Credits:- Subhash Kak / Swarajya Magazine.


Was the Greek scientific and philosophical tradition inspired by the Indian school of logic?

Greek and Persian historians say that Alexander was the intermediary who brought Indian logic to the Greeks and it was under this influence that the Greek scientific and philosophical tradition emerged. Modern Indian textbooks say the opposite, suggesting the five-part syllogism of Indian logic was derived from the three-part Greek (Aristotelian) logic. So what is the truth?

The first thing to note is that the idea of science implies implicit use of logic, and from this point of view all cultures that developed science must have had a system of logic. Nevertheless, the question of the origins of logic as a formal discipline is of enormous interest to historians of science.

In the West, the tradition of logic is generally traced back to Aristotle (384-322 BC), whose theory of the syllogism has had enormous influence. Aristotle’s ideas were later adopted by the Arabs and the Latin medieval tradition. The central notion in Aristotle’s logic is that of deduction involving premise of the argument, and the conclusion. He also recognizes induction, which is an argument from the particular to the universal.


In a passage in the book The World as Will and Idea, the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), quotes the Indologist William Jones (1746-1794) approvingly:

Aristotle collected, arranged, and corrected all that had been discovered before his time, and brought it to an incomparably greater state of perfection. If we thus observe how the course of Greek culture had prepared the way for, and led up to the work of Aristotle, we shall be little inclined to believe the assertion of the Persian author, quoted by Sir William Jones with much approval, that Kallisthenes found a complete system of logic among the Indians, and sent it to his uncle Aristotle.

Callisthenes, a relative of the philosopher Aristotle, was the court historian to Alexander the Great (356 – 323 BC) and a member of the campaign. He was eventually thrown into prison on a charge of treasonous conspiracy by the increasingly paranoid Alexander and later he was either executed or died of natural causes in the prison. William Jones (1746-1794) has the following account on the question of the relationship between Indian and Greek logic:

… Here I cannot refrain from introducing a singular tradition, which prevailed, according to the well-informed author of the Dabistan, in the Panjab and in several Persian provinces, that, “among other Indian curiosities, which Callisthenes transmitted to his uncle, was a technical system of logick, which the Brahmens had communicated to the inquisitive Greek,” and which the Mohammedan writer supposes to have been the groundwork of the famous Aristotelean method: if this be true, it is one of the most interesting facts, that I have met with in Asia; and if it be false, it is very extraordinary, that such a story should have been fabricated either by the candid MOHSANI Fani; or by the simple Parsi Pundits, with whom he had conversed; but, not having had leisure to study the Nyaya Sastra, I can only assure you, that I have frequently seen perfect syllogisms in the philosophical writings of the Brahmens, and have often heard them used in their verbal controversies. …

Now the relevant text from the Dabistan which was composed in about 1655 by a Zoroastrian author is:

Tark sastra is the science of dialectics… Arastu [Aristotle], who was a chief of the learned claimed that he had derived [his logic] from an old treatise upon logic, the precepts of which were without explanation, and to have bestowed on it that arrangement under which it now exists among the learned: he meant, probably, that the maxims are the same as those extracted from the Tarka.

India and Greece had a long period of interaction that predates Alexander. Diogenes Laertius (3rd century AD) in his Lives of the Eminent Philosophers says that Democritus (~400 BC), the originator of Greek atomism, went to India and learnt from the gymnosophists (sadhus).  There is also a strong tradition that the Pythagoras traveled to India and of course the famous theorem named after him was known in India centuries earlier.

In India, logic (anvīkṣikī, nyāya, or tarka in Sanskrit) is an ancient field of study and also one of the six classical schools of Indian philosophy. Its canonical text is the Nyāya Sūtra of Akṣapāda Gotama (or Gautama), and the most important early commentary on this text is the one by Vātsyāyana. Considering a variety of sources, scholars have estimated that the beginning of the tradition goes back to at least 600 BC.

The Nyāya calls itself pramāṇa śāstra, or the science of correct knowledge. Knowing is based on four conditions: 1. The subject or the pramatṛ; 2. The object or the prameya to which the process of cognition is directed; 3. The cognition or the pramiti; and 4. the nature of knowledge, or the pramāṇa. The four pramāṇas  through which correct knowledge is acquired are: pratyakṣa or direct perception, anumāna or inference, upamāna or analogy, and śabda or verbal testimony.

