Wisdom Library Logo

Chapter XXIII - Members of a Syllogism (avayava)

Akṣapāda ‘enumerates five members or sentences as constituting a syllogism, viz.,

  1. proposition (pratijñā),
  2. reason (hetu),
  3. an explanatory example (udāharaṇa),
  4. application (upanaya)
  5. and conclusion (nigamana).[1]

These sentences are not detached, unconnected statements; but on the other hand, they are closely knit together by mutual requirement and they form a coherent group or a complex judgment.[2] There was a wide divergence of opinion regarding the number of premises and Dharmakīrti denied that the conclusion formed a part of the syllogism. Vātsyāyana refers to a view which held that the members of a syllogism were ten. The Vedāntists admitted only the first or the last three members.[3] The advanced Jainas held that two propositions formed a syllogism and the Buddhists too were at one with the Jainas so far as the number was concerned, though the form and nature of the syllogism were different in each school. But of this we shall have occasion to speak more fully later on. Now, those who insisted on the ten-membered syllogism, were of opinion that, psychologically speaking, five other factors should be added to the syllogism of the Naiyāyika to make it fully representative.

These were, in their opinion,

  1. enquiry (jijñāsā),
  2. doubt (samśaya),
  3. belief in the competency of the premises advanced to prove the thesis (śakyaprāpti),
  4. the practical utility (prayojana)
  5. and removal of doubt (samśayavyudāsa).

But Vātsyāyana and the later commentators point out that enquiry or interrogation, though psychologically an antecedent condition of discussion or proof, has no bearing on the fact of proof and so is outside the pale of syllogistic argument, which aims at proving a thesis. Doubt, too, is a purely psychical fact and though it inspires the enquiry and as such initiates the argument, it has no probative value. Belief in the competency is a question of psychological attitude and by itself has no logical consequence. Utility or practical application of the truth ascertained is only a bye-product of the syllogistic argument. And removal of doubt, which is effected by a reductio ad absurdum of the opposite thesis, has a remote logical bearing no doubt, but it cannot for that matter be regarded as a part of the syllogism, because its function is only to approve and confirm.the truth of the conclusion logically deduced from the premises. It is outside the syllogism, being requisitioned from outside to corroborate the newly discovered truth and is thrown outside as soon as the truth is confirmed. Proposition and the rest, however, are true members of a syllogism, as each of them is essential to the deduction of the conclusion and to the conviction of the disputant; and neither of them can be omitted as each contributes a quota of meaning, which is not expressed by another.[4]


(1) Proposition is the statement of the thesis to be proved, e.g., ‘word is impermanent’ (pratijñā).

(2) Statement of reason consists in adducing a fact capable of proving the probandum, e.g., because it (word) has a definite origin (hetu).

(3) Example is a familiar instance which is known to possess the prabandum by virtue of the probative reason which it possesses in common with the subject or the minor term, e.g. a thing having a definite origin is seen to be impermanent, as, for instance, a pot (udāharana).

(4) Application of the reason to the subject after its probative value has been attested in the example, e.g., word has a definite origin quite as much as the pot which is known to be impermanent (upanaya).

(5) Conclusion is the re-statement of the thesis with the statement of reason attached to it, e.g., ‘therefore word is impermanent, because it has a definite origin’ (nigamana).

The whole syllogism with all its members fully stated amounts to this: —

  1. Word is impermanent,
  2. Because it has a definite origin.
  3. A thing having a definite origin is seen to be impermanent, as for instance a pot.
  4. Word has a definite origin.
  5. Therefore, word is impermanent.

