[Advaita-l] Knowledge and the Means of Knowledge - 29
kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Sun Nov 9 02:41:30 CST 2008
We are discussing Vedanta ParibhASha of Dharmaraja Adhvarindra, based on my understanding.
Knowledge and the Means of Knowledge – 29
Note: In the previous two posts, there was discussion pertaining to the use of inference to prove that the universe is mithyaa. The definition of mithyaa is provided in the text (p.79) as – mithyaatvamca svaashrayatvena abhimata yaavanniShTaa atyantaabhaava pratiyogitvam| - which was translated by Madhavanandaji as ‘unreality consists in something being the counterpositive of the absolute non-existence that abides in whatever is supposed to be its substratum’. Applying to the example of silver seen on nacre, Madhavanandaji explains in foot notes that words ‘something’ in the above definition refers to ‘silver in nacre’, ‘absolute non-existence’ refers to the denial of silver in nacre (at all times- atyantaabhaava), and ‘whatever’ refers to the substratum of the silver seen, namely nacre. In my explanation, I took a short cut to explain the mithyaatva of the silver using the standard definition for mithyaa as sat asat vilakshaNam
– since silver is seen and therefore experienced – hence it is not absolute non-existence (not asat) and it is subsequently negated (at vyavahaara level), hence it is not absolutely real (not sat). Similarly the world is mithyaa – it is seen and experienced, hence not asat; and it is sublated in the knowledge of Brahman, one without a second, hence not sat.
Shreemaan S.N.Sastriji corrected me by pointing out that the specific definition used above for mithyaa is in the language of Navya Nyaaya, and therefore should be interpreted accordingly. There was some discussion in the advaitin list related to counterpositive and the abstract quality counterpositive-ness as defined in Navya Nyaaya. A reference to the above definition for mithyaa is also provided in Adviata Siddhi by Shree Madhusuudana. Shree Sastriji’s comments forced me to go back to study the Navya Nyaaya in relation to the above definitions. As we discussed before that basic foundation for the analysis of inference or anumaana was provided by Nyaaya, which other philosophers have adopted to some extent. Vedanta ParibhASha discusses inference taking Nyaaya's contribution, while highlighting where advaita differs. Here I am providing some background of Navya Nyaaya and also some other aspects related to knowledge, based on my understanding. I
welcome corrections from knowledgeable people who have studied Navya Nyaaya. The discussion below is mostly based on the analysis provided in Harvard Oriental Series 40: ‘Materials for the Study of Navya-Nyaaya Logic’ by D.H.H. Ingalls.
Some Historical Background: Nyaaya and Vaisheshika philosophies are quite old and have been listed as two of the six aastika philosophies that takes Vedas as pramaaNa. The other four being saankhya and yoga, puurva and uttara miimaamsaas, as pairs. Navya Nyaaya (new Nyaaya) owes its origin to Gangesha Upaadhyaaya of 13th Century. Subsequent contributors include Jayadeva Pakshaadhara of 15th Century, Raghunaatha Siromani of 15th-16th century (who believed to have revitalized the system), Mathuraanaatha of 17th Century, besides many others. Many of the Indian philosophers have relied heavily on Navya Nyaaya for the analysis of epistemological issues and for dialectic arguments. We will limit our discussion here to some basic concepts that are relevant in our understanding of Inference as the means of knowledge as discussed in Vedanta ParibhASha. Shree Anand Hudli has presented some aspects of this in his Advaita Siddhi series.
For Inference, the invariable concomitance or vyaapti between middle term or hetu (smoke) and the major term, saadhya (fire) is the back bone of inferential knowledge or syllogism. It provides a universal proposition showing the connection between the two, hetu and saadhya. Nyaaya insists on the requirement of five steps in communicating the inferential knowledge to others, while according to Advaita, first three or last three are enough to establish inferential knowledge.
(a) pratijnaa or theory – the mountain possess fire.
