Part of a Series of Excerpts from Prof. Sundar Sarukkai’s Book, ‘What is Science?’

” Indian theories of doubt range from the sceptical mode in some Buddhist schools to a pragmatic approach by philosophies such as Nyaya. Descartes’ methodology of doubt has been extremely influential in philosophy of science. The Nyaya approach to doubt is pragmatic in nature and is closely related to the relationship between doubt and action. The American pragmatist, Peirce, shares a great affinity with Naiyayikas (those belonging to the Nyaya school) since his response to sceptical doubt is very similar to theirs. The relation to scientific method is manifested when we analyse the nature of scientific doubt, which is also highly pragmatic in character. Even in the fundamental description of the nature of doubt, science and Nyaya share similar concerns.”

(Page 81)

“There are many themes drawn from Indian logic which are relevant to philosophy of science. These themes include the differences between Indian and Western logic, induction/deduction structures in Indian logic, the idea of necessary relations which are lawlike, reductio reasoning, the role of fallacies, the meaning of definitions and of properties. In these discussions, we can isolate many common themes from Indian logic that are of potential interest to understanding the nature of science.”

” In searching for logic in science, philosophy of science has also been guilty of not critiquing its understanding of logic itself. Traditional concerns of philosophy of science have demanded that science be logical. This makes perfect sense when viewed along the historical trajectory of Western rationalist tradition as well as the growth of logic. However, this is also how Western logic differs markedly from Indian logic. I capture this difference by the use of the phrases ‘logic in science’ as against ‘science in logic’. The fundamental argument that follows is that philosophy of science, based on Western philosophy and logic, is actually searching and demanding for logic in science. In contrast, Indian logicians are demanding that logic be scientific.”

(Page 82)

” In contrast, for Indian logic, the central concern is to make logic scientific. This implies that logical statements have to respond to empirical concerns. While this move militates against the very notion of logic in the Western tradition, it is precisely this demand on logic that makes Indian logic essentially correlated to scientific methodology.”

” Here we can ask whether we are trying too hard to fit Indian logic and science. This question becomes important when placed in the contemporary intellectual scene where there is a claim that modern insights were anticipated in ancient cultures. I am explicitly against accepting such claims and the responsibility to carefully argue for these claims rests on those who make these claims. Conscious about this problem, we can first note that science continues to make ‘simple’ inferences of the kind that logic, particularly Indian logic, dealt with. A question commonly encountered is: How can examples from ancient Indian logic matter to science today? The simple answer is that there are numerous inferences in science that are conceptually similar to those ancient examples, as well manifested in Newton’s laws themselves.”

” There is yet another common concern of Indian logicians and modern science. This has to do with something foundational about the activity of science. Indian logicians had two great worries: one, the relation between the sign and the signified, and two, the possibility of moving from an observation to saying something about it. The first question is the foundational question of semiotics. And the person who was such an influence in the study of semiotics and its relation to logic was Peirce, the same person whose views on doubt resonated with that of the Naiyayikas. For both the Indian logicians and Peirce, logic and semiotics were essentially related. Indian logic privileged the notion of a ‘natural’ sign, or a sign which has some necessary connection with the signified, whereas in the Western tradition the arbitrary nature of the sign became extremely influential. This influence is clearly seen in the way both mathematics and logic became dependent on the idea of arbitrary symbol.”

(Page 83)

” Not only is Indian logic a matter of semiotics, so also is science. The semiotic character of science is not often discussed. However, there is much in science that is played out through the language of semiotics. We need look no further than interpretation of experimental observations, where we see a mark that stands for something else as evidence for the existence of an entity or phenomenon. Since science extends observation into the domain of instruments, we need to learn what the instrument is ‘seeing’ based on its output. From an experimental observation, how can we be sure that the mark or sign does indeed refer to a particular entity, for example, an electron? Dignaga gave three conditions for a sign to be a logical sign. If we extend this question into the semiotics of experimental observation, we can see that Dignaga’s conditions of similarity and dissimilarity cases do the same work as the demand in science for replicability of experiments and the importance of null-results.”

(Page 84)

” There is yet another important connection between Indian logic and science. It is clear that the Indian logical structure is fundamentally concerned with explanation. The differentiation of inference into inference-for-oneself and inference-for-others also makes this explicit. Now, what seems interesting is that the Indian logical structure is not just any theory of explanation but one which matches very closely with the structure and aims of scientific explanation. The early ny?ya five-step process has a strong correlation with the deductive-nomological model of scientific explanation. The Buddhist reworking of the inferential model is also concerned with generating explanation of the relation between generalities. The connection between Indian logic, semiotics and scientific explanation shows once more the close connection between the concerns of Indian logic and what we call as scientific methodology today, thus reiterating once more that demanding logic to be scientific is probably a more faithful description of science than prioritising the belief that science should be logical.”

(Page 85)
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