Comments

  • Idealism and "group solipsism" (why solipsim could still be the case even if there are other minds)
    Sounds awfully like Liebniz' 'windowless monads' to me.

    Languages are shared conventions, and so is much else. We learn from those around us; 'mirror neurons', consensus reality, and so on.
  • Are non-human animals aware of death? Can they fear it?
    Why was physics ever necessary? If what I'm saying is right, then no physics was necessary to make the metaphysics of atoms and void possible (and indeed the metaphysics was there before the physics, already worked out). Metaphysics is a matter strictly of logic. That's why all metaphysics end up with an uncaused cause, etc. the name they give to this uncaused cause is less interesting as the fact that they end up with one.Agustino

    As you're no doubt aware, the term 'metaphysica' was coined by an editor of Aristotle's works, who gave that name to the volume 'after Physics' in the sequence of texts. However, as you're also aware, 'meta' is not a term for 'after' as much as 'about'. For example, if we were to have a conversation about this conversation, it would be a 'meta-conversation' - 'what do you think this conversation is about?' If you and I arrived at really different answers to that question, then we would have something resembling what most people mean when they get into a debate about 'metaphysics'. X-)

    IN ANY CASE, the striking feature about 'atoms and the void, is that it is binary. Something either is, or it is not; every point in space is either occupied (=is) or not occupied (=is not). Marry that to Cartesian algebraic geometry, and you have an amazingly powerful model. I'm sure that is a large part of the intuitive appeal of materialism; that is very close to the spirit of Lucretius (an essay on which, I might add, I got a High Distinction for.)

    But, notice that the whole basis of the Buddhist 'madhyamika' (middle-path) analysis, is that nothing either 'truly is' or 'truly is not'. It regards both of these as reifications or abstractions, which are beguiling but illusory. The ramifications of that analysis are profound and wide-ranging.

    There are indeed many forms of Buddhism and Buddhist organisations that I have no interest in, there are Buddhist cults and Buddhist dogmatists and fundamentalists. There are even Buddhist atheists. Zero interest.
    — Wayfarer

    Okay I see. Why do you have no interest in them? Don't you think it is important to guard truth and prevent it from being corrupted? Or how do you approach this matter?
    Agustino

    My interest in Buddhism came from spiritual books I read in my youth, and also (in hindsight) a visit to Sri Lanka in late childhood. I read a lot of spiritual books and the two that had the biggest impact were First and Last Freedom, Krishnamurti, and Zen Mind Beginner's Mind, Shunryu Suzuki.

    Later in life, I started to think that publicly acknowledging Buddhism was a way of making a declaration and a commitment, even though culturally I am obviously not Buddhist (I'm far more Anglican in terms of cultural archetypes). But perhaps that commitment is like a guide-rope up a mountain - some way of charting a path into unknown territory. (Interesting to reflect that in Krishnamurti's famous 'pathless land' speech, he refers to 'climbing a mountain'.)

    So my view of 'religion' is instrumental - that it's the record of those who have gone before, which you can use to trace a pathway. It is only useful insofar as it guides actions, your 'footsteps on the way'. Of course, often times the record of 'those who have gone before' will either ossify into dogma, or evaporate into platitudes. But that is what motivated my search in the first place.

    Now, of course, Buddhism is a global religion, with many institutions, teachings and teachers. I have no doubt that some forms of it have deteriorated or are pernicious or corrupted. But what can I do about that? I have no public platform, what I write here or say to the people I know is the only platform I have. So I will give anyone who asks fair and frank advice as to whom I think is worth knowing about in the Buddhist world. I try not to be malicious or to gossip, as those are both wrong speech. And also I try to honour the attitudes and values of the Western philosophical tradition.
  • Emotions, values, science & nihilism.
    what should I do when my neighbor is in need? [Help out] Pray, tell, what I should do when my neighbor is a murderer? [Call the police] What's the best course of action when my neighbor desires to take her own life? [Try and reason with her and contact counselling services.] What's the wisest philosophical decision to make when my neighbor deems it his own subjective right to take the life of his own neighbour? [Call the police]
  • Emotions, values, science & nihilism.
    It seems to me that the scientific methodology only allows for certain statements to be true such as precise statements about what may actually be happening now or cautious predictions based on induction.Andrew4Handel

    Specifically, problems that are amenable to quantitative analysis.

