Jainworld
Jain World
Sub-Categories of Passions

Jivaraja Jaina Granthmala, No. 20

General Editorial
Preface to The First Edition
Preface to The Second Edition
Synoptic Philosophy
  Approach to Reality
  The Jaina Theory of the Soul
  Critique of Knowledge
  The Doctrine of Karma in Jaina Philosophy
  The Pathway to Perfection
  In this Our Life
  Men and Gods

SYNOPTIC PHILOSOPHY

 

 

Meaning of philosophy -- philosophy in India -- historical survey -- a priori way leading to Absolutism far removed from the common sense -- empiricist way -- logical positivism -- leading philosophy to the brink of extinction -- the way out to be found in the synoptic philosophy as expressed in the Anekanta view of the Jainas.

1. Plato and Aristotle have traced the beginnings of Philosophy to the feeling of wonder which arises in the mind of man when he contemplates on the nature of things in the world.[1] But wonder at the level of primitive men is in the instinctive stage and does not give rise to higher speculation.  It is only at a higher level when man has gained command over nature does philosophy begin. It is the fruit of society's maturer age. As Hegel said, philosophy makes its first expression when experience and thought have fully matured in their process. The owl of Minerva does not start upon its flight till the evening twilight has begun to fall.

Philosophy is a reflection on experience in order to comprehend the ultimate reality. We may say it is a synoptic view of life. It is, in the lines of Mathew Arnold, to see life steadily and to see it whole. In a narrower sense it is academic pursuit of the solutions of the ultimate problems of life.

Philosophy is not merely an unusually obstinate effort to think consistently, not a construction of a super-strucure of thought, nor is it a mere collection of noble sentiments.  For Plato and Bradley philosophy was the knowledge of reality, of that which is. For the Logical Positivists the function of philosophy is only linguistic analysis. Philosophy, however, would not be complete except as a synoptic view of life, as a world view. In this sense alone can philosophy be a guide to life.

In India, philosophy was and has been well grounded in life.  It has permeated the lives of the people. It has never been a mere academic pursuit nor a luxury of the mind.  It was intimately connected with life. It is to be lived.  Mundaka Upanisad speaks of 'Brahma Vidya' as the basis of all knowledge.[2] Kautilya makes philosophy the lamp of all sciences. Philosophy has been called darsana in the sense of the spiritual perception and vision of the seers, and the highest triumphs of philosophy are possible only to those who have achieved in themselves a purity of the soul.[3]

Realization of the Atman is the highest end in Philosophy[4], there is no other way. In this sense, philosophy is darsana and intimately connected with life.

    2. Philosophic enquiry has proceeded in two directions: i) The first uses a priori and deductive methods. It is analytic in approach and is the way of the rationalists.  ii) The second adopts inductive methods and is the empiricist way. In ancient Indian thought, philosophic speculation relied on Sruti and Smrti.

The course of philosophy has been long and arduous.  From Plato and the Upanisads to the present day, philosophers have sought to find solutions to the perennial problems of philosophy, and by pursuing

the one way or the other have reached either the summits of speculation removed from human experience, or have ultimately faced the impossibility of metaphysical speculation.

i) We may first consider the a priori approach to the study of philosophy. In Western thought, deductive and a priori methods were first used by Parmenides and his desciple Zeno, who made, for the first time, a distinction between sense and reason. The philosophic speculations of Plato were largely based on a priori methods. He abstracted sense from reason and built a world of ideas independent of the physical world.  In the Middle Ages of Europe, philosophy was sustaining itself under the shadow of theology and Aristotle's deductive methods. In the modern Age, Descartes and Spinoza built systems of rationalism. From cogito ergo sum he went on to heaven and looked at the physical world with confidence, which is, indeed, a way far removed from that of common sense.  Descartes split the-world into two substances distinct from each other and postulated a God separate from each of them. Spinoza's task was to establish a connection between God and the world on the basis of mathematical deduction. The result is, Spinoza's Substance became a lion's den to which all tracks lead and from which none returns. In Hegel and Bradley we go much further away from common sense.  We see the superstructures of philosophic speculation, and we are left in the world of appearance only to gaze at the ivory towers in which these philosophers lived. Thus the a priori speculative method led us far from the madding crowd to the dizzy heights of the 'Absolute '.

In India, we were saved from the separation of the speculative and the practical, because philosophy, with us, is essentially spiritual: "it takes its origin in life and enters back into life." [5] In Samkara we come to a great speculative system. Still, we do not feel ourselves strangers here, as we are not cut off from the ideals of life. "Samkara presents to us the true ideal of philosophy, which is not so much knowledge as wisdom, not so much logical learning as spiritual freedom."[6]

ii) Empiricism uses a posteriori and inductive methods.  In the Theaetetus, Socrates explains the Protagorean doctrine that knowledge is through perception, and shows the impossibility of arriving at any objective truth. For the Sophists, Sense experience was the only source of knowledge; while Gorgias asserted the impossibility of any knowledge or communication whatever.

In ancient Indian thought the Carvakas led us to a similar conclusion. For them, Lokayata is the only sastra and perceptual evidence the only authority.[7] This would logically lead to scepticism and nihilism; but they did not go to the whole length, because their immediate aim was to break down the ecclesiastical monopoly and still assert the spiritual independence of the individual. The Buddhist empiricism was to have gone the way of Gorgias in the Madhyamika School, but for the predominance of the ethical ideal and the goal of nirvaa. Nagarjuna's philosophy is 'now nearer to scepticism and now the mysticism'.[8] The rigour of logic would have led him to nihilism, but for; his spiritual fervour and thirst for nirvana.

