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Compared to the prama of pratyaka (perception) or anumna (inferential reasoning),

arthpatti (postulation or presumption) has received less attention in contemporary

secondary literature. This is unfortunate, since it is broadly recognized as a prama,
whether as a sui generis one, as by Mms and Vednta, or as a type of anumna, as by
Nyya. As well, it is an important prama for the interpretation of Vedic texts and its
purported non-reducibility to anuma raises interesting questions about the relationship
between epistemology and logic. In this short post I want to raise the question of how we
should think about arthpatti by laying out the interpretive territory through secondary
Basically, arthpatti is the kind of reasoning that allows us to reason from

(1) Fat Devadatta does not eat during the day.


Fat Devadatta eats at night.


(2) Caitra is alive; I see that Caitra is not at home.


Caitra is living somewhere outside of his home.

The central idea is that there is some kind of tension which arises from a new fact being
cognized, against the background of another fact, which cannot be resolved without the
postulation of third fact. In example (1) above, the tension is between Devadatta being fat
and his not eating during the day. In (2), it is between Caitras being alive and Caitras not
being at home. The tension is not strict logical inconsistency, (p & ~p) but something else
just how to analyze this is something on which Indian thinkers differ.

Major Questions and Literature Overview

There are a few questions whose answers will carve up the conceptual territory.

1. Is there one arthpatti or many?

2. If there are many arthpatti-s, what distinctions are there?
3. Is arthpatti (or arthpatti-s) a prama? (If many, are all prama?)
4. If it is a prama, is it sui generis or in virtue of reducing to another?
5. If it is a prama, what is its trigger, doubt or conflict?
6. Is arthpatti deductive or non-deductive?

The most familiar distinction in arthpatti is between rta- and da-, distinguished based
on whether the bits of knowledge that jump-start the process are testimonially-given
or experientially given. However, one can also distinguish in rta-arthpatti between
abhihita and abhidhna. The former is where what is anupapatti (unintelligible or
inexplicable) is the facts expressed and the latter where it is the expression itself.

Kanaujia 1992 rejects the distinction between rta and dta, and instead proposes three
major kinds of arthpatti based on (1) linguistic unintelligibility, (2) factual unintelligibility,
(3) unintelligibility of contradiction, subdividing (2) into (a) explanatory unintelligibility and

(b) psychological unintelligibility, where there is only a partial clash between two facts. These
types do not entirely map onto distinctions in the primary texts. Kanaujias aim is to
demonstrate that arthpatti is a heterogeneous concept in the original sources which must
be more carefully analyzed. As a result of these distinctions, Kanaujia argues that only some
of the sub-types are prama-s, and some are reducible to anuma.

Bharadwaja 1988 and 1990 (Chapter 4) does not make such a distinction among kinds of
arthpatti but thinks that it is simply a matter of contextual interpretationand thus not a
prama at all. Chinchore and Chinchore 1984 argue that arthpatti is a prama, and in fact
a sui generis one (contra the Nyya position). They, too, emphasize the linguistic nature of
arthpatti, claiming that it is essentially a semantic gap which needs to be filled in.

Yoshimizu 2007 says something similar, that arthpatti is propositional derivation, a kind of
reasoning in which one sentence is deduced from another sentence. He proposes a
formalization of some of the most common stock examples of arthpatti, those found in
Kumila, to make his point. Like Yoshimizu, Barlingay 1965 attempts some formalization of
arthpatti, arguing that postulation is a truth-functional deductive argument. He analyzes it
in terms of semantic implication, modus ponens, and disjunctive syllogism. Rastogi 1983s
brief treatment (in an appendix to the text) also says something similar, though without the
formalization, saying that arthpatti is a semantic implication whose conclusion is necessary.

One of the most commonly cited and earliest works on arthpatti is Datta 1932. He defends
its independence as a pramna but unlike Yoshimizu and Barlingay, he thinks that arthpatti
is equivalent to hypothesis and transcendental argument. To the objection that this would
strip arthpatti of its being a prama (since more than one hypothesis is possible in any
given situation), he responds that, just like anumna can be misapplied, so can arthpatti.
When arthpatti arrives at the truth, it is a prama. This is along the lines of Tabers 2009
review of Yoshimizus article, in which he says that arthpatti is pointing in the direction of
non-deductive inference such as inference to the best explanation (IBE). Maiti 1939 says
something similar, that there is a difference of degree, but not of kind, between hypothetical
reasoning and arthpatti, due to the greater degree of certainty in the latter. More
recently, Kasturirangan et al 2011 have taken up this question, arguing that arthpatti is not
IBE, since its conclusion necessarily follows from the premises, although they agree that it is
also not reducible to anumna.

