What is the Nyaya a theory of Perception.

The sage Gotama is the founder of Nyaya school. He is also known as Gautama and as Aksapada. Nyaya means argumetation and suggests that the system is predominantly intellectual, analytic, logical and epistemological. It is also called Tarkasharstra or the science of reasoning; Pramanashastra or the science of logic and epistemology; Hetuvidya or the science of causes; Vadavidya or the science of debate and Anviksiki or the science of Critical study.

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In Nyaya philosophy knowledge is spoken of as the manifestation of objects. Knowledge lights its objects as does a lamp. Knowledge has to distinctions; Such as valid and invalid. According to Nyaya, Valid knowledge is definite knowledge or real knowledge and it consists in knowing the objectg as it is, for example to know the snake as a snake and the bowl as the bowl. Valid knowledge has four distinctive sources viz., perception, infernce, comparison and testimony. Knowledge arising form sources other than these is called invalid or aprama.



According to Gautama perception is uncontradicted knowledge which arises out of the proximity of object and sense organ, it is distinct and is unrelated to any name. According to this view, perception is that form of knowledge which results form the contact or nearness between the objects and the sense organ and which is apparent and real knowledge. For example, when any object is so near my eye that i have no doubts whatever as to is being real, then it is perceptual knowledge. Ifr a distinct object appears to me to be human being and I have some doubts about this knowledge, then inspite of the actual contact between the sense organ and the object, the knowledge is no perceptual. In the same way, knowledge or perception of the rope as snake is not perceptual knowledge even though it is attended by any doubt. Hence, illusory knowledge cannot be considered to be perceptual. The Nyaya philosophers have recorgnised six kinds of proximity, Sanjog, Samyak Samavaya, Sanyukt Saimaveta Samavaya, Samaveta Samavaya and Vishesya bhava etc.

This analysis of perception does not take into account the extra ordinary and intuitive perception because there can be no knowledge of them without contact with senses. Knowledge of pleasure and pain etc. occurs without ostensible contact with the sense organs. In this way, the general characteristic of perception is not contact with the senses but rather immediate cognition. Perceptual knowledge of an object occurs only when there is cognition of it, meaning there by that in perception, knowledge occurs without any past experience or inference. In this way, some Nyaya philosophers have given the name perception to cognition implying there in that perception is such knowledge which is not the result of any other knowledge.

Distinction of Perception- Ordinary and Extraordinary:

Perception has been analyzed in various ways. From one angle perception has two distinctions – ordinary and extraordinary. In ordinary perception knowledge results from the contact of the sense organs with the object, Extraordinary perception provides immediate knowledge even with the sense. Ordinary perception also admits of two distinctions- external and internal. External perceptions have five distinct types concerning with the five senses – visual, tactual, auditory, gustatory and factory. In internal perception, the actual contact between the object and the mind produces knowledge of the pleasure, pain, hatred, morality immorality etc. In this way, the two kinds of perception, internal and external, admit of six distinctions. From another view point, ordinary perception has three distinctions- perception of classes complication and intuitive.


There are three Distinctions of Ordinary perception:

Indeterminate Perception:

Gautama, in his sutra, accepts this distinction of perception. When the external organ comes into contact with the object, first of all a particular kind of knowledge known as ‘Sanmukh’ or avyakrt in Nyaya philosophy, arises in the self consisting merely of an awareness of the existence of the object without any knowledge of its name qualities etc. It is called in determinate perception because it lacks any determining perception because it lacks any determining feature such as quality. It is the first undeveloped form of perception. Its existence is proved not by perception but by inference. According to the Nyaya philosophers, there should be indeterminate knowledge preceding determinate knowledge. These two states of perception are inferred because no relation can be established between the object and the quality without diffentiating and distinguishing the two.

Determinate perception:


In determinate perception can have practical utility. In determinate perception there is no doubt as to whether it is an animal or a human being or anything else. According to the Nyaya view, a moment before it arises, the knowledge of an object is devoid of characters such as name, class etc, but following this the next moment there is awareness in the same knowledge, of such characters of the object as names, class, shape, quality etc., and the one indeterminate but same knowledge is manifested in practice in the form of sentences presetting knowledge. This is determinate knowledge. In this way, determinate perception gives knowledge of the fact that ‘this is a man’ , ‘he is black’, ‘he is still’ etc. It is the developed form perception and it is on the basis of it that the practices of the world continue to function.


In this sense the feeling that the object now being perceived has been seen at some earlier juncture. To take an example, if upon now meeting the person to whom you were introduced a year ago you feel that he is that same individual, this knowledge will be called recognition. In this there is always the element of immediate experience.

Three modes of Extra ordinary Perception:

Perception of class (Samanya Laksana):

That which is perceived by a common quality or attribute is different form ordinary perception and it, therefore, is called perception of classes. When we say that all men are mortal, the observation is based upon the knowledge of the morality of all men and this knowledge arises from the perception of classes. When, upon perceiving someone, we say that he is a man, we perceive manhood in him, or in other words, according to the Nyaya philosophers, knowledge of man arises from the perception of this common quality of ‘manhood’ which he shares with all men, it is on the basis of this same perceptual experience that we say that man is mortal because mortality is an attribute of manhood.

Perception by complication (Jnanalaksana):

This includes perceptions such as ; the ice looks cold, the stone appears solid and the grass soft. Here coldness, solidity and softness are subject of tectual perception then how can they be visually perceived. It is explained by the Nyaya philosophers thus, We have on many previous occasions, perceived sandal wood. By smelling it at the same time as perceiving it visually a relation between its  color and its smell is established in mind. It is for this reason that the sight of sandal wood causes perception of its smell as well. In this the present experience. It is extraordinary perception because generally one sense organ does not perceive sensations of a different nature, which usually stimulate some other sense organ.

Intuitive perception:

It is the intuitive perception of all objects, and is peculiar to yogis who possess supernatural power. this experience can be had only by those who have achieved super natural power after meditaion and yogic practice. This power makes it possible for them to have perceptual knowledge of all objects, past and future, complex and minute, near and far. Intuitive perception is also recognized by other Indian Philosophers.

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