Words by Sandeep Ozarde
Sep 24, 2018
5 Minute Read
Pramana (प्रमाण or ‘proof’ and ‘means of knowledge’) refers to epistemology in Indian philosophies. It talks about how ‘right knowledge’ must first be attained and then applied. Conceptually derived from the Sanskrit root, prama (प्रमा) meaning “right notion, true knowledge, basis, foundation, accurate notion”, Pramana means something that is a “means of acquiring prama or certain, correct, true knowledge”.
Correct knowledge is the beginning of design thinking.
Design thinking will not guide you on ‘how to think’ or how ‘correct knowledge’ will be gotten.
Design Thinking is a mindset — cannot work without ‘correct means of knowledge’ as the brand, business, product or service is being shaped.
But in the last 2–3 centuries, we witnessed the dawn of a sort of humanist revolution, coined as Humanism, where we started trusting our collective strength as a race, above everything.
Study of Pramanas is a way of gaining knowledge
The Advaita Vedanta and other schools of Indian philosophy discuss Pramana widely. The medieval texts identify six pramanas as correct means of accurate knowledge and truths, which are critical for Design Thinking:
Nyaya (न्याय in Sanskrit: literally means rules, method or judgment): science and study of Pramanas
This can be divided into:
external — when your five senses interact with the world outside
internal — perception of inner sense or the mind
In Indian philosophy, perception, the first of the five means of knowledge, or pramanas, enable a person to have a correct understanding of the world.
Pratyaksha is of two kinds:
Direct perception (anubhava)
Remembered perception (smriti)
Further, there is indiscriminate perception (nirvikalpaka) — where the object is perceived without distinguishing features discriminate perception (savikalpaka) — distinguishing features are observed and recognized However Pratyaksha (perception) can have inherent defects:
1. Illusory observations (rope or snake?)
2. Confirmation bias (see what you want to see)
3. Poor memory (cannot correctly recall what you saw)
4. Dishonesty (lying about what you observed)
Inference/reasoning by itself has an unsure foundation. It must be based on empiricism or scripture.
People can make wrong inferences. And someone who is better at reasoning or debating can logically disprove arguments. Does that change fact?
Anumana Anumana (अनुमान in Sanskrit: “measuring along some other thing” or “inference”) — ‘knowing after’ It is the method by which knowledge is derived from another piece of knowledge — an indirect, mediate knowledge. We know of an invariable relationship between two things, and use it to deduce the presence of other. Anumana refers to the logical process of gaining knowledge, which is called inferential knowledge or the logical deduction or inference. Just that there is a slight difference between logical deduction in Eastern thought as compared to Western systems of logical deduction.
Inference is at the heart of the Indian school of logic
(Nyaya — judgment), which has worked out a syllogism as an argument that goes through five stages:
Upamana (उपमान in Sanskrit: “comparison”) as the process by which the knowledge of A’s similarity to B is gained from the perception of B’s similarity to A, which has been seen elsewhere. This methodology is seen as distinct from mere inference, and is thus accepted as a valid mediate method of knowledge. Upamana is a distinct means of knowledge, and cannot be clubbed under Anumana (अनुमान), because we cannot have a universal proposition that a thing is similar to whatever is similar to it. Such a knowledge cannot be gained without the observation of the two similar things together.
- The proposition (pratijna, literally “promise”),
- The ground (hetu),
- The illustration (udaharana),
- The application (upanaya),
- The conclusion (nigamana).
Arthapatti (अर्थापत्ति in Sanskrit: “the incidence of a case”) — is assumption, supposition or presumption of a fact
It is a distinct valid method of mediate knowledge, assuming an unknown fact to account for a known fact that is otherwise inexplicable. Arthapatti is the means by which one obtains accurate knowledge of the world. It is knowledge arrived at through circumstances.
Sabda (शब्द in Sanskrit: “sound”) Sabda pramana is verbal testimony, also called ‘apta-vakyas’ (statement of a trust- worthy person, and agama (authentic word)
A verbal statement is the most powerful way of transmitting knowledge. We learn mostly by means of words. An oral or written message is a universal mode of communication. We constantly get various information, direction and knowledge through words. The systems of Buddhism and Jainism, though they reject the authoritativeness of the Vedas, rely in fact on the shabda of their own scriptures.
In the philosophical systems (darshans), shabda is equated with Vedas (the most-ancient sacred scriptures) as the only other testimony, since the Vedas are deemed to be eternal, authorless, and infallible.
Shabda is particularly important to the Mimamsa school. It defines the credibility as applying only to scriptural statements that exhort to purposive action and whose worth would not be known by any other means of knowledge. In fact, Buddhism and Jainism, reject the dependability of the Vedas, and instead rely on the shabda of their own scriptures.
Anupalabdi (अनुपलब्धि) is to be a separate independent pramana
It means non-apprehension — where non-existence of a thing is
apprehended by its non-perception. By not seeing a jar in a
place one knows that it is not there.and
Illustration — Sourajit Sengupta
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