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Short description: Ontological categories in Indian philosophy

Padārtha is a Sanskrit word for "categories" in Vaisheshika and Nyaya schools of Indian philosophy.[1][2]


The term padārtha derived from two pada or word and artha or the meaning or referent. Therefore etymologically the term padārtha means "the meaning or referent of words".[3]

Philosophical significance

Almost all the philosophical systems of India accept liberation as the ultimate goal of life; it is the summum bonum. For attaining liberation different philosophies prescribe different means. According to Aksapada Gautama, liberation can be attained by the true knowledge of the categories or padārthas.[4] According to the Vaisheshika school, all things which exist, which can be cognised, and which can be named are padārthas (literal meaning: the meaning of a word), the objects of experience.


From Vaisheshika view points

According to Vaisheshika school of philosophy Padārtha or all objects of experience can be primarily divided as bhāva and abhāva. The bhāva padārthas are six types.[3] These are:

  1. Dravya (substance),
  2. Guṇa (quality),
  3. Karma (activity),
  4. Sāmānya (generality),
  5. Viśeṣa (particularity)
  6. Samavāya (inherence).

Later Vaiśeṣikas like, Śrīdhara and Udayana and Śivāditya added one more category abhāva which means non-existence.[5]

From Nyaya view points

The Nyāya metaphysics recognizes sixteen padārthas, the second of which, called prameya, includes all six (or seven) categories of the Vaiśeṣika school.[5] These sixteen padārthas are:

  1. Pramāṇa (valid means of knowledge),
  2. Prameya (objects of valid knowledge),
  3. Saṃśaya (doubt),
  4. Prayojana (aim),
  5. Dṛṣṭānta (example),
  6. Siddhānta (conclusion),
  7. Avayava (members of syllogism),
  8. Tarka (hypothetical reasoning),
  9. Nirṇaya (settlement),
  10. Vāda (discussion),
  11. Jalpa (wrangling),
  12. Vitaṇḍā (cavilling),
  13. Hetvābhāsa (fallacy),
  14. Chala (quibbling),
  15. Jāti (sophisticated refutation)
  16. Nigrahasthāna (point of defeat)

From western philosophical view points

The Vaiśeṣika categories or padārthas are distinct from the categories of Aristotle, Kant, and Hegel. According to Aristotle, categories are logical classification of predicates; Kant states that categories are only patterns of the understanding and Hegel’s categories are dynamic stages in the development of thought, but the Vaiśeṣika categories are metaphysical classification of all knowable objects. Aristotle accepts ten categories: 1. Substance, 2. Quality, 3. Quantity, 4. Relation, 5 Place, 6. Time, 7. Posture, 8. Property, 9. Activity, and 10. Passivity. The Vaiśeṣikas instead place the concepts of time and place under substance; relation under quality; inherence, quantity and property under quality. Passivity is considered the opposite of activity. Akṣapāda Gautama enumerates sixteen padārthas.[6]

See also


  1. Padārtha, Jonardon Ganeri (2014), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  2. Daniel Henry Holmes Ingalls (1951). Materials for the Study of Navya-nyāya Logic. Motilal Banarsidass. pp. 37–39. ISBN 978-81-208-0384-8. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Mishra, Umesh (1987). Conception of matter according to Nyayavaisesika. Delhi: Gian Publishing House. pp. 345–347. 
  4. Ganeri, Jonardon. "Analytic Philosophy in Early Modern India". 
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Padartha, aka: Padārtha; 7 Definition(s)". 21 July 2013. 
  6. Edwards, Paul. The Encyclopedia of Philosophy. II. p. 46. 

External links