Moving Forward Methodological Question

Given this (very brief survey), I want to raise methodological some questions about how to
move forward in understanding arthpatti. Kanaujia says the following

What should our approach be to understanding arthpatti in light of its various definitions
and examples in the original literature? How should we employ various formal apparatuses in
our analysis? Do you have a preferred analysis of arthpatti that is not represented here?

Barlingay, A Modern Introduction to Indian Logic. New Delhi: National Publishing House,
1965 (reprint 1976). pp.19-21 and 245.

Bharadwaja, V. The Concept of Arthapatti. Indian Philosophical Quarterly 15 (2):113 (1988)

Bharadwaja, V. Form and Validity in Indian Logic. Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Simla,
in association with Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, New Delhi, 1990.

Chinchore, Managala and Chinchore, Mangala. Arthpatti. Annals of the Bhandarkar

Oriental Research Institute, Vol. 65, No. 1 (1984), pp. 101-113.

Datta, D.M. Six Ways of Knowing: A Critical Study of the Advaita Theory of Knowledge.
Calcutta University Press, 2nd Ed. 1960. Book No V, Arthpatti, p.237.

Kanaujia, Tulsi Ram. Heterogeneity of Arthapatti. In Gustav Roth & H. S. Prasad (eds.),
Philosophy, Grammar, and Indology: Essays in Honour of Professor Gustav Roth. Delhi: Sri
Satguru Publications, 1992. pp.165-184.

Kasturirangan, Rajesh, Guha, Nirmalya and Ram-Prasad, Chakravarthi. Indian cognitivism

and the phenomenology of conceptualization. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences.
June 2011, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 277-296.

Maiti, M.P. Arthpatti and Epistemological Possibilities of Doubt. The Philosophical

Quarterly. Jan 1939. Vol. XIV-IV. p.314-321.

Rastogi, Maharaj Narain. The theories of implication in Indian and Western philosophy : a
critical study. Delhi : Bharatiya Vidya Prakashan, 1983.

Taber, John. Review of Karin Preisendanz, ed., Expanding and Merging Horizons:
Contributions to South Asian and Cross-Cultural Studies in Commemoration of Wilhelm
Halbfass, Wiener Zeitschrift fr die Kunde Sdasiens, 52-53, 311-315, 2009-10

Yoshimizu, Kiyotaka: Kumrilas Propositional derivation without Pervasion Expansion and

Merging Horizons: Halbfass Commemoration Volume, Wien 2007.

In the arthpatti reading group we are currently reading the chapter on arthpatti of
likanthas Prakaraapacik. As already discussed, likantha
differentiates arthpatti from anumna insofar as in the latter the gamaka `trigger of the
cognitive process is doubted, whereas, it is not so in the case of the anumna, which can
only start once the hetu logical reason is certainly ascertained. At a certain point, however,

likantha discusses whether the arthpatti could not be understood as a kevalavyatirekin

anumna, an inference based only on negative concomitance.

At first sight, the text passage does not seem particularly difficult, but entangling its
intricacies has kept me busy for a long time and the results are still not satisfying. The
main problems are:

1. How exactly can one formalise a case of arthpatti as a kevalavyatirekin anumna?

What are the two absences at stake?
2. Does likantha accept or reject the kevalavyatirekin anumna in general?
3. If he does not reject it, what is the problem in the formalisation
of arthpattias kevalavyatirekin anumna?
The standard case of arthpatti being discussed is the following one:
Devadatta, who is known to be alive, is not home. Thus, he is outside.

