- Term Papers, Book Reports, Research Papers and College Essays

An Examination into the View of Perception (pratyaksa) According the Nyaya School of Philosophy.

Essay by   •  December 28, 2010  •  Essay  •  3,402 Words (14 Pages)  •  2,288 Views

Essay Preview: An Examination into the View of Perception (pratyaksa) According the Nyaya School of Philosophy.

Report this essay
Page 1 of 14

Perception as a pramana or method of knowledge has not been discussed at length in Western logic. In so far as it has been discussed, it has created a divide amongst the realists, the idealists and the empiricists. Many schools of Indian philosophy have taken up a critical examination of perception as a means of gaining valid knowledge. The Nyaya is one of them.

According to the Nyaya school of philosophy, valid knowledge or prama can be gained through four different means namely; perception (Pratyaksa), inference (Anumana), verbal testimony (Sabda) and comparison (Upmana). Of these, the Naiyayika considers perception to be fundamental. This is true in the sense that although perception may not be the only method of knowledge, it forms a basis for other sources of knowledge like inference, comparison and testimony. In so far as the objects of knowledge are concerned though, the methods or ways of knowing them stand on the same footing, as there are some objects that can be known through all four methods of knowledge while there are others that can be known only through one source of knowledge. For example, we may know about there being fire on the mountain through inference, as well as perception. On the other hand, there are certain objects of knowledge that can be known only through testimony, like the knowledge of supernatural identities. Thus, with regard to any method of knowledge it may be said that some contents of knowledge or truths can only be given by it, while others may come from this as well as other sources of knowledge. We can thus infer that in so far as the contents of knowledge are concerned, there is nothing to distinguish one means of knowledge as more fundamental than another.

The position of Perception with respect to the other pramanas:-

• Perception as the basis of other sources of knowledge:

Now the Naiyayika has his reasons for considering perception as being more fundamental than the other sources of knowledge. Although the Naiyayika does not agree with the CÐ"ЃrvÐ"Ѓka or other empiricists who believe that perception is the only source of knowledge, the Naiyayika does hold that perception is the basis of the other forms of knowledge. It has been rightly said that the other methods of knowledge presuppose perception and must be based on the knowledge derived from perception. Allow me to illustrate this by the use of an example: We can infer fire on the mountain only after perceiving the smoke, and also after having perceived the relation between the smoke and fire. Hence, perception forms the very first step in inference. Without having perceived the relation between firs and smoke, and then again without having perceived the smoke on the mountain, we would never be able to infer fire on the mountain. Again, when we use Upmana or comparison, we must first perceive the points of similarity between two objects. The same holds true for Sabda or testimony. Sabda is dependent on perception in as much as the first step in it is the visual or auditory perception of written or spoken words, and such words must come from a person who has a direct or intuitive knowledge of the truths communicated by him. Thus the Naiyayika shows us that perceptual knowledge is the ultimate ground of other sources of knowledge.

• Perception as the final test of all knowledge:

Western empiricists have rather overstressed the validity of perception as a source of knowledge. According to them, the truth of perception is unquestionable and self-evident. This is because perception can be used to confirm the truth of knowledge derived from inference, comparison and testimony, whereas perceptual knowledge does not need this sort of further confirmation. We might acquire certain knowledge from a source like inference, but if we are in doubt, only perception can clarify the matter. Hence, the Naiyayikas rightly believe that perception is the most basic and fundamental method of gaining knowledge. It must be noted here though, that unlike the Western empiricists, the Naiyayika does not believe that the truth of perceptual knowledge is self-evident and unquestionable. The Naiyayika would agree that when in doubt of the truth of perceptual knowledge, we must investigate as thoroughly as we would while investigating knowledge arising from other sources.

Perception- Its definition according to the Naiyayikas:

The definitions of perception have varied over time within the Nyaya school of thought. While the old school of Nyaya defines perception to sense-object contact, the newer Naiyayikas take quite a difference stance. The old school of Nyaya relies heavily on the etymological meaning of the word Pratyaksa (perception) which means the functioning of the sense organs in relation to its particular object (aksпЂ¤asyÐ"ЃksпЂ¤Ð¿Ð‚¤asya prativisayam urttih pratyaksam). They lay utmost emphasis to the idea of perception as being the knowledge arising due to sense-organ contact. They believe that this is fundamentally implied in the definition of the word pratyaksa. Thus, it follows that the sense may function in two ways in relation to a particular object. It may either bring itself in contact with the particular object, hence bringing about cognition of the object, or it may operate in a way that it brings about cognition of the object. In both cases the result is a judgement of the object.

The modern Naiyayikas on the other hand attack the old definition on several grounds. Instead of defining it in terms of sense-organ contact, the modern Naiyayika chooses to do so in terms of type of knowledge. Gangesa, the father of modern Nyaya, calls the old definition wide in the sense that it also allows inference and memory as forms of perceptual knowledge. This is because the mind as an internal sense is operative and is in contact with the object through memory or inference. He also comments on it as being too narrow in the sense that it denies the possibility of Gods omniscience due to the absence of sense organ contact which is necessary for perception. We cannot speak about divine perception since it is not a sensuous cognition in any sense. Again, the modern Nyaya believes that to define perception in terms of a sense-organ and its stimulation is unreasonable because we know about our sense organs through perception. The modern Nyaya thus resorts to defining perception as immediate knowledge. They believe that it is the immediate nature of perception that is common to all perception. Another definition of perception according to the modern Nyaya is that knowledge which is not brought about by any other antecedent knowledge. Unlike perception, all other forms of knowledge depend on an antecedent knowledge. It



Download as:   txt (20.8 Kb)   pdf (209.5 Kb)   docx (15.5 Kb)  
Continue for 13 more pages »
Only available on
Citation Generator

(2010, 12). An Examination into the View of Perception (pratyaksa) According the Nyaya School of Philosophy.. Retrieved 12, 2010, from

"An Examination into the View of Perception (pratyaksa) According the Nyaya School of Philosophy." 12 2010. 2010. 12 2010 <>.

"An Examination into the View of Perception (pratyaksa) According the Nyaya School of Philosophy..", 12 2010. Web. 12 2010. <>.

"An Examination into the View of Perception (pratyaksa) According the Nyaya School of Philosophy.." 12, 2010. Accessed 12, 2010.