Manas or mind mediates between the self and the senses. When the manas is in contact with one sense-organ, it cannot be so with another. It is therefore said to be atomic in dimension. It is due to the nature of the mind that our experiences are essentially linear, although quick succession of impressions may give the appearance of simultaneity.

Objects have qualities which do not have existence of their own. The color and class associated with an object are secondary to the substance. According to Gautama, direct perception is inexpressible. Things are not perceived as bearing a name. The conception of an object on hearing a name is not direct perception but verbal cognition.

The syllogism used in the Nyāya Sūtra has five parts, as against the three-part syllogism of Aristotle’s logic. But we know that simplification of the five-part logic into one similar to Aristotle’s was also known.

It appears to me that if the Greek and Persian stories related to Callisthenes having brought Indian logic to Greece are true, they provided inspiration only in the sense of the need for a formal text on the subject by the Greeks.


The emphasis in the Nyāya Sūtra and Aristotle’s works is very different because in the Indian tradition the notion of self plays a central part. The Nyāya Sūtra maintains the centrality of the experiencing self, whereas in Aristotle’s logic the emphasis is on the design of the world as a machine.  This parallels the difference in the Indian system which considers the universe to be composed of five elements, as against the four of Aristotle. The fifth element (ākāśa) of the Indian system concerns the field of sentience. The legend that Indian logic was taken by Alexander to Greece is the acknowledgement that Indians had a fully flowered system of logic before the time of Aristotle, who himself perhaps only reworked an earlier tradition.


  • S.C. Vidyabhusana, The Nyāya Sūtras of Gotama, revised and edited by Nandalal Sinha. Motilal Banarasidass, Delhi, 1990.
  • Subhash Kak, Logic in Indian thought, In Andrew Schumann (editor), Logic in Religious Discourse. Ontos Verlag, Frankfurt, 2009, pp. 20-33. [ ]
  • Rene Guenon, Introduction generale a l’etude des doctrines hindous. Paris: 1930, pp. 226-227.

Leave a Reply

You may also like

Medieval History Miscellaneous

The legacy of loyalty by the great Mughals 


1 The Mughal emperor Humayun blinded his own brother Kamran & murdered his brothers Askari and Hindal.

2 Akbar the “great” killed his own foster brother Adham Khan by throwing him down from the palace walls at Agra, in 1562. Akbar’s murder of Adham Khan was illustrated in the Akbarnama by the Mughal court artists Miskin and Shankar.


3 Jahangir cruelly blinded his own son Khusrau as his father Akbar wanted his grandson as heir, because Jahangir was an alcoholic & drug addict. Khusrau was captured, put on an elephant & paraded down Chandni Chowk, while his kinsmen were held at knife-point on raised platforms.


4 As the elephant approached each platform, each supporter was impaled on a stake (through his bowels), while Khusrau was forced to watch & listen to the screams. This was repeated numerous times, then Khusrau was blinded by his father Jahangir in…

Read More
Ancient History History Maritime History Medieval History Miscellaneous

India-China Conflict: India’s Victory of 1967 and the 2020 Clash #Sangam Talk By Probal DasGupta


The Indian army veteran and author of Watershed 1967: India’s forgotten victory over China, Probal DasGupta talks of the Indo-China relations, particularly the lesser known incidents of 1967. The present standoff in Ladakh has raised questions of war and has brought up the historic narrative between the two countries. today. For fifty years, the event that dominated our memories was the 1962 India-China war, which India lost. However, the present crisis has focused on India’s victory over China in 1967. Probal’s book Watershed 1967 has played a significant role in reshaping the India-China narrative. In this talk he discusses China’s motives and India’s options today, and how 1967 is relevant in the current India-China skirmishes.

About the Speaker:

Probal DasGupta is an Indian army veteran and author…

Read More
Ancient History History Maritime History Medieval History Miscellaneous

Weapons from Punjab and Rajasthan seized in Maharashtra


While the Hanuman Chalisa and Azaan issue is simmering in Maharashtra huge batches of Swords and other weapons transported from states like Rajasthan and Punjab are being seized in Maharashtra. In last few days three such cases have been registered by Maharashtra police. Isn’t it a clear message that violence is knocking on the door? The rioters being celebrated and awarded in Karnataka and the long list of benefiters from Karauli riots convey the same! Wake up Hindus!


