As in India what we call 'Darshan' (दर्शन) in Sanskrit, it literally translate as "Visualization" or "Realisation".

The western term, "philosophy" literally means "Quest for knowledge".

Conventionally, "Darshan" is translated in English as "Philosophy".

However; apparently there are some crude distinction between the Eastern "Darshan" and western "philosophy", as literary Pramatha Chowdhury (Pen name Birbal) once wrote "তোমাদের দার্শনিক খোঁজে যুক্তি; আমাদের দার্শনিক খোঁজে মুক্তি" (Your philosopher seeks logic ((literally translate to connection or addition)) and our philosophers seek Mukti ((Moksha/Nirvana/Samadhi/Escape)).

Indeed there are differences, like Western philosophy is much about a description and documentation of the reality and knowledge; whereas Eastern "Darshan" is more applied. Like how you do "Sadhana" (preparation of ones' self to reveal the obscure), often through a guided path of a Guru (Yogi/Ascetic), and inculcating the revealation into life.

Now my question is; is it just a mistranslation/Linguistic confusion? or the both subjects are basically same? or they are just different subsets of the same subject?

Personally I believe that Western philosophy too, including Epistemology and intuitive mathematics, require lot of "Sadhana", and different people evade a different level of realisation in Western philosophy too.

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    "Philosophy" literally translates as "love of wisdom", not "quest for knowledge", and it is neither (literally) as practiced today, although both serve as motivations. Etymology of names is generally not a reliable guide to the meaning. There are similar distinctions between theoretical and practical philosophy in the West as in the East. Shankara or Vaisheshika authors spend a lot of space on description and documentation of reality, while Plotinus on a path to enlightenment. It is fair to say that there is more emphasis on the latter in the Indian tradition, but both are heterogenous.
    – Conifold
    Commented Mar 4 at 20:48
  • A more interesting question is [What is the difference between the philosophy practiced in India and the philosophy practiced outside?]. Commented Mar 6 at 19:32
  • I always thought that 'darshan' meant to see a saint or one's guru? I thought that 'dharma' meant a teaching, or idea, although I found out recently it could basically refer to any mental or physical thing, which is pretty broad.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Apr 4 at 14:32

2 Answers 2


Philosophy is better translated "love of wisdom". Most ancient cultures had a wisdom tradition, including the Greeks. Wisdom included history and mythology, how to get along with the gods, how to get along with rulers, how to get along with your neighbors, and how to live a peaceful and happy life. In Greece, it morphed into a competitive debate sport that was often an event along with physical games (that's what Socrates was criticizing when he said we should search for truth rather than try to win arguments). Euclid invented the axiomatic method in this environment, and I suspect part of the reason was that he wanted to avoid arguments and just pursue mathematics.

Inspired by mathematics and Socrates, Greek thought changed rather dramatically from a wisdom tradition to a tradition of seeking truth through rational investigation. Western philosophy inherited this tradition, and the large bulk of modern philosophy fits mostly into it, although one still sees work that harks back to wisdom literature (I'm thinking of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and The Myth of Sisyphus).

I'm not familiar with Indian Darshan, but from your comments, it seems more like wisdom literature than like Western philosophy.

  • Thank you. Indian tradition of Darshan can be classified into different paths like Samkhya, Yoga, etc.
    – user72899
    Commented Mar 4 at 20:50
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    I think it would be great to address the specificities of Indian Darshan. "Wisdom literature" sounds a bit reductive.
    – Johan
    Commented Mar 4 at 21:33
  • "wisdom literature" is the norm not exception @Johan. It is only in Christianity post the Nicene council that religion is opposed to philosophy (gnosis). For a Hindu or Buddhist or Taoist to make this dichotomy would seem absurd
    – Rushi
    Commented Apr 4 at 12:29
  • It would be great to be able to avoid arguments while still learning and accomplishing things.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Apr 4 at 14:30
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    @ScottRowe Outside of mathematics and similar axiomatic fields, there is no way to avoid argument. The best you can do is to make the arguments educational. Commented Apr 4 at 20:22

The question whether “Philosophy” and “Darshana” are the same or are different cannot be answered in a few lines. Because the two concepts cover a wide range of meanings. As a consequence there is no general agreement about a precise definition of these terms, much less a basis for a precise answer.

  • This fact is already obvious when asking for the definition of the term "philosophy" in European philosophy. The spectrum of answers spans from Existential Philosophy to Analytic Philosophy, from Metaphysics to the Frankfurt Schol of Critical Theory.

  • Concerning Indian philosophy there are at least two corresponding candidates, darshana (दर्शन) and anviksiki (आन्वीक्षिकी).

    The former term “darshana” translates as “seeing, contemplating, doctrine”, and names the six Indian schools which consider themselves to be orthodox. The doctrine of these schools spans a spectrum from Nyaya with its strong emphasis on epistemology and logic to Vedanta, which focuses around the concepts of brahman and atman and favours the method of meditation.

    The latter term “anviksiki” translates as logic, logical philosophy, metaphysics. It covers approaches which propagate the critical method of questioning.

  • From the etymological point of view neither “darshana” nor “anviksiki” can be equated with the word "philosophy" (love of wisdom).

  • Thank you for your effort and insight to this matter.
    – user72899
    Commented Mar 5 at 16:01
  • 1
    You are welcome.
    – Jo Wehler
    Commented Mar 5 at 16:23

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