Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda ► Non-Absolutism (Anekāntavāda) ► Section III ► Part 1

Posted: 28.03.2012

We have completed the survey for the first two propositions and discussed all the relevant problems in connection therewith. We now propose to survey the remaining propositions. 'The jar exists and does not exist (in their relevant contexts)' is the third proposition. Herein the two attributes, existence and non-existence, are successively predicated of the subject, 'jar'. It has already been established that the two attributes together form a different attribute from each of them and the resulting attribute is not a mere mechanical juxtaposition of two separate attributes, predicated respectively in the first and the second proposition. We shall further discuss and evaluate the objections that have been advanced by the absolutist philosophers against the entire system of predication at the end of the chapter. The import of the predicate and of the subject has been fully discussed and that makes further discussion of the import of the proposition unnecessary. As regards the fourth proposition, the crux of the problem centres upon the predicate 'inexpressible' and we have discussed threadbare all the problems involved in the concept in the preceding chapter. It will be sufficient to observe here that the fourth proposition may be defined as one in which the attribute of inexpressibility is predicated of the subject. But inexpressibility is not the sole and sufficient characteristic. It is only one among many. That it is a different attribute from the predicates of the first, second and third propositions has been fully made out and we do not see anything to add to what has been said already.

The Jaina prefaces all the propositions by the word 'syāt', which indicates that it is only a partial characterization. Our previous investigations have made the task of explaining the remaining propositions rather an easy affair. The fifth proposition asserts the compresence of two attributes, existence and inexpressibility. Both are real and necessary attributes. Existence relates to the subject qua a substance in respect of its internal determinations. The 'inexpressibility' is an attribute which relates to the substance standing in the relation of identity and distinction to its changing modes. The subject, so far as it is identical with and immanent in the changing modes which are continually passing from being into non-being, is certainly not expressible by a word. It is also beyond the realm of logical thought, but is to be apprehended in intuitive experience alone. Logic can show only the possibility of such a concern. The sixth proposition stresses the negative aspect together with the attribute of inexpressibility. Each one of these attributes has been proved to be true of the subject and the compresence of the two is also a matter of fact. The seventh proposition asserts 'existence-cum-non-existence-cum-inexpressibility.' It gives a fuller and more comprehensive picture than the preceding ones, but does not supplant them. The predicated attribute is a synthesis of these attributes, which are separately asserted in three propositions. It has been shown that synthesis is not a mere summation, but entails the emergence of a new attribute different from the three elements. The seventh predicate is thus not a reduplication. It is one and three attributes at the same time. If it were three, it would be superfluous. But the unity is not secured by superseding the elements. The elements are preserved intact with all their individuality and it is through their co-operation that the seventh attribute is evolved into being.

Each of the seven propositions has been examined and none being found to be unnecessary in virtue of the predicates being in each case new and real. The predicates from the third onward are synthetic in character, but their separate individuality has been proved. Each proposition constitutes an estimation of reality, which has been either advocated by the school of philosophers as a matter of historical fact or is capable of being entertained as a possible evaluation. The Sāṅkhya believes in one Prakṛti, the prius of the material world. It is a substance which is undergoing constant change into modes and attributes. But still the plurality constituted by the modes is ignored and the unity is thought to be the sole characteristic. The assertion of the first proposition would explain the Sāṅkhya position. But this is only a partial and incomplete representation of reality.

The Jaina supplements it by the second proposition, and the remaining modes, being consequential, would ipso facto be true. The Buddhist fluxist concentrates his attention on the aspect of change and declares it alone to be the character of reality. The second proposition would represent his position. This is corrected by the introduction of the first. The Sāṅkhya represents one extreme by upholding the unitive character of substance, whereas the Buddhist advocates the other extreme by asserting the plurality constituted by the changing modes to be the sole reality and dismissing the unitive substance behind them. The Jaina asserts the reality of both in one, as each is attested in uncontradicted experience. The Śūnyāvādin finds it impossible to reconcile the unchanging substance with its changing modes and he thinks being and non-being to be mutually contra­dictory. But he does not fail to recognize the factuality of both, though he characterizes it as inexpressible, and inexpressibility or logical indefinability is according to him the proof of the unreality of things. We have found that things are not absolutely inexpressible and how the advocacy of inexpressibility, as the sole and whole character of reality, leads to self-contradiction. Inexpressibility is a real characteristic which is not susceptible of being dismissed as a false appearance, since it is not sublated by a subsequent corrective experience like an error of perception. Nor does the cognition of inexpressibility involve a logical error, as we have shown.

