A general question from today asked for ground breaking results in philosophy.

The answers were not unexpected for everyone, who has been trained at a department of philosophy in Europe, North-America or countries with a similar philosophical tradition.

But I was amazed that there was not a single nomination of a philosophical result due to philosophers coming from India, China, Japan, Korea or the islamic cultures in middle Asia. (I do not consider Rumi a philosopher.)

Which one do you consider ground breaking results due to philosophers from these countries and cultures?

Added: A short argument "why" would be welcome ...

  • My memory is chiming in with something about Leibniz and China, but I don't quite recall what the connection is. Oct 27, 2023 at 21:50
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    why is this question any less opinion based that the other??
    – user67675
    Oct 27, 2023 at 22:07
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    avicenna is the big name in islamic philosophy en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islamic_philosophy whether or not you consider buddhism a philosophy (which i know a bit about) it had a lively tradition of debate both internally and with hinduism.
    – user67675
    Oct 27, 2023 at 23:25
  • The historian Ibn Khaldūn is often said to be the (fore)father of sociology because of his treatment of historical socio-economic evolutions, beyond mere "kings history" and hagiography.
    – Olivier5
    Oct 28, 2023 at 11:21

1 Answer 1


You might like to see: Weren't there any philosophers from Africa, America or the Middle East before Socrates? on why Socrates broke with previous wisdom traditions in defining philosophy, and why as such other traditions are inevitably going to fit imperfectly into this Western category defined within a specific discourse.

Buddhist thought involves some very sophisticated ideas. Like Indra's Net, which we can relate to modern ideas like a peer-to-peer picture of reality. It's seriously thought acceptance of zero in mathematics was underpinned by Buddhist ideas. India developed it's own school of logic, called Nyaya. And Nagarjuna developed the catuskoti or tetralemma, which allows a more flexible approach to understanding things like fictions, sratements about events which may or may not happen in the future, and even an avenue of approach to how humans avoid the halting problem but binary logic does not. Paper was developed by Buddhists, who made the worlds oldest printed book, a copy of the Diamond Sutra.

The Arthashastra was only recently rediscovered, but is a profound work of political philosophy and advice to rulers on statecraft.

China formed a far more cohesive and continuous political structure than any other region, and this has to be attributed to Confucianism. The Han dynasty which upheld it, was able to develop continuity that the Qin failed at. Discussed here: Why is Confucianism considered a brilliant philosophical school of thought?

Looking at philosophy as defined by 'ground breaking results' is a mistake. Philosophy is about gaining your own personal toolbox for your own problems, rather than having a set of truths to be carved in stone and beaten into the head of every student. See (Why) is this negative outlook on the concept of philosophy misguided?

I'd make the case that far more important than any specific Ancient Greek 'breakthrough', was Socratic Dialogue being fused with Pythagorean math-mysticism by Plato in creating his Academy and so academia, and then Aristotle's Lyceum having the ambition of universal education which led to the idea of universities. Having Alexander The Great as your student with a stake in bigging these thinkers up really helped. The mechanics of who paid for books, libraries, text memorisation and chanting, and the time of monks and professional teachers, has had an enormous impact in what we know about the past in different places, abd what texts reach us now. It's reckoned we don't have any of Aristotle's own writings, only the lecture-notes of his students. Imagine what is lost that was in the Great Library of Nalanda.

  • +1 - Are scholars sure about what Nagarjuna actually meant and which opposing views he addressed? Which groundbreaking philosophical result do you ascribe to the historical Buddha? I agree with you concerning the Arthaśāstram and also concerning Nyāya.
    – Jo Wehler
    Oct 28, 2023 at 9:30

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