This book surveys the field of philosophical discourse in modern Maharashtra, by revisiting three iconic figuresPhule, Vinoba Bhave and Savarkarthrough their writing, and the responses it has evoked, in Marathi. In the process, G.P. Deshpande interrogates contemporary trends in historiography: are discourses in the vernacular merely source material that the historian may use, to confirm a monolithic notion of Indian modernity? Or can these discourses serve to delineate culturespecific forms of modernity, even as they remain part of an enlightenment project? This book argues, lucidly and passionately, for reinstating debates and ideas in vernacular languages at the heart of the historiography of modern India. Deshpande critiques the Orientalist view that the East lacks a philosophical tradition, and that classical Indian thought is best categorized as religious rather than philosophical.
Nevertheless, he holds that Marathi philosophical writing is somewhat unsure of itself, of its definition of philosophy and the tasks that lie before it. If the task of philosophy is to form, invent and fabricate concepts, and if the world of ideas in modern Marathi does not lack a critical theory, what ails our historiography of ideas? Deshpande highlights a series of biases and fault lines: the emphasis on a philosophical tradition in classical languages, at the expense of discourse in native languages, has left us with little national awareness of intellectual projects in the vernacular, whether medieval or contemporary. India is treated as one history area, leaving little scope for the search for histories of culturespecific versions of modernity.