(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)

(1) Charvak’s Epistemology

Charavaka is also known as Lokayat, Nastik or Rationalist school of thought, also an Atheistic School. It is more of a philosophy of life rather than a Theory of Ultimate Reality. It is associated with men’s eternal urge for pleasure and there by established Hedonism.

Materialism : Matter is the only reality. According to Charavaka, there are four types of matter : Earth, Fire, Air and Water. Hence, it is a Pluralist School i.e having accepted above four realities as only and manifold realities. Consciousness and Body are byproducts of Matter.

Positivism : They believe only in positive facts, or observable phenomena. Hence, empiricists i.e believe only perceivable objects to be true.

The word Charvaka may means Materialist who believes only in eat, drink and making merry.

Charavaka Epistemology

The philosophy itself begins with its epistemology, and its epistemology is the cornerstone of Charvaka Philosophy, based on which the entire philosophy can be built. Charvaka was an empiricist and hence he only considered Perception as being a valid source of knowledge (praman). Out of the other four, he was vehemently against INFERENCE. According to him, inference is only a guesswork, sometimes true and sometimes false.

Positivist Epistemology : Believes only observable phenomena, hence perception or Pratyaksha is the only valid source of knowledge. All other Pramans are refuted on the basis of Pratyaksha alone. Perception is defined as power of perceiving through senses. When a sense organ comes into contact with any external object, perception takes place. Since there are five sense organs, namely eyes, nose, tongue, skin, ears, there are five types of perception based on each sense organ.

According to Charvaka, only perception gives us definite, non-erroneous, valid or undoubtable knowledge of reality. Charavaka doesn’t refute the other Pramanas, he rejects their validity.

Criticism : By means of perception as well, erroneous knowledge is possible. For example : Knowledge of snake in a rope. Thus, if Pramana is valid only because it gives undoubtable knowledge as propounded by Charvaka, even perception fails to be a valid Pramana.

Rejection of validity of other Pramans

a) Refutation of Inference/Anuman : Inference is accepted as a valid source of knowledge by all major Indian Schools of thought except Charvaka. It is also the means of Inductive and deductive logic in Western Philosophy.

Vyapti is considered as logical ground of inference, but Charavaka rejects it as baseless and claims that Vyapti can never be established.

Etymologically, inference or Anuman means after (ANU) + Knowledge (MAN)

In inference, we proceed from the perceived Hetu, to get the knowledge of the unperceived Sadhya (major term). This requires the existence of a concomitant, unusual, invariable, and unconditional relationship between the HETU and SADHYA called VYAPTI.

Thus, VYAPTI is the nerve or logical ground of inference.

The Charvaka challenges the validity of this VYAPTI to reject inference as a valid source of knowledge. Charvaka argues that Inference would be valid if vyapti can be established between HETU and SADHYA beyond doubt. However, he argues that this cannot be established, and thus inference becomes invalid.

Arguments against Vyapti : An example of VYAPTI would be “where there is smoke there is fire”

(i) By Inference : Hence, smoke becomes the HETU and fire becomes the SADHYA. According to Charvaka, this relation would be valid if for EVERY possible existence of smoke would be caused by a fire. But this invariable and concomitant vyapti cannot be established by inference, because doing so would result in the fallacy of petitio principi (Circular argument fallacy) and infinite regress, because the VYAPTI is need to prove the case in point would remain unproved. (To prove Vyapti, we need inference and vice versa)

(ii) Failure of Samanya Lakshan Pratyaksha (Fallacy of illicit Generalization) : The sphere of perception is limited. We cannot perceive all the cases of smoke and fire even at any present moment to establish a VYAPTI. Moreover, perception is confined to particular time and space, and cannot be extrapolated to the past, or future in order to use VYAPTI at all times. Perception, thus cannot provide us with a universal generalization. If we do so, we are resorting to the fallacy of illicit generalization. In such a case, inference would only be an uncertain leap from a known to unknown. Thus he rejects Nyaya’s view : Knowledge of VYAPTI is gained by means of SAMANYA LAKSHNA PRATYAKSHA.

(iii)Failure of Verbal Testimony/Shabdha : Charavaka first of all rejects VT itself from being a valid source of knowledge. Moroever, if vyapti would be proved on the basis of VT, then again it would lead to fallacy of petitio principii as VT’s validity too depends on Inference.