Dharmakīrti is perhaps the first philosopher who questioned the cogency of the proposition. A Proposition has no probative value. The conclusion is proved by virtue of the second and third, or the third and fourth members, the fourth and the second member being identical in import. These two members are alone relevant and the conclusion, too, follows irresistibly from these two and, as such, need not be stated in so many words. A statement is necessary when a fact cannot be known otherwise, and it is redundant here as the fact is known from the drift of the two members. Moreover, the conclusion is only an inane and useless repetition of tbe thesis and so should be expunged. But even the thesis by itself without any reference to the conclusion is redundant, because the subject of dispute is an accepted datum and is known from the context. Vācaspati and Jayantabhaṭṭa, on the other hand, contend that the five-membered syllogism is psychologically the most sound and satisfactory medium of argument. Vācaspati argues that the arguer (vādiri) has to state what is wanted by the opponent, otherwise his statement will fail to receive attentive consideration at the hands of the opponent. The thesis, e.g., ‘word is impermanent,’ is what is wanted to be proved both by the opponent and the arguer and unless this is stated, the reason ‘because it is a product’ will be completely irrelevant. Of course, the Buddhist can contend that his syllogism would completely satisfy the intellectual demand. Thus, ‘whatever is a product in time is impermanent and word is a product in time’ is a perfect syllogism, as it brings home by a logical necessity the conclusion that ‘word is impermanent,’ and this should satisfy the intellectual demand. Vācaspati maintains that the statement of the thesis has a psychological value as it directly enlists the attention of the opponent to the subject-matter of dispute and so the whole argument becomes effective. The Buddhist syllogism lacks this initial advantage and will fail to rouse the attention of the opponent. This defence of Vācaspati is not convincing enough. The arguer advances a syllogism only when there is an occasion for it and the opponent too cannot but give attention to the argument if he is serious of purpose, otherwise the Naiyāyika’s thesis, too, would receive short shrift at the hands of a frivolous opponent.[5] Jayanta contends that the arguer should try to bring home an argument exactly in the order in which he has himself reasoned out the conclusion. The arguer first observes the subject and the reason (probans) and then remembers the universal concomitance, etc. Although the subject is observed without the probandum, the probandum (impermanence, etc.) should be stated in the thesis to disarm a feeling of uncertainty as to the subject-matter of proof, for which a reason would be requisitioned. Psychologically speaking, Jayanta is perfectly correct. But the Buddhist contends that a syllogism should be chosen with a view to its logical cogency, and psychological order should have no bearing on it. If psychological factors should have a determining value, even a statement of approval or direction which initiates the debate should be incorporated in the syllogism.[6] If logical cogency is regarded as the criterion, then the proposition should be excluded in the same way as ‘enquiry,’ ‘doubt,’ etc., advocated by the exponent of the ten-membered syllogism have been discarded by the Naiyāyika.

The third member, application of the reason, too, is a superfluity and has no independent probative force, as it only reiterates the meaning of the second member, the statement of reason.[7] To this charge of Dignāga, Bhāvivikta and Uddyotakara have given this reply. The statement of reason, e.g., ‘on account of being a product’ (kṛtakatvāt) only serves to assign a reason and., does not testify that the reason exists in the subject or.not.; The application (upanaya) emphasises the subsistence. of the. reason in the subject and as such has a different, function and value from the mere statement of reason. The value of upanaya may be shown in another way. The upanaya does not reiterate the reason as such; it applies the reason with its invariable concomitance as shown in the example and thus leads to the conclusion. The statement of reason unbacked by invariable concomitance with the probandum is inane and ineffectual; hence the application is necessary.[8] But Śāntarakṣita contends that if upanaya is deemed necessary for pointing out the subsistence of the reason in the subject, the necessity and function of the statement of reason should be stated. Mere assignation of a reason without reference to the subject is absolutely out of place and uncalled for. It must therefore be admitted that assignation of reason has a reference to the subject and so has the same value with upanaya. Therefore, either of them should be jettisoned. Nor is it necessary for bringing into relation the invariable concomitance with the reason assigned, because this relation is understood eo ipso from the two premises (sic), the statement of reason and example with universal concomitance. And these two premises, e.g., ‘whatever is a product is perishable, as a pot’ and ‘word is a product,’ constitute a perfect syllogism and nothing further is necessary. Vācaspati and Jayanta fully realised the cogency of the argument as put forward by Śāntarakṣita and the weakness of Uddyotakara’s defence. But they appealed to psychological evidence.

They argue,

‘well, our argument should be advanced in the order of our own experience, by which we arrived at the truth. Now we first observe the subject, say, ‘the hill’ and then the reason, ‘smoke.’ Next we remember the invariable concomitance of smoke and fire as observed in a furnace and immediately this invariable concomitance is understood in relation to the smoke in the hill and the direct upshot of this is the deduction of the conclusion. The five members only embody the order of our own subjective ratiocination and as such constitute the most satisfying syllogism.’

