Pramana Sastra; Theory of Knowledge

Posted: December 26, 2015 in education, inspiring, philosophy, sanatana dharma, sanskrit
Tags: , , , , ,

saraswati

The epistemology in Classical Indian Philosophy is referred to as pramāṇa-śāstra. pramāṇa literally means “knowledge source” or “means of knowledge”. pramāṇa-śāstra  (theory of knowledge) encompasses methodologies to obtain knowledge and understanding through reliable means of reasoning.

Various schools of ancient Indian philosophies (e.g, Advaita, Vishishtadvaita, Dvaita, Samkhya, Nyaya, Yoga, etc) discusses and upholds many pramāṇas, but in general all of them falls into the following eight pramāṇas (first six of them are prominent ones):

1) Pratyakṣa: knowledge perception through five senses (external perception), and through mind or intuition (internal perception).
e.g., how a lion looks like is perceived through vision.

2) Anumāṇa: infer some fact based on the knowledge of already existing or known facts.
e.g., by looking at smoke, we infer that there is fire.

3) Upamāṇa: trying to understand a fact based on analogy.
e.g., some attributes about tiger could be understood by analogy of a cat with exaggerated attributes.

4) Śabda: relying on the verbal testimony of experts for knowledge.
e.g., learning various scriptures through oral tradition from Guru.

5) Arthāpatti: conclusions based on facts derived from circumstances.
e.g., Devadatta fasts during the day but still he is obese. Being obese as well as fasting during the day deducts a reasoning that Devadatta overeats during night.

6) Anupalabdi: understanding a fact based on absence or non-availability of something.
e.g., an elephant is not there in front of me implies there is no elephant.

7) Sambhava: speculating a possibility that something might have been in a certain way.
e.g., by looking at a ruined place, we speculate that this might have happened due to a flood.

8) Aithihyam: hearsay that is derived from many generations, and at least half of the fact is believed to be true.
e.g., A sculptor promised to finish the work of a pillar before rooster’s crowing in the morning. Some people purposefully made the rooster crow much before the normal time. So, the pillar remained unfinished. This is the aithihyam behind this unfinished pillar.

Further reading:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pramana
http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epistemology-india/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_philosophy

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