    Modern science emerged in the seventeenth century with two fundamental ideas: planned experiments (Francis Bacon) and the mathematical representation of relations among phenomena (Galileo). This basic experimental-mathematical epistemology evolved until, in the first half of the twentieth century, it took a stringent form involving (1) a mathematical theory constituting scientific knowledge, (2) a formal operational correspondence between the theory and quantitative empirical measurements, and (3) predictions of future measurements based on the theory. The “truth” (validity) of the theory is judged based on the concordance between the predictions and the observations. While the epistemological details are subtle and require expertise relating to experimental protocol, mathematical modeling, and statistical analysis, the general notion of scientific knowledge is expressed in these three requirements.

    Science is neither rationalism nor empiricism. It includes both in a particular way. In demanding quantitative predictions of future experience, science requires formulation of mathematical models whose relations can be tested against future observations. Prediction is a product of reason, but reason grounded in the empirical. Hans Reichenbach summarizes the connection: “Observation informs us about the past and the present, reason foretells the future.”
    — E R Doherty

    The problem I have is that societies are not built on factsAndrew4Handel

    Indeed not. The attempt to reduce everything to quantifiable questions is broadly speaking what 'positivism' means.

    I think most societal structures are unjustified fictions that seem to work but are also damaging and need challenging.Andrew4Handel

    Nearly all of them are actively being dissolved by the 'creative destruction' of capitalism and globalisation, by neo-liberalism and scientific materialism.

    I think what is needed is a moral code - something which is easy to say, but hard to specify.
  • Are non-human animals aware of death? Can they fear it?
    OK, so what is substance then? If you cannot clearly say what it is, then it would seem to be utterly senseless to claim that it is the only real.John

    Have a look at the Wikipedia article on Substance (philosophy) and this article http://www.iep.utm.edu/substanc/

    Instead of the question 'how many kinds of substances are there? put it like this 'how many kinds of being are there?'

    The Hindu idea of ātman and Brahman is nearer to Spinoza and Descartes conception of substance, than modern or analytical notions of substance, because they're both speaking of 'substance' in the sense of 'being' rather than as an objective reality.
  • Are non-human animals aware of death? Can they fear it?
    So even materialism must have an uncaused cause - for Epicurus "atoms and void" are eternal.Agustino

    Right! Which is why I am of the view that physics has torpedoed materialism.

    As for Buddhism - what it means to me is a practical philosophy and way, grounded in meditative insight into the nature of the self. It is at its best a meta-cognitive discipline, it is all about 'knowing how you know'. There are indeed many forms of Buddhism and Buddhist organisations that I have no interest in, there are Buddhist cults and Buddhist dogmatists and fundamentalists. There are even Buddhist atheists. Zero interest.
  • Are non-human animals aware of death? Can they fear it?
    Buddhism generally in my opinion is that it is confused - it says everything and nothing, and hasn't clarified its teachings, the way say, the Catholic Church hasAgustino

    Have you considered that it's possible you don't understand it very well? Those sources are plainly polemical. Plenty of people hate Buddhism. Anyway, the point of the post is not about Buddhism in particular, it's a cross-cultural comparison between Spinoza's and Descartes' idea of the 'uncaused' and a similar idea in Buddhist philosophy.
  • Where is the truth?
    Without a functioning brain, a human can't form concepts, that is true. But the 'furniture of reason' - concepts, numbers, and the like - are no more 'in' the brain, than a television drama is 'in' a television.
  • Are non-human animals aware of death? Can they fear it?
    By substance I understand what is in itself and is conceived through itself" — Spinoza

    This is the 'first cause' or 'uncaused cause'. I was, coincidentally, just reading a definition of Nirvāṇa in The Buddhist Dictionary, to whit:

    'Nirvāṇa is the one dharma that exists without being the result of a cause'.

