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Correlative Thinking Across Cultures: from China to India

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How did rational inquiry originate in ancient India? How did mythical and religious ideas contribute to shaping the ways in which ancient Indian thinkers explained the world and man’s role in it? This talk explores these great themes by focusing on the intellectual category of ‘correlative thought’ — a pattern of thinking that, instead of privileging analytical and causal explanations, describes the cosmos as a scheme in which all entities are intimately interrelated.

A recognised category in the study of the thought of other civilisations, in particular ancient China and Greece, ‘correlative thought’ has not yet been taken into account by scholars working on ancient India. And this is a pity, as the application of this category to the Indian context promises to be a powerful interpretive tool and a fascinating experiment in cross-cultural comparison.

We will elucidate what is meant by ‘correlative thought’ and test how its application to ancient India helps us gain fresh insights into several aspects of its civilisation, including proto-linguistics, ritual, and early philosophical thought.

This talk is part of the Queens' Arts Seminar series.

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