Gotama a Hindoo philosopher, the exact time of whose life is not known. The Indians consider him as the author of the philosophical system which, under the name of Nyapya (logic), is still in use among them. All we know of him is derived from the mythical tradition confined in the Ramayana and the Puraans.
According to this legend, Gotama was born in Mount Himalaya, and for a long time lived as a hermit in the woods; he then married Abalya, one of the daughters of Brahma, but subsequently divorced her for having been led astray by Indra. He spent the remainder of his life in prayer and ascetic practices, and when he died he left his disciples precept which they commented on, and which together form the Nyaya. The work in which his system is expounded has been published, for the use of the Indian schools, under the title Nyaya sutra vritti (The logical Aphorisms of Gostama), with a Commentary by Vishevanath Battachary, published under the authority of the Committee of a Public Instruction, Calcutta, 1828, 8vo. The book is divided into five parts: the first and most important contains the dogmatic exposition of the doctrine of the Nyaya. The author proceeds by axioms, of which there are sixty in his first part. He distinguishes sixteen points in the art of reasoning, the first nine teaching to demonstrate truth, and the seven others to defend it against objections. He begins by pointing out the general sources of certainty, of which he recognizes four: perception, induction, comparison, and divine or human testimony. He next inquires into the objects of certainty, i.e., the objects presented to human investigation, and recognizes twelve. Each of these objects can be considered in different ways, and they can all be brought down to one — the knowledge of man and of his destiny. After having thus established his general dialectic principles, Gotama proceeds to their application. His third point is doubt: when anything has been presented to our knowledge by one of the above-named sources of certainty, we must first doubt it, and only affirm its truth after thorough investigation. Affirmation is the fourth point. After a thing is affirmed it has yet to be proved, and first of all exemplified: this forms the fifth point. When once the illustrative example is found, the object of the demonstration has to be stated: this is the sixth point. The seventh is the enumeration of the five members of the demonstration. Colebrooke gives the following illustration of this process of argumentation, in which some think they recognize Greek syllogism:
1. proposition, This mountain is burning; 2. reason, for it smokes; 3. explanation, whatever smokes is burning, as, for instance, a kitchen fire; 4. application, and the mountain smokes; 5. conclusion, hence it is burning.
The eighth point, which is called reductio ad absurdum by Colebrooke, and raisonnement suppletif by Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire, is a sort of confirmation of the argument. Finally, the ninth point is the definitive conclusion, the absolute affirmation which closes the argument. The last seven points treat of all the objections which can be opposed to a demonstrated fact. These objections are sophisms, and he who uses them will necessarily be overcome by his opponent if the latter follows strictly the rules laid down in the Nyaya. As for the defender of truth, Gotama promises him not only the pleasure of defeating his adversary, but also everlasting happiness. This brief account of the first part of the Nyaya will suffice to show how inadequate the system of the Indian philosopher is as an analysis of the operations of the human mind. Still there is much to be admired in the doctrine of the Nyaya. The method was an immense progress for India, and as such deserves a high place in the history of philosophy. It would deserve a still higher one if it had, as was advanced by Sir William Jones, served as amodel for the Organon, and if the fifth point of Gotama had been the origin of Aristotle's syllogism. Jones maintained, on the strength of a more than doubtful tradition, that Callisthenes gathered during Alexander's expedition a number of details on Indian doctrines, and afterwards transmitted them to Aristotle. According to him the logic of the latter would be but a development of Gotama's system. This strange assertion is completely disproved by Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire, who has shown that there is no relation between the Nyaya and the Organon, and that those who spoke of their resemblance must have been unacquainted with either. His conclusion is that the Greek system owed nothing to theIndian. But might not the question be reversed so as to inquire whether the Indian system may not to some extent be derived from the Greek? Greek civilization hovered for centuries near the Indus and Himalaya. The Greek kingdoms of Bactria appear to have exerted great influence over the poetry of India: may they not also have had some influence over its philosophical systems? And may not the Nyaya in particular, which differs so much in its analytical process from the other Indian system, owe its peculiarities to the influence of Greece? These are questions which it has so far been impossible to solve, since none has yet been able to find out the dates of the various Indian systems. Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire believes the Nyaya. older than the Organon, but admits that it is only authentically named in works posterior to the Christian aera. See Sir William Jones, Asiat. Research.; Ward, View of the History, Literature, and Mythology of the Hindoos; Colebrooke, in the Transact. of the As. Soc. of Gt. Britain and Ireland, 1823 1:76, and Miscel. Essays, volume 1; Windischmann, Die Philosophie, im Fortgang d. Weltgesch, part 1, page 1904; Barthelemy Saint-Hilaire, in the Mem. l'Academie des Sciences morales et politiques, 3:241; Journ. des Savants, April and June 1855; Dict. des Sciences philosoph. art. Gotama, Nyaya, Philosophic indienne; Ritter, Gesch. der Philosophie; Hoefer, Nouv. Biog. Gen. 21:336; Bigandet (Rom. Cath. bishop), The Life or Legend of Gaudama (Rangoon, 1866, 8vo).