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Anekāntavāda And Syādvāda: Relativism And Laws Of Thought

Published: 28.02.2012

Let us now see if this relativism of predication has any bearing on the traditional Laws of Thought, which, to be significant, must, besides being true measures of reality, formulate principles of valid predication.

The Law of Identity is the simplest of all possible laws of judgments and must, to be significant, set forth their minimum conditions, viz. meaning and truth. A judgment which has no meaning is no judgment, and a judgment whose truth cannot be ascertained is an idle gibberish.

In its bare form 'A is A', the law does not possess any significance and is apparently nothing more than tautology. If, however, it is taken to express the mere identity of the subject and the predicate, it goes only half way towards the acquisition of meaning, because it leaves out the difference without which the identity is unmeaning. In order, therefore, to invest the form 'A is A' with full meaning and truth, we should interpret the predicate A as a characteristic 'a' which is true of a part of the subject A. We now have the form 'A (a b...) is a' which is meaningful, because it exhibits in full the identity-cum-difference between the subject and the predicate, and also true, because the predicate belongs to the subject. In the language of the Jaina philosopher, the above form can be expressed as 'In one particular aspect, A is a'. The Law of Identity thus becomes significant if interpreted in the light of Syādvāda.

Here one important fact about judgment or proposition[1] should be clearly understood. A proposition which is once true is always true. Certain logicians have denied this dictum, and their denial appears to be due to, in the words of Mr Johnson, "a confu­sion between the time of which an assertion is made, and the time to which an assertion refers; or as Mr Bosanquet has neatly put it - 'between the time of predication and the time in predication".[2] Thus taking as example the proposition "The mango is green,' we must say on the one hand that if the proposition is true at any time, it is true at all times; but on the other we must not say that if the predicate 'being green' is true of a given subject at one time, it will be true at all times. The time of predication, i.e., the time at which the judgment is made, is, relatively to the content of the judgment, a mere accident. The time in predication is the relation of the predicated characteristic to the subject. 'Green,' in the above example, is true of 'mango' at only a particular moment or duration of time of the latter's existence, and thus the time here is an essential constituent of the subject of the judgment. With the change of this temporal context of the subject, the truth of the predicate may change. But this change has no effect on the time of judgment and hence also on its truth. The problem however concerns the nature of propositions in general and not the Laws of Thought in particular. We understand the laws as laws of truth or falsity of predicates only, and not, as some modern logicians have done in order to avoid the difficulties, as laws of the truth or falsity of propositions.

The Law of Identity is also formulated as 'whatever is, is', which may ontologically be interpreted to lay stress on the static character of things. But nothing, as shown, is static according to the Jaina philosopher, and so the formula is not acceptable to him.[3] The Vedantist would have no objection against this interpretation of the law, because he believes in reality as static.

The Law of Contradiction is symbolically expressed as 'A is not both A and not-A', and may be regarded as only the comple­ment of the Law of Identity. It supplies something without which the Law of Identity is not logically complete or distinctly intelligible. If A is A, A cannot be not-A. In other words, 'nothing can both be and not be.'

The Jaina philosopher has shown being and non-being as simultaneously true of a real and hence we cannot agree to the above interpretation of the law. Absolute being and absolute non-being are certainly exclusive of each other. But this is not the case with concrete being which alone is real according to the Jaina philosopher. Concrete being is being tolerant of non-being. Absolute being and absolute non-being are only figments of abstract logic.

The field of application of the Law of Contradiction, therefore, should be ascertained by the observation of concrete cases in the real world. Characteristics which cannot exist together simultaneously are contradictorily opposed, and the law can be usefully applied to the cases of such characteristics. Thus a patch of colour cannot be red and green at the same time and hence red and green can be accepted as contradictorily opposed. But a variegated linen showing patches of different colours can be red and green at the same time (though of course in different parts), and the Jaina philosopher, unlike the Vedantist and the Buddhist absolutists, does not find any contradiction in this. Our experience is thus the sole determinant of contradiction and no abstract logical formulas can give an insight into the nature of the concrete things of the word.

The Law of Excluded Middle is symbolically represented as 'A is either B or not-B'. Interpreted in the plain sense, this law means that the negation of any predicate is an absolute alternative to it, that is, if one is false the other must be true. This means that falsehood can establish truth. But this discovery of truth is vague and practically useless, because one of the terms, viz. not-B, is indeterminate and absolutely incapable of giving a determinate fact which alone makes the predicate significant. This is a defect which makes the law trivial and insignificant.

The Laws of Thought are thus found to be vitiated by serious defects - all of which are primarily due to their aprioristic foundations. By the idealist philosophers the laws were used for the refutation of the positions of the realists who could never be convinced of the validity of these laws as instruments of the discovery of truth. "The difference between the realist and the idealist," in the words of Professor Mookerjee, "hinges upon this fundamental difference of view of the validity of the Laws of Thought - whether they are known empirically or a priori. It seems that the difference between them is irreconcilable, being more or less bound up with the innate difference of our predispositions and tendencies from self to self. The result is an uncompromising antagonism between our respective outlook and attitude."[4]


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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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  1. JAINA
  2. Jaina
  3. Syādvāda
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