The Cārvāka school of philosophy had a variety of atheistic and materialistic beliefs. They held perception to be the only valid source of knowledge. and rejection of inference as a means to establish metaphysical truths..
In syllogism, the middle term, which is found in both the subject (minor term) and is invariably connected with the predicate (major term), is seen as the cause of knowledge. This invariable connection between middle term and predicate is unconditional and causes inference not by virtue of its existence, like the existence of the eye is the cause of perception, but by virtue of it being known. To the Cārvākas there were no reliable means by which this connection could be known and therefore the efficacy of inference as a means of knowledge could not be established.
To prove that inference was not a reliable means of knowledge Cārvākas examined and refuted each of the various means of knowing the connection between the middle term and the predicate individually:
External perception, or perception which involves the use of the senses, could not be the required means because although it is possible that the actual contact of the senses and the object could produce the knowledge of the particular object, there can never be such contact in the case of the past or the future. Therefore if external perception were the means on knowing the connection then inference related to objects of the past and future could not happen.
Internal perception, or perception which involves the mind, could not be the required means either because one cannot establish that the mind has any power to act independently towards an external object and is thought to be dependent on the external senses.
Nor could inference be the means since if inference were the proof of inference, one would also require another inference to establish this inference, and so on, leading to the fallacy of an Ad infinitum regression.
Nor could testimony be the means since testimony can be classified as a type of inference. Moreover, there is no reason for one to believe the word of another. Besides, if testimony were to be accepted as the only means of the knowledge of the invariable connection between middle term and predicate, then in the case of a man to whom the fact of the connection had not been pointed out by another person, there could be no inference.
Comparison (Upamana) could also be rejected as the means of the knowledge of the connection since the objective of using Upamana is to establish a different kind of knowledge than is being sought here, the relation of a name to something so named.
Absence of a condition (Upadhi), which is given as the definition of an invariable connection to restrict too general a middle term, could itself not be used to establish inference because it is impossible to establish that all conditions required to restrict the middle term are known without recourse to inference and inference, as has been proven earlier, cannot establish itself.
Since none of the means of knowing were found to be worthy to establish the invariable connection between middle term and predicate, Cārvākas concluded that the inference could not be used to ascertain metaphysical truths. Thus, to Cārvākas, the step which the mind takes from the knowledge of something to infer the knowledge of something else could be accounted for by its being based on a former perception or by its being in error. Cases where inference was justified by the result were seen only to be mere coincidences.
Therefore, Cārvākas denied metaphysical concepts like reincarnation, extracorporeal soul, efficacy of religious rites, other worlds (heaven and hell), fate and accumulation of merit or demerit through the performance of certain actions. Cārvākas also rejected the use of supernatural causes to describe natural phenomena. To them all natural phenomena was produced spontaneously from the inherent nature of things. “ The fire is hot, the water cold, refreshing cool the breeze of morn; By whom came this variety ? from their own nature was it born.”
Consciousness and Afterlife
Carvakas thought that body was formed out of four elements (instead of five) and that consciousness was an outcome of the mixture of these elements. Therefore, Carvakas did not believe in an afterlife. To them, all attributes that represented a person, such a thinness, fatness etc., resided in the body. To support the proposition of non-existence of any soul or consciousness in the afterlife Carvakas often quoted from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. “ Springing forth from these elements itself
solid knowledge is destroyed
when they are destroyed—after death no intelligence remains.”
Cārvāka believed that there was nothing wrong with sensual pleasure. Since it is impossible to have pleasure without pain, Cārvāka thought that wisdom lay in enjoying pleasure and avoiding pain as far as possible. Unlike many of the Indian philosophies of the time, Cārvāka did not believe in austerities or rejecting pleasure out of fear of pain and held such reasoning to be foolish.
“ The berries of paddy, rich with the finest white grains, What man, seeking his true interest, would fling away because covered with husk and dust?”
