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Paksha In Logic In Hinduism – Nyaya Philosophy

Paksha is a term used in logic in Hinduism especially in Nyaya philosophy. Inference or anumana is one of the four means of knowledge accepted by Nyaya philosophers. Anumana is cognition which presupposes some other cognition, because anumiti in Sanskrit literally means the consequent knowledge (anu – after, miti – knowledge) of an invariable concomitance (vyapti) between what is perceived and what is deduced.

Inference is of two types – svartha (for oneself) and parartha (for others). The former is the psychological process where no formal statement is verbalized. The latter has to be presented in the form of a formal syllogism in order to convince others.

The typical Nyaya Syllogism has five members, namely pratijna (proposition), hetu (the reason adduced), udaharana (example), upanaya (the sub-sumptive correlative) and nigamana (conclusion).

A classical example of the syllogism is as follows –

The hill has fire is pratijna. Because it has smoke is the hetu. Whatever has smoke is fire, eg an oven is the udaharana. This hill has smoke, which is invariably associated with fire, is the upanaya. Therefore, this hill has fire is the nigamana.

Paksha (the subject) occurs in the first member of the syllogism, namely the proposition. In the above example, ‘hill’ is the paksha or the subject in which the thing to be proved (sadhya-fire) is suspected. The pakshata (subject-ness), according to the early Naiyayikas, refers to the doubt regarding the presence of sadhya. However, later Naiyayikas accept the possibility of an inference even when there is certainty of the sadhya in the subject. This situation arises when one has a desire to obtain the same knowledge through inferential reasoning as well. In this case, the desire for inference neutralizes the certain knowledge of the sadhya. Accordingly, subject-ness is defined by the later Naiyayikas as “the absence of certain knowledge of the sadhya as is associated with the absence of a desire to establish a sadhya.” Translated in simpler terms, it means that the inference can occur in any of the three conditions set out below:

  • When there is the absence of certainty as well as the presence of the will to infer.
  • When there is absence of both certainty as well as the presence of the will to infer.
  • When there is presence of both certainty and the will to infer.