Maharashtra के धुले में मिला हथियारों का जखीरा, तलवार और खंजर समेत 90 हथियार जब्त, 4 आरोपी गिरफ्तार। अजान को लेकर राज ठाकरे की होने वाली सभा के लिए, राजस्थान से भेजी जा रही थीं तलवारें।

महाराष्ट्र के धुले जिले से भारी मात्रा में हथियार…

Read More
Ancient History History Maritime History Medieval History Miscellaneous

One more territory lost to the changing Demography! The Uttarakhand!



In Uttarakhand the Tourism Industry has been taken over by Samuday Vishesh. After the change in demography this was bound to happen.

Gadhwal was lost already and and now kumaon getting lost. Be it Nainital, Bhimtal, Ramnagar, Bageshwar,Jageshwar,Ranikhet and Kisano every where you will find them.
Locals have leased their hotels and restaurants to them.

Even when they are of not so well off background still they are able to do highest bidding and are able to get the hotels on lease.
Samuday Vishesh People from far off places have come and taken over Uttarakhand Tourism.

They have removed the local waiters , cooks and…

Read More
Ancient History History Maritime History Medieval History Miscellaneous

The Jama Masjid of Ahmedabad on the glorious Bhadra Kali Mandir



The Jama Masjid in Ahmedabad was originally A Bhadra Kali temple. It was converted into a mosque by Ahmed Shah I. The intricate flowers, coiled serpents representing Kundalini and bells, the remnants of the glorious temple that it may have been. Such carvings are banned in Islam. This goes on to support the history of the temple. Goddess Bhadrakali was believed to be the Nagar Devi of Ahmedabad.

One of Ahmedabad’s ancient names was Bhadra which was after Devi Bhadrakali. Ahmedabad was named after Ahmad Shah I of the Muzaffarid dynasty who forcibly captured “Karnavati” in 1411.

Bhadrakali temple is believed to be one of the oldest temple of Ahmedabad and located inside Bhadra Fort in center of city.The exact date of construction is not known but as per the evidence this holy shrine…

Read More
Ancient History History Maritime History Medieval History Miscellaneous

Facts about Mahmud Ghazni


Courtesy: Eztainutlacatl

How many of you know that Mahmud’s father was a Kyrghyz Buddhist caught in childhood and converted forcibly? How many know that Mahmud is called Zabuli because he was born out of a forced union between that slave Sabuktegin and a Zabuli Princess?

And how many of you know that Multan sided Mahmud against the Shahis in the name of religion but Mahmud decided Multan was not Muslim enough and attacked it? And how many of you know that of the 17 raids of Mahmud, 14 are against his neighbour, the Shahis?

And how many of you know that Mahmud is not exactly great – he waged an annual jihad against India but in 31 his year rule, only 17 raids are known – what happened to the balance 13? And how…

Read More
Ancient History History Maritime History Medieval History Miscellaneous

Kastur Ba: the secret shadow


On her 153rd Birth anniversary

Courtesy: Sheshapatangi1

“I simply cannot bear to look at Ba’s face, the expression is often like that of a meek cow and that in her own dump manner she is saying something” –

To keep the brand, “Mahatma” popular, they never told the miserable story of his wife.
On her 153rd birth anniversary, let us revisit a tragedy called #KasturbaGandhi.

Born on April 11, 1869 at Porbander, Kasturba was elder to Gandhi by 6 months, she married Mohandas with whom she played since her childhood.

Gandhi’s rejection of Kasturba came to the extent…

Read More
Ancient History History Maritime History Medieval History Miscellaneous

My people uprooted


Courtesy: Shri Tathagata Roy

8 April 1950 a fateful pact signed betn Jawaharlal Nehru & Liaquat Ali Khan,PM of Pakistan. After 2 months of Govt-engineered pogrom,slaughter, rape of Hindus in East Pakistan. Estimated 50,000 Hindus killed. An instance of incredible political stupidity on Nehru’s part.

Upon Liaquat’s glib assurance that Hindu refugees would be taken back and restored,the gullible Nehru decided that no rehabilitation of Hindus was necessary in India. Result: no refugee went back and were forced to live under inhuman conditions in Indian camps.

The Pakis were so insincere about the pact that their Govt issued secret instructions not to restore any Hindu to his property. Even after the pact all Hindu passengers in down Assam Mail were pulled down and killed just outside Santahar station.

The two Bengali ministers…

Read More
%d bloggers like this: