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The Concept Of Doubt Philosophy Essay

Philosophy and religion keenly felt the need of showing greater accommodation to rationalistic modes of thought. The rationalistic sources available for vedics religion and philosophy has to be pooled together and kept fit for defensive and offensive use. And Hence the Nyaya with epistemological exegesis and the Physics and logic of the anti- vedic vaishesika were put together. The doctrine’s of these two schools were systematised and redacted. Hence it was the time when the Nyaya-vasishesika had merged together, now all we are studying in nyaya is the Physics of vaishesika and Logic and epistemology of Nyaya.

Though there are some differences in respect to Physical laws of in Nyaya and Vaishesika they have so many common points, hence they were merged together. The Vasihesika and Nyaya are not restricted to their scope and aim to logic in a narrow sense, With the material of the Vaishesika and its Physics along with Nyaya forms a complete system of epistemology and logic combined to some extent with psychology, Physics, ethics, ontology, religion.

Such a mixed composition of Indian philosophical system is due not to any lack of appreciation of differences of value in different things, but rather to cultural outlook of India, Which is dominated by an intense desire to synthesize all the departments of knowledge in a scheme of progressive realization of truths and the universe we live in.

The scheme of Nyaya’s external relation, it’s dialectic machinery, it’s theory of truth and error, it’s creationistic view of causation, it’s thought measuring devices and precise formulas form its ever-spread never fading foliage.

It’s chief boast is its Logical dialectic machinery, which the believers and the heretics, The astikas and the nastikas alike, cannot do without.

“In Indian Philospohy it is said that whoever knows the Nyaya, knows the pramana,is a pramanavith, i.e a philosopher in a strict sense”

Nyaya signifying logic is etymologically identical with ‘Avyaya’ the five membered syllogisms.

Nyaya defined in many ways like the ‘Hetu-Vidya’ or ‘Hetu-sastra’ means the ‘science of causes’, ‘Anvikishiki’ ‘The science of inquiry’, ‘Pramana sastra’ the ‘science of valid knowledge’,

‘Tattva-sastra’ the ‘science of categories’ , ‘Tarka sastra’ the ‘science of reasoning’ , ‘Vaddahrta’ the ‘science of discussion’ and ‘Phkkika sastra’ the ‘science of sophism’.

Nyaya is chiefly concerned with Valid Knowledge and its source.The Nyaya’s Realism and the Vaishesika Atomistic Pluralism when put together is called the theory of everything.

Hence Nyaya combined with Vaishesika can be called as The theory of everything in one word.

Beginning from the vast universe to the atoms in the matter every thing was clearly explained by two great scientist of the ancient India,

They are Kannada and Gautama. These people should be identified as scientist rather than sages.

These two scientists and explained the major concepts regarding man, nature, society and science..

Their works are undoubtedly greatest contributions to the Mankind.

Even when I entered the field of nyaya, I was amazed to see that how, these ancient scientist’s has coined the definition of Gravitation and Sound. It was mentioned that sound travels in the form of waves.

Not only these the famous Newton 3rd law “That every action has an equal and opposite reaction” and the Einstein’s concept of matter,I.e matter can neither be created nor destroyed was clearly explained.

The name Kannada itself suggests that Atom -eater’,He had done extensive research on the atoms and had a very scientific approach towards the universe. When I came through these concepts,I was really amazed, that how these people can formulate these postulates some 2600years ago. At the same time there are many lapses and misconceptions too, we do not know whether these were in the original texts or induced in between.

Here I would like to mention one quote of the Famous economist of the ancient India-

“Pradipaha sarva vidyanam Upayaha sarva karmanam

Asrayaha sarva dharmanam anvikishiko Matha!!”

This is the Quote of Kautilya the Great Philosopher who proposed theory on economy famously called ‘artha sastra’

This means-

“Nyaya has ever been esteemed as lamp of all sciences, the resource for all the actions and the shelter of all virtues’

Of all the Nations in the world the Indians and Greeks appear to to have developed Logic and epistemology to large extent, Independently. except the Five membered Syllogism.

Indian Logic is dated back to 6th century BC and the Greek logic originated in the fourth century BC though its germs can be traced a little earlier in the controversies of the sophist and Socrates .

The Aristotle can be called the Gautama of Greece. The five membered syllogism is a gift from India to the is written in the history that the Indians meeting some foreign person at sweetadweepa had taught this syllogism to the Greeks.( controversies are there regarding this)

Although the word Logic is being used as a synonym to Nyaya, but it is not Identical with it. Logic only covers some of the subjects of Nyaya.

