The validity of Anumana (inference) in Nyaya system

by Babu C. D | 2018 | 44,340 words

This thesis is called: The validity of Anumana (inference) in Nyaya system. It tries to establish the validity of Anumana through citing its application either consciously or unconsciously in every sphere of human life. Anumana in Nyaya system is the knowledge of any object not by direct observation but by means of the knowledge of a liṅga or sign ...

Chapter 6 - Summary and Conclusion

Knowledge is the revelation of the objective world to a subject. Knowledge may be true or false or valid or invalid. There have been umpteen debates as to what constitutes validity and invalidity of knowledge. Different schools of Indian thoughts explain it differently but most converge to a single central theme of firm and assured form of cognition devoid of any doubts. It is in a sense an advancement of one which is already known. There are also instances where one comes across various convictions regarding a particular object and requires to verify their validity. Here, the Indian philosophy proposes various methods to verify the validity which may be termed as pramana. There are various sources of means of valid knowledge which include perception, inference, comparison, verbal testimony etc.

The preceding chapters of the research work have made an attempt to provide various means of valid knowledge and a comprehensive analysis of Anumana as a source of valid knowledge particularly that propounded by the Nyaya school. There has been a long chain of works by different hands which include commentators, researchers and modern philosophers, though each one views things in their own ways particularly on the source of knowledge and anumana. However, an in-depth and comprehensive study on anumana particularly in the light of Navya Naiyayikas remains untouched by most scholars. In this thesis, effort is taken to include diversified views of scholars representing modem schools of Indian Philosophy whose approach towards the subject was critical and result oriented. Pararthanumana, a sort of inference focused for others as invented by Nyaya-Vaisheshikas is proved valid by them which gained universal concurrence especially in the present situation of glorified science.

The Nyaya School is seen very much concerned about the unavoidability of anumana especially the pararthanumana to make people aware of the rigidity underlying each thought of their own. The logical reasoning and the way of arguments adopted by the Naiyayikas, to establish a fact covering knowledge about something is accepted widely by almost all thinkers and philosophers of different schools.

In the introductory chapter of the proposed thesis, it is tried to bring out the concept regarding valid knowledge which is prama in philosophy. The latter part of the same chapter is restrained to explain the scope of the defined prama as it stands.

An analysis on the theory of knowledge and its means done in the second chapter redeems the assumptions of various schools of Indian thought which are not unanimous in their views regarding pramanas the means of knowledge. Though it could be seen some similarity among a few schools in some of their views, most of them are seen arguing continuously until the closure of the chapter without sheathing their swords.

Overall, ten pramanas are notified as against the previous assumptions of eight which read as:

  1. Perception (Pratyaksha),
  2. Inference (Anumana),
  3. Verbal testimony (Shabda),
  4. Comparison (Upamana),
  5. Postulation (Arthapathi),
  6. Non-apprehension (Anupalabdhi),
  7. Probability (Sambhava),
  8. Tradition (Aitihya),
  9. Indication (Cesta), and
  10. Imagination or Intuition (Pratibha).

While the Carvakas accepted perception as the only means of valid knowledge, Buddhists and Vaisheshikas considered perception and inference as pramanas. The Sankhya-Yoga philosophers recognized perception, inference and verbal testimony as pramanas. In contrast, the Nyaya School of philosophy recognizes four pramanas: perception, inference, comparison and verbal testimony. Prabhakaras from Mimamsa School of philosophy acknowledge perception, inference, comparison, verbal testimony and presumption as pramanas. Kumarila and Advaitic Vedantins identify perception inference, comparison, verbal testimony, presumption and nonapprehension as valid sources of knowledge. Perception (pratyksha) or direct knowledge and mediate (paroksha) or indirect knowledge are the pramanas admitted in Jainism. They discuss the nature of object, conditions and grounds of valid knowledge in detail. Inference is a chief means of valid knowledge.

The discussions on pramana reveal the fact that Perception (pratyaksha) and Inference (anumana) form the two major sources of knowledge. All the philosophers and thinkers of Indian philosophy agree in the fact that no source of valid knowledge can prevail without relying on Perception.