This defence, on the ground of psychology of ratiocination, reflects great credit on the part of Vācaspati and Jayanta and is more satisfactory than the apologia of Uddyotakara and Bhāvivikta. Logic and psychology indubitably occupy some common ground, especially in its most deliberate and elaborate processes, namely, conception, judgment and reasoning. Psychology tries to explain the subjective processes of conception, judgment and reasoning and to give their natural history; but logic is wholly concerned with the results of such processes, with concepts, judgments and reasonings and merely with the validity of the results, that is, with their truth or consistency, whereas Psychology has nothing to do with their validity, but only with their causes. Besides, the logical judgment is quite a different thing from the psychological; the latter involves feeling and belief, whereas the former is merely a given relation of concepts. If belief has any place in logic, it depends upon evidence; whereas in psychology belief may depend upon causes which may have evidentiary value or may not.[9]

So psychological evidence as to the subjective processes of reasoning should not be allowed to dictate terms to the constitution of a logically sound syllogism; Logic, as has been pointed out above, is concerned with validity and cogency, whereas psychology is interested in the natural history of mental phenomena. So though psychologically the proposition and the application may have a raison d’etre, they cannot on that account be suffered to enter as factors into a syllogistic argument, whose chief interest and guiding principle should be logical cogency and probative value, which is conspicuously lacking in the premises under consideration.

And as regards the conclusion (nigamana), this also does not require to be stated, as it follows by a sheer logical necessity from the universal proposition as stated in the example and the statement of reason in the application (upanaya). Moreover, on the Naiyāyika’s own showing it is perfectly redundant being only a purposeless reiteration of the proposition (pratijñā).[10] Uddyotakara however maintains that the conclusion is not a useless repetition of the proposition or the thesis, as the latter only states what is yet to be proved and the former is the statement of a proven fact. Nor is the statement of the conclusion unnecessary, because it serves to dispel a likely error or doubt. Unless the conclusion is stated, the opponent may still waver as to whether ‘word is perishable or not.’ The clear statement of the conclusion disarms all such doubt and satisfies the opponent completely. But Śāntarakṣita points out that this defence only seeks to gloss over a glaring defect with a show of explanation. The fact of the matter is that there can be no possibility of a doubt, if the reason endued with triple condition is advanced. The conclusion irresistibly follows from this and none else. If on the other hand the triple character be lacking, the statement of the conclusion by itself cannot remove the doubt about its validity.[11] Aviddhakarṇa contends that the premises scattered and piecemeal cannot establish a unitary judgment, that is, the conclusion, unless they are shown to be mutually related and this reciprocity of relation is shown by the conclusion. But this too is a hopeless apology because though the premises are stated piecemeal, they have a mutual compatibility and relevancy, as the probans by reason of invariable concomitance establishes the probandum by a logical necessity and through this concomitance, the premises are knit together by a logical bond. Thus, the statement of the conclusion is unnecessary even for the purpose of showing the mutual relation of the premises, as they are related by virtue of their own relevancy.[12]

The Buddhist therefore reduces the syllogism to two members, the universal proposition with the example tagged on and the minor premise. The Jaina logician by advocating internal concomitance of the probans and the probandum without reference to an example expunges the example from the universal proposition and thus brings it into line with Aristotelian syllogism. From the doctrine of ten-membered syllogism reduced to five in the Nyāyasūtra and still further reduced to two in Buddhist logic, we can trace the history of the evolution of syllogism. Naturally the psychological and the logical factors were mixed together in the doctrine of ten-membered syllogism. In the Naiyāyika’s syllogism there has been a bold attempt to shake off the psychological incubus, but still the psychological influence did not cease to be at work. In the Buddhist syllogism as propounded by Dignāga and Dharmakīrti the psychological factors were carefully eliminated and the syllogism received a perfectly logical shape. But the survival of the example was a relic of the ancient sway of psychology and this was destined to be unceremoniously brushed aside by the onslaughts of Jaina logicians, who propounded the doctrine of internal concomitance (antarvyāpti). We are inclined to believe that the growth and evolution of syllogistic argument was purely indigenous and the theory of Greek influence, advanced by the late Dr. Satish Chandra Vidyābhūṣaṇa, has no more substantial basis than pure conjecture to support it. The points of contact are rather flimsy coincidences and too laboured to produce conviction. We confess that we stand unconvinced of Aristotelian influence in spite of the ingenuity of the learned Doctor. It is highly improbable that the five-membered syllogism was worked out from Aristotle’s syllogism of three members. The universal proposition does not seem to have received the attention, it deserves, at the hands of the old Naiyāyikas. It was Dignāga who emphasised this important point. The learned Doctor goes out of his way to detect here also Greek influence, but this looks like seeing tiger in every bush. The whole theory of Dr. Vidyābhūṣana appears to have been formed from a priori considerations and then coincidences, far-fetched and accidental, were pressed into requisition to confirm his theory conceived on a priori grounds. We should on the other hand believe Vātsyāyana who derived the five-membered syllogism from the syllogism of ten members and this was due to the growing clarity of logical vision, which ultimately culminated in the two-membered syllogism of Dignāga’s school, with the conclusion suppressed. Here it was an improvement on Aristotle’s syllogism. The survival of the example in Indian syllogism except in Jaina logic, appears to be decisive proof of indigenous growth of the syllogistic form of argument in India.[13]

