Anumana in Indian Philosophy

by Sangita Chakravarty | 2016 | 48,195 words

This page relates ‘The Fallacy of Anumana (in Mimamsa-Vedanta Philosophy)’ of the study on the concept of Anumana (inference) in the Vedic schools of Indian Philosophy. Anumana usually represents the most authentic means of valid knowledge. This paper discusses the traditional philosophical systems such as Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mimamsa and Vedanta.

(D). The Fallacy of Anumāna (in Mīmāṃsā-Vedānta Philosophy)

The validity of an anumāna depends on the validity of its constituent propositions. If any of the constituent proposition is fallacious, the whole anumāna is vitiated.

In the Mīmāṃsā system of Indian philosophy, Kumārila classifies the fallacies of anumāna into:

  1. pratijñābhāsa,
  2. hetvābhāsa and
  3. dṛṣṭāntābhāsa.

Prabhākara also counts separately the fallacies of the minor (pakṣābhāsa), the fallacies of the enunciation (pratijñābhāsa) and the fallacies of the example (dṛṣṭāntābhāsa) along with the fallacies of the middle which seems to indicate that the Mīmāṃsā logic was not altogether free from Buddhist influence. The cognition of smoke includes within itself the cognition of fire. In this way there would be nothing left unknown to be cognized by the inferential cognition. Prabhākara does not admit that a pramāṇa should necessarily bring us any new knowledge. Pramāṇa is precisely defined as “apprehension”. Therefore, though the inferential cognition always pertains to thing already known it is yet regarded by him as a pramāṇa. It is doubtlessly an apprehension.

An anumāna proceeds from what is already known to what is inferred. A valid conclusion should be one which is not previously known in the form in which it is stated or in a contradictory form. When a conclusion is known to be true the anumāna appearing to prove it becomes redundant and when it is known to be false the anumāna has no scope and it becomes contradicted. Here a question arises as to how one pramāṇa can contradict another pramāṇa? A pramāṇa is never contradicted and that which is contradicted is not a pramāṇa but a pramāṇābhāsa. A pramāṇa is a true and definite knowledge. The conditions of a valid anumāna are psychological rather than logical. In logical condition the premises must be true and must imply a conclusion. And in their violation crop up the fallacies called hetvābhāsas and dṛṣṭāntābhāsas. The fallacy of pratijñā or conclusion is rooted in the psychological condition. The fallacies of conclusion are of two types. One is called siddhaviśeṣaṇa and the other is called bādhita. The fallacy is called siddhaviśeṣaṇa when the conclusion is already known independently of the inference which seeks to prove it.

The bādhita or sublated fallacy means when a conclusion is sublated by another stronger pramāṇa. Dṛṣṭāntābhāsas are the fallacies of example. Example is said to be of two kinds. One is called similar example (sādharmya) and other is called dissimilar example (vaidharmya).

In this present context, we shall discuss elaborately only about hetvābhāsas. In the Mīmāṃsā system, Kumārila’s treatment of this class of fallacies is primarily based on the rules of debate.

Kumārila and Pārthasārathi Miśra both mention that the fallacies are mainly three in number, viz.,

  1. (i) asiddha,
  2. (ii) anaikāntika and
  3. (iii) viruddha.

Each of these is subdivided as follows:

(1) Asiddha or the non-established middle term:

There are five kinds of asiddha hetu. These are—

  1. svarūpāsiddha or non-established existence,
  2. sambandhāsiddha or non-established relation,
  3. vyatirekāsiddha or non-establishment elsewhere,
  4. āśrayāsiddha or non-established substrate and,
  5. vyāptyāsiddha or partly non-established. It is also known as bhāgāsiddha or pakṣaika-deśahetvāsiddha.

(a) “Buddha knows vice and virtue, because he is omniscient”. It involves svarūpāsiddha. Here, the middle term ‘omniscient’ is non-existent, because it is not found anywhere. Omniscience is an imaginary character.

(b) “Fire does not burn, because it is cold”. It involves sambandhāsiddha. Here, the middle term ‘cold’ is a real character found in other things. But its relation to the minor term,i.e., ‘fire’ is unreal.[1]

(c) “The word ‘cow’ denotes a being possessing a dewlap and the like”, because it is denoted by the word cow. It involves vyatirekāsiddha. Here, the middle term has no existence apart from the pakṣa or minor term. This fallacy is also called asādhāraṇa or the uncommon middle.

