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Journal of Indian Philosophy and Religion

Volume 18, December 2013

Kisor Kumar Chakrabarti, Stephen H. Phillips
Pages 1-36


Counterinference is one of five kinds of pseudo-prover (similar to fallacy in Western logic) recognized in the Nyaaya school. Typically in counterinference while one side seeks to prove the thesis that a probandum belongs to an inferential subject because an inferential mark pervaded by the probandum belongs to that subject, an opponent challenges that by arguing that the probandum does not belong to the inferential subject because another inferential mark pervaded by absence (negation) of the probandum belongs to that subject. A common example is: sound is eternal, since it is audible and audibility is pervaded by eternality (i.e. all that is audible is eternal, like sound-ness, the common property of all sound particulars); but sound is non-eternal, since it is originated (by clapping hands, etc.) and all that is originated is non-eternal, like a pot, etc. Critics from other philosophical schools have objected that counterinference is not an additional kind of pseudo-prover. Since it is impossible for an inferential subject both to have and not to have a probandum, either at least one of the inferential marks does not belong to the inferential subject (the fallacy of being unestablished) or at least one of the inferential marks lacks pervasion (the fallacy of deviation) and, accordingly, counterinference should be subsumed under those fallacies. Nyaaya philosophers have responded by pointing out that the formal structure of counterinference is different from that of the other fallacies: in counterinference we have two different inferential marks but not in the other candidates. The epistemic result of counterinference is also different from that of the other fallacies mentioned, it is argued further. Moreover, it is contended (against a Nyaaya faction) that the epistemic result is not doubt as specifically understood in Nyaaya but desire to know the truth about the chosen inferential mark and the probandum. Accordingly, counterinference may be explained as that which provides the ground for inquiring what is the truth about the original inferential mark and its probandum due to presentation of an inferential assimilation (paraamarsha) that contradicts the original inferential assimilation. The discussion yields also a broader normative principle that contradiction or counterproof provides the epistemic ground for further inquiry even if there is proof. The selection is from the Tattva-cintaa-maNi, the canonical Navya-Nyaaya work of GaMgesha (14th century CE?). The selection is from a large work and presupposes some things explained elsewhere in the text. Further, though written with great precision the work paradoxically belongs to the old Indian philosophical oral tradition in which a beginner is expected to read it with the help of additional information supplied by an expert. Hence paying close attention to what is implied in the context and supplementing certain ideas is necessary for interpretation and understanding.