Cārvākas rejected religious conceptions like afterlife, reincarnation, religious rites etc. They were extremely critical of the Vedas and thought that Vedas suffered from three faults – untruth, self-contradiction and tautology. To them, Vedas were just incoherent rhapsodies. They also held the belief that such texts were invented and made up by men and had no divine authority.
“ The Agnihotra, the three Vedas, the ascetic’s three staves, and smearing one’s self with ashes, Were made by Nature as the livelihood of those destitute of knowledge and manliness.”
No independent works on Cārvāka philosophy can be found except for a few sūtras composed by Brihaspati. The 8th century Tattvopaplavasimha of Jayarashi Bhatta (ca. 8th century) is often cited as the only extant authentic Cārvāka text, but which also shows Madhyamaka influence. Shatdarshan Samuchay and Sarvadarśanasaṅ̇graha of Vidyaranya are a few other works which elucidate Cārvāka thought.
One of the most important references to the Cārvāka philosophy is the Sarva-darśana-sangraha (etymologically all-philosophy-collection), a famous work of 14th century Advaita Vedanta philosopher Mādhava Vidyāraṇya from South India, which starts with a chapter on the Cārvāka system. After invoking, in the Prologue of the book, the Hindu gods Shiva and Vishnu (“by whom the earth and rest were produced”), Vidyāraṇya asks, in the first chapter:“…but how can we attribute to the Divine Being the giving of supreme felicity, when such a notion has been utterly abolished by Charvaka, the crest-gem of the atheistic school, the follower of the doctrine of Brihaspati? The efforts of Charvaka are indeed hard to be eradicated, for the majority of living beings hold by the current refrain:
While life is yours, live joyously; None can escape Death’s searching eye: When once this frame of ours they burn, How shall it e’er again return?”
Ain-i-Akbari, written by Abul Fazl, the famous historian of Akbar’s court, mentions a symposium of philosophers of all faiths held in 1578 at Akbar’s insistence. Some of the beliefs of Cārvāka are recorded from this symposium, in which, some Cārvāka philosophers are said to have participated. Sanskrit poems and plays like the Naiadha-carita, Prabodha-candrodaya, Āgama-dambara, Vidvanmoda-taraṅgiṇī and Kādambarī contain representations of the Cārvāka thought. However, the authors of these works were thoroughly opposed to materialism and tried to portray the Cārvāka in unfavourable light. Therefore, their works should only be accepted critically.
There was no continuity in the Cārvāka tradition after the 12th century. Whatever is written on Cārvāka post this is based on second-hand knowledge, learned from preceptors to disciples and no independent works on Cārvāka philosophy can be found. Chatterjee and Datta explain that our understanding of Cārvāka philosophy is fragmentary, based largely on criticism of its ideas by other schools, and that it is not a living tradition:
“ “Though materialism in some form or other has always been present in India, and occasional references are found in the Vedas, the Buddhistic literature, the Epics, as well as in the later philosophical works we do not find any systematic work on materialism, nor any organised school of followers as the other philosophical schools possess. But almost every work of the other schools states, for refutation, the materialistic views. Our knowledge of Indian materialism is chiefly based on these.”
Representation of Cārvāka in Āstika, Buddhist and Jain literature
Buddhists, Jains, Advaita Vedantins and Nyāya philosophers considered the Cārvākas as one of their opponents and tried to refute their views. These refutations are sources of Cārvāka philosophy since they continued to be made even after all the authentic Cārvāka/Lokāyata texts had been lost. However, the representation of the Cārvāka thought in these works is not always firmly grounded in first-hand knowledge of Cārvāka texts and should be viewed critically.
Though Cārvākas accepted direct perception as the surest method to prove the truth of anything, they might also have accepted a limited usage of inference. The perception that Cārvākas had a rigid stance against the application of inference might have been a result of caricaturing of their arguments by their opponents. Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya quotes S. N. Dasgupta:
“ “Purandara (a Lokāyata philosopher) [...] admits the usefulness of inference in determining the nature of all worldly things where perceptual experience is available; but inference cannot be employed for establishing any dogma regarding the transcendental world, or life after death or the law of karma which cannot be available to ordinary perceptual experience.””
