Arthāpatti in the Mānameyodaya

The Mānameyodaya is the standard primer for Bhāṭṭa Mīmāṃsā epistemology. It is written in the clear style of other 17th c. primers and it is smooth and agreeable to read. These are just some of the reasons for choosing it for the first meeting of a virtual Sanskrit reading group initated by Malcolm Keating (see this post, which is also an open invitation for anyone to join). More in detail, we started reading the section on arthāpatti, which is an instrument of knowledge accepted by (Pūrva and Uttara) Mīmāṃsakas, but considered as a subset of inference by Naiyāyikas and other schools.

Arthāpatti is the postulation of the only possible solution out of a seeming contradiction, e.g. “Devadatta is alive” and “Devadatta is not in the place where we usually see him” (this is expressed in Sanskrit epistemology by “Devadatta is not at home”, in contemporary terms we could think of something like “What happened of Jim? He is not in his office!”). Different contemporary scholars have tried to discuss the relation of arthāpatti with ‘presumption’ and ‘inference to the best explanation’.

The following is a translation of the beginning of the arthāpatti section in the Mānameyodaya:


Arthāpatti is the postulation of [something] producing [a solution] when there is a logical impossibility”: this is the definition explained in the Śābara Bhāṣya || 128 ||

As for this definition, the “logical impossibility” is said to be the contradiction between two [types* of] instruments of knowledge. Therefore, the following definition [of the arthāpatti] should be taught:

Arthāpatti is defined as the cognition of something non-contradictory caused by the contradiction between instruments of knowledge about general topics, and ones about a specific topic || 129 ||
For instance, the postulation of being outside of home due to the contradiction, which is instrumental [for the arousal of postulation], between the knowledge of his not being at home and the knowledge of his being alive || 130 ||

One understands in general that Devadatta is alive, either at home or outside, due to an inference based on astrology (i.e., because out of astrological calculations one knows that he will live a long life). There being a contradiction with the fact that he is not at home, one hypothesises —for the sake of the non-contradiction— that he must be out. And this is an arthāpatti-cognition whose instrument is the contradiction between the two [types] of instruments of knowledge.


However, the experts of logic (i.e., the Naiyāyikas), thinking that this (arthapatti) is a form of inference, say that |
“there is no contradiction between the two [types of] instruments of knowledge. And this (non-contradiction) is the same in the case of everything well-known” (NKu 3.11)|| 131 ||

[Nai:] To begin with, it is impossible that there is a contradiction between instruments of knowledge, since there would be the undesirable consequence that one of the two is not an instrument of knowledge, as in the case of “this is silver, this is not silver” (where one of the two ends up being recognised as not valid).

[Obj.] But nonetheless, one does see a contradiction between the two knowledges about which we spoke before (in the case of Devadatta)!

[Naiyāyika:] This is just a wish! In fact, in the case at hand, the room for doubt** regarding the specific place, namely ‘is he at home or outside?’ is blocked by the knowledge of his not being at home.

*dvaya must refer to two types of instrument of knowledge, and not just to two instruments of knowledge, given that the next verse explains that the contradiction may be between a specific knowledge and several general ones (sādharaṇapramāṇānām). Thanks to Andrew Ollett for having discussed this issue with me.
**The Naiyāyika is here speaking of doubt instead of logical inconsistency, probably because the former, unlike the latter, is among the padārthas his school accepts.

Comments and discussions are welcome. Be sure you are making a point and contributing to the discussion.

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6 thoughts on “Arthāpatti in the Mānameyodaya

  1. Perhaps the difference between anumana and arthapatti is that in the first the mere experience of smoke (standard example) brings the immediate knowledge of fire. The mere experience of plump Devadatta does not bring anything in its train. When a further fact is mentioned – ‘he never eats during the day’ – we must seek an explanation. Therefore we presume that he eats at night. In the course of excavating an Egyptian tomb I find a watch. I presume that some tomb robber was here before me. “Livingstone I presume”. &c. Invariable concomitance has an immediate delivery of knowledge once recognised or learnt and it tends to be simple rather than complex. Nothing immediately springs from the plumpness of Devadatta or the fact that he is not at home.

    The Western trinity of Induction, Deduction and Abduction is more generalised, abstract, and inter-related than the empirical Pramanas doctrine. The word ‘inference’ as a translation for ‘anumana’ may imply an apodeictic cast which the pramana does not have as I see it. I may be wrong in this.

    • Thanks Michael, your first paragraph is clear and well-written, I will recommend it as a primer in the rationale of arthāpatti. I am not sure I am following you in the last one, though. I would think that “deduction” would be the apodeictic translation of anumāna, not “inference” (which might be a more generic term). Moreover, I would not think of Abduction as a fix member of the trinity…