deutsche Übersetzung: Weltgeschichte des Denkens. Die geistigen Traditionen der Menschheit, übers. v. Nikolaus de Palézieux. Darmstadt 2002, 2. unv. Aufl. 2009.)

“In what follows I shall attempt to sketch the evolution of human thinking on a regional basis. I shall treat separately such areas as South Asia, China, Korea and Japan, even though they obviously have a great deal of interplay. In particular, because Buddhism (so important both religiously and philosophically throughout Asia) spread from India to China and from there further afield, it is important to begin our Asian sequence with South Asia first. This already dictates one main sequence of chapters and treatments. Also I think it is salutary for Western readers in particular but really for all readers, to begin their reading of world thought outside of Europe. This will help them, and us, escape from being too confined in the strait-jacket of a conventional view of the history of the field. It will enable us to look with fresh eyes upon the patterns of the world.” (Ebd., S. 11f.) 

Das Inhaltsverzeichnis gliedert die Themen wie folgt: 1.  The history of the world and our philosophical inheritance, 2. South Asian philosophies, 3. Chinese philosophies, 4. Korean philosophies, 5. Japanese philosophies, 6. Philosophies of Greece, Rome and the Near East, 7.  Islamic philosophies, 8. Jewish philosophies, 9. Europe, 10. North America, 11. Latin America, 12. Modern Islam, 13. Modern South and South-east Asia, 14. China, Korea and Japan in modern times, 15. African philosophies, 16. Concluding reflections. Da dieses Werk auch in die deutsche Sprach übersetzt wurde, ist es die einzige zusammenhängende Darstellung der Philosophiegeschichte in globaler Perspektive in deutscher Sprache nach 1990. 

(Auszug aus: Elberfeld, Rolf: Philosophiegeschichtsschreibung in globaler Perspektive. Felix Meiner Verlag: Hamburg 2017. S. 315–17.)