(b) Reason, hetu – because there is smoke on the mountain
(c) Example, udaaharaNa – wherever there is smoke there is fire, as in a kitchen
(d) Application (upanaya) – Mountain is smoky and smoke is always with fire
(e) Conclusion (nigamana) – Therefore the mountain possesses fire.
Here Navya Nyaaya distinguishes between Ascripts, Assertions and Knowledge. An ascript is any predicate associated with subject that relates the terms. Ex. Dasharatha being a father of Rama, …, where predicate ascribes a relation between the subject and the rest. In contrast, an assertions is, ‘Dasaratha is the father of Rama’, where the relation between the subject and the predicate is ascertained. Knowledge, on the other hand, reveals the truth of the world as it is, and is different from assertions and ascripts. In the above list, pratijnaa or theory is an assertion with a possibility of being true. While the conclusion, listed as five in the above, involves knowledge using application of the concomitant relation between the reason or hetu and major term or saadhya. The locus of both smoke and the fire is the mountain and is called as a minor term or paksha.
The difference between the assertion and knowledge can be seen clearly since it is more difficult to hold consciously a false knowledge than to make a false assertion. To put it differently, it is more difficult to misinform one self than to misinform others. Advaita dismisses the requirement of five above for inferential knowledge only because the vyaapti or the concomitant relation is universal that is wherever there is smoke there must be fire, independent of the locus. To communicate the inferential knowledge even to others, first three or the last three are enough. If the listeners do not know vyaapti or the concomitant relation, say between the smoke and fire, then knowledge will only be aapta vaakyam or verbal knowledge.
The seven categories: Navya Nyaaya assigns every entity in the universe to one of the seven categories called padaarthas. Briefly they are:
1) Substance (dravya) –There are nine of them – that include five basic elements (space, air, fire, water, earth) and time, direction (dhik), soul (aatma) and mind. These are the only categories that can enter into ‘contact’ (samyoga) relations. Contact relation is like fire or smoke on the hill. The two entities, fire and the mountain or smoke and mountain are brought into contact (samyoga).
2) Quality (guNa). 24 qualities are listed as fundamental. These qualities inhere only in substances. The qualities that are measured by senses inhere in the substances which form locus for the qualities. According to Nyaaya, the qualities like pleasure, pain, etc inhere in the soul, while according to Advaita these are called internal perceptions involving the mind.
3) Action (Kriya).
4) Generic Character (jaati)- jaati is normally translated as class or genus– but for Nyaaya, jaati is that characteristic by which genus is recognized in the individual – that is, it connects the individual to the class. For example, a man is one who has man-ness (jaati) that all men (genus) have. Similarly jaati of a horse is horse-ness that a horse has which makes the horse to belong to horse-class. Generic characters inhere in substances, qualities and actions.
5) Ultimate difference (visheSha): This is one of the fundamental postulations of Navya Nyaaya. Ultimate difference is that entity that differentiates one atom from another. Gross entities differ because they are made up parts (atoms) that ultimately differ. Atoms are indivisible. Therefore their differences are ultimate as they are not made up of parts. We will address this aspect again in relation to qualities and substances.
6) Inherence (samavaaya) –Inherence is that because of which (a) the substances are related to parts, (b) qualities and action to substances, (c) generic characteristics to substances, qualities and actions. Other philosophers criticize this concept of inherence as it leads to infinite regress. They question – How is inherence, which is not a substance, quality, action, or jaati, related to its locus? – One has to bring in another inherence to relate this inherence – and such logic will lead to infinite regress. Navya Nyaaya postulates, however, that inherence is one of the fundamental categories and therefore does not require another inherence for it to relate to entities.
7) Absence (abhaava). There are two types of absences. a) Mutual exclusion (anyonyaabhaava) and b) relational absence. Mutual absence is mutual exclusion – Water is different from fire and vice versa. (water is used to put out fire). The statement is also expressed as absence of identity relation. water ≠ fire or in general A ≠ B. Here the identity of A to B and B to A is denied.
