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Logical Positivism vs Vedanta: Post 2 of 2

From: Venkat Nagarajan (
Date: Fri Mar 10 2000 - 11:21:28 PST

Dear Baghavatas,
Namo Narayana.

Yesterday I posted on the logical positivist view on valid sources of knowledge.  Today's post contains a brief summary of the Vis'istAdvaita Vedanta view on valid sources of knowledge.   
Every rational theory, that is thorough and systematic, has as its substratum the sources of knowledge that it accepts as valid. Given this it is natural for us to begin our outline of the philosophy of Vedanta, with a brief discussion of the valid sources of knowledge. The vedantin approaches knowledge in much the same way as the mathematician approaches the concept of sets. The existence of sets is a fundamental truth, an axiom of perception, yet the application of a general definition is not feasible. Mathematicians accept the limitation and describe the concept of set in a "most perfect" manner by making use of a collection of axioms that specify the properties of sets. The vedantin handles the definition of knowledge in a similar manner. Knowledge is so basic that it is impossible to define it in terms of more basic notions. However, knowledge can be described in a most "perfect manner" by specifying its properties. Knowledge reveals the presence of an object as well as itself; its revelation of things is always for another. [1] Metaphorically speaking, "Knowledge is like a lamp which can reveal the presence of an object as well as its own, but cannot see either." [1]

The vedantin recognizes three independent valid sources of knowledge; mainly perception, inference, and verbal testimony. Knowledge generated by direct contact of sense organs with matter, energy or properties of matter and energy within the realm of the senses is denoted perceptual knowledge. Knowledge which is generated by words is denoted verbal knowledge. Words are either imbibed through the visual or auditory organs or are retrieved from memory. Verbal knowledge can be related to matter and energy as well as existents that cannot be classified as either matter or energy. Knowledge in the form of conclusions derived through inference is denoted inferential knowledge. Of the three perception is most important as the others are dependent on it. 

The choice of these three independent valid sources of knowledge is by no means arbitrary. Our common experience tells us that sense organs are a source of knowledge about matter and energy. However, there are many existents, within the realm of common experience that cannot be classified as either matter or energy. Verbal testimony is the only means by which knowledge about such existents is obtained. Thus, verbal testimony is another independent valid source of knowledge. The reasoning for why inference is also an independent valid source of knowledge goes as follows. Although the basis of inference (the premises) is derived from perceptual knowledge and/or knowledge from verbal testimony, the outcome of inference, the conclusion, represents new knowledge. Thus, inference is also an independent valid source of acquiring knowledge.

[1]- Fundamentals of Vi'sistAdvaita

ramanuja dasan,
Note: This is just a draft
Note: The source for what follows is Sri. S.M. Srinivasa Chari's *Fundamentals of Vis'istAdvaita: A study based on Vedanta Des*ika*s: Tattva-MuktA-KalApa*. The method of presentation used here differs from that of Sri. Chari, but the substance is mainly derivied from Sri. Chari*s book. Any credit should rightfully go to Sri. Chari and any discredit for errors in presentation are mine alone. 

                  - SrImate raamaanujaaya namaH -
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