Shyam Ranganathan
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I am an author.  

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I am a philosopher who specializes in Ethics, Political Philosophy, the Philosophy of Thought (especially translation theory), Philosophy of Language and Philosophy of Religion, who has a research specialization in a Non-Western tradition of philosophy–namely South Asian philosophy, especially Indian moral philosophy. Why so many areas?  I was an MA philosophy student who got interested in the once wide spread view that nonwestern philosophers, especially from the Asian , and more specifically, Indian tradition, wrote on every topic except for ethics. Call this the ‘myth.’  This myth seemed like a likely story to me: exactly what an imperial power would say if one wanted to present colonialism as a gift to colonized people, like Indians. But what struck me then about this myth is that the people who believed it were often very sympathetic to the very nonwestern traditions they held such prejudicial views about. So this set me off first onto an MA in South Asian Studies (where I took a deep dive into the interdisciplinary world of areas studies, and moreover wrote about this myth in my MA Thesis). I then returned to philosophy and completed a PhD in very basic areas of Analytic philosophy (Philosophy of Language, Normative Ethics, and Metaethics). Here, I pursued the same question but more generally. My dissertation was on the topic of translating value discourse, which traversed issues in Ethics and the Philosophy of Thought and Language. It drew from authors in the Analytic and Continental traditions, not to mention Translation Studies and Linguistic Anthropology. As I was writing this dissertation I translated a classical text of Indian moral philosophy from the Sanskrit (Patañjali's Yoga Sūtra) , and not only did this contribute to my research into accounting for successful translation, it also opened me to a new way to think about thought (as an exercise in disciplinarity), a new set of possibilities for moral theory, which were not discussed in the literature. Post dissertation as I started to teach philosophy courses in ethics, political philosophy, Asian philosophy and the philosophy of religion, I went into a third phrase of my research where I started to notice that the same problems my students had with understanding basic concepts in logic and critical thinking (validity) animated the literature inside and outside of philosophy in area studies such as Indology where it was often assumed that a credible explanation relies upon what one believes or takes to be true (interpretation). My recent work involves piecing these various elements together in a historical account of the origins of imperialism, colonialism, communitarianism, anthropocentrism and religious identity (a philosophical analogue to racial identity) as a function of the role out of the account of thought characteristic of the tradition that connects ancient Greek thought with contemporary theorizing in the Analytic and Continental traditions–-a political force I call the West.  The West isn’t a set of values: its the idea that thought is the meaning of what we say in language, with a European origin. I recommend an alternative account of thought born from my research into translation and Yoga.  For more on this, please see my description of Research.   

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I am a teacher of philosophy at York University, who teaches broad introductions to philosophy, critical reasoning, ethics, political philosophy, Asian philosophy, the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of language —at all levels.  Teaching is also an integral part of my research as it focuses on rendering accessible philosophy that might seem alien to audiences.  To render accessible what is alien, and to make explicit what seems implicit, is identical to sound pedagogy in philosophy.

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I am a translation theorist and translator. These two aspects of my work grew organically. While I wrote a dissertation on translation, I decided to translate a philosophical text from Sanskrit because I could not stand the translations on the market. Getting myself involved with the fine details of translation had a marked influence on my philosophical views and translation theory.  


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