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Atmashraya – Nyaya Philosophy

Atmashraya is a form of hypothetical argument in Nyaya logic and philosophy. According to Nyaya, there are some cases of knowledge which are presentational in character but not valid. They constitute the class of aprama. They may not make any claim to truth, nor lead to any definite assertion. Samshaya (doubt), viparyaya (error) and tarka (hypothetical reasoning) come under this term.

The process of reasoning in tarka consists of the deduction of an untenable proposition from anishtaprasanga (a certain position). It logically exposes the invalidity of the proposition, and thereby supports its counter position. One sees a mass of smoke at a distant place, and says that there is fire at a distance. His friend contradicts this, and says that there is no fire. Now he may argue that fire is certain and without the fire there would be no smoke. This indirectly makes his argument credible. It is not valid presentable knowledge, because there is no direct knowledge of fire. But past experience of smoke with fire proves this. In any case, tarka is only an aid to Pramana, i.e. sahakari and not a Pramana by itself.

There are five kinds of tarka. These are – atmashraya, anyonyashraya, cakraka, anavatha and tadatmyabadhitartha prasanga (Nyayasutra Vritti 1 – 1-40). They all have same logical form and character.

Atmashraya is an argument that brings out the inconsistency involved in a reasoning which seeks to prove anything depends on itself in respect of its origin or cognition. It may be stated as follows – IF A is the cause of A, it must be different from itself, because the cause is different from the effect.’ It seems to correspond to the antilogism in western logic in some way.