The concept of self (atman) in Nyaya-Vaisesika philosophy

Laine, Joy Elizabeth (1990). The concept of self (atman) in Nyaya-Vaisesika philosophy. PhD thesis The Open University.



Nyaya, one of Hinduism's six orthodox schools of philosophy has been of interest to western philosophers largely because of its sophisticated analysis of logical and linguistic problems. In India, the purpose of the orthodox school (or dar'ana - "view") has been to lead the student toward liberation (moka). Hence Nyaya's preoccupation with logic should not in itself preclude a real concern with moka. The broad aim of my thesis therefore, is to determine how Nyya functions as a complete darana, to see if indeed the various aspects of the system stand together as a coherent mokamãrga (way to release). Because Hindus conceive of salvation as the realization of a transcendental Self (tman), and because the nature of such a Self has been a prime focus for Indian philosophical debate, this thesis will concentrate on the Nyãya understanding of ãtman, and the logical arguments for its existence.

Nyãya philosophers played a leading role in arguing against their Buddhist opponents in India who denied the existence of any such transcendental Self. The debate, which endured for many hundreds of years, culminated in the eleventh century A.D. with the works of Udayana, a leading Nyãya philosopher, and his Buddhist opponents, JnaIrimitra and Ratnakirti, after which time the Buddhist challenge waned in India, and the Nyãya school, known in its later phase as Navya-Nyãya, became more concerned with the method rather than the substance of the arguments.

In this thesis I concentrate on one particular text of Udayana, the Atmatattvaviveka (The Discrimination of the Reality of the Self), for in this text Udayana arranged most of the major disputes that had engaged Nyãya and Buddhist philosophers in the preceding centuries in such a way as to clearly display their relevance for the debate about ãtman. The main body of my thesis consists of translations from this hitherto largely untranslated work, and discussions of some of the important arguments found therein. The concluding part of my thesis uses my findings for the broader discussion of the importance of ãtman in Nyãya, and the place of Nyãya within the wider spectrum of Indian soteriological thought.

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