Indian Materialist Philosophy (interview)


INTRO: Ramkrishna Bhattacharya is the author of 28 books and more than 175 research papers. Writes articles and reviews in both scholarly journals and other periodicals on literature (Indian and European), text-criticism (Bangla and Sanskrit), the history of ideas, the history of science in India, the history of modern India, and philosophy (specially the Carvaka/Lokayata system, materialism and rationalism). Here he discusses when materialism in India began, pre-Cārvāka materialist ideas in India, Jābāli, the development of logic in India, nihilism, Ajita Kesakambala, Bṛhaspati, the relationship of Cārvākasūtra to the Buddhist system, what the Cārvākas really asked the people to accept, the link between svabhava (own being) to the Chinese concept of Tao, and what left the Cārvāka/Lokāyata tradition obscure and the Buddhist one so popular....


Some highlighted quotes from interview: 'Pāyāsi did not directly contribute to the development of logic in India. Since his objection to the existence of the immortal soul, etc. could not be refuted by providing any proof other than comparison or inference by analogy that the author of the sutta of King/Governor Pāyāsi advanced a second instrument of cognition, inference by analogy. Thus the proto-materialists are indirectly responsible for the development of logic.’

‘Materialism in India had nothing to do with nihilism as such. They were thorough-going realists. However, it could be, as you say, an attack on the dualistic system that spoke of consciousness and matter as two different entities, one can exist without the other.’

‘Both the Buddhists and the Cārvākas (but not the earlier materialists) accept two instruments of cognition, namely, perception and inference (in the case of the latter, only such inference as is preceded by orgrounded in perception). The earlier materialists, the Pre-Cārvākas, were in two respects quite different. They accepted perception alone, not even inference based on perception, as the only instrument of cognition. Second, the Pre-Cārvākas spoke, like all others, of five elements, namely, earth, air, fire, water and ether (ākāśa, vyoma, often translated as space).’

‘ It was the firm conviction in causality, and not just causality but emphasis on natural causes and the denial of everything called ‘supernatural’ that marks the materialists in India.‘


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