Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda: Part 1

Published: 28.11.2011
Updated: 02.07.2015

The Jaina theory of anekāntavāda or the manifoldness of truth is a form of realism which not only asserts a plurality of determinate truths but also takes each truth to be an indetermination of alternative truths. It is interesting as suggesting a criticism of present-day realism and indicating a direction in which its logic might be developed. It is proposed in the present paper to discuss the conception of a plurality of determinate truths to which ordinary realism appears to be committed and to show the necessity of an indeterministic extension such as is presented by the Jaina theory.

The truth that we actually know is a plurality of truths and philosophy rightly or wrongly, sets itself the problem of finding the one truth which either denies or in some sense compries the plurality. Whatever differences there have been as to the actual conception of the truth, the rejection of the faith that there is one truth has generally been taken to argue a scepticism about the many truths that we claim to know. Sometimes however an ultimate plurality of truths has itself been taken as the one truth and the apparent contradiction has been sought to be avoided by taking it to mean only that there is one cognition of the plurality. Else-where the cognition of a fact is a further fact but here the addition of cognition as a fact to plurality as a fact yields us nothing but the plurality. The realistic or objectivistic equivalent of the unity of a cognitive act is the bare togetherness of the facts know; and the togetherness of cognition as a fact with the fact cognised is the exemplar of this relation.

The difficulty is about the objectivity of this bare togetherness. When two objects other than knowing are known together, they are ordinarily taken to be in some kind of whole, specific relation or unity. This cannot be said of object and its cognition as together. Objects also may however be barely together: the relation of a whole to its elements, of a relation to its terms or of a unity to its factors is nothing more specific than togetherness. This then is the fundamental category of realism and whole, relation or unity would be understood as particular cases of it. We propose to show on the lines of the Jaina theory that this category is itself manifold, being only a name for fundamentally different aspects of truth which cannot be subsumed under a universal and do not make a unity in any sense. Togetherness, as ordinarily understood by the realist, means distinction of determinate positive truths. The Jaina category might be formulated as distinction from distinction which as will be shown has a definite range of alternative values, only one of which answers to the distinction or togetherness of the modern realist.

Prima facie there is a difference between the relation of a composite fact with its components and the relation of the components themselves. We may overlook for the present the different forms of the composite—whole, relation or unity—which imply varying relations to the components and provisionally admit composite truth as a single entity. Now there is no difference between the togetherness of any one component with the rest and that of any other with the rest: the components in their various combinations are together in exactly the same sense. Taking however the composite on the one hand with the components on the other, we find that the two sides can be only thought alternately: while one side is thought by itself, the other can be thought only in reference to it. If the components are taken to be given, the composite can be understood as only their plurality; and if the composite is given as one, the components are known as only its analysis. Each side can be given by itself as objective and so it is not a case of mere correlative thoughts. Neither side need be thought in reference to the other; but while one is thought as distinct by itself, the other has to be thought as only together with or distinct from it. We have in fact a correlation here between 'distinct in itself and 'distinct from the other,' between given position and what is sometimes called the negation of negation.

Is the necessity of thinking something as other than its other merely subjective? It would appear to be objective in the same sense and on the same grounds as the togetherness or bare distinction of positives admitted by the realist. Realism objectifies the subjective because it is known and is not simply transcendental. The question may be asked, is the distinction of subject and object, of knowing and the known, both taken to be facts—'enjoyed' and 'contemplated' respectively, to use Professor Alexander's phrase—a fact of the former or of the latter category, subjective or objective? Now just as knowing is known, the absolute difference of the two forms of knowing—enjoying and contemplating—is also known; and if the unity of the knowing act be taken to correspond to objective togetherness, this absolute difference must also be taken to have its objective counterpart. Togetherness or bare distinction is the form of objectivity in general. The counterpart then of the difference of 'subjective' knowing or 'enjoying' from objective knowing or 'contemplating' would be distinction from objectivity i.e. from distinction. Thus both distinction and distinction from distinction should be taken by the realist as objective. These two however are not ordinarily distinguished: both are called by the same name - togetherness.

If however as shown these two forms of togetherness are fundamentally different, what is their further relation? Now distinction from distinction has sometimes been taken as a determinate relation, as identity or some unique relation, like 'characterising' or adjectivity,. which also for our present purpose we may call a peculiar form of identity. The problem is accordingly about the relation of identity and distinction in the objective. We may consider two forms of identity as presented by the Hegelian and the Nyāya systems respectively. The Nyāya is avowedly a realistic system and the Hegelian theory may also in some sense be taken to be realistic. Realism proper, as we conceive it, has no place for the relation of identity in the objective except in a factitious sense, although it should—what it ordinarily does not—admit distinction from distinction as a specific category. The above two theories however admit both identity and distinction though they do not stress them in the same way. The Hegelian subordinates distinction to identity while the Nyāya assigns priority to distinction. The Jaina theory admits identity only in the sense of indeterminate non-distinction; and it takes the two relations to be coordinate without subordinating any one to the other.

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
© by the Authors

Printed by:
Pawan Printers
J-9, Naveen Shahdara, Delhi-110032

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Anekāntavāda
  2. JAINA
  3. Jaina
  4. Nyāya
  5. Objectivity
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