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Nyāya-vaiśeṣika Philosophy

Oxford Handbooks Online

Nyāya-vaiśeṣika Philosophy
Amita Chatterjee
The Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy
Edited by William Edelglass and Jay L. Garfield

Print Publication Date: May 2011 Subject: Philosophy, Non-Western Philosophy


Online Publication Date: Sep DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195328998.003.0012
2011

Abstract and Keywords

The Nyāya and the Vaiśeṣika systems are two orthodox (āstika) systems of Indian philosophy—meaning they admit
the Vedas as eternal and infallible—that preexist the Common Era. In their early histories, the Nyāya and the
Vaiśeṣika were two independent systems with their own respective metaphysics, epistemology, logic, ethics, and
soteriology. Over time, the Vaiśeṣika system became so entwined with the Nyāya to the extent that until recently,
there was no independent history of the Vaiśeṣika as a basic system. One reason for addressing these two
systems together is that they share many important tenets: both systems are committed to common-sense realism
and pluralism in their ontology; believe in the creation of the world from material atoms that conjoin to generate this
world by the will of God and in accordance with the accumulated merits and demerits of individual agents; accept a
theory of causation according to which a new effect is produced by its cause and is not a mere manifestation of
the cause; and admit that liberation means absolute cessation of suffering, a state where the liberated self is
without any consciousness. This article first discusses the main tenets of the Vaiśeṣika and the Nyāya systems
separately, highlighting their points of divergence, and then focuses on important developments in Navya–Nyāya.

Keywords: Indian philosophy, Nyāya system, Vaiśeṣika system, will of God

THE Nyāya and the Vaiśesika systems are two orthodox (āstika) systems of Indian philosophy—meaning they admit

the Vedas as eternal and infallible1—that preexist the Common Era. According to tradition, the Vaiśeṣika system is
older than the Nyāya system; some scholars even trace it back to the thirteenth century BCE. In their early
histories, the Nyāya and Vaiśeṣika were two independent systems with their own respective metaphysics,
epistemology, logic, ethics, and soteriology. Over time, the Vaiśeṣika system became so entwined with the Nyāya
that until recently (Thakur 2003), there was no independent history of the Vaiśeṣika as a basic system. One reason
for addressing these two systems together is that they share many important tenets (samānatantra): both systems
are committed to common-sense realism and pluralism in their ontology; believe in the creation of the world from
material atoms that conjoin to generate this world by the will of God and in accordance with the accumulated merits
and demerits (adṛṣṭa) of individual agents; accept a theory of causation according to which a new effect is
produced by its cause (asatkāryavāda) and is not a mere manifestation of the cause; and admit that liberation
means absolute cessation of suffering, a state where the liberated self is without any consciousness. However,
there are important differences, too. The Vaiśeṣika world is composed of seven categories, six positive and one
negative, while in the Nyāya world there are sixteen categories. The Vaiśeṣikas admitted two valid means of
cognition (pramāṇa-s), while the Naiyāyikas admitted four. The two systems were amalgamated into the syncretic
system of the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika when the Navya-Naiyāyikas expanded their scheme by including the seven
Vaiśeṣika categories. (p. 113) Keeping in mind these developments, we shall first discuss the main tenets of the
Vaiśeṣika and the Nyāya systems separately, highlighting their points of divergence, and then focus on important
developments in Navya-Nyāya.

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Ontology

Kaṇāda (second century CE) is said to be the author of the first Vaiśeṣika treatise, the Vaiśeṣikadarśana,a
collection of aphorisms. After Kaṇāda's treatise, the oldest extant Vaiśeṣika text is Praśastapāda's (fifth century CE)
Padārthadharmasaṃgraha, popularly known as Praśastapādabhāṣya (i.e., a commentary by Praśastapāda).
Praśastapāda's text follows Kaṇāda, but he freely adds his own views in order to systematize the Vaiśeṣika tenets.
Later extant commentators and contributors to the Vaiśeṣika tradition include Śankaramiśra (Upaskāratīkā, fifteenth
century), Vyomaśiva (Vyomavatī, tenth century), Udayana (Kiraṇāvalī and Lakṣaṇāvalī, tenth century), Śrīdhara
(Nyāyakandalī, tenth century), Śivādityamiśra (Saptapadārthī, eleventh century), Candrānanda (Vrṛtti, sixth
century circa), Bhaṭṭa Vādīndra (Kaṇāda-sūtranibandha and commentaries on Udayana's texts, thirteenth
century), Śrīvallabha (Nyāyalīlāvatī, twelfth century), Raghunātha (Padārthatattvanirūpaṇam, sixteenth century),
and Jayantabhaṭṭa (ninth century) and Bhāsaravajña (tenth century), two Kashmiri Naiyāyikas.

The Vaiśeṣikas begin their enquiry with the question of what entities they would admit in their ontology. Kaṇāda lists
six positive categories (bhāva-padārtha-s), namely, substance (dravya), quality (guṇa), action (karma), universal
(sāmānya), ultimate differentiator (viśeṣa), and the relation of inherence (samavāya). Later stalwarts up to
Vyomaśiva tacitly admit and Śivādityamiśra adds the negative category of absence (abhāva) to the list. Absence,
he points out, is not merely a logical or linguistic operator; it is as objectively real as a positive entity. The system
derives its name from viśeṣa (ultimate differentiator), the fifth category, which is a unique feature of this tradition;
no other Indian philosophical system except Navya-Nyāya admits viśeṣa as a basic category (padārtha).

