• David S
    39
    Western Classical Philosophy v Eastern Mystery Traditions

    Which system do you believe ‘pierces the veil’ better in understanding the mystery of the purpose of living for a 20th Century human?
  • javi2541997
    2.2k


    Good question :up:

    Western classical philosophy has a lot of doctrines and variations. It is complex to choose one of these to explain the purpose of living. But you were specific and referred to a 20th century man so my choice goes to Absurdism. Thus, the philosophical theory that existence in general is absurd. This implies that the world lacks meaning or a higher purpose and is not fully intelligible by reason. The book called Sisyphus by Albert Camus represents this theory.

    Eastern mystery traditions only (or most of the cases) focus on different "schools" of Buddhism.
    Shûnyatâ is one of the most important of them. It means "emptiness". Emptiness is neither existence, nor non-existence, nor both existence and non-existence, nor neither existence nor non-existence. At the very least, this means that we don't know what is left when we take away all conditioned relations. Beyond that, it can mean that we cannot know what that is. No Self Nature means that there are no essences, just as Momentariness means that there are no substances.
    Also we should point out No-Âtman: There is no Self (âtman) in Buddhism, either as an essence or as a substance. What we call our self is a collection of things, the "aggregates" (skandhas): 1) the body, or "form," 2) feelings, 3) ideas, 4) impressions, & 5) momentary consciousness.
  • 180 Proof
    9.8k
    Western classical philosophy has a lot of doctrines and variations. It is complex to choose one of these to explain the purpose of living. But you were specific and referred to a 20th century man so my choice goes to Absurdism.javi2541997
    :100: :up:

    (For a few decades now, for me – a self-styled Epicurean-Spinozist, it's been) P.W. Zapffe, A. Camus, C. Rosset, A. Murray ... :death: :flower:
  • Bret Bernhoft
    115
    Which system do you believe ‘pierces the veil’ better in understanding the mystery of the purpose of living for a 20th Century human?David S

    In my opinion, the twentieth century individual is well-served to study both and ultimately synthesize a union between the two. Please keep in mind, that I'm not an expert in either system. But from the studies and practices of philosophy and mysticism that I have engaged in/with, I've found myself with a much deeper sense of respect and awe for this reality by pulling from Eastern and Western systems simultaneously; thereby bringing those contemplations into harmony with each other.
  • javi2541997
    2.2k
    P.W. Zapffe, A. Camus, C. Rosset, A. Murray ... :death:180 Proof

    :up: :sparkle:

    I've found myself with a much deeper sense of respect and awe for this reality by pulling from Eastern and Western systems simultaneously; thereby bringing those contemplations into harmony with each other.Bret Bernhoft

    Complex thoughts on put Eastern and Western systems together but also interesting, indeed.
  • 180 Proof
    9.8k
    ... Eastern and Western systems ... bringing those contemplations into [harmony with each other.Bret Bernhoft
    Why aim for "harmony"?
  • Agent Smith
    7.6k
    Why aim for "harmony"?180 Proof

    @Gnomon

    Good question, mon ami! As far as I can tell, there's no escaping harmony. Let's say we have disharmony - this with harmony is again harmony; iterate this to if you wish and/but you'll always end up harmony. It's amazing this yin-yang concept - if you oppose it, you endorse it! :cool:
  • David S
    39
    I have always appreciated the two different ways of answering the same general inquiry. One difference for me is for the Western approach it has always appeared to be focused on individual inquiry. Very much the question based on the I. This is understandable as it is the person inquiring who presumably wants to know. The Eastern mystery traditions do seem to consider the general nature of existence and being. It still has inquiry by an individual but the answers tend to cover a wider encompassing response applicable to all. My own Eastern mystery tradition is in the Oriental mystery traditions and Taoism in particular. Buddhism I do not know as much of but again the answers are probably more widely applicable. I think too I feel that Eastern mystery traditions tend to learn more from the observation of nature in general and animals more specifically. A lot of this is through observation. Western Classical philosophy has tended to be questioned and answered more around humanity, not exclusively of course as there are many great conversations like epistemology or logic or metaphysics.

