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INTERVIEW WITH TIMOTHY LOMPERIS - Professor of Political Science at Saint Louis University

Author of Hindu Influence on Greek Philosophy: The Odyssey of the Soul from the Upanishads to Plato

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Professor of Political Science at Saint Louis University

St. Louis, MO, USA

March 3, 2011


The Odyssey of the Soul from the Upanishads to Plato


Q: Why write this eBook?

Timothy: We all, Indians and Westerners alike, grew up with unquestioned assumption that “East is East, and West is West, and N’er the twain shall meet!” Having grown up in India as the son of American missionaries, I had a hard time believing this. I grew up with Indian friends who thought and reasoned/argued just like I did. Rather than starting with the presumption of this difference, I questioned it. When I went to graduate school in political science, I was drawn to political philosophy, and was struck, if not offended, by the fact that there was no Indian political thought in what we studied. My purpose in writing this eBook was to acquaint Western readers with Indian political thought, and indeed to let Indian readers in on the “secret” of the wide reach to their own philosophy.

Q: Why particularly Greek Philosophy and Hindu Influence?

Timothy: The inspiration for this eBook came in a political thought course where we were studying Plato’s Republic. When we got to Plato’s Myth of the Cave at the end of the dialogue, I was hit by a Damascus Road bolt of lightning: Plato was a Hindu. The kernel of the book came into full flower:  how better to blast apart the Oriental/Occidental distinction than by showing the common origins of Plato’s Republic with the deep philosophical speculations of the Upanishads of classical India.

Q: Has your field of expertise in Asia helped you write this eBook?

Timothy: Actually, I can really trace my so-called expertise in Asia to the research and thinking that I undertook to write this eBook. This project convinced me of the deep roots to the political systems of individual countries. This was a critical insight to my subsequent writings on the Vietnam War and its lessons. In addition to Vietnam, in each of the eight countries I surfaced as essential analogies to understanding Vietnam (and six of them were Asian), I spent a lot of time investigating the classical intellectual roots to their political systems. This deep-rooted focus on the cultural origins of political legitimacy in each country is something I am known for, and this is an insight that came from this earlier book on Plato and the Upanishads.

Q: Have you thought of broadening the scope for a new eBook to include other influences or perhaps how Greek Philosophy has influenced other philosophies and cultures?

Timothy: I have just published a general chapter on “Asian Political Thought” in an edited two volume set on 21st Century Political Science published by Sage. I would like to expand this into a general work on the political thought of Asia focusing on India, China, and Japan, and tracing this thought in the classical, pre-Western period, to the intellectual responses to colonialism in these three countries, and conclude with their contributions to political thought more generally in their current contemporary period of “Free Asia.”




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