Bulletin for the Study of Religion, Vol 39, No 2 (2010)

Anekāntavāda: Jain Philosophy of Critique and Defense

Benjamin John Zenk
Issued Date: 11 Jan 2011


The Jain Doctrine of Non-Absolutism, anekāntavāda, is a logical system that functions in part to identify and refute views which claim to be absolutely true although can be considered only partially true according to Jain metaphysics and logic. It has had the curious ability to validate a staunch metaphysical and cosmological fundamentalism. This Jain logical system is uniquely Jain because of the Jain metaphysics from whence it emerged. Without this metaphysical core, Jain logic appears to be a species of meta-ethical relativism and is often wrongly interpreted as such. What are the metaphysical underpinnings of this doctrine? Jain reality consists of permanence-with-change, the substantial and modal taken together. Non-omniscient souls can consider this reality either from the substantial standpoint (dravyārthikanaya) or from the modal standpoint (paryāyārthikanaya). Anekāntavāda pleads for the intellectual synthesis of this primary division of reality. This essay examines the role of anekāntavāda in Jain logic, provides an interpretation of anekāntavāda with special attention to the details of its metaphysical underpinnings, and considers the contemporary debate on the Doctrine of Non-Absolutism with regard to Jainism and religious pluralism.

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DOI: 10.1558/bsor.v39i2.003


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