Saturday, August 11, 2018

A gayal is like a cow

One of the pramāṇas which has received relatively less attention than perception (pratyakṣa) and inference (anumāna) is known as "analogy" (upamāna). Actually, whether we should translate it as "analogy" is a good question, since, as we might expect, although it shares some commonalities with analogical reasoning as understood by European and related traditions, it is not exactly the same. And there is significant dispute between Naiyāyikas and Mīmāṃsakas over its nature, even though they both accept that it is a pramāṇa, not reducible to inference or perception. Perhaps simply "comparison" is better?

A stock Mīmāṃsā example of upamāna is when one sees a gayal (below, left, Sanskrit gavaya) and comes to know through upamāna that there is similarity between it and a cow, which one remembers, having seen it in the city (below, right, Sanskrit go). As Naiyāyikas put things, however, first one asks a forest-dweller, "What is a gayal?" and they answer "A gayal is like a cow." Aftewards, when one sees the gayal in the forest, then one comes to know what the word "gayal" refers to, in a way previously unavailable.

A gayal relaxing in a field.
A cow relaxing in a field.

Or at least, this is the very broad difference between the two camps. As usual, we need to look at particular thinkers to see how they discuss the question.