INTRODUCTION TO CÂRVÂKA: ETHICS

 

UNIT STRUCTURE

1. Learning Objectives
2. Introduction
3. Cârvâka Philosophy: A brief Description
4. Cârvâka: Epistemology
5. Cârvâka: Ethical theory

1. Cârvâka: Artha and Kâma
2. Cârvâka: Gross and Egoistic Hedonism
6. Cârvâka: A Comparative Analysis
7. Let us sum up
8. Further Readings
9. Answers To Check Your Progress
10. Possible Questions

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

 
After going through this unit, you will be able to:
Write a brief sketch of Cârvâka Philosophy
Discuss the concept of epistemology in Cârvâka philosophy
Describe the ethical theory of Cârvâka
Discuss the concept of Puruârtha in Cârvâka system; and
Write different views on the Cârvâka System by Vedic Seers.

INTRODUCTION


Indian philosophy consists of nine systems of which Cârvâka is a very important system. These systems have been divided into two classes- (1) Âstika and (2) Nâstika. Literally, the word ‘Âstika’ means a theist or one who believes in god; while the word ‘Nâstika’ means an atheist or one who does not believe in god. But in Indian philosophy these words denote respectively believer and non believer in the testimony of the Vedas. Accordingly, Âstikas are those systems which believe in the testimony of the Vedas. This class includes six systems. These are- Nyâya, Vaiúeika, Sâkhya, Yoga, Mms and Vedânta. These are collectively known as ‘Sad Darúana’. Again, the Nâstika Class of Indian Philosophical systems includes the Cârvâka, Jaina and Buddha Philosophy. These systems donot believe in the testimony of the Vedas. As a matter of fact, they owe their origin to the reaction against Vedic traditions. The Vedas occupy a very important place in Indian philosophy. The roots of most Indian Philosophical systems may be traced to the Vedas. But the Cârvâka Philosophers have openly abused the Vedas. They say that the vedas are full of lies; they have been created by cunning priests to fulfill their selfishness by misguiding ignorant people. The tall talk of heavenly pleasures described in the vedas are meaningless. But despite their belonging to Nâstika class, neither Jainas nor Buddhists have abused the Vedas, nor shown utter disrespect to the Vedas as Cârvâka has done.

 

CÂRVÂKA PHILOSOPHY: A BRIEF DESCRIPTION



Generally, Indian Philosophy is regarded as spiritualistitic. Spiritualistitic Philosophy believes in spirit, God, Doctrine of Karma, Rebirth, Mukti etc. In simple language spiritualism believes in some supernatural Reality. In this sense Buddhas and the Jainas are spiritualistitic though they are Nâstikas. But the Cârvâkas are pure materialistic. Materialism is a metaphysical theory which holds that matter is the ultimate reality, all objects of the world are produced out of matter; even the mind and consciousness are products of matter according to this view.

Generally, it is conceived that all physical things and beings are composed of five physical elements like- (1) Earth (2) Water (3) Fire (4) Air and (5) Ether. But the Cârvâkas accept four physical elements. These are- (1) Earth (2) Water (3) Fire and (4) Air. They donot accept ether. Because Ether is imperceptible. As a pure materialistic philosophy Cârvâka believes nothing non material in this universe. There is neither virtue nor vice, hence no enjoyment nor suffering arising out of these.

The Founder of Cârvâka philosophy:

As a gross approach to the philosophy of life, Cârvâka philosophy seems to be the earliest in the evolution of knowledge. It is more a philosophy of life than a theory of ultimate Reality. It has its truth in man’s eternal urge for pleasure. There are various views regarding the founder of Cârvâka philosophy. According to one view, the sage Bhaspati, the teacher of the Devas, is the founder of Cârvâka philosophy. Therefore, it is also known as the philosophy of Bhaspati. The ancient sûtras of Cârvâka philosophy are also known as Bhaspati sutras. However, its main treatise is not found in one piece. Sûtras are scattered in various works of philosophy. Another view is that, a seer named Cârvâka who is mentioned in the Mahâbhârata founded this school of philosophy and it is named after him.

