• Pfhorrest
    1.6k
    I don't see why that reply was addressed to me. I don't really disagree with any of that.
  • DingoJones
    1.6k


    You dont need the self for that cohesion and unity. It happens without it. Thats why they call the self an illusion.
  • bongo fury
    272
    I long ago gave up the appalling vanity of trying to stay awake whilst meditating, but lately I have, perhaps ironically, become moderately skilled at prolonging self-awareness whilst falling asleep. I can, sometimes, observe the surreal failures of logic building incrementally, instead of the (still) usual pattern of suddenly waking (with a jolt), unable to retrace the train of thoughts back to the last fully wakeful one. I'm convinced this method of amusing myself (which is derived from a roughly similar practice of Salvador Dali's) is relevant to the quest of explaining consciousness. For example the issue of 'executive' control of thought, often associated with 'self'. How rambling and linearly uncoordinated can a stream of consciousness become without being in fact (or perhaps I should say, being by definition) unconscious? I'll stop here in case I prompt a similar question about the nature of a post.

    Interested in people's reports about this kind of thing, however (inherently) unreliable.
  • Xtrix
    512
    Meditation may help someone deal with pain (likewise hypnosis) but it is not a permanent state to function in.Andrew4Handel

    Ask Thich Nhat Hahn or Jon Kabat-Zinn if it's a permanent state. Your sense of "meditation" is limited. That can refer to a formal practice, like sitting on a cushion etc., but what's being practiced or cultivated is awareness and equanimity -- which of course can be used in any circumstance. So running can be meditation, swimming, having a conversation, etc. It's an exercise, like yoga. I like thinking of it that way.

    All of the philosophical-type stuff about the self, or the concept of "Anatta" in Buddhism, doesn't really matter all that much. But I can tell you from experience that if you persevere with it, you'll see what they're talking about. You don't have to take anyone's word for it. In that sense, I truly doubt you've meditated deeply -- it's not easy to drop attachment or to recognize thinking as thinking. I myself have only caught glimpses -- but even that is worth doing.

    The narratives we build around this so-called "self" is what is usually the issue for us. Jealousy, insecurity, reactions to our social environment, reactions to pain, etc. -- all have to do with our conditioned responses and our sense of "self" as a possession.
  • Xtrix
    512
    I long ago gave up the appalling vanity of trying to stay awake whilst meditating,bongo fury

    The appalling vanity? I don't understand this comment.

    It's fine if one falls asleep while meditating. It's very common. But the point is to fall awake. There's nothing "vain" about that.
  • bongo fury
    272
    I don't understand this comment.Xtrix

    Damn! I thought it was droll.
  • TheMadFool
    5.2k
    I thought the idea behind no self was that there is nothing that endures, both in life and also beyond death, especially in the sense of a self that's immaterial. That there's no self in life is counterintuitive but that there's no self that endures beyond death seems completely compatible with facts as they stand.

    Speaking for myself, I think and I know there's something doing the thinking but I'm inclined to believe it's just the brain reflecting on its own thoughts.
  • ZhouBoTong
    837
    Correct, DMT will have that result. Other psychedelics can in the right settings, but DMT is a very reliable means of producing this effect.DingoJones

    Well I am getting a bit too old to go seeking these things out. Maybe an opportunity will present itself one day. I would still expect at MOST, a loss of the SENSE of self. I can't really wrap my head around what "loss of self" even means.

    Id call that loss of memory and attention, not self.DingoJones

    And that is exactly what I am trying to tease out here. What EXACTLY is the difference?

    That implies the self is present but otherwise focused. So I would say its not the same thing we are talking about.DingoJones

    How do you know that is not what is happening during drugs or meditation?

    Interesting, please elaborate.DingoJones

    Based on definitions of words "I" exist. To claim otherwise is extreme, and I would demand stark evidence to entertain such a notion...just like I would for a supernatural entity. The only evidence I have against either is that I see no evidence of either. Honestly, I am not even sure what people mean...if you lose your "self" can I now destroy your body and this lost consciousness will exist elsewhere?

    Or are you just losing your SENSE of self? I can deal with that. I can even accept that I lose my SENSE of self when I am unconscious (not always...I have been unconscious as far as any outside party was concerned and most of my senses were "off", but I could hear everything that was going on?? - Remember to tap out on time if you ever do JiuJitsu or Judo, haha).
  • ZhouBoTong
    837
    Are you your thoughts, feelings, actions?Xtrix

    Yes. And so much more.

    Where are "you"?Xtrix

    California.

    Where is this "self"?Xtrix

    It's just a word. It has a definition. We often use words to summarize more complex concepts (like self).

