Microcosmology: Atom In Jain Philosophy & Modern Science: [3.1.7] A Critique - Metaphysical View: Non-Absolutism - Law Of Anekanta - F) Jain View Compared With Western Philosophers' And Scientists' View

Published: 17.02.2008
Updated: 13.08.2008

Jain View Compared With Western Philosophers' And Scientists' View

In the previous chapter, we have seen that matter (called pudgalastikaya by the Jains) is the only substance, which can be the object of sensuous cognition. At the same time, we have seen that paramanu, the ultimate atom of pudgala and some kinds of material aggregates, cannot be perceived by sense-organs. Nevertheless, all modifications of pudgala - be it a single free ultimate atom (paramanu) or an aggregate composed of infinite number of paramanus - do possess the four qualities of touch, taste, smell and colour. These qualities are also real and their existence does not depend upon the percipient. Besides these four innate qualities, pudgala possesses innumerable other qualities which are all subject to incessant series of modes.

With these views, it is obvious that Jains will refute all types of philosophical idealism - subjectivism and solipsism. Being non-absolutists, however, Jains will almost always find points of agreement in the views of most schools of thought. We shall, therefore, compare Jain views with those of a few Western philosophers and scientists with particular reference to the existence of physical reality.

According to Sir Arthur Eddington, an eminent physicist, who calls his philosophy 'selective subjectivism', though the material world does exist objectively, it does not appear in our experience or observational knowledge. Thus, although he accepts the objective existence of matter in the realm of metaphysics, he denies such status to it in the realm of epistemology because he does not accept that sensory qualities exist objectively in matter.

This is in opposition to the Jain view. Jains' argument in rebuttal to Eddington's view is: if it is the consciousness that creates sensory qualities and if the matter itself is devoid of these qualities, how can a single object be perceived identically by different percipients with normal sensory equipments?

0f    Sir James Jeans, another eminent physicist, is also supporter of philosophical idealism. According to him, "The objective and material universe consist of little more than 'construct' of our own minds. The universe is created by a pure mathematician who does not concern himself with material substance but with pure thought. His creations are not only created by thought but consist of thought. In his views both subjective and objective fall within what is inside our minds".

Jeans has accepted the reality of mind (psyche) which, according to him, is a non-physical reality. The Jain philosophy also, asserts that soul is a non-physical reality. Thus 'mind' of Jeans and 'soul' of the Jains being non-physical in nature, describe the same reality.

Jeans talks of "Universal Mind' and 'Individual Minds'. The Universal Mind, according to him, is the creator and governor of the realm of matter as well as the individual minds. He believes that atoms out of which our individual minds have grown exist as thought in the Universal Mind.

The Jain view does not accept the existence of any such Universal Mind of which the individual minds are units of excrescences. According to the Jain view, all the souls are independent individual entities having real objective existence. Jeans has not given any reason for his belief, which is akin to the pantheistic view.

Now, as we have already seen, the Jain view concedes that the sensory knowledge of the phenomena of the universe may not be wholly objective, but it does not conform with Jeans' views in considering the phenomena of the universe as wholly subjective.

According to Jeans, the objective reality of the real essence of substance is beyond our knowledge. He, thus, seems to accept Kant's transcendentalism in which the thing-in-itself is considered to be transcendental. The Jain philosophy also declares that the ultimate essence of substances cannot be comprehended through the sensory knowledge and hence, at least in this respect, Jeans' view is consistent with the Jain view.

Lastly, we shall discuss the concept of substantiality. Jeans defines 'substantiality' as a 'purely mental concept measuring direct effect of objects on our sense of touch.' Now. If it is so, i.e., if substantiality is not inherent in the substances, how do the objects (or substances) exist without substantiality?' Also Jeans' discussion of the degrees of substantiality is not only equivocal but almost absurd. On the other hand, the Jain philosophy furnishes us with the crystal clear definitions of the terms substance, substantially, etc., and proves objectiveness of substantiality on logical and empirical grounds. Substantiality as a purely mental concept is definitely not acceptable to the Jain philosophy. Thus both views vehemently differ from each other on this point.

On the other hand, the eminent philosopher-scientist Sir Albert Einstein asserted the reality of atom and the objective existence of the external world. According to him, "Planck's determination of the true size from the law of radiation (for high temperatures) convinced us of the reality of atom.”[Albert Einstein: Philosopher-Scientist, p 103].

The dialectical materialism supports and corroborates the realist view saying 'the concept of matter epistemologically implies nothing but objective reality existing independently of the human mind... Electrons, ether, etc., exist as objective realities, just as nature existed prior to man and organic matter... The absence of any other kind of mass in the electron except electromagnetic mass... corroborates the objective existence of matter. The electron is to the atom as a full stop is to the size of a building 200 ft. long, 100 ft. broad and 50 ft. high; it moves with a velocity as high as 2,70,000 km per second, its mass is a function of its velocity, it makes 500 trillion revolutions in a second. Human reason has discovered...will discover still more.... But this does not mean that nature is the creation of our mind or of an abstract mind, i.e. of Ward's God."[Materialism and Empirio-criticism, pp. 184-85]

It should not be assumed that all realist views are acceptable to Jains.

The materialists and the Jains - both agree in accepting the objective realism as well as the sensible qualities of matter. Matter is a philosophical category designating the objective reality which is given to man by his sensations, and which is copied, photographed and reflected by our sensations, while existing independently of them." This definition of matter given by the materialists comes very close to the Jain definition of pudgala viz., pudgala is that which possesses in itself the qualities of touch, taste, colour and odour. Even though the Jain philosophy denies the possibility of direct perception of the ultimate atom (paramanu) of matter through sensory means, it accepts the quality of 'murtatva' being objectively existent even in paramanus. Also both recognise matter as an objective reality. In the words of Lenin "the sole property of matter with whose recognition philosophical material is bound up is the property of being an objective reality, of existing outside our mind."

The fundamental difference between the two views is regarding the ultimate reality of consciousness. According to the Jain view, physical order of existence (ajiva) and psychical order of existence (jiva) are entirely different substances. Consciousness is the characteristic of jiva (psyche), and, therefore, ajiva is devoid of consciousness. Only jiva is capable of a cognitive experience. Besides passions, emotions, sensation of pleasure or pain, memory, experience, etc., are various manifestations of consciousness alone. Matter is devoid of consciousness and is therefore ajiva. Mutual transformation within the two orders of existence is, according to Jains, absolutely impossible. Matter, being entirely devoid of consciousness cannot under any conditions, be transformed into jiva. The Greek atomists believed that psychical order was created and composed of certain types of atoms (spherical, dynamic and smooth). Dialectical materialism does not accept the separate existence of psychical order at all. According to it, the entire existence is transformation of matter. The scientists views are divided on the subject. Some of them agree with the views of the dialectical materialism.

  • Jain Vishva Barati Institute, Ladnun, India
  • Edited by Muni Mahendra Kumar
  • 3rd Edition 1995

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  1. Ajiva
  2. Albert Einstein
  3. Consciousness
  4. Eddington
  5. Einstein
  6. Ether
  7. Jain Philosophy
  8. Jiva
  9. Paramanu
  10. Paramanus
  11. Pudgala
  12. Pudgalastikaya
  13. Sir James Jeans
  14. Soul
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