• baker
    1.3k
    What made me hopeless about Buddhism is that its epistemology is, essentially, a self-fulfilling prophecy: first, one takes some premises for granted; then one acts in line with those premises; and then one "sees" that those premises "are true".baker

    This is a misunderstanding. The route you describe is one approach. But it is possible to describe and prove the epistemology in logic, and Buddhism NEVER asks us to take some premise for granted. The approach you suggest is a practical method, not the way in which Buddhism explains or justifies its epistemology. Of course, until we know that knowing is fundamental we can only assume it, but the assumption is unnecessary to discovering the facts.

    Even if you take no premises for granted you'll end up knowing the truth about epistemology.
    FrancisRay

    So do say more about your view of Buddhist epistemology.

    How do you think that Buddhism explains or justifies its epistemology?
  • FrancisRay
    202
    How do you think that Buddhism explains or justifies its epistemology?baker

    I should have said 'philosophically justified'.

    It is most famously justified logically by the Noble Nagarjuna in his Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way. The doctrine states that knowing is fundamental, so epistemology and ontology become one.at the base of metaphysics. This is true also in experience, but this is not a justification since it cannot be demonstrated. In metaphysics it can be demonstrated.

    But I have no wish to browbeat. You don't have to take my word for it. The literature is extensive,.
  • baker
    1.3k
    But I have no wish to browbeat. You don't have to take my word for it.FrancisRay
    No. You said that I misunderstood Buddhism. It's on you to make your case.
  • FrancisRay
    202
    No. You said that I misunderstood Buddhism. It's on you to make your case.baker

    Ah yes. Quite right. But your disparaging comments about Buddhist epistemology suggest that it is a lot of nonsense, and it might take a long time to dispel this idea. If you start a thread on the topic I'll join in, but I'm stupidly getting caught up in too many conversations at once to keep track, so I'd rather leave it here.

    Calling all Buddhists fools for not seeing the faults in their own epistemology even after two and half thousand years puts you out on a very fragile limb, so I could argue it's up to you to present a clearly reasoned objection - but let;s call it a draw. . .
  • baker
    1.3k
    Ah yes. Quite right. But your disparaging comments about Buddhist epistemology suggest that it is a lot of nonsense, and it might take a long time to dispel this idea. If you start a thread on the topic I'll join in,FrancisRay
    This is the new thread, scroll up, join in.


    Calling all Buddhists fools for not seeing the faults in their own epistemology even after two and half thousand years puts you out on a very fragile limb, so I could argue it's up to you to present a clearly reasoned objection - but let;s call it a draw. .
    Talk about projection!
  • FrancisRay
    202

    Okay. What's the question?
  • FrancisRay
    202
    I suppose the question is how to justify Buddhist epistemology. This is equivalent to asking how to justify Buddhist teachings and so it's a big ask.

    Could you narrow down the problem by asking a more specific question?

    If you're simply asking how the mystics acquire their knowledge of the true nature of Reality then the answer is 'introception', or 'knowledge by identity', but I think you're asking more than this. .
  • MondoR
    224
    Buddhism, like all spiritual pursuits, is as diverse and the number of humans who practice it. There is no Buddhist epistemology. Just be aware of desires, and practice moderation. Avoid excesses. There rest is about discovery and learning. There are no right and wrong paths. Just choices.
  • Daemon
    173
    I've found if you ask two Buddhists about Buddhism you get 3 contradictory answers,
  • Apollodorus
    531
    I've found if you ask two Buddhists about Buddhism you get 3 contradictory answers,Daemon

    3 at the very least.

    But I do find the Buddhist theory of impermanence or momentariness quite interesting. Maybe @baker can tell us more.
  • Fooloso4
    1.5k
    Epistemology struggles with issues such as the claim that knowledge is justified true belief. As I understand it, knowledge for the Buddhist comes with enlightenment. It is experiential not theoretical.
  • Wayfarer
    12.1k
    What made me hopeless about Buddhism is that its epistemology is, essentially, a self-fulfilling prophecy: first, one takes some premises for granted; then one acts in line with those premises; and then one "sees" that those premises "are true".baker

    If you see it that way, you should definitely abandon interest in it. If you start with the opinion that it's all a foregone conclusion, then there's obviously nothing to be learned by studying it.

