Syādvāda (Skt., syāt, ‘perhaps’). Jain theory of knowledge which emphasizes the relativity and multifaceted nature of human judgement: it is therefore also known as sapta-bhaṅgi-naya, the ‘dialectic of the seven steps’; and leads to anekāntavāda. The Jains characteristically value the story of the blind men and the elephant, who feel only one part of the elephant and infer from that limited information what the elephant is like—a water pot (from the head), a winnowing basket (from the ears), a plough (from the tusks), a snake (from the trunk), a tree (from the legs), a rope (from the tail). The blind men then fall into furious argument, each one convinced that he alone possesses the whole truth. In contrast to the Western endorsement of the law of the excluded middle (either p or not-p), the Jains emphasize the provisionality of human judgements which allow several to coexist as contributions to truth, including some which appear to be mutually exclusive. See also NAYAVĀDA.
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