    From here.

    With respect to Descartes definition of substance:

    Substance: A thing whose existence is dependent on no other thing.


    Created Substance: A thing whose existence is dependent on nothing other than God.


    Strictly speaking, for Descartes there is only one Substance (as opposed to Created Substance), since there is only one thing whose existence is independent of all other things: God.

    From here

    A lot of the confusion here rests on the notion of what constitutes 'substance'. The meaning of 'substance' in philosophy is different to our 'substance stuff or thing', the original, 'ousia', is much nearer in meaning to 'essence' or 'being' than what we take to be 'substance' in the modern lexicon.
  • Where is the truth?
    All you're saying there is that it must be spatially located. But that doesn't apply to numbers, laws, concepts, grammar, and the like.

    Where is '7'?

    And no, you can't 'nail down' where in the brain such things occur, because 'the brain' is able to generalise the activities involved in understanding these things. In other words, there's isn't a kind of 1:1 relationship between 'neural activities' and 'meaning', in the same way that there isn't a 1:1 relation between symbols and what they denote.

    If you got brain damage (heaven forbid), then the mind will often work out ways to 're-purpose' other areas of the brain to compensate. This is one of the discoveries of neuro-plasticity.
  • Are non-human animals aware of death? Can they fear it?
    Now I know you'll tell me that's not the correct interpretationAgustino

    That is certainly true.

    Why do you think the progressives are latching onto Buddhism? Because Buddhism is fertile soil for their nihilismAgustino

    Well, that's not true, and secondly, I was not speaking of Buddhism per se. I was referring to the general idea of the 'higher truth', which I know you already reject (yet, strangely, I am the one accused of 'nihilism'). I would say that the idea of such 'higher truth' is represented in various philosophical traditions - Greek, Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist amongst others. But obviously I am not being understood, and in addition, it is probably irrelevant to the topic, and another timely reminder to myself to stop wasting time arguing with strangers. So, bye for now, taking time out from Forums, may or may not be back in future.
  • Are non-human animals aware of death? Can they fear it?
    Where is the transcendent needed?Agustino

    'The transcendent' here is a cypher for 'the most excellent state of being'. In traditional philosophy, attainment of that state was the summum bonum, the highest good, and our 'raison d'être'. It is what all beings are striving towards, the fulfilment of existence.

    Such ideas from the ancient traditions became subsumed into Christianity and thereafter depicted in accordance with dogmatic formulae of the faith. But they nevertheless were still thought to underwrite the social contract as well as individual morality.

    In the Judeo-Christian tradition, man is 'imago dei' and so fulfilling the requirements of the faith was also fulfilling the divine plan, and one of the characteristics that differentiated man from animals.
  • What is false about an atheistic view on death?
    But regarding the research, if past lives exist - then why is there no concept of it in some of the world's religions - like Christianity or Islam? This fact alone seems quite strange - I mean if people remembered past lives across the entire globe, then I would expect all cultures to have the idea.Agustino

    That was always noted by the researches on the subject. Ian Stevenson once remarked that in India and China, people thought it was silly to research the subject because everyone knew it happened all the time, whereas in the West, people thought it was silly to research the subject because everyone knew it was a myth.

    In ancient times, Plato and the Pythagoreans certainly accepted what they called 'metempsychosis' (strange word), and there were hints of the idea in Origen. But he was anathematized for the 'monstrous belief in the pre-existence of souls' and after that, the idea was taboo in the Western church. However underground movements, like the Cathars, continued to accept it.

    Have a look at this blog post.

    Morphic resonance is one version of explaining memory and habits in the Universe. If I'm not mistaken, Sheldrake does credit Bergson with inspiring his ideas concerning morphic resonance.Rich

    I was going to mention morphic resonance.
  • Psychology, advertising and propaganda
    The name that comes to mind is Edward Bernays.
  • Are non-human animals aware of death? Can they fear it?
    Why do you think this follows? We need a criminal code, police, army etc. for practical reasons of protecting ourselves.Agustino

    From what? The truth is obvious to everyone. That is what you keep saying. So, why doesn't it follow that everyone simply recognises this fact and acts accordingly?


