STEPS TOWARD A SCIENTIFIC INDOLOGY
gandharva wrote:CHAPT ER 5 - Problems with the Critical Method
(From the book The Nay Science: A History of German Indology by Vishwa Adluri & Joydeep Bagchee)https://www.amazon.com/Nay-Science-Hist ... 0199931364
The birth of Indology takes place at the crossroads of two great intellectual currents in German history: Romanticism, which gave rise to the search for pristine civilizations and the interest in myth, and Protestant biblical criticism (and its attendant phenomenon, historicism), which shaped ideas of what texts are and how they were to be studied. But the story of the intellectual roots of Indology cannot be told without also exploring the roots of a third intellectual current of the time: the new Wissenschaftsideologie of the nineteenth century.
This ideology was to be a potent factor in the development of Indology out of the early grammatical, philosophical, and literary interests of an earlier generation of Orientalists (among them, the Schlegel brothers and the scholar-statesman Wilhelm von Humboldt).
Rest to follow later...
Te development of a new ideal of science at German universities during the nineteenth century has been well documented.5 Scholars note that around the late eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries, the term Wissenschaft took on grand idealist associations of a system of total and comprehensive knowledge. This system integrated both the transcendental principles of knowledge with the more specialized disciplines that developed from out of these principles and carried forward the work of enabling knowledge of the objective world……..It was not just that there was a sudden burst of intellectual efort, but a change occurred in the very meaning of knowledge, that is, in the notion of what could be studied, what was worth studying, and what counted as knowledge
. Turner describes the change in attitudes as follows: “The professor of the eighteenth century had considered his main duty the transmission of established learning to certain professional groups; in addition to maintaining that goal, his nineteenth-century counterparts tried actively to expand learning in many esoteric felds. . . . Research emerged within university ideology as a fundamental duty of the scholar, and a reputation within one’s specialist community beyond the university became more and more a sine qua non for even minor university appointments.”9This ideology of the scholar as engaged in original research was given explicit sanction in the writings of Wilhelm von Humboldt.
In his essay “Über die innere und äußere Organisation der höheren wissenschaftlichen Anstalten in Berlin,” which was to be a major infuence on university reform, Humboldt argued that what was unique about the higher educational faculties was that they regarded Wissenchaft as a “never completely solved problem.” They therefore “remain ever at research, whereas the school is only concerned with finished and settled insights.”10 If knowledge was no longer a unity, a single science approximating an eternal model as it had been in the time of the ancients, if knowledge had fractured into multiple felds of inquiry, then original research became a duty of the scholar. There were potentially as many forms of knowledge as methods for discovering them. As Paulsen commented in 1901, “The 19th century first introduced the requirement of independent research in science: only he is capable of being a teacher in science, who is himself actively productive in it. And correspondingly, the task of university education is not [the handing down of] mere tradition, but rather, instruction in how to independently bring forth knowledge.
”11 Among the disciplines (and objects) to be discovered in the nineteenth century, were psychology (man as the intersection and functioning of his psychological capacities), sociology (man as social being), philology (text as document), and biology (life as an organic structure embedded in a specifc environment).Indology, the new science of the study of India, too, emerged in the nineteenth century as part of this general expansion of research into all fields of human activity. It is thus no surprise that it conformed to general ideas of science in the air. Although we do not find an explicit reflection on its status as science (which perhaps would not be undertaken until the early twentieth century), in the writings of the Indologists of the period we do find frequent (and repeated) appeals to the wissenshaftliche character of Indology.
Certainly, the threshold of positivity (to use Foucault’s terminology) was crossed quite early in its history, with the thresholds of epistemologization and scientifcity being crossed a little later. Key in this process of evolution was the idea of Indology as a philological and historical preoccupation with the documents of Indian antiquity, just as the science of classical philology (Altertumswissenschaft) was preoccupied with the documents of classical antiquity.