    I am not saying I don't somewhat understand your post modern semi nihilistic view here (that is like all of my academic philosophy vocabulary used at once, so I may be entirely wrong), but what purpose can it serve?

    Does grass exist? If we get down to it, it is really millions of individual cells. Within these cells are organelles that serve vastly different functions. How dare we call ALL of this "grass".

    Likewise for "soul," likewise for "spirit," "subject," "mind" for that matter.Xtrix

    But these are not all the same. By definitions, "subjects" and "minds" certainly exist. "Souls" and "Spirits" only definitely exist as metaphors or fiction (I am not saying they don't exist, but they MIGHT not). Similarly, based on definitions and usage, most of us know "selfs" exist...but, of course, they exist as concepts...but upon deeper inspection, most words only exist as concepts, just like the Grass example I gave above.

    If you're defining "self" within a certain theory, and giving it a technical definition I'm not aware of, then that's different. I don't see you doing so.Xtrix

    Nope. Just dictionary and common usage.

    it's hard to say whether or not we "believe" in something when we don't know what it is.Xtrix

    this works: a person's essential being that distinguishes them from others, especially considered as the object of introspection or reflexive action.

    What "evidence" is there that there IS a self?Xtrix

    We both keep using "I" and "you". We are assuming selfs.
  • Gregory
    825
    We have a stream of consciousness obviously. Whether there is a person experiencing it depends on whether the stream has a substance. I think it does and it doesn't. The soul is in-between the source of everything (Nothingness) and the world (substance)."The organic substance as inner is the soul simply, the pure Logos of purpose or the Universal which in dividing into its discrete elements remains all the same a universal fluid continuity, and hence in its being appears as activity or the movement of vanishing reality" Hegel
  • DingoJones
    1.6k
    Well I am getting a bit too old to go seeking these things out. Maybe an opportunity will present itself one day. I would still expect at MOST, a loss of the SENSE of self. I can't really wrap my head around what "loss of self" even means.ZhouBoTong

    I would describe it as sense of self sure. Thats why people call it an illusion, cuz the “self” is t really there. You recognise the mechanics at work (or think that you do), thst you normally think of as your “self” doing.

    And that is exactly what I am trying to tease out here. What EXACTLY is the difference?ZhouBoTong

    I think your right it makes more sense to call it loss of self. So the difference between that sense and memory is categorical, memory is something the self (or the illusion of self) has access too. Attention is something the self does (but I suppose its possible other parts of consciousness can pay attention to things as well).

    How do you know that is not what is happening during drugs or meditation?ZhouBoTong

    Because it feels different. The feeling/experience of loss of sense of self is not the same as accessing memory or losing/gaining/focusing Attention.
    This is why people call it experiencing “becoming one with the universe”. It sounds like some hippy nonsense but damned if Zi can figure out a better way to put it. Thats what its like.

    Based on definitions of words "I" exist. To claim otherwise is extreme, and I would demand stark evidence to entertain such a notion...just like I would for a supernatural entity. The only evidence I have against either is that I see no evidence of either. Honestly, I am not even sure what people mean...if you lose your "self" can I now destroy your body and this lost consciousness will exist elsewhere?ZhouBoTong

    Oh, ok god just in the sense that it sounds like a supernatural claim and dismissed for similar reasons?
  • Xtrix
    512
    Speaking for myself, I think and I know there's something doing the thinking but I'm inclined to believe it's just the brain reflecting on its own thoughts.TheMadFool

    The view of naturalism and modern science, for the most part. But again this presupposes "material," "body," and "physical" have meaning, and in my view they don't -- in the technical sense. Again, for ordinary usage there's no problem, but any real definition of "body" went out the window in the 17th century, as you know.
  • Gregory
    825
    any real definition of "body" went out the window in the 17th century, as you know.Xtrix

    They just brought up questions of solidity, energy, and such. We still can understand what the world is and that it exists
  • Xtrix
    512
    Are you your thoughts, feelings, actions?
    — Xtrix

    Yes. And so much more.
    ZhouBoTong

    Fair enough. In that broader definition, you are also your car, your house, and your clothes.

    Where is this "self"?
    — Xtrix

    It's just a word. It has a definition. We often use words to summarize more complex concepts (like self).
    ZhouBoTong

    OK, and what is the definition?

    I am not saying I don't somewhat understand your post modern semi nihilistic view here (that is like all of my academic philosophy vocabulary used at once, so I may be entirely wrong), but what purpose can it serve?ZhouBoTong

    Not post-modern. Nihilism also has nothing to do with it. What I'm discussing here actually goes back at least 2500 years. Maybe "mystical" is what you mean or something like that. In which case I don't agree.

