This paper was presented at
Psychology: The Indian Contribution
National Conference on
Indian Psychology, Yoga and Consciousness
organised by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research
at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education
Pondicherry, India, 10-13 December 2004

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Western scientific methods and Indian psychology: How far can they go together?

Peter Sedlmeier — Chemnitz University of Technology, Germany.

Although some authors seem to be skeptical about bringing together Western academic and genuine Indian psychology, the majority of scholars who have written on the topic are rather open, although they are usually not very concrete about possible connections. One of the main problems in connecting the two approaches seems to be whether methods as used in academic psychology can be successfully applied to conducting meaningful research on Indian psychology. This paper argues that Western scientific methods and Indian psychology can go all the way through, although it might not be easy to do so. First, the scientific method (Western style) is described briefly and it is argued that the most important part of the method is the derivation of meaningful hypotheses. Then a “meta-theory” of Indian psychology is outlined and a variety of possible hypotheses to test this meta-theory (and also parts of some of the underlying theories) are outlined. Finally, potential methodological problems are discussed and it is argued that – although it might be quite difficult to apply them for some of the hypotheses – either suitable methods are already available or can in principle be elaborated according to specific needs. In conclusion, the paper argues that without opening up Indian psychology more to the quite comprehensive Western methodological approach, it will be hard to gain substantial recognition among academic psychologists.

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