The most radical thinkers produced by ancient India

The most radical thinkers produced by ancient India. Each opened a new branch of learning or caused paradigm shifts in prevalent thinking of society-or sometimes- the whole species.

Clarity on chronology-even if imperfect-helps you appreciate the evolution of the Indic intellect

“Whence came this creation?
Did he create it, or did he not?
He who surveys in the highest heaven knows.
Or perhaps he may not know….”
            -Parameṣṭhin Prajāpati~2000 BCE                  
Rig Veda 10.129

“There is only one supreme god. He is Ahura Mazdā”
     -Atharvan Zaratuštra~1900 BCE
        (North west frontier province-Rangha/Bactria)
 
The first monotheist
Influenced Judaism
Contributive to Indo-Iranian civil war & permanent schism
Destinies of the last two IE tribes diverged forever

“The self is gradually revealed in creatures. Among animals, man is most endowed with consciousness.
-Mahidasa Aitareya, ~1900 BCE
 
While proto-Iranians chose monotheism, Indo-Aryans chose the path of philosophy.

“We need new philosophies. We need new pramana. We need ahimsa…”
   -Kapila Kardama~1600 BCE
    The beginning of dialectic!
 
First Dualist
First Ahiṃsāvādi
First Empiricist
Influenced every philosophy since..

“Consciousness has no exterior, and no interior..
It consumes nothing, it is consumed by nothing”
       -Yājñavalkya~1500-1400 BCE
 
First Monist
Influenced Parmenides, Platonists and Neoplatonists

“The self is smaller than an atom yet greater than the great..
 
Like the hundredth part of a point of hair divided a hundred times…”
         -Nachiketā and Śvetāśvatara ~1400-1000 BCE
 
The first Atomists

“Even nouns originate from Verbal roots!”
       -Śākaṭāyana~ 800 BCE
 
The first grammarian & etymologist
 
‘Language obeys algorithmic rules’
      -Panini ~500 BCE
 
The father of linguistics
Direct influence on Humboldt, Bloomfield, Saussure, Chomsky etc

“The empirical is the supreme pramana. Even mental phenomena are products of atoms. There is no afterlife or soul. Live happily.”
   -Lokayata~ 600 BCE
 
The first materialists
Influenced Buddhism, Greeks and later Chinese writers

“Of what use is arguing about unknowables? Who are these men to claim authority?”
   -Sañjaya Vairatiputra~550 BCE
 
First sceptic school
Direct influence on Greek Pyrrhonism
 
“Valid inference is by the syllogism of five pillars”
    -Medhatithi & Kanada~600-400BCE
 
The first logicians

“The Eye of Truth: Whatsoever is subject to the condition of origination is subject also to condition of cessation. Nothing escapes this. Not even the Atman of the Vedas”
    -Gautama Buddha~500 BCE
 
The first ‘Existentialist’
The world is still shaking from the aftermath of it..

“I advise: Focus on countryside for agricultural surplus
Allow foreign goods for benefit of citizens
Buffer stocks to control supply
Centralization & standardization
Empire must expand for resources
Give up profit if it harms the public”
                                -Kauṭilya~300 BC
    
First economic thinker

“Every thought is a wave on the mind. Even sleep is a thought wave. Latent tendencies are born of prior thoughts and actions. Subsidence of thought waves is concentration”
                                    -Patañjali, 200 BCE
 
The first ‘psychologist’

“External objects are real in themselves”
    -Sarvāstivādins, 200 BCE
                                 The first realist school
 
 
“No! Objects exist only as inferred from mental impressions!”
      -Vijñānavādins, 100 CE
                                  The first nominalist school

“All objects, all laws are void and without essence. Religious concepts of Karma, dharmas and Buddhas are ultimately, at best, conventional truths.”
                  -Nāgārjuna, 200 CE
 
Founder of Mādhyamaka
Preserved as Zen philosophy of China & Japan

“Sphoṭa is the irreducible wave-essence of sound that helps the mind comprehend speech. Language & thought are inseparable.”
             -Bhartṛhari, 450 CE
 
Sphoṭa Theory of cognition
Direct influence on modern linguistics

“I replace the five pillar syllogism of Nyaya. It must be deductively validated by Thesis, reason, examples of similarity and dissimilarity.”
                  -Dignaga~500 CE
            
Deductively valid canonical Syllogism
Adopted by all logicians-Nyaya, Baudhas and Jainas.

“There are no universals(such as Jati). Our minds cognize objects by a process of exclusion, rather than inclusion.”
       -Dharmakīrti~ 600 CE
 
Apoha theory of cognition
The first philosopher to reject the caste system
Ideas of Madhyamaka standards reappear only in 18th century Europe

“We must ensure happiness for all living brings without appealing to supernatural ideas of Karma”
   -Śāntideva ~700 CE
 
First ‘Utilitarian’
 
“If a thing is truly infinite, can it really have finite parts?”
       -Adi Shankara~700 CE
 
Influenced Schrodinger, Niels Bohr, Heisenberg etc

“I am replacing the old logic based on categories with a new one based on epistemology.”
             -Gangesa, 1350 CE
 
Origin of analytical logic, set theory, ‘reliabilism’ etc.
Influenced the likes of Gottlob Frege,  George Boole,  Augustus De Morgan, Charles Babbage etc.

Twitter Thread by: Joseph T Noony

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