Conceptions of knowledge in India and China, Lecture one

Means of knowledge in Nyāya

The Brāminical school of nyāya though old, is still a living school. Nyāya stand for “Rule” or “principle”. The school concerned itself with logic, mainly the formulation of valid and sound philosophical arguments. Its systematic and formal structure was designed for the (even more ancient) practice of philosophical debate. At these debates, a lot was at stake, mainly honour and patronage.

School in this period were committed to the principles of a sūtra, in this case the Nyāya sūtra. These works contained short memorable texts expanded by (often centuries worth of) commentaries. The Nyāya sūtra and school stood for Logic, epistemology, the existence of the physical world and the Brahman as well as occasionally the existence of one supreme God. Nyāya philosophers considered themselves as anviksiki which is an overview of knowledge in general.

There are certain cognitions that give us an accurate measurement of the world, these cognitions can give us knowledge. Not all cognitions can give us knowledge and those that can (pramānas) don't always yield knowledge. When the pramāṇas do give us knowledge, this happens in two ways. The first is if the pramāṇa is a direct cause for us to know something. The second is when the pramāṇa is a reason to claim that you know something.
Pramāṇas both represent the word-as-it-is and cause practical success when employed. The question of how we know something to be real is often discussed. That's why the practical success part is so important, for it confirms that what we thought to know is true. In general, nyāya philosophers consider perception true unless they cause doubt.

When we do have doubt, we use the pramāṇas to dispell this doubt. The pramāṇas come in four shapes: - pratyaksa, sense perception (the western 5 + the manas) - atumāna, logical inference - upamāna, analogy - salda, testimony These four can prove knowledge, but perception should be the primary source.

Perception in the Nyāya school is spilt into two ways, being determinate- and indeterminate-perception.

Inference is grounded in perception. In this perception, me see a mark of something else. We must then go into our memory to find what it is a mark of. Inference happens in three ways: - positive-negative - positive - negative

Analogy functions by describing something in familiar terms. When we then experience the thing described to us, we recognize it and gain knowledge.

Testimony is only reliable if the person giving it has authority. They have authority if they: - have direct experience - have no intention/motive to lie - speak the same language as us (both actual language and jargon/terms)