Journal of Indian Philosophy

, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 391-410

First online:

Sātmaka, Nairātmya, and A-Nairātmya: Dharmakīrti’s Counter-Argument Against the Proof of Ātman

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Ātman (soul) and Nairātmya (no soul) are, for the Brahmanical schools and the Buddhists respectively, equally fundamental tenets which neither side can concede to the other. Among the 16 formulations presented by Uddyotakara, the fifteenth, which is a proof of Ātman and is originally an indirect proof (avīta/āvīta), is presented in a prasaṅga-style, and contains double negation (na nairātmyam) in the thesis. However, it is perhaps Dharmakīrti who first transformed it into a normal style (sātmakam). He is well aware of the law of excluded middle, and insisits that the negation is paryudāsa. On the Nyāya side, Uddyotakara at least seems to be unaware of the law of the logical equivalence of contraposition concerning pervasion (vyāpti). After Uddyotakara, however, Vyoman (Vyomaśiva), Bhāsarvajña and Vācaspatimiśra, all seem to be well aware of it. Dharmakīrti, in his conter-argument against the proof of ātman, discusses the negative expressions ‘‘nairātmya” and ‘‘a-nairātmya” Dharmakīrti here uses two logical arguments skillfully and tactically. As a critic of both the authenticity of the Veda and the existence of ātman, he insists on the theory of dichotomy and the equivalence of anvaya and vyatireka, whereas as an apologist he denies the application of these theories to the relation between the existence of ātman and the concept of nairātmya, because for him as a Buddhist the latter is not a negative but essentially positive state of affairs.


Ātman Prasaṅga Kevalavyatirekin Nairātmya Paryudāsa Contraposition Dichotomy