Materialism philosophy and Scientific method.
(By Muktipada Behera)
Charvaka or Lokayata is the ancient school of Indian materialism. It is accepted as a valid school of Indian philosophy - an atheistic school in the Hindu tradition. Brihaspati is usually referred to as the founder of it.
The origins of the Charvaka can be traced to the Rigveda, but substantial discussions on the Cārvāka is found in post-Vedic literature. The primary literature of Cārvāka, such as the Brhaspati Sutra is missing or lost. So we need to depend on secondary literature such as those found in the shastras (such as the Arthasastra), sutras and the epics (the Mahabharata and Ramayana) of Hinduism as well as from the dialogues of Gautama Buddha and Jain literature.
The Carvaka epistemology holds perception as the primary and proper source of knowledge, while inference is held as prone to being either right or wrong and therefore conditional or invalid.
Perception are of two types, for Carvaka, external and internal. External perception is described as that arising from the interaction of five senses and worldly objects, while internal perception is described by this school as that of inner sense, the mind.
Inference is described as deriving a new conclusion and truth from one or more observations and previous truths. To Carvakas, inference is useful but prone to error, as inferred truths can never be without doubt. Inference is good and helpful. – For example of fire and smoke. When there is smoke, one's tendency may be to leap to the conclusion that it must be caused by fire. While this is often true, it need not be universally true, everywhere or all the times. Smoke can have other causes.
As long as the relation between two phenomena [observation and truth], has not been proven as unconditional, it is an uncertain truth. Such method of reasoning, that is jumping to conclusions or inference, is prone to flaw. Carvakas further state that full knowledge is reached when we know all observations, all premises and all conditions. But the absence of conditions, cannot be established beyond doubt, because some conditions may be hidden or escape our ability to observe. They acknowledge that every person relies on inference in daily life, but to them if we act uncritically, we err. While our inferences sometimes are true and lead to successful action, it is also a fact that sometimes inference is wrong and leads to error. Truth then, is not an unfailing character of inference; truth is merely an accident of inference. We must be skeptics, question what we know by inference.
Though complete truth about this cosmos cannot be known by only perception, still it ignores other methods of knowledge. It analyses all inexplicable events as (a) chance or unpredictability and (b) random or no-cause. This is where it is differing with the scientific spirit. Science does not accept (a) chance or unpredictability and (b) random or no-cause as a valid analysis. Rather it tries to find the underlying pattern of an event. Science sometime uses inference for microscopic events and cosmology. We need to be skeptics on those. And of-course theory changes and science evolves due to this skeptic in nature.
Advaita Vedanta scholars considers six means of valid knowledge: Pratyakṣa (perception), Anumāṇa (inference), Upamāṇa (comparison and analogy), Arthāpatti (postulation), Anupalabdi (non-perception, cognitive proof) and Śabda (testimony of past or present reliable experts). While Carvaka school accepted just one Pratyakṣa (perception).
Therefore, Cārvākas denied metaphysical concepts like reincarnation, soul, efficacy of religious rites, other worlds (heaven and hell), fate and accumulation of merit or demerit through the performance of certain actions. It embraces philosophical skepticism and rejects Vedas. They don’t believe in karma, rebirth or an afterlife. Cārvākas rejected conceptions of Hindus, Buddhists and Jains.
Cārvāka believed that there was nothing wrong with sensual pleasure. Since it is impossible to have pleasure without pain, Cārvāka thought that wisdom lay in enjoying pleasure and avoiding pain as far as possible. Unlike many of the Indian philosophies of the time, Cārvāka did not believe in austerities.
Their scripture states that – “The enjoyment of heaven lies in eating delicious food, keeping company of young women, using fine clothes, perfumes, garlands, sandal paste... while moksha is death which is cessation of life-breath... the wise therefore ought not to take pains on account of moksha. A fool wears himself out by penances and fasts. Chastity and other such ordinances are laid down by clever weaklings.” -- eat, drink, and be merry – is its philosophy.
There was no continuity in the Cārvāka tradition after the 12th century. But later many Indians got converted into hidden Charvaka due to influence of western science. However if we consider all six means of knowledge, then we will get complete knowledge and more accurate knowledge about creation.