Applied Philosophy Of Anekanta ► 4. Anekānta in the Philosophy of the West ► 4.7 Overlapping Between Anekānta Philosophy and Western Continental Philosophers’ Perspective ► 4.7.2 Overlapping Between Jain View of Anekānta and Wittgensteinean Philosophical View

Posted: 29.05.2014

The doctrine of anekānta also serves as a beacon in studying the epistemological problem of the meaning. The Jain logicians, rhetoricians, grammarians and philosophers have dealt with different aspects of meaning, right from the early centuries of Christian era. For example, in the field of epistemology, the theories of nayavāda, syādvād, nikṣepavād and so forth deal with the problem of meaning thoroughly. The terms śabdanaya and arthanaya are indicative of the linguistic views of the Jains reflected in epistemology.[1] Here it is relevant to have a brief introduction of the fundamental concepts of śabda naya, nikṣepa, successively and its basic differences.

Śabda Naya

The word is a powerful medium of our daily life, social and intellectual, which was invested with the power of expressing meaning (idea or thing) by man himself. The word has also an intrinsic power of expression of its own. It travels from the mouth of the speaker to the ears of the listeners to reveal its meaning. Such revelation of expression is possible also by physical gestures. But the clarity of words is not possible in those gestures or other kinds of symbols, which also suffer from the difficulty of transmission and communication. This is why, the language is requestioned for conveying meanings. Our ideas arise from language, and language in its turn makes those ideas expressible. This is indeed the reason why the verbal viewpoint, which is mainly concerned with the philosophy of word, meaning and propositions, occupies an important position in the doctrine of naya-s.


The method of nikṣepa was developed in the āgamic period itself. In the speculative period and also in the period of logical development, this method continued to flourish. While rhetorics gave the method of determining the particular meaning of a multi-sensed word, it is only the commentaries on the Jaina āgamas, which gave the method of determining the intended meaning of a unisensed word. This method is useful not only for the treatises on logic, but for the analytic approach.This method has a universal utility in that, it is a valuable instrument for defining the intended meaning and purpose of any systematic treatise on any subject.[3] There is no prescribed limit of exposition through nikṣepa

The nikṣepa, in fact is the selection of a particular meaning from among the meanings of a word.[2]The scope of such classification of imports is co-extensive with the range of meanings, that a word is capable of expressing. The minimum types of such classification are four,an object must have some name and also some shape; it had also modes that are past, as well as the modes that are to come along with the modes that it has at present. This is how the four basic nikṣepa-snaturally follow:

    1. A name (nāma-nikṣepa) or a demonstrative symbol.
    2. Form (sthāpanā-nikṣepa), an image of an entityl.
    3. Substance (dravya-nikṣepa), past or future modes of the material cause.
    4. Essence (bhāva-nikṣepa), the present mode constituting the essence of the thing.

Ācārya Jinabhadragani Kṣamāśramana’s exposition of nikṣepa is quite different. According to him,the nāma-nikṣepa consists in nomenclature of a thing, while its shape, material cause and the effect are respectively the sthāpanā, dravya and bhāva-nikṣepa.[4]

Naya and Nikṣepa  (Viewpoint and the Classification of Imports)

A viewpoint has reference to the object, the knowledge or the verbal symbol, the nikṣepa has also a similar reference.[5] The naya is knowledge, whereas the nikṣepa is the practical application or usage. The naya and nikṣepa are mutually related as theory and its practical application.[6]When a single word denotes the name, form and the different modes of an object, the question of the intended and unintended denotatum comes up. The word ‘Dean’ may mean the picture of a Dean or the Dean  as a living human being. The dead body of a Dean is also denoted by the word ‘Dean’. The nikṣepa, in fact is the selection of a particular meaning from among the meanings of a word.[7]

Language Game and Forms of Life

Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951) emphasized creating an ideal language for philosophical analysis, which would be free from the ambiguities of ordinary language.This philosophical trend can be called "ideal-language analysis". During this phase, Russell and Wittgenstein sought to understand language, by using formal logic. Ludwig Wittgenstein developed a comprehensive system of logical atomism in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Here he stresses upon the meaning of any word and he talks of logical and elementary propositions and picture theory. He thereby argues that the world is the totality of actual states of affairs and that these states of affairs can be expressed by the language of first-order predicate logic. So a picture of the world can be made by expressing atomic facts as atomic propositions, and linking them using logical operators.

After completion of this book, he was convinced that his doctrines were certainly true and that the major problems of philosophy had been finally solved,at least in principle and he deviated from the ordinary usage of words and coined personal terms and got in to trouble. He said, the world is made up of atomic facts;atomic facts are facts which cannot be analysed into more elemental facts.[8] Here he concentrates on what Frege called ‘reference’.

Frege says, meaning of a word  is two, but the referent is one. The referent is also a word, it contains both the meanings. The same word holds two meanings within itself. The ‘venus star’ is a word, which contain non-equivalent equalities. It contains both the meanings viz. morning and evening star. Frege says that they are not equivalent, but they were resident as meaning in the same word ‘venus’.Likewise let us take an illustration of a gaskette, there are many varieties of gaskettes in the market, namely automobile, plumbing, pressure cooker gaskette, etc., so salesman seldom gets confused with the same word denoting different meanings. In such cases a man can understand the meaning of the particular word having varied implications on the basis of the context and on the basis of the intention of the speaker.