Relational absence is the denial of the relations other than identity. These are of three types: a) prior absence (praag abhaava) - absence of a thing somewhere before it is created. b) posterior absence (pradhvamsaabhaava) absence of a thing somewhere after it has been destroyed and c) continuous absence or constant absence (atyantaabhaava), absence of a thing somewhere when this absence is not limited to a portion of time. atyhantaabhaava is not absence in the past, in the present or in the future, it is absent at any time or constant absent. It is never present in the locus indicated. ‘Somewhere’ here means some locus that is being referenced. Somewhere does not mean anywhere or everywhere.
There are some disagreements among Navya Nyaayins regarding the traditional categories, their definitions and their contents.
Qualifiers (visheShaNas): Objects or entities are distinguished from each other by their qualities or visheShaNas. Navya Nyaaya distinguishes two types of qualities. There are a) generic quality (jaati) that has been introduced above and b) imposed properties or individual qualities (upaadhi). The qualificand (the entity that is being qualified) must have at least one qualifier, if not many, for its distinction from other entities in the universe. In the statement ‘The man is handsome’, both man-ness and handsome-ness are qualities of the man at the locus indicated. In the knowledge of a man, no matter what other qualifications the man may have, he will always have the qualifier, man-ness. This is considered as generic qualification (jaati) for a man for him to belong to class called men – genus. The generic characters that are broad based (since every one of this class must have man-ness qualification) is always expressed by adding
‘–ness’ to the noun that is being qualified. The man-ness is the qualification by which any member of this genus is recognized. It must be present in all men – or to be more precise, it inheres in many ‘substances’. It is an inherent quality of all men. In contrast in a statement– ‘this is Devadatta’, the locus pointed will have an inherent man-ness that all men must have, but also he has another quality – Devadatta-ness – which is a particular qualification that distinguishes Devadatta from other men. The relation of Devadatta-ness to Devadatta is not relation of inherence but is called relation of Particular Qualification (visheShaNataa-visheSha sambandha). It is recognized only by it being a qualifier of the qualificand, Devadatta. It distinguishes him from rest of men who also have man-ness but do not have Devadatta-ness. It is called a particular qualification because of the doctrine that the relation between the imposed
property and its locus is particular, differing from other particular relations. It is also called peculiar relation (swaruupa sambandha), since the relation is peculiar to its locus.
We can also distinguish the qualifications as sensuous and abstract. Sensuous qualifications are based on the five senses that can be measured by the sense organs or jnaanedriyas – the five senses being sense of sight, sense of hearing, sense of touch, sense of smell, and sense of taste. The forms and colors are measured by the sense of sight using eyes as the instrument. Similarly the other senses. Mind through the five senses perceives the world of object. The qualities which are abstract that are both generic and particular cannot be measured by senses directly but inferred. Man-ness is a generic quality that all men have but is an abstract quality that cannot be measured by any particular sense. Man-ness is what man has and man is one that has man-ness. The definition, necessarily be circular, since it cannot be specifically defined –All minimum essential qualities that are put-together or integrated together that make up a man to be a man,
constitute man-ness quality. Similarly Devadatta-ness although defined as swaruupa sambandha, it is an assemblage of all minimum essential qualities that make up Devadatta to be Devadatta and that distinguishes him from the rest of the men. Devadatta is one who has Devadatta-ness and Devadatta-ness is that what Devadatta has. Thus we have particular quality and generic quality to distinguish an entity. As a rule a quality that further qualifies the generic quality is also treated as a particular quality. For example, pot-ness is a generic quality of all pots. One can define pot-ness-ness further qualifying the pot-ness. This is a second order quality and is treated as particular or imposed qualification rather than generic one. One can make a statement, ‘The pot-ness-ness of these pots is different from the pot-ness-ness of the other batch of pots’. Or ‘Sweet-ness-ness of these laDDus is different from the sweet-ness-ness of the laDDus from
another company. It is obvious that we are particularizing the generic quality to specific units to differentiate one unit from the other, within the same genus. To differentiate pot-ness-ness for individual units one should have the knowledge of the generic quality, pot-ness common to all pots.