    We'd all become hermits like Buddha, abandon our family, and go live in isolated places among ascetics.Agustino

    Or, alternatively, found a world religion which became the basis of civilizations. Although, of course, according to you, nobody needs that, either, because we've already arrived.
  • What is false about an atheistic view on death?
    Yes, I believe there is and it manifests as inherited or ingrain skills.Rich

    I have always felt drawn to that idea. Musical prodigy, for instance. There are children who can learn piano without any effort at all. Mozart was able to compose at age 5. Squirrels know how to store nuts, dogs how to catch and chase, but I don't have any trouble assigning that to Darwinian adaption. Musical prodigy - not so much.

    Aside from that, there is also the research of children who remember their past lives, although from experience on forums, I know this is generally denied in advance.
  • Are non-human animals aware of death? Can they fear it?
    There's nothing to be emancipated ofAgustino

    Of course! That explains why there is really no need for a criminal code, or police for that matter, or the army, come to think of it. There is really no need for anyone to learn anything, as they already know what there is to know, right? There ought not to be any fear of harm, death, illness or disease, because these things aren't real, right? Why can't we simply see that? What is stopping us?

    We are "saved " not by leaving the world, but rather by living a world which was better than beforeTheWillowOfDarkness

    Indeed. And by what principles do we make it better? Is it simply a matter of economic and technological progress?
  • Are non-human animals aware of death? Can they fear it?
    one is already enlightened, otherwise they could never "become" enlightened.Agustino

    That is an 'urban myth' based on a misreading. It is used by lots of pseudo-gurus to sell new-age books.

    I disagree that the word spiritual has transcendent meaning.Agustino

    We plainly understand the word differently.

    I am generally puzzled by your take on philosophy. To me, in basic terms, philosophy is about the discernment of a truth which is not obvious, and which not everyone knows. In traditional philosophy, those who know these truths are philosophers, and they're different from the hoi polloi. That is straight out of Plato, it is not my innovation. I know it is very non-PC.

    But you find something very similar in Buddhism:

    From the Mahayana point of view, beings are divisible into two heads: those that are enlightened and those that are ignorant. The former are called Buddhas including also Bodhisattvas, Arhats, and Pratyekabuddhas while the latter comprise all the rest of beings under the general designation of bala or balaprithagjana—bala meaning "undeveloped", "puerile", or "ignorant", and prithagjana "people different" from the enlightened, that is, the multitudes, or people of ordinary type, whose minds are found engrossed in the pursuit of egotistic pleasures and unawakened to the meaning of life. This class is also known as Sarvasattva, "all beings" or sentient beings. The Buddha wants to help the ignorant, hence the Buddhist teaching and discipline.

    ....
    Life as it is lived by most of us is a painful business, for we have to endure much in various ways. Our desires are thwarted, our wishes are crushed, and the worst is that we do not know how to get out of this whirlpool of greed, anger, and infatuation. We are at the extreme end of existence opposed to that of the Buddha. How can we leap over the abyss and reach the other shore?
    The Mahayana diagnosis of the conditions in which all sentient beings are placed is that they are all nursed by desire (trishna) as mother who is Accompanied by pleasure (nandi) and anger (raga), while ignorance (avidya) is father. To be cured of the disease, therefore, they must put an end to the continuous activities of this dualistic poisoning. When this is done, there is a state called emancipation (vimoksha) which is full of bliss. The Buddhist question is thus: "How is emancipation possible?" And here rises the Mahayana system of philosophy.
    — Suzuki

    Whereas you say - what 'emancipation'? There is only ordinary existence, those who think there is something beyond it are deluded.
  • Are non-human animals aware of death? Can they fear it?
    I'm asking you, conceptually, how is it possible to speak of transcendence?Agustino

    In the Buddhist context, 'the Buddha' is one released from the cycle of birth, decay and death. That is what his 'awakening' consists of. Even though the Buddha's conception of Nirvāṇa is unique to him, it is arguably a form of what is called in Hinduism mokṣa, release or liberation, which is understood as the awakening from the spell of māyā and the realisation of the higher self.


