Sundar Sarukkai: Moral Implications of Jaina Logic

Dr Sundar Sarukkai’s paper on the Moral Implications of Jaina Logic explored, at first, the logic system as espoused by the Jainas. Distinguishing their logic system from the traditional Nyāya school, the Jainas managed to tie together philosophy and mathematics to enable a dialogue between two aspects that have been ignored traditionally. In that sense, Dr Sarukkai stressed, Jaina logic stands out as a philosophical logic system in the Indian tradition.

Within the system, the relationship between ethics and rationality is seen as a rational attempt to evaluate, describe, and understand ethical actions and judgements. Ethics, Dr Sarukkai said, fundamentally deals with the removal of the agent. However, with rationality, the individual is of prime importance. The question, therefore, is turned towards analysing moral judgements as a cognitive process.

The Nyāya school, traditionally seen as the school of logic in the Indian tradition, offers a notion of a rational explanation of an ethical action, as against a rational judgement. The whole of Nyaya Logic is said to be based on a 5 step process which is: Proposition, Reason, Example, Application and Conclusion. The Jaina logic system, on the other hand, is a para-consistent logic which is multi-valued, when compared with a bivalent logic system. The doctrine of anekāntavada – the doctrine of one-sidedness – was explained by Dr Sarukkai as a simple phenomenological perspective. The doctrine sees full and complete reality as something that constitutes multiple perspectives of the same object. It follows that a single perspective doesn’t give the full truth and the full fact. Multiple perspectives need to be accounted for. The element of ‘syād’, which is differently translated by many intellectuals as ‘may be,’ ‘perhaps’ etc. Given the need to count all perspectives before arriving at a judgement, the Jaina logic system categorises all forms of perspectives under seven heads. Any and all perspectives will fit under these larger categories.

Dr Sarukkai raised a question about how to construct a system where three values, the truth, the false, and the syād, are taken into account. An ethics built on this system, Dr Sarukkai argues, gives way for a new form of ethics which is more ‘real’ and ‘situated’. Jaina logic is said to have not two but three truth values, viz. True, (T) False, (F) and Probable (I). Epistemology aims to move away from certainty and universality to probability. Jaina Logic gives us a way to do this, by making ethics more real.

As a conclusion, Dr Sarukkai laid stress on the kind of ethical rationalities that could possibly be built on such a set of logic.

Report by: Karthik H. and Rohit George

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