The Indian Logic and epistemology’s development can be divided into three periods namely

Ancient (650BC-100AD)

Medieval (100AD-1200AD)

Modern (From 1200 AD)

Nyaya originated in the ancient period i.e before 650BC and there are many commentaries on the Nyaya and, some thousands of commentaries are there are on the Nyaya-Sutras of Gautama and at the same time there are many commentaries which actually misinterprets the Concepts of Nyaya. During the medieval period Navya-Nyaya had came into existence which had misinterpreted the many concepts of the Nyaya Philosophy and during the modern period there were many commentaries written on the Navya Nyaya, Thus totally ignoring the original Nyaya sutras(Tenets).

But the Nyaya is unapproachable to the English speaking world as the texts are in Sanskrit Language and most of the translated texts are covering only the first part of the Nyaya and even those translations aren’t totally based on the concepts of manuscripts.

The nyaya sutra contains five Adhyayas (books); each Adhyaya consists of Anhikas (chapters); each Anhika has a number of sutras (aphorisms). According to the standard method mentioned above Gautama has discussed his categories and subcategories in different parts of his work. The commentators follow his treatment. Generally this discussion involved refutation of contrary views. Since the commentators refer not only to such views as are mentioned by Gautama but also not only development the exposition tends to become complicated. In order to highlight the basic doctrines and arguments of the Naiyayakas(people who follow Nyaya) and opponents I have classified the themes of the nyaya sutra under the following main heads:

central theme

Theory of Cognition

Concept of proof

It is well known fact that the authors of Nyaya and vasihesika are Gautama and Kannada, it is difficult to say that whether the systems started separately or and being allied in general attitude and view point became mixed up in later ages or an original fund of floating Ideas.

The word Nyaya popularly signifies right or justice,Hence the Nyaya sastra is the science of Right judgment or reasoning, the Chinese can-li and the Tibetans rigs-bstan-bcos as equivalents of the Sanskrit Nyaya-sastra, expresses exact the same meaning.

In fact the Nyaya(Logic) was in course of time deservedly held in very high esteem. If it were allowed to follow its original course unimpeded by religious dogmas, it would have risen to the very height of perfection, Nevertheless the principles of Nyaya entering into the different systems of Philosophy gave them each its proper compactness and cogency just as Bacon’s Inductive method shaped the sciences and philosophies of a later age in a different is however to be regretted that during the last five hundred years the Nyaya has been mixed up with Law(Smrirti,Rheotric(alanakara),Vedanta,etc) and thereby has hampered the growth of those branches of knowledge upon which it has grown up as a sort of parasite. But the subject is an never aging queen.

The Concept Of Doubt in The Great Indian Philospohy


Every school of philosophy in India has attempted a theory of knowledge on which its metaphysical and axiological structures are based. The ultimate goal of philosophizing, and for that matter of all human enterprises, is to realize ‘perfection’ or fullest all round efflorescence of one’s potentialities (moksha or nihsreyasa) as the summum bonum of life and existence. For this realization knowledge of reality (Tattvajnana) is essential and necessary prerequisite.

So, a theory of knowledge is regarded as propaedeutic to a theory of reality because before knowing the reality one has to know knowledge itself. This requirement is grounded in the fact that to philosophize is to reflect on the nature of reality given in experience. Every experience is caused by and pertains to an object. This reference to an object can be cognitive or non-cognitive like emotive, volitional etc. A cognitive reference consists in revelation of an object (pakasa) or in making a cognizer aware of it. Though every cognitive reference reveals an object, there is always a possibility of going astray in this reference and there is no guarantee that it will adequately and faithfully reveals its objects. This possibility of error and doubt in cognitive reference necessitates an enquiry in to is veracity. The entire epistemological pursuit begins and centers round this task. So along with consideration of objects of knowledge (prameya) and modes of knowing (pramana) there has to be awareness abut error and doubt as well so that they can be eliminated.

Need for evidencing knowledge:-

A cognitive reference is cognition of an object in terms of its existence, nature, characteristics, relations and functions etc. It may reveal its objects as it is (yathartha) or different from what it is (ayathartha) or there may be lack of determination of this (samsaya). That cognition is knowledge which reveals its objects as it is, i.e. which is non-discordant (avisamvadaka) with its object. Such cognition is technically known as Valid cognition prama (pramana in some schools where no distinction is drawn between prama and pramana). All other varieties of cognition are treated as different from knowledge. In other words, only that cognition can claim the status of knowledge the non-discordances or truth of which is well established through adequate evidences. There has to be assuredness/indubitability (asamdigdhatva) with regard to the truth of that cognition. The truth of knowledge is to be established on the basis of cogent and convincing evidence known as pramana.

