[Advaita-l] apauruSheya ?

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Wed Jan 18 21:35:46 CST 2006

--- Gerald Penn <gpenn at cs.toronto.edu> wrote:

> A related issue to examine in this regard is to
> > In logic, truth of a statement is decided by two
> > criteria - a) Correspondence b) Coherence.
> Your redux on correspondence has a very objective
> idealist slant to it, though, and I don't think that's
> appropriate when explaining Sri Madhwacharya's reasoning.

I'm not sure why you're bringing in Madhvacharya's name, the founder of dvaita
(dualism), to an advaita (non-dualism) mailing list, but your other concerns
are not related to this, so:

> Swatah pramanyam is a policy or principle regarding justified
> belief, not truth.

SvataH prAmANyaM is the claim that all knowledge is *assumed* valid  - unless
contradicted by another piece of knowledge (which is parataH aprAmANyam).

> > In contrast shankara does not make any
> > pretensions that it can be done on the logical grounds
> > and accepts it as an article of faith.
> A particular proposition is deemed to be true, because it
> can be traced back through anumana to a statement from
> the Vedas. 

Not correct. ALL knowledge (not only Vedic knowledge) is assumed true in the
beginning (unless there is a contradiction found in pre-established knowledge)
- this includes sense-experience, inference and the Vedas. For example, the
knowledge that water can freeze is not from the Vedas, but is accepted as valid
knowledge derived from sense-experience.

In fact, Mimamsa-Vedanta accepts the physical world as (conventionally) real -
not because "the Vedas say so", but because "sensory experience says so".

> The statement from the Vedas is in turn
> deemed to be true because the Vedas are apaurusheya.
> Now if, at the very end of this discussion, the most we
> can say is, "we have to accept this last bit on faith,"
> then the preceding argument, and along with it a very large swath
> of ancient Indian philosophical literature, would have
> just been reduced to a colossal waste of everyone's time.

Are you aware that there is no firm foundation to the philosophy of Mathematics
in Western philosophy, and that there are good reasons to believe why highly
esteemed fields of mathematics such as geometry, topology, etc. are only a
fantasy in a mathematician's mind? Is it possible to say that all mathematics
is a waste of of time?

Mathematics begins with a set of axioms that are tacitly accepted as true. One
can in principle assume any string as an axiom (even non-intuitive statements
like "All lines should intersect") and then build theorems so long as the set
of axioms are internally consistent (i.e. no two axioms contradict each other).
Then, all mathematical "truths" are of the form, "If the axioms are true, then
the theorems are true." Mathematics as it exists now can only claim, "This
(theorem) holds true if something else (axiom) holds true", but when the
truthhood of the axioms are themselves unprovable, the truthhood of the
theorems becomes dubious.

Scientists too make several assumptions, the most important of which is that
the principle of scientific induction holds (i.e. if repeated experimentation
under certain conditions validates a scientific theory, then the theory is
true). This is not at all new to the Nyaya philosophy, but the problem that
Mimamsa-Vedanta finds with this is that if one doesn't "settle" the matter of
validity firmly, one will always be "searching for validity". In other words,
if one doubts the validity of one piece of knowledge and seeks corroboration
for it from another piece of knowledge (which is what scientific induction
attempts), one will then have to question the second piece of knowledge, and so
on. This results in either an infinite regress or a kind of epistemological
nihilism (a doubt regarding all knowldge of the world).

Read about Karl Popper's ideas on scientific truth - he claimed that science
can never prove a theory true, but can only prove a theory false. This is
accepted by a large number of philosophers of science - which means that the
entire scientific community can do nothing but prove falsehoods, and never
PROVE (in the strict sense of the word) a truth.

When one begins to question the foundations of knowledge, all "truth" is seen
to depend upon something else that itself is unprovable, and finally nothing is
really "established as true". Every philosopher tries to "escape" from this
kind of excessive skepticism that results in epistemological nihilism.

(Aside: In Western philosophy, Hume gave the kinds of skeptical arguments
discussed above, and Kant argued with full force against such strong

The way Mimamsa-Vedanta resolves this is to close the matter of validity
immediately by claiming that all knowledge is "self-validating", i.e. there is
no "special reason" to look for validity elsewhere or seek corroboration for
what we know. For valid knowledge is right there.

Hence all means of knowledge are assumed to give us valid knowledge unless
there is cause to doubt, in which case further analysis is undertaken. Since
sense-experience and inference are two means of valid knowledge, all knowledge
derived from them is accepted as valid - hence science is accepted as valid
knowledge by Mimamsa-Vedanta.

> Now there's got to be something more than this behind Sri
> Sankaracharya's view of apaurusheyatva, hasn't there?
> I recall hearing once that there were six reasons in Dvaita
> for calling the Vedas apaurusheya, one of which was swatah pramanyam.
> Does anyone recall the other 5?
> I would also be interested to know more about Sri Sankaracharya's
> view of this issue.

The issue is dealt with in Mimamsa, not Vedanta.

When I asked a Mimamsa pandit regarding apaurushheyatva, he asked me how much
time I could devote to learning it. I said about a couple of days, and he
replied that it would take at least a few weeks, so he wouldn't begin that
topic at all.

But here's what I've been able to make out form my personal readings:

Besides sense-experience and inference, Mimamsa assumes that even understanding
the meanings of ordinary sentences are valid cognitions. Hence one assumes
truthhood of all sentences unless there is a cause to doubt. It is established
using Platonic style of argumentation that words are eternal. No word is ever
"created", and when anyone uses a word in a sentence, he/she is merely "seeing"
the words that exist in the unchanging realm.

The Rishis "saw" the words that constitute the Vedas and gave them to mankind.
The Vedas are for KNOWLEDGE OF DHARMA (VIRTUE) ALONE, and it is precisely in
the field of ethics that they have their primary validity. The Vedas have
already been established as the primary source of dharma (virtue). Now, in
order to controvert this, one must provide a good reason why the Vedas should
be considered false in the field of dharma (virtue). Since dharma lies outside
the realms of sense-experience and inference, the validity of the Vedas cannot
be controverted by these means of knowledge. Therefore, the Vedas stand
established as the means of knowing dharma. We see that "authors of ethical
doctrines" are themselves prone to error, hence their "compositions" on ethics,
if they contradict the Vedas, are unacceptable in the field of dharma.

> Regards,
> Gerald Penn



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