February 28th – Dr Surja Dutta – Nāstika: Atheism in Indian Philosophy

Indian philosophy is full of interesting ideas on materialism and atheism. This might come as a surprise to many in the West, where, in the popular imagination, India is a land full of mystical gurus and religious fervour; a spiritual hotbed- a place where you ‘find yourself’, whatever that may mean. So, the news that the idea of ‘falsificationism’ was anticipated by Indian materialists (known as Charvakas) 1700 years before Karl Popper may be surprising.

In fact, Indian materialists denounced the authority of the Vedas, ridiculed the idea of reincarnation, and rejected mind-body dualism;  there is very little in Indian materialism that is not backed up by modern science.

The talk will focus on the main tenets of Indian materialism originating from the atheist branch of Indian philosophy, alternately called Charvaka, Lokāyata, and Bṛhaspatya. It will also suggest reasons for their obscurity in India and elsewhere.

Dr Surja Datta is a senior lecturer at Oxford Brookes University. His latest book “A History of the Indian University System: Emerging from the Shadows of the Past” is published by Palgrave Macmillan. His current book project is provisionally titled “The Creative Society: Calcutta 1815- 1955”. Surja became interested in Indian materialism while researching for his current book.

We ask for a £3 donation (at the door) that doubles as a raffle ticket to win a book prize to cover speaker expenses and the cost of the venue.