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International Indexed & Referred Research Journal, October,2012. ISSN 0974-2832, RNI- RAJBIL 2009/29954; VoL.

IV * ISSUE- 45

Research Paper - Philosophy

The Carvaka Theory of Knowledge

* Ujjal Kalita
* Research Scholar, Singhania University A B S T R A C T
The materialistic view of Carvaka is logically based on its epistemology or theory of knowledge. Epistemology literally means the science of knowledge. Theory of knowledge deals with various problems relating to knowledge like its nature, source, extent, object, etc. In Indian Philosophy valid knowledge is called Prama and the sources of valid knowledge is called pramana. There are six sources of valid knowledge accepted by Indian systems. But according to the Carvakas, perception is the only source of true knowledge. The Carvakas have stated that inference and testimony cannot give us true knowledge of reality. For establishing this position they criticize the possibility of other sources of knowledge like inference and testimony, which are regarded as valid pramanas by many philosophers. Key Words: Epistemology, Knowledge, Perception, Inference, Verbal Testimony.

October ,2012

Introduction: The entire philosophy of the Carvakas depends logically on their epistemology or the theory of knowledge. Epistemology or the theory of knowledge deals with various problems relating to knowledge like its source, extent, object etc. The main problems discussed in epistemology are what is knowledge, what are the sources of knowledge, what are the limits of knowledge etc. Out of all these, the problem of the sources of knowledge occupies an important place in epistemology and different schools of Indian philosophy offered different solutions of it. Carvaka View of Perception: According to Carvaka pratyaksa or perception is the only pramana or the only source of valid knowledge. In other words, like Hume the Carvakas support the empirical theory of knowledge. Every other pramana including inference (anumana) is rejected so that philosophy, which according to the common Indian view out to be a discipline of life, ceases here to be even a discipline of the mind. The Carvakas have stated that inference and testimony (sabda) cannot give valid knowledge. Pratyaksa (perception) as a source of valid knowledge is universally accepted by all the schools of Indian system both Astika and Nastika. Thus the Carvakas regard pratyaksa as the only means of valid knowledge.* According to Carvaka, knowledge directly collected by the sense-organs is called perception. What is arrived at by means of direct perception is the truth. That alone exists. What is not perceivable is non-existent, for the simple reason that it is not perceived. Perception is of two kinds, namely, external perception and internal perception. Perceptual knowledge, collected by five external sense-organs as

such eye, ear, nose etc. are called external perceptions and the knowledge such as pleasure, pain etc. collected by mind, the internal organs are called internal perceptions. Therefore, the Carvaka holds that perceptible world is the only reality. Inference is not a source of valid knowledge: The Carvakas reject inference (anumana) as dependable source of knowledge. It is said that they simply accept perception as a source of knowledge (pramana). Let us examine whether they actually deny inference or not. If inference is said, to be regarded as a pramana, it must yield knowledge about which we can have no doubt and which must be true to reality. Inference is said to be a mere leap in the dark. But according to Jainas inference cannot fulfill these conditions. In inference we proceed from the known to the unknown and there is no certainty in this, though some inferences may turn out to be accidentally true. A general proposition may be true in perceived cases, but there is no guarantee that it will hold true even in unperceived cases.* After perceiving smoke in a distant mountain we infer that there is fire in the mountain. But this is not certain knowledge. Some logicians like the Naiyayikas maintain that the inference of something unperceived (fire) from something perceived (smoke) is justified by the previous knowledge of the invariable concomitance between fire and smoke. But the Carvakas argue that this contention will be valid only if the major premises stating the invariable concomitance between the middle term (smoke) and the major term (fire) were beyond doubt. But since it is not possible for us to perceive all cases of fire and smoke in the world, no universal relation (vyapti) between smoke and fire can be established. The universal or the invariable relation cannot be based



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International Indexed & Referred Research Journal, October,2012. ISSN 0974-2832, RNI- RAJBIL 2009/29954; VoL. IV * ISSUE- 45

on another inference as well as the validity of the second inference has to be similarly proved and as a result it would involve petitio principii. Again vyapti of the universal relation cannot be based on testimony of reliable persons, because the testimony also has to be proved by inference. It is of course true that for knowledge we do often depend on inference, and often it may give valid knowledge. But sometimes inference leads to wrong knowledge. Therefore, inference cannot be regarded as pramana. Testimony is not a source of valid knowledge: Like inference according to the Jainas Sabda or testimony is also not a source of valid knowledge.* According to Carvakas, there is no logical ground or justification for our believing in anything simply on the statement of another person. If it were so, we shall have to believe in many absured and fictitious objects about which any foot may tell us. If, however, sabda or testimony be constituted by the statement of a trustworthy person, it is only a case of inference from the character of a man to the truth of his assertion.* But

inference cannot be accepted as a valid source of knowledge. The Carvaka position has been criticized by all systems of Indian philosophy all of which have maintained the validity of at least perception and inference. Conclusion: Therefore, it is reasonable to conclude that perception, inference and testimony, all three should be regarded as sources of valid knowledge; so far the knowledge given by them is not proved to be false. Moreover, when the Carvakas deny the non-perceptible objects like life after death they clearly go beyond the range of perception. Even when he declares that the perception is the only valid source of knowledge, he goes beyond perception and makes the statement on the basis of the fact that the unperceived cases of perception can be inferred on the basis of perceived cases. So, perception should not be regarded as the only valid source of knowledge. The Carvaka cannot support his views without giving reasons, which presuppose the validity of inference.

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. Hiriyanna, M. Outlines of Indian Philosophy, P-189, George Allen and Unwin Ltd., London, 1951. Pratyaksamekam carvakah Tarkikaraksa of Varadaraja, quoted in the Muktavalisamgraha, Vide, Bhap, Sharma, C.D. A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy, P- 42, MLBD., Delhi, 1983. Sinha, J.N Outlines of Indian Philosophy, P-67, New Central Book Agency, 1985. Das, S, Introduction to Logic & Philosophy, P-116, Ghy. Chartterjee, S.C. The Nyaya Theory of Knowledge, P-319, Calcutta University, 1978. P-260