(2) Charvaka’s Metaphysics

Charavaka’s metaphysics evolves out of its epistemology, that what can be perceived alone is real.
Regarding perception, Matter alone can be perceived in this world, and thus Charavaka accepts matter alone can be perceived in different material elements (earth, air, fire, water) thus, Charvaka concludes that Reality (matter) is plural. Hence, there view is Pluralistic Materialism.
(Recollect Charvaka’s Philosophy is positivist, atheistic, materialistic, pluralist and believes in Naturalism)

Jagat Vichar/World (Svabhavada + Yaddrechavada)
Note that Charvaka accepts four elements : EARTH, AIR, FIRE, WATER . It doesn’t accept AKASHA as it cannot be perceived. So Charavaka believe that the world is composed of these four elements. Everything in the world, including mind or consciousness is composed of or is a combination of these four elements. These elements are eternal, while their combinations undergo production-dissolution.
While other philosophies accept GOD as an efficient cause or prime mover or sustainer of the world, Charvaka believe that these four elements combine with each other to produce the world and its effects out of its own nature. They don’t accept GOD or a transcendental entity to explain this world. Hence, their philosophy regarding world is called NATURALISM or SVABHAVAVAD, as elements combine to result in this world out of their own nature. Also, world is a result of accidental combination of four elements, hence they support accidentalism in opposition (SVABHAVAVAD also called YADRECCHAVAD or Mechanistic Development of the world)

Soul/Jiva/Atma : Dehatmavad (Not perceiving soul different from Body) + Bhuta chaitanyavad (By product of Matter)
Charvaka refutes the existence of eternal, unchangeable, unmoved soul, which is generally accepted as independent from the body. (However it is very different from Buddhist view, who accepts rebirth of soul, its Avidya resulting in 12-nidar and in Buddhist view, matter is only one of the five skandhas of soul, and consciousness is separate from Matter, along with feelings, perceptions and Dispositions)
  • They accept consciousness because it is “perceived internally”. Generally, soul is inferred.
  • Although Charavaka admits consciousness, they do not consider consciousness separate from matter. They deny a soul as a substratum of consciousness. Consciousness is also a result of matter and the so called soul is nothing but matter embed with consciousness.
  • Regarding origin of consciousness, they propound Bhuta-Chaitanya-Vad, according to which consciousness is only a by-product of matter. When all the four elements combine in some particular proportion, consciousness is produced. Consciousness is always associated with the body, and is destroyed when the body disintegrates.
  • Example : Just as a combination of Aneka Nut, betel and lime produces red color, a combination of four elements produce consciousness. Just as Molasses get fermented to produce intoxicants. (Chemical change)
Arguments in support of Dehatmavad :
  • As long as the body is alive, consciousness is associated with it. As soon as the body dies, consciousness also ends. This that consciousness is integral to body.
  • From common experience, we attribute self as the body, as in statements like “I am fat, I am tall” etc. This indicates that consciousness is associated with the body
  • We do not perceive a soul independent from body. Thus, it cannot be independent of body. Soul is nothing but body which has consciousness. (Dehatmavad)
  • Thus all concepts such as Law of Karma, Leaver and Hell, rebirth, liberation becomes meaningless in Charvaka philosophy which thus leads to Hedonism.
Criticism :
  • Geeta says that existence (bhava) cannot come from non-existence (abhava). Material objects are derived from eternal material elements, but consciousness is not a material substance.
  • Cannot be perceived like other material objects, hence cannot be a by product of matter.
  • No logic in saying it is “perceived internally” when it is considered by product of matter.
  • If existence of soul surviving death cannot be demonstrated, its non existence too cannot be demonstrated.
  • Charvaka infers the non-existence of soul from its non-perception, which is contradictory to Charvaka’s epistemology. Moreover, if Charavaka does not perceive a soul’s survival post death, its existence too cannot be demonstrated.
  • If consciousness is regarded as property of body, memory, recognition, synthetic unity of conscious states become impossible. Cannot explain dreamless sleeps, epilepsy

GOD (Positivism : Only accepting observable facts)
Going by Charavaka’s epistemology, GOD’s existence is not accepted as GOD is not perceived.
Charvaka’s argues that people accept GOD because of three facts :
  • As the creator of the world (No need, Svabhavavad – accidental mechanistic development)
  • As governor of Law of Karma
  • As intellectual regulator/Source of soul
Now, Charvaka lays the Theory of Svabhavavad for the creation of this world.
Moreover, on the argument of design, there can be no proof for any intelligent design. Charvaka counters teleology with Accidentalism for the way of the world.