Discussion on Anumana forms the third chapter. The theistic schools of Indian philosophy define anumana (inference) as a process of knowing the truth not by direct observation but by means of knowledge of Vyapti (invariable concomitance). The inference propagated by Nyaya system has been profoundly acknowledged by different schools. They consider it as an independent source of knowledge and it is gained through sign and symbol which has universal relationship with the objects of inference. Gautama, the worshipped author of Nyayasutras agrees with the Sankhya Yoga philosophers while stating that anumana is the knowledge taken from sign and signate. Anumana has been classified differently by various philosophers. The earliest division comprises the twofold: svarthanumana (for oneself) and pararthanumana (inference for others) in which the first one is derived by the person for himself and the other is related to convincing others through extraneous means.

Gautama classifies inference into three:

  1. Purvavat (cause to effect),
  2. Sheshavat (effect to cause) and
  3. Samanyatodrista (seen in common).

Nyaya type of Inference involves five syllogisms, viz.,

  1. Pratijna or the proposition; the hill is fiery;
  2. Hetu, or the reason; because it is smoky;
  3. Udaharana; or the explanatory example, wherever there is smoke, there is fire e.g. a kitchen;
  4. Upanaya or the application; so is this hill;
  5. Nigmana, or the statement of the conclusion; therefore the hill is fiery.

In the Nyaya form of inference, that to be proved is referred to first and is pratijna. The premises come last. This is the actual form of reasoning. It states that there must be two premises-the major and the minor with which there must be a third one to synthesize these two. These three with conclusion and probandum formulate the five membered syllogism peculiar to Nyaya type of inference. The process of inference is objective and as it is in the form of convincing others. It is considered more reliable compared to svarthanumana or other such means. Being used for convincing others the validity thereof increases.

Vyapti (invariable concomitance) and pakshadharmata are the two major grounds of inference. Vyapti forms the base of inference in a logical process as one’s knowledge of the sadhya or major term as related to the paksha or minor term relies on the knowledge of invariable concomitance between the middle and major terms. Knowledge on inferred object is preceded by realizing the link between the invariable concomitance or vyapti and the middle term. Every inference involves at least three steps; the knowledge of the middle term related by the minor term; the knowledge of vyapti between the middle and the major terms and the conclusion, in which the major term is predicated of the minor term. The conclusion is the result deduced by reasoning. In the concluding part of the chapter an analysis of the fallacies of inference as propounded by Nyaya School has been included to give a comprehensive sense of the subject.

What the syncretic school speaks of Anumana has been dealt in detail in the fourth chapter. Nyaya and Vaisheshika schools though distinct in origin, by and large share or agree on many of their teachings of metaphysics and epistemology. On a few of their teachings, however, they maintain their identity and uniqueness. While Vaisheshika represents the positive, constructive and creative side, Nyaya represents its defensive side. Tarkasamgraha and Nyayasiddhantamuktavali, the two unchallenged books of Nyaya Vaisheshika, by providing first hand information, lend a hand to the beginners to move forward in any one of the systems of Indian philosophy. Their theism is fixed on the basic tenet that whatever experienced directly must have an external contour. It underlines that experience is the only criterion for accepting the reality of external objects. This school of thought accepts four means of knowledge viz., perception (pratyaksha), inference (anumana), comparison (upamana) and verbal testimony (shabda). Logic and the method of debate are key concepts of Nyaya Vaisheshika. They developed concepts and definitions of the components of inference such as inferential mark (linga) or invariable concomitance (vyapti). Essential differentiation between the substratum and its properties (dharma-dharmi bheda) is the corner stone of the structure of realism and of metaphysics of Nyaya Vaisheshika. The universal (samanya) and the particular (vishesha) are considered separate external realities and a relation (samavaya) is established between them through their attributes-qualities, actions etc. According to them inference is produced by noticing a sign or mark. Various Nyaya Vaisheshika thinkers have categorized inference differently. Prashastapada mentions of two types-drista and samanyatodrista. Another thinker divides it into svarthanumana (Inference for oneself) and pararthanumana (inference for others).Here, while the former accepts three member syllogisms (two premises and one conclusion);the latter follows five member syllogisms. Inference, Uddyotakara remarks inference as a knowledge based upon the relation between the middle and major terms aided by a remembrance of that relation. Nyaya Vaisheshikas thus began with a common porthole or experiments based on logical theories and arrived at conclusions which at times turned outrageous even to the well-established theories of the opponents.

