Brief notes on the Introduction of the Nyaya Philosophy


The Nyaya philosophy was founded by the great sage Gautama who was also known as Gautama and Aksapada. Accordingly, the Nyaya is also known as the Aksapada system.

This philosophy is primarily concerned with the conditions of correct thinking and the means of acquiring a true knowledge of reality.

It is very useful in developing the powers of logical thinking and rigorous criticism in its students.


So we have such other names for the Nyaya philosophy as Nyayavidya, Tarkasastra (i.e. the science of reasoning), and Anviksikl (i.e. the science of critical study).

But the logical problem as to the methods and conditions of true knowledge or the canons of logical criticism is not the or the ultimate end of the Nyaya philosophy.

Its ultimate end, like that of the other systems of Indian philosophy, is ‘iteration, which means the absolute cessation of all pain and suffering.

It is only order to attain this ultimate end of life we require a philosophy for the knowledge of reality, and for determining the conditions and methods of true Pledge.


So we may say that the Nyaya, like other Indian systems, is a philosophy of life, although it is mainly interested in the problems of logic and epistemology.

The first work of the Nyaya philosophy is the Nyaya-siitra of Gotama. It is divided into five adhyayas or books, each containing two ahnikas or sections.

The subsequent works of the Nyaya system, such as Vatsyayana’s Nyaya-bhasya, Uddyotakara’s Nyaya- varttika, Vacaspati’s Nyaya-varttika-tatparya-tika, Udayana’s Nyaya- varttika-tatparya-farisuddhi and Kusumafijali, Jay anta’s Nyayamanjari, etc., explain and develop the ideas contained in the Nyaya-siitra, and also defend them against the attacks of hostile critics.

The ancient school of the Nyaya (pracina-nyaya) is thus a development of the sutra-philosophy of Gotama through a process of attack, counter-attack and defense among the Naiyayikas and their hard critics the modern school of the Nyaya (navya-nyaya) begins with the epoch-making work of Garigesa, viz. the Tattvacintamani.


This school flourished at first in Mithila, but subsequently became the glory of Bengal with Navadvipa as the main centre of its learning and teaching.

The modern school lays almost exclusive emphasis on the logical aspects of the Nyaya, and develops its theory of knowledge into a formal logic of relations between concepts, terms and propositions. With the advent of the modern Nyaya, the ancient school lost some of its popularity.

The syncretism school of the Nyaya is a later development of the Nyaya philosophy into the form of a synthe. Is or an amalgamation between the Nyaya and the Vaisesika systems.

The whole of the Nyaya philosophy may be conveniently divided into four parts, namely, the theory of knowledge, the theory of the physical world, the theory of the individual self and its liberation, and theory of God.


It should, however, be observed here that the Nyaya system is in itself an elaboration of sixteen philosophical topics (padartha).

These are: pramana. Prameya, samsaya, prayojana, drstanta, siddhanta, avayava, tarka nirnaya, vada, jalpa, vitanda, hetvabhasa, may be briefly explained here.

Pramana is the way of knowing anything truly. It gives us true knowledge and nothing but true knowledge. It thus includes all the sources or methods of knowledge.

Of the philosophical topics, pramana is the most important and so it will be treated more fully in the next section.


Prameya literally means a knowable or an object of true knowledge, i.e. reality. The objects of such knowledge, according to the Nyaya, are:-

(a) The self (atma);

(b) The body (sarira) which is the seat of organic activities, the senses and the feelings of pleasure and pain;

(c) The senses (indriya) of smell, taste, sight, touch and hearing;

(d) Their objects (artha), i.e. the sensible qualities of smell, taste, colour, touch and sound;

(e) Cognition (buddhi) which is the same thing as knowledge (jnana) and apprehension (upalabdhi);

(f) Mind (manas) which is the internal sense concerned in the internal perceptions of pleasure, pain, etc., and limits our cognition to one at a time, the mind being like an atom and one in each body;

(g) Activity (pravrtti) which may be good or bad, and is of three kinds, namely, vocal, mental and bodily;

(h) Mental defects (dosa) such as attachment (raga), hatred (dvesa) and infatuation (moha) which are at the root of our activities, good or bad;

(i) Rebirth after death (pretyabhava) which is brought about by our good or bad actions;

(J) The experiences of pleasure and pain (phala) which result from the activities due to mental defects;

(k) Suffering (duhkha) which as a bitter and painful experience is known to everybody;

(l) Liberation or freedom from suffering (apavarga) which means the absolute cessation of all suffering without any possibility of lets recurrence.

This list of twelve is not an exhaustive list of all realities. These mentions, as Vatsyayana points out, only those the knowledge of which is important for liberation.

Samsaya or doubt is a state of uncertainty. It represents the mind’s wavering between different conflicting views with regard to the same object.

Doubt arises when with regard to the same thing there is the suggestion of different alternative views but no definite cognition of any differentia to decide between them.

One is said to be in doubt when, looking at a distant figure, one is led to ask; ‘Is it a plant or a man?’ but fails to discern any specific mark that would definitely decide which of them it really is.

Doubt is not certain knowledge, nor is it the mere absence of knowledge, nor is it an error. It is a positive state of cognition of mutually exclusive characters in the same thing at the same time.

Prayojana or an end-in-view is the object for which or to avoid which one acts. We act either to obtain desirable objects or to get rid of undesirable ones. Both these kinds of objects constitute the end of our activities and are, therefore, included within prayojana.

Drstanta or an example is an undisputed fact which illustrates a general rule. It is a very useful and necessary part of any discussion or reasoning, and it should be such that both the parties in the discussion may accept it without dispute or difference of opinion.

