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Title: La doctrine des atomes (aṇu, paramāṇu) chez Kaṇāda et Prÿsastapāda
Subtitle: Problèmes d'interprétation
Author(s): LYSSENKO, V.
Journal: Journal Asiatique
Volume: 284    Issue: 1   Date: 1996   
Pages: 137-158
DOI: 10.2143/JA.284.1.556545

Abstract :
The problems suggesting themselves in connection with all historical forms of atomism, whether Greek, Arab or Indian, are as follows: is an atom, in fact, an atom (“indivisible”); what is its measure; in what way imperceptible atoms form the perceptible objects? The Vaiśeṣika authors Kaṇāda and Praśastapāda did not discuss these questions systematically, but the most valuable information with regard to them may be extracted from the section on measure (parimāṇa) of Padārtha-dharma-saṃgraha by PraŚastapāda.
In this section, the measure of a single atom is defined as “spherical" (parimaṇḍalya) and eternal (nitya), but at the same time as non-productive (anārambhaka) of the other measures. Thus there is a certain rupture between the measures of atoms and those of the gross things. The rupture is treated in the paper as due to the twofold nature of the Vaiśeṣika atom. On the one hand, it is regarded as a physical unit of matter endowed with its qualities of color, smell, taste and tactility. On the other, it is considered to be an absolute essence devoid of perceptibility and opposed to the ordinary world. In the developments on the physical processes, the Vaiśeṣika viewed tha atoms as corpuscles, but in the explanations of the world generating principles, the atoms were accorded with the role of metaphysical entities. This seems to suggest that for the Vaiśeṣika the atoms were not a subject of an independent study, but rather the instrument to account for other more important subjects. I connect this with the atomistic mode of thinking characteristic for the Vaiśeṣika, by which I understand its attempt to reduce any object of cognition to a set of indivisible units and to explain in its terms the production and destruction of the former.

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