first previous index next last

- Footnotes:


pratijñāhetūdāharaṇopanayanigamanāny avayavāḥ.
      N. S., 1. 1. 82.


avayavatvenai’kavākyatā darśitā, sā ca padānāṃ parasparāpekṣitasambandhayogyārthapratyāyanena bhavati.
      Tāt. ṭi., p. 266.


tatra pañcatayaṃ kecid, dvayam anye, vayaṃ trayam
udāharaṇaparyantaṃ yadvo ’dāharaṇādikam ||
      Vide Advaitasiddhibālabodhinī, p. 173.


Vide Vā. bh. ad 1. 1. 32. Cf. parapratipādakā ye vākyāṅgabhūtā itaretarāpratyāyitenā’rthenā’rthavanto vākyāṅgatām upayanti te’vayavāḥ.
      N. V., pp. 107-8.

Cf. te ca jijñāsādaya utpannāḥ prakaraṇasyo’tthāpakāḥ svarupeṇa, na punaḥ svajñānena, yena svaśabdapratipādyāḥ santaḥ prakaraṇe’py aṅgam bhaveyuḥ...... tasmāt sarvathai’va jijñāsādivācakapadaprayogo’narthaka iti bhāvaḥ.
      Tāt. ṭi, p. 267;


Vide Tāt. ṭi., pp. 274-75.

Cf. prakṛtārthāśrayā sa’pi yadi vā na virudhyate |
na vādy akāṇḍa evā’ha parasyā’pi hi sādhanam ||
      T.S., Śl. 1436.


Vide N. M., pp. 571-72; also, T. S., śls. 1432-33.


“upanayavacanaṃ na sādhanam, uktahetvarthaprakāśakatvāt, dvitīyahetuvacanavat” ity ācārya-Dignāgapādaiḥ pramāṇite Bhāviviktādayaḥ.............. āhuḥ.
      T. S. P., p. 421.


Ibid, also vide N.V., pp. 137, 138.


Vide Carveth Reid’s Logic: Deductive and Inductive, pp. 9-10.


tatrā’cārya-Dignāgapādair uktam “nigamanaṃ punaruktatvād eva na sādhanam”
      iti. T.S.P., p. 421.

Cf. ‘upanayanigamane nā’vayavāntare, arthāviśeṣād’—quoted in N.V., p. 137.


trirūpahetunirdeśasāmarthyād eva siddhitaḥ |
na viparyayaśaṅkā’sti vyarthaṃ nigamanaṃ tataḥ ||
      T.S., śl. 1440.

Cf. nā’pi nigamanād vacanamātrān niryuktikāt tu sā vinivartate.
      T.S.P., ibid.


Aviddkakarṇas tv aha—“viprakīrṇaiś ca vacanair nai’kārthaḥ pratipādyate |
tena sambandhasiddhyarthaṃ vācyaṃ nigamanaṃ pṛthak ||”
      T.S.P., p. 422. ad T.S., śl. 1441.


Vide H.I.L., Appendix B, pp. 497-518.

first previous index next last

Article published on

Last update on