Volume 45, 2008
Philosophy of Religion
Mircea Eliade’s Challenge to Contemporary Philosophy
Mircea Eliade, often described by scholars and in the popular press as the world's most influential scholar of religion, symbolism, and myth, was trained as a philosopher, received his Ph.D. in philosophy, and taught in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Bucharest in the 1930s. Although he became a historian and phenomenologist of religion within the field of religious studies, his approach, methodology, and analysis are informed by philosophical assumptions and philosophical normative judgments. In several of his writings, he goes far beyond the history and phenomenology of religion and presents a strong critique of contemporary Western philosophy as part of his larger critique of contemporary Western culture. He submits that contemporary philosophy,
as a development of the Enlightenment, claims to be universal, but is in fact ethnocentric and provincial; claims to be innovative and creative, but is in fact increasingly trivial, insignificant, and uncreative. Eliade repeatedly charges that contemporary philosophy is bankrupt and desperately in need of renewal. I shall provide his philosophical critique of dominant Western philosophy, his analysis of self-other encounters, and his alternatives for philosophical renewal through the emerging confrontations, engagements, and creative dialogues between Asian, other non-Western, and Western philosophical perspectives.