A Commentary on Ambedkar's Posthumously Published "Philosophy of Hinduism"- Part III

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Rajesh Sampath


This article forms part III of a running commentary on Ambedkar’s posthumously published “Philosophy of History” (Ambedkar, 2014a). We attempt to follow Ambedkar’s reflections on the early origins of religion and his initial distinctions of the religions of “savage society” and “civilized society” (Ambedkar, 2014a, p. 9). Using the tools of philosophical critique, we see his attempt to dissect the real “principal” (Ambedkar, 2014a, p. 10) of religion beyond the apparitional nature of rites, rituals, and taboos. This leads to a series of deductions of what constitutes the very “core,” “source,” and “substance” of religion rooted in the “preservation of life” (Ambedkar, 2014a, p. 10). However, this is also a moment that will foreshadow Ambedkar’s ultimate judgement of Hinduism’s status as a religion when founded on the unequal social structure of caste. We argue the following in this article: what Ambedkar says about the architectonic of “savage society” and the failure to undergo a profound revolution in the nature and concept of religion bears an eerie resemblance to what ultimately takes the place of “savage society” (Ambedkar, 2014a, p. 9) over time, namely the Hindu caste system. This makes modern Hinduism a strange hybrid of pre-history and a future history whose conclusion is uncertain. Whether caste can disappear from society is the burning question. And this is intertwined with profound metaphysical questions of time, life, birth, and death, which only philosophy can deconstruct if a religion, like Hinduism, were submitted for critical judgement. The article concludes with an attempt to set the stage for the next phase of the commentary: there Ambedkar will transition from a general discussion about the philosophy and history of religion as a concept to an actual engagement with the philosophical contents of the religion known and practiced by hundreds of millions of adherents as Hinduism. As we already know, his conclusion is dire: a religion can only be true if it is rooted in ‘justice’ and serves the ‘utility’ of individual freedom (Ambedkar, 2014a, p. 22).

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Sampath, R. (2021). A Commentary on Ambedkar’s Posthumously Published "Philosophy of Hinduism"- Part III. CASTE / A Global Journal on Social Exclusion, 2(2), 219-234. https://doi.org/10.26812/caste.v2i2.337
Research Articles
Author Biography

Rajesh Sampath


General topics in applied moral and political philosophy; philosophy of development; comparative religions; theories of justice; development ethics; philosophy of law, comparative constitutional law, critical race theory, gender and sexuality studies, theories of human rights and theories of democracy


Raj completed his PhD at the University of California, Irvine in the humanities with a concentration in modern continental European philosophy and critical theory at the Critical Theory Institute. He studied under the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, the founder of deconstruction. His areas of specialization centered on the philosophy of history, historical time and epochal shifts. Subsequently, he did a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Berkeley and a D.A.A.D. research scientist fellowship in Germany where he published articles in continental European philosophy. From 2006-2009, he was an adjunct lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and continued to serve on the Provost Council for College Eight at the University until June 2012.

His current research interests and disciplinary expertise include: twentieth century Anglo-American and European moral and political philosophy, philosophical theories of modernization and social-historical change, comparative constitutional law and legal philosophy, epistemology and the sociology of knowledge in comparative religious studies, and comparisons of Western philosophy and traditional African, Indian, and Chinese philosophy. Teaching interests include Critical Race Theory/Intersectionality, Global Queer and Gender studies, Anglo-American, European and Global South traditions of philosophical ethics, human rights, and theories of justice when applied to sustainable development issues.