Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda ► Non-Absolutism (Anekāntavāda) ► Section I ► The Dialectic Of Sevenfold Predication ► Part 2

Posted: 22.03.2012

To be brief, the import of the seven propositions may be asserted as follows. The first proposition asserts 'existence' as the principal predicate, the second asserts 'non-existence'; the third both existence and non-existence in succession, the fourth 'inexpressibility'; the fifth inexpressibility as qualified by 'existence', the sixth affirms the same as qualified by non-existence; and the seventh asserts inexpressibility as qualified by the successively occurring existence and non-existence. The assertion of the predicates only serves to emphasise the prominence of the attributes as psychologically felt. It is a matter of attention and interest that stress is laid upon one, but it never means that the precedence accorded to it excludes the other attribute. The affirmation of existence in the first proposition does not exclude 'non-existence', which is stated in the second proposition, but implies it. We shall deal with the matter at greater length later on.

A question may be raised. If 'inexpressibility' be a distinct attribute, why should not 'expressibility' be considered another different attribute being its opposite? If so, the assertion that attributes are of seven kinds only falls to the ground and, consequently, there should be eight modes of predication. But the Jaina does not think that expressibility is a novel attribute. That a thing is expressible as existent or non-existent is implied in the first two propositions, and, so, the predication of expressibility would not serve an additional purpose. And if for the sake of argument 'expressibility' be regarded as a novel attribute different from existence and non-existence and so on, still this would not cause a difficulty, as the attribute 'expressibility' together with its opposite 'inexpressibility' would give rise to a new sevenfold predication, as was seen to be the case with the attribute of existence and non-existence.

We have seen that the number of propositions cannot be multiplied further than seven. But is it not possible to reduce the number? Are the attributes, whatever be their logical status, ontologically different? But the attributes, existence and non-existence, are not ontologically different. A pen is existent qua pen and non-existent qua not-pen. But ontologically the existence of the pen is not different from its non-existence as not pen. The difference is only relative and as such is only an intellectual construction. The difference, though psychologically necessary, does not argue the ontological reality of two attributes. So, the first two propositions are not logically necessary, since either of them is adequate to account for the other. With the collapse of the first two propositions as logically superfluous, the rest of the propositions will fall to the ground automatically as they are founded upon the former in the ultimate analysis. It is submitted in reply that the position, no doubt, follows from the denial of negation as a factual characteristic, but the denial of the factuality of negation has been shown to lead to absurdities. It will suffice to observe that 'existence' is always determined by the self-identity of an entity and non-existence has reference to another entity in respect of another identity. So, the determinants of existence and non-existence are different and, consequently, the determined should also be held to be different. Existence, undetermined by reference to the individuality of different entities, is only a blank abstraction. The existence of the pen is determined by its self-identity, and the self-identity in the very act of determining its existence implies its non-existence in the role of another entity possessing an identity different from it. Thus, it is the self-identity of an entity that determines its existence and the non-existence is determined by other-identity. Without these determinants, existence and non-existence are but nonsensical terms. It is the diversity of determinants which constitutes the diversity of the entities and the difference of existence and non-existence as ontological facts. If existence and non-existence were not ontologically different, a pen should be existent as not-pen as it is qua pen and should be non-existent qua pen as it is non-existent qua not-pen. That the difference between existence and non-existence, as entailed by the difference of determinants (avacchedaka), is real and factual difference can also be deduced from an analysis of the import of the positive and negative propositions. There is a material difference between the propositions 'The jar exists on the ground' and 'the jar does not exist on the ground.' The first proposition asserts the presence of the jar and the second asserts the absence of the jar, on the ground. If there were no difference between presence and absence, absence of the jar could be asserted even when the jar was present. But this is not possible and this is proof of the difference of existence and non-existence. The Buddhist insists on the triple characteristic of a logical probans as the ground for inferring the probandum. The probans, e.g., smoke, must be shown to exist in the subject (minor term) and in the homologue (sapakṣa) and to be absent from the heterologue. If there were no difference between existence and non-existence, the triple character would be impossible.

The result may be summed up as follows. The first two propositions are significant and neither is a reduplication of the other. But what is the raison d'être of the third proposition? The third proposition only states the successive occurrence of the two predicates noticed above. Suppose that a jar and a chair are successively perceived in a room and we assert the existence of the two entities therein. But the two are not different from each one of them. If 'two' is but a summation of the units, the third proposition is nothing but a summation of the first two. But the Jaina here would appeal to experience. That the combination of two units gives rise to a separate entity is a matter of experience. Take for instance the word 'go'. It is nothing but the successive occurrence of two letters 'g' and 'o'. That the word 'go' is different from both 'g' and 'o' is a matter of perception. If the distinctive unity of the word 'go' were not a fact, and it were identical with the constituent letters, the pronunciation of 'g' or 'o' would be sufficient for communicating the meaning of 'go'. It cannot be, therefore, denied that the successive presence of two things gives rise to a third thing, which has a distinctive individuality from the constituent elements. We can elucidate the matter by adding further examples. A garland of flowers has no existence outside the flower-units, no doubt. But it cannot be denied that the garland is different from the flower-units, as the latter, outside the juxtaposition that gives rise to a garland, do not serve the purpose of a garland. It is a matter of experience, and not of pure logic, that the combination of two units gives rise to a distinct third, which is both different and non-different from the constituent units. The Jaina is emphatically empiricist here as elsewhere, when the nature of existence of an entity becomes the object of a doubt. The Buddhist and other idealistic logicians would scent a contradiction in such cases, but this is only another instance of the incompetency of pure logic to deal with the nature of existents a priori and independently of experience.