    Such areas do not seem to be in the scope of the Eastern mystery traditions or at least not in the direct sense.
  • Paine
    694

    Taoism was developed as a conversation with Confucius who put the 'human' experience at the center of what could be known. That conversation involved epistemology, logic, and metaphysics. The inner chapters of Zhuangzi are focused upon the limits of language and opinion to deliver what they seem to promise. The paradox of using language to point beyond it was often discussed.

    In some ways, Zhuangzi's approach is similar to Kant's table of antimonies, where the different possible theses are ranged against each other because of the rules of our thinking rather than a result of something beyond it.
  • I like sushi
    3.9k
    Depends where you were brought up.
  • I like sushi
    3.9k
    On second thoughts … I would say western because it has a strong line of development. The major problem in the western arena is that ‘mysticism’ is viewed with a lot of cynicism (likely due to the religious heritage). Also, movements like the New Age movement were a huge setback.

    I think Jung pointed out the issue well enough by stating that the longing for something ‘unique’/‘alien’ in the western mindset was quickly filled by setting eyes eastwards. Yet in the west there is already a rich and varied repertoire of mythos and symbolism that we could more easily tap into and identify as a ‘tool’ for ‘piercing the veil’ yet the association with the judeo-christian symbolism (which inevitably attached to all western ancient and prehistoric mythos) looks stagnant and repulsive with a fleeting look. The east holds ‘mystery’ and a ‘new view’ yet to the average westerner it is actually harder to trace any relevance due to the language, historical and cultural discrepancies. Perhaps many forget that our everyday lexicon is infused with mythos and fable through idioms and metaphors passed down through the endless ages. We cannot simply unravel and forget our origins anymore than we can supplant this with a foreign body even if we try hard to adopt other cultural attributes from neighbouring states and institutions.

    Much like someone who has worked as a fisherman for 30 years cannot simply ‘forget’ what it is to be a fisherman so a ‘westerner’ cannot simply forget to be have bee raised in the ‘western’ world speaking the language they speak (which as I stated is infused with symbols and mythos dating back over millennia).
  • I like sushi
    3.9k
    The western body of history is simply greater. I think it can well be argued that the Japanese are strong/er in terms of maintaining a long line of cultural traditions and a familiar symbolic language.
  • Art48
    150
    Let’s consider the phrase “purpose of living.” A definition of purpose is “an object or end to be attained.” So, it seems asking “what is the purpose of living?” assumes there is something we lack, some goal, object, end to be attained by living.

    For example, some Christians believe that the purpose of living, the goal, is to get into heaven; salvation is what we lack, and it is life’s purpose to attain it, to get saved. Some people say life’s goal is to progress towards enlightenment; after many lives, many reincarnations, the ultimate goal of enlightenment is reach; a goal which may involve dissolving back into union with the One. Both types of people put life’s ultimate goal beyond this human life. Other people place life’s ultimate goal within this life: to learn, to grow, in Maslow’s hierarchy to become self-actualized.

    So, possible goals for living are to attain heaven, a better reincarnation, and self-actualization. Other goals are to find love, fame, wealth, etc. Some people say we should have a certain goal, salvation, for instance. Existentialists believe it is up to us to freely choose what goal(s) we want to pursue, to choose what purpose we want our life to be about.

    Some people are suspicious of an overarching life goal and advocate living in the moment (which, in itself, can be a life goal). “Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans,” said John Lennon. This may seem to say, “Don’t waste time on religious, pie-in-the-sky goals. Live for today.” “Image there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try.” begins Lennon’s song Imagine.