(d) “Ether is eternal, because it is a substance which is not composed of parts”. The Sautrāntika involves it āśrayāsiddha, because he denies the existence of ether (ākāśa).

(e) “Air and ether are non-eternal, because they are corporeal.” It involves vyāptyāsiddha, because ether is incorporeal. The Bhāṭṭa Mīmāṃsaka’s fallacy of vyāptyāsiddha corresponds to the Naiyāyika’s fallacy of bhāgāsiddha.

(2) Anaikāntika or non-conclusive on Doubtful middle:

In the Mīmāṃsā system, Pārthasārathi Miśra recognizes two kinds of anaikāntika, viz.,

  1. savyabhicāra or irregular middle, and
  2. sapratisādhana or satpratipakṣa.

Kumārila calls sapratisādhana as viruddhāvyabhicārī. [2]

(a) “Sound is eternal, because it is incorporeal.” It involves savyabhicāra, because non-eternal motions are incorporeal. Therefore, incorporeality is an irregular reason. This fallacy is called sādhāraṇa or the common middle, because it is commonly found in the major and its absence.

(b) “Air is perceptible, because it is tangible, having a large dimention. Again, “air is imperceptible, because it is colourless, being a substance.” These two inferences involve the fallacy of sapratisādhana corresponding to the Naiyāyika’s satpratipakṣa. Here, there are two middle terms ‘tangibility’, and ‘being a substance without colour’ both leading to conflicting inferences. They are indecisive, because the comparative strength of both is not estimated here. Prabhākara rejects the second variety of anaikāntika, and gives his justification by stating that two contradictory middle terms cannot be equally powerful and cannot be predicated of the minor term simultaneously. Pārthasārathi Miśra answers to this objection by arguing that the occurrence of the cases of satpratisādhana are frequent and the doubt in such cases is removed by some stronger pramāṇa. That is to say that two equally powerful but contradictory middle terms cannot reside in the same pakṣa; but though one of them is really stronger than the other, yet it is not discovered at the time as to which one is stronger and which one weaker. Hence, doubt arises and continues until a decision is arrived at by appealing to a stronger pramāṇa later on.

Kumārila mentions three kinds of anaikāntika. The first is called savyabhicāra, the second is called viruddhāvyabhicārī and the third is called asādhāraṇa or the uncommon middle. When someone argues that ‘earth is eternal, because it has smell’, the middle term ‘smell’ being a unique property of earth, is not found in other elements. Since it is not found in anything which is established to be eternal or non-eternal except in earth and since the eternity or non-eternity of earth is yet unknown, the middle term ‘smell’ simply fails to lead to any inference. According to Kumārila, a sādhāraṇa middle is concomitant with the probandum, but is not non-concomitant with the absence of the probandum. It fulfills only one condition of validity and hence it is a source of doubt. Similarly, an asādhāraṇa middle also fulfills only one condition and it is also a source of doubt. An asādhāraṇa middle is found to be absent from the probandum as well as the negation of it and thus leads to two incompatible cognitions, viz., the cognition of the absence of the probandum and that of the absence of the negation of it.

For example, as smell is not to be found in eternal things its presence in earth leads to the cognition that earth is not eternal. Again smell is not found in non-eternal things and hence its presence in earth leads to the cognition that ‘earth is not non-eternal.’ These two cognitions are cotradictory and hence they give rise to doubt.[3]

(3) Viruddha or contradictory middle:

The fallacy of viruddha or contradictory middle is also called bādhaka. A contradictory middle term establishes just the opposite of the desired major term and it is of one kind only.

However, if it be necessary to mention subsidiary divisions, then the two only should be mentioned, viz.,

  1. dharmasvarūpabādha and
  2. dharmaviśeṣabādha.

Some Mīmāṃsakas mention six kinds of viruddha adding four more to the above.

  1. dharmīśvarūpabādha,
  2. dharmīviśeṣabādha,
  3. ubhayāsvarūpabādha, and
  4. ubhayaviśeṣabādha.

