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Manifoldness, Jaina theory of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-F044-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

The Sanskrit term anekāntavāda literally means ‘not-one-sided doctrine’, and refers to the Jaina epistemological theory of manifold standpoints from which an object may be considered and the manifold predications that can be made with regard to it. It evolved out of Mahāvīra’s ethical emphasis on nonviolence – the multidimensional nature of objects should not be violated by single, absolutist (ekānta) predications about them. Respect for life is thus transformed in its philosophical application into a principle of respect for other views. The theory has come to be called the central philosophy of Jainism and was developed in a milieu of intensive debate between the various Indian philosophical schools. Though the theory was based on Mahāvīra’s teaching, it implicitly presupposed, in its later highly developed form, various philosophical alternatives (representing the views of other schools of thought), which it sought to syncretize. Each standpoint and predication presents a partial truth and, according to Jainism, only the theory of manifoldness does justice to the complex nature of entities. While it can be seen as an attempt to practice intellectual nonviolence, it is evident that the Jainas adhered to it zealously and defended it as vehemently as the others did their own views.

Citing this article:
Soni, Jayandra. Manifoldness, Jaina theory of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-F044-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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