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Thread: Samkhya Karika on Charvaka

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    Samkhya Karika on Charvaka

    Hello all:

    On my reading list currently is Samkhya Karika. This is a collection of aphorisms/sutras that expound the Samkhya philosophy.

    I came across another interesting/somewhat humourous argument in the Karika directed against the Charvaka.

    Amongst perception, inference and verbal testimony, the Charvakas accept only the former as the pramana [means of valid cognition]

    If this is so, the Samkhya argues:

    To whom does the Charvaka go around addressing and proclaiming that perception is the only pramana? Certainly, by perception alone, the ignorance, doubt and perversity of another person cannot be known. Thus, if, without knowing whether the person addressed is ignorant, or in doubt or perverse, the Charvaka were to go about addressing any and every person at random, certainly, such a person would be ignored as his expression is not fit to be heeded by all intelligent persons, as if he were mad. Only a mad man will go around repeating the same stuff to anyone and everyone over and over again.

    The ignorance, etc. of another person has to be inferred only based on the words spoken and the actions of the person in question. Thus the Charvaka has to accept inference as a pramana if he is not to be deemed a mad man!

  2. #2

    Re: Samkhya Karika on Charvaka

    Unforunately, there is no record of any Carvaka who made such a claim and what his defence was. All we hear about this, comes from writers of other schools and therefore, there is the issue of bias, which makes these accusations unreliable.
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    Re: Samkhya Karika on Charvaka

    Quote Originally Posted by shiv.somashekhar View Post
    Unforunately, there is no record of any Carvaka who made such a claim and what his defence was. All we hear about this, comes from writers of other schools and therefore, there is the issue of bias, which makes these accusations unreliable.
    Agreed on the fact that we do not have the original texts of the Charvakas. All that we DO know about them are the "refutations" by other Dharmic schools - including Jaina and Bauddha schools.

    How exactly do you think the Charvakas could defend only direct perception as an epistemological source? Why not inference?

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    Re: Samkhya Karika on Charvaka

    I suspect the Carvaka arguments on this point took a form of nihilism, or deconstructive logic showing the ultimate futility of attempting proofs or even propositions through inference and the other means.

    Although had they fully extended these arguments, as the Buddhists did, perhaps they would have held direct perception to be also invalid.

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    Re: Samkhya Karika on Charvaka

    Quote Originally Posted by Shuddhasattva View Post
    I suspect the Carvaka arguments on this point took a form of nihilism, or deconstructive logic showing the ultimate futility of attempting proofs or even propositions through inference and the other means.
    Yes. I also thought that they insisted that belief in induction [invariable concomittance between smoke and fire, etc.] cannot be justified until all instances of smoke and fire can be perceived - this is clearly impossible.

    Although had they fully extended these arguments, as the Buddhists did, perhaps they would have held direct perception to be also invalid.
    But the Buddhist argument is not without problems either. Does the Buddhist perceive that all perceptions are invalid? If not all perceptions are invalid, then the Buddhist should explain which perceptions are valid and the causes of such perception.

    If all perceptions are invalid, then so is the perception of this leading to a vicious infinite regress.

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    Re: Samkhya Karika on Charvaka

    Quote Originally Posted by wundermonk View Post
    But the Buddhist argument is not without problems either. Does the Buddhist perceive that all perceptions are invalid? If not all perceptions are invalid, then the Buddhist should explain which perceptions are valid and the causes of such perception.

    If all perceptions are invalid, then so is the perception of this leading to a vicious infinite regress.
    It cannot be denied that the various Buddhist doctrines, especially the nihilistic ones, are not without opposing arguments.

    However, denying the ultimate validity of all perceptions:
    A. Doesn't necessarily invite that infinite regress problem, if one posits the realization of the futility of perception as extra-perceptual itself, or breaking the already existing infinite regress of invalid subjects and objects by breaking the chain.
    B. Alternately, the invalidity of the perception of invalidity is itself held up as a further extension of this, 'void of voidness.'


    Validity of perception in the Buddhist context generally centers on the gap between apparent phenomenon and noumenon which cannot be closed by any finite consciousness or spatially/temporally limited viewpoint, thus rendering all senses and thoughts ultimately caricatures of the underlying reality.

    "Void" is a better term than invalid here.

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    Re: Samkhya Karika on Charvaka

    Hello Shuddhasattva:

    Quote Originally Posted by Shuddhasattva View Post
    However, denying the ultimate validity of all perceptions:
    A. Doesn't necessarily invite that infinite regress problem, if one posits the realization of the futility of perception as extra-perceptual itself, or breaking the already existing infinite regress of invalid subjects and objects by breaking the chain.
    How is the extra-perceptual known?

    I think Advaita takes recourse to the following syllogism:

    P1: Whatever is perceived is unreal, like a dream.
    P2: When awake, we perceive.
    C1: Waking perception is unreal.

    Advaita takes recourse to scripture as the source of knowledge and claims that in matters of supra-sensory, scripture is more valid than perception. Although, there may be other non-scriptural arguments that I am unaware of.

    B. Alternately, the invalidity of the perception of invalidity is itself held up as a further extension of this, 'void of voidness.'
    Yes, I have heard this argument. I think Nagarjuna was an upholder of this view?

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    Re: Samkhya Karika on Charvaka

    Quote Originally Posted by wundermonk View Post
    Hello Shuddhasattva:



    How is the extra-perceptual known?

    Namaste

    The stock answer I suppose would be "through/as Brahman," as Brahman is the non-finite consciousness without subjects and objects or modes of perception.

    When perceptions are realized as biophysical consequences, and tangential unrealities of the one real consciousness, then this state, or samadhis approximating it, are said to emerge.

    Namaste

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    Re: Samkhya Karika on Charvaka

    Quote Originally Posted by wundermonk View Post
    Agreed on the fact that we do not have the original texts of the Charvakas. All that we DO know about them are the "refutations" by other Dharmic schools - including Jaina and Bauddha schools.
    Yes, it is highly unlikely that there ever existed an organized group of people who called themselves Carvaka. It is more likely that independent atheists were collectively labeled Carvaka. For instance, Jayarasi's TUS is the only text in existence where the author reveres Brhaspathi and he never calls himself Carvaka or Lokayata.
    How exactly do you think the Charvakas could defend only direct perception as an epistemological source? Why not inference?
    Inference is subjective. The same piece of information is interpreted in several different ways by different people. Hence, the difficulty in accepting Inference as a valid pramana. This does not mean that inference is completely useless. It is certainly useful in as far as it is grounded in reality (one can reasonably infer the presence of a driver from a car moving at a distance). However, for obvious reasons, one gets on shaky ground when attempting to infer the presence of a soul and after-life.
    Philosophies that relied on inference are pretty much non-existent today. In my opinion, Vedanta schools who claim that the unseen is to known by testimony (scripture) alone, are freed from attempting independent proof through inference, and have survived longer.
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  10. #10

    Re: Samkhya Karika on Charvaka

    The Sankhya Karika by Ishvara Krishna is the oldest extant Sankhya text dating to the early Christian era. The name Carvaka does not appear on the scene until much later.

    Did you see this comment on Carvaka in a karika or from a later commentator?

    Thanks
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