How to know the pot-ness of the pot? It is only by observation of several pots, one can gather the general characteristics of the qualities that are common to all pots and also not present in the entities that are not-pots. Some of the characteristics or qualities that are there in pot that make up the generic characteristic of the pots may be there in non-pots, but for jaati of pot-ness to be defined; all the minimum characteristics have to be met. These generic qualities can be based on assemblage of the qualities that senses can measure; but since it is a combined package, it remains as abstract quality only. Pots have to be there to define pot-ness. It has to be inferred based on experience of observation of say many pots. If there is one pot in the universe, then one cannot have jaati for the pot. This the reason why Brahman, being one of a kind, does not have jaati characteristic (jaati niiti kula gotra duuragam …brahma tatvam asi
bhaavayaatmani -says Shankara in VevekachUDAmaNi).
All classifications in Science are essentially based on the principle of codifying and quantifying these generic qualities that differentiate one class from the other. The cognition and recognition even in perceptual process involves perception of the qualities of the object through senses and recognition based on the prior knowledge of the jaati of the object. Thus if I see an object on the table, I say it is pot, since the perceptual qualities that I see match pot-ness of a pot based on memory. Thus I should have the knowledge of pot-ness for me to say the one I see is a pot. If I see new object that I am never familiar before, there is cognition but not recognition. I may be able to recognize that there are some qualities similar to the objects that I know, but also other qualities that separate the object from the objects that I know. I may say, it looks like that but it is not that. (Some aspects of these we will discuss when we analyze upamaana
pramaaNa.). Hence any recognition of an entity involves prior memory of the object or jaati of the objects.
Dominant property: There are certain dominant properties that some entities have that distinguishes them from other. For example, the glitter ness of the gold or silver-shining ness of the silver or brilliance of a diamond, etc, distinguishes gold, silver, diamond, all though all that glitters is not gold. Similarly all that have silver-shining-ness is not silver and there are many look-alike diamond that sometimes experts are required to differentiate them. These are dominant properties are not obviously the generic qualities or jaatis but may be part of the assemblage of qualities that constitutes their jaati. Thus glittery-ness is essential for it to be gold but not sufficient to say it is nothing but gold. We are reminded of the story of Eureka where Archimedes has to come up density property to identify gold from apparent gold. These are dominant properties in the sense that they are immediately visible and conclusions are made about the
substances based on these properties. This, in fact, leads to errors in perception, and therefore in inference as well, since inference is based on perception.
The fundamental limitation in all objective knowledge, as we stated before, comes from two aspects. One is the no object has necessary and sufficient quality to distinguish it from others. This we can state it as they have swaabhaavika lakshaNam (dominant necessary qualifications as in sweetness for sugar) but not swaruupa lakshaNa (which is sufficient qualification – for sufficiency the converse should apply. Ex. If it is sweet it must be sugar for sweetness to be both necessary and sufficient qualification, which is not the case.) Objects do not have swaruupa lakshaNa because they are made up of parts. Navya Nyaaya gets around this problem by stating that there is ultimate difference between atoms that make up the part and atoms are not made up of parts. But we know that properties or qualities also depend on how they are packed. The same carbon atoms packed differently gives rise to brilliant diamond as well black charcoal. Lack of necessary and
sufficient qualification is one aspect. The second aspect is perception relays on sense input. Whatever dominant or otherwise qualities that the senses can grasp only are involved in the perceptual knowledge. In addition, senses can only grasp qualities and not substantives. Hence if I do not have the knowledge of the substantive and senses have grasped only limited qualities due to adventitious defects, erroneous knowledge can occur.
We will analyze the rest in the next post.
More information about the Advaita-l mailing list