    I don't know what you mean by "purpose" here either. What's the purpose of hanging on to the concept of "self" in that case?

    Does grass exist? If we get down to it, it is really millions of individual cells. Within these cells are organelles that serve vastly different functions. How dare we call ALL of this "grass".ZhouBoTong

    Sure. The "self" exists too. So does the meaning of life. So does beauty and justice. So does the financial crisis in Venezuela. Ordinary usage and ordinary language is fine, but we're doing philosophical analysis here, and thus appealing to commonsense notions and the dictionary just doesn't work.

    Likewise for "soul," likewise for "spirit," "subject," "mind" for that matter.
    — Xtrix

    But these are not all the same. By definitions, "subjects" and "minds" certainly exist. "Souls" and "Spirits" only definitely exist as metaphors or fiction (I am not saying they don't exist, but they MIGHT not). Similarly, based on definitions and usage, most of us know "selfs" exist...but, of course, they exist as concepts...but upon deeper inspection, most words only exist as concepts, just like the Grass example I gave above.
    ZhouBoTong

    I don't understand "by definitions, x and y certainly exist." I think this is all very confused.

    Grass not only exists in ordinary usage, but it also has a scientific meaning which you began to describe. It has a color and a form extended in space, etc. When analyzing the "self" scientifically (or philosophically), there's simply nothing to explore -- it hasn't been defined in any meaningful way, so we can't even begin to analyze it in the way we can "grass."

    If you're defining "self" within a certain theory, and giving it a technical definition I'm not aware of, then that's different. I don't see you doing so.
    — Xtrix

    Nope. Just dictionary and common usage.
    ZhouBoTong

    Which is exactly wrong. Although this surprisingly comes up a lot in this forum - people want to settle issues with appeals to common sense and Webster's dictionary. That's not doing philosophy. It's actually more like walking into a physics department and citing the dictionary when discussing "energy."

    What "evidence" is there that there IS a self?
    — Xtrix

    We both keep using "I" and "you". We are assuming selfs.
    ZhouBoTong

    So if we didn't use those words, there would be no "selves"?

    Regardless, in your sense God exists, since we all say "Thank God" and whatnot. Ok, that's fine. But it's not philosophy and not science.

    Lots of things are considered common sense. The moon illusion is a good example. Or gravity for that matter. For nearly 2000 years things were considered to be "going to their natural places." OK, discussion over - everyone knows it, no sense questioning it. Ditto for "God," and these days maybe something like "American exceptionalism." If you're happy with common sense notions, that's fine. I'm not out to "disillusion" anyone, but once you take a serious look into these concepts, it's quite interesting, and everyday notions just don't help.
  • Xtrix
    512
    any real definition of "body" went out the window in the 17th century, as you know.
    — Xtrix

    They just brought up questions of solidity, energy, and such. We still can understand what the world is and that it exists
    Gregory

    No, they completely discarded any sense of "body" or "material." Newton himself thought it was an absurdity, but it's what the evidence was pointing to. So the mechanical philosophy was a dead end. And it has never been revived.

    I didn't say anything about "understanding what the world is" or that it "doesn't exist."
  • Gregory
    825
    No, they completely discarded any sense of "body" or "material." Newton himself thought it was an absurdity, but it's what the evidence was pointing to. So the mechanical philosophy was a dead end. And it has never been revived.Xtrix

    That's "understanding what the world is". How could Newton have disproved the solidity of matter? How is that possible? I don't get it. If it's solid and cohesive, we then have some understanding of it
  • Xtrix
    512
    That's "understanding what the world is". How could Newton have disproved the solidity of matter? How is that possible? I don't get it. If it's solid and cohesive, we then have some understanding of itGregory

    What is "understanding what the world is"? What are you referring to in that first sentence?

    I never said Newton "disproved the solidity of matter."

    "Understanding" was defined, in the beginning of the scientific revolution, in the context of the mechanical philosophy -- and explained, for example, with the concept of contact action. In this context, "body" and "matter" was given a definition. With Newton's "occult forces," that philosophy collapsed.