    Ironically, a religious/spiritual argument can be made for living in the moment, for mindfulness. God or ultimate reality, says the argument, exists for us only in the present because the past and future do not exist at this moment, on the present exists. When we remember the past or think about the future, we are in our own thoughts. But when we are in the present, in reality, we have the possibility of more intimate contact and experience of the Real. With this view, we lack nothing expect awareness of what already exists, of that in which we “live and move and have our being.”
  • Tom Storm
    5k
    Which system do you believe ‘pierces the veil’ better in understanding the mystery of the purpose of living for a 20th Century human?David S

    My own judgment is that there is no ultimate reality or mystery to solve, or purpose to find, nor any thought system that will work or appeal to all. I'm for making things up as I go, and happy to steal the odd idea from wherever if it looks like that idea can help. Personally I avoid systems, for we are already encrusted with all kinds of conceptual detritus and schemas just through socialization and enculturation. For me the journey is more about learning to ditch bad habits and unhelpful thinking.
  • 180 Proof
    9.8k
    My own judgment is that there is no ultimate reality or mystery to solve, or purpose to find, nor any thought system that will work or appeal to all. I'm for making things up as I go, and happy to steal the odd idea from wherever if it looks like that idea can help. Personally I avoid systems, for we are already encrusted with all kinds of conceptual detritus and schemas just through socialization and enculturation. For me the journey is more about learning to ditch bad habits and unhelpful thinking.Tom Storm
    :fire:
  • Alkis Piskas
    1.3k

    Which system do you believe ‘pierces the veil’ better in understanding the mystery of the purpose of living for a 20th Century human?David S
    The Western and Eastern philosophies are very different and they view life in a totally different way, although they share a lot of things. But concerning this topic, the point is that in the Eastern philosophy, life is not meaningless as it is in the Western one, esp. in the 21th century.

    Now, since you are talking about Western Classical, we must exclude modern philosophy, in which the lack of meaning and purpose of life is so evident. Plato, purpose of life is to attain the highest form of himself, which is knowledge about himself. Personal and spiritual growth was believed to be the purpose of life by most ancient Greek philosophers. Yet, this is subjective. It seems that they were not examining the meaning of life per se, but they were rather giving a meaning to life. As people do today, but certainly not in terms of spiritual --or just mental, if you prefer-- development and improvement.

    This however, is not the case in the Eastern philosophies, religions and civilizations, which have maintained their basic principles as far as life and its meaning and purpose are concerned. But I'm not going to expand this here ...

    ***

    BTW, your question is biased when you say "the mystery of the purpose of living" because it reflects only the Western philosophy, esp. the modern one. In the Eastern there's no such mystery, as I mentioned above.
  • 180 Proof
    9.8k
    Western Classical Philosophy v Eastern Mystery TraditionsDavid S
    I interpret your dichotomy this way:

    Epicureanism-Stoicism v.Daoism-Buddhism
    (i.e. eudaimonia v. non-attachment).

    I had explored the latter (with some devotion) as an undergraduate in the early '80s but the former had prevailed I suspect because that tradition suits my Western (individualistic & logico-mathematical) educated biases much better. Thus, my enduring affinity for Absurdism .
  • Agent Smith
    7.6k
    Orient [Laozi (Daoism)] = Occident [Heraclitus (duality) + Zeno (stoicism)]

    For a man of the 20th century, I'd say Western philosophy is best-suited as the world is dominated by Western meme-plexes and a simple rule of thumb is, excluding imposition by force, ideas that survive/thrive are usually good ones.

    However, given the popularity of Daoism in the West, I'd have to say there's a two-way exchange of philosophies.
  • javi2541997
    2.2k
    However, given the popularity of Daoism in the West, I'd have to say there's a two-way exchange of philosophies.Agent Smith

    Agreed. But we have to consider the fact that we in the West have interpreted Tao Te Ching or Confucianism according to our "culture". I mean, those translated works are adjusted to the Western world criteria.
    Probably if we read it in the original version/language we would get confused because we wouldn't understand it
  • Agent Smith
    7.6k


    I neither know nor think I know. — Socrates

    Socrates speaks for all mankind.

