A History of Indian Philosophy Volume 4

Indian Pluralism

by Surendranath Dasgupta | 1949 | 186,278 words | ISBN-13: 9788120804081

This page describes the philosophy of concomitance (vyapti): a concept having historical value dating from ancient India. This is the fourth part in the series called the “madhva logic”, originally composed by Surendranath Dasgupta in the early 20th century.

Part 4 - Concomitance (vyāpti)

The word vyāpti in Sanskrit is a noun formed from the root vyāp, “to pervade”. The consequence (e.g., fire) pervades all cases of smoke, i.e., the circle of the consequence is not smaller than the circle of smoke and encloses it; consequence is therefore called the pervader (vyāpaka) and the reason (e.g. smoke) as the object of this action of pervading is called the pervaded (vyāpya). Thus in the case of smoke and fire there is an unfailing relation (avyabhicāritā-sambandha) between them and the former is called vyāpya and the latter vyāpaka. This unfailing relation may however be of four kinds. First, the two circles might coincide (samavṛtti), in which case the reason may be treated as consequence and inferred from the consequence treated as reason and vice versa. Thus one may argue both ways: it is sinful because it is prohibited in the Vedas and it is prohibited in the Vedas because it is sinful; here the two circles coincide. Secondly, when one circle is smaller than the other, as in the case of smoke and fire (nyūnādhika-vṛtti); the circle of fire is larger than the circle of smoke and so one could infer smoke from fire, but not fire from smoke— vyāpya is smaller than the vyāpaka. Thirdly, where the two circles are mutually exclusive (paraspara-parihāreṇaiva vartate), e.g., the class-concept cow (gotva) and the class-concept horse (aśvatva) ; where there is one, there is not the other. There is a relation of exclusion here, but not the relation of a vyāpya and vyāpaka. Fourthly, where the two are sometimes mutually exclusive, yet sometimes found to be coincident ; thus cooking is done by women, yet there are men who cook; cook and males are mutually exclusive, though there may be some males who cook (kvacit samāviṣṭa api kvacit paraspara-parihā-reṇaiva vartate). The circle of cooking is divided between males and females. Here also there is a relation between cooking and males, but it is not unfailing (avyabkicāritā); unfailing relation means that, where there is one, there must be the other also.

When a man observes the coexistence of fire and smoke, he naturally revolves in his mind

“is it in this place that fire and smoke are seen together, while in other places and at other times the presence of one excludes the presence of the other, or are they always found together”;

then by observing in several instances, he finds that, where there is smoke, there is fire, and that, where there is no fire, there is no smoke, and that in some cases at least there is fire, but no smoke.

These observations are followed by a consideration such as this:

“since, though in many cases fire coexists with smoke, in some cases at least fire is found where there is no smoke, does smoke, although in all the cases known to me it exists with fire, ever remain without it, or does it always coexist with fire?”

Then again the consideration arises that the relation of smoke to fire is determined by the presence of wet wood (ādrendhana), which may be called a vitiating condition (upādhi), i.e., had this condition not been there, there would have been unqualified coexistence of fire with smoke, and vice versa. This vitiating condition (upādhi) exists in all cases of smoke, but not in all cases of fire[1]. Where the coexistence is not determined by any such vitiating condition, the coexistence is universally mutual. There are some qualities which are common to both fire and smoke (e.g., both of them are objects of knowledge: yathā prameyatvam), and these cannot determine the connection. There are other qualities which do not belong either to smoke or fire, and these also cannot determine the connection. It is only the vitiating condition of the presence of wet wood which by its absence can dissociate fire from smoke, but cannot dissociate smoke from fire. If there were any such condition which was present in all cases of fire, but not in all cases of smoke, then the inference of fire from smoke would have been faulty as the inference of smoke from fire is faulty. Now, so far as we have observed, there is no such condition which is present in all cases of fire, but not in all cases of smoke; the fear that there may be some vitiating conditions which are too subtle for our senses is illegitimate; for, if it is neither perceived nor known by any other sources of knowledge (pramāṇāntara-vedya), the doubt that it may still somehow exist cannot arise. So, when we are satisfied that there are no vitiating conditions, there arises the notion of invariable concomitance (avinābhāva-pramitiḥ)[2].

So the invariable concomitance is grasped by perception aided by wide experience, associated with absence of any knowledge of exception to coexistence and ascertainment of absence of vitiating conditions, operating as accessories. When once the mutual invariable relation between smoke and fire is grasped, then, wherever smoke is perceived, fire is inferred[3]. This description of the formation of the notion of concomitance seems to be more or less the same as the Nyāya view; there also the perceiving of coexistence, associated with the knowledge of absence of exception, is said to lead to the formation of the notion of concomitance[4].

Footnotes and references:


This vitiating condition will therefore falsify an inference such as “There is smoke in the hill because there is fire.”


Vyāsa-tīrtha remarks here that the ascertainment of the absence of vitiating conditions is necessary in most cases where there are doubts as to their possible existence, but should not be insisted upon as indispensable in all cases; for then, this ascertainment of absence of vitiating conditions being dependent on determination of concomitance and that on previous ascertainment of absence of vitiating conditions, there would be infinite regress (anavasthā):

yā tu Paddhatav upādhi-niścayasya sahakāritvoktiḥ sā tu upādhi-śaṅkāsthābhiprāyā na tu sārva-trikābhiprāyā anyathā upādhy-abhāva-niścayasya vyāpti-sāpekṣa-tarkādhīnatvenā-navasthāpātāt.
(MS., p. 22).


Pramāṇa-paddhati, pp. 31-5.


vyabhicāra-jñāna-viraha-sahakṛtaṃ sahacāra-darśanaṃ vyāpti-grāhakam.
p. 210.

Legitimate doubts regarding invariable concomitance may be removed by tarka, as has already been described above.

Vyāsa-tīrtha, following the Nyāya-sudhā,
defines vitiating conditions (upādhi) as sādhya-vyāpakatve sati sādhanāvyāpaka upādhir iti;
and he objects to Udayana’s definition of it as sādhya-sama-vyāptatve sati sādhanāvyāpaka upādhiḥ
and also to Gaṅgeśa’s definition of it as paryavasita-sādhya-vyāpakatve sati sādhanāvyāpaka upādhiḥ.

But the purport aimed at by these various definitions is the same, as has been explained above. The distinctions are more verbal and scholastic than logical or philosophical; it will therefore be an unnecessary digression to enter into these. See the whole discussion on upādhi in Vyāsa-tīrtha’s Tarka-tāṇḍava (MS., pp. 44-61).

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