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Gangesa On The Upadhi, The 'Inferential Undercutting Condition'

Gangesa On The Upadhi, The 'Inferential Undercutting Condition'


Item Code: IDE017

by Stephen H. Phillips & Ramanuja Tatacharya

Hardcover (Edition: 2002)

Indian Council of Philosophical Research
ISBN 81-85636-58-3

Language: English
Size: 8.8" X 5.8"
Pages: 170
weight of book 353 gms
Price: $27.50
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From the Jacket:


This book presents a readable translation and philosophic commentary on a crucial and difficult text of Navya Nyaya and classical Indian logic. The inferential undercutter's significance is explained within the context of Nyaya's theory of knowledge, which had wide influence in the late classical culture, from philosophy to jurisprudence and aesthetics. Gangesa, the commonly recognized founder of "New Logic," is shown here to be an epistemologist and logician of the very first order. The book has been written for philosophers who are unfamiliar with Nyaya and Sanskrit philosophic terminology as well as for Indian philosophy specialists. An introduction places Gangesa's work within historical and ideative context, and a glossary explains his technical terms.


About the Author:

Stephen H. Phillips is professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin. He is author of Aurobindo's Philosophy of Brahman (1986) and Classical Indian Metaphysics (1995; Indian edition, 1996), as well as more than fifty research papers. He is editor of Philosophy of Religion: A Global Approach (1996) and co-editor of three other volumes, Professor Phillips received his doctorate from Harvard University.

N.S. Ramanuja Tetacharya, formerly Vice Chancellor, Tirupati Sanskrit Vidyapeetha, has received the National Certificate of Honor for excellence in Sanskrit and Philosophy, and is widely recognized as one of India's greatest masters of Sanskrit in all areas. He is author of Pratyaksatattvacintamani Vimarsa (1992) as well as numerous research papers in Sanskrit, and has edited critically in three volumes the perception and inference chapters of Gangesa's Tattvacintamani along with the commentaries of Rucidatta and Ramakrsnadhvarin (1972, 1982, and 1999).

Preface and Acknowledgements

This translation is a joint effort, though only Phillips is responsible for the English phrasing. Phillips’s voice is the ‘I" of the comments that follow paragraphs of translation and, indeed, everywhere other than the translation itself. Having read together Gangesa’s perception chapter, Shri Tatacharya and I proceeded to the inference chapter and the section translated here. As always, my esteemed teacher explained to me Gangesa`s text in an easy-to—understand, Sanskrit conversational style. I tape-recorded our sittings, and following his reading made a rough draft. My colleague in Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, Daniel Bonevac, helped to work out logical problems, and checked the logical notation. Discussions with Arindam Chakrabarti, University of Hawaii, also helped resolve some logical and interpretive issues, as well as with Robert Causey, another colleague at Texas, and several members of the Philosophy Department of Rutgers University in regard to a paper I read in New Brunswick in April 1998. Arindam Chakrabarti also gets credit for coining several renderings of technical terms including "patent falsehood" for badha and "absentee" for the absential pratiyogin. Shortly before returning to India in January 1999, I discovered E. Frauwallner’s German translation, and with help from Markus Weidler, a philosophy graduate student at Texas, checked our draft against his work. Tatacharya in that same January resolved a few outstanding problems, and there has been much polishing since. I am grateful for comments by J. N. Mohanty, two referees of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR), Roy Perrett, Jonardon Ganeri, and Alex Catlin at this later stage.

It is appropriate to say more about Ramanuja Tatacharya’s role and the importance of his explanations. Gangesa’s text is highly elliptical, and Tatacharya, a master of Sanskrit, provided in Sanskrit a running commentary sensitive, in particular, to Rucidatta`s classical commentary but also drawing on his deep understanding of Nyaya and classical Indian philosophy as a whole. Shri N. S. Ramanuja Tatacharya has received the National Certificate of Honor for his expertise in Nyaya and other classical systems, and holds many traditional degrees and honorary titles. He is editor of the principal edition of the Tatvacintamani, used by us (Tirupati, 1982). In sum, although his medium has been Sanskrit and this book is in English, Tatacharya is co-author by way of guiding me through Gangesa’s text. Errors (if there are any——let us presume not!) are probably due, however, to my misunderstanding him, though of course possibly his interpretation could be at fault.

First among other persons and institutions that have helped this work appear is Francois Grimal, Directeur, Centre d’Indologie, Ecole Francaise d’Extréme Orient, Pondicherry, who hosted many of Tatacharya’s and my sittings and provided bibliographic and other aid. We owe a special debt of gratitude to M. Grimal. The Center for Asian Studies of the University of Texas at Austin along with the American Institute for Indian Studies provided funding to defray travel costs.

I wish to thank ICPR and in particular Mercy Helen and Ramesh Pradhan, Member Secretary, along with Kireet Joshi, Chairman. Professor Joshi as Former Registrar, Sri Aurobindo International Centre for Education, Pondicherry, was my counselor while I was a student beginning to learn Sanskrit, with Chinmayee Maheshwari and Jagannatha Vedalankara, in 1972 and 1973: svasti bhavadbhyah.

