Compared to the pramāṇa of pratyakṣa (perception) or anumāna (inferential reasoning), arthāpatti (postulation or presumption) has received less attention in contemporary secondary literature. This is unfortunate, since it is broadly recognized as a pramāṇa, whether as a sui generis one, as by Mīmāṃsā and Vedānta, or as a type of anumāna, as by Nyāya. As well, it is an important pramāṇa for the interpretation of Vedic texts and its purported non-reducibility to anumāṇa raises interesting questions about the relationship between epistemology and logic. In this short post I want to raise the question of how we should think about arthāpatti by laying out the interpretive territory through secondary literature. Some earlier posts have taken on the major primary texts, so I will leave that aside here.
Basically, arthāpatti is the kind of reasoning that allows us to reason from
(1) “Fat Devadatta does not eat during the day.”
Fat Devadatta eats at night.
(2) Caitra is alive; I see that Caitra is not at home.
Caitra is living somewhere outside of his home.
The central idea is that there is some kind of tension which arises from a new fact being cognized, against the background of another fact, which cannot be resolved without the postulation of third fact. In example (1) above, the tension is between Devadatta being fat and his not eating during the day. In (2), it is between Caitra’s being alive and Caitra’s not being at home. The tension is not strict logical inconsistency, (p & ~p) but something else–just how to analyze this is something on which Indian thinkers differ.
Major Questions and Literature Overview
There are a few questions whose answers will carve up the conceptual territory.
- Is there one arthāpatti or many?
- If there are many arthāpatti-s, what distinctions are there?
- Is arthāpatti (or arthāpatti-s) a pramāṇa? (If many, are all pramāṇa?)
- If it is a pramāṇa, is it sui generis or in virtue of reducing to another?
- If it is a pramāṇa, what is its “trigger”, doubt or conflict?
- Is arthāpatti deductive or non-deductive?
The most familiar distinction in arthāpatti is between śrūta- and dṛṣṭa-, distinguished based on whether the bits of knowledge that jump-start the process are testimonially-given or experientially given. However, one can also distinguish in śrūta-arthāpatti between abhihita and abhidhāna. The former is where what is anupapatti (unintelligible or inexplicable) is the facts expressed and the latter where it is the expression itself.
Kanaujia 1992 rejects the distinction between śrūta and dṛṣta, and instead proposes three major kinds of arthāpatti based on (1) linguistic unintelligibility, (2) factual unintelligibility, (3) unintelligibility of contradiction, subdividing (2) into (a) explanatory unintelligibility and (b) psychological unintelligibility, where there is only a partial clash between two facts. These types do not entirely map onto distinctions in the primary texts. Kanaujia’s aim is to demonstrate that arthāpatti is a heterogeneous concept in the original sources which must be more carefully analyzed. As a result of these distinctions, Kanaujia argues that only some of the sub-types are pramāṇa-s, and some are reducible to anumāṇa.
Bharadwaja 1988 and 1990 (Chapter 4) does not make such a distinction among kinds of arthāpatti but thinks that it is simply a matter of contextual interpretation–and thus not a pramāṇa at all. Chinchore and Chinchore 1984 argue that arthāpatti is a pramāṇa, and in fact a sui generis one (contra the Nyāya position). They, too, emphasize the linguistic nature of arthāpatti, claiming that it is essentially a “semantic gap” which needs to be filled in.
Yoshimizu 2007 says something similar, that arthāpatti is propositional derivation, a kind of reasoning in which one sentence is deduced from another sentence. He proposes a formalization of some of the most common stock examples of arthāpatti, those found in Kumāila, to make his point. Like Yoshimizu, Barlingay 1965 attempts some formalization of arthāpatti, arguing that postulation is a truth-functional deductive argument. He analyzes it in terms of semantic implication, modus ponens, and disjunctive syllogism. Rastogi 1983’s brief treatment (in an appendix to the text) also says something similar, though without the formalization, saying that arthāpatti is a semantic implication whose conclusion is necessary.
One of the most commonly cited and earliest works on arthāpatti is Datta 1932. He defends its independence as a pramāna but unlike Yoshimizu and Barlingay, he thinks that arthāpatti is equivalent to hypothesis and transcendental argument. To the objection that this would strip arthāpatti of its being a pramāṇa (since more than one hypothesis is possible in any given situation), he responds that, just like anumāna can be misapplied, so can arthāpatti. When arthāpatti arrives at the truth, it is a pramāṇa. This is along the lines of Taber’s 2009 review of Yoshimizu’s article, in which he says that arthāpatti is pointing in the direction of non-deductive inference such as inference to the best explanation (IBE). Maiti 1939 says something similar, that there is a difference of degree, but not of kind, between hypothetical reasoning and arthāpatti, due to the greater degree of certainty in the latter. More recently, Kasturirangan et al 2011 have taken up this question, arguing that arthāpatti is not IBE, since its conclusion necessarily follows from the premises, although they agree that it is also not reducible to anumāna.
Moving Forward – Methodological Question
Given this (very brief survey), I want to raise methodological some questions about how to move forward in understanding arthāpatti. Kanaujia says the following (see image):
What should our approach be to understanding arthāpatti in light of its various definitions and examples in the original literature? How should we employ various formal apparatuses in our analysis? Do you have a preferred analysis of arthāpatti that is not represented here?
Barlingay, A Modern Introduction to Indian Logic. New Delhi: National Publishing House, 1965 (reprint 1976). pp.19-21 and 245.
Bharadwaja, V. “The Concept of Arthapatti.” Indian Philosophical Quarterly 15 (2):113 (1988)
Bharadwaja, V. Form and Validity in Indian Logic. Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Simla, in association with Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, New Delhi, 1990.
Chinchore, Managala and Chinchore, Mangala. “Arthāpatti.” Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute, Vol. 65, No. 1 (1984), pp. 101-113.
Datta, D.M. Six Ways of Knowing: A Critical Study of the Advaita Theory of Knowledge. Calcutta University Press, 2nd Ed. 1960. Book No V, Arthāpatti, p.237.
Kanaujia, Tulsi Ram. “Heterogeneity of Arthapatti.” In Gustav Roth & H. S. Prasad (eds.), Philosophy, Grammar, and Indology: Essays in Honour of Professor Gustav Roth. Delhi: Sri Satguru Publications, 1992. pp.165-184.
Kasturirangan, Rajesh, Guha, Nirmalya and Ram-Prasad, Chakravarthi. “Indian cognitivism and the phenomenology of conceptualization.” Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences. June 2011, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 277-296.
Maiti, M.P. “Arthāpatti and Epistemological Possibilities of Doubt.” The Philosophical Quarterly. Jan 1939. Vol. XIV-IV. p.314-321.
Rastogi, Maharaj Narain. The theories of implication in Indian and Western philosophy : a critical study. Delhi : Bharatiya Vidya Prakashan, 1983.
Taber, John. Review of Karin Preisendanz, ed., Expanding and Merging Horizons: Contributions to South Asian and Cross-Cultural Studies in Commemoration of Wilhelm Halbfass, Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde Südasiens, 52-53, 311-315, 2009-10
Yoshimizu, Kiyotaka: “Kumārila’s Propositional derivation without Pervasion” Expansion and Merging Horizons: Halbfass Commemoration Volume, Wien 2007.