    The Tao Te Ching has to be read in Chinese to understand it? I believe that's true and yet here we are pointing radio telescopes at stars hundreds of light years away, confident that we can decipher messages in alien tongues. As per the movie Contact, math is a universal language e.g. the Pythagorean theorem was discovered independently by all ancient civilizations and they all, without exception, say the exact same thing: a2 + b2 = c2 (c is the hypotenuse, a and b are the other two sides of a right triangle).
  • javi2541997
    2.2k
    The Tao Te Ching has to be read in Chinese to understand it?Agent Smith

    No and I fully respect the work of translators and interpreters who help us to read the Tao in our languages. Nevertheless, we have to be agree with the fact that the original version is better. The Chinese alphabet is based on ideograms. So we need to know a basic sense of Chinese culture before interpreting the Tao. We are not limited to read it and debate about it but... I feel we are losing something when a complex language is translated to Spanish, English, French, etc... There are a lot of filters in the way.



    math is a universal languageAgent Smith

    It is not the same. Maths are precise science. We are debating about how we express ourselves through philosophy, art, literature, etc...
  • Agent Smith
    7.6k


    He who knows does not speak. He who speaks does not know. — Laozi

    Then he spoke ... the Tao Te Ching

    He contradicted himself (Western verdict on an Eastern case) i.e. he first wrote Tao Te Ching and then took, what?, a quill?, and struck it all off like so Tao Te Ching. It looks like Laozi, not Heidegger, was the first to use the sous rature technique in philosophy.

    In short there's literally nothing to translate! Transalators can rest easy if it's whether they did a good job or not that worries them.

    It's only words, and words are all I have
    To take your heart away.
    — Boyzone
  • javi2541997
    2.2k


    There are two important parts in the Tao:

    1. Interpretation. How do you interpret the phrase you have shared? We already discussed the meaning and nature of Tao at: My favorite verses in the Tao Te Ching.

    2. Translation. Trying to find out the correct words to put it on our language or vocabulary. People as Derek Lin did his best to translate it to English: Chinese - English by Derek Lin
  • Paine
    694
    In short there's literally nothing to translate! Transalators can rest easy if it's whether they did a good job or not that worries them.Agent Smith

    This statement is absurd. You want to claim that the differences that are made in meaning are not important to regard on the basis of an ad hominem observation of your presumptions regarding the motivations of those who work on the texts.

    This approach suggests you have a secret access to the text that cannot be verified by any actual labor in that regard.
  • Agent Smith
    7.6k
    In my universe, the Tao Te Ching is an esoteric text. Weird things happen!
  • Paine
    694

    Not a convincing argument that your view should prevail over others.
  • Agent Smith
    7.6k
    Just offering my own insights into the Tao Te Ching.
  • David S
    39
    This interesting comment from Cary F. Baynes in her Translator’s preface to “The Secret of the Golden Flower” translated by R. Wilhelm and C. G. Jung. Both of course were close to the I Ching and the Translation R. Wilhelm provided. It is clear Jung had a deep respect for the I Ching and R. Wilhelm’s translation.

    Excerpt - (It must be noted that, as C. G. Jung correctly points out, Chinese mentality, at least up to very recent times, has been essentially different in some fundamental respects from that of Europeans.

    The teachings of the Eastern Mystery traditions from ‘translations’ of what may have been oral teachings will always leave a doubt arguably as to the original meaning. This is true for any ancient text but for one I am grateful and thankful they have come down to us in particular where certain rulers have been at pains to eradicate such knowledge. “The knowledge is Power” expression must have been a factor.

    All we can do is try and learn from these texts but in turn take from an interpret our own meaning and sensibilities from them.
  • Alkis Piskas
    1.3k

    What's the meaning of asking people their opinion if you are to ignore them?
    :down:
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