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Medicine in India

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The epistemology of the indigenous medical knowledge systems of India Darshan Shankar
Thus far the comparison between Western knowledge systems and indigenous knowledge systems has not explored the epistemological foundations of the latter. The universal attributes of Asian medical knowledge systems have not been acknowledged, due to the limitations of language and ethnic background. In this contribution, a start is made by focusing on the epistemology of the Indian health system in comparison with Western medicine. The present article concludes with a plea for a creative cross-cultural dialogue. To gain an understanding of indigenous non-Western health systems, such as Ayurveda and Chinese medicine, which are ‘holistic’ knowledge systems, it is necessary to be familiar with non-Western epistemological traditions. These differ fundamentally from the Western scientific tradition. These differences might be better understood if a health debate were held on the alternatives to the Western scientific world-view, with the partcipication of the Asian intellectual community. There are several reasons why such a debate has not yet been held. One of the major problems that Eastern societies have to contend with in any serious evaluation of their own indigenous knowledge systems, and the suitability or otherwise of modern Western science and technology, is the common claim of all Western scientists and philosophers that science is, after all, one, universal and uniquely expressed in Western scientific paradigms. Thus, while it may be possible to conceive of alternative methodologies, theories and practices in domains such as music, linguistics, logic, art and politics, there is no such possibility with regard to an alternative science. When this epistemological position is taken as a point of departure, it is impossible to initiate a debate on ‘alternatives in science’, because the very idea is dismissed as an absurdity. Given the continuing domination of the West,...

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