“Padārtha” literally means the reference of a word. Though a padārtha is defined as knowable (jñeya) and
nameable (abhidheya), it is said to exist independently of the cognizing subject (jñatā)—a view that makes the
Vaiśeṣikas robust realists. As J. N. Mohanty notes, “The categories are the highest non-formal genera under which
all entities fall” (Mohanty 2006, 30). (Early scholars considered the list of seven categories to be fixed; nothing
could be added to or deleted from this list. Some later scholars questioned this assumption.)

The Vaiśeṣika scheme includes detailed subcategorization. They divide substances into nine kinds, qualities into
twenty-four kinds, actions (mainly movements) into five kinds, and universals into three kinds; ultimate
differentiators being unique particulars do not have any internal differentiation; inherence is a relation par
excellence without any internal type-distinction; and absences are of four types.

(p. 114) The nine substances are earth, water, fire, air, ākāśa,2 space, time, self, and mind. Of these nine, the
first four are of two varieties, eternal and noneternal. Substances of atomic magnitude are eternal, whereas
compound substances are noneternal. Ākāśa, space, and time are eternal and all-pervasive. The number of each
of them is one, though for our convenience we introduce conceptual divisions such as past, present, and future.
Both self and mind are eternal and many. A self is all-pervasive, while mind, the internal sense organ, is of atomic
magnitude. Self is different from other kinds of substances because it alone is potentially conscious.
Consciousness, however, is an adventitious quality of self because a self gets endowed with consciousness only
when it is embodied. Interestingly, in the Vaiśeṣika scheme, conscious self can freely interact with material body
without falling prey to the problems of Cartesian dualism because they subscribe to a different theory of causation.

The Vaiśeṣikas do not give any explicit account of their deduction of categories. It appears, however, that they
derive their list of natural classes not a priori, but through empirical methods. Some scholars believe that the
Vaiśeṣikas were mainly guided by prevalent linguistic usage. By introducing a scheme of subclassification and
justification thereof, they have also blurred the distinction between the pure doctrine of categories and an empirical
theory of their exemplification—a stance that enables them to derive a natural science from the doctrine of
categories.

The order in which the categories have been enumerated has a special significance. Substance, for instance, is
the entity in which all things belonging to other positive categories reside by the relation of inherence. All
substances possess qualities, but not all of them possess action; hence, the quality category precedes the action
category. Next comes universal, as it inheres in substance, in quality, or in action. An ultimate differentiator, on the
other hand, resides only in an eternal substance. Noneternal substances, qualities, actions, universals, and
ultimate differentiators reside in their respective substratum in the relation of inherence; hence, inherence appears
as the sixth category. Since an absence cannot be understood without referring to the thing of which it is an
absence and since every absence has an ultimate reference to a positive entity, this negative category is

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mentioned last.

Let us elucidate the nature of these categories with the help of some examples. Consider, for instance, a red
earthen pot. The pot is the substance and it possesses red color, which is a quality. Each quality in the Vaiśeṣika
scheme is a particular instantiation of the corresponding universal. A quality resides in a substance by the relation
of inherence and a universal also resides in its instances by the same relation. So the red color of the earthen pot
inheres in it and the universal redness also inheres in the particular instance of the color red. When the earthen
pot we are talking about is broken, we get smaller parts made of earth, which in turn can be broken down to smaller
and smaller parts until we reach its atomic constituents. We have already seen that atoms, according to the
Vaiśeṣika philosophers, are qualitatively different. To (p. 115) differentiate between two atoms of the same type,
or two liberated selves that cannot be distinguished otherwise, they introduced a category, namely, the ultimate
differentiator (viśeṣa). Inherence (samavāya) is the only relation admitted in the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika ontology. This
relation obtains, generally across categories, between five pairs of entities: (1) a whole and its parts3 (e.g., a pot
and the potsherds), (2) a substance and its qualities (e.g., a pot and its red color), (3) a substance and its action
(e.g., fire and its upward movement), (4) a universal and its instances (e.g., cowness and individual cows), and (5)
an ultimate differentiator and an eternal substance (e.g., a unique particular and an atom). There are four types of
negation or absence admitted in the system: (1) mutual absence (anyonyābhāva) (e.g., a jar is not a pen and vice
versa), (2) absence of the not-yet type (prāgabhāva) (e.g., absence of a bread in flour before it is baked), (3)
absence of the no-more type (dhvaṃsābhāva) (e.g., absence of a vase in its broken pieces), and (4) absolute
absence (atyantābhāva) (e.g., absence of color in air).

I consider next the Old Nyāya philosophy. Akṣapāda Gautama (second century) is recognized as the compiler of
the first Nyāya treatise, the Nyāyasūtra. Vātsyāyana (fourth century) wrote an elaborate commentary (bhāṣya) on
Nyāya-sūtra, which was severely criticized by Buddhist scholars such as Diṅnāga (fifth century). Uddyotakara
(seventh century) took up the cudgel against Diṅnāga and defended the Nyāya position in his Nyāyavārttika.
Vācaspati Miśra (ninth century) wrote an explanatory treatise entitled Nyāyavārttika-tātparya-tīkā on
Uddyotakara's work, which was itself clarified by Udayanācārya in Tātparyatīkā-pariśuddhi (tenth century).
According to the tradition, Udayana's works formed the watershed between the Old and the Navya-Nyāya, which in
the process of defending and explicating the Nyāya tenets also anticipated many theses and approaches of the
later Naiyāyikas.

