What if doing philosophy across cultures is always implicitly a matter of metaphilosophy – of articulating more clearly the nature of philosophy itself? What if it forces us to ‘stand back’ hermeneutically and map out a ‘view from above’ of the underlying fabric of ideas – in their constitutive concepts, their relations to other ways of thinking, and their potential to be configured in alternative fascinating and fruitful ways?
This article incorporates existing approaches to comparative philosophy within a single scheme of complementary philosophical activities, and a single overarching metaphilosophical project. These approaches are (1) ‘archival’ (exploring parallel but separate philosophical traditions), (2) ‘equivalentist’ (comparing traditions in terms of analogies and contrasts), and (3) ‘problem-solving’ (using multiple traditions to provide philosophical solutions). I situate these within (4) the overarching hermeneutic project of ‘mapping’ concepts and their possibilities. This entails the theory that philosophies drawing on multiple perspectives are always implicitly engaged in mapping out the underlying eidetic structure upon which philosophy does its work, and charting the conceptual possibilities surrounding any idea.