    The Buddha's awakening is expressed in verses such as:

    Through the round of many births I roamed
    without reward,
    without rest,
    seeking the house-builder.
    Painful is birth
    again & again.

    House-builder, you're seen!
    You will not build a house again.
    All your rafters broken,
    the ridge pole destroyed,
    gone to the Unformed, the mind
    has come to the end of craving.

    Dhp 153-4


    What is 'the Unformed'? There is another verse, a doctrinal formulation of Nirvāṇa,

    "There is, monks, an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned."

    Ud 8.3

    (Both translations from Access to Insight).

    So in what sense is the transcendent a separate, instead of merely different, side of existence?Agustino

    Kant denied that 'knowledge of the transcendent' was possible, on the basis that knowledge is always structured according to the categories, intuitions, and so on, and so anything transcendent is by definition over our cognitive horizon or in some sense out-of-bounds.

    Hegel's counter-argument to Kant was that to know a boundary is also to be aware of what it bounds and as such what lies beyond it – in other words, to have already transcended it.

    Schleiermacher identifies a distinct mode of self-consciousness, one in which all attempts to make the self into an object of consciousness—that is, all attempts to come to know the self—are set aside. When the self is made an object of study it becomes a phenomenon, and as such is treated as something that it is not, i.e. as an object of experience. But it is possible to simply be—to become quiescent, if you will - and simply be what one is rather than attempt to know what one is.

    And in this place of cognitive stillness, one discovers in a direct experiential way an ultimate reality that cannot be conceptualized or made into an object of study. This is the domain of mystical experience—and even though it is ineffable (that is, even if it cannot be made into an object of knowledge) it brings with it a kind of insight or enlightenment. One may not be able to adequately put this experience into propositional terms that can be affirmed as true, but that doesn’t mean one hasn’t in some sense encountered noumenal reality. One hasn’t encountered it as an object of experience (since that would turn it into a phenomenon). Rather, one encounters it in the way one experiences.

    The challenge, then, is to attempt to articulate this encounter in a way that is meaningful to us--in other words, in a way that our cognitive minds can grasp and affirm. The encounter itself is what Schleiermacher calls “religion.”( Eric Reitan)

    I would say that what John is referring to is this alternative 'way' of experience. That is something found in all kinds of literature, myth, allegory, and so on. Many of the Zen anecdotes signify awakening (satori) to this other cognitive mode (seeing the world anew, etc.)

    Viktor Frankl's book, Man's Search for MeaningAgustino

    I admire Frankl, there was always a copy of that book in the home I grew up in.

    • Life has meaning under all circumstances, even the most miserable ones.
    • Our main motivation for living is our will to find meaning in life.
    • We have freedom to find meaning in what we do, and what we experience, or at least in the stand we take when faced with a situation of unchangeable suffering.

    The human spirit is referred to in several of the assumptions of logotherapy, but the use of the term spirit is not "spiritual" or "religious". In Frankl's view, the spirit is the will of the human being. The emphasis, therefore, is on the search for meaning, which is not necessarily the search for God or any other supernatural being. Frankl also noted the barriers to humanity's quest for meaning in life. He warns against "...affluence, hedonism, [and] materialism..." in the search for meaning.

    I think Frankl's philosophy is implicitly spiritual, but that it is necessary to differentiate it from religion, because of the way religion is understood, defined and fought over in Western culture. To say something is 'religious' is to immediately embody it in a particular matrix of meaning with all of the associated baggage; he had to keep it out of that domain.
  • Are non-human animals aware of death? Can they fear it?
    It was 'project Nim' I was remembering. The sequence with Kanzi is interesting, he definitely seems to 'get it'. I think apes definitely have some rudimentary symbolic thinking ability, but I'm always a bit dismayed that this is regarded as being hugely significant. I mean, it makes sense from the viewpoint of evolutionary biology. But h. sapiens has crossed a threshold and I don't know if I see it as a continuum.