Thus, Charvaka concludes that since Vyapti cannot be proved by perception,inference and Verbal Testimony, inference cannot be valid. It remains mere guess work. It is based on psychological belief and not on logical laws. his is similar to Hume’s Laws of Association where he concludes that the cause-effect theory out of law of associations is not a rational necessity, rather a psychological one. It is only by accident that some events are validated by inference. Vyapti is contingent, not concomitant, universal or unconditional.

b) Rejection of VT by reliable person : VT of reliable person involves inference. We accept the VT of a reliable person because we consciously infer that his authority/knowledge is acceptable, or consciously generalize the validity of VT of reliable person based on his previous testimonies. Both involves inference which is unproved and would also lead to fallacy of petitio principi. Thus, a person’s authority cannot be proved or accepted.

Secondly, case in point, the Vedas, according to the Charvakas, are full of contradictions, meaningless and ambigious ideas. They are claimed to be written by a class of society for its own livelihood. However, this claim is self-contradictory, as the only manner it could be valid is if we accept validity of VT.

c) On the basis of uniformity of experience (As proposed by Nyaya-Vaisesika) : This is too rejected by by Charvaka

d) Cause and Effect Relation by N-V also rejected. (Charavaka, a hardcore empiricist doesn’t except anything without experience. How can he accept something he hasn’t experienced. Inherent nature of everything around might change in the future.) Causation itself is an kind of inference. To generalize that an “effect is preceded by a certain cause” is a generalized statement used as Vyapti. Thus, to argue the validity of Vyapti by using the Vyapti of causation and again vice-versa would again lead to fallacy of petitio principi. Moreover, causation itself is a result of fallacy of illicit generalization.

e) Refutation of Comparison (Upaman)

Upaman is regarded as a valid source of knowledge by Nyaya, Mimansa, Vedanta. Comparison is the knowledge of similarity between two objects.

According to Charvaka, we get knowledge of similarity by perception itself, thus there is no need to accept Upaman.

In another sense, it involves inference, when similarity between two objects is inferred. Since inference itself is invalid, Upaman by the means also becomes invalid.

Criticisms :

a) Jaina’s refutation of Charavaka’s rejection of Inference :
If Charvaka has to prove that Perception is the only valid source of knowledge, he has two options :
* Remain silent : This means there is no ground to accept argument
* Argue/Reason : But for reasoning, he has to take the help of
inference or VT! And this is contradictory. If Charavaka doesn’t accept inference, he can never participate in a discussion, as discussion requires inferring of other’s view point.
* If inference is invalid, by the reason that it may go wrong, then perception also cannot be a Pramana, as there is false perception (Snake in a rope) as well as hallucination.

b) Buddha’s refutation of Charvaka’s rejection of Inference :
* According to Sautrantika School of Buddhism, when an object is perceived by the senses, the mind recognizes the impression of the object already present in the consciousness, and through this impression the knowledge of the object is inferred (Same as Hume’s ideas and impressions). Thus, knowledge of external objects can be accepted only if inference is accepted.
* Buddhists again ask how Charavaka knows that his opponents admit the validity of inference? He cannot know by sense-perception what is going on in the minds of others, he will have to infer from the verbal statements of his opponents. Therefore, Charavaka must admit the validity of inference.

c) Nyaya’s refutation :
* There are several objects in this world which can’t be perceived but it is necessary to accept their existence like Ether, Manas, Space etc.
* In practical life, if we cannot accept inference, practical life would become difficult.

e) Kantian Logic of Refutation : By perception, we get body/matter of knowledge alone. Mere sensation cannot give knowledge unless the sense data is organized and reasoned upon. Thus, it is only through reason that we get form of knowledge, and thus perception alone is not a valid source of knowledge.

Conclusion : The Vedantins and Shunya-Vadins also reject inference but only at transcendental level, and not empirical level, because they refute the validity of all means of knowledge at the transcendental level. However, Charvaka rejects inference at empirical level itself and this rejection is self contradictory as to accept perception as valid source and reject inference is self contradiction.

Charavaka’s free thinking has helped other philosophy’s refine their argument and enriched the content of Indian Philosophy.