The Nyāya also had a list of categories (padārtha-s). These sixteen categories are valid means of knowing
(pramāṇa), objects of knowing (prameya), doubt (saṃśaya), aim (prayojana), example (dṛṣṭānta), established
conclusion (siddhānta), members or constituents of an argument (avayava), hypothetical reasoning or supportive
argument (tarka), settlement or decision (nirṇaya), an honest debate (vāda), a tricky debate (jalpa), a destructive
debate (vitaṇðā), fallacy (hetvābhāsa), underhand tricks (chala), false rejoinder (jāti), and defeat situations
(nigraha-sthāna). According to Akṣapāda Gautama, correct knowledge of these categories leads to liberation, and
misconception about them is at the root of our bondage.

True to its name, “Nyāya,” meaning argumentation, is dedicated to formulating principles of valid reasoning. Its
attitude is rational and intellectual, while its method is analytic. However, the early Naiyāyikas were not radical
enough to accept whatever conclusions their logic arrived at. They opposed upholding conclusions that
contradicted scriptural tenets and eschewed them as nyāyābhāsa-s, or pseudoarguments. It is evident from the list
of the Nyāya categories that unlike the Vaiśeṣika scheme, the Nyāya scheme of categorization was guided mainly
by epistemological considerations. (p. 116) Ontological entities admitted in the system4 are all included in the
second category (i.e., objects of knowledge). This should not lead us to think that the Naiyāyikas are compromising
on realism. No doubt, they are talking about objects as known and not about objects as such. But that is because
they were interested in attaining truth by accredited means of knowing and then defending these truths from
irrational attacks. All fourteen categories starting with doubt relate to the process of effective argumentation and
rules of debate; the first seven constitute the “prior stage” and the last seven, beginning with debate, constitute
the “posterior stage” of the Nyāya method. That is, an argument, according to Nyāya, starts with an initial doubt
and ends with the establishment of a hypothesis by evidence, having demolished all objections raised by the
opponents. The Navya-Naiyāyikas shifted their concern from the techniques of debating to the valid means of
knowing and developed an elaborate theory of inference, thus dissociating logic from the art of debate.

Here is a brief introduction to entities admitted in the Nyāya system. Átmā, or soul, according to Nyāya, is to be

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inferred from its qualities, namely, desire, aversion, volition, pleasure, pain, and cognition, which reside in the soul-
substance. Body is the substratum of effort, senses, and pleasure and pain (i.e., body is the site of all sorts of
experiences). The Naiyāyikas as well as the Vaiśeṣikas admit five external sense organs—visual, auditory,
gustatory, olfactory, and tactual, which are produced from fire, ākāśa, water, earth, and air, respectively. Color,
sound, taste, smell, and touch are the objects of the respective sense organs. Intellect is the same as
apprehension or cognition. Manas is the internal sense organ with the help of which we introspect our inner states.
Pravṛtti is that which leads to physical and mental acts. Affection, aversion, and stupidity are listed as faults.
Transmigration means the series of births and deaths through which an individual soul travels until attaining
liberation. Birth means connection of a soul with body, senses, and so forth; death means their dissociation.
Consequences of activities are of two types: pleasure and pain. Pain produces distress and liberation is the
absolute cessation of pain. This is the Nyāya account of all possible experiences of soul. The means of release
from the cycle of life and death, then, is the correct knowledge of the categories, which enables one to distinguish
self from not-self.

Epistemology: Valid Means of Cognition (Pramāṇas)

In epistemology, the Vaiśeṣikas admit two independent means of knowing—perception (pratyakṣa) and inference
(anumāna). The Naiyāyikas add two more to the list—comparison (upamāna) and testimony, or authority (śabda).
Both schools (p. 117) acknowledge the important role played by sense organs in perception5 and offer a causal
definition. In order that a perceptual cognition may arise, a series of contacts must take place. The self should
come in contact with the mind and the mind with the sense organ and the sense organ with its object. Of these
three contacts, the first one is necessary for any noneternal cognition. The second contact is not required in
internal perceptions, though it is indispensable for any type of external perception. The third contact is the
uncommon cause of all perceptions. Since perception cannot arise if there is no sense-object contact, it turns out
to be an intentional state par excellence. It is different from inference because it is characterized by immediacy,
which an inferential cognition lacks. Another interesting feature of this theory of perception is that perception
always results in action. The perceiver is guided by the desire to seek, shun, or ignore the object of perception.

That all knowledge cannot be grasped by any one sense organ is a platitude. Our eyes cannot see sound, nor can
our ears hear smells. So each sense organ has its special range of objects. Besides, different types of contacts
(sannikarṣa) are needed to perceive different types of objects. The Naiyāyikas divide contacts into two types—
ordinary (laukika) and extraordinary (alaukika). Uddyotakara first listed six types of ordinary contacts. In
perceiving a substance by visual or tactual sense, the specific contact involved is conjunction (saṃyoga). When a
quality or an action or a universal inhering in a substance is to be perceived, the contact required is inherence in
the conjoined (saṃyukta-samavāya). The contact needed for perceiving a universal in a quality is inherence in
the inherent in the conjoined (samṃyukta-samaveta-samavāya). In the auditory perception of a sound the contact
involved is inherence (samavāya), and to perceive soundness in a sound, the required complex relation is
inherence in the inherent (samaveta-samavāya). In perceiving an absence, the contact involved is known as
“characterizer-characterized” (viśeṣya-viśeṣaṇa-bhāva-sambandha).