The Vedāntist rightly shows that inexpressibility is invariably associated with the being of a real, but he is convicted of extremism by the Jaina for asserting the element of being as the sole and exclusive character of reality and for construing the element of inexpressibility as proof of the unreality of empirical facts following the lead of the Śūnyāvādin. Jain logic does not endorse this interpretation, since it finds no contradiction in the coincidence of being and non-being. The coincidence of being and non-being in a real is certainly not capable of being grasped by a single-concept or a linguistic symbol; but that is not proof of its unreality, but of the limitation of human language and conceptual thought. The Jaina accepts each one of the conclusions of these philosophers, as representative of a different aspect of reality. He does not repudiate their findings as false, but he insists that the fallacy of these philosophical positions lies in their exclusiveness and extremism. These philosophers taught true doctrines, but they erred by insisting on their discoveries being the exclusive nature of reality. The Jaina profits by their speculations and in his comprehensive philosophy finds room for them all. Each taken by itself is a true evaluation, but inadequate. He charges the philosophers with inadequacy and extremistic outlook, which, he thinks, is due to their preoccupation with their findings and impatience to look at the other side of the shield. The Jaina makes the extremes meet in his system of thought and calls his own philosophy by the name of non-extremism and non-absolutism (anekāntavāda). The non-absolutism of the Jaina is not the result of negation of absolutes and. extremes, but of comprehension of them in a system. 'The empirical reality of the Vedāntist called vyāvahārikasattā is the absolute truth of the Jaina, and the latter refuses to accompany the Vedāntist in his philosophical excursion into the transcendental plane, which the Jaina thinks to be an airy abstraction hypostatized, as it lacks the sanction of experience, which is the only proof of existence.

The theory of sevenfold predication may be regarded as a logical elaboration of the position of the Jaina that each position is concomitant with its negation, or which is the same thing, that position is inconceivable without negation. This logical theory is in its turn derived from Jaina ontology that reality is determinate. We have shown that determinate reality is the focal point in which being and non-being coincide. Absolutism consists in maintaining either being or non-being as absolute truth and in holding that one is in absolute opposition to the other. The Vedāntist and the Śūnyāvādin are paragons of absolutism. The former holds being, absolute and undetermined by non-being, as the whole truth, whereas the Buddhist nihilist accepts non-being as the only truth. The Jaina is non-absolutist in that he accepts both as the true determinations of the real, which is unique and common, particular and universal, positive and negative, rolled into one. But is this non-absolutism absolute and universal? The proof of non-absolutism is the sevenfold predication. Does the sevenfold predication apply to non-absolutism itself? If it does apply, non-absolutism will be concomitant with its opposite, which is the subject-matter of the second predicate. The first proposition will be 'non-absolutism exists' and the second proposition will be 'non-absolutism does not exist.' The negation of non-absolutism is equivalent to the affirmation of absolutism. Thus the universal advocacy of non-absolutism is vitiated by self-contradiction in that it ends in affirming absolutism. Non-absolutism is either absolute or non-absolute. If it is absolute, non-absolutism is not universal, which is the position of the Jaina, since at any rate there is one real which is absolute. If non-absolutism is itself non-absolute, it is not absolute and as such it is not the universal truth. Tossed between the two horns of the dilemma non-absolutism thus simply evaporates. The same result is attained from a further consideration of the implication of the second predication, which has been shown to amount to affirmation of absolutism. This absolutism, being in its turn, non-absolute, would require another absolute as its opposite, and the latter again another and so on to infinity. If sevenfold predication be not applicable to the truth of non-absolutism, the former would not be universal, which is again a contraction of the Jaina position.

The Jaina holds non-absolutism to be the universal truth and as such it is not exempt from application of the sevenfold predication, which is the sole criterion of non-absolutism. The application of the test does not, however, lead of self-contradiction as alleged above. It, has been observed, at the outset of the present chapter, that opposition is a logical relation and it is not necessary that the opposite must be of the same ontological status. It is enough if the other opposite if conceivable. Such being the case, the opposite of the non-absolute is not inaccessible. In point of fact, the absolute is of two types, viz., the true absolute and the false absolute and similarly also, the non-absolute is true and false. The true absolute is one of the infinite attributes that are actually present in a real and is envisaged by cognition as it is without implying the negation of the remaining attributes. Such cognition, which takes stock of one attribute without implying the negation of other attributes that are actually present in it, is called 'partial knowledge' or naya. Naya is not false though it is partial knowledge, provided it takes stock of a real attribute without asserting or implying the negation of other attributes. Such an attribute or such partial cognition is regarded as the 'true absolute' (samyagekānta). But when one attribute is apprehended as constituting the whole nature of the real and thus implies the negation of other attributes which are really present, such attribute and such cognition are example of 'the false absolute' (mithyaikānta). Thus there are two types of partial knowledge - one true and the other false. The true nature of a real as consisting of an infinite plurality of attributes is, however, apprehended by a valid knowledge which is called pramāṇa. Such valid knowledge, which takes stock of the several attributes, existence and non-existence also, which are the real properties of the real, is the 'true non-absolute.' The false non-absolute is illustrated by that kind of knowledge, which takes stock of attributes, which are not really present in the object. It is non-absolute in the sense that it does not affirm one attribute only as constitutive of the whole nature of the real, implying the negation of the other attributes. It is the opposite of absolutism, which consists in the affirmation of one attribute to the exclusion of others. But it is false in that the attributes in question are unreal. So the non-absolute also admits of two varieties - one false and the other true.

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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
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