    There is no Buddhist epistemology.MondoR

    Not so. 'Epistemology' has a name in Indian philosophy, it's pramāṇa-vāda , the theory of justification and Hetu-vidya, the science of causation. The two exemplary sources are the scholar-monks Dharmakirti and Dignāga, whose treatises on logic and epistemology are studied in every Mahāyāna Buddhist institution worldwide. By all means don't believe it, but your depiction of it as a matter of subjective choice is mistaken, based on indlvidualist liberal philosophy, 'what is right for me'. It's a very rigorous and highly structured doctrine.

    I do find the Buddhist theory of impermanence or momentariness quite interesting.Apollodorus

    The Buddhist theory of impermanence is described in the Abhidharma, which is the 'third basket' of the tipitaka (three baskets - vinaya (monastic rules) sutta (discourses) abhidhamma (higher teachings)). It is a very scholastic subject with many very fine distinctions and is conceptually challenging to uinderstand as it is radically different to Western metaphysics. The starting point of the analysis is the 'chain of dependent origination' (pratityasamutpada) which describes the psycho-physical process of causation which gives rise to the concept of self and other. There's a lot of useful material on Wikipedia, have a look at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abhidharma#Doctrine.
  • Apollodorus
    531


    From what I've seen Abhinavagupta who developed the philosophical system of Kashmiri Shaivism seems to have borrowed something similar from Buddhists in the context of his theory of perception. I've mentioned this on the thread on Platonism and Indian philosophy. But I'll have a look at the Wikipedia article, thanks.
  • Apollodorus
    531
    Epistemology has a name in Indian philosophy, it's pramāṇa-vādaWayfarer

    Correct. I thinks it translates "means of knowledge".
  • j0e
    443
    I've found if you ask two Buddhists about Buddhism you get 3 contradictory answers,Daemon

    :starstruck:
  • baker
    1.3k
    Could you narrow down the problem by asking a more specific question?FrancisRay
    You're the one who said that I misunderstood. So it's on you to show me how, where, why I misunderstood.
  • baker
    1.3k
    What made me hopeless about Buddhism is that its epistemology is, essentially, a self-fulfilling prophecy: first, one takes some premises for granted; then one acts in line with those premises; and then one "sees" that those premises "are true".
    — baker

    If you see it that way, you should definitely abandon interest in it. If you start with the opinion that it's all a foregone conclusion, then there's obviously nothing to be learned by studying it.
    Wayfarer
    I think this problem of circularity/self-referentiality applies to many (if not all) fields of knowledge. To me, that it should apply to Buddhism, is nothing special.

    I don't think there is anything to be learned (strictly speaking) by studying something, but there very well is something to become, something to do, something to attain. Like when one enrolls in a course of
    education to acquire a qualification, and then one can do things one was not able to do before.

    I don't think one can test or learn whether the Four Noble Truths are in fact true. But by starting off by taking them for granted, one might be able to do and attain things that one otherwise might not be able to.

    To me, the real problem in regard to knowledge is epistemic triviality. As above with Buddhism, I think similar applies with other religions and philosophies. For example, I think that if one tries hard enough, Jesus becomes one's lord and savior and one lives happily ever after. So the question is, how on earth does one choose a religious (etc.) path???


    Not so. 'Epistemology' has a name in Indian philosophy, it's pramāṇa-vāda , the theory of justification and Hetu-vidya, the science of causation. The two exemplary sources are the scholar-monks Dharmakirti and Dignāga, whose treatises on logic and epistemology are studied in every Mahāyāna Buddhist institution worldwide. By all means don't believe it, but your depiction of it as a matter of subjective choice is mistaken, based on indlvidualist liberal philosophy, 'what is right for me'. It's a very rigorous and highly structured doctrine.
    I was discussing the pramanas once with a Hindu brahmacari. I asked him whether it was possible to choose as to which pramana one considers authoritative. He had to pause (otherwise, he was extremely fluent and fast-spoken), and said that it would depend on whatever pramana one currently holds as authoritative. Ie. the idea is that there are pramana positions from which individual choice is possible, and others, from which it is not.
    What do you think of that?
  • baker
    1.3k
    As I understand it, knowledge for the Buddhist comes with enlightenment. It is experiential not theoretical.Fooloso4
    Sure. But the issue is that relevant experiences are gained through doing a particular practice. Doing this practice to begin with requires that some things are taken for granted.
  • FrancisRay
    202


    Oh okay.