Three types of extraordinary contacts have been elaborated by the Navya-Naiyāyikas—sāmānyalakṣaṇa,


jñānalakṣaṇa,and yogaja. Here also the principle of division is the difference in contact. Sāmānyalakṣaṇa is that
type of perception which gives us knowledge of all the instances of a class, when a single instance of the class is
presented to a sense organ. The class-character or sāmānya, which is present in the single perceived instance,
functions as an operative relation between the sense organ and all the instances of the class. Thus, when we
perceive one instance of smoke, we come to recognize all instances of smoke via our prior knowledge of its class-
character smokeness. Admission of such perception is necessary for establishing universal generalization, the
knowledge of which is a prerequisite of inference. In the jñānalakṣaṇa variety of perception the contact involved is
memory. Thus, (p. 118) when one sees sandalwood as fragrant, the visual perception of sandalwood stimulates
the memory of fragrance as experienced in the past. This memory somehow puts the eye in contact with fragrance
in an extraordinary way when we see sandalwood at a distance. The Naiyāyikas make use of this type of
perception in their account of perceptual error, of after-perception (anuvyavasāya), of recognition, of our
awareness of the negatum of an absence, and of upamiti, where the knowledge of similarity is acquired through
some extraordinary means. In the third type of extraordinary perception, the contact involved is a kind of
supernatural power developed by the practice of yoga. It enables a yogin to perceive objects that are very subtle

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or remote in space and time.

The second pramāṇa, inference or anumána, according to Gautama, is directly based on perception of sign (hetu)
in the locus of inference (pakṣa), which is invariably concomitant with the thing to be inferred (sādhya). To explain,
a man sees smoke spiraling up from a hilltop. This man has seen smoke before coming from a kitchen fire and has
acquired the knowledge that whatever has smoke has fire. Now when he sees the column of smoke on the hilltop,
he remembers the universal correlation between smoke and fire. This knowledge makes him see smoke as that
which is invariably co-present with fire on the hill. If there is no strong impediment, this knowledge will lead him to
conclude that the hill has fire. Here smoke is the hetu, fire is the sādhya, hill is the pakṣa, and the relation of
invariable concomitance between smoke and fire is the vyāpti. The man could not infer fire on the hill upon seeing
smoke there if he had not known that smoke is invariably concomitant with fire. Hence, knowledge of vyāpti
between hetu and sādhya is the logical ground of any inference.

Both the Vaiśeṣikas and the Naiyāyikas divide inference broadly into two types. Inference-for-oneself
(svārthānumāna) deals with the psychological conditions (i.e., causally connected cognitive states leading to
one's own inferential cognition). Inference-for-others (parārthānumāna) essentially deals with the proper linguistic
expression of this inference with a view to communicating it to others. Inference-for-others has five constituents
arranged in the order of assertion (pratijñā), reason (hetu), example (udāharaṇa), application (upanaya), and
conclusion (nigamana). The typical example of an inference-for-others is the following:

Pratijñā: The hill possesses fire (stating what is to be proved).

Hetu: The reason is smoke (stating the ground of inference).

Udāharaṇa with vyāpti: Wherever there is smoke, there is fire, as in a kitchen.

Upanaya: The hill is similar (in possessing smoke).

Nigamana: The hill possesses fire.

Though the conclusion appears the same as the first step, these two perform two different tasks. The first step just
asserts the thesis, while the conclusion declares that what is to be proved has been proved. According to the
tradition, the first step is said to be generated by verbal cognition; the second is established by inference; in the
third step, example is acquired through perception; and the fourth step is based on cognition of similarity. Since
these four steps are established by four sources of (p. 119) true cognition admitted in the Nyāya school, the
Naiyāyikas consider this five-membered argument as the demonstration par excellence (parama-nyāya). The
Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika philosophers then proceed to classify inference, adopting different criteria of classification, and
specify the marks of a legitimate sign, violation of which leads to different types of fallacies.

The next two means of cognition—comparison and testimony—are admitted by the Naiyāyikas, but the Vaiśeṣikas
attempt to reduce them to inference. Comparison (upamāna) is defined as the instrument of that cognition which
depends on the perception of similarity between two objects. It leads to the cognition of relation between a name
and the thing it names. Suppose a man hears that a new animal called “gavaya” has been found in the forest lying
at the outskirts of his village. Enquiring from an expert who lives in the forest, he comes to know that a gavaya is
like a cow. Now when he goes to the forest and sees an animal that looks like a cow, he remembers what the
forester has said and he has the knowledge “this animal is a gavaya.” Thus, he learns the reference of the name
“gavaya.” The Naiyāyikas give elaborate arguments to establish comparison as an independent means of true
cognition. Comparison cannot be reduced to perception because perception of similarity between a cow and a
gavaya is not sufficient for knowing the reference of the word “gavaya.” Nor can it be reduced to testimony
(śabda) (p. 120) because the words of the forester only lead to the knowledge of similarity. It also cannot be
reduced to inference because this type of cognition does not depend on the knowledge of relevant vyāpti.

