This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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8.3. Nyaya

Nyaya as logic

Nyaya is concerned primarily with logic, which is to say it deals with things treated as ‘objects of proof,’ in terms of the discursive faculty of the reason. This is why we say that it proceed analytically, and this is legitimate because it is concerned with the individual, rational order. It recognizes sixteen padarthas, which are similar to what for Aristotle were called ‘categories’ or ‘predicaments.’ The first of these is called pramana, and may be translated as ‘evidence’ or ‘proof’ but its primitive sense is ‘measure.’ Taking it in this third sense, it denotes the legitimate means of knowledge within the rational order. This padartha then contains subdivisions that enumerate these various means of knowledge. The second padartha is called prameya or ‘that which is to be proved,’ or in other words that which can be known by one of the means enumerated in the first padartha. Within its subdivisions prameya includes a classification of everything that the human understanding in the individual state can reach. The complementary nature of the first two padarthas is obvious, the relation between them being that between means and end, how one is to know something and what one may know. We will now enumerate the remaining fourteen padarthas, although we will only discuss one of them due to its centrality. These are: samsaya (doubt), prayojana (aim), drstanta (example), siddhanta (conclusion), avayava (members of syllogism), tarka (hypothetical reasoning), nirnaya (settlement), vada (discussion), jalpa (wrangling), vitanda (cavilling), hetvabhasa (fallacy), chala (quibbling), jati (sophisticated refutation), and nigrahasthana (point of defeat). These deal with the various modalities of reasoning and demonstration, and we will comment further only on avayava, which concerns the ‘members of syllogism’ of which there are five.

Nyaya argument and the five avayavas

The padartha called avayava deals with the complete form of a demonstrative argument and can also be called nyaya, but in a secondary sense, since argument is central to its method.  Nyaya demonstration contains five avayavas or terms, hence the name normally applied to the padartha, and these five terms are as follows: pratijna, the promise, or the proposition to be proven; hetu, the proof, or the reason justifying the proposition; udaharana, the example cited in support of the reason, serving as an illustration, usually well-known; upanaya, the application of the proof to the case in question; nigamana, the conclusion or result, which affirms the proposition as proven above. The five terms listed may sometimes be given in abridged form, including only the first or last three, and and in the case of the latter there is a likeness to that of Aristotelian syllogism. In nyaya the greater and lesser terms are called vyapaka (container) and vyapya (content), respectively. Hetu serves the purpose of the intermediate term.

The identity of subject and object

Having outlined the Nyaya understanding of logic, we must take care to note what distinguishes it from logic as it is considered in the West. The first characteristic that separates the two is the refusal to place an opposition between subject and object. This opposition is a modern invention, but is the result of a tendency to separate knower and known which was present even in the Greeks. The Greeks, it seems, took the distinction between the thing and its notion to an unreasonable degree, such that it became real. The Hindu would admit that rational knowledge is indirect and therefore open to error, but it must be able to touch the things themselves, or else it would be illusory, which is to say it would not be ‘knowledge’ in the true sense, but only conjecture. If we can only know an object through its notion, it is because its notion shares in its nature. In this way, Hindu logic differs by considering not only how we conceive of things, but the things in themselves, since whatever is legitimate in our notion is the same as the thing itself. Thus, we agree with the Scholastic definition of truth as adaequatio rei et intellectus, and it is the doctrine of the Scholastics that comes nearest, out of all the schools of the West, to the Hindu point of view. Nonetheless, even while the Scholastics amplified and corrected what they inherited from Aristotle, they did not give much attention to his principle of identity between knower and known (De Anima III, 4-5) and his saying that ‘what understands and what is understood are the same thing,’ which is to say ‘the soul is all that it knows.’ It is precisely due to a disregard for this principle that the division between Eastern and Western epistemology becomes unbridgeable. Were the identity between subject and object to have been grasped, it would have been agreed that whenever a subject knows and object, the object, at least insofar as it is known, be that more or less completely, becomes a part of the being of the subject. This brings us again to the notion of metaphysical realization which is so central to Eastern thought, and which teaches, in a realism that astonishes us, that it is always the things themselves we reach when we consider them, even if only under a certain aspect. Identification is assimilation, and when knowledge reaches the essence of things, these things are realized in the knower, as states or modalities of our own being. There is no separation between the idea of a thing and the thing itself, at least in essence and insofar as the idea of the thing is true. For this reason, in Hindu logic, the separation between subject and object is a matter of point of view, and is not the reflection of two separate worlds which stand apart, like the ‘intelligible world’ and the ‘sensible world’ of Plato. Thus, if we have said that Nyaya is realist, it is true, but it should also be said that the division between realism and idealism for Hinduism does not really exist, because both are transcended by this principle of identity.