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Logic in Ancient India

Logic in Ancient India



Rabindra Chandra Dutt (1912- ) says: “Comparing dates, we are disposed to say of this as of many other sciences, the Hindus invented logic, the Greeks perfected it.” We must not forget the historical fact that there was a close intercourse between the Greeks and the Hindus from the time of Pythagoras, who, it is said, went to India to gather the wisdom of the Hindus. Alexander himself was so deeply impressed, when he heard about the Hindu philosophers, that he desired to make their acquaintances. It is also said that he brought back many Hindu philosophers back to Greece with him. These two schools of philosophy, the Vaisheshika and the Nyaya, supplement each other, and have at present many followers in some parts of India, especially in Bengal and among the Jains.

Then comes the Sankya system of Kapila. Kapila lived about 700 B.C. He is called the father of the evolution theory in India. His system is more like the philosophy of Herbert Spencer. He rejected the atomic theory by tracing the origin of atoms to one eternal cosmic energy, which he called Prakriti (Latin, procreatrix, the creative energy). He maintained that the whole phenomenal universe has evolved out of one cosmic energy which is eternal. Kapila defined atoms as force centers, which correspond to the Ions and Electrons of modern science. It was Kapila who for the first time explained creation as the result of attraction and repulsion, which literally means love and hatred of atoms, as Empedocles puts it.

The Sankhya philosophy of Kapila, in short, is devoted entirely to the systematic, logical, and scientific explanation of the process of cosmic evolution from that primordial Prakriti, or eternal Energy. There is no ancient philosophy in the world which was not indebted to the Sankhya system of Kapila. The idea of evolution which the ancient Greeks and neo-Platonists had can be traced back to the influence of this Sankhya school of thought.




E. W. Hopkins says: “Plato is full of Sankhyan thought, worked out by him, but taken from Pythagoras. Before the sixth century B.C. all the religious philosophical ideas of Pythagoras are current in India. (L. Schroeder, Pythagoras). If there were but one or two of these cases, they might be set aside as accidental coincidences, but such coincidences are too numerous to be the result of change. “

And again he writes: “Neo-Platonism and Christian Gnosticism owe much to India. The Gnostic ideas in regard to a plurality of heavens and spiritual worlds go back directly to Hindu sources. Soul and light are one in the Sankhyan system, before they became so in Greece, and when they appear united in Greece it is by means of the thought which is borrowed from India. The famous three qualities of the Sankhyan reappear as the Gnostic ‘three classes.’

In his Hindu Philosophy John Davies, speaks of Kapila’s system as the first recorded system of philosophy in the world, and calls it “the earliest attempt on record to give an answer, from reason alone, to the mysterious questions which arise in every thoughtful mind about the origin of the world, the nature and relations of man and his future destiny.”

Furthermore, Mr. Davies says, in reference to the German philosophy of Schopenhauer and of Hartmann, that it is “a reproduction of the philosophic system of Kapila in its materialistic part, presented in a more elaborate form, but on the same fundamental lines. In this respect the human intellect has gone over the same ground that it occupied more than two thousand years ago; but on a more important question it has taken a step in retreat. Kapila recognized fully the existence of a soul in man, forming indeed his proper nature, – the absolute of Fichte, – distinct from matter and immortal; but our latest philosophy, both here and in Germany, can see in man only a highly developed organization.”

It is most startling to find that the ultimate conclusions of this Sankhya system harmonize and coincide with those of modern science. It says:

1. Something cannot come out of nothing

2. The effect lies in the cause, that is, the effect is the cause reproduced

3. Destruction means the reversion of an effect to its caused state

4. The laws of nature are uniform and regular throughout

5. The building up of the cosmos is the result of the evolution of the cosmic energy. These are some of the conclusions which Kapila arrived at through observation and experiment, and by following strictly the rules of inductive logic.

~ Source: Hindu Philosophy: The Sânkhya Kârikâ of Îúwara Krishna. An Exposition of the System of Kapila – By John Davies Elibron Classics reprint. Paperback. New. Based on 1881 edition by Trьbner & Co., London

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