The Comparison Between The Indian Buddhist Logic with Western Philosophical System

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1788 |

Pages: 4|

9 min read

Published: Sep 19, 2019

Words: 1788|Pages: 4|9 min read

Published: Sep 19, 2019

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Buddhist Logic
  3. Comparison between Buddhist Logic with Aristotelian Logic
  4. Conclusion


The study’s epicenter of discussion is the comparison between the Indian Buddhist logic, initiated by the founder of Buddhism - Gautama Buddha and then carried further and deeper into the intricate and finer details by the various scholars of the Buddhist school of thought, with one of the earliest Western philosophical system and set of logic devised solely by Aristotle, acknowledged as the Father of Logic for his feat. The study first introduces both systems of logic and then draws a comparison between the two, finally concluding with the authors’ insights under the conclusion section.

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Buddhist Logic

The history of Indian logic is usually divided into three periods, Old Nyaya (circa 250 B.C.), Buddhist logic (sixth century A.D.) and New Nyaya. The Buddhist logic text, Nyayaprave`sa (Introduction to Logical Methods), had great influence upon Indian and Chinese Buddhism and among the Jains. As a pioneering work, the Nyaayaprave`sa has received critical attention from historians of religion, philosophers, philologists, and logicians.

As with all advances in scholarship, there is controversy over interpretation, and Buddhist logic being no exception but only a bit more critiqued, the controversy cuts to the very heart of the issue of whether Buddhist logic is in any recognizable contemporary sense a "logic." The prominent view holds that Buddhist logic is very similar to syllogistic forms and it can be represented and analysed by standard deductive techniques.

The ancient Buddhist texts reflect that the Buddha used to employ certain rules of reasoning in debates against his opponents. The rules of debating and processes can be seen in the early text - Kathāvatthu. A mature system of Buddhist epistemology and logic was founded by the Buddhist scholar Dignāga (c. 480–540 CE) in his magnum opus, the Pramāṇa-samuccaya. Dharmakirti, another and considered to be the last significant scholar wrote Pramanavarttika ('Commentary on Valid Cognition') which became the prominent source of epistemology and reasoning in Buddhism.

The set procedure (patipada) for the afore-mentioned debates were to be abided by all and if one didn’t, they were unsuitable to be debated. There also seems to have been at least a basic conception of valid and invalid reasoning, including, fallacies (hetvabhasah) such as petitio principii. Various fallacies were further covered under what were called nigrahasthanaor "reasons for censure" by which one could lose the debate. Other nigrahasthanas included arthantaram or "shifting the topic", and not giving a coherent reply.

The Buddha portrayed himself as a defender of 'analysis' or 'vibhajjavada'. He held that after proper rational analysis, assertions could be classified in the following way:

  • Those which can be asserted or denied categorically (ekamsika)
  • Those which cannot be asserted or denied categorically (anekamsika), which the Buddha further divided into:
  • Those which on analysis (vibhajja-) could be determined to be true or false.
  • Those like the avyakata-theses, which could not be thus determined.

The early texts also mention that the Buddha held there to be ‘four kinds of explanations of questions’ as follows:

  • a question which ought to be explained categorically
  • a question which ought to be answered with a counter question
  • a question which ought to be set aside• a question which ought to be explained analytically.

The Buddha also divided statements (bhasitam) into two types with regards to their meaning: those which were intelligible, meaningful (sappatihirakatam) and those meaningless or incomprehensible (appatihirakatam). In the Nikayas it is considered meaningless to make a statement unless the speaker could attach a verifiable content to each of its terms. Therefore, the Buddha held that statements about the existence of a self or soul (atman) were ultimately meaningless because they could not be verified.

The Buddha, made use of the "four corners" (catuṣkoṭi) logical framework as a tool in argumentation. These "four forms of predication" can be rendered thus:

  1. S is P, (there is a God).
  2. S is not P, e.g. (there is no God).
  3. S is and is not P, e.g. (there is and is no God).
  4. S neither is nor is not P, (there neither is nor is there no God).

The Buddha in the Nikayas has regarded these as ‘the four possible positions’ or logical constructions that a proposition can take. The Buddhists in the Nikayas use this logical structure to determine the truth of statements and classify them. When all four were denied regarding a statement or question, it was declared meaningless and thus set aside or rejected.

Comparison between Buddhist Logic with Aristotelian Logic

The Buddha's view of truth was also based on the altruistic concern of ending suffering. In the "Discourse to Prince Abhaya" (MN.I.392–4) the Buddha states that a belief should only be accepted if it leads to wholesome consequences.

Aristotle’s logic didn’t emerge because of the quest of solving people’s miseries but rather as his own quest of understanding life and its nuances.v The Buddhists believe in the cycle of birth and rebirth and hold the ultimate aim of logic to come out of that mundane cycle and attain Moksha or salvation.