Verbal testimony (śabda) is defined as the instructive utterance of a reliable person. A reliable person may be a
wise man (ṛṣi), an ordinary knowledgeable person, or even a nonbeliever in the Vedas, but he must be an expert in
a certain matter and willing to communicate his knowledge of it. Verbal testimony is of two kinds, namely, that which
relates to matters seen and that which relates to matters that cannot be empirically determined. The first kind of
cognition is amenable to empirical verification, but the second kind cannot thus be ascertained, for example,
assertion in the Scriptures that one attains Heaven (not liberation) by performing the agnihotra sacrifice. The

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Vaiśeṣikas are against autonomy of verbal testimony mainly for two reasons. First, they maintain that just as in an
inference, where fire is inferred from smoke on the basis of the knowledge of invariable concomitance between
smoke and fire, similarly, on hearing a word, we arrive at the cognition of its referent on the basis of the invariable
concomitance between a particular word and its referent. This referential relation is learned in one's childhood from
observing the verbal behavior of elders and the acts that follow. Second, the validity of information received from
others needs to be established through inference from the reliability or trustworthiness of the speaker and hence
cannot be an independent means of cognition. The Naiyāyikas, however, point out that like cognition based on
similarity, information received through verbal testimony too cannot be dependent on the knowledge of invariable
concomitance. For, how can one have the knowledge of invariable concomitance between words that are about
imperceptible objects and their references? We can understand words such as “svarga” (heaven), and so forth,
based on the words of trustworthy persons. Besides, in our after-perception (anuvyavasāya), verbal cognition is
never grasped as a case of inference, so one should grant autonomy to verbal testimony.6

Navya-Nyāya

By combining the Nyāya epistemology with the Vaiśeṣika ontology, Gaṅgeśa initiated a new trend of philosophizing
in Mithila—northeastern India—in the thirteenth century. It is Gaṅgeśa who integrated and popularized the
technique of subtle argumentation in his magnum opus Tattvacintāmaṇi (TCM) and is regarded as the founder of
the Navya-Nyāya tradition. The tradition was carried forward by Vardhamāna (fourteenth century), Yajñapati
Upādhyāya (fifteenth century), and Pakṣadhara Miśra (fifteenth century), among others. The novelty and originality
of the Navya Nyāya school is found not in introducing new topics of philosophical discussion but in the method
employed, in devising a precise technical language suitable for expressing all forms of cognition. They formulated
their approach against their principal opponents—the Mīmāṃsákas.

From Mithila, Navya-Nyāya traveled to Navadwīpa, in Bengal. The unorthodox logician, Raghunātha Siromaṇi
(sixteenth century) of Navadwipa, wrote a commentary on TCM entitled Dīdhiti, in which he went far beyond
Gaṅgeśa by introducing changes in Navya-Nyaya metaphysics and epistemology. Subsequent prominent
proponents of Navya-Nyāya in Bengal—including Bhavānanda Siddhantavāgīśa, Mathurāntha Tarkavāgīśa,
Jagadīśa Tarkālaṇkāra, and Gadādhara Bhattacharyya—wrote commentaries on Dīdhiti, which contributed to the
fullest development of Gaṅgeśa's technique of reasoning. The fame of Navadwīpa Naiyāyikas spread all over India
and scholars from other schools adopted the Navya-Nyāya language. This highly technical language became the
medium for all serious philosophical discussion by the sixteenth century, irrespective of the ontological,
epistemological, and moral commitments of the discussants.

The use of Navya-Nyāya language outside Nyāya philosophy is evidence of its strength. But unfortunately, this has
led to the misconception that Navya-Nyāya is a mere tool of theoretical discussion. We must remember that though
the Navya-Nyāya language can be successfully dissociated from its context, Navya-Nyāya was developed as a
complete system of philosophy. Gaṅgeśa's TCM, for example, begins with an invocation to the three-faced
(trimūrti) Lord and ends with sections on liberation (mukti), with epistemological, logical, and ontological
discussions in the middle.

(p. 121) The Navya-Nyāya language, despite its aspiration for complete precision, is still composed in Sanskrit.
Sanskrit grammar is rigorous, yet Sanskrit being a natural language it is not entirely free from ambiguities and
uncertainties. Besides, Sanskrit as the First Order Language, which expresses objects and events of the world, fails
to make the structure of the cognitive content perspicuous. Suppose we have a perceptual cognition of the form
“The pot is black.” In Sanskrit, one does not usually differentiate between “The pot is black” and “The black pot”
(i.e., between a sentence and a complex term). In fact, in ordinary Sanskrit, “is” is considered superfluous, though
the grammarians maintain that a sentence must contain a finite verb and in the absence of a finite verb, one must
posit it. The Naiyāyikas, however, follow the common linguistic practice and that is why in this tradition we do not
find any distinction between a fact and a complex object. Nor do they admit propositions as abstract entities.
Hence, according to them, a cognitive content is nothing but a complex object, expressible in a complex term.

According to Navya-Nyāya, the basic combination that expresses a cognitive content is a locus-locatee
combination of the form “a has f-ness”/“f-ness in a” (“the pot has blackness”/“blackness in pot” in this case). In a
perspicuous account of a cognitive content, the Navya-Naiyāyika would like to make explicit the connection

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between the pot and its color in consonance with their own categorical framework. Sanskrit as an object language
is either neutral to metaphysical questions or bears the burden of the grammarian ontology.7

Now the color black may be located in a pot in different relations. In object language, the relation between
blackness and pot is never specified. There is a rule in Navya-Nyāya that whatever can be expressed in the object
language ceases to be a relation but becomes a term of a relation. For example, if one says, “The hill has fire,” she
means that fire is related by the unmentioned relation saṃyoga (contact) with the hill. But, if on the other hand,
someone says, “The hill has contact (saṃyoga) with fire,” “contact” here does not act as the relational
component but as the third term of the cognition in question. The second piece of cognition, thus, points to another
unmentioned relation, namely, inherence (samavāya) of the contact with the hill,8 on the one hand, and fire on the
other. It is, therefore, obvious that relations involved in cognition must be specified if one wants to make the
structure of a cognitive content transparent—hence the need for a Second Order Language, which talks about the
First Order Language. The Navya-Nyāya language is a Second Order Language because it is where the structure
of a cognitive content expressed in the First Order Language is made explicit.

