Pramanas | Meaning, Types | Logical Reasoning | UGC NET

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Pramanas: Pramana (“sources of knowledge” or “measure”) is an epistemological term in Indian and Buddhist philosophies referring to the means by which a person obtains accurate and valid knowledge (Prama, pramiti) of the world.

Bases of Pramanas

In obtaining Prama, or correct knowledge, Pramana forms one part of a triputi (trio):

  • Pramata, the subject (the knower)
  • Pramaņa, the means of obtaining the knowledge
  • Prameya, the object ( the knowable)
UNIT VI – Logical Reasoning (Click below on the topic to read the study notes)
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The three-principal means of knowledge are:

  • Pratyaksa (Perception)
  • Anumana (Inference), and
  • Sabda (Word)

The Sabda (word) is derived from the Veda, which is considered to be inherently valid. Some philosophers include the statements of reliable persons (apta-vakya) in the concept of Word (sabda), and add two additional means of obtaining knowledge:

  • Upamana (Analogy): enables one to hold on the meaning of a word by analogy, and
  • Arthapatti (postulation or Implication): appeals to common sense according to circumstances.

The ancient and medieval Indian books identify six Pramanas, including Anupalabdhi (non-perception, negative/cognitive proof) as correct means of accurate knowledge and to truths.

The most widely accepted and discussed pramanas are:

  • Pratyakṣa (Perception)
  • Anumāṇa (Inference)
  • Śabda (word, testimony)
  • Upamāṇa (Comparison, Analogy)
  • Arthāpatti (Postulation, Presumption, derivation from circumstances)
  • Anupalabdi (non-perception, cognitive proof using non-existence)

Different Ancient Schools and Accepted Pramanas

Schools Accepted Pramanas
Carvaka school Pratyakṣa (perception)
Vaisheshika school Pratyakṣa (perception)

Anumāṇa (inference)

Sankhya, Yoga, Vishishtadvaita Vedanta, and Dvaita Vedanta schools Pratyakṣa (Perception)

Anumāṇa (Inference)

Śabda (word, testimony)

Nyaya school Pratyakṣa (perception)

Anumāṇa (inference)

Śabda (word, testimony)

Upamāṇa (comparison, analogy)

Prabhakara Mimamsa school Pratyakṣa (perception)

Anumāṇa (inference)

Śabda (word, testimony)

Upamāṇa (comparison, analogy)

Arthāpatti (postulation, presumption)

Advaita Vedanta and Bhatta Mimamsa schools Pratyakṣa (perception)

Anumāṇa (inference)

Śabda (word, testimony)

Upamāṇa (comparison, analogy)

Arthāpatti (postulation, presumption)

Anupalabdi (non-perception, cognitive proof using non-existence)

The Advaita Vedanta recognizes six pramanas, namely, Pratyaksa(perception), Anumana (inference), Sabda or Agama (verbal testimony), Upamana (comparison), Arthapatti (presumption) and Anupalabdhi or Abhava(nonapprehension).

Pratyakṣa (Perception)

The word ‘pratyaksa’ consists of two parts viz. “prati” meaning near or before or related to and “aksi” meaning eye. So, it means the process through which immediate knowledge of an object arises or it means the instrument by which the object is conceived.

Perception or pratyaksa is the most important and fundamental source of valid knowledge. It is accepted by all the philosophical schools both vedic and non vedic. It is first and foremost of all the sources of valid knowledge as it is the most powerful, most fundamental and root of all other sources. Perception gives a direct or immediate knowledge of reality of an object and therefore it is the root of all other pramanas.

According to the Nyaya, perception is not the only source of our knowledge, but it is the basis of all other sources or means of knowledge. Hence, it has been said that all the other means of knowledge presupposes perception and must be based on knowledge derived from perception. Perception is the final test of all knowledge. Perceptual verification is thus the final test of all other knowledge and as such, perception is the chief of all the sources of human knowledge.

Types of Pratyaksha

Pratyaksha is broadly divided into two types:

Direct perception (Anubhava): In this type of perception, the knowledge of an object arises when it comes in contact with sense organs; smell (nose), touch (skin), form (eyes), sound (ears) and taste (tongue).

Remembered perception (smriti): The knowledge of an objects is based on the memory (smriti). Once we have seen a table, it is memorised and when the table again appear in front of you, you can easily recognised, what is this?

Alternatively, It can be divided into indiscriminate perception (nirvikalpa) where perception of the object is made without recognizing distinguishing features; and discriminate perception (savikalpa) where distinguishing features are observed.

Traditionally, there are four ways of obtaining pratyaksha. They are:

  • Indriya pratyaksha (Sense perception)
  • Manas pratyaksha (Mental perception)
  • Svadana pratyaksha (Self-consciousness)
  • Yoga pratyaksha (Super-normal intuition)

Anumāṇa (inference) Pramanas

Anumana literally means such knowledge that follows some other knowledge. Anumāṇa (inference) is the knowledge of an object due to a previous knowledge of some sign or mark. In Anumana Pramana, we arrive at the knowledge of an object through the medium of two acts of knowledge or propositions.

