As Indian philosophy reaches modem
times, the contributions being made
are not only in the Sanskrit but in
Hindi, Tamil, etc., as well as Western
languages, mainly English. This
volume's coverage is limited to the
works in Sanskrit that continue the
classical tradition, although their
authors include many who taught at
British-founded institutions or served
in traditions asramas and tols.
KARL H. POTTER is Professor of
philosophy and South Asian Studies
at the University of Washington in
Seattle, and is the General Editor of
the Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies
containing 28 volumes.
Substance, Qualia and Action
According to the mainstream Nyaya-Vaisesika (NV) view
there are seven kinds of reals (padartha), These are substance
(dravya), quale (guna) , action (karma), universal (jati) ,
ultimate differentiator (visesa), inherence (samavaya) and
negative entity (abhava), A substance is the substratum of
qualia and actions and there is no absolute absence
(atyantabhava) of the latter in the former.' A substance is a
continuant, different from its qualia and actions and need not
change when its qualia or actions are replaced by new qualia or
actions. For example, the green color of a banana may change
to yellow as the banana ripens, yet the banana as a substance
may remain the same. Qualia and actions are often perceptible
and when they are so the substance supporting them may also
be perceptible. This differs from Locke's view that although
qualia and actions are often perceptible a substance is always
Substances need to be admitted in order to account for
such common usage as that the table is brown, oblong and
hard." Clearly, what is not meant here is that the brown color
is hard, that the oblong shape is hard, etc. Rather, what is
meant is that the brown color, the oblong shape and the hard
touch belong to one thing, the table, which is different from
these three qualities.
Unless substances are admitted it cannot be explained how
one and the same thing can be grasped by different sense-
organs. 3 Thus, the organ of touch cannot grasp color and the
visual organ cannot grasp touch. Both these organs can grasp
one and the same thing only if that thing is different from both
color and touch. In other words, we have the phenomenon of
being grasped by only one sense-organ (ekendriyagrahyatva)
with respect to qualia like color, smell, etc. But we also have the
phenomenon of being grasped by more than one sense-organ
(anekendriyagrahyatva) with respect to something that is
presented as both colored and hard, and that something is a
substance. Such common usage (vyavahara) and experience
(anubhava) of a substance cannot be dismissed as false unless
there is compelling evidence to the contrary (badhaka). There
is no such counter-evidence according to NV.
On the NY view there are five kinds of physical substances.
These are earth, water, fire, air and akasa (the substratum of
sound). Each one of these has a specific and externally
perceptible quale (e.g. earth has smell) and it is in this sense
that they are physical. The first four in the above list are
ultimately atomic (emu) and the last is all-pervasive (vibhu).
The self, which also is all-pervasive and eternal is radically
different from the physical substances, which are completely
without consciousness. The self alone is conscious; but it is only
conscious some of the time when certain other conditions are
fulfilled. Conscious states are viewed as qualia that are
supported by the self. The self, the support, is independent of
them and can exist without them. Still the difference between
the self and the physical substances remains: the latter, unlike
the former, are completely without consciousness.
NV advocates a psycho-physical dualism (PPD) which,
however, is different from Cartesian psycho-physical dualism.
Descartes holds, like NY, that the mind and the body are
different substances. However, for Descartes the essence of the
mind is consciousness and the essence of the body is extension.
Descartes also subscribes to the causal adequacy principle that
there is nothing in the effect that is not contained in the cause.
Descartes goes on to accept mind-body interaction and that
bodily states cause mental states and vice-versa. This results in
inconsistency. Given the causal adequacy principle, extension
in bodily states cannot come from mental states and
consciousness in mental states cannot come from bodily states.
There is no such inconsistency in the NV position. NV does
not accept the causal adequacy principle and holds that new
features missing in the cause can be found in the effect. NV also
holds that the mind is not essentially conscious and that
conscious states arise only when other requisite conditions are
fulfilled. By holding that the mind is all the time and
independently conscious Descartes goes against the findings of
modem psychology and neuroscience that tend to show the
dependence of mental states on the brain and other bodily
states. The NV position that consciousness arises in the self only
when other necessary conditions are available is consistent with
the said views of modem psychology and neuroscience.
Again, a major argument of Descartes for PPD is that while
the mind is indubitable the body is subject to doubt. The
soundness of this argument has been challenged on the ground
that psychological predicates do not suffice to prove
ontological difference. On the other hand, a major NV
argument for PPD is the following: bodily states are either
imperceptible or externally perceptible; mental states are
neither imperceptible nor externally perceptible; hence bodily
states are not mental states and vice versa. This argument that
has affinity with the argument from privacy has much broader
support in recent philosophy of mind than the Cartesian
argument just cited. Thus, the NV version of PPD, though older
than the Cartesian PPD, appears to have more promise in the
light of modem developments.
Two other eternal and all-pervading substances are space
and time. They lack any specific and externally perceptible
qualia and are imperceptible. They are infinite and continuous
and are inferred as two of the common causal conditions
without which nothing non-eternal can arise.
The ninth and last substance is the inner sense (manas).
It too lacks any specific and externally perceptible qualia and is
imperceptible. Its existence is inferred to explain the direct
awareness of internal states like pleasure, desire, etc. It is also
inferred to explain why one does not always notice an external
stimulation that must, to be noticed, be connected to the inner
sense that in its turn must be connected to the self. The inner
sense is an indispensable instrument without which no internal
state can arise. The internal states nevertheless belong only to
Qualia are features of a substance that do not primarily
serve as causal conditions of action and are as particular as the
substances themselves. Thus, the red color of a tomato, say, is
causally dependent on the tomato and does not belong to
anything but that tomato. That red color, however, is a
particular quale in which inheres the universal property
redness, which is inherent in all red colors. Since a guna is a
non-repeatable feature, we call it a "quale" for the lack of
anything better, without implying that it is always mental.
Color, taste, smell, size, etc., are examples of physical qualia,
and cognition, pleasure, pain, etc., which belong only to a self,
are examples of mental qualia.
Actions are features of a substance that primarily produce
motions that result in contact with or disjunction from other
substances. Examples of actions are going upward, going
downwards, going sideways, and so on. These are also, like
qualia, causally dependent on a given substance and do not
belong to anything else. Like qualia, actions also are instances
of universal properties, e.g., of going-upwardness, and each
action inheres in its relevant particular substance.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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