Review: The Nyaya Theory of Knowledge


The Nyaya Theory of Knowledge

India as a country is rich in history. Innumerable civilizations have taken root in this land, instilling new thinking and logic that defined the society and the way of living. Indian Philosophy deals with the philosophical ideologies that found their roots in these civilizations. It can be classified into Astika and Nastika beliefs, each putting forward ideologies that form the skeleton of the subject. The Astika, or the orthodox thought of Indian Philosophy can be categorized into six schools – Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Purva – Mimamsa and Vedanta.

As the title suggests, ‘The Nyaya Theory of Knowledge’ deals with the Nyaya school of philosophy. In simple layman terms, Nyaya would mean rules or method or judgement. The Nyaya theory, like all other schools of philosophy, aims to enlighten people and impart knowledge that would lead to a better mode of life. It states that the four ways to obtain valid knowledge are pratyaksha (perception), anumana (inference), upamana (comparison) and shabda (testimony). The author Satishchandra Chatterjee delves deeper into the subject, highlighting the basic tenets that identify the Nyaya theory.

The book starts with the definition of knowledge, and how it can help one make the right decision. It deals with anubhava (presentation) and smriti (memory). While smriti depends on knowledge that’s gained through past experiences, anubhava talks about valid and invalid knowledge. The author then focuses on other related topics like prama and pramana, explaining them in a lucid manner.  The definitions are clear and elaborate and highlight the key points that are needed for understanding of such a deep subject.

The book is divided into five major sub parts. As mentioned, it commences with the method of valid knowledge (pramana), before moving towards perception as a method of knowledge (pratyaksha – pramana). We then get to read about the theory of inference (anumana – pramana) followed by upamana or comparison. The final sub – part deals with sabda or testimony.

One key aspect of the book is the way the author has used charts and illustrations to help the readers grasp the matter. We get a glimpse of this towards the very beginning when we come across a beautiful chart that represents the classifications of knowledge or gyaan. Pictorial representations are often the best way to simplify a theoretical content, and Chatterjee uses it to his strength.

The book follows a simplistic style, and as such, someone who isn’t well acquainted with philosophy or the Nyaya theory wouldn’t face any major problem in understanding the concepts. For example, the chapter dealing with the six types of Padartha (Dravya, Guna, Karma, Samanya, Vishesha and  Samavaya) is detailed and informative. In several parts of the book, the author has used multiple examples to put forth the objectives better, and help the readers get acquainted with the subject in a more effective manner.

The primary objective of the book is to provide a firm base to the students of philosophy, as it covers all the basic points dealing with Nyaya theory. Again, the book isn’t restricted to a select group of readers, but can also serve as a reference to those who are not acquainted with Philosophy, but are keen to know the subject. The author uses his years of research and knowledge in this book, resulting in a content which is both educative as well as interesting.

A software professional who loves the printed words, Amrit was born and brought up in the City of Joy, Kolkata.

His romance with stories and books started as soon as he learnt to decipher the beauty of letters, consonants and vowels, initially unfurling smiles with comics featuring Chacha Chaudhury and the likes during childhood, gradually progressing to Tinkle with the dawn of adolescence, and finally emerging as a voracious reader of novels. He doesn’t have any preferred genre and loves reading all types of books. However, he has a list of favorite authors, with Khaled Hosseini, Dan Brown, H. G. Wells, Sidney Sheldon, Michael Crichton and Chetan Bhagat scoring high on that chart.

When he is not reading, Amrit likes playing PC games. He is passionate about music and loves composing random notes on his guitar.