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The Enigma Of The Universe : 2. Philosophy of B. Russell & Jain View

Published: 01.01.2015
Updated: 13.01.2015

Bertrand Russell, as we have seen, has advocated realism which we may call "pluralistic realism". As the monists consider the universe to comprise only one reality and the dualists consider it to comprise of two fundamental realities, the pluralist realists hold that the universe comprises many realities.

The Jain philosophy believes that there are six fundamental substances-dharmāstikāya (medium of motion), adharmāstikāya (medium of rest), ākāśāstikāya (space), kāla (time), pudgalāstikāya (physical order of existence or matter) and Jīvāstikāya (psychical order of existence or soul) in the universe.

Thus, the philosophy of Rusell and the Jain view are very close to each other, as both consider matter, soul etc. to have "real objective existence". Although, there is difference in the nature of reality and the number of real substances, there is agreement as far as the basic concept of pluralistic realism in concerned.

As we have already seen, in Russell's view, "Events" are the fundamental realities which are neither physical nor psychical, but neutral. Thus, Russell believes in neutral nature of reality.

Again, as we have seen, Russell has accepted the objective reality of matter, and refuted the idealistic view which considers the matter as only subjective. He has strongly criticized the idealism of Berkeley and Hume, of course, basing his argument on logical grounds. On epistemological basis, Russell's has given birth to an altogether independent type of realism, which definitely consider the object (a kind of 'event') to have a real existence, quite independent of the percipient (which is also an event different from the former). In this sense, there is similarity in views of both-Jainism and Russell's philosophy, as both consider 'the knower' and 'the known' to have dependent existence.

We get a clear picture of Russell's view in his own words thus:

"If this is correct, what really happens when, as common sense would say, we are conscious of a table is more or less as follows. First there is a physical process external to the body, producing a stimulus to the eye which occurs rarely (not never) in the absence of an actual physical table. Then there is a process in the eye, nerves, and brain, and finally there is a coloured pattern. This coloured pattern by the law of association, gives us its tactual and other expectations and images, also, perhaps, to memories and other habits. But everything in this whole series consists of a causally continuous chain of "events" in space-time, and we have no reason to assert that the "events"  in us are so very different from the events outside us as to this, we must remain ignorant, since the outside events are only known as to their abstract mathematical characteristics, which do not show whether these "events" are like "thoughts" or unlike them."

It follows that "consciousness" cannot be defined either as a peculiar kind of relation or as an intrinsic character belonging to certain events and not to others. "Mental" events are not essentially relational, and we do not know enough of the intrinsic character of events outside us to say either it does or does not differ from that of 'mental' events. But what makes us believe a certain class of events 'mental' and distinguish them from other events is the combination of sensitivity with associative reproduction. The more markedly this combination exists, the more 'mental' are the events concerned; thus mentality is a matter of degree."[1]

 Russell has also accepted the existence of the consciousness as independent of matter. He has refuted materialism as strongly as he has refuted idealism. In this respect also, both-Jainism and Russell's come close to each other.

But, further, when we compare both views, we find a fundamental difference in them. Whereas Jainism propounds that pudgalāstikāya and Jīvāstikāya-matter and consciousness- are the two fundamental substances (realities), Russell believes that events are the fundamental realities which are ultimately neutral. Thus, we can say that in Jain view, the objects of the external world are either pudgala or jīva, in Russell's view they are neither pudgala nor jīva, but neutral events.

Now, on the basis of the discussion we have already made about Russell's theory of 'events' (see supra, pp. 22,23), let us compare it with the Jain theory of "dravya-guṇa-paryāya-vāda" (i.e., theory of substance-quality-mode). In Russell's theory, events are related differently with the other events. Some events are 'material', whereas some are 'mental'. The former are the cause of our sensations, the latter are the events in a region combining sensitivity and the law of learned reaction to a marked extent or events in a living brain. The mutual relations of the material events are quite different from those of the mental events, although the nature of events in both is the same.[2]

In Jain view, every dravya (substance) is a substratum of guṇa (qualities) and paryāyas (modes).[3] The guṇa is defined as the concomitant characteristic (attribute)[4], while the paryāya i.e., mode is defined as "the forfeiture of the precedent state and appropriation of the succeeding state."[5] The paryāya may subsist in the substance or the quality.[6] For example, the transition of the soul from a human state to another life-form (say, a sub-human) is the mode of the soul-substance. Similarly, the change of matter (pudgala) is illustrated by formation of skandha (aggregates of atoms) and so on. The modes of qualities are illustrated by the modification of the consciousness and intuition (in the soul-substance) and the newness and oldness of colour etc. (in the pudgala). The number of modes in each substance is infinite, on account of the infiniteness of the preceding and succeeding states of the substance and quality.

All the substances-dharmāstikāya, adharmāstikāya, ākāśāstikāya, kāla, pudgalāstikāya and Jīvāstikāya-undergo continuous change every instant (samaya). It means, every samaya, the paryāya of the substance change-new paryāya is created and the existing one ceases.