Before the establishment of the first chair for Indology (at Bonn in 1818; the first professor to hold the chair was August Wilhelm Schlegel), German intellectuals had carried out studies into Indian literature from a number of perspectives. Johann Gottfried Herder had produced literary translations of verses of the Bhagavadgītā. Humboldt himself had written an essay on the Gītā, praising it for its philosophical as well as for its poetic qualities.13 Schlegel hoped that the discovery of Indian antiquity would provide a similar impetus for the sciences in the nineteenth century as the (re)discovery of classical antiquity had provided in the fifteenth century.14 He was to be disappointed, however. Initial excitement over Indian thought gave way to a more philological preoccupation with Indian texts. In many ways, this transformation parallels wider currents relating to German philosophy. As Howard remarks, “as the nineteenth-century wore on and under the infuence of positivism, the growth of the natural sciences, disciplinary specialization, and the exigencies of industrialization and technology, Wissenschaft gradually lost its grand, idealist associations and took on a more limited definition with reference to particular academic fields, empirical rigour, and the putative ideological neutrality of the scholar
.”15 Above all, it was the new disciplines of history and classical philology that were to meet this idea of Wissenschaft. Turner notes: “The philological and historical disciplines first displayed the intense concern with research and research training. Only later—during the 1830s—were these commitments widely adopted by science professors, often in direct imitation of learned values and institutional models of the humanistic disciplines.”16 Indology’s need to establish itself as a science meant that it quickly imbibed these ideas of disciplinary rigour. In fact, its evolution traced that of philology, which always remained the science against which it measured itself.
Thus, just as the “critical, analytic tendencies of the new philology clashed sharply with the philosophic program of a grand synthesis of learning [and] [a] fter 1830 . . . largely replaced the philosophical tradition,”17 so, too, did Indology see itself in a conflict with philosophical interpretation
. The efforts of an earlier generation of scholars such as Herder and Humboldt were dismissed as Schwärmgeisterei.18By the early twentieth century, we find a widespread consensus in the writings of many Indologists that Indology had to be reestablished along philological principles.
Hermann Oldenberg, in an essay written in 1906, argued that Indology was concerned with the documents of Indian antiquity, a task that necessitated a historical and philological approach.
With this and other publications on Indologie or, as he preferred to call it in explicit contrast to classical philology, on indische Philologie (Indian philology), Oldenberg rapidly became the foremost spokesperson for the new science.
Between 1875 (the year he published his dissertation, “De sacris fratrum arvalium quaestiones”) and 1920 (the year of his death), he published six articles or speeches devoted to a theoretical clarifcation of Indology. Te earliest of these, “Über Sanskritforschung,” was written in 188619; the next to follow was “Die Erforschung der altindischen Religionen im Gesamtzusammenhang der Religionswissenschaft: Ein Vortrag” (1904),20 while the two years 1906–7 saw the publication of three of his most important contributions: “Göttergnade und Menschenkraft in den altindischen Religionen” (1906), Oldenberg’s inaugural lecture on his accession to the rectorship of the University of Kiel21; “Indische und klassische Philologie” (1906),22 his most extensive refection on the relation of Indian philology to classical philology; and “Indologie” (1907),23 a recapitulation of modern Indology’s tasks that explicitly closed the door on Indology’s Romantic and humanist heritage.
What were Oldenberg’s main points? In his 1886 text, he was at pains to contrast the more haphazard efforts of British scholars (mainly colonial ofcers such as William Jones) with the systematic eforts of German scholars. Oldenberg saw the establishment of the Asiatic Society (Calcutta, 1784) as the birth hour of Indology. He credited Wilson, Henry Tomas Colebrooke, and others with establishing this “new branch of historical research.” Yet ideas of historical research—however popular—did not suffce to defne the scientifc character of Indology; rather, what was required was a concerted efort at systematic research. Here, German scholars excelled: “Englishmen began the work; soon it was taken up by men of other nations and in the course of time it transformed itself ever more decisively, to a far greater extent than this could, for example, be said of research into hieroglyphic or cuneiform [writing], into an afair of German science [deutschen Wissenschaft].”25 “While Colebrooke still stood at the height of his [creative] powers, participation in researches on India began to awaken in that land which had done more than any other to bring these [researches] closer to a strict, frmly grounded science [Wissenschaft]:
Germany.”26 Oldenberg assigned Germany pride of place in this transition from an amateur preoccupation to a formal discipline
, the word being used with all its connotations of rigor, dedication, and a structured program of inquiry. Using the two great Sanskrit dictionaries of the time (Monier-Williams and Roth-Böhtlingk) as an example, he typifed the contrast between British and German scholarship as follows: “The contrast between the two great periods [of Sanskrit scholarship] could not be more clearly embodied than in these two dictionaries, in which the development of researches on India is displayed: here, the beginnings, which the English science standing directly on the shoulders of Indian pandithood had made; there, the further development, with the methods of strict philology, in terms of breadth and depth pressing incomparably ahead of these beginnings, at their head German researchers.