According to a third view, there was no sage named as Cârvâka. The word ‘Cârvâka’ is derived from the root ‘Carva’ which means ‘to chew’ or ‘to eat’. In this philosophy special emphasis is laid on eating and drinking, as such name is given so. There is yet another view. According to this view, the principles of this philosophy are very pleasing to hear, the words are sweet (caru). Accordingly this philosophy is named as Cârvâka. The ideal of this philosophy is very simple- “eat, drink, and be merry.” This philosophy is very popular among the common masses. Because it gives due dignity to common people, their free thoughts are duely valued and expressed. As this philosophy is well supported by common people, so it is also named as ‘Lokâyata School’. In fact, Cârvâka and Lokâyata are used as synonyms in Indian philosophy.

Whoever be the founder of it, Cârvâka philosophy is known as Indian materialist. However, the original sutras of this philosophy had been lost in cource of time. Now whatever we know about this philosophy has been collected from the discussion and criticisms made by other Indian philosophical systems about this philosophy. In fact, the datas of Cârvâka philosophy are scattered here and there. If they are collected and organised, we find it as divided into three hieadings- epistemology, spiritualism or Metaphysics and ethics. Of course one will find these three divisions in any philosophical theory. Because knowledge, metaphysics and ethics are intimately related.


CHECK YOUR PROGRESS


A. Answer short questions:
1. Indian philosophical systems are divided into two classes? What are the tow classes?
2. What is meant by the words -Âstika and Nâstika?
3. Is Cârvâka Philosophy Nâstika?
4. What is materialism?
5. What are the physical elements accepted by Cârvâka?
B. Fill in the blanks:
1. The word ‘Cârvâka’ is derived from the root............................which means..................................
2. The ideal philosophy of Cârvâka Philosophy is...............................

3. The Cârvâka Philosophy is also known as.......................................
4. Cârvâka holds that ........................is the only source of knowledge.
5. The term ‘Ethics’ is derived from the latin term................................




ACTIVITY


Is Cârvâka Philosophy a challenge to all the systems? Discuss

Do you find any relation between ethical theory and hedonism in Cârvâka System?



CâRVâKA : EPISTEMOLOGY


All theories of this philosophy are based on its epistemology. The essences of Cârvâka epistemology are mentioned below-

1. Perception is the only source of valid Knowledge.
2. Anumâna or inference is not a reliable pramâna.
3. Authority, the words of scriptures etc. are not reliable.
4. Whatever is perceptible is only real.

The ethical theory of Cârvâka philosophy is also based on this epistemological theory. That is only real which is known by sense experience. There are five types of sense perception-visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory and tactual. These are occurred by five sense organs- eye, ear, nose, tongue and skin. Whatever is beyond of these five sense experience has no existence at all. Therefore, this philosophy does not accept Inference, Authority, and Comparison as the pramânas or valid source of knowledge.



CâRVâKA : ETHICAL THEORY


The term ethics is derived from the Latin term ‘Ethos’ which means character. Ethics is also called Moral philosophy. The study which determines conduct, activities and character is regarded as Moral philosophy.

The ethical theory of Cârvâka philosophy is an exceptional type. Traditionally in Indian philosophy we find four Puruârthas of human life- Dharma, Artha, Kâma, and Moka. Cârvâka philosophy accepts only two Puruârthas as the ultimate aim of human life. These two are- Artha and Kâma.



Cârvâka : Artha and Kâma


It does not accept Dharma and Moka as Puruârthas. This philosophy says that religion is the illusion of human mind and the thoughts of the fools. Human life comes into end with death. In other words death is the end of life. Therefore, it is totally unnecessary to perform the religious functions, rituals, like Yajna, Sacrifice, worship etc. In stead of performing these religious activities, man should enjoy this present life by taking all possible good things.

Moka means- ‘Mukti’ or liberation. It is the eternal emancipation of soul from all earthly pains and sufferings. Cârvâka philosophy does not believe in the existence of soul, heaven etc. Because we, the human beings have never seen heaven or hell. These are our mental fictions. Therefore, the thought of liberation of human soul is completely a futile one. In this way Cârvâka philosophy accepts only two Puruârthas- Artha and Kâma as the ultimate end of human life and rejects Dharma and Moka as Puruârthas. Hence, the only real and desirable thing is to enjoy this life. The ethical ideal of this philosophy is- “Eat, drink and be merry”. This pleasure is as much acceptable and good as it is more extensive and more in quantity. As this present life is only real, so man should enjoy this life by hook or by crook. The ethical teaching of Cârvâka philosophy is expressed in this way- “Javat jivet sukhong jivet, Rhinong kritvawa gritang pyvet”. “So long you live, live happily, eat ghee even by borrowing from others. After death, the body will be turned into ashes, where from again this life will be possible?” No possibility will be there to enjoy this life after death. Therefore, individual pleasure is the ultimate pleasure and it is the ultimate satisfaction.

