Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda: The Universal And The Particular

Published: 24.02.2012

Reals are universals and particulars synthesized into one. The universal is the unitive bond running through the particulars and the Jaina philosopher has recognized two kinds of it, viz. the vertical universal and the horizontal universal. The self-identity of the real, running through its temporal process, is the vertical, and the bond that unites one real with others in space is the horizontal universal. Almost all later Jaina logicians however, under the influence of the Buddhist philosophers like Dharmakīrti and others, have identified the horizontal universal with similarity which they regard as a quality different in different individuals. The disastrous consequences of this reassessment of the nature of a universal have been thoroughly examined by Professor Mookerjee in his celebrated work, 'The Jaina Philosophy of Non-absolutism' and an impartial student of philosophy cannot but agree with his findings. We should stick to the original (earlier) Jaina position and should not accept an interpretation as faithful if it goes against the fundamental postulates of non-absolutism. Let us now study in brief the grounds for the admission of real as a unity of the universal and the particular.

A 'jar as jar' cannot be distinguished from another 'jar as jar' and this incapacity of thought to distinguish the two argues their identity in respect of the characteristic of jarhood. Although the two jars are separate in respect of their separate substantial, spatial, temporal and modal determinations, their identity qua jar cannot be got rid of. Identity, in the ultimate analysis, is an identity of characteristics belonging to different entities. What cannot be distinguished in any particular respect must be accepted as identical in that respect. The 'colour as colour' of a coloured thing cannot be distinguished from 'colour as colour' of another coloured thing, and therefore the two colours must be regarded as identical, though they belong to two separate things and may also be two different colours, say red and green. Thus 'red' and 'green' are identical as colour and different as specific determinations of it.[1] Mere spatial separateness of two entities does not prove numerical difference of their characteristics. There can be spatial separateness without numerical difference, e.g., between two distant parts of a patch of colour, and similarly there can be numerical difference without spatial separateness, e.g., between the colour and shape of the self-same object. Thus there is nothing repugnant in admitting the relation of identity-cum-difference in respect of characteristics between any one entity and another. Neither identity without difference, nor difference without identity is possi­ble. Now as the identity presupposes the universal and the difference the particular, the real is a synthesis of the two. In other words, the real is a 'concrete universal.' "Things are," observes Professor Mookerjee, "neither exclusively particulars, nor are they exclusively universals, but they are a concrete realization of both. The two elements can be distinguished by reflective thought, but cannot be rent asunder."[2]

This analysis of a real into universal and particular is signi­ficant in that it gives a penetrating vision of the interrelatedness of reals and their uniting bond. It should be understood that the two elements do not exhaust the real, but are mere indicators of the comprehensive and transcendent nature of it. "A real", again to quote Professor Mookerjee, "is neither a particular nor a universal in an exclusive manner, but a synthesis which is different from both severally and jointly though embracing them in its fold. A real is sui generis."[3]

We have now seen how the pairs of characteristics - viz. being and non-being, unity and plurality or one and many, the universal and the particular - unfold the nature of a real as a microcosm and macrocosm in one. The Jaina philosopher's dual points of view (nayas) - viz. synthetic and analytic - also point to the same truth.[4] The entire corpus of Jaina metaphysical literature is inspired by this dual approach, though the far-reaching implications of it are not always visualized, not unfolded in the light of the needs of ever prog­ressing thought. The characteristics of being-cum-non-being, unity-cum-plurality, universal-cum-particular are certainly repugnant to the abstract ways of our logical thought and understanding, but none the less they are verdicts of plain experience and as such true measures of reality. The whole truth may not be understood, but there is no reason why we should be dissuaded from pursuing the way shown by our plain experience and capturing whatever vision the pursuit may provide. In this connection, the following remarks of Bradley regarding the know­ledge of unity which transcends and yet contains every manifold appea­rance are worth remembering. "Our complete inability to understand this concrete unity in detail is no good ground for our declining to entertain it. Such a ground would be irrational, and its principle could hardly everywhere be adhered to. But if we can realize at all the general features of the Absolute, if we can see that somehow they come together in a way known vaguely and in the abstract, our result is certain."[5]


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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. JAINA
  2. Jaina
  3. Nayas
  4. Non-absolutism
  5. Space
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