English empiricism repeats this logical movement but does not save itself from its own conclusions. We can see the empiricist method steadily marching from Locke to Berkeley to Hume. Berkeley denied matter, and Hume denied everything except impressions and ideas. Reid, summing up the English empiricist movement, states that ideas, first introduced for explaining the operations of the human understanding, undermined everything but them selves, pitifully naked and destitute, "set adrift without a rag to cover them."[9] Knowledge became impossible and philosophy could go on further without a radical reconsideration of its fundamental position.

But the Human tendency has been recently revived, by the Cambridge philosophers, who brought philosophy to the brink of extinction. Wittgenstein's Tractatus discusses problems of meaning, the nature of logic, facts and propositions and the task of philosophy. It states: 'What can be said at all can be said clearly, and where of one cannot speak, there one must be silent'. 'The world is the totality of facts not of things'. There must be simple entities called objects because there are names, and there must be narrles because propositions have a definite sense. Names have no sense except in the context of propositions; and propositions are related to facts as ' pictures of facts' . He states that all the-truths of logic are tautologies, and logical proofs are only mechanical devices for recognizing categories. Mathematics consists of equations, and the propositions of mathematics are also without sense. The metaphysician talks nonsense in the fullest sense of the word, as he does not understand "the logic of our language". Metaphysical suggestion is like the composition of a new song. We are told that he made no essential change in his attitude towards the aim of philosophy.[10] Russell writes that the influence of the Tractatus on him "was not wholly good", and that the philosophy of the Philosophical Investigations remains to him completely unintelligible.[11]

Logical Positivism is a philosophical movement emanating from 'The Vienna Circle' . It was a thorough going empiricism backed by the resources of modern logic and tempered by exaggerated respect for the achievements of Science.[12] Ayer's Philosophy is the logical outcome of Hume's empiricism. Like Hume, he divides all genuine propositions into two classes i) a priori propositions of logic and pure mathematics, which are analytic and therefore necessary and certain; and ii) propositions concerning empirical matters of fact which may be probable but never certain and need to be tested by the verification principle. No statement which refers to a 'reality' transcending the limits of all possible sense experience can possibly have any literal significance.  Ayer shows that the Logical Positivist charge against the metaphysician is not that he attempts to employ the under-standing in a field where it cannot probably venture, but that he produces sentences which fail to conform to the conditions under which alone a sentence can be literally significant.[13] A metaphysician talks nonsense, because he is deceived by grammar. Thus, Logical Positivists claim that they have completely overthrown speculative philosophy.[14]Philosophy, to them, is only logical 

analysis; not a theory, but an activity. Its function is analysis, Logical clarification of concepts, propositions and theories proper to empirical science. Thus, philosophy is identified with logical syntax, the higher-level discussion of language, and the perennial problems of philosophy are dismissed as nonsense. Philosophy classes are, accordingly, converted into super-grammar classes.

However, Logical Positivism has ceased to become a fashionable philosophy today, because  i) its attack on meta-physics has damped the vigour and chastened the style of its remaining adherents, and ii) its approach to language is unnecessarily rigid and doctrinaire. Even Ayer is doubtful about carrying through the programme of phenomenalism[15] and uneasy about the verification principle. [16]

Still, the impasse that Logical Positivism has reached is unfortunate, because:

i) The doctrines of Logical Positivism have led to dogmatism and intolerance; so that metaphysical questions are dismissed as unworthy of attention of sensible men.[17] Theories like the verification principle, the emotive theory of ethics and logical construction are simply announced as if they formed a part of revelation denied to other philosophers except Hume.[18]

ii) Sense experience, as the criterion of truth, has led to solipsism, as it did in the case of the Sophists and Hume.  Sense experience is private and cannot be communicated.  The more radical among them, like Carnap and Neurath, were hence led to physicalism, which is nearer to behaviourism in psychology.

iii) For logical Positivists, as for other empiricists, sense experience is the only criterion of knowledge. Modern Psychical Research, on the other hand, affirms the possibility of extra-sensory experiences. In addition, there are certain other experiences, like the speculation, moral and aesthetic.  The problem of supersensuous experience is not new to us in India. All schools of Indian philosophy, except the Carvakas and Mimamsakas, believe in it. Supersensuous experience transcends the categories of time, space and casuality: " Our sense organs are narrowly specialized to serve biological and practical ends, and our normal consciousness is also largely specialized.[19] In the face of these facts, it would be narrow and fanatical to insist on sensory experience and the verification principle as the only criteria of knowledge.  Like the men chained against the walls of the save in The Republic, the empiricists refuse to see beyond what they would like to affirm.

iv) Moreover, for the Logical Positivists tbe verification principle has been a dogma and a commandment. But tbe principle of verification is not a self-evident statement, -nor is it capable of verification by sense experience. The logic of the analytic philosophy is itself based on a metaphysic, certain presupposltions about the universe.[20]

v) Nevertheless, the effects of Logical Positivism have been serious.

It has engendered a negative climate of opirltion, and was likely to shatter the old beliefs in the social, moral and religious spheres with nothing else to fill the gap except analysis of propositions. It has produced a 'waste land of mind, of which T. S. Eliot's poem is at once a description and, by implication, a denunciation.[21]