For such thinking Cârvâka ethics is regarded as gross or egoistic hedonism. This theory does not accept any qualitative difference among various pleasures. All pleasures are alike, they differ only in quantity. The pleasure which is more intensive, more durable and more certain, it is more acceptable and desirable. Sensual pleasure is more intensive and durable than mental pleasure or spiritual pleasure. Therefore, Cârvâka ethical theory accepts sensual pleasure as ultimate pleasure. It is for this reason Cârvâka ethical theory is regarded as gross or non-refined egoistic hedonism.

 

Cârvâka: Gross or Egoistic Hedonism



The Cârvâkas admit the truth that pain is always accompanied by pleasure. A life which is completely free from pains is impossible. So long life is there we have to face pleasure and pain. But our duty is to strive pleasure as much as we can and we should separate pleasure from pain at the best. For example, when we take fish, the bones may be there, but in the fear of bones we should not avoid taking fish. So also one should not avoid preparing foods thinking that beggars may come or they may ask food. So also sometimes the wild animals destroy paddy. Thinking this negative fact, if the farmers stop to cultivate crops, then he would have to die out of starvation. Therefore, realizing this fact that life is full of pleasure and pain, we should try to enjoy pleasure minimizing pains as far as possible. This should be the aim of human life. Bodily pleasure seems to be temporary. Even then one should not ignore it otherwise he will be a fool.

According to the Cârvâkas, present happiness is real truth. Future is uncertain. Therefore, we should not give up present pleasure thinking of unseen future. One should not spend today expecting that tomorrow he will enjoy more pleasure. It is wrong to think that we will be born again after our death. Past is gone forever, future is uncertain. Only the present is perceptible. Therefore, the Cârvâkas donot believe in past life and future life. This present life is invaluable. So, man should try to enjoy and spend everyday happily by eating, drinking and being merry. Thus in Cârvâka philosophy religion leads to morality and morality culminates in the quest of pleasure. The ethics of this philosophy is similar to the gross hedonism of Greek hedonist Aristipuss.

According to Cârvâka ethics, wealth is a means to pleasure. It should be acquired for the sake of pleasure. It is an intrinsic value. Wealth is an instrumental value. Of course, pleasure and wealth both are accepted as human good by the Cârvâka philosophers. This is the view of the authors of Nitisâstra and Kâmaúâstra.

Thus it is seen that the rightness of human action depends on sensual pleasure. According to the Cârvâkas, the action which is conducive to sensual pleasure is right. On the other hand the action which creates pain is regarded as wrong. That action is morally right which can create maximum pleasure against pain. Again the action which creates more pain than pleasure is immoral or wrong action, ‘Eat, drink and be merry’. This should be the goal of human life. The past will never come, it is gone. So also the youth never comes again. Hence this present youth should be enjoyed as much as possible. The religious rituals like Tapa, Japa, Yajña, Sacrifice, Prayer, Worship etc. are like the childish plays. These are false and deceiving activities. These are created in the society by the cunning priests for their livelihood. There is no god, no heaven; because these are imperceptible. Whatever is perceptible that is only real. Therefore, the success of life depends on enjoying the earthly objects by all means. On the whole, Cârvâka ethics is regarded as gross egoistic hedonism, as like as of Aristripps, the Greek gross hedonist.

But it is to be noted that Vâtsyâyana, the author of Kâmâsutra, makes a distinction between rational pleasure and sensual pleasure. He regards happiness, wealth and virtue (Dharma) as the supreme ends of human life. He advises man to harmonize wealth and Kâma (pleasure) for the excellence of human life. According to Vâtsyâyana, one should not forgo one at the cost of another. Therefore, he advises man to enjoy supreme happiness here on earth or in heaven by pursuing the triple ends (Trivarga)-Dharma, Artha and Kâma. No doubt wealth is superior to happiness. Again happiness is superior to virtue (Dharma). But if a man lives by harmonizing these three, he can enjoy all pleasures in this life. To Vâtsyâyana this is the best way of living. But he does not support too much quest of sensual pleasure. Moreover he refers to sixty-four fine arts (Kâla) which yield refind pleasure. To him man should try to achieve both sensual and refined pleasure. Therefore the ethical theory of Vâtsyâyana may be compared to the ethical theory of Epicurus. The regards pleasure as intrinsic value, and wealth and virtue are means to achieve it.