Finally, this book is dedicated to Sibajiban Bhattacharyya, outstanding logician and expositor of Navya Nyaya, whose own translations have made Tatacharya’s and mine possible and who ten years ago suggested our collaboration.



The "inferential undercutting condition" or upadhi is an important topic in the logic and epistemology of the fourteenth—century Indian philosopher Gangesa and his Nyaya or "Logic" school. It figures distinctively in Nyaya’s views about inference, which, like perception, is considered a source of veridical cognition. Veridical cognition is important because only it is worthy of trust, and only certainty that a cognition is veridical sparks unhesitating effort and action. Awareness of an upadhi undercuts a prima facie inferential reason that would otherwise lead to certainty and unhesitating effort to act.

This introduction aims to provide conceptual background to help a non-indologist and non-specialist understand the following translation of the upddhi-prakararna, "Examination of the Inferential Undercutting Condition," which is a portion of the inference chapter of Gangesa`s masterwork, the Tattva-cinta—mani," ‘Jewel of Reflection on the Truth (about Epistemology)." Understanding the logic of the upddhi and its place in Gangesa`s theory of knowledge is foremost here. For a historical introduction to Gangesa and Nyaya, readers should look elsewhere But since I wish not to presuppose familiarity with classical texts, some historical background is, nevertheless, called for. Most of it—precursors` names and dates- will be given piecemeal, in comments running alongside passages of translated text; just a few notes will be given in this introduction. To repeat, we are concerned here with the upddhi principally as it is understood epistemologically by Gangesa, that is, within an inferential context as an under cutter of what would otherwise be a bit of inferential certainty. The conceptual interlocking according to Gangesa of "certainty," "veridicality," "inference" understood as an infallible "knowledge source," and so on is what we shall try to master.

If apology be needed for this ahistorical approach, I would point out that the most salient point of historical overview is simply the importance of the upddhi topic in the development not only of Nyaya but of middle and late classical Indian philosophy as a whole. Thinkers of various schools and persuasions explain the upddhi, and pointing out undercutting conditions comes to be a comnon way of arguing. We may speculate that mastering their logic was crucial to a philosophic education from very early. In any case, one has to understand the concept to appreciate the history of classical Indian epistemology.

Now while this-book is devoted to Gangesa`s text, its content is much more general. Although Gangesa is a brilliant and sometimes innovative thinker, he also belongs to a long succession of teachers of Nyaya or "Logic" and to a long tradition of philosophic inquiry preserved in hundreds of Sanskrit texts. The views and arguments Gangesa expresses were developed over many centuries. His Tattva-cinta-mani (TCM) may well be the most important work in the whole of late classical Indian philosophy, and it is clearly central within what is called "New Logic," navya nyaya. But Gangesa should not be thought of as a philosophical revolutionary. Most of what he says about the upddhi—and epistemology more generally is common both to some predecessors and many followers. Gangesa takes himself to speak for the Nyaya School. And for us this makes his treatment of the undercutting condition more interesting, since we may take him to speak for the school.

Indeed, much of what Gangesa says has been traced to earlier works. For this stretch of text, Erich Frauwallner has covered much ground in notes to a German translation. The thoroughness of his work is a further reason why historical tracing need not be a goal here. Our principal aim, we may repeat, is to appreciate Gangesa`s upddhi within the epistemology he lays out in his TCM. Gangesa also draws on a slightly less intricate, though singular, realist ontology or metaphysics, only some of which, fortunately, has to be learned.

In the following account, use of a few Sanskrit terms in English is unavoidable. To help those who know no Sanskrit, a glossary is appended that explains every Sanskrit word employed, including names of schools. Guidance concerning the dialogue structure of Gangesa’s text—especially assumptions concerning voice—are provided separately in a section entitled "Textual Prelude."

1. Nyaya in overview. Cognition, its types and causes as well as its nature in general, is the fundamental concern in the whole of Nyaya thought. Ontologically, a cognition comes to be viewed as a short- lived, episodic attribute or quality of an individual self. A cognition is a mental event, a product or state, not an act. But an act may be among a cognition’s causes, as in focusing on something in particular. Cognitions are in any case intentional. They are invariably of some object or objects, or, objective complex(es). For example, a pot is an object of a cognition just when and insofar as it is cognized. The public nature of cognized objects, their inter subjective accessibility, allows one to verbalize the indications of particular cognitions as tokens of cognition types and do logic and epistemology. The verbalization would be of a particular cognition, belonging to a particular person, but its ‘object-hood," its indication, even when restricted to a single thing, would be general in the sense of "shareable" in others’ experience. This means that different persons can have the same cognition in a general sense, for example, of a particular pot on the floor. Cognitions are among the causes of speech acts that preserve their object-hood or "content" (as is sometimes said), for example, "There is a pot on the floor."

