Einstein's theory of relativity which appeared in the early twentieth century. Shook many fundamental concepts in physics such as space, time, mass, energy and gravitation. However, it led to many misconceptions. Lay persons often equated it with the concept of non-absolutism, relativity or relativism which is found in many philosophical systems.
This book is a comparative study of relativity physics and philosophical relativism with special reference to Jaina philosophy of anekantaviida and syedvada. Jainism like science believes in objectivity and empiricism. This makes the analysis of similarities and differences between relativity physics and Jaina non-absolutism quite rewarding.
The author suggests how sycidvada can be enriched to identifying "false absolutes" and analyzing avaktavya ("the indescribable"). He also addresses the paradox: Is the doctrine of Jaina non-absolutism itself relative or absolute?
JAYANT BURDE received his M.Sc. degree in mathematics from Bombay University and a law degree from Bangalore University. He is also a Certificated Associate of Indian Institute of Bankers. His published papers contain mathematical models in finance, costing and organizational structure.
He has also authored the following books: Philosophy of Numbers (2007); Ritual, Mantra and Science: An Integral Perspective (MLBD, 2004); The Mystique of Om (New Age Books, 2007); The World of Rhythm called Rituals (New Age Books, 2007); Sitnya and Nothingness in Science, Philosophy and Religion (MLBD, 2009) and; Buddhist Logic and Quantum Ditemma (MLBD, 2012).
Einstein's theory of relativity appeared in the early twentieth century. The theory of special relativity was published in 1905 and that of general relativity appeared in 1915. The theory shook many fundamental concepts of physics such as space, time, mass and energy. The shock waves of the theory were not confined to physics; they were felt in almost all the branches of science, philosophy and even literature.
Unfortunately, the theory spawned many misconceptions. Lay persons asserted, "Everything is relative", "You can go back in time". Those who were familiar with the western as well as eastern philosophy of relativism or relativity or non-absolutism claimed, "Our ancestors talked about relativity long back" or "Our forebears had anticipated Einstein long ago". Most of these misperceptions stem form the fact that Einstein uses the word "relativity" for his theory in physics.
Undoubtedly there are many theories of philosophical relativity. They assert non-absolutism of knowledge. Most of these theories are idealist which deny objective cognition and contend that human knowledge does not reflect the objective world.
In Jaina relativism called anekantavada or syadvada one finds a rare combination of non-absolutism and objectivity. Anekantavada is one of the main pillars of Jaina philosophy and religion. It believes in rationality, objectivity and like science relies on empirical evidence.
This book is a comparative study of philosophical relativism with special reference to Jaina non-absolutism on the one hand and relativity physics on the other. It identifies similarities as well as differences between these two apparently disparate branches of knowledge.
I hope the analysis will dispel many misconceptions about relativity physics. It should also help the reader understand the extent of parallelism between Jaina non-absolutism and Einstein's theory.
I have tried to keep the level of mathematics in relativity physics as low as possible and only the well-known formulas, which are absolutely necessary, are included. These are explained in ordinary language and the reader need not memorize them.
Absolutism is a broad philosophy which is based on the concept of "the absolute". The absolute is something which is eternal, unconditional, perfect, unchanging and self-sufficient. In religion God is often treated as the absolute. In western philosophies the will (Schopenhauer), intuition (Bergson) and ego (Fichte), etc. are considered the absolute by various philosophers.
Relativism or relativity is the opposite of absolutism. It is non-absolutism where a phenomenon is considered in relation to other phenomena. A phenomenon is connected and can be viewed from different angles.
In ordinary language relativism appears quite patently. Consider the following statements:
a. He is a brilliant student.
b. She is beautiful.
c. This train moves rather slowly.
d. India has made a lot of progress after Independence.
e. I find this novel absolutely boring.
In each of these statements there are adjectives and adverbs which are relative. For example, a student may be brilliant according to one standard, but average according to another. Your friend may find a novel boring while you may consider the same novel highly interesting. Similarly, the words "beautiful", "slowly", "a lot of progress" may be contested by lay persons as well as experts who hold different views and standards.
Laws in different countries provide many examples of relativism. For example, homosexuality is a crime in India while in some western countries it is allowed under certain conditions. Consensual sex between unmarried adult men and women is legal in many western countries and also in India, but it is a crime in some countries. In India and most British Commonwealth countries the vehicular traffic flows according to the left hand rule, while in the U.S.A. and many other countries the right hand rule is followed. Thus what is an offence of the traffic law in one system is the right way in the other.
Social customs, conventions and mores offer many instances of relativism. A society may consider non-vegetarian food a taboo while another may consider it not only normal but even necessary. Even within the same social group, customs may vary from one subgroup to another and from one family to another.'
In Jaina philosophy non-absolutism has great importance. Relativism is one of the most important tenets in Jaina philosophy as well as religion. Jainas regard reality as multi-faceted and thus relative. An object, for example, has infinitely many attributes and can be viewed from different standpoints which provide only partial truths. This philosophy is reflected in two principles sometimes treated as synonymous; anekantavada (anekanta for "not one end") and syadvada (literally, "The doctrine of somehow").
To distinguish philosophical and socio-cultural relativity from the relativity of Einstein' s theory of relativity in physics, we will use the word "relativism" in the former case and reserve the word "relativity" in the context of the latter.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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