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.


Kumārila, in the upamāna section of the Ślokavārttika, argues against both Naiyāyikas and Buddhists. He argues that upamāna is a genuine epistemic instrument (contra the Buddhists) and that it involves knowledge of similarity, not word-referent relations (contra the Naiyāyikas). As part of his argument, he defends the view that the similarity (sādṛśya) that one comes to know through upamāna is a positive entity, a genuine object (vastu). It is not a mere conceptual construction, as the Buddhists would have it. His initial definition of similarity, which is what is known by upamāna, comes at verse 19:
सादृश्यस्यापि वस्तुत्वं न शक्यमपबाधितुम् ।
भूयो ऽवयवसामान्ययोगो जात्यन्तरस्य तत् ।। १८ ।।
 As Jha (2009:581) translates this:
The fact of "similarity" (or resemblance) being a positive entity, however, cannot be denied; inasmuch as it consists of the presence, in one class of objects, of such an arrangement (or conglomeration) of the constituent parts as is common to another class of objects (18).
 Here, Jha takes avayava-sāmānya to mean a common arrangement of parts, and jāti to mean a class of objects. However, Nandita Bandyopadhyay (1982:248) gives an ontologically stronger reading to the second half:
...Similarity is the relation of a thing belonging to a particular class with a multitude of universals which are inherent in the parts of a thing belonging to another particular class.
Here, sāmānya is understood as a universal. On Bandhyopadhyay's understanding, Kumārila argues that similarity between two objects arises in virtue of their constituent parts being the substrate for the same universals. So the gayal and the cow both are the substrate for dewlapness, hornness, hoof-ness, and so on. On this view, recognizing similarity involves recognizing universals. (This definition is nuanced as the chapter goes on, since similarity between two objects doesn't require they always belong to different classes, and there do not always need to be multiple bases of similarity.)

Bandhyopadhyay argues that this use of sāmānya is very different than the Naiyāyika use of the term in thinkers like Vadhamāna, since there it is used in the sense of a conceptual construction, and not something with ontological status. He argues that since they deny that universals inhere in other universals, Naiyāyika thinkers cannot say that dewlapness inheres in cowness and gayalness. Rather, we simply group dewlaps belonging to the two creatures together.

Given the importance of similarity in Mīmāṃsā, where it is crucial for drawing out relations between the archetype and ectype rituals, it is the basis for secondary meaning of the gauṇavṛtti variety, and so on, a better grasp of the metaphysics of similarity and how it is known is surely important. (And here the debate between Prābhākara Mīmāṃsakas and Bhāṭṭas is crucial, though complicating, since they go further than Kumārila in arguing that similarity is a basic category of reality, a padârtha, not just a vastu.)

Works Cited
Ślokavārttikam of Kumārila Bhaṭṭa. Vol II. Transl. M.M. Ganganatha Jha. The Chaukhamba Indological Studies 5. Delhi: Chaukhamba Sanskrit Pratisthan, 2009.

Nandita Bandhyopadhyay, "The Concept of Similarity in Indian Philosophy," Journal of Indian Philosophy 10 (1982) 239-275.

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