Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda: Section I

Published: 01.05.2012

Starting from Aristotle many philosophers and logicians have concentrated their attention on elaborate explanation of such modal predicates as necessity, possibility, impossibility etc. Of late, logicians like von Wright have also been maintaining that modes are principally of four kinds: Alethic modes or modes of truth, Existential modes or modes of being, Epistemic mode of modes of knowing and Deontic modes of obligation. The entire discussion is very important. But we need hardly concentrate on it here. For Syādvāda in particular and Jaina Logic and Philosophy in general do not talk about every modal predicate but rather about one modal predicate viz. possibility. Even if we decide to focus our attention only to one mode viz. possibility, we might not have to. As will appear latter, take into account all kinds of possibilities. We shall, therefore mainly concentrate only on the mode of possibility.

Various kinds of possibilities considered during the development of modal notions in Western thought may be grouped under these heads: (i) the Absolute possibility (ii) the Relative possibility (iii) the Epistemic possibility (iv) Possibility understood as ability capacity, disposition or what Aristotle called potentiality, (v) Technical or etiological possibility and (vi) Possibility as minimal probability. The first again is of two kinds: (a) Conceptual or apriori and (b) nomological, physical or real. Similarly, the relative possibility can be considered under (a) and (b) above.

We shall presume the general sense in which these modal notions are understood in modern philosophical thought. However, some discussion about them may be useful to us for the consideration of the concept of 'syāt'. First, the notion of possibility as minimal probability is not usually employed in technical language, although in our ordinary language we are familiar with such a notion. Secondly, not only the absolute nomological possibility can be subsumed under absolute conceptual possibility or the relative nomological possibility can be subsumed under relative conceptual possibility but also the relative conceptual and nomological possibilities are definable in terms of the absolute conceptual and nomological possibilities respectively. Thirdly, the major controversies that have arisen recently are about the possibilities of the first and fourth kind. Again, the way sometimes its explanation is given, the fourth kind of possibility is tied to an important presupposition about both the world and things in it. Lastly, possibility of the third kind presupposes the possibility of the fourth and sixth kinds but not vice versa.

In connection with the discussion of possibility in Aristotle Hintikka[1] has argued that the Aristotelian broad notion of possibility really embraces two important kinds of it within its fold: (a) 'possibility proper' or what we would term today to be conceptual possibility and (b) possibility as contingency. The latter kind of possibility, again is of two kinds: (a) Possibility that is short of necessity and (b) the one that is descriptive of something indeterminate. This kind of possibility is generally expressed in the form of 'thus' or 'not thus' without prevalence of either one of the alternatives. Hintikka has further argued that although Aristotle mentions and uses both these kinds of possibilities yet no sharp distinction between them is made by first and that the second kind of possibility is according to Aristotle connected with generation or change of a thing while the first is not. The first kind of possibility of these comes to be stated in terms of what Quine calls 'eternal sentences' while that of the latter kind in terms of what Quine calls 'occasion sentences'. All these earlier considerations about possibility as also the points Hintikka has made have an important bearing on the discussion of possibility or possibilities indicated by 'syāt'.


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Published by:
Jain Vishwa Bharati Institute
Ladnun - 341 306 (Rajasthan) General Editor:
Sreechand Rampuria
Edited by:
Rai Ashwini Kumar
T.M. Dak
Anil Dutta Mishra

First Edition:1996
© by the Authors

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  1. Aristotle
  2. JAINA
  3. Jaina
  4. Syādvāda
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