A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 3

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1940 | 232,512 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of failure of theistic proofs: a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the fourth part in the series called the “philosophy of the ramanuja school of thought”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

The existence of God can be known by the testimony of the scriptures (śāstra-pramāṇaka), and by that alone. All other proofs which seem to demonstrate the existence of God ultimately fail to do so, since suitable counter-arguments may always be successfully arrayed to destroy the efficacy of such arguments.

God cannot be perceived either by any of the sense-organs or by the mind; for the former can make known only those objects with which they have come in contact, and the latter (excepting in the direct communication of feelings like pleasure, pain, etc.) cannot make external objects known to us without depending on the sense-organs. Further, God cannot be perceived by the special perception of saints (yogi-pratyakṣa); for these are of the nature of memory, and do not convey any facts previously unknown through the senses. The saints can perceive only what has been already perceived, though these may not be present to the senses at the time. Objects too small for the senses cannot be perceived; for there cannot be any sense-contact with them. No reason can be perceived by means of which a necessary inference could be drawn regarding the existence of a supreme person who has a direct acquaintance with all things and the power of making them all. The ordinary argument that is offered is from effect to cause— since the world is “effect” (kārya), it must have a cause, a maker, who has direct acquaintance with all its materials and their utility and enjoys them.

The world is “effect” because, like all effects, it is made up of parts (sāvayava); like a healthy human body, therefore, it is under the guidance and superintendence of one person and one alone. But the point is that the two cases are not analogous. The human body is neither produced nor maintained in existence by its superintendent, the soul. The production of the body of a person is due to the adṛṣṭa (unseen effects of deeds) not only of that person, but also of beings who are benefited or in some way connected with it. Its existence as connected parts is due to the union of its parts, and does not depend for that on the living person who superintends it. Its existence as living is wholly unique and cannot be found in the case of the world as a whole. The superintendence of one person need not be considered as the invariable cause of all movements; for it is well known that many persons unite their efforts to move some heavy object which could not otherwise be moved.

Moreover, if such a maker of the universe is to be admitted, could not the making of the world be better ascribed to one or more individual souls ? They have a direct acquaintance with the materials of the world. It is not necessary that the maker should be acquainted with the inner efficiencies or power of things; for it is enough if the objects containing those powers are directly known. We see also that in all examples of making, such as the making of a jug, a cloth, or the like, the maker is an ordinary human being. Since the inference of the existence of a cause of the world is inspired by these examples, it will be only fair to assume that the maker of the universe belongs to the same class of beings as the makers of the ordinary mundane effects, such as a jug or a cloth. Thus, inbtead of assuming a supreme being to be the maker of the universe, we might as well assume an individual soul to be the maker of the universe. Hence it is difficult to prove the existence of God by inference. Ordinarily inferences are applied for the knowing of an object which may also be known in other ways, and in all such cases the validity of any inference is tested by these. But in the case of the application of inference for the knowing of God this is not possible; for God cannot be known by anv other direct or indirect method. So the application of inference is not of any use here, since there is nothing which can test the validity of the inference or can determine that inference in a particular way and in that way alone. Therefore, since all sorts of inferences can be made from diverse propositions, it is not possible to determine that any particular kind of inference would be more acceptable than any other.

There are some who would still want to support the cosmological argument on the ground that no less than a supreme person, entirely different from the individual persons, could be regarded as the maker of this vast universe; for the individuals cannot have the power of perceiving subtle things, or things which are obstructed from our view, or things which are far away. Thus it is necessary to hold that the maker of the universe must be a being of unlimited powers. From the effect we infer its cause; and again from the nature of the effect we infer the nature of the cause. So, if the cause of the universe is to be inferred, then only such a cause can be inferred as really has the unlimited powers required for producing such an effect. It is irrelevant to infer such a cause as cannot produce it. Also the unessential conditions of ordinary causes need not be imported by suggesting that, just as in the case of ordinary human beings there must be a body and also instruments by which they can operate and produce the effect, so also in the case of the supreme cause it might be expected that He should have a body and should have instruments by which He could operate.

This cannot be; for we know that many effects are wrought by sheer force of will and desire (saṅkalpa) and neither will nor desire needs a body for its existence, since these are generated not by body, but by mind (manas). The existence of manas also is independent of the existence of body; for the mind continues to exist even when it is dissociated from body. Since limited beings, who are under the sway of virtue and vice, are unable to produce this manifold universe of such wonderful and diverse construction, it has to be admitted that there exists a supreme person who has done it. Moreover, since the material cause is seen in all known examples to be entirely different from the cause as agent or doer, there cannot be a Brahman which is both the material cause (upādāna-kāraṇa) and the cause as agent (nimitta-kāraṇa) of this universe.

To this, however, it may be replied that it is admitted that the world is effect and that it is vast, but it is not known that all parts of this vast world originated at one time and from one person. Not all jugs are made at one time and by one person. How can any room be made for an unknown supreme person and the possibility be ruled out that different individual souls, by virtue of special merit and special powers, should at different times create the different parts of the world, which now appear as one unified whole created by one person at one time? It is quite possible that the different parts of the world were created at different times and will similarly be destroyed at different times. To imagine the existence of one such supreme person who could create all this manifold may well be regarded as almost chimerical. From the fact that the world is effect all that can be argued is that it must have been produced by an intelligent being, but there is nothing to infer that it is necessarily the creation of one intelligent being.

This infinite universe could not have sprung into being at any one moment, and there is no proof that it did so. And, if it came into being gradually, it may well be supposed that there were many intelligent beings who brought it into being gradually. Moreover, God, being absolutely complete in Himself, could not be conceived as having any need to effect such a creation, and He has neither body nor hands with which He could create. It is true that mind does not die with the body, but it is not found in any active state when it is not associated with the body. If it is admitted that God has a body, then He cannot be eternal. If His body could be eternal, though having parts, then on the same grounds the world too might be regarded as eternal. If the world is admitted to have come into being by His mere wish, that would be so strange as to be entirely dissimilar to all known cases of cause and effect.

So, if one has to argue the existence of God as cause of the world on the basis of the analogy of known causes and effects as experienced by us, and if such a God is endowed with all the attributes with which He is generally associated, and with strange ways of creating this world, He must be such a cause as could never be inferred on the basis of the similarity of known causes and their modes of creating the effect. Thus, God can never be proved bv inference. His existence has to be admitted on the testimony of scriptural texts and of that alone.

Like what you read? Consider supporting this website: