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Therefore, the interrogation of a variety of Hegelianisms through the prisms of Advaita Vedanta was also a crucial moment in the constructions of Hindu thought as spiritual, intuitive, or experiential. Wilhelm Halbfass pointed out that various European figures, starting from the early nineteenth century down to Edmund Husserl in the last, associated ‘philosophy’ with ‘pure theory’, ‘rejection of mythos’ and ‘autonomous thinking’ which were believed to be distinctively Greek and lacking in the Indian and Oriental traditions (Halbfass 1990: 145–159). Opposing this exclusion of ‘philosophy’ from India, pivotal figures such as Swami Vivekananda and S. Radhakrishnan presented Indian ‘philosophy’ in oppositional terms to European ‘philosophy’, such that while the latter was merely rational, analytic and restricted to the empirical plane, the former was essentially spiritual, based on ‘intuitive experience’, and provided an overarching framework which synthesized the European manifold of ‘economics’, ‘sociopolitical existence’, and ‘religion’ (Halbfass 1990: 287–309).

These ‘synthetic’ visions of modernized Advaita are deeply resonant with the metaphysical systems of the British idealists who, R. Sinnerbrink argues, ‘shared a critical attitude towards reductive empiricism, a commitment to metaphysical holism and a valorization of moral freedom’ (Sinnerbrink 2007: 33). British Idealism, which emerged in late Victorian England against the backdrop of various sociocultural upheavals that had followed rapid industrialization and expansion of global trade, was both a philosophical movement which opposed the strains of empiricism, naturalism, and utilitarianism in British thought, and a social reformist force which emphasized social justice and social responsibility in conditions of exploitation, poor working conditions, and widespread disease. Boucher and Vincent argue that ‘British Idealism was a social philosophy that exuded optimism at a time of extreme social dislocation and pessimism. In summary, it acted as a profound interrogation, critique and metaphysical counterbalance to the individualism of the variants of an instinctive British utilitarianism and naturalistic evolutionism’ (Boucher and Vincent 2012: 4).

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