    What made me hopeless about Buddhism is that its epistemology is, essentially, a self-fulfilling prophecy: first, one takes some premises for granted; then one acts in line with those premises; and then one "sees" that those premises "are true".

    Do you really need me to explain that this is a misunderstanding? I would have thought it impossible to misunderstand Buddhism this wildly.

    As I've already pointed out, Buddhism never asks us to take any premises for granted.

    So maybe we could start by asking why you believe it does. Of course, as Fooloso4 mentions, there may have to be some suspension of disbelief at the start for practical reasons, but this has nothing to do with epistemology. .
  • baker
    1.3k
    Do you really need me to explain that this is a misunderstanding?FrancisRay
    Yes, by all means, do. This is key.

    As I've already pointed out, Buddhism never asks us to take any premises for granted.
    For a secular Westerner interested in Buddhism, it is indeed quite likely politically incorrect to propose that Buddhism requires that we take some things for granted.
    In contrast, cradle Buddhists typically take for granted that the tenets of their religion are true.

    So maybe we could start by asking why you believe it does.
    For one, from listening to Buddhists of various walks and provenances and from reading the Pali suttas.
    For two, it's the only sensible explanation. Up until stream entry, a practitioner can't possibly know he's on the right path or that the practice "works".

    Of course, as Fooloso4 mentions, there may have to be some suspension of disbelief at the start for practical reasons, but this has nothing to do with epistemology..
    Oh? And you think that all the bowing, kneeling, prostrating before monks and teachers "has nothing to do with epistemology" either?
  • Apollodorus
    531
    So the question is, how on earth does one choose a religious (etc.) path???baker

    If I’m not mistaken, the traditional means of knowledge (at least in Indian philosophy in general) is said to be (1) pratyaksha personal experience, (2) anumāna, reason and (3) shabda, trustworthy testimony or authority.

    The last one (3) would be either scripture or a qualified teacher. Problem is that scripture is often unclear or incomplete and qualified teachers are hard to find so you have to rely on (1) and (2) a lot of the time especially nowadays.

    But I do agree that some assumptions that are fundamental to Buddhism can be flawed. Impermanence or momentariness (kshanikavada) is one example. If all things are momentary, it may be hard to explain memory, whereas if we admit a permanent soul the problem doesn’t arise. I remember reading somewhere that this was one of the arguments Hindu philosophers used to refute Buddhist teachings, leading to the decline of Buddhism.

    This may be Hindu propaganda, but it used to be customary to accept a rival philosophy if its proponent could show in a debate that yours is wrong. In Europe, people used to progress from one philosophy to another until they found one that suited them. That's how many arrived at Christianity.

    In the case of Buddhism, I suppose you either accept Hinduism or hold on to some Buddhist views and accept others from Hinduism.
  • baker
    1.3k
    But I do agree that some assumptions that are fundamental to Buddhism can be flawed.Apollodorus
    I never said that they are flawed. I don't think they are. I only pointed out that doing some practices and holding some views can lead to some trouble for the practitioner.
  • Apollodorus
    531
    I only pointed out that doing some practices and holding some views can lead to some trouble for the practitionerbaker

    Well, even if some Buddhist teachings aren't flawed in terms of logical consistency, they may still be "flawed" in the sense and to the extent that they lead to "some trouble for the practitioner". That's why a qualified teacher is absolutely necessary. Without that, there is absolutely no way knowing whether you are headed for nirvana or for something else. Manipulation of and interference with psychological processes can lead to more than just "some trouble" without qualified guidance, especially in the case of Westerners who often don't have a clue (not referring to you personally).
  • Wayfarer
    12.1k
    I remember reading somewhere that this was one of the arguments Hindu philosophers used to refute Buddhist teachings, leading to the decline of Buddhism.Apollodorus

