Challenges and opportunities for Indian Psychology in a rapidly globalizing post-modern world.
by Anand C. Paranjpe


Although Indian thought has been exposed to, and challenged by, intellectual traditions from the outside world for centuries, the increasing speed and scope of global interaction offers both challenges and opportunities as never before. The lingering post-colonial mentality and forces of Westernization present a challenge by persistingly treating Indian contributions to psychology as outdated and useless, if not negligible or totally non-existent. There is need to systematically fight this mentality within the country, in universities and colleges, and in our provincial and national associations. On the other hand, outside India, beach heads have already been created by innumerable Yoga centers around the world, where some of the most important contributions of the Indian psychological tradition are known and appreciated. In the academic world around the globe, however, there is a growing hegemony of Western, particularly American, psychology. In this context, post modernist trends of thought, which militate agains the reductionist and scientistc aspects of Western psychology, can be seen as our allies in mitigating certain uncongenial aspects of the Western hegemony at home and abroad. The scope for Indian thought for making inroads into world psychology in the fields of theoretical, cultural, and cross-cultural psychology, and in international associations in these fields is indicated and assessed.

Psychology of Indian tradition has been sidelined & ignored for the past century in academic psychology (although Yoga centres have proliferated)

Conditions have changed, providing opportunities & raising hope

Foundations of worldviews of every era, modern or postmodern, are deeply embedded in history

Empiricism – Limits to empiricism
Verificationism – Falsificationism
Physicalism – Spiritualism
Atomism – Holism
Reductionism – Constructionism
Natural science – Human science
Perpetual progress – Limits to progress
Modernity – Postmodernism


Unitarianism – Pluralism

Empiricism – Limits to empiricism

Empiricism: Fundamental epistemic pillar of science

Many critiques of Hume's devastating position: manily I. Kant

A recent critique of empiricism: Quine's Two dogmas of empiricism (commonly neglected by psychologists: except by few, like Hank Stam)

In my view, Quine's position is concordant with dominant Indian perspectives:

Verificationism – Falsificationism

Verification: recommended as a sure-shot way for ascertaining/judging the truth of a statement via observation
(note: stress in psychology on replication of experiments)

Physicalism – Spiritualism

The Cartesian mind-body dualism:

Long march toward physicalist world view; against mind and spirit

I do not see any break in this march of physicalist worldview; we face a stiff challenge:

Atomism - Holism

The varieties of atomism:

Physical atomism:

Logical atomism:

Psychological atomism:

Atomistic thinking is countered strongly in recent days by "holistic" movements in

Indian psychological thinking is essentially holistic: focused on the person (jãva) as a whole, and his/her well being as a whole: no psychological atomism!

Reductionism - Constructionism

Reductionism may be (roughly) viewed as an idea that:


The opposite (or better, complement) of reductionism may be called "constructionism"

Natural science – Human science

Roots of this distinction are traced to the late medieval distinction between knowing God through his "Words" (Bible) vs. his "Works" (Nature)


Modernity – Postmodernism

Like the "Golden Age" of Greece, and Europe's "Enlightenment," Modernity and Postmodernism are considered as distinct epochs of history

They are undefined, or at best loosely defined; unsure about when they started, and when (and whether) the "age" ended

Modernity/postmodernism have been given specific meanings for trends in art and theology, but features of civilization they designate are much less clear

Some (alleged) features of modernity:

Some (alleged) features of postmodernity and the possible ways they might help promote Indian thought

Perpetual progress – Limits to progress

Progress, a crucial theme of modern times (Bury, 1932/1955)


A fashionable term, but surely the world is shrinking due to increasingly faster communication

Immigration is the norm: most societies are becoming multi-ethnic; some 20m Indians in worldwide diaspora!

Although some countries are attempting to be "melting pots" producing uniform, mish-mash cultures (mostly consumerist), others, like Canada are adopting a multi-culturalist policy (whether out of good will or to woo minority votes)

An implicit issue is pressures toward cultural pluralism.

Unitarianism – pluralism

Concluding comments: