The Enigma Of The Universe : Newtonian View and Jain View

Published: 08.01.2015
Updated: 13.01.2015

The comparison of Jain view of space and time with the scientific views is more important than that with the philosophical views. As we have already seen, the scientific concepts of space and time prior to the discovery of the theory of relativity were quite different from those which got developed in post-Einsteinian era.

 First, we consider the classical physics of Newton, in which space and time were conceived as absolute entities.

 The Newtonian concept of absolute space has striking similarities with the Jain concept of Ākāśa. Both the concepts regard space as an independent objective reality which is single, continuous, infinite and immovable substratum of all other substances and which exists even in the absence of the external substances. Nevertheless, there is an important difference in the two concepts. In the Newtonian physics, the problem of motion was tried to be solved by postulating a material medium called 'ether' which was supposed to fill the whole space and act as the medium of all kinds of motions including the wave motion. On the contrary the problem of motion and rest is solved in Jain metaphysics by the principles of Dharmāstikāya and Adharmāstikāya which are non-material media of motion and rest respectively. It was the postulation of material ether in Newtonian concept, which was responsible for creating an insoluble enigma for the physicists, as a consequence of which they had altogether discarded ether in the new theory viz. The Theory of Relativity. But, as far as the question of reality of Newton's space is concerned, it can be said that its logical consistency is still unobjectionable. The renowned western philosopher, Bertrand Russell accepting this fact observes: "The Newtonian theory of absolute space meets the difficulty of attributing reality to not being. To this theory there are no logical objections. The chief objection is that absolute space is absolutely unknowable, and cannot therefore be a necessary hypothesis in an empirical science. The more practical objection is that physics can get on without it."[1]

Thus it becomes clear that Newton's theory of absolute space and the Jain theory of Ākāśa are irrefutable on logical basis.

Now, we come to the Newtonian concept of absolute time. From the definition of time, as given by Newton, it appears that he has not considered time as an objective reality, but he propounds it as a real fact. The Shvetambara tradition of the Jains also does not propound time as an objective reality. Newton believed that absolute, true and mathematical time exists: Jain metaphysics also asserts that the Samaya etc. are absolute mathematical time-units. Thus both the concepts are quite akin to each other. There is, however, a slight variance in them. In Newton's physics, there is no conception of finite velocity of light, and hence it does not accept the space-time relation which has emerged out because of the finiteness of the velocity of the light, whereas the Jain metaphysics has no objection to such relation.

Thus, the Newtonian or pre-Einstein concepts of space and time are more akin to the Jain view of space and time than the Einstein concept based on the theory of relativity.


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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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  1. Adharmāstikāya
  2. Bertrand Russell
  3. Dharmāstikāya
  4. Einstein
  5. Ether
  6. Newton
  7. Russell
  8. Samaya
  9. Science
  10. Shvetambara
  11. Space
  12. Ākāśa
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