Paralleling the distinction Howard traces between the first and second phases of Wissenschaftsideologie, Oldenberg also identifed two distinct phases of the reception of Indian thought in Germany. In the frst phase, German literature, poetry, anid philosophy laid the ground for Indian studies in Germany.
As Oldenberg notes, “There could be no more receptive ground for Jones’ and Colebrooke’s discoveries than the Germany of that period, full of enthusiastic interest for the ancient, folk [volksthümliche] poetry of all nations, flled with great movements in its own literature and philosophy; out of the distance, India’s [literature and poetry] now encountered these as though related: so to speak, an Oriental Romanticism and a poetic thought that, in its sweep, sought no less daringly than the absolute philosophy of the Germans to press forward to the formless primordial source of all forms [gestaltlosen Urquell aller Gestaltungen].”28 Yet, this Romantic heritage could, at times, also be a source of embarrassment, as Oldenberg lets out in his criticisms of Schlegel. Schlegel, hargued, had created a “highly infuential fantasy image of India.” Yet, this image was neither “sober” nor “faithful” to the truth.
29 In contrast, it was “Bopp, with his researches into the grammatical structure of Sanskrit, who undertook to base the science [Wissenschaft] on the long recognized fact of the relationship of this language to Persian and to mainly European languages
.”30 Bopp’s approach was more “modest”; yet, it had “penetrated incomparably deeper” into Indian language and literature.31 Oldenberg was full of fulsome praise for Bopp’s 1816 work
, Conjugationsystem der Sanskritsprache in Vergleichung mit jenem der griechischen, lateinischen, persischen und germanischen Sprahe, which he considered to have laid the foundation for scientifc study of India.
He wrote: “We can here only mention with one word the researches that have been carried out since the appearance of this work . . . and for which Bopp laid the foundation at the time. Seldom has more remarkable work been accomplished for science [Wissenschaft] than here.”32
Bopp’s comparative linguistic approach, however, was only part of the story. The other part, which Oldenberg considered to have divided the evolution of the “science [Wissenschaft] of India” into “two halves,” was the development of historical research, aided above all by a renewed interest in the Veda.33 Here he identifes three great names: Max Müller, Rudolf von Roth, and Albrecht Weber. Roth, above all, appears to have been a paradigm of this new historical consciousness for Oldenberg. He cites the scholar’s view that it would be a “mockery” if the “criticism and acumen” of a century that had successfully deciphered the rock inscriptions of the Perisan kings and Zarathustra’s books, did not also succeed in reading “the history of ideas [Geistesgeschichte] of this people [that is, the Indians] in this mass of writings with certitude.”34 How far did the renewed interest in researching the Veda go toward fulflling Roth’s expectations? Although Oldenberg conceded that much of what Roth had hoped for could not be attained, he argued that “what has been attained has given a completely new look to the picture, which science [Wissenschaft] had of India.” “This picture appeared to lose itself without a horizon in the misty depths of an unmeasured past; now we fnd the boundaries; an external starting point for history that can be the subject of our research is within sight. Authentic sources, originating in the oldest period of India, out of which and concerning which historical sources in the customary sense of the term can be attained, opened themselves up and, instead of the twilight traversed by uncertain, shadowy titanic fgures, in which the epic poems caused this period to appear, the Veda showed forth a reality that one could hope to understand. . . .” Even where the Veda did not succeed in enabling historical knowledge, this was nonetheless “a gain” because “one then at least knew that the information one sought had vanished and what presented itself as this [information] was now exposed as a fantasy image, one that had emerged from the arbitrariness of later creators of legend.” Scholarship into the Veda, Oldenberg concluded, had succeeded in “outlin[ing] the horizon of historical knowledge with signifcant forms.”35In contrast to the first phase, the second phase of Indian studies in Germany (for which we properly reserve the name Indology) was also marked by increasing technicization
. Whereas the Romantics had been inspired by pedagogic and philosophical considerations, such considerations were regarded as increasingly redundant by career Indologists
. As we have seen, following Hegel’s review of von Humboldt’s Gītā, German scholars increasingly came to see Indian texts as raw matter for their own historical and critical researches.