Let us know:
But it is to be noted that Vâtsyâyana, the author of Kâmâsutra, makes a distinction between rational pleasure and sensual pleasure. He regards happiness, wealth and virtue (Dharma) as the supreme ends of human life. He advises man to harmonize wealth and Kâma (pleasure) for the excellence of human life. According to Vâtsyâyana, one should not forgo one at the cost of another. Therefore, he advises man to enjoy supreme happiness here on earth or in heaven by pursuing the triple ends (Trivarga)-Dharma, Artha and Kâma. No doubt wealth is superior to happiness. Again happiness is superior to virtue (Dharma). But if a man lives by harmonizing these three, he can enjoy all pleasures in this life. To Vâtsyâyana this is the best way of living. But he does not support too much quest of sensual pleasure. Moreover he refers to sixty-four fine arts (Kâla) which yield refined pleasure. To him, man should try to achieve both sensual and refined pleasure. Therefore, the ethical theory of Vâtsâyana may be compared to the ethical theory of Epicurus. He regards pleasure as intrinsic value, and wealth and virtue are means to achieve it.

CâRVâKA: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS


It should also be mentioned that the materialistic thought was present in Indian thought from very ancient time. According to some scholars, some hints of materialistic thought may be traced to the Vedas, Buddha literature and two Epics. One finds references to it even in the g-Veda. In the Bhadaranyaka Upanishad, the sage Yajñavalka has told the Cârvâka view to his wife Maitreeyi. He said that knowledge is the product of the combination of five elements. It leaves no trace after death. Some theories about the origin of creation as given in Svetasvatara Upanisad are almost similar to Cârvâka view in this connection. Its view of causation has been referred in Iswarakrishna’s Sâkhyakârika, Gaudapada’s Kârika and Udyotakara’s Nyâya Vartika. Cârvâka determinism is found in Budhist, Jainist and Nyâya scriptures. In Mahâbhârata, Râmâyana and Manu Samhitâ, name of the Cârvâka and lokâyata philosophy had been mentioned. All these prove that Cârvâka philosophy is one of the most ancient school of Indian thought. But in later period there is no systematic or consistent written works of materialistic philosophy. Other Indian systems like Nyâya, Vaiúeika, Sâkhya, Yoga, Mms and Vedânta philosophy criticize Cârvâka materialistic theory.

CHECK YOUR PROGRESS


Answer Short Questions:
A:
1. How many puruârthas does Cârvâka philosophy accept?
2. Does Cârvâka Philosophy accept the Concept-‘Mokha’?
3. What is the main ideal of Cârvâka Philosophy?
4. What are the purusarthas?
5. Is Cârvâka Philosophy compared to gross or egoistic hedonism?
6. Who is the Greek Philosopher with whom Cârvâka Ethics may
be compared?
7. What is ‘Sad Darúhana’?
8. Which system is known as the Philosophy of ‘Bhaspati’?
9. Which school is known as ‘Lokâyata school’?

State true or False:
B:
1. Is Cârvâka Philosophy vedic/non-vedic?
2. According to Cârvâka, Inference is the source of valid knowledge.
3. Aristipuss is a Greek gross-hedonist?
4. Cârvâka philosophy is spiritualistic?



ACTIVITY


Does mukti relate to death in Cârvâka philosophy? Discuss

Can the ethical theory be compared to Greek hedonism?

LET US SUM UP


The ethical theory of Cârvâka philosophy is not generally accepted in the background of Indian philosophy which is generally spiritualistic. But it is Cârvâka who expresses the facts of human life so freely and frankly. In fact man desires his own pleasure and it is known to all that man is by nature selfish. The Cârvâkas admit this nature of man without any fear.

