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Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda: Mutation (Pariṇama)

Published: 07.12.2011
Updated: 02.07.2015

Non-absolutism being the foundation of Jain Philosophy, mutation (change) is as much real as permanence. A substance is a substratum of infinite qualities. Nothing can exist without 'being in some determinate way' and the qualities of a substance means its existence in a 'determinate mode of being'. Thus, assert Jains, the qualities (guṇas) and modes (paryāyas) cannot be absolutely different from the substance nor can they be absolutely identical with it.

Change or modification is a fundamental characteristic of all that is real. The problem presented by unceasing mutability of existence is one of the earliest as well as one of most persistent ones in the whole range and history of Eastern as well as Western Philosophy. There is an omnious hint of the central paradox implied in all mutability - namely, that only the identical and permanent can change.

This paradoxical thought has affected philosophy in different ways at different periods of its history. In the West, at the very dawn of Greek Philosophy, it was the guiding principle of the "Ionian physicists." Later on, Parmenides andhis Eleatic successors swung to the extreme view that change, being impossible in a permanent homogeneous substance, must be a mere illusion of our deceptive senses.

Later again, Empidocles sought to reconcile the apparent mutability of things with the criticism of Parmenides by the theory of regrouping of atom in space.

At a more developed stage of Greek thought, Plato drew the momentous distinction between two worlds or orders of being—the real, with its eternal unvarying self-identity, and the merely apparent, where all is change, confusion, and instability. In the Orient also, there have not been wanting attempts to get rid of the paradox by denying its truth. Vedantists, like the Eleastics, sought to escape it by reducing change itself to a baseless illusion. On the other hand, Buddhists (fluxists), like the disciples of Heraclitus, have evaded it by refusing to admit any permanent identity in the changeable, and they have not been entirely without imitators in the modern world.

Incessant change without underlying unity has had its defenders in the history of Metaphysics. The argument in favour of the doctrine that only incessant change is real seems to be the appeal to direct experience. In any actual experience, it is contended, we are always presented with the fact of change and transition, we never apprehend an absolutely unchanging content.

Now there can, of course, be no gainsaying these facts of experience, but the conclusion based on them evidently goes much farther than the premises warrant. Experience never gives us mere persistence of an unchanging content. Nor does it ever give us mere change without persistence. What we actually experience always exhibits the two aspects of identity and transition together. Usually there will be, side by side with the elements which sensibly change others which remain sensibly constant. And even the successive states of the changing content are not merely momentary, each has its own sensible duration through which it retains its character without perceptible changes. Experience, thus, entirely fails to substantiate the notion of mere change apart from a background of permanent identity.

The positive disproof of the notion must, however, be found in its own inherent absurdity. Change by itself, apart from a background of identity, is impossible for the reason that where there is no underlying identity, there is nothing of change. All change must be change of and in something. And where you have not merely a change of perception but an actual perception of change, the case is even clearer. What we perceive in such a case is the two successive states being held together by the fact that they are successive states of some more permanent unity. Mostly you have not merely a change of perception, but an actual perception of change. What we perceive is the two successive states being held together by the fact that they are successive states of some more permanent unity.

Change, therefore, is a succession within an identity, the identity being as essential to the character of the object as the succession. In what way, then, must we think of this identity which is present throughout the whole succession of changes? This question—how that which changes can be permanent?—is similar to the old problem of quality and substance, how the many states can belong to one thing, considered with special reference to the case of states which form a succession in time. Thus, whatever is the true nature of the unity to which the many states of one thing belong, will also be the true nature of the identity which connects the successive stages of a process of change.

A group of states is the embodiment of coherent structure. The earlier and later stages of the process are differences in an identity precisely because they constitute one process. The succession of stages is thus welded into a unity which we express by saying that whatever changes possesses an underlying permanent identity of character.

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. Guṇas
  2. Jain Philosophy
  3. Non-absolutism
  4. Parmenides
  5. Plato
  6. Space
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