The second important reason behind developing a higher-order technical language relates to the identification of a
true sentence. In the absence of a proposition, (p. 122) the cognitive content has been taken to be the truth
bearer in the Indian analytical tradition. To state the Navya-Nyāya definition of truth in a simplistic way: to know of
what something is that it is and of what something is not that it is not, is true. In the course of explaining their
definition of truth, the Navya-Naiyāyikas always give a de re reading of a cognitive content. The content of any
cognition has at least three elements—viśeṣya (qualificandum), prakāra or viśeṃaṇa (qualifier), and saṃsarga or
the qualification relation between them. If, for example, my cognitive content is a-R-b (i.e., b is located in a by the
relation R), then, says the Naiyāyika, we are directly aware of a, b, and R where a and b are things in the real world
and not mere representations of things and the relation R actually obtains between a and b. So a cognitive content
a-R-b is true if and only if b is located in a by the relation R. So, when I have a cognition of a black pot, my
cognitive content will be true if and only if blackness characterizes the pot by the relation of inherence.

Sanskrit as an object language does not make quantifiers explicit. Though sometimes “all” (sarva) or “some”
(kiñcit) prefix a subject term, we do not come across any expression indicating the quantity of the predicate.
Usually when someone says, “The hill is fiery,” it is not indicated whether a particular hill is fiery or all hills are fiery.
The problem becomes all the more acute when the content is negative. When someone says “absence of pot,” it
may mean “absence of all pots,” “absence of a particular black pot,” or “absence of some pots.” Hence, the
Naiyāyikas had no option but to introduce some technical terms in their higher-order language, such as limitor
(avacchedaka), “limitor-hood” (avacchadakatā), and so forth, to compensate for this lacuna.

The Navya-Naiyāyikas are of the opinion that only qualificative cognition of the form a-R-b leads to
action/behavior. An unstructured nonqualificative cognition can never be the cause of behavior. The presence of
a qualificand and the qualifier, however, does not make a cognition qualificative. As we have already seen, the
qualifier must also qualify the qualificand in a specific manner (i.e., the qualificand and the qualifier must be related
by some specific relation). So in Navya-Nyāya logic and language, relations play a crucial role. Over and above
saṃyoga and samavāya, two relations admitted by the Vaiśeṣikas, they defined a number of new relations
because they realized that these two relations are not sufficient to explain how different individuals belonging to
different ontological categories are related to one another and also how these related complexes appear in our
cognition. All relations admitted in Navya-Nyāya are dyadic relations, however complex they may appear. There is
some difference of opinion among the Naiyāyikas regarding the ontological status of these new relations. Some
take them as epistemic categories; some are ready to accept them as ontologically real. In spite of this debate, all
admit that these are efficient tools of precisification.

A minimalist definition of relation, which has been admitted by the stalwarts of Navya-Nyāya, is:

x is a relation iff x governs a qualificative cognition.

Jagadiśa amends this definition to:

(p. 123) A relation is the object of a qualificative cognition, which is other than the qualificand and the
qualifier.

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Gadādhara finally defines relation in terms of subjuncts/superstratum (anuyogī) and adjuncts/substratum


(pratiyogī).

When xRy is a cognitive content, R is a relation of x to y iff x is the adjunct of R (one which is related) and
y is the subjunct (to which x is related) of R.

The Nyāya way of expressing a relation is always as xRy, where the entity to the left of R is the adjunct and the
entity to the right of R is the subjunct. The Navya-Naiyāyikas admit two types of relation, occurrence-exacting
(vṛtti- (p. 124) niyāmaka) and non–occurrence-exacting (vṛtti-aniyāmaka). An occurrence-exacting relation
always gives the impression that one entity is located in another entity, while a non–occurrence-exacting relation
does not do so. The latter only makes us aware that the two terms are related. It is easier to identify the adjunct
and subjunct of a relation of the former type; the adjunct is that which is located and the subjunct is that where the
adjunct is located but in the second type adjunct and subjunct are identified depending on the fiat of the cognizer.
The Navya-Naiyāyikas mainly use four types of relation: (1) contact (saṃyoga), (2) inherence (samavāya), (3)
svarūpa,9 and (4) identity (tādātmya). Of these, the first two are occurrence-exacting, svarūpa is sometimes so,
and identity is not.

A minimal analysis of the component of Navya-Nyāya language is given below:

The primitive terms of the language are the nouns or nominal stems like ghata (pot), dhūma (smoke), kapi
(monkey), etc.

By adding the simple suffix “tva” or “tā,” many new terms are generated. For example, by adding “tva” to dhūma,
abstract terms like dhūmatva (smokeness or smokehood), which is a universal (jāti), can be generated. The suffix
“tā” is used to generate relational abstract expressions such as causehood (kāraṇatā), locushood (ādhāratā), and
their corresponding inverse relational expressions such as effecthood (kāryatā), located-hood, or
superstratumhood (ādheyatā/vṛttitā).

