The Vaisesika versus Greek Atomism (445 Words)

The Vaisesika versus Greek Atomism (445 Words)!

The Vaisesikas agree with the Greek atomism of Leucippus and Democriatus that the atom is indivisible, partless, imperceptible, ultimate and eternal and it is the material cause of this physical universe.

But then, the two views differ in the following respects:

1. Differences among atoms:

According to the Greek atomism, the atoms are similar in quality, but they differ in respect of quantity or number. The Vaisesikas attribute a difference of both quantity and quality to the atoms.

Atom Ball

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2. Secondary qualities in atoms:

Greek atomists do not attribute any secon­dary qualities to atoms but the Vaisesikas accept these qualities in the atoms.

3. Nature of the atoms:


The Greek atomists believe that atoms are by their nature dynamic but the Vaisesikas accept them as static by nature.

4. Relation of souls and atoms:

According to the Greek view, souls are composed of these atoms but according to the Vaisesikas, souls and atoms are different and both are individually but equally eternal and independent.

Criticism of atomism:

Samkara has advanced the following arguments against Vaisesika atomism:


(1) If there is qualitative difference in the atoms, there should be some difference in their weights.

(2) If the atoms have qualities, they cannot be eternal. If the qualities of atoms are also eternal then it cannot be accepted that there are no qualities in free souls and substances, etc.

(3) If the qualities of the cause were transferred to the effect, then the spherical nature of the atom should have been transferred to the dyad, and the minutesness and destructibility of the dyad transferred to the triad.

(4) If the effect is not in the cause, then anything should be caused by anything else and particular effects need not have particular causes.

(5) Atoms are either active or inactive or both, or neither. If they are inactive, creation will be impossible. They cannot be both active as well as inactive since these qualities are mutually contradictory and cannot stay together, as light cannot stay with darkness. If atoms are neither active nor inactive, then motion or activity will have to be introduced by some external cause.

(6) Now, is this external cause past tendency (adrsta) or present tendency (drsta)? If it is the present tendency, then it could not have existed before creation. If it is the past tendency then it will always accompany the atoms and thus the creation will become permanent. If the atoms are not postulated to be in close proximity with the past tendency, creation becomes impossible. This means, it is impossible to have creation with atoms existing in any other manner.

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