Indian thinkers point out three essential components of knowledge. They are cognitive reference to an object (arthavisayakatva), exactitude of reference (yatharthatva) and indubitability (asamdigdhatva) about exactitude. The object must be real and not fictitious. The exactitude of reference means true apprehension of the object and indubitability means adducing adequate and sufficient evidence (s) for its truth.

In this essay an attempt will be made to analyze the phenomenon of doubt in its diverse forms and facets and with different perspectives. The treatment is not confined to any one system of thought as the chief feature of Indian thought is {‘bahuuidhavada’ and the mode of philosophizing is ‘Vade vade jayate tattvabodhab’}

Importance of doubt

Doubting is very important in human life to avoid credulous nature leading to blind faith and dogmatic belief. That is why Lord Buddha used to advise ‘pariksya madvacah grahyah'(Accept what I say only after proper inquiry). This is what Pyrroh said in respect of Stoics in ancient Greece.

Vatsyayana, the commentator on the Nyayasutras, opines that inquiry or logical investigation begins only in respect of ‘samsayite arthe’ (doubtful object of cognition), thought of course Jayanata, another Nyaya thinker, states that ‘samsayamantarenapi’ inquiry can begin apart from doubt as well. The other factor can be jijnasa (inquisitiveness), sisadhayisa (will to prove), or pariprccha (questioning attitude). That is why in Indian epistemological thinking we find different approaches to ‘paksa'(Subject) mainly discussed in the context of anumana(Inference).

Need to eliminate doubt

Though doubting is useful, persistent doubting is detrimental, as Yajnavalkya rightly says about persistent questioning in the Brhadaranyakopanisad. Doubting can be a starting point for rise of knowledge or for verification of knowledge. This is what the Bhagwadgita advised (Tadviddhi pranipatenapariprasnenesavaya) or Lord Buddha advised as stated earlier. But persistent doubt is harmful to mental peace (anistanivarana prasanga). That is why the Bhagvadgita says, ‘Samsayatma Vinasyati’$. In order to have unwavering acivity (niskampapravrtti) also resolution or elimination of doubt is necessary. So doubt should be initial and not final.

Here a distinction can be drawn between cessation of doubt and elimination of doubt. Cessation of doubt is psychological and elimination of doubt is logical. Psychological satisfaction may lead to cessation but doubt may crop up again. Only logically there can be final elimination. This distinction becomes significant in context of the controversy between Udayana and Sriharsa and Sriharsa and Gangesa and we shall revert to it later on. A deeper analysis of this issue is really enlightening and outstanding contribution to epistemology. Some conceptual distinctions

The theorizing about doubt is known as samsayavada in Sanskrit. Samsayavada (Skepticism) is to be distinguished from Ucchedavada (Nihilism). In Ucchedavada doubting leads to denial of possibility of acquiring knowledge. It can be brought under Vitanda{Cavil}. The Tattvoplavasinha of Jayarasi Bhatta belongs to this category. Likewise, skepticism is to be distinguished from Agyeyavada (Agnositism). The ‘Neti Neti’ statement of the Upanisads can be subsumed under this. In Lokayata/Carvaka philosophers and in Bhrtrhari, the author of Vakyapadyi (II.32-35), we find Limited Skepticism. In Nagarjuna (Vigrahavyavartini and Madhyamikakarika) and Sriharsa (Khandanakhandakadya) we have Methodogical Skepticism. In the western thought we find several other verities of Samsayavada like Epistemological Skepticism of Descartes and Psychological Skepticism of Hume. One can find their parallels also in Indian thought referred to in the Pali Tripitakas. It has to be noted that the Lokayata Skepticism has provided tremendous impetus for the development of Nyaya and Buddhist epistemology. Likewise Sriharsa’s contribution can not be minimized in respect of Gangesa’s philosophy. It is not the objective of this essay to go into details of these multiple approaches and their inputs. Hence landing on the point

Nature of doubt

Gautama in the Nyayasutras has given a very precise and comprehensive definition of samsaya which needs cognizance and analysis. He defines it is follows: “Samanekadharmapapatteuipattervipatterupaladhyanupalabdhyavyauyauasthtasca visheshapekhso vimarsah samsayah”. It can be split as follows:










The above definition can be explained as below:

Doubt arises due to having conflicting notions about one and the same object. Here mind oscillates (dolayate) between two or more alternative characterizations of that object arising from the cognition of common qualities of two or more objects and non-cognition of specific qualities of that object. Due to intervention of memory (Prasastapada rightly brings in the role of memory) mutually incompatible notions are suggested simultaneously and there is no fixity on any one notion resulting in absence of firm-assuredness in any one. Here there is no assertion or denial of any one and hence there is no definite judgment. It is absence of assured cognition and oscillation between conflicting notions. Symbolically it can be put as “It may be this or that ” or “It may be this or that or none or something else”.

