Etymologically, the actual meaning of Charvaka is not yet fully known. But some reference to ancient texts suggests that ‘Chara Vaka’ or ‘Charu Vaka’ or ‘sweet talks’ is the meaning of Charvaka. It is also said that the philosophy arises from the Sage whose name was Charvaka. The other meaning of Charvaka is ‘to chew’. Charvaka also means philosophy of Lokayukta. Lokayukta signifies People’s philosophy.
Charvaka Philosophy is purely hedonistic. It follows the principle of maximization of one’s pleasure. One’s goodness is prioritized before the goodness of others. It also rejects the principle of Utilitarianism i.e., the happiness of the greatest number of people in society. The main principle of Charvaka thought is to look for one’s happiness even if others happiness is compromised. It believes in natural principles and so it is against the metaphysical systems which try to discover unseen realities. This philosophy is dependent on present conditions, it neither thinks of past nor plans for the future. Whatever happiness is available could be gathered in the present existing circumstances. It says that once this body deteriorates, and it dies there is nothing left to achieve or lose. So within the time limit of existence of this body, all kinds of pleasure should be achieved.
The principle concepts of Purusharthas are Dharma(duties), Artha(money & wealth), Kama(sexual pleasure) and Moksha(liberation of a soul). Out of four of this, Charvaka accepts only Artha(money)and Kama(pleasure). The other two are described as unnecessary. Due to this nature of Charvaka, another Indian Philosophy such as Jainas and Buddha criticizes Charvaka. They believe that the Charvaka don’t follow any ground of morality and so it could not be counted as a School of Indian thoughts. It doesn’t even have any theoretic metaphysical characteristics which are considered as a very essential part of philosophy.
Charvaka Philosophy is said to be developed and taken forward by Charvaka itself and Kesakambalin. Still, there is a dispute that the founder of actual materialistic school is Brahaspati. In the Brahaspati Sutra, the thoughts of materialism and the characteristics of such schools are mentioned. Though this philosophy is very ancient and considered from the time of 6th & 7th century CE, the memorised, reproduced and translated versions are available which explains some concepts from the ancient accepted thoughts. The ancient texts & scriptures describe its entry as one of the six schools of ancient Indian thought.
This school is also called as Nastik Darshan or atheist philosophy. Atheist Philosophy is not because of their godless nature but because they don’t believe in the authorities of ancient texts of Vedas. The other Nastik Darshans are Jainas and Buddhas.
The School of Charvaka is repeatedly blamed for their non-acceptance of Hindus theism and moralism of Buddhist and Jainas. But their believes in hedonism is so strong that they even think morality as the actual culprit in the cessation of complete happiness. It is because morality brings some restrictions on our actual flow of life.
The Ethics of Charvaka Philosophy is egoism. And the personal ego is considered as supreme from any other ego of God or other beings. They are self-centred and believe in the happiness of self. As said earlier, they don’t even care for the Universal theory of Utilitarianism.
Epistemologically, this school accepts only one source of knowledge and i.e., called as a Pramana or Pratyaksha or Perception. The knowledge which could be observed through naked eyes could only be considered as true. The other knowledge apart from this is considered as false or irrelevance.
They reject inference on the ground that the inference is second knowledge. The knowledge which is concluded by means of some other knowledge couldn’t be true according to Charvaka. On this regard, they have also rejected the testimony or verbal or written reproduction of knowledge. This types of knowledge couldn’t be believed on the ground that it has not been self-witnessed. It could be true or false. And that depends totally on the original perceiver. Therefore, Charvaka accepts only one source of knowledge and i.e., Perception.
Charvaka Philosophy and science has got a similarity, they both don’t consider any metaphysical realities and they have their own materialistic concepts on the realities of the world. They both think that matter is above all the things in universe. And matter is solely responsible for the formation and development of all the realities which we are aware of.
To round up, Charvaka doesn’t believe in any supernatural facts of God, life after death, eternity, soul and supernatural concepts beyond reality. The ultimate theory is positivism and hedonism. ‘It is worth to have a good life, once we are dead we couldn’t change anything.’ Charvaka Philosophy doesn’t even hesitate to take debt for the fulfilment of their personal- happiness. Once they are dead, there won’t come anyone to collect money of debt. The materialistic philosophy of Charvaka, in short, is “Eat, drink and be merry.”