chapter  2
18 Pages

Angelika Malinar Sensory Perception and Notions of the Senses in Sāṃkhya Philosophy

In Indian philosophical traditions, the senses are regularly listed among the common constituents of being(s) shared by all inhabitants of the cosmos. It is generally accepted that the senses are the basis for any experience of the world and for the relationships living beings entertain with each other. The philosophical schools diff er in their views on the structure and reality of the world and in their answers to the question of what is actually perceived by the senses. Some argue, for instance, that the senses are in contact with “outer” objects, while others are convinced that all we perceive are only “inner” mental constructions of the world.1 Another issue is the number of the senses and of the cognitive faculties which process sense objects. While the Nyāya school of philosophy accepts the group of fi ve senses also common in European philosophy,2 Buddhist traditions add the mind (manas)3 and speak of the “six seats” (ṣaḍāyatana).4 Sāṃkhya philosophers postulate 11 senses by enlarging the group of six senses with fi ve “senses of action” (karmendriya). Philosophical texts often concentrate on the former group of fi ve or six senses since they are vital in interpretations of perception as a means of knowledge (pramāṇa). Yet, the variety of views on what is regarded as a “sense-faculty” should be kept in mind, in order not to take the “fi ve senses” for granted as the common ground of all traditions. The senses are usually called indriya,5 literally “capacity” or “power.” This implies that they are endowed with a specifi c agency of their own which puts them in charge of their realms. The Sanskrit word “indriya,” thus, makes “power” an important connotation of senses.