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Materialism, Indian school of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-F007-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

‘Materialism’ stands here for the Sanskrit term Lokāyata, the most common designation for the materialistic school of classical Indian philosophy. However, at the outset ‘materialism’ and ‘Lokāyata’ were not equivalent: early materialistic doctrines were not associated with Lokāyata, and early Lokāyata was neither materialistic nor even a philosophical school.

Classical Lokāyata stands apart from all other Indian philosophical traditions due to its denial of ethical and metaphysical doctrines such as karmic retribution, life after death, and liberation. Its ontology, tailored to support this challenge, allows only four material elements and their various combinations. Further support comes from Lokāyata epistemology: the validity of inference and Scriptures is denied and perception is held to be the only means of valid cognition. As offshoots, a fully fledged scepticism and a theory of limited validity of inference developed in response to criticism by other philosophers. Consistent with Lokāyata ontology and epistemology, its ethics centres on the criticism of all religious and moral ideals which presuppose invisible agents and an afterlife. Hostile sources depict its followers as promulgating unrestricted hedonism.

Citing this article:
Franco, Eli and Karin Preisendanz. Materialism, Indian school of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-F007-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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