The contribution of Cârvâka ethical theory to Indian philosophy is very important. It is more a philosophy of life than a theory of ultimate Reality. It has its truth in man’s eternal urge for pleasure. It has its novelty in challenging all the traditional values. In metaphysics, ethics and epistemology, Cârvâka stands in marked contrast to all other Indian philosophical systems. That is its weakness as well as strength and contribution. Other Indian philosophical systems are compelled to rise above dogmatism due to the free criticism of Cârvâka materialism. Every system has to face or reply the criticisms of Cârvâka. So also has to forward sufficient arguments to establish its own theory or it has to be cautious to the Cârvâka philosophy. Just like the western critical philosopher Immanuel Kant had to be critical due to Hume’s sceptism, so also the Cârvâka indirectly helps the Indian philosophical systems to be rational. Several western philosophical theories like pragmatism, positivism etc. refute the validity of Anumâna just like the Cârvâkas. At last we should mention that the Cârvâka ethical theory is an exceptional theory not only in Indian philosophy but in the history of world philosophy also. The seed of modern materialism and existentialism had been germinated long years ago in the philosophy of Cârvâka.
 

FURTHER READINGS


  • Surendra Nath Dasgupta: A History of Indian Philosophy, Motilal Benarasi Publication
  • Jadunath Sinha: Indian Philosophy, Motilal Benarasi Das Publication
  • Subodh Kappor: The Systems of Indian Philosophy, Motilal Benarasi Das Publication
  • Chandradhar Sarma: A Critical History of Indian Philosophy, Motilal Benarasi Das publication
  • S. Chatterjee: An Introduction to Indian Philosophy, Motilal Benarasi Das Publication
  • S. Rdhakrishnan: Indian Philosophy, Motilal Benarasi Das Publication


ANSWERS TO CHECK YOUR PROGRESS


Check Your Progress: I
A:
1. Ans: Âstika and Nâstika
2. Ans: Âstika means a theist or one who believes in God. While the word ‘Nâstika’ means an atheist or one who does not believe in God.
3. Ans: Yes, because the Cârvâka system does not believe in God.
4. Ans: Materialism is a metaphysical theory which holds that matter is the ultimate reality. All objects of the world are produced out of matter, even the mind and consciousness are products of matter.
5. Ans: The Cârvâkas accept four physical elements. These are: (1) Earth (2) Water (3) Fire (4) Air.

B:
1. Ans: ‘Carva’ which means ‘to chew’ or ‘to eat’
2. Ans: Eat, drink and be marry

3. Ans: Lokâyata School
4. Ans: Perception
5. Ans: Ethos

Check Your Progress: II
A:
1. Ans: Artha and Kâma
2. Ans: The Cârvâka Philosophy does not accept the concept-mokha
3. Ans: Eat, drink and be marry
4. Ans: The Four puruârthas are Dharma, Artha, Kâma and Mokha
5. Ans: Yes. Cârvâka Philosophy holds that individual pleasure is the ultimate pleasure and it is the ultimate satisfaction.
6. Ans: Greek hedonist Aristippus
7. Ans: The six systems- Nyâya, Vaiúeika, Sâkhya, Yoga, Mms and Vedânta are collectively known as Sad Darúhana.
8. Ans: Cârvâka system
9. Ans: Cârvâka system

B:
1. Ans: Non-Vedic
2. Ans: False
3. Ans: True
4. Ans: False

POSSIBLE QUESTIONS



 
1. Is Cârvâka philosophy non-vedic? What is the difference between non-vedic and atheistic school in Indian school?
2. Who is the founder of Cârvâka philosophy? Explain the origin of its system.
3. What is Lokâyata school? Discuss
4. How do you explain Cârvâka epistemology? Does Cârvâka accept the other sources of knowledge except perception?
5. Explain the ethical theory of Cârvâka? Discuss
6. What are the four puruârthas? Does Cârvâka accept the four, if not, what are they? Discuss.
7. What is‘mukti’ or ‘liberation’ in Cârvâka system? Does Cârvâka accept the concept-Mokha like the other systems of Indian Philosophy?
8. Can the ethical theory of Cârvâka be compared to egoistic hedonism? Discuss.
9. Short notes:
a) Materialism
b) Artha and Kâma
c) Gross or egoistic hedonism
d) Cârvâka Epistemology
e) âstika and Nâstika School