Citing events and situations from the contemporary world, the fifth chapter establishes and confirms the validity and relevance of Anumana especially pararthanumana of Nyaya school in the present world. Inference always gives us the knowledge of an object which is beyond perception. The knowledge regarding the existence of akasa, god, atom etc., cannot be gained through perception but only through anumana. Again by using svarthanumana it is impossible to convince others. Hence, the process of pararthanumana which includes the procedure of five member syllogism is essential to convince others of the existence of invisible objects. In the five syllogistic procedure of inference, the existence of the effect relies on its causes. This cause is inferred from the effect. This causal relation (tadutpatti) perceived in the effect in the form of probans is the base of invariable concomitance.

Analysing the events and life situations, one could elicit the utilization of Inference in one or other either consciously or unconsciously in such situations. It is learnt from the analyses of the process of Ayurveda, research, astrology, vastu shastra, weather forecasting, reading, investigation and preparation of FIR or in conclusions arrived at the court proceedings or in exit election polls, that in all these, the process of inference is used widely and extensively to arrive at conclusion. In all these, conclusions are arrived at through proper reasoning and logical thinking by using certain signs and symbols. It is the process of inference for others or pararthanumana of Nyaya school. Minor and Major premises are used. The users of pararthanumana move from the known to the unknown or from the perceived to the unperceived through the deductive process of inference. Even the rationality of human beings is proved through the process of inference. A child ignorant of the process and procedure of anumana arrives at conclusions inferring naturally. Most of the learning of young ones are arrived at by watching and listening to what elders do, in which the gestures play the role of hetu (reason) effecting the result of knowledge.

Inference also eliminates the chances of the burden or nuisance of contrary character related to probandum as the nature of probandum is definitely known. For instance, ghatatva (the state of being jar) cannot be imposed on an object if there is the observation of the specific features like head, hand etc. An object taken for another clearly shows the ignorance of the perceiver regarding the distinguishing features of the object perceived.

Philosophers of all schools of Indian thought except Carvaka accepts inference as a valid source of knowledge. However, the views of Carvakas are denied by the orthodox schools including the Naiyayikas of both periods. They find the arguments of Carvaka as contradictory as if one saying ‘any mother is sterile.’ It is known to everybody that the barrenness and the motherhood cannot be in the same person. Even the mode of knowing the contradictory judgement of others is a form of inference.[1] It is obvious that in order to know the difference between valid and invalid cognitions or the mind of others or even the absence of an object, the inference is proved as a necessary tool.

Validity of inference can be established on the strength of its unfailing correspondence to the fact. Validity of preventative cognition cannot be proved by itself. It deems collection of causes for the same which is the locus of the validity. This perceptual cognition is established by inference and therefore the validity of inference cannot be denied. Validity of inference can also be inferred from the probans in the form of the state or condition being the locus of the limiting property of being the instrument of the valid cognition.

It is generally perceived that inference is a complicated process and only intelligent people can gain and use it effectively. But in reality, people from all walks of life irrespective of the educational, social, economical and professional status draw and use inferential knowledge in their day to day lives spontaneously either consciously or unconsciously. In most of the occasions it is seen used unknowingly by the common people.

At the same time, it should not be taken for granted that each and every process of inferring will lead to correct conclusions. On certain situations inference can lead one to wrong conclusions mainly because of the incorrect use of syllogistic members of inference. It is proved that if the usage of premises or syllogistic statements is not correct, the conclusions will be something like water poured out of the container. In Pararthanumana peculiar to Nyaya philosophy the five members of syllogism; pratijna (proposition), Hetu (reason), Udaharana (example), Upanaya (subsumptive correlative) and Nigamana (conclusion), the Hetu has specific importance because its impropriety may lead to fire somewhere like a cul-de-sac.

Footnotes and references:


S.J. Chakravorty, Ed., Bouddhadarshana of Sarvadarshanasamgraha, p.5

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