Classical Indian Philosophy Nyaya Epistemology: Upamana, Sabda, Arthapatti and Abhava YouTube Lecture Handouts

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Complete Video at - Classical Indian Philosophy Nyaya: Epistemology- Upamana, Sabda, Arthapatti & Abhava (Philosophy)

Comparison or Upamana

  • The third kind or means of knowledge accepted by Nyaya is called comparison or Upamana.
  • It is knowledge which is derived from comparison.
  • It is also known as knowledge via analogy.
  • It is defined as the knowledge between the relation of word and its meaning or denotation.
  • It is produced by resemblance or similarity.
  • For example, a man who is told by his friend that a gavaya or a wild cow is an animal which has four legs and a tail. Basically, it looks like a cow. The man decides to go to the jungle and subsequently comes across a gavaya and immediately realises that since it looks like a cow but it is not a cow. It must be a gavaya.
  • This knowledge is produced due to comparison or Upamana.
  • So, Upamana is the knowledge of the relation of the name and the object or the thing denoted by that name.
  • In other words, it is produced by the knowledge of similarity. For example, the man immediately realises that cow looks similar to the gavaya, hence, the animal in front of him is a wild cow.
  • Hence, it is the knowledge of the relation between a word and its denotation, or, it is the reaction between the name and the object related to it, to cognised by it or denoted by it.
  • It is important to note that Buddhism reduces the authority of the pramana of comparison or Upamana to perception and verbal testimony.
  • The Sankhya and the Vaisesika schools of Indian philosophy reduce the authority of the pramanas or the means of knowledge to inference or anumana.
  • The Jainas on the other hand, reduce the authority of comparison to recognition or pratyabhijna. The Mimamsa school of Indian philosophy accept the independent authority of the means of knowledge of comparison but their understanding of comparison is different from the manner in which Nyaya school accepts it.

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Sabda or Verbal Testimony

  • Sabda or verbal testimony is an independent source or means of knowledge according to Nyaya.
  • According to Nyaya epistemology sabda is the fourth and the last accepted pramana by the school.
  • According to them sabda is a pramana when it comes from a trustworthy person. The statements which follow from reliable, trust-worthy people are called aptavakya.
  • According to Nyaya, a sentence is a collection of words and words have the potency or the power in them to convey their meanings.
  • Nyaya believes the power in the word to denote its meaning is something which comes from God.
  • Sabda or testimony can be human or divine but it is always personal in nature.
  • According to Nyaya, testimony is of two kinds;
    • Vaidika
    • Laukika
  • Vaidika testimony is perfect and infallible in nature. They are believed to be spoken by God, himself. For example, Vedas are spoken by God.
  • Laukika is secular testimony, it is the testimony of human beings. As a result, it is liable to error. So, it is not infallible in nature.
  • However, the words of a trust-worthy person or aptavakya are valid because they are truthful in nature. Others are not.
  • According to Nyaya, as noted above, word signifies an object and a sentence is a collection of words. So, in-order for a sentence to be intelligible in nature, the words of the sentence must fulfil the four conditions.

The four conditions are

  • Akanksha: It means mutual implication or expectancy.
    • In other words, it means, the words of a sentence are inter-related in nature and stand in need of one another in order to express a complete sense.
    • For instance, cow horse mans an elephant - it would be a sheer nonsensical statement.
  • Yogyata: The word must contain it itself the power to convey the sense and should not contradict the meaning.
    • For example, a sentence such as- water the plants with fire. It is a nonsensical sentence.
  • Sannidhi: It means the condition of closeness or proximity within words.
    • In other words, it means the words of the sentence must be spoken with close intervals and there should be no long pauses between the words.
    • For example, the sentence- the … person … who … is … . wearing … a … black … t-shit … can … come … in, etc.
    • This sentence will make no logical sense.
  • Tatparya: It is associated with the intention of the speaker of the sentence.
    • It other words, if the words of the sentence are ambiguous in nature, then the meaning of the word should be understood in association with the intention of the speaker.
    • For example, if someone at the dining-table says, pass the Sannidhata.
    • Now, the word, Sannidhata means two things; salt and horse.
    • Now, one must realise that at the dining-table, the person would ask for salt and not horse.

Arthapatti or Postulation & Abhava or Non-Apprehension

  • Nyaya school only admits four means of knowledge; perception, inference, comparison and verbal testimony.
  • Arthapatti or postulation is not regarded as an independent pramana because it is reduced to inference or Anumana.
  • For example, according to Nyaya, Arthapatti or implication or postulation is reduced inference, like
  • All fat people who do not eat during the day, eat at night.
  • Devadatta is a fat person who does not eat during the day.
  • Therefore, he eats at night.
  • According to Nyaya, Abhava or non-apprehension is not an independent pramana because it can be reduced to either perception or inference.
  • According to Nyayaikas, if the thing is imperceptible in nature and can only be inferred the non-existence too can be equally inferred.


1. Knowledge produced by similarity and resemblance comes under

A. Upamana

B. Arthapatti

C. Both A and B

D. Anumana

Answer: A

2. ________ is the knowledge of the relation of the name and the object or the thing denoted by that name.

A. Upamana

B. Arthapatti

C. Both A and B

D. Anumana

Answer: A

3. The two kinds of sabda are

A. Vaidika and laukika

B. Alaukika and Vaidika

C. Vedic and ordinary

D. None of these

Answer: A

4. ________ means mutual implication or expectancy. .

A. Akanksha

B. Yogyata

C. Tatparya

D. Sannidhi

Answer: A