(a) Firstly, dharmasvarūpabādha means the non-existence of the desired major. For example, sound is eternal, because it is produced. The producedness of sound contradicts its eternality.[4]

(b) Secondly, dharmaviśeṣabādha means the non-existence of a particular property of the major. For example, the relation of a word to an object being not known denotes an object, because it has a case ending like a word whose relation to an object is known already. Here, a word’s denoting an object is inferred prior to the knowledge of its relation to its object. But a word’s denoting to an object is pervaded by the prior knowledge of its relation to its object. Therefore, the anumāna involves dharmaviśeṣabādha. [5]

(c) Thirdly, dharmīsvarūpabādha or the middle proves the non-existence of the minor. The dharmin is the subject (pakṣa) of anumāna, while the dharma is the predicate (sādhya) inferred.[6]

(d) Fourthly, dharmaviśeṣabādha proves the non-existence of a particular property of the minor. In this anumāna, maniness of the subject contradicts the oneness of inherence.[7]

(e) Fifthly, ubhayāsvarūpabādha proves the non-existence of the major and minor term both, e.g., “the self is eternal, because it does not consist of parts like ether.” The Sautrāntika, who denies the reality of the self as well as its eternity, involves dharmādharmīsvarūpabādha. [8]

(f) Sixthly or lastly, ubhayaviśeṣabādha is the combination of dharmīviśeṣabādha and dharmaviśeṣabādha. The visual organs etc. are the means for the experience of a self, because they are composed of sattva, rajas and tamas. [9] A bed, a body etc. are also composed of sattva, rajas and tamas and material. They are also the means of the experience of a self. The visual organs etc. are material like them. This contradicts that they are products of egoism. Therefore, the anumāna involves dharmīviśeṣabādha. A bed which is composed of parts and a means for the experience of another is pervaded by materiality. Therefore, its being a means for the experience of a self is unproven. The visual organ etc. may not be composed of parts. That is why the anumāna involves dharmaviśeṣabādha. Thus, it involves dharmādharmīviśeṣabādha. In the Mīmāṃsā system, some recognize only four kinds of bādha while some recognize only one kind of bādha. In their view, the other kinds are useless. Pārthasārathi Miśra says that there are only two kinds of bādha, viz., dharmaviśeṣabādha and dharmīviśeṣabādha.

Again, Śālikanātha Miśra states anaikāntika, asiddha and bādhaka or viruddha as fallacious reasons (hetvābhāsa). According to him, anaikāntika is of three types, viz.,

  1. sādhāraṇa,
  2. asādhāraṇa and
  3. savyabhicāra.

Asiddha or unproven reason, according to Śālikanātha Miśra, is of two types, viz.,

  1. svarūpāsiddha and
  2. ekadeśāsiddha.

A bādhaka or viruddha on a contradictory middle term establishes just the opposite of the desired major term, e.g., “the jar is eternal, because it is produced.” This involves contradictory reason because producedness is pervaded by non-eternality.

In Indian philosophical system, anumāna or inference has been discussed more thoroughly and elaborately by the Indian thinkers.

Footnotes and references:


śaityānna dāhako vahniścākṣuṣatvādanityā / śabdasyetyevamādou tu dvayoḥ siddho viparyayaḥ // Śāstradīpikā, 76


yatrāpratyakṣatā vāyorrūpatvena sādhyate /
sparśāt pratyakṣatā vāsau viruddhāvyabhicārita // Ślokavārttika, Anumāna, 91


nityāyatnotthayatnotthānityesu dviranityataḥ /
nityabhūrgandhavatvena syād asādhāraṇastvayam // Ibid., Anumāna,86


nityatve kṛtakasya dharmabādhād viruddhatā. Ibid., Anumāna, 97


bādho dharmaviśeṣasya yadā tvevaṃ prayujyate /
arthavat śabdarūpaṃ syāt prāg sambandhāvadhāraṇāt // Ibid., Anumāna, 98


atrāpyasamavāyatvam saṃyogasyeva siddhyati /
tena dharmīsvarūpasya vaiparītyād viruddhatā // Ibid., Anumāna,101


ihapratyayahetutvād dravyādervyāptiricyate /
samavāyo yathehāyam ghata ityādisaṅgatiḥ // Ibid., Anumāna, 100


nityamātmāstitā kaiścid yadā sautrāntikam prati/
sādhyate avayavābhāvād vyomavat dvayabādhanam // Ibid., Anumāna, 103


tadubhayaviśeṣasya bādho’yam sādhyate yadā /
parārtham cakṣurādinām saṅghātacchayanādivat // Ibid., Anumāna, 104

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