In the Navya-Nyāya language, we also find some determining or conditioning operator that when combined with a
relational expression forms a more precise term. The causehood is a relational abstract that can be employed in
the context of any cause. But to signify some specific cause (e.g., cause of smokeness), the Navya-Naiyāyikas
take recourse to this conditioning operator that enables them to generate an expression, causehood determined
by smokehood (dhūmatva-nirūpita-kāraṇatā).

Another very important operator is avaccehadakatā, or limitorhood. This operator performs multiple functions. But
without entering into the details of this complex notion, let us understand this operator with a simple example.
Smoke may have different causes. Suppose we want to identify a specific cause of smoke, say, fire, then we shall
have to say following a Navya-Naiyāyika that causehood determined or conditioned by smokehood is limited by
firehood (vahnitvāvacchinna-dhūmatva-nirūpita kāraṇatā). Thus, the Naiyāyikas have developed a mechanism to
generate relations wherever necessary for expressing an event precisely.

To make these technical concepts more intelligible, let us take another example. Let us once again look at the
adjunct and the subjunct of a relation. The Rámáyaṇa says that Kauśalyā is the mother of Rāma. So the relation
from (p. 125) the side of Kauśalyā is “being the mother of” and the corresponding abstract property is
motherhood (mātṛtva). The relation from the side of Rāma is “being the son of” and the corresponding relational
abstract is sonhood (putratva). The adjunct (pratiyogī) of the relational abstract “motherhood” is Rāma and the
subjunct (anuyogī) is Kauśalyā. The Naiyāyikas describe this relational abstract as “the motherhood of Rāma in
Kauśalyā.” In case of absence, however, adjunct and subjunct are understood in a different way.

An absence is always of something, and that something is called the counterpositive or the negatum (pratiyogī) of
that absence. Consider the absence of smoke in a lake. Smoke is the counterpositive (pratiyogī) of the absence of
smoke and pratiyogitā, or the relation of counterpositiveness, is the relation between an absence and its
counterpositive. Here, the lake is the locus (anuyogī) of the absence. Hence, anuyogitā connects the absence in
question with its locus. Here absence is that of smoke in general (dhūma-sāmānya) and not this or that particular
smoke; hence, it is called dhūma-sāmānyābhāva. Next, let us explain the notion of a limitor and the limiting
relation. When x is in y, x is related to y in a particular relation and that relation is the limiting relation. Similarly,
when there is an absence of x in y, a counterpositiveness must be in x and there must be a relation to limit that

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counterpositiveness. Suppose there is smoke on a mountain. Here the limiting relation is contact (saṃyoga). There
is at the same time absence of smoke on the same mountain by the relation of inherence because smoke never
resides in a mountain by the relation of inherence. Again, smoke is absent on the mountain by the relation of
identity or tādātmya, since smoke and mountain cannot be identical. So counterpositiveness in the first case is
limited by the relation of inherence, whereas in the second case the limiting relation is identity. At the same time,
counterpositiveness so related determines (nirūpaka) the absence. Thus, the first absence is determined by the
counterpositiveness residing in smoke limited by the relation of inherence
(samavāyasambandhāvacchinnapratiyogitā-nirūpita-dhūma-sāmānyābhāva) and the second absence is
determined by the counterpositiveness residing in smoke limited by the relation of identity
(tādātmyasambandhāvacchinna-pratiyogitā-nirūpita-dhūma-sāmānyābhāva).

We shall now see the application of these technical expressions in connection with the definition of pervasion
(vyāpti), the most important and foundational concept of the Nyáya theory of inference. Vyāpti is the relation of
(p. 126) universal concomitance between the thing to be inferred and the ground of inference. It is a lawlike
connection that enables one to infer a property in a new situation from a second property depending on the
knowledge of lawlike connection between the first property and the second property. Gaṅgeśa in the Vyāptivāda
of TCM rejects definitions of vyāpti given by his opponents, only the first of which will be analyzed here. Simply
stated, the definition runs thus: pervasion, or vyāpti, is the absence of occurrence of the hetu in every locus of
absence of the sādhya.10 This definition, however, has been amended quite a number of times to free it from the
charges of overcoverage (ativyāpti) and undercoverage (avyāpti).11 A ramified version of the definition, though it
is not the final version, is:

The hetu is pervaded by the sādhya if the hetu is in no way occurrent by the relation of hetutāvacchedaka
in any locus of the absence of the sādhya which is characterized by the sādhyatāvacchedaka dharma
and also by the sādhyatāvacchedaka sambandha.

We have said before that pervasion is the relation of invariable concomitance of the ground of an inference (hetu)
and the thing to be inferred (sādhya). Without the knowledge of this relation, it is not possible to infer. In a valid
inference, “The hill has fire because it has smoke,” the sādhya is fire, the hetu is smoke, and pakṣa, or the locus,
is the hill. Sādhyatāvacchedaka-sambandha is the relation in which the sādhya resides in the pakṣa. As fire resides
in the hill by the relation of contact (saṃyoga), the limiting relation is contact. The property that is the limitor of the
sādhya in this case is fireness (vahnitva) and not the property of producing burns (dāhajanakatva). Similarly, by
hetutāvacchadkasambandha is meant the relation in which the hetu resides in the pakṣa. In the given instance,
that relation is also contact, as smoke too resides in the hill by contact. This absence of occurrence of smoke is
again absence of occurrence of smoke in general and not of any particular smoke. So there is the relation of
pervasion between the hetu, smoke, and sādhya,fire, as there is general absence of occurrence of the hetu,
smoke, by the limiting relation of contact, determined by every locus of absence of the sādhya, fire,
counterpositiveness of which is limited by the relation of contact and the limitor firehood. Fire pervades smoke
because no smoke ever resides by way of contact in a lake or anywhere else that is the locus of absence fire qua
fire.

