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Nyaya-Vaisesika in Recent Times: Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies (Volumes-XXV)

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Item Code: NAS689
Author: Karl H. Potter
Publisher: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Pvt. Ltd.
Language: English
Edition: 2019
ISBN: 9788120842588
Pages: 578
Other Details 9.50 X 6.00 inch
Weight 1 kg
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Book Description
About the Book

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.

About the Author

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 imperceptible.

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 the self.

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.

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