When we compare the concept of paryāya in Jain view with that of 'event' in Russell's view, there is striking similarity in both. Russell holds that the substance-whether mind or matter-is a structure composed of a more primitive stuff called event; Jains believe that a substance-whether pudgala or soul or dharmāstikāya etc.-is a substratum of a continuous flow of paryāyas (modes). The events of Russell are all dynamic and related with each other (i.e., the preceding event is related with the succeeding one); in the same way, paryāyas are all continuously changing-flowing and also are related with each other. Both 'events' and paryāyas are not beyond our experience.

Again, Russell divides the events into "mental events" and "material events"; Jains also classify paryāyas as paryāyas of soul, paryāyas of pudgala and so on. In the views of both-Russell and Jains-events and paryāyas of different substances are different. The relations of the material events are different from those of the mental events; in the same way the relations of the paryāyas of pudgala are different from those of the paryāyas of the soul.

But there is a basic difference in both views-whereas Russell considers every 'event' as an independent reality in itself, which is neither matter nor mind, but neutral,[7] the Jain view does not consider 'paryāya' (mode) as an independent reality or substance; it is only an attribute of substance. The paryāya of pudgala (matter) is material and that of the soul is psychical. There cannot be any neutral paryāya.

Russell's "Neutral Monism' has been explained by A. C. Grayling in his book "Russell-a very short Introduction". Greyling, presenting the source of Russell's 'Neutral Monism' writes:

"All these difficulties can be avoided, Russell claims, if we adopt a version of William James's 'neutral monist' theory."[8]

Further, Greyling refers to William James by presenting his argument thus: "James argued that the single kind of metaphysically ultimate raw material is arranged in different patterns by its interrelations, some of which we call 'mental' and some 'physical'. James said his view was prompted by dissatisfaction with theories of consciousness, which is merely the wispy inheritor of old-fashioned talk about 'souls'. He agreed that thought exist; what he denied is that they are entities. They are, instead, functions: there is 'no aboriginal stuff or quality of being, contrasted with that of which material object are made, out of which our thoughts of them are made; but there is a function in experience which thoughts perform, and for the performance of which this quality of being is invoked. That function is knowing' (James, Essays in Radical Empiricism, 3-4).

 "In James's view the single kind of 'primal stuff', as he called it, is 'pure experience'. Knowing is a relation into which different portions of primal stuff can enter; the relation itself is as much part of pure experience as its relata."[9]

 At last, Greyling writes: "Russell could not accept quite all of this view. He thought that James's use of the phrase 'pure experience' showed a lingering influence of idealism, and rejected it, he preferred the use made by others of the term 'neutral stuff', a nomenclatural move of importance because whatever the primal stuff is, it has to be able-when differently arranged-to give rise to what could not appropriately be called 'experience', for example stars and stones. But even with this modified view Russell only partially agreed. It is right to reject the idea of consciousness as an entity, he said, and it is partly but not wholly right to consider both mind and matter as composed of neutral stuff which in isolation is neither; especially in regard to sensations-an important point for Russell, with his overriding objective of marrying physics and perception. But he insisted that certain things belong only to the mental world (image and feelings) and others only to the physical world (everything which cannot be described as experience). What distinguishes them is the kind of causality that governs them; there are two different kinds of causal law, one applicable only to psychological phenomenon, the other only to physical phenomena. Hume's law of association exemplifies the first kind, the law of gravity the second. Sensation obeys both kinds, and is therefore truly neutral."[10]

"Before accepting neutral monism Russell had objected to it on a number of grounds, on being that it could not properly account for belief. And as noted, even when he adopted the theory he did so in a qualified from; minds and matter overlap on common ground, but each has irreducible aspects. Nevertheless what at last persuaded him was the fact, as it seemed to him, that psychology and physics had come very close; the new physics both the atom and of relativistic space time had effectively dematerialized matter, and psychology, especially in the form of behaviorism, had effectively materialized mind. From the internal viewpoint of introspection, mental reality is composed of sensations and images. From the external viewpoint of observation, material things are composed of sensations and sensibilia. A more or less unified theory therefore seems possible by treating the fundamental difference as one of arrangement; a mind is a construction formed of materials organised in one way, a brain more or less the same materials organized in another."[11]

Then, Greyling criticizes Russell; he writes: "A striking feature of this view is, surprisingly, how idealist it is. Russell had, as noted, charged James with residual idealism. But here he is arguing something hardly distinguishable: that minds are composed of sensed percepts-namely, sensations and images-and matter is a logical fiction constructed of unsensed percepts. Now Russell had often insisted (using his earlier terminology) that sense-data and sensibilia are 'physical entities,' in somewhat the sense in which, if one were talking about item of sensory information in a nervous system, that datum would be present as impulses in a nerve or activity in a brain. But then nerves and brains, as objects of physical theory, are themselves to be understood as construction from sensations and sensibilia, not as traditionally understood 'material substance', a concept which physics has shown to be untenable. At the end of The Analysis of Mind, Allen & Unwin, 1921, Russell accordingly says that "an ultimate scientific account of what goes on in the world, if it were ascertainable, would resemble psychology rather than physics..... [Because] psychology is nearer to what exists' (The Analysis of Mind, 305, 308). This explains Russell's notorious claim that 'brains consist of thoughts' and that when a physiologist looks at another person's brain, what he 'sees' is a portion of his own brain (Schilpp, Philosophy of Bertrand Russell, 705).

