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This essay provides a meta-narrative for the philosophical dialogues that took place in colonial India between Scottish missionary philosophers and philosophers of Veda ̄nta on the topic of karma and rebirth. In particular, it offers a reconstruction and analysis of the context and strategy that shaped the content of discussions that were initiated in the pages of the Madras Christian College Magazine in 1909 between Subrahmanya Sastri and AG Hogg and that inspired Radhakrishnan’s response in his dissertation entitled “The Ethics of Vedanta and its Metaphysical Suppositions”. The broad context is provided by a history of missionary presence in India. The context is further circumscribed by the ‘hybrid’ character of the position of the missionaries as teachers in departments of philosophy, teaching students of “upper-caste Hindus” in the English medium universities set up by the British in the late nineteenth century. The hermeneutics of form and context is essential to understanding the content of these debates about the ethics and metaphysics of Christianity and Hinduism, where the meaning and significance of the notion of rebirth took center stage. Importantly, these debates in turn shed light on the broader social and political context in which these debates took place.


Karma, Rebirth, Radhakrishnan, Hogg, Christianity, Hinduism, Veda ̄nta ethics and metaphysics, Scottish missionaries, philosophical and religious debate, colonial India





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