    It doesn't mean the world doesn't exist or we can't understand anything. It just means the idea of "matter" or "body" or "physical" no longer have a technical definition. Hence issues like the "mind/body" problem is meaningless and, as I've written elsewhere, the long debates about "subjects and objects," about the inner/outer world, etc., are likewise useless.
  • Gregory
    825
    It just means the idea of "matter" or "body" or "physical" no longer have a technical definition. Hence issues like the "mind/body" problem is meaningless and, as I've written elsewhere, the long debates about "subjects and objects," about the inner/outer world, etc., are likewise useless.Xtrix

    This is all just completely false. Everyone knows what matter is.
  • Xtrix
    512
    This is all just completely false. Everyone knows what matter is.Gregory

    :)

    OK.
  • TheMadFool
    5.2k
    The view of naturalism and modern science, for the most part. But again this presupposes "material," "body," and "physical" have meaning, and in my view they don't -- in the technical sense. Again, for ordinary usage there's no problem, but any real definition of "body" went out the window in the 17th century, as you know.Xtrix

    As far as I can tell, naturalism seems the most reasonable point of view for anyone to assume as a worldview. Why? You may ask. For the simple reason that it exists, as a worldview, within the bounds of reason and what can be known. By what can be known, I refer to what can be perceived through the senses and then comprehended by reason. Anything beyond what can be known and beyond reason is by defintion then unknowable and/or incomprehensible. Given that what is non-naturalism coincides with the unknowable, it strikes me that to entertain a non-naturalistic standpoint is like a person born blind trying to perceive and understand color. It's impossible. I've heard many definitions of foolishness and one, to my reckoning, is trying to do the impossible. So, to put it into a choice format, it's either naturalism or attempt to do the impossible. Which is more reasonable?

    That said, albeit naturalism is preferable over anything else, I suggest we keep an open mind about other alternatives but with the caveat that we bear in mind that they're unknowable.
  • Xtrix
    512
    As far as I can tell, naturalism seems the most reasonable point of view for anyone to assume as a worldview.TheMadFool

    You're not alone. And that's a respectable position, no doubt.

    Anything beyond what can be known and beyond reason is by defintion then unknowable and/or incomprehensible. Given that what is non-naturalism coincides with the unknowable, it strikes me that to entertain a non-naturalistic standpoint is like a person born blind trying to perceive and understand color. It's impossible.TheMadFool

    If anything "non-natural" is completely unknowable, then of course what you say logically follows. But what is "nature"? If it's simply anything we can understand, then that's fine - but coming to view the knowable world as "nature" has a history, up to the modern scientific narrative of the Big Bang, evolution, particles, forces, etc. Its origin is ultimately Greek. If this current worldview is one among others, as you admit it is, then it too will evolve.

    History has all kinds of ways of understanding the world -- whether it was considered God's creation or φῠ́σῐς. To believe we've settled on the ultimate interpretation is common in every era.
  • ZzzoneiroCosm
    794
    I think the idea that the self is an illusion does not make sense.Andrew4Handel

    I connect the notion of no-self to the philosophy of determinism. If freedom is an illusion, the self-as-conative is also an illusion.


    The flow of samsara I connect to the concatenation of cause and effect.
  • Wayfarer
    9.5k
    A note about no-self - anatta - in the early Buddhist texts.

    It is always applied adjectively. The typical formulation is that 'everything' (i.e. all experienced phenomena) are anatta (without self), dukkha (painful or unsatisfying) and anicca (impermanent). So, everything (i.e. every conceivable thing, experience of phenomena) is anatta, anicca, dukkha. If you undertake one of the well-known ten-day Vipassana training courses run by the Goenka school, that is taught as the basis of the practice - that you dispassionately observe the flow of experiences, sensations, and thoughts that arise and note that each of them have these 'three marks' or characteristics, naturally leading to detachment or cessation (which is much harder to do than to say, in my experience.)

    But it's also important that when asked 'does the self exist or does it not', the Buddha declines to answer. Instead he maintains what is traditionally described as 'a noble silence'.

    Why is this? He explains to his attendant Ananda, that to answer either 'yes' or 'no' to the question 'does the self exist' are both incorrect. (The text is here. ) To answer 'yes the self exists' is to side with the 'eternalists' - those who claim there is an eternal, unchanging soul. To answer 'no' is to side with the nihilists - those who claim, basically, that death is the end, that there are no karmic consequences to actions in the present life in a future state.

    So both of these are regarded as 'extremes'. I suppose, to transpose the terminology to a modern day idiom, 'eternalism' is roughly like those who believe that on death, one goes to heaven and finds all one's deceased relatives and possessions awaiting them, as is taught in some popular religions. The other extreme is the common view that the body is simply a physical system or unit and that on its decease, there is nothing further. So the 'middle way' of Buddhism rejects both of these as 'extreme views'.
  • TheMadFool
    5.2k
    If anything "non-natural" is completely unknowable, then of course what you say logically follows. But what is "nature"? If it's simply anything we can understand, then that's fine - but coming to view the knowable world as "nature" has a history, up to the modern scientific narrative of the Big Bang, evolution, particles, forces, etc. Its origin is ultimately Greek. If this current worldview is one among others, as you admit it is, then it too will evolve.

    History