    From an Hindu, presumably. I wonder if he or she mentioned the Mughal invasion of India in which hundreds of thousands of Buddhist viharas were sacked and their inhabitants slaughtered. That might also have been a factor.
  • FrancisRay
    202

    For a secular Westerner interested in Buddhism, it is indeed quite likely politically incorrect to propose that Buddhism requires that we take some things for granted.
    baker

    I have explained that Buddhism does not require that we take anything for granted,. The Buddha spends half his time telling us not to do this. There is no such thing as 'politically incorrect in mysticism. I can't imagine where you get these ideas. . .

    In contrast, cradle Buddhists typically take for granted that the tenets of their religion are true.

    A person who take this for granted is not a Buddhist but a credulous fool.

    Oh? And you think that all the bowing, kneeling, prostrating before monks and teachers "has nothing to do with epistemology" either?

    Of course it has nothing to do with epistemology.

    It seems you want me to explain what is explained in ten thousand books. This is not fair. I'll probably stick to recommending relevant texts in future. . .
  • Wayfarer
    12.1k
    For a secular Westerner interested in Buddhism, it is indeed quite likely politically incorrect to propose that Buddhism requires that we take some things for granted.baker

    There’s your problem right there. It’s a religion, and belief is involved. Either get over it, and get on with it, or walk away. They’re your choices.
  • Apollodorus
    531


    I agree that this was probably one factor but surely not the only one? Buddhism had many centuries to defeat Hinduism before the arrival of the Mughals. Why did it fail to do so? Besides, the Hindu (non-Buddhist) critique of Buddhist momentariness does seem valid to me - at least in terms of logic.
  • Apollodorus
    531


    You seem to be concerned about (1) "Buddhist epistemology", about (2) "Western political correctness" and about (3) "how to choose a religious/spiritual path".

    If "How on earth does one choose a religious (etc.) path" is your question, then you need to go back to choosing one in the first place and then worry about practice or about what Western political correctness thinks of it. Asking that question suggests that you haven't decided yet. Or have I misunderstood something?
  • Wayfarer
    12.1k
    Agree, the Mughal invasion was not the only factor but it was a very major one. The bloodshed was of historic proportions (not only against Buddhists of course). Another factor was the Buddha's refusal to recognize caste. Buddhism was a dissident movement, a rebellion against orthodoxy, and as such the odds were against it.

    I think the Buddhist view is quite coherent, but it has to be understood against the background of the culture in which it developed. There was a prevailing view that observances of the appropriate disciplines and sacrifices could assure the ascetic of an endless series of fortunate re-births - basically a form of eternal life through continued re-birth. That is the 'eternalism' that the Buddha rejected - not the simple belief that there is an agent-doer, but the belief that the agent-doer had an 'immortal essence' which lived on and on, endlessly.

    There is a Buddhist sutta, called the Brahmajala Sutta, the 'net of views'. It describes the 64 types of wrong view. All of them stem from desire - the desire to continue to exist ('eternalism') or the desire to cease from existing ('nihilism'). But because all these view spring from desire, they will lead to further birth-and-death. Seeing through the way that desire gives rise to continued existence is the essence of the Buddhist path, but it's a very difficult thing to understand.
  • Apollodorus
    531


    Well, desire is fundamental to our psychological make-up, it's extremely difficult to get rid of. And there is always that secret nagging desire to attain nirvana. But it looks like our friend @baker will require a good few rebirths - hopefully as a Buddhist - to achieve that. Should he have decided what path or epistemology to choose, that is.
  • Fooloso4
    1.5k
    Sure. But the issue is that relevant experiences are gained through doing a particular practice. Doing this practice to begin with requires that some things are taken for granted.baker

    One needs to have trust or faith or a belief that enlightenment is possible. But the goal is liberation not knowledge.

    The hope is that this will come through practice, but it does not always happen. Some Buddhist schools believe that enlightenment can be spontaneous, others believe practice is required. And of course the hope or desire can be the attachment.
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