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The Concepts of Part and Whole: Avayava and Avayavi (An Old and Rare Book)

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Item Code: NAL591
Author: Biswanath Sen
Publisher: Rabindra Bharati University
Language: English
Edition: 1985
Pages: 228
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch
Weight 270 gm
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The present work is an attempt to analyse and explain the nature of the whole in relation to parts, as found in the Nyaya, Sankhya and Buddhist systems of philosophy. It is well known that the Nyaya advocates the existence of the avayavin over and above that of its avayavas while the sankhya and the Buddhists would have none of it. For them a thing is just its parts and nothing more. The Naiyayika however avers that a thing is a unity, not a plurality; it is an entity that has emerged by joining the parts, and is therefore more than its parts. Naturally, we find arguments and counter-arguments and counter-arguments advanced against one another in these systems in profusion. However, we have sought to present the argument in proper order under relevant head so that we can have a clear, overall picture of the whole thing and know where the contestants stand in relation to one another. We can see for ourselves how the Sankhya and the Buddhist ruthlessly attack the Nyaya position and how the Naiyayika stoutly defends himself and event boldly counter-attacks, whenever and where ever possible. It is a indeed a grand spectacle to see the giants of the three systems fighting one another and trying to wrest laurels for their respective views. For myself it has been a highly exciting exercise going through the works of these philosophers and taking part in their philosophical cut and thrust.

In writing this treatise I have consulted the original Sanskrit work as far as possible. This will be apparent if one compares the number of Sanskrit works with that of English works given in Bibliography and in the footnotes.

I have here to express deep gratitude to my Sanskrit teachers, especially to the late Pt. Bidhubhusan Bhattacharya, Pt. Visvabandhu Bhattacharya, Pt. Madhusudan Nyayacharya Dr. Jitendra Nath Mohanty and the late Dr. Pritibhusan Chatterjee who halped me in various ways and but for whom it would not have been posible to complete the work.

I also take this opportunity to express my gratitude to Dr. Ajit Kumar Ghose, Ex-Vidyasagar Professor in Bengali, Rabindra Bnarati University. Dr. Gurusankar Mukherjee and Dr. Brahmanada Gupta, Readers in Sanskrit, Rabindra Bharati University, and Dr. Sunil Dutta, Reader in History, Rabindra Bharati University for their unfailing support and constant encouragement for completion of the work.

In fine I would like to put on record my debt of gratitude to Dr. Pratul Gupta, Dr. Debi pada Bhattacharya, Ex-Vice Chancellor of this University and Dr. Rama Ranjan Mukherjee, Present Vice-Chancellor of Rabindra Bharati, for their active interest in promotion of my academic interests and persuits.



The problem we have discussed in the following pages viz., the problem of ‘avayava and avayavin’ is one that belongs to the old Nyaya. Indeed, it has a long ancestry and makes its appearance in the very early stagcs of the Nyaya. In the Nyaya Sutra itself we come across its reference. There it is introduced not in a metaphysical context but in an epistemological one viz., ‘how is a thing known? Can it be said to be known by perception, seeing that all its parts cannot be so known?’ This is the purvapaksa which Gotama considers and it is in this context as context as to whether perception is really inferential that Gotama introduces the discussion avayava and avayavin The importance that he attaches to it can be gathered from the fact that he not only devotes the next six sutras to its discussion but reverts to it on a number of occasions, in the third and the fourth adhyayas, e.g., 3.1.51. (in course of discussing whether sense- organs are on many in view of the fact that the avayavin is one, though residing in many places); 3.2.16 and 4.1.18 (destruction and origin are due to change of old form and assumption of old form and assumption of a new one by the parts); 4.1.36 (discussion of the Buddhist purvapaksa that a thing is really many, not one); and lastly in the Avayavavayavi-prakarnan from 4.2.4-4.2.17. There are also other places where Gotama has touched has touched upon the problem but the above references are sufficient to show that the builder of the Nyaya system attached more than usual importance to it. Vatsyayana also has elaboratcly commented on some of these sutras, thereby extracting their hidden implications and references; but it is Uddyotakara who for the first time worked out the full details of the doctrine of avayavin. He specifically referred to and discussed the various arguments of the Sankhya and the Buddhist against it, disposed of them and stoutly defended the Nyaya. In his defence of the Nyaya he brought a logical acumen and a polemical fervour which won him the famous tributes of the great Sanskrit dramatist Subandhu-‘Nyayasthitimiva Uddyotakara svarupam-an embodiment of the Nyaya defence. Vacaspati followed the tone and direction set by Uddyotakara and brought to the exposition and defence of the Nyaya view his massive learning and masterly lucidity. He dealt with the criticisms made by Dharmakirtl and other Buddhist scholars against Uddyotakara and put the Nyaya on a sure foundation. Udayanacarya and Sridhara who came after him further enriched the Nyaya with their valuable contributions-this is especially of the former who is ranked as the doyen amongst the old Naiyayikas and with whom the age of pracina nyaya is supposed to have closed.

One thing we may note here. After Vacaspati it was Buddhism which remained the only formidable adversary, the Sankhya having receded into the background. Udayana has dealt with Buddhist objections in the Atmatattvaviveka (otherwise known as Buddhadhikara), but has not given any fresh argument against the Sankhya. This show that in the 8th-10th centuries no Sankhya philosopher flourished who successfully repulsed the earlier Nyaya criticisms and hence, no further defence of the Nyaya was necessary. After Udayana began the age of Navya Nyaya when epistemological discussion came to the fore and metaphysical problems were relegated to a secondary status. Hence we do not hear much of the problem of parts and whole in this period.


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