Later Wittgenstein changes his view and states that there is not any  ‘the meaning’ as such, it changes according to the context and the Form of life. Wittgenstein in his text, ‘Philosophical Investigations’ says that words do not have round meaning as we find them in use in ordinary language. According to him, language is like a game. It is an activity which uses words as tools.Words are not labels for things. A game is not a game unless played. A language is not a language unless used. Meanings of words are determined by the game we play, by the way we use it for some purpose.

Wittgenstein uses the metaphor of playing chess to explain the language game. His first employment of a game appears in a conversation at Schlick’s house in June, 1930 in a discussion of formalism on mathematics. Here, he first compares language with playing a game like chess. According to him, the difference between the game of chess and the syntax of a language is, “solely in their application”. In his ‘Philosophical Investigations’,he rightly quotes, ‘the meaning of word is its use in the language.[9] That is the meanings of the word is determined by the way we make use of it. In order to show that sentences in a language, have various functions to perform, he gives examples of language games: the expression of sensation (PI-288), the reporting of past wishes (PI-654), the description of physical objects and description of sense-impression (PI-180), ostensive definition (PI-27) and so forth.

According to Wittgenstein, language is an ever changing process, for every moment it accepts new words, new sentences and new rules. He gives some analogies of language as a game. First of all, he compares with tool kits in a tool box. He says, think of the tools in a tool box: there are hammer, pliers, a saw, a screw-driver, a ruler, a glue pot, nails etc.. The functions of words are as diverse as the function of these objects.[10] Actually, he wants to say that, various types of language games are but, the various types of uses of words. This view can be compared with the evambhuta naya[11] and bhāva nikṣepa[12] as it also deals with the functional action of the words. According to the evambhuta naya, any word is meaningful only from view point of its pragmatic use. For instance, the word purandara should be, according to this evambhuta naya, designated as such only, when he is actually engaged in the act of destroying his enemies. Similarly the designation śakra is appropriate only, when he is actually manifesting his prowess.[13]

Another important contribution of Later Wittgenstein is the notion of ‘Form of Life’, established in the later phase of his life. In Philosophical Investigations, he says, ‘to imagine a language is to imagine a Form of Life’.[14] But this does not mean that, a Form of Life’is a language or a language is a Form of Life’. What does follow is that, there is some logical or conceptual connection between these two notions. Actually the Form of Life draws attention to pre-linguistic behavior, which is an essential presupposition of any language. He concluded, that to know words, sentences, or their combinatorial rules is not enough to understand any language, but the Form of life (the environment) in which any person is brought up is also essential for commonsense understanding and for successful communication. Only then, can the correct language game be played and day to day transactions be carried on successfully. This view of Form of life can be compared with the Jain view of understanding of meaning of the word from four dimensional perspectives of substance, place, time and modes.  Jains believe that there are also other determinants of existence and non-existence, viz., substance (dravya), location (kśetra), time (kāla), and modes (bhāva).[15] One perspective alone will not do. As every individual is born in a different place, a different time and in a different environment, to understand him/her and to communicate with, we need to look into their Form of life for successful communication and for functional operation. For example, the word ‘knight’ means one like Sir Gallahad,when we are reading King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table. It refers to P.F. Strawson when we speak of his being knighted by the Queen in recognition not of valour but his erudition. It means a piece on a board of chess, the replica of a horse, with its peculiar moment on the board.[16] Every word gives meaning only in the context. But we don’t understand it and miscommunication and conflict between two or more views occurs.

By the theory of Language Game Wittgenstein has given a powerful blow to the traditional view of essentialism. The Essentialists emphasize that every word has a fixed meaning. But, Wittgenstein shows that, meaning of every word is conventional, it might change from time to time according to the different context. For example, the word ‘saindhava’ has two meanings ‘horse’ and ‘salt’.[17] But if a person is asked to bring saindhava, when a soldier is ready to go for war, and a particular person brings salt at that time or when ‘saindhava’ is asked during lunch and a particular person brings the horse this is not contextual. The word vaitarṇi is a name of river which is considered as sacred in the Hindu tradition, whereas in Jain tradition vaitarṇi river is considered as the river which flows in hell. Thus the four-fold perspective of Jainism, can be compared with the Wittgensteinean view of form of life. In this regard, Wittgenstein speaks in tune with the Jain perspective of Syādvāda and parallaly to the perspective of Derridean Deconstruction. Thus he tries to establish a living language-related to the respective Forms of life. It is one of his most remarkable contribution in the field of Language Philosophy.

In sum and substance,it is clear that Wittgenstein view runs in parallel with the Jain view. Like the manifold, indeterminate and relative reality, its knowledge as well as verbal expression is also manifold, indeterminate and relative. It is for our practical purpose only, that we fix the meaning of a particular word or a sentence according to the context, the intention to the speaker, the general purpose and so on. However, meaning is as in-exhaustive as Reality itself.[18]

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