top of page

The twenty-first century is becoming “the Asian century”; as such it is characterized by the rise of Asia, specifically China and India. … This may possibly lead to the articulation of multicultural philosophies that absorb Indian and Chinese ideas, whilst intertwining them in new ways with other ideas.

Ithamar Theodor and Zhihua Yao:

Brahman and Dao: Comparative Studies of Indian and Chinese Philosophy and Religion (2013)


More than ever, both globalization and regionalism force us to adopt comparative attitudes. Theoretically, every thinker should be confronted with an increasingly larger range of regional philosophical expressions. “Such growth fosters the development of wisdom,” writes Lee Brown, because “seeing life through the conceptual lenses of others can increase the depth and enrich the breadth of our conceptual scheme.” Some philosophical concepts could even enrich our everyday speech. Edward Slingerland (2014) suggests that "adding the [Chinese] words wu-wei  爲 and de 德 to our verbal repertoires will help us gain insight into aspects of our mental and social worlds that we have tended to miss."  Wu-wei means "flow" and de means "virtue or charisma."

But does it really happen? Kishore Mahbubani attests in his Can Asians Think? (1998) that “the flow of ideas, reflecting 500 years of Western domination of the globe, remains a one-way street—from the West to the East.” Costica Bradatan believes that the same state of affairs applies even to any intellectual communication inside Europe: "It is as though the intellectual traffic between East and West within Europe can only be one way: as if works of art and thought, ideas and intelligence can move only eastwards." Paulin Houtondji speaks of the “contempt for non-Western thinkers, who are subtly excluded from any claim to universality – that is to say the truth.” In particular areas, the situation is even worse: according to Ziauddin Sardar, “Muslim thought is completely marginalized in the modern world”  and “as it has made no input into the philosophical and intellectual pool of contemporary knowledge, it should harbor no illusions that it will be accepted on equal terms by and allowed to participate in the global knowledge industry.”

While many Western concepts that have entered non-Western discourses are well known (Edward Said referred to some of them as “traveling concepts”), a repertory of non-Western concepts that have already made an impact or have the potential to enter the mainstream theoretical machine has never been established. That said, certain parts of comparative and intercultural philosophy show that an intrusion from South/East to North/West has already taken place and that some regional concepts are beginning to fulfill a purpose in a world-philosophical context. ODIP attempts to document those developments by offering brief and understandable definitions of non-Western philosophical terms. It thus aims to promote a shift from Comparative Philosophy to World Philosophy enabling a genuine plurality of knowing, doing, and being human.

ODIP 1) collects key-concepts from several regions and 2) presents those concepts in a succinct fashion. It is meant to be an inspiring and stimulating resource for philosophers who aim to expand their horizons and think interculturally.

Although all entries are written by specialists, they remain understandable for non-specialists. Contributors are asked to highlight the terms’ potential use in international contexts.

bottom of page