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Mankind in its awakened thought has persistently returned to some of the basic questions of life and its meaning. Questions like 'what is man's life?', 'what is its meaning and purpose?', 'how is man to plan his life to attain his purpose?', 'how is man to plan his life to attain his ideals?', 'if life is a part of reality, how is man to know this reality?'- these and similar other inquiries are to be found even in the earliest traditions of quest all over the world. In India we find them in its earliest records of the Vedic Age, and it is in these that we find the source of philosophical reflection in our country.
Philosophy, along with religion and spirituality, has been one of the proudest achievements of India. Both in subtlety and complexity, it is comparable to the best accomplishments in this field in any other culture of the world. The rigour with which philosophy was studied in ancient India was not only remarkable, but exceptional.
The development and growth of various schools of Indian thought took place during the course of centuries of debate and discussion through which great thinkers contributed to the edifices of philosophical systems. We witness here a continuous effort to arrive at detailed analyses and ever enlarging synthesis.
It was only in later periods that this rigour was weakened. But even during these periods, there were astonishing expositions and new creations. Even the synthetic tendency, which dominated the earlier period, reasserted itself from time to time, the great fruits of which, in later periods, were the philosophy of Sri Chaitanya, the philosophy that accompanied king Akbar's efforts to bring together various kinds of thoughts of his times, and Guru Nanak's revolutionary effort in the establishment of Sikhism, the aim of which was to revitalize and spiritualize the collective life of the people.
In the eighteenth century when there was an unprecedented political instability and a kind of exhaustion of the cultural effort, the tradition of philosophizing, which hitherto had permeated all modes of life and which was fundamental to the spirit of Indian culture, declined.
But when the Indian spirit re-awoke, we had, once again, a philosophical renaissance which manifested itself in the philosophies which lay behind the movements initiated by Maharshi Dayanand, Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore. There was also a refreshing assimilation of western thoughts and philosophy. We had Sri Aurobindo's The Life Divine, an original world philosophy which not only represented the synthesis of the Eastern and Western thoughts but also offered India's message to a new world.
Unfortunately, there has not been sufficient effort in the professional field at a systematic review and definition of Indian philosophy, except in a few brilliant expositions attempted by Dr. S. Radhakrishnan and some others. There are, indeed, learned professors in universities and other centres of learning where critical and philosophical thinking is going on unobtrusively. Among these professors, as also a number of other researchers, there are experts of eminence. They have contributed significantly to the continuance of philosophy not only as an important domain of curricular study but also as a living force of our culture. They have provided a dignified forum for the assimilation and fertilization of the idealist tradition of the West as well as new philosophies, such those of Marxism, empiricism and existentialism. There has been considerable research in comparative philosophy, and valuable exposition of some of the main trends of Indian and Western thoughts. A noticeable tendency in recent philosophical research is manifest in its concern for the contemporary man, his predicament and his possible future, and the most significant line of thought is preoccupied with man, both in his individual and collective entities.
In spite of this, there is increasing evidence that philosophical studies are being neglected. At the universities the number of students opting for philosophy is diminishing, research, too, is not of a high level.
Since independence there has been a persistent demand from the intellectuals of the country, voiced in different professional philosophical and non-philosophical forums to review the ancient and modern systems with a view to evaluating them and deriving from them fresh lines of purpose for the changing requirements of our times. There seems to be an unmistakable thrust towards the emergence of an independent Indian identity in philosophy.
It has been felt that there is an urgent need at various levels to strengthen philosophical research and studies in India. In the mid-seventies, a team of scholars made a careful study of the whole question relating to the revitalization of the Indian tradition of philosophizing and suggested that in addition to other efforts the Govt. of India should come forward to establish an Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR). In 1976, the basic concept of ICPR became accepted, and in March 1977, the council was registered as a society under the societies registration Act 1860. However, the council became active only in July 1981, when it started functioning under the chairmanship of Professor D.P. Chattopadyaya.
The council is an autonomous body fully financed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Govt. of India.
Aims and Objectives
The main Objects of the council briefly are to establish, administer and manage the Indian Council of Philosophical Research whose main functions are:
to review the progress of research in philosophy from time to time;
to co-ordinate research activities in philosophy and to encourage programmes of interdisciplinary research;
to promote collaboration in research between Indian philosophers and philosophical institutions and those from other countries;
to promote teaching and research in philosophy;
to sponsor or assist projects or programmes of research in philosophy;
to give financial support to institutions and organisations engaged in the conduct of research on philosophy;
to provide technical assistance or guidance for the formulation of research projects and programmes in philosophy, by individuals or institutions and / or organise and support institutional or other arrangements for training in research methodology;
to indicate periodically areas and topics on which research in philosophy should be promoted and to adopt special measures for the development of research in neglected or developing areas in philosophy;
to organise, sponsor and assist seminars, special courses, study circles, working groups / parties and conferences for promoting research in philosophy and to establish institutes for the same purpose;
to give grants for publications of digests, journals, periodicals and scholarly works devoted to research in philosophy and also to undertake their publications;
to institute and administer fellowships, scholarships and awards for research in philosophy by students, teachers and others;
to develop and support documentation services, including maintenance and supply of data, preparation of an inventory of current research in philosophy and compilation of a national register of philosophers;
to take special steps to develop a group of talented young philosophers and to encourage research by young philosophers working in universities and other institutions;
to advise the Govt. of India on all such matters pertaining to teaching and research in philosophy as may be referred to it by the Govt. of India from time to time;
to enter into collaboration on mutually agreed terms, with other institutions, organisations and agencies for the promotion of research in philosophy;
generally to take all such measures as may be found necessary from time to time to promote research in philosophy; and
to create academic, technical, ministerial and other posts in the council and to make appointments thereto in accordance with the provisions of the rules and regulations.
In pursuance of these and similar considerations, the council formulated certain initial lines of research. Some priority areas for research were also conceived, particularly the following:
Varieties of abiding experience and their relevance to philosophy;
Theories of Truth and Knowledge;
Basic values embodied in Indian culture and their relevance to National rebuilding;
Philosophy, Science and Technology;
Interdisciplinary Inquiries with philosophy as focal discipline;
Philosophy of man and environment;
Social and political philosophy and philosophy of law;
Logic, philosophy of mathematics and philosophy of language;
Comparative and critical studies in philosophical systems or movements and religions; and
Philosophy of Education.
Activities of the Council
The Indian Council of Philosophical Research has undertaken quite a few activities. It
awards various kinds of fellowships to scholars;
organizes seminars in many different areas of philosophy and related disciplines in all parts of the country;
organizes lectures by eminent Indian and foreign scholars every year in different parts of country;
awards travel grants to scholars to attend seminars, symposia and conferences abroad;
organizes an annual essay competition among young scholars (in the age group of 20-25 years) to encourage them to think critically and philosophically on the issues facing our country;
conducts an exchange programme between India and foreign countries for the exchange of views between philosophers in India and other countries;
publishes important philosophical works by scholars and fellows of the council
publishes critical editions with commentary , embodying creative interpretation of classical Indian texts by scholars;
publishes tri-annually a journal which contains valuable papers in the field of philosophy and related disciplines by scholars from India and abroad.