Inferential knowledge is produced not by direct apprehension but by means of some other knowledge. The “other” is interpreted in different ways as perceptive knowledge of probans. All systems of Indian philosophy agree in holding that anumana is a process of arriving at truth not by direct observation but by means of the knowledge of vyapti or a universal relation between two things.

There are definite steps to be followed in all inferential knowledge. The following steps are accepted for logical deduction of knowledge by the teachers of Advaita Vedanta :

  1. Perceptual evidence: We see smoke on the hill
  2. Invariable concomitance: Wherever there is smoke, there is fire, as seen in kitchen.
  3. Conclusion: Therefore the hill has fire

Śabda (word, testimony) Pramanas

Sabda or Shabda or verbal testimony is also called ‘apta-vakyas’ (statement of a trustworthy person, and Agama (authentic word). A verbal statement can be uttered or written, is human’s most potent instrument for transmitting knowledge.

A universal way of communication is either an oral or written message, and we learn mostly through words. We continuously get various information, direction, and knowledge through words. Since school days, we use words as a valid and effective means of bringing about awareness of things, ideas, or emotions. Books, magazines, newspapers, letters, conversations, chats, radio, TV, movies, songs, etc., all depend on words. We cannot do without verbal testimony.

A verbal statement conveying valid knowledge must have an authentic source and free from defects. Only a competent person possessed of knowledge can impart accurate knowledge. Such knowledge needs no verification unless, of course, there is doubt about its reliability. If all that we know from verbal testimony were to await confirmation, then the bulk of human knowledge would have to be regarded as baseless.

The process of verbal knowledge (Sabda) can not be clubbed with inference. Sabda does not involve any knowledge of invariable concomitance, as is the case in inference.

A lot of work has been done in regard to the derivation of the meaning of a sentence, especially by the Mimamsakas. Only that combination of words is called a sentence when four factors are taken care. They are:

  • Expectancy (Akanksha),
  • Consistency (Yogyata),
  • Contiguity (asatti), and
  • Knowledge of the purport (tatparya-jnanam)

Upamāṇa (comparison, analogy) Pramanas

According to the Mimamsakas and Advaitins, Upamana is the process by which the knowledge of B’s similarity to C is gained from the perception of C’s similarity to B, which has been seen elsewhere.

The methodology of Upamana for getting knowledge is seen as distinct from mere inference, and is thus accepted as a valid mediate method of knowledge.

For example, a person who has seen his cow in a town goes to a forest and sees a wild cow (gavaya). The person sees the similarity “This wild cow is like my cow”, and on this basis, he also concludes the opposite to be equally true, that “My cow is like this wild cow”. Thus, by upamana he gains the knowledge of his cow’s similarity to the wild cow from the perception of the wild cow’s similarity to his cow.

Upamana is a distinct means of knowledge, and it can not be clubbed under Anumāṇa (Inference). We cannot have a universal proposition that a thing is similar to whatever is identical to it. Such knowledge can not be gained without the observation of the two same things together.

Arthāpatti (postulation, presumption) Pramanas

Arthapatti means postulation, supposition, or presumption of a fact. Arthapatti is a distinct valid method of mediate knowledge. In fact, Arthapatti is a method of assumption of an unknown fact to account for a known fact that is otherwise difficult. Arthapatti can either be from what is seen or from what is heard.

One of the classic examples of this method of knowledge is Shyam; a fat person says that he never eats during the day time, then we can easily postulate that he eats in the night. For the simple reason that without this assumption, his fatness and also his getting fatter cannot be explained.

Anupalabdi, Abhava (non-perception, cognitive proof using non-existence)

According to the Advaitins and the Mimasaka school of Kumarila Bhatt, Anupalabdhi is considered to be a separate independent Pramana. Anupalabdhi literally means non-apprehension. Its non-perception apprehends the non-existence of a thing.

By not seeing a jar in a place, one knows that it is not there. We use this method of knowledge also very often, and this is evident from statements like: ‘There is no teacher in the classroom,’ There is no sound here.’

It may seem paradoxical that non-apprehension of a thing is a means to the apprehension of its non-existence (Abhava). Both non-perception, as well as perception, serve as a means to get various knowledge. The knower is conscious of both. They lead to positive and negative experiences.

Direct or indirect knowledge can be the basis of the knowledge of the non-existence of a thing. It could either be based on our immediate non-perception of a thing or even based on inference or verbal testimony. In the former Pramanas, the knowledge is immediate, while in the latter case, which is applicable in super sensual objects, the knowledge of Abhava of a thing is mediate.

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5 thoughts on “Pramanas | Meaning, Types | Logical Reasoning | UGC NET”

  1. sudhanshu shome

    thank you so much for providing these notes. very systematically arranged and explained. thank you thank you thank you.

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