Hence Oldenberg could now declare, “it is the task of the philological researcher to determine these fates [which the Indian texts have undergone], so to speak, the life history [Lebensgeschichte] of the texts
.” He also compared Indian texts, “as they have been handed down to us,” with “the paintings of old masters, across which destruction and attempts at restoration, both by legitimate and illegitimate persons, have alternately been at work.
” Our aim, Oldenberg declared, was to “know, as far as can be recognized, what the painting originally was like.
”36 Here was where German scholarship came into its own. Oldenberg writes:
“We may state [with justifcation] that the most ambitious efforts [and] the most important successes in this feld are associated with the names of German researchers. If we [now] add that it could not easily have been otherwise, then this is not hubris; rather, we thereby merely give expression to a state of afairs that is grounded in the evolution of the science [Wissenschaft] itself. It was natural that the earliest impulses for the nascent research on India, the frst attempts to grasp the material that was imposing itself en masse on us and to fnd preliminary forms for it, are owed to Englishmen—men who had spent a good portion of their lives in India and stood in constant contact with the local scholars of Sanskrit there. But it is no less natural that the honors of further advances [and] deeper insights have fallen to the lot of the Germans
. Te two areas of science [Wissenschaft], out of which life and strength primarily fowed to researches on India, were and remain essentially German: comparative linguistics [Sprachwissenschaft], which, one can say, was founded by Bopp, and that deepened, powerful science [Wissenschaft] or, just as rightly, art of philology, as it had been practiced by Gottfried Hermann and, alongside him, permeated by the proud spirit of Lessing, Karl Lachmann, full of astute, goal-oriented skill, precise and true [genau und wahrhaftig] in small matters just as much as in big ones.37”Systematicity, rigor, intensifcation of research, development of autonomous methods, historical reconstruction, and comparative and philological methods—these, then, were the hallmarks of German scholarship on India according to Oldenberg
. They were responsible for endowing the study of Sanskrit with its properly scientifc character. These traits, however, were not unique to Indology. They were the defning characteristic of German scholarship tout court and in particular of classical philology, which remained the science against which Indology measured itself. As Oldenberg clarifed, “even if representatives of this philology [that is, of classical philology] . . . should encounter the youthful science [Wissenschaft] of India with reserve or with more than reserve, this changes nothing about the fact that work on Indian texts, investigation into the literary monuments of India, cannot be learnt from any better teacher than those masters, who knew how to improve and to explain the classical texts with an accuracy of method as this world has never seen before.”38 Yet Oldenberg was not simply being ingenious. By the nineteenth century, it was the “new” philology that, above all, had established the reputation of German scholarship.
Howard notes that classical philology and its sister discipline, Altertumswissenschaft, became “the German sciences par excellence, and [the] ones with far-reaching ramifcations for scholarship and the university system as a whole.”39 Under the stewardship of Johann Matthias Gesner (1691–1761) and Christian Gottlob Heyne (1729–1812), philological studies came to take pride of pace within the neohumanist canon of the university. It thus comes as no surprise that Oldenberg sought to construe the wissenschaftliche character of Indology along the lines of classical philology.
By underscoring the connection between Indology and philology, he hoped to establish the scientifc character of Indology. He argued a direct ancestry for Indology in classical philology in that he traced its genealogy via Friedrich Max Müller (1823–1900) to Moriz Haupt (1808–74) and Gottfried Hermann (1772–1848), the latter two classical philologists at Leipzig. Indology was scientifc, wissenschaftlich, because it had imbibed ideas of methodological rigor and technical precision from philology, from “that . . . great teacher” as Oldenberg called it in his 1909 article
.40 Paralleling the development of the study of ancient languages at German universities, which had gone from being ancillary to theological concerns to becoming independent disciplines in their own right,41 Indian studies in the nineteenth century also underwent a similar process of Verselbständigung, rendering themselves independent or autonomous of philosophical, literary, or theological concerns. Well might Oldenberg underscore the wissenschaftliche character of Indology, if all that was thereby implied was that it had traced the evolution of philology. And yet that is only half the story, for we must still ask wherein the scientifc character of Indology as philology lies. The answer will take us in the direction of a general critique of positivist methodology
To be Continued......