Now let us Know the difference between the Nyaya’s philosophical terms like Prama,Viparyaya,samsaya and anadhyvasaya

Difference among prama, viparyaya, samsaya and anadhyvasaya:

It may be useful to draw brief distinctions among some cognate epistemic terms stated above.

Prama stands for a true cognition which carries certitude in its truth. It is uni-judgmental and well-evidenced.

Viparyaya means a false judgment which was earlier taken to be true and later on its falsity is exposed on valid grounds and assuredness in its truth is withdrawn. It is also uni-judgmental.

Samsaya is multi-judgmental and here there is no fixity on one single judgment. It is indecisive (anavadharanaka)

Anadhyavasaya is incipient cognition. It is vague sensation. It is unripe cognition and non-judgmental. We may not call it as cognition at all. That is way in the Nyaya system it is not given cognizance. It is also different from pre-judgmental cognition known as nirvikalpaka pratyaksa in sanskrit. Samsaya is also to be distinguished from ‘Iha’ accepted in the Jain tradition. {Likewise Pt. Badarinath Shukla in his Hindi Commentary on the Tarkabhasa of Kesavamisra has differentiated samsaya from samuccaya. But he regards ‘sambhauana’ (probability) as a variety of samsaya. }

Typology of doubt

On different grounds there can be different classifications of doubt. One classification can be as follows:

About the existence or absence of an object, e.g. whether a tumor is cancerous or not, or whether God exists or not etc.

About properties of a substantive e.g, sound is eternal or not, or whether light traverses in the form of waves or corpuscles.

About the presence of this or that object, e.g. whether it post or human.

Here the alternatives can be two or more. The alternatives may all be false and this may necessitate further investigation. The alternatives may all be true in different contexts or from different perspectives. Or, only one alternative may be true and the rest false. It will be an interesting as well as rewarding exercise to work this out.

The other typology is on the basis of type of pramana(valid knowledge. For example in the Nyaya system four types of pramanas are accepted and hence there can be four types of doubt pertaining to perceptual, inferential, testimonial and analogy-based identificational cognitions.

Generating conditions of doubt

Doubt may be generated by any defect in the causal collocation (karana samagri) of knowledge as follows

Defective functioning of cognitive senses due to various reasons. Epistemological thinkers have discussed these factors in great depth.

Doubt may be generated due to faulty intervention of memory

Mental delusion or disturbance may cause doubt

And finally absence of conclusive evidence may result in doubt.

Role of Tarka in removal of doubt.

We may now revent to the problem of elimination of doubt. Just as doubting is helpful in arriving at truth, removal of doubt is also equally needed. Doubt arises due to presentation of conflicting alternatives (kotis) which may be contrary or contradictory each one claiming truth. This leads to oscillation and indecision in mind. So doubt has to be overcome to remove the deadlock and unless this is done, knowledge cannot be arrived at.

In the case of different pramanas there are different modus operandi. For example , in the case of perceptual and analogical cognitions repeated observation, controlled experiment, crucial evidence (vinigamaka) etc. are helpful. In testimonial cognition conscience may be helpful but it cannot provide logical elimination. The Purva Mimamsa system accept ‘Codana’ for this purpose which is regarded as infallible. But this problem of elimination of doubt has been discussed threadbare in the context of anumana(Inference) and this needs some analysis.

The Carvaka/Lokayata thinkers raised serious objection for accepting validity of anumana(inference). Bhartrhari gave a classical formulation to their objections. This was extended by Nagarjuna and Sriharsa in their own way. Though Udayana in Nyayakusumanjali (Chapter III) and Santaraksita in Tattvasamgraha (1481-3) try their best to answer Carvaka/Lokayata objections, their replies have not been logically satisfactory. Any recourse to tarka or kalpana does not satisfy logical requirements. Udayana’s arguments have been responded be Sriharsa and Gangesa’s replies to Sriharsa have been infirm. One may even refer to Raghunatha’s commentary on Khandanakhadyakhadya for this . Tarka rests on contradiction and contradiction itself rests on tarka. This involves the fallacy of ‘pititio principi’. In fact no human experience is immune from doubt and Sahara, the Purva Mimamsa thinkers, are right in this. For empirical purposes epistemology works well ultimately it falls down. That is why Adi Samkara has put all pramanavyavahara

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