The third proposition, it has been seen is not a mere reduplication of the first two. That the combination of the predicates of the two propositions is a different predicate is, we trust, not open to sincere doubt. Let us now consider whether the fourth proposition is logically necessary. The logical necessity of the fourth proposition can be established if the simultaneous presence of two attributes can be shown to evolve an attribute distinct from the attributes predicated in the third proposition. The fourth predicate 'inexpressibility', it is urged, is but the abbreviated formula for occurrence of the positive and negative attributes: The third predicate also states the presence of these two. The difference between the third and fourth predicates consists in the difference of time of their occurrence. But is the difference of time a proof of an ontological difference? Let us consider the proposition, 'There are pen and paper on the table.' Our knowledge of the presence of pen and paper, in so far as it is derived from the knowledge of the proposition, is no doubt derived in succession. But this is due to the exigency of attribution, which cannot take place in one and the same time. It is obvious that the difference in the time of our cognitions cannot argue an ontological difference. The presence of the two in one substratum is a fact which does not admit of a difference in the nature of their existence, though there may be a difference in the time-order of their cognition. The difference is at most subjective. Some exponents of the Jaina dialectic have tried to meet the objection on logical grounds. They assert that though there may be no ontological difference between the third and the fourth predicates, the logical difference between them cannot be denied. The difference is a matter of formal logic, and this is not incompatible with the lack of objective material difference. After all, the sevenfold predication is only a series of formal predications, the validity of which is to be determined by canons of formal consistency. The demands of formal consistency can be satisfied by the application of the test of redundancy. The fourth proposition would be redundant, if its import were self-identical with that of the third in form. But the identity of formal import is not present in these two propositions. This will be apparent from the consideration of the import of two propositions we have given in the beginning of the present chapter. 'The pen exists and does not exist' is the third proposition and 'the pen is inexpressible' is the fourth proposition. The predicate 'inexpressible' is but the abbreviated formula for the simultaneous presence of 'existence and non-existence' in the subject, 'pen'. Even admitting that there is no material difference between the successive presentation and the simultaneous presentation of the two attributes in the self-same substratum, the difference in the formal import of the two propositions in not liable to doubt. In the third proposition, the principal predicate is non-existence, and existence is only its adjectival adjunct. In the fourth proposition the predicate consists of both existence and non-existence having co-equal status and prominence. In the latter proposition 'existence' is not a mere appendix to non-existence, which is the case in the third proposition. Thus there is no logical redundancy and this is the logical warrant for their separate assertion.

But this defence of the fourth proposition on grounds of formal logic has not commented itself to all. The difference must be ontological and objective, otherwise the sevenfold predication would be only a matter of subjective necessity, which should not have validity apart from its foundation in objective truth. Moreover, this formal defence would not preclude the admission of two other propositions in addition to the seven. The order of predication may be reversed in the third and seventh propositions, and this should occasion two other propositions, the predicates having different formal import. Thus instead of asserting existence and non-existence in the order noted above, one may assert non-existence first and existence next, e.g., the proposition may be stated as 'The pen does not exist and exists.' Here the element of non-existence is given the formal status of an adjective to 'existence', and, so, it's logical import is different from that of the third. In the seventh proposition the same reversal of the order of the two elements, existence and non-existence, would yield a different formal import. If formal logic were the determinant of the sevenfold predication, the introduction of the two additional propositions resulting from the admitted formal difference of import cannot be debarred by any logic. The difference of the predicates in the third and fourth propositions must be shown to be based upon a material difference, or either of them has to be expunged. Later exponents of the sevenfold dialectic are emphatically of the opinion that the difference is material and objective and not formal or subjective. The third predicate asserts the co-equal primacy of the two predicates taken together and the fourth predicate stands for a new attribute different from both. Let us examine the import of the predicates of the seven propositions seriatim, and the material difference of the attributes will become apparent.

