Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda ► Syādvāda And Relativity ► Section II

Posted: 20.06.2012

Prof. Albert Einstein makes use of illustrations. Let us refer to the event which, we say, is taking place today or just now or again that two events are simultaneous. "In pre-relativistic physics, time and space were separate entities. Specifications of time were independent of the choice of the space of reference. The Newtonian mechanics was relative with respect to the space of reference, so that, e.g. the statement that two non-simultaneous events happened at the same place had no objective meaning (that is, independent of space reference). But the relativity had no role in building up the theory. One spoke of points of space, as of instants of time, as if they were absolute realities. It was not observed that the true element of the space-time specification was the event specified by the four numbers X1, X1, X3, t. The conception of same thing happening was always that of a four-dimensional continuum but the recognition of this was obscured by the absolute character of the pre-relativity time. Upon giving up the hypothesis of the character of time, particularly that of simultaneity, the four dimensionality of the time-space concept was immediately recognised."[1] In other words, in old fashioned physics, the event or events were defined in the three dimensional Euclidean continuum, i.e. were determined by assigning three co-ordinates. It is necessary to understand the meaning of the word 'continuum' in order to grasp properly Einstein's picture of the Universe as a four dimensional space-time continuum. A continuum is something that is continuous. A ruler which is divided into inches and fractions scaled down to 1/16 of an inch is a one-dimensional space continuum. Theoretically, the interval separating any two points may still be further divided into an infinite number of arbitrarily small steps. We can take the surface of the sea as the illustration of a two-dimensional continuum. Latitude and longitude are the co-ordinate points which a sailor has to take into consideration to fix his position in his two-dimensional continuum, but an air- plane pilot to guide his plane successfully has to take into consideration his height above the ground besides longitude and latitude. The continuum of an air-plane pilot constitutes space as perceived by us, i.e., the space of our world is a three-dimensional continuum. In order to describe any physical event involving motion, we have not only to indicate its position in space but also to state how position changes in time. The flight of an air-plane can be pictured in a four-dimensional space-time continuum. So time is the fourth dimension. In any objective description of the universe the time dimension can no more be detached from the space dimension, though in our minds we tend to separate these dimensions the separation is purely subjective. The world is space-time continuum. All measurements of time - seconds, minutes, hours, days, etc. - are really measurements in space relative to the sun, moon and stars; and conversely measurements in space - latitude, longitude are dependent on measurements of time.

What Einstein emphasises is that there is neither absolute (independent of space of reference) relation in space, nor absolute relation in time between two events, but there is absolute (independent of the space of reference) relation in space-time. Considered from this four-dimensional space-time-continuum we must regard X1, X1, X3, t as the four coordinates of an event in the four-dimensional continuum. To understand that the event which we say, is taking place just now, may not be so in different system; or again the two simultaneous occurrences of one and the same system may not be so in different systems, we should turn to the modern science of Astronomy. According to it, light travelling at the rate of 186, 284 miles (186 usually taken for convenience sake) a second, takes about 8 minutes to come to earth from the Sun but requires about 4.5 hours to travel from the sun to the Neptune as the distance from the Sun to the Earth is less than that from the Sun to the Neptune. The Sun and its eight planets and many asteroids and comets constitute our solar system, being a little colony amidst the immensely larger group of stars which we call 'Universe' and which the Astronomers refer to us the galaxy or the Gallic system. The distance of the Sun from the Earth is nearly 93000000 miles, and of stars from 4 light years to millions or even hundred and fifty millions of light years.[2] Thus our Earth is relatively near the Sun, and that is why the same event or the simultaneous events of the one system might seem to be occurring at different times in different nebulae. Thus the difference of views would be relative to the observer; and at the best, knowledge thus derived is only relative.

Saptabhaṅgī or the Doctrine of Seven Modes of forms occupies a very prominent place in Jaina logic. It means "a statement in seven different ways (Saptabhiḥ Prakāraiḥ) of affirmation and negation with the use of the word Syāt (Syāchchabdalāñchitaḥ), singly or jointly (Pṛthagbhutayoḥ Samuditayośca) without inconsistency such as that arising from conflict with Pratyakṣa as the result of inquiring (Praśnavaśāt), about each of the different predicates (Dharma of a thing such as Satva (existence), etc."[3]

In other words, it is the use in seven different ways of judgements by which the different aspects of a thing can be affirmed and negated, severally and jointly, without self-contradiction. It explains every object or its attributes with reference to Svadravyakṣetrakālarūpa (own matter, place, time and form). Let us take a pot (ghaṭa) for example. A ghaṭa exists or is sat (real) with reference to its sva (own) dravyakṣetrakālarūpa; but does not exist or is asat (unreal) with reference to para (alien) dravyakṣetrakālarūpa. These 'is' and 'is not' (Asti and nāsti) are relative; and it is from these two main that the remaining five, viz., syādasti nāsti syādavaktavya, syād nāsti avaktavya and syād asti nāsti avaktavya (relatively is and is not; relatively indescribable, relatively exists and unpredictable, relatively is not and indescribable and relatively is, is not and is indescribable) are derived.