"For robust versions of materialism this aspect of Russell's view is hard to accept. But it is not the only difficulty with his version of neutral monism. Not least is the fact that he failed in his main aim, which was to refute the view, that consciousness is essential to the distinction between mental and physical phenomena. He had not of course attempted to analyse consciousness quite away; his aim was rather to reduce its importance for the mind-matter question. But images, feelings, and sensations, which play so central a role in his theory, stubbornly remain conscious phenomena, whereas the sensibilia (by definition often unsensed), which constitute the greater part of matter, are not. Russell accepted this, but tried to specify a criterion of difference which did not trade on these facts, namely, the criterion of membership of different causal realms. But whereas that difference is open to question-and even if it exists might be too often hard to see-the consciousness difference is clear cut."[12] In his conclusion, Greyling writes: "Relatedly, the intentionality which characterizes consciousness cannot be left out of accounts of knowledge; memory and perception are inexplicable without it. Russell later acknowledged this point, and gave it as a reason in My Philosophical Development, Paperback Edn. (Routledge, 1993) for having to return to the question of perception and knowledge in later writings.

"Russell also later came to abandon the idea-anyway deeply unsatisfactory from the point of view of a theory supposed to be both neutral and monist-that images and feelings are essentially mental, that is, not wholly reducible to neutral stuff; for in a very late essay he says; 'An event is not rendered either mental or material by any intrinsic quality, but only by its causal relations. It is perfectly possible for an event to have both the causal relations characteristic of physics and those characteristic of psychology. In that case, the event is both mental and material at once' (Portraits from Memory (1958), 152). This, for consistency, is what he should have argued in The Analysis of Mind itself, where only sensations have this character. But his view in turn generates another problem, which is that it comes into unstable tension with a view to which Russell returned after The Analysis of Mind, namely, that the causes of percepts are inferred from the occurrence of the percepts themselves. As noted earlier, Russell wavered between treating physical things as logical constructions of sensibilia and as entities inferred as the causes of perception; he held this latter view in The Problems of Philosophy (Oxford University Press, 1912) and returned to it after The Analysis of Mind, 1921. But on the face of it, one is going to need a delicate connection between one's metaphysics and one's epistemology in order to hold both that minds and things are of one stuff, and that things are the unknown external inferred causes of what happens in minds. So those parts of the legacy of The Analysis of Mind, which remain in his later thinking, raise considerable difficulties for his later views about matter."[13]

In spite of the above criticism, when we try to analyse Russell's view, we can say that ultimately Russell's "neutral monism" gets transformed into "dualism", for when Russell classifies events on the basis of mutual relations into two types (viz., mental and material), the ultimate realities are not the events, but the matter and the consciousness. This is the view of Dr. W. T. State who reaches the conclusion that the relation of the events transforms the neutral monism into dualism.[14] Prof. Stace writes, "If the difference between the matter and the mind is the one between the relations of their events, then it would follow that the relation which exists between the events of mind is quite different from the relation which exists between the events of matter, that is, it is not matter. Also it is definite that it (relation) is not neutral, and hence, it must be either mental or possessed of consciousness. The implication of the fact that it is not neutral is that it is not different from both matter and mind; it means it is either material or mental; therefore, it is definitely mental. In the same way, it can be shown that the relations which exist amongst the events of material objects are definitely material. Hence, the relations which produce the mental substances from the neutral stuff (events) are only mental and those (relations) producing the physical substances from the neutral stuff (events) are only material. It implies that the division between the matter and the mind is fundamental or basic. But if it is so, then it proves real duality of them. We cannot avoid this duality, for this duality is that of the relations and it is the relation which makes matter material and mind mental."[15]


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Title: The Enigma Of The Universe Publisher: JVB University Ladnun English Edition: 2010 HN4U Online Edition: 2014

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Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Adharmāstikāya
  2. B. Russell
  3. Berkeley
  4. Bertrand Russell
  5. Body
  6. Brain
  7. Consciousness
  8. Dharmāstikāya
  9. Dravya
  10. Guṇa
  11. Hume
  12. Jain Philosophy
  13. Jainism
  14. Jīva
  15. Jīvāstikāya
  16. Kāla
  17. London
  18. Monism
  19. Paryāya
  20. Prasad
  21. Pudgala
  22. Pudgalāstikāya
  23. Rajendra Prasad
  24. Russell
  25. Samaya
  26. Skandha
  27. Soul
  28. Space
  29. ākāśāstikāya
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