I remember being fascinated by limits – 5in10 with Joydeep Bagchee
Joydeep Bagchee (Zukunftsphilologie Fellow 2014/2015) received his PhD in Philosophy from the New School for Social Research in New York. Following research work at Humboldt–Universität zu Berlin and at Albert–Ludwigs–Universität, Freiburg i. Breisgau, he continued work as a post-doctoral fellow under the direction of Prof. Dr. Arbogast Schmitt at Philipps–Universität Marburg and Freie Universität Berlin. His current research focuses on the intersection of the textual sciences, philology, textual criticism, and the history of science, with the aim of illumining how contemporary ideas of scholarship and especially of historical rigor developed.
I remember being fascinated by limits. What is the extent of our knowledge? Where does space end? What happens at the edge of the universe? Ultimately I came to identify thinking about limits with philosophy, which explains my early interest in Wittgenstein and Heidegger, both philosophers who tried to circumscribe the limits of reality in language or in thought.
How would you explain your current research to a stranger in an elevator?
My current research focuses on the philosophical origins of modernity. I am specifically interested in the rise of subjectivity, and how the subject becomes the ultimate referent in modernity with consequences for epistemology, ontology, theology and philosophy. We, that is, Vishwa and I, just published a book tracing the relationship of the modern subject to epistemology, the humanities and science. The Nay Science: A History of German Indology looks at the discipline of Indology to show how the ground for an unthinking method and an anthropological concept of science was laid in Protestant theology.
Which stations of your academic journey were extremely formative to you?
My years at the New School for Social Research in New York and at Humboldt Universität, Berlin and Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg i. Breisgau clearly shaped my approach to philosophy. I have a strong grounding in Continental philosophy, especially phenomenology, Heidegger, and philosophy of language that shapes my thinking. I was also interested in Hannah Arendt’s and Reiner Schürmann’s political thinking. I was very fortunate to meet Reiner Schürmann’s student and successor, Vishwa Adluri. He was decisive for my philosophical growth. He taught me how to think, how to read the ancients, how to query philosophers, how to see ancient philosophy not as something over and done with, a matter of doxographical interest only, but as something that is still ahead of us, addresses the present and holds clues to our future.
How is it to do research in Germany?
Germany is a wonderful place to do research. I first came to Germany to work with Günther Figal in Freiburg, who supported my candidacy for a DAAD research grant. I then also worked with C. F. Gethmann in Essen; he became one of the readers and committee members for my dissertation. Through Vishwa, I met Prof. Arbogast Schmitt in Marburg (now Honorary Professor at the Freie Universität Berlin). He taught me a lot about the history of philosophy and about Plato and Aristotle and their reception in early modernity. Germany also has the necessary infrastructure: libraries, archives, institutes and funding opportunities. Almost the only negative experience has been the encounter with Indologists like Michael Hahn and Jürgen Hanneder in Marburg. I found they were not well read, not cosmopolitan, held on to clichés about Indians (such as that we fly about on carpets!), and were arrogant and dismissive in their dealings with foreign students. Except for this one experience, I can honestly say that I never encountered problems in Germany.
If you had one wish, what would you wish for the further development of your subject?
I have enjoyed the year in the program Zukunftsphilologie. It gave me the opportunity to complete work on a second book, co-authored with Vishwa again. In this book, we look at the Critical Edition of the Indian epic, the Mahābhārata, and how the Indologists’ prejudices about a heroic Aryan Urepos, free of the corrupting influence of Brahmanic/Semitic priests, affected their lower critical work as well. I also authored the article on “German Indology” for Oxford Bibliographies Online: Hinduism. The coming months, I hope to finally complete my translation of Heidegger’s Habilitationsschrift, Die Kategorien- und Bedeutungslehre des Duns Scotus and to get back to more teaching. It’s something I enjoy very much.