"This doctrine," says Dr. Radhakhshnan, "insists on the correlativity of affirmation and negation. All judgements are double-edged in their character. All things are existent as well as non-existent (sadasadcitmakam). A thing is what it is and is not, what it is not… A thing which has nothing from which it can be distinguished is unthinkable. The absolute, devoid of distinc­tions within as well as without is truly unthinkable. For all things which are objects of thought 'are' in one sense and 'are not' in another."[4]

The critics point out that it is impossible for the contradictory attributes to co-exist in one and the same thing. Rāmānuja writes, "Contradictory attributes such non-existence cannot at the same time belong to one thing, any more than light and darkness."[5] It is time that a thing cannot have self-contradictory attributes at the same time and in the same sense but the Jains point out that the reality is complex and possesses innumerable attributes or aspects and so various judgements are true with regard to different view-points. Dr. Bhandarkara[6] writes, "Being is not simple as Advaitins assert but complex and any statement about it is only part of the truth… what is meant by these seven modes is that a thing should not be considered as existing elsewhere, at all times, in all ways, and in the form of everything. It may exist in one place and not in another and at one time and not at another". So it becomes clear that it is not 'Wanton indulgence in meaningless self-contradiction,' 'Wanton paradox or a purposeless pun'.

It is sometimes branded as scepticism. Is it then expression of doubt or a mode of scepticism? We must say at the outset that the charge is altogether unfounded due to the fact that there is no uncertainty whatsoever and that the various judgements are the result of the innumerable characters that the thing possesses. Each assertion is quite distinct and certain. Let us consider what Hegel and Bradley have to say in a similar context. Hegel says, "Reality is now this, now that; in this sense it is full of negations, contradictories and oppositions: the plant germinates, blooms, withers and dies; man is young, mature and old. To do a thing justice, we must tell the whole truth about it, predicate each of its contradictories and show how they are reconciled and preserved in the articulated whole which we call life of the thing."[7] F.H. Bradley writes, "Everything is essential, and yet one thing is worthless in comparison with other..." "Nowhere," he continues, "is there even a single fact so fragmentary and so poor that to the universe it does not matter. There is truth in every idea however false, there is reality in every existence however slight..."[8]

According to Joachim, there is no judgement true in itself and by itself. "Every judgement," says he, "as a piece of concrete thinking, is informed, conditioned and to some extent constituted by the apprecipient character of the mind…"[9] He illustrates this point thus, "To the boy, who is learning the multiplication table, 32=9 possesses probably a minimum of meaning. But to the arithmetician 32=9 is perhaps a shorthand symbol for the whole science of Arithmetic as known at the time."[10] Edmund Holms (In the Quest of Ideal) says: "Let us take the antithesis of the swift and the slow. It would be non-sense to say that every movement is either swift or slow. It would be nearer the truth to say that every movement is both, swift and slow, swift by comparison with what is slower than itself, slow by comparison with what is swifter than itself." (p. 21).

Sir Arthur Eddington Speaking about the relativity of distance says, "A distance as reckoned by an observer on one star is as good as the distance reckoned by an observer on the other star. We must note them to agree; the one is a distance relative to one frame, the other is a distance relative to another frame. Absolute distance, not relative to some special frame is meaningless." He says further, "A more familiar example of a relative quantity is 'direction' of an object. There is a direction of Cambridge relative to Edinburgh and another direction relative to London and so on. It never occurs to us to think of this as a discrepancy, or to suppose that there must be some direction of Cambridge (at present undiscoverable) which is absolute."[11] We shall cite one more example from Eddington, "You receive a balance-sheet from a public company and observe that the assets amount to such and such a figure. Is this true? Certainly; it is certified by a chartered accountant. But is it really true? Many questions arise, the real values of items are often very different from those which figure in the balance-sheet. I am not especially referring to fraudulent companies. There is a blessed phrase 'hidden reserves' and generally speaking the more respectable the company the more widely owes its balance-sheet deviate from reality."[12]

Footnotes:
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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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