Thus when anyone argues that there must be fire in a certain place because there is smoke in it, the kitchen may be cited as an instance (drstanta), for in the case of a kitchen we are all agreed that some smoke is related to some fire.

Siddhanta or a doctrine is what is taught and accepted as true in a system or school. A view that a certain thing is, or is such- and-such, if accepted as true in a system, will be a doctrine of that system, e.g. the Nyaya doctrine that the soul is a substance of which consciousness is a separable attribute.

Avayava or a member of the syllogism is any of the five propositions in which syllogistic inference requires to be stated. If it is to prove or demonstrate a doctrine.

It may be one of the premises or the conclusion of the syllogism, but never any proposition that is not a part of any syllogism. The avayavas or constituent propositions of the syllogism will be more fully explained under Inference.

Tarka or a hypothetical argument is an indirect way of justifying a certain conclusion by exposing the absurdity of its contradictory. It is a form of supposition (uha), but is an aid to the attainment of valid knowledge. It will be explained more fully- later on.

Nirnaya is certain knowledge about anything, attained by means of any of the legitimate methods of knowledge.

It is usually preceded by doubt and requires a consideration of all the arguments for and against a certain view or doctrine. But it is not always conditioned by doubt in the mind of the inquirer who ascertains the truth about something.

So we may say that nirnaya is just the ascertainment of truth about something by means of any of the recognised methods or sources of knowledge.

Vada is a discussion which is conducted with the help of pramanas and tarka, and in which arguments are fully stated in the five formal steps of inference.

It does not go against any accepted theory. In it each of the parties, the exponent (vadl) and the opponent (practical), tries to establish his own position and refute that of the other, but both try to arrive at the truth.

This is very well illustrated by a philosophical discussion between the teacher and his student, provided both of them are honest seekers after truth.

Jalpa is mere wangling in which the parties aim only at Victory over each other, but do not make an honest attempt to come to truth. It has all other characteristics of a discussion than that of aiming at truth.

Here the party’s aims at victory only and, therefore, make use of invalid reasons and arguments with the ful1 Consciousness that they are such. Lawyers sometimes indulge his kind of wrangling.

Vitanda is a kind of debate in which the opponent does not establish his own position but only tries to refute that of the exponent.

While in jalpa each of the parties somehow establishes his own position and tries to gain victory over the other by refuting the other position, in vitanda each of the parties tries to win simply by refuting the other’s position.

Otherwise, the two are the same. So vitanda may be said to be a sort of cavil in which the opponent indulges in a merely destructive criticism of the exponent’s views. It is something like abusing the plaintiff’s pleader when one has no case.

Hetvabhasa literally means a haut or reason which appears as, but really is not, a valid reason. It is generally taken to mean the fallacies of inference. We shall consider them separately in connection with the theory of inference.

Chala is a kind of unfair reply in which an attempt is made to contradict a statement by taking it in a sense other than the intended one. It is a questionable device for getting out of a difficulty by quibbling.

Thus when an opponent cannot meet the exponent’s argument fairly and squarely he may take it in a sense not intended by the latter and point out that it is fallacious.

One man says ‘the boy is nam-kambala’ (possessed of a new blanket), and another unfairly objects ‘he is not nwa-kambala’ (possessed of nine blankets); here the latter is using ‘chala’.

The word jati is here used in a technical sense to mean an unfair reply based on false analogy. It consists in basing a futile argument on any kind of similarity or dissimilarity between two things to controvert another sound argument.

Thus if one argues ‘sound is non-eternal, because it is an effect like the pot,’ and another objects that ‘sound must be eternal, because it is incorporeal like the sky,’ then the objection is a kind of jati or futile argument, for there is no necessary explanation of universal relation between the incorporeal and the eternal, as we find in the case of many objects like pleasure and pain.

Nigrahasthana literally means a ground of defeat in debate. There are two primary grounds of such defeat, namely, misunderstanding or wrong understanding and want of understanding.

If any party in a debate misunderstands or fails to understand his own or the other party’s statement and its implication, he is brought to the point at which he has to admit defeat.

Thus one is defeated in a debate when one shifts the original proposition or one’s ground in the argument, or uses fallacious arguments and the like.

The Nyaya philosophy is a system of logical realism. In philosophy, realism means the theory or doctrine that the existence of things or objects of the world is independent of all knowledge or relation to mind.

The existence of ideas and images, feelings of pleasure and pain, is dependent on some mind. These cannot exist unless they are experienced by some mind. But the existence of tables and chairs, plants and animals, does not depend on our minds.

These exist and will continue to exist, whether we know them or not. Realism is a philosophical theory which holds that the existence of all things or objects of the world is quite independent of all minds, finite or infinite, human or divine.

Idealism, on the other hand, holds that things or objects can exist only as they are related to some mind. Just as feelings and cognitions exist only as they are in some mind, so the objects of the world exist only as they are actually experienced or at least thought of by us or by God.

Now the Nyaya is a realistic philosophy insofar as it holds that the objects of the world have an independent existence of their own apart horn all knowledge or experience.

In the Nyaya this realistic view the world is based, not on mere faith or feeling, intuition or Scriptural testimony, but on logical grounds and critical Sections.

According to it, the highest end of life, i.e., liberation, he attained only through a right knowledge of reality. But a true knowledge of reality presupposes an understanding what knowledge is.

What the sources of knowledge are, how true knowledge is distinguished from wrong knowledge and so forth In other words, a theory of reality or metaphysics presupposes a theory of knowledge or epistemology.

Hence the realism of the Nyaya is based on the theory of knowledge which is the logical foundation of all philosophy. Thus we see that the Nyaya is a system of philosophy, which may be justly characterized as logical realism.

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