Kurzbeschreibung: Scharfstein, A comparative history of world philosophy

Ben-Ami Scharfsṭein publizierte im gleichen Jahr (1998) einen globalgeschichtlichen Entwurf unter dem Titel: A comparative history of world philosophy. From the Upanishads to Kant. Seine Darstellung ist rein komparativ-systematisch orientiert, wobei er sich dabei an bestimmte Autoren aus Europa, Indien und China hält. Er beschränkt seine Darstellung auf die drei genannten Traditionen und fällt in dieser Hinsicht deutlich hinter die bereits besprochenen Entwürfe zurück. Er begründet seine Auswahl wie folgt:

“There are three great philosophical traditions, the Indian, the Chinese, and the European. Before I describe them, I want to ask and answer, very briefly, what a philosophical tradition is, why I say that there are only three such traditions, and why it is best to study them together, as they are studied here, rather than separately or successively. 

What is a philosophical tradition? A chain of persons who relate their thought to that of their predecessors and in this way form a continuous transmission from one generation to the next, from teacher to disciple to disciples disciple. Or rather, because a whole tradition is made up of many subtraditions, it is one and the same tradition because all of its subtraditions share common sources and modes of thought and develop by reaction to one another. A tradition is by nature cumulative and it progresses in the sense that it defines itself with increasing detail and density. I define the tradition as philosophical to the extent that its members articulate it in the form of principles - if only principles of interpretation - and of conclusions reasonably drawn from them; and I define it as philosophical to the extent that its adherents defend and attack by means of reasonable arguments-even those that deny reason-and understand and explain how they try to be reasonable. As history demonstrates again and again, no philosophy is purely rational, pure rationality being an unreasonable, impossible ideal. Matters of religion, communal loyalty, reverence for teachers, and cultural habits, not to mention individual psychology, have always limited rationality, so that philosophical subtraditions or schools are rational by tendency rather than in any absolute way. 

I go on to my second question: Why say that there are only three great philosophical traditions? To claim this, one must put aside the correct but, for our purpose, insufficient definitions of philosophy as wisdom or as the group of principles, either stated or implied, by which any person or community views life. In keeping with the original meaning of the term philosophy, love of wisdom, philosophers, one supposes, have wanted to be wise, yet experience has taught that there is no good reason to think that they are necessarily so except, circularly, by their own definitions, and no good reason to think that nonphilosophers cannot be equally wise, that is, perceptive, farsighted, and sagacious, in the ways that their particular lives have taught them. Nor is there any good reason to suppose that traditions that are not philosophical by the definition I have adopted have not had their own depth of sophistication and practical intelligence (which is implicitly also theoretical). […] 

I have still not explained why I have said that there are only three philosophical traditions, the Indian, the Chinese, and the European. What about such others as the Jewish, Muslim, Japanese, and Tibetan? Well, yes and no, as philosophers say, these are and are not separate traditions. The matter is more complicated than it seems at first. To begin with, it is possible to argue that even the Indians, Chinese, and Europeans never arrived at points of view unified enough to justify classifying them as distinct traditions. In all three, there are obvious and unobvious points of cleavage. To mention only the most obvious, in  India, the Indians who regarded themselves as orthodox tried to delegitimize, that is, read out of their tradition, the philosophies they classified as unorthodox; in China, the Taoists mocked the tradition that Confucians revered, and during China’s later history, orthodox Confucians saw Buddhism as deeply foreign to Chinese tradition; and in Europe, it is not hard to distinguish the different national traditions-philosophy that is in a French, English, German, Italian, or other tradition.” (Scharfsṭein, Ben-Ami: A comparative history of world philosophy. From the Upanishads to Kant. Albany 1998, S. 1ff.)

Der inhaltliche Aufbau folgt bestimmten systematischen Themen, die direkt mit konkreten Namen verschiedener Traditionen verbunden werden:

1. The Three Philosophical Traditions 

2. The Beginnings of Metaphysical Philosophy: Uddalaka, Yajnavalkya, Heraclitus, Parmenides

3. The Beginnings of Moral Philosophy: Confucius/Mencius, the Buddha, Socrates

4. Early Logical Relativism, Skepticism, and Absolutism: Mahavira, Chuang-tzu, Protagoras, Gorgias, Plato

5. Early Rational Synthesis: Hsun-tzu, Aristotle

6. Early Varieties of Atomism: Democritus/Epicurus/Lucretius, ‘Guatama,’ and Nameless Buddhists

7. Hierarchical Idealism: Plotinus/Proclus, Bhartrthari

8. Developed Skepticism: Sextus Empiricus, Nagarjuna, Jayarashi, Shriharsha

9. Religio-Philosophical Synthesis: Udayana, Chu Hsi, Avicenna, Maimonides, Aquinas

10. Logic-Sensitized, Methodological Metaphysics: Gangesha, Descartes, Leibniz

11. Immanent-Transcendent Holism: Shankara, Spinoza

12. Perceptual Analysis, Realistic and Idealistic: Asanga/Vasubandhu, Locke, Berkeley, Hume

13. Fideistic Neo-Skepticism: Dignaga/Dharmakirti, Kant

Durch die Zusammenstellung verschiedener Namen unter bestimmten Themen ergeben sich bereits aus dem Inhaltsverzeichnis komparative Querbezüge zwischen den drei Traditionen, die zugleich auch die verschiedenen Epochen überschreiten und damit einen neuen Modus der Darstellung zeigt, der durchaus Vorteile besitzt. Es können somit kulturübergreifend Entsprechungen auf einen Blick gesehen und über die geschichtlichen Kontexte hinweg behandelt werden.  

(Auszug aus: Elberfeld, Rolf: Philosophiegeschichtsschreibung in globaler Perspektive. Felix Meiner Verlag: Hamburg 2017, S. 313–15)