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Assumption Of An Explanatory Fact In Hindu Philosophy

Arthapatti is postulation or assumption of an explanatory fact (arthakalpana). Arthapatti or implication (also translated as presumption or postulation) is an independent means of knowledge according to Mimamsakas and Advaitins. Where an observed phenomenon cannot be explained without postulating or implying another phenomenon, the explanatory phenomenon is known through implication.

In the example of a person known to be alive but not found at home, the doubt arises as to his existence itself. It is by implication of his existence outside that the doubt is removed. According to Prabhakara, this involves three steps –

  • The perception of the fact that the man is not in the house
  • Till it is known that man exists somewhere outside; it is a matter of doubt whether he is alive or not
  • It is discovered that he lives somewhere outside and the doubt regarding his existence itself ceases.

Kumarila opines that it is the apparently inconsistent facts, not doubts that are reconciled by implication. The knowledge that a person is known to be alive and yet not to be at home has an apparent conflict, resolved only by implication of his being somewhere outside.

According to Kumarila, every means of knowledge has an element of implication in it. For example, the capacity to burn is implied in the perceived fact of fire burning, power of motion in the different positions of sun inferred, etc.

Advaitins are in agreement with the basic position of the Mimamsakas.

Arthapatti is of two kinds – implication from the perceived and implication from the verbally cognized. The former operates in cases of illusion like the shell being mistaken for silver. When the silver is sublated by the true cognition of shell, the situation is unintelligible unless it is assumed that the silver is an illusory projection.

The second variety operates in cases of statements like – ‘He who knows the self crosses sorrow ‘ where the sentence itself is unintelligible, unless it is, by implication, granted that sorrow is illusory. This is because knowledge does not remove real things but only illusions.

The second variety is again two fold – with reference to an expression and with reference to the expressed. When the word ‘door’ is uttered, it has to be made intelligible by implication of another word like ‘close’. This is the first kind. In the textual statement – one who desires heaven must perform Jytoistoma ritual. It is known by implication that by the ritual an unseen potency called Apurva is generated which then leads one to heaven. The ritual itself is not seen to produce this result of heaven immediately. This is the second variety.

Naiyayikas do not accept arthapatti as an independent means of knowledge and reduce it to the type of inference called kevala-vyatireki. But Advaitins and Mimamsakas reduce this kevala-vyatireki inference itself to arthapatti. The kevala-vyatireki inference is formulated in the Nyaya system is an example as follows – whatever is not different from other elements has no smell – Earth has smell – therefore, earth is different from other elements.

Advatins show that this can be an instance of arthapatti like – earth could not intelligibly have a quality not present in the other elements, without being different from those elements. Similarly, a person cannot intelligibly be stout while not eating, neither at day time, nor at night. Advaitins use implication to show that the world is maya. Without assuming maya, the world will never be understood since it defies every other explanation by known causes.