The text passage starts by presenting an opponent, who maintains that ghbhva `the
absence from home is the trigger for the bahirbhva `being outside, because it is not
otherwise possible (anyathnupapadyamna). Here the problem seems to be just that the
absence from home alone (i.e., without causing one to doubt about whether Devadatta is
alive) is not enough to be a trigger. There is still no mention of the kevalavyatirekin
The siddhntin answers that this analysis does not apply, because it is not true that
the ghbhva is not otherwise possible (if this were an inference, we would say that
the hetu is asiddha `not established). Why not? Here the discussion turns into a discussion
of whether the arthpatti can be read as a kevalavyatirekin anumna since
the siddhntin assumes that ghbhva could be a trigger only if it could be verified that it is
otherwise impossible and this could only be verified through a kevalavyatirekin anumna.
The siddhntin thus states that ghbhva is not otherwise impossible because it is
impossible to verify an absence in all possible loci of concomitant absence (vipaka)
of hetuand sdhya and the fixed relation between hetu and sdhya needs to be first
ascertained through their concomitant presence ( anvaya). This seems to be a critique of
the kevalavyatirekin anumna, insofar as the vipakas are endless, and I would be happy
with the idea that the arthpatti cannot be described as a kevalavyatirekin, because
a kevalavyatirekin is not a valid anumna, since one never achieves certainty and at most
high probability. But the problem remains, that is, what are the absences at stake? Does this
amount to say that we cannot check whether the absence from home lacks consistency in all
possible cases but the one of being outside? Or that we cannot check whether the absence
from home is always concomitant with the absence of something else? If the latter, what
could be this something else?
However, likantha then goes on explaining that, if the fixed relationship has been
ascertained, then the fixed absence of the hetu is ascertained in relation to the sdhyas
absence (i.e., it has been ascertained that the absence of the hetu necessarily leads to the
absence of the sdhya):
avadhrite hi tasminn arthpatty sdhybhve hetvabhvaniyamo vasyate .
This would not make sense if we were to conceive the ascertainment mentioned at the
beginning of the sentence as something deemed to occur through anvaya. In fact, once
the niyama has been established through anvaya, we just have a normal anumna and do
not need arthpatti at all. Thus, the sentence must rather mean In fact, if the relation has
been ascertained, then it is through arthpatti that the fixed absence of the hetu is
ascertained in reference to the absence of the sdhya. Going back to our example, what are
the two absences at stake? The absence of ghbhvopapatti leads to the absence from
home, i.e., to the being outside? Or is the first absence the ghbhva itself? Or is
likantha not really concerned with that since his main concern is instead to say
that arthpatti is not an anumna, because kevalavyatirekin anumnas are not valid (since
ultimately they only work if the connection between sdhya and hetu has already been
established through an anvaya) and arthpatti is not identical with the straight anvaya-
based anumna?

Arthpatti is the postulation of the only possible solution out of a seeming contradiction, e.g.
Devadatta is alive and Devadatta is not in the place where we usually see him (this is
expressed in Sanskrit epistemology by Devadatta is not at home, in contemporary terms
we could think of something like What happened of Jim? He is not in his office!). Different
contemporary scholars have tried to discuss the relation of arthpatti with presumption and
inference to the best explanation.

The following is a translation of the beginning of the arthpatti section in

the Mnameyodaya:


Arthpatti is the postulation of [something] producing [a solution] when there is a logical

impossibility: this is the definition explained in the bara Bhya || 128 ||

As for this definition, the logical impossibility is said to be the contradiction between two
[types* of] instruments of knowledge. Therefore, the following definition [of the arthpatti]
should be taught:

Arthpatti is defined as the cognition of something non-contradictory caused by the

contradiction between instruments of knowledge about general topics, and ones about a
specific topic || 129 ||

For instance, the postulation of being outside of home due to the contradiction, which is
instrumental [for the arousal of postulation], between the knowledge of his not being at
home and the knowledge of his being alive || 130 ||

One understands in general that Devadatta is alive, either at home or outside, due to an
inference based on astrology (i.e., because out of astrological calculations one knows that he
will live a long life). There being a contradiction with the fact that he is not at home, one
hypothesises for the sake of the non-contradiction that he must be out. And this is
an arthpatti-cognition whose instrument is the contradiction between the two [types] of
instruments of knowledge.
However, the experts of logic (i.e., the Naiyyikas), thinking that this (arthapatti) is a form of
inference, say that

there is no contradiction between the two [types of] instruments of knowledge. And this
(non-contradiction) is the same in the case of everything well-known (NKu 3.11)|| 131 ||

[Nai:] To begin with, it is impossible that there is a contradiction between instruments of

knowledge, since there would be the undesirable consequence that one of the two is not an
instrument of knowledge, as in the case of this is silver, this is not silver (where one of the
two ends up being recognised as not valid).

[Obj.] But nonetheless, one does see a contradiction between the two knowledges about
which we spoke before (in the case of Devadatta)!

[Naiyyika:] This is just a wish! In fact, in the case at hand, the room for doubt** regarding
the specific place, namely is he at home or outside? is blocked by the knowledge of his not
being at home.