The first predicate 'existence' is true, as the reality of the subject in its own context cannot be denied. The pen is really existent in so far as it is its own self. But this does not give us full insight into the nature of the pen. The pen is pen only because it is not not-pen. It can have a determinate existence only by virtue of its non-existence as anything else than pen. This attribute is asserted in the second proposition. Thus each of the two attributes belongs to the pen. But each by itself does not lay bare the individuality, but the two together do. The compresence of the two, again, does not exhaust the nature of the pen. It is equally a felt fact that the compresence gives rise to a novel attribute, which derives from the two and at the same time is different from both of them. The attribute, engendered by the synthesis of the two attributes, is different inasmuch as it not only contains the two elements but transforms them. The synthesis of the opposite attributes, existence and non-existence, stated in the third proposition, is only a synthesis of togetherness. But the fourth predicate goes further than this togetherness, inasmuch as it asserts an attribute which not only is a compresence of the two, but a novel attribute in which the two attributes are dissolved into one. A concrete example may illustrate the truth of our contention. A beverage is made of several ingredients, sugar, curd, spices, and so on. It is a matter of perception that beverage has a self-identity of its own different from that of the ingredients. The beverage is a unit - an organic whole. Likewise the synthesis of the two attributes, existence and non-existence, gives rise to a novel attribute, which transcends the two and at the same time comprises them as distinct elements in its being. It would be a mistake to suppose that this novel attribute, which cannot be grasped by a definite concept and, so, inexpressible by a definite linguistic symbol, is the exclusive characteristic of a real. That inexpressibility or indefiniteness is a factual characteristic, and that it emerges on the synthesis of the opposites is a truth which cannot be denied without stultifying experience. But this does not mean that the 'indefinite' or the 'inexpressible' (avaktavya) annuls the distinctive individuality of the elemental attributes, existence and non-existence. We must appeal to experience to determine the nature of existents; and, as has been set forth in the first chapter, reliance on abstract logic in this matter is more often than not a source of error and positive misconception. The indefinite or inexpressible is felt together with the definite, existence and non-existence. The pen is indefinite, but is felt as definite qua existent and non-existent at the same time. The fifth proposition asserts the compresence of 'existence' with the indefinite, the sixth affirms the compresence of non-existence, and the seventh completes the modes by affirming the consecutive presence of the two, with the 'indefinite'.

The indefinite or the unspeakable is a characteristic concept of Jaina philosophy. The Vedāntist has proved that the nature of existents, as revealed to empirical knowledge, is a complex indefinite, which cannot be characterized either as real, or unreal, or both, or neither. By reality the Vedāntist understands logical being, which does not admit of lapse or negation in time, space and its uniformity. Phenomenal reals have reality in their own context and are non est outside this context. So, they cannot be regarded as having reality in their own right. In the ultimate analysis, phenomenal objects are unspeakable as real or as unreal, since reality, absolute and unconditioned, is lacking in them. The very fact that they are non-existent elsewhere and else when is proof of their lack of reality in their own nature and right. But they are not unreal fictions, as they are objects of experience while fictions are not. Thus, they are unspeakable and indefinable as real or unreal. The Vedāntist concludes from these premises that the phenomenal objects are the creations of ignorance, cosmic or individual, and are unreal in the absolute sense. The Jaina admits the truth of the premises. But does not think that the Vedāntist conclusion is inevitable. The Jaina does not admit that reality is free from determinations. It is experience alone that can give us insight into the nature of reality, and experience acquaints us with determinate existents. Indeterminate or universal existence is only a matter of abstract thought. It has been said in the beginning of this chapter that the opposition of determinate being with indeterminate being is the starting point of the sevenfold dialectic. It has also been made clear that indeterminate being is only a logical thought and not an ontological fact, and that the relation of opposition does not presuppose the co-ordinate status of the opposites in the ontological order. The Jaina agrees with the Vedāntist that reals are indefinites, but this does not afford a logical warrant according to the Jaina for declaring them to be unreal appearance, engendered by ignorance. It is not untrue because it cannot be expressed by a single positive concept. We have to take it as it is, although it refuses to fit in with the logical apparatus, as employed by traditional philosophy. I take the liberty of quoting the pregnant observations of Prof. K.C. Bhattacharya and present them in spite of their difficulty to the reader without any comments. Prof. Bhattacharya with his microscopic vision has seized hold of the secret of Jaina thought and no better elucidation seems possible. "The determinate existent is... being and negation as distinguishably together, together by what the Jaina calls kramārpaṇa. The given indefinite - the 'unspeakable' or avaktavya as it has been called as distinct from the definite existent, presents something other than consecutive togetherness;[1] it implies sahārpaṇa or co-presentation which amounts to non-distinction or indeterminate distinction of being and negation....It is objective as given, it cannot be said to be not a particular position nor to be non-existent. At the same time it is not the definite distinction of position and existence, it represents a category by itself. The common sense principle implied in its recognition is that what is given cannot be rejected simply because it is inexpressible by a single positive concept. A truth has to be admitted if it cannot be got rid of even if is not understood."[2]

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Published by:
Jain Vishwa Bharati Institute
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General Editor:
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Edited by:
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Anil Dutta Mishra

First Edition:1996
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