According to Charavaka liberation cannot be the highest goal of our life. Liberation means complete freedom from sorrow and suffering. But complete cessation of pain can only occur at death. But death cannot be the aim of life, and hence liberation/death cannot be the goal of life.
Moreover, liberation is related to concept of liberation of soul which is separate from matter and body. Since Charavaka rejects this theory in favor of Dehatmavad  + Bhutachaitnyavad (Soul being a by product of body and not being separate from matter), he doesn’t consider liberation.
According to Charvaka, Kama or maximization of pleasure is the ultimate aim of life. Eat, drink and make merry because when the body is reduced to ashes, how can you return to the world?

Charavaka accepts entities only on the basis of perception. But uses inference to refute all metaphysical entities for there non existence (Like rejecting soul by inferring it’s not existence). Logically, they cannot be refuted on the basis of perception. Indian Philosophy prescribe a disciplined way of life and extol the value of faith in order to intuitively realize the metaphysical realities, but Charvaka would not accept discipline, morality and faith as they believe in “eat, drink and make merry”.
Hence its ethical philosophy is Individual Hedonism.
Out of the four Purusharthas, Kama (Pleasure) is the only possible good, the highest aim of life, while artha is a means to achieve/sustain it.
Heaven is a myth. Liberation is an impossible ideal. Liberation = cessation of sufferings, which is only at death and death = cannot be final aim of life. Life is a mixture of pleasure and pain, thus, pleasure ought to be maximized and pain avoided. Since there is no rebirth, everything ends with this life, and there is no ever lasting or higher purpose.

Charvaka has its own importance in the realm of Indian Philosophy.
Charvaka has saved Indian Philosophy from falling into the pitfalls of dogmatism. Many texts have Charvaka as Purvapaksa. Hence their argument developed by refuting Carvaka.
Charvaka’s way of enquiry is a free thinking approach, which refuses to accept traditional knowledge without doubt. Thus, Charavaka’s skepticism may have compelled other schools to provide sound arguments for their theories, rather than spreading on the basis of dogma. Indian system could then be enriched by the arguments of refutation to Charvaka’s philosophy by eminent philosophers.
Many contemporary western thinkers have opted for positivism(believing only in phenomena), atheism, in line with Charvaka philosophy. Moreover, Charavaka’s rejection of inference is in line with their rejection of validity of deductive logic (Logical Positivism, Hume)
Charavaka’s Philosophy may have motivated other schools to accept skepticism and doubt on different metaphysical question and thus eventually establish themselves in firm knowledge. Charvaka Philosophy is also demographically very popular in the world, hence called LOKAYATMATVAD.

Charavaka’s Ethics 
Gross Charvaka : Egoistic Hedonism
Refined Charvaka :  Hedonism + Secular Morality
Charavaka believes that pleasure is the highest aim of life and maximization of one’s own pleasure should be one’s main priority (Summum Bonum)
Law of Karma depends on immorality of soul, rebirth. However, Charvaka denies these concepts, regard soul as integral to body, by Dehatmavad, thus, denies/rejects GOD as moral governor. Pain is mixed with pleasure, but we should not reject pleasure as a result. This is like rejecting the grain because it is governed by HUSK.

By perception, according to Charvaka, we do find antecedence of one event and consequence as well, but invariable antecedence and unchangeable consequence are never perceived. These may be subject to change in space and time, i.e past, present, future and in different locations/circumstances.
Unlike Buddhist view, there is no invariable dependence of consequence on the antecedence, while unlike Orthodox schools, there is no invariable effect to every cause.
Repeated observation of one effect only produces an expectation in the mind in all circumstances but this is not reality. (This is similar to Hume’s theory of Impressions)