Such concern for precision might appear obsessive, but if one qualification is left out, the definition of pervasion will
be either incomplete or defective, leading to fallacious reasoning and unsound conclusions. The Navya-Nyāya
logicians achieved analytical precision by the use of their technical language, which can serve as a model of
regimentation of natural languages.

Bibliography

Bibliography and Suggested Readings

BHATTACHARYA, GOPINATH. (1976) Translated and elucidated. Tarkasaṃgrahadīpikā on Annaṃbhaṭṭa's

Tarkasaṃgraha. Calcutta: Progressive Publisher.

GANERI, JONARDON. (2008) “Towards a Formal Regimentation of Navy-Nyāya Technical Language I & II.” In Logic,

Navya-Nyāya & Applications: Homage to Bimal Krishna Matilal. Volume 15: Studies in Logic, edited by Mihir K.

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Chakraborti, et al. London: College Publications, 105–138.

Gangopadhyay, Mrinalkanti (trans.). (1982) Nyāyasūtra with Vātsyāyana's Commentary. Calcutta: Indian Studies.

GUHA, DINESH CHANDRA. (1979) The Navya-Nyāya System of Logic. Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass Publishers Private

Limited.

JHA, GANGANATHA. (1982) Padārthadharmasaṃgraha of Praśastapāda. Varanasi: Chowkhamba.

———  (trans.). (1984) The Nyāyasūtra of Gautama (with the commentaries of Vātsyāyana and Uddyotakara). 4
vols. Delhi: Motilal Banarassidass Publishers Private Limited.

MATILAL, B. K. (1977) Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz.

——— . (1998) The Character of Logic in India, edited by J. Ganeri and H. Tiwari. Albany, NY: SUNY.

MOHANTY, J. N. (1989) Gangeśa's Theory of Truth. Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass Publishers Private Limited.

——— . (2006) “Categories in Indian Philosophy.” Philosophical Concepts Relevant to Sciences in Indian
Tradition,Volume I, edited by Pranab Kumar Sen. New Delhi: Centre for Studies in Civilizations, 30.

PHILLIPS, STEPHEN H. (1995) Classical Indian Metaphysics. Chicago and La Salle: Open Court.

PHILLIPS, STEPHEN H. , and RAMANUJA N. S. TATACHARYA (2008) Epistemology of Perception. Delhi: Motilal Banarasidass

Publishers Private Limited.

Potter, K. H. (ed.). (1977) Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophy, Volume 2: Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika. Delhi: Motilal
Banarasidass Publishers Private Limited.

POTTER, K. H. , and SIBAJIBAN BHATTACHARYA. (1993) Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophy, Volume 6: Navya-Nyāya. Delhi:

Motilal Banarasidass Publishers Private Limited.

THAKUR, ANANTALAL . (2003) Origin and Development of the Vaiśeṣika System. New Delhi: Centre for Studies in

Civilizations.

Notes:

(1.) Śaṃkarācārya, however, regarded the Vaiśeṣika system as ardhavaināśika, meaning antagonistic to Vedic
culture.

(2.) Ākāśa cannot be accurately translated in English. It is accepted as the substratum of sound in the Vaiśeṣika
system.

(3.) A whole, according to them, is not a mere collection of parts but is over and above its parts.

(4.) These are soul (ātmā), body (śarīra), senses (indriya), objects of sense (artha), intellect (buddhi), mind
(manas), activity (pravṛtti), fault (doṣa), transmigration (pretyabhāva), consequences of acts (phala), pain
(duhkha), and liberation (apavarga).

(5.) Perception is the cognition, different from inference, that arises when the self is in contact with a sense organ
and the sense organ with an object (Vaiśeṣika-sūtra,3.1.17). Perception is the cognition arising out of the sense-
object contact and which is certain, nondeviating, and nonverbal (Nyāya-sūtra, 1.1.4).

(6.) Jagadīśa, the famous Navya-Naiyāyika, offers a more sophisticated form of this argument in his Śabdaśakti-
prakāśikā.

(7.) In the object language, a Sanskrit grammarian would be content to show the relation of identity between “pot”
and “black color,” which he would express by applying the same suffix to the noun phrase and the adjective
phrase. Identity, however, is not the relation that we grasp in our reflective cognition (anuvyavasāya).

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(8.) Contact in the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika ontology is a quality and a quality inheres in a substance.

(9.) Svarūpa will be left untranslated because any English term is bound to distort its meaning; it is identical with
either one or both of the relata.

(10.) Sādhyābhāvavadvṛttitvam.

(11.) Overcoverage means that the definition is too wide, for example, when a cow is defined in terms of attribute,
having horns, which is not a distinguishing mark of a cow. Undercoverage means the definition is too narrow, for
example, when a cow is defined as possessing brown color, which is not present in all cows.

Amita Chatterjee
Amita Chatterjee is Professor of Philosophy and Coordinator of the Centre for Cognitive Science, Jadavpur University, Kolkata,
India. She is the author of Understanding Vagueness (1994) and Mental Reasoning: Experiments and Theories (2009, coauthored
with Smita Sirker). Her areas of specializations are logic and Navya-Nyaya, analytic philosophy, philosophy of mind, and cognitive
science.

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