Likewise, the charge of hedonism against Cārvāka might have been exaggerated. Countering the argument that the Cārvākas opposed all that was good in the Vedic tradition, Dale Riepe says, “It may be said from the available material that Cārvākas hold truth, integrity, consistency, and freedom of thought in the highest esteem.”
1. Radhakrishnan, Sarvepalli; and Moore, Charles A. A Source Book in Indian Philosophy. Princeton University Press; 1957. Princeton paperback 12th edition, 1989. ISBN 0-691-01958-4. p. 227.
2. “Philosophical & Socio” by M.h.Siddiqui, p. 63|quote=”Carvaka is classified as a “heterodox” (nastika) system”, “part of the six orthodox schools of Hinduism” 3.^ Radhakrishnan and Moore, “Contents”.
4. p. 224. Flood, Gavin (1996). An Introduction to Hinduism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
5. Though this school of thought is not commonly considered as a part of six orthodox schools of Indian Philosophy, Haribhadra Suri, a Jain mendicant from c. seventh century, considers this school as a part of those six in his book ShaDdarshan Samucchaya. Potter, Karl H. (2007). The Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies: Buddhist philosophy from 350 to 600 A.D. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publications. pp. 435–436. ISBN 978-81-208-1968-9.
6. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan and Charles A. Moore. A Source book in Indian Philosophy. (Princeton University Press: 1957, Twelfth Princeton Paperback printing 1989) pp. 227–49. ISBN 0-691-01958-4.
7. Bhattacharya 2011, p. 9.
8. a b Cowell and Gough, p. 5.
9. Bhattacharya 2011, p. 58.
10. Richard King (1999). Indian Philosophy: An Introduction to Hindu and Buddhist Thought. Edinburgh University Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-0-7486-0954-3.
11. N. V. Isaeva (1 January 1993). Shankara and Indian Philosophy. SUNY Press. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-7914-1281-7. Retrieved 31 December 2013.
12. Monier-Williams (1899); the name literally means “speaking nicely”, from cāru “agreeable” and vāk “speech”
13. Cowell and Gough, p. 2; Lokāyata may be etymologically analysed as “prevalent in the world ” (loka and āyata)
14. Bhattacharya 2011, p. 27.
15. Bhattacarya 2002, p. 6.
16. a b c d Bhattacharya, Ramakrishna. History of Indian Materialism. Retrieved 27 July 2012.
17. Bhattacharya 2011, p. 29.
18. a b c d e Bhattacharya, Ramkrishna. Materialism in India: A Synoptic View. Retrieved 27 July 2012. 19. a b see Schermerhorn (1930).
20. Rangacharya, M. Sarva Siddhanta Sangraha of Sankaracarya: Text with English Translation, Introduction, Notes and Glossary. Eastern Book Linkers (2006). Ch. 1. ISBN 8178541084.
21. a b c d Cowell and Gough. p. 3
22. Cowell and Gough, p. 6-9.
23. Cowell and Gough, p. 9.
24. a b c d Cowell and Gough. p. 10
25. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Translated by Swami Madhavananda. Advaita Ashram, Kolkatta. Verse II-iv-13 states: “After attaining (this oneness) it has no more consciousness.’l
26. Cowell and Gough, p. 4.
27. Joshi, Dinkar. Glimpses of Indian Culture. Star Publications (P) Ltd, Delhi. P. 37. ISBN 81-7650-190-5.
28. a b Cowell and Gough, p. 2.
29. Ain-i-Akbari, Vol. III, translated by H. S. Barrett, pp 217–218 (also see Amartya Sen , pp 288–289)
30. Satischandra Chatterjee and Dhirendramohan Datta. An Introduction to Indian Philosophy. Eighth Reprint Edition. (University of Calcutta: 1984). p. 55.
31. Indian Philosophy, p. 188
32. Riepe, Dale. The Naturalistic Tradition of Indian Thought (Motilal Banarasidas, Varanasi) p.75
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