Jain Epistemology

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According to Jain epistemology, reality is multifaceted (anekanta, or 'non-one-sided'), such that no finite set of statements can capture the entire truth about the objects they describe.

The Jain list of pramanas (valid sources of knowledge) includes sense perception, valid testimony, extra-sensory perception, telepathy, and kevala, the state of omniscience of a perfected soul. Inference, which most other Indian epistemologies include, is interestingly absent from this list. However, discussion of the pramanas seem to indicate that inference is implied in the pramana that provides the premises for inference. That is, inference from things learned by the senses is itself knowledge gained from the senses; inference from knowledge gained by testimony is itself knowledge gained by testimony, etc. Later Jain thinkers would add inference as a separate category, along with memory and tarka or logical reasoning.

Since reality is multi-faceted, none of the pramanas gives absolute or perfect knowledge. Consequently, all knowledge is only tentative and provisional.

This is expressed in Jain philosophy in the doctrine of naya, or partial predication (also known as the doctrine of perspectives or viewpoints). This insight generates a sevenfold classification of predications, which can be schematized as follows:

Perhaps a is F.

Perhaps a is not-F.

Perhaps a is both F and not-F.

Perhaps a is indescribable.

Perhaps a is indescribable and F.

Perhaps a is indescribable and not-F.

Perhaps a is indescribable, and both F and not-F.

'Perhaps' here is used as a translation of syat which can also be translated as 'from a perspective,' or 'somehow.'

Early Jain texts (e.g. Tattvartha Sutra) indicate that for any object and any predicate, all seven of these predications are true. Hence, for every object a and every predicate F, there is some circumstance in which, or perspective from which, it is correct to make claims...