Cognitions, it must be stressed, are moments of consciousness, not species of belief. Belief is not important in Gangesa`s epistemic analyses, though the way memory-impressions, prompt, or inform, certain types of cognition is important. Memory-impressions, or memory-dispositions (samskara), are formed by cognitions, and are in turn themselves causal factors prompting and guiding action. Thus it is not difficult to squeeze beliefs out of Gangesa`s approach, since a cognition’s indication takes a propositional or pseudo- propositional form. Nyaya holds that a verbalizable cognition has minimally the structure of a qualificandum cognized as qualified by a qualifier, for example, a as qualified by F-hood. The objecthood or t intentionality of cognitions is a direct relation between cognitions and things in the world. A veridical cognition indicates something’s being some way that it is in fact. That is its object. Strictly speaking, cognitions do not have content; they have objecthood or intentionality which by its very nature is the hitting of things. Abstracting the objecthood of types of cognition allows us to do logic and epistemology, but objecthood itself is nothing other than a property of cognitions, a relational property whose second term is the object cognized.

A person’s conscious life is partly comprised of, in sum, a series of cognition tokens the types of which as specified by their objecthood we discuss in the ways Western philosophers discuss propositions and people having the same belief.

A non-veridical cognition, too, has an objecthood or intentionality that is directed toward a reality. When we misperceive a rope as a snake, taking a to be F when it is not F, the F-hood bit of intentionality. which originates in previous experience of Fs—of snakes in our examp1e—directs one towards that property, which is thoroughly real, existing among the world’s furniture, though it is not experienced where it exists in fact—which is in snakes, not in the rope at hand. At work here would be a memory-disposition which under normal conditions would prompt a remembering but which in the deviant conditions of perceptual error retrieves and fuses a snake- hood bit of intentionality into a current perception.

Cognitions divide most broadly into awarenesses and rememberings, with several varieties of awareness. "Awareness" is a make- shift translation of the Sanskrit anubhava which connotes ‘presentation of new information" as opposed to presentation of old information in a remembering. Thus there are inferential awarenesses and word-generated awarenesses—as well as perceptual awarenesses—in the sense that the cognitive event is an acquisition of fresh news. There is technically, then, no awareness of that which has been experienced in the past, though there is such cognition. A current cognition of something as past is a remembering.

Along with his realist view of everyday objects, Gangesa defends d an externalist view of the ways we know them. Cognitive sources or processes that originate in the external world and that are described from a third-person point of view, called pramana, are "generators of veridical awarenesses." The most important of these are perception, inference, and testimony, all resulting in cognitions that reveal objects with which we successfully interact. All knowledge- generators are viewed as natural processes, as part of the causal web of the universe. The veridical cognitions generated and their indications, too, are identified, to be sure, from the inside, from a first- person perspective, and it is possible to know cognitive origin by a kind of introspection ("I see that I am inferring that a is F"). Nevertheless, the pramana are worldly processes, common among all perceivers, inferrers, and so on, and are externally described.

Knowledge-generating processes are delineated by Gangesa and others of his school independently of the question whether a cognizer knows that his cognition has been pramana -caused.

In Western terms Gangesa’s view of knowledge may be reconstructed as follows: no belief that is a bit of knowledge originates in any other way than through a pramana, through a "knowledge source," pramana, perception and the rest, which is it our business to explain. By fiat—or grammar—no non-veridical cognition is pramana—generated. This means that "perception as a knowledge source invariably results in a veridical cognition; a sensory process that might be mistaken from a first-person point of view for perception is only "pseudo-perceptual," as Naiyayikas use the corresponding Sanskrit terms. Deviant functioning of a process that would normally result in a true belief does not count as a pramana; the usage has a truth logic. In other words, between an apparent perception that is in fact non-veridical but is indistinguishable from the subject’s own perspective from a perceptual awareness P2 that is true, only P2 could count as being pramana -generated. A process has to be working normally, with no defects, to deserve pramana status; awareness of an "inferential undercutting condition," upddhi, for example, would block and rule out a genuinely inferential process. Objectwise this means that given a context otherwise ripe for correct inference an upadhi insures that an inference-like process would go away, not being an inference in fact, not a pramana.

We shall look closely at the upddhi in the next section under the general rubric of inference. Let us now continue to take an over- view, considering inference along with the other knowledge sources and Nyaya’s epistemology in general. One large difficulty is pramana individuation. Nyaya’s project depends on there being discernible pramana types. There are several outstanding problems that Naiyayikas recognize here, but commonalities are discovered- divisions and subdivisions are defended—and it is found that veridical cognitions fall into groups as results of perception, inference, and other knowledge-generating processes considered as types. Such discovery, which is not itself epistemic, has epistemic consequences, namely, that a pramana can be identified both by intrinsic features and in relation to a result such that a target can be known as pramana-generated and—though we have to build in here the restriction that no counterconsideration be evident, that there must be no known defeater or overrider (such as awareness of an upadhi), no suspicion of deviant functioning-a cognition so known becomes “pramana- certified.” Such pramana- certification would be “justification” according to Nyaya. And once a type of cognition as specified by its objecthood has become pramana-certified, a person’s later cognition known to be a token of that type would also be pramana-certified.





Introduction 1
      1. Nyaya in overview 3
      2. Inference 8
      3. The inferential upadhi 14
      4. The terminology question and previous scholarship


Textual Prelude




Preliminary Arguments (purva-paksa) 35
The Right View (siddhanta) 80

Sample Page


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