Aristotle believes in the singularity of one’s life and advocates that there is no prior life and all of us have only a single life to live. Buddha has been tagged as the first and foremost empiricist because of his teaching that knowledge required verification through the six senses of human body (ayatanas). The Kalama sutta (discourse of the Buddha contained in the Aṅguttara Nikaya of the Tipiṭaka) states that verification through one’s own personal experience (and the experiences of the wise) is an important means of knowledge.

Aristotle himself has been an advocate of the absence of any innate ideas supported by his own notion of a single life and absence of any prior life. He also believes in obtaining knowledge by experience. The Buddhists proclaim that human action has an aim. The target of the aim has been called an object and have been classified as the objects to be avoided and objects to be attained. An object to be avoided is an object which we wish to avoid. An object to be attained is an object which we wish to attain. There is no other class of objects different from these two.

Aristole has called the human life, a life of goals and has approved of it as a good life. He says that a life having fixed goals is the supreme life which all humans should pursue. The Buddhists’ inductive inferences are derived out of the theory of causation. The inferences seem to revolve around perception. What is considered to constitute knowledge are direct inferences based on such perceptions.

The Buddha’s statements in the Nikayas imply devotion to some form of correspondence theory, this is most explicit in the 'Apannaka Sutta'. It is also noted that the Buddha seems to have advocated that utility and truth go hand in hand, and therefore something which is true is also useful (and vice versa, something false is not useful for ending suffering).Aristotle has given his causal theory and acclaimed that behind any and every action, there is a cause. He has classified them into Material, Efficient, Formal and Final Causes. The causes have been explained as:

  • The material cause: “that out of which”, e.g., the bronze of a statue.
  • The formal cause: “the form”, “the account of what-it-is-to-be”, e.g., the shape of a statue.
  • The efficient cause: “the primary source of the change or rest”, e.g., the artisan, the art of bronze-casting the statue, the man who gives advice, the father of the child.
  • The final cause: “that for the sake of which a thing is done”, e.g., health is the end of walking, losing weight, purging, drugs, and surgical tools.

The Buddhists gave the Hetu-Vidya, their set of logical notions and inferences. When it’s studied using the tools of modern logic, the results are as follows: If there is smoke in the place, then there is fire in the place (the homogeneous example). There is smoke on this hill (the middle term). There is fire on this hill (the thesis). It is the same as the Aristotelian logical reasoning of the form: All men are mortal.

Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal. The reasoning of Hetu-vidya is as follows: If there is smoke here, then there is fire here. If there is smoke on this hill, then there is fire on this hill, (omitted) There is smoke on this hill. There is fire on this hill. If we use a modern logical expression, it is of the form: For all x, (S(x) ==>P(x)) S (a) ==> P(a) (the premise is omitted) S (a) Therefore, P(a).v Buddha is believed to have taken his stance against reason deployed to answer the questions pertaining to the metaphysics such as of Soul, creation, creator and put them under the head- the Unanswerables and was rather devoted to therapeutic concern of finding the Truth which could alleviate the sufferings of people around him.

Aristotle believed in putting to use the deductive and logical reason he devised to fathom all the mysteries and questions surrounding the human mind and he believed in diving in the sea of questions and curiosity only to emerge more knowledgeable and wise through one’s own experience. The Buddhists mainly driven by Buddha’s school of thought believe in a life of virtues and virtues for them pertain to the actions which can allay someone’s pain and assuage one’s suffering, out of their vital concern for people’s miseries.

Aristotle propagated the thought of living a life of virtue too but virtues for him were putting the human’s distinguishing trait of reason to use and living a life of logic and reason enabling him to make decisions through the use of reason instead of instincts or emotions.


The Buddhists are driven by their earnestness and solemnity to help the common masses alleviate their pain using the Buddhist school of thought and logic and hence developed their school of thought on the same premises and laid guidelines for people such as the Noble Truths, The Eightfold Path to Salvation and The Three Universal Truths.

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They also developed logic for enacting solid arguments in debates and discussions and hence were completely driven by noble motives while the Aristotelian logic is not driven by any such altruistic motives, but rather being one of the first thoughts on epistemology and metaphysics tries to cater to questions unanswered at his time and some even hitherto covering expansive fields of Ideas, Forms, Causes, Logic, Ethics, Politics, etc. Aristotle devised a vast system of logic comprising of 256 cases which he laid down one by one and gave rise to the biggest and most expansive system of deductive and logical reasoning which is still the fundamental base of the modern logic.

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The Comparison Between The Indian Buddhist Logic With Western Philosophical System. (2019, August 27). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 19, 2024, from
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