Part 9 - navya nyAya analysis Part 1
The previous posts have discussed the use of inference to show that the universe is mithyA. The definition of mithyA is provided in the text of VP as mithyAtvamca svAshrayatvena abhimata yAvanniShTA atyantAbhAva pratiyogitvam and this is translated by Swami Madhavananda as: ‘unreality consists in something being the counterpositive of the absolute non-existence that abides in whatever is supposed to be its substratum’. Applying this to the example of silver seen on nacre, Madhavanandaji explains in a footnote that the word ‘something’ in the above definition refers to ‘silver in nacre’, ‘absolute non-existence’ refers to the denial of silver in nacre (at all times- atyantAbhAva), and ‘whatever’ refers to the substratum of the perceived silver, namely nacre.
In the explanation which I gave earlier, I took a short cut to explain the mithyAtva of the silver by using the standard definition for mithyA – sat asat vilakShaNam. Since we actually (think that we) see and experience silver, it is not absolutely non-existent (not asat). But, since it is subsequently negated (at the vyAvahArika level), neither is it absolutely real (not sat). Similarly, the world is mithyA – it is seen and experienced (and hence is not asat) – but it is sublated in the knowledge of Brahman, one without a second (and hence is not sat).
Strictly speaking, however, the specific definition used above for mithyA utilizes the language of navya nyAya, and therefore should be interpreted accordingly. As was discussed earlier, the basic foundation for the analysis of inference or anumAna was provided by nyAya, and other philosophers have adopted this to some extent. The vedAnta paribhAshA discusses inference taking nyAya's contribution, while highlighting where advaita differs. I will now prove some background to navya nyAya and also some other relevant aspects. This discussion is mostly based on the analysis provided in Harvard Oriental Series 40: ‘Materials for the Study of navya-nyAya Logic’ by D.H.H. Ingalls.
Some Historical Background
Both nyAya and vaisheShika philosophies are quite old and have been listed as two of the six Astika philosophies which accept the Vedas as a pramANa. (The other four are sAMkhya and yoga, pUrva and uttara mImAMsA, treated as two pairs. navya nyAya (new nyAya) owes its origin to ga~Ngesha upAdhyAya from the 13th Century. Subsequent contributors include jayadeva pakshAdhara in the 15th Century, raghunAtha siromani in the 15th-16th century (he is believed to have revitalized the system), mathurAnAtha in the 17th Century, and many others. Many of the Indian philosophers have relied heavily on navya nyAya for the analysis of epistemological issues and for dialectical arguments. We will limit our discussion here to some basic concepts that are relevant in our understanding of Inference as a means of knowledge, and as they are used in vedAnta PupAdhyAya paribhAshA.
With anumAna, the invariable concomitance or vyApti between the middle term or hetu (smoke, in the ‘fire on the hill’ example) and the major term, sAdhya (fire) is the back bone of the syllogism we have looked at with respect to inferential knowledge. It provides a universal proposition showing the connection between the two, hetu and sAdhya. nyAya insists on the requirement of five steps in communicating this inferential knowledge to others, while according to Advaita, either the first three or last three steps are sufficient. The five steps are:
- pratij~nA or theory – the mountain possess fire.
- Reason or hetu – because there is smoke on the mountain.
- Example, udAharaNa – wherever there is smoke there is fire, as in a kitchen.
- Application (upanaya) – the mountain is smoky and smoke indicates fire.
- Conclusion (nigamana) – Therefore the mountain possesses fire.
Here, navya nyAya distinguishes between Ascripts, Assertions and Knowledge. An ‘ascript’ is any predicate associated with a subject that relates the terms. E.g. In the sentence beginning ‘Dasharatha being a father of Rama…’, the predicate ascribes a relation between the subject and the rest. In the statement ‘Dasaratha is the father of Rama’, the relation between the subject and the predicate is ascertained – this is called an ‘assertion’. ‘Knowledge’, on the other hand, reveals the truth of the world as it is, and is different from both assertions and ascripts. In the above list of five steps, pratij~nA or theory is an assertion, which has a possibility of being true. The conclusion (step five above) involves knowledge in our applying the concomitant relation between the reason or hetu and the major term or sAdhya. The locus of both smoke and the fire is the mountain, and this is called a ‘minor term’ or pakSha.
The difference between ‘assertion’ and ‘knowledge’ can be seen clearly since it is more difficult, consciously to hold a false knowledge, than to make a false assertion. To put it another way, it is more difficult to misinform oneself than to misinform others. Advaita dismisses the requirement for all five steps above for inferential knowledge because the vyApti or concomitant relation is universal; i.e. wherever there is smoke there must be fire, independent of the locus. To communicate this inferential knowledge to others, either the first three steps or the last three are enough. If the listeners are not familiar with the vyApti or concomitant relation (in this example between smoke and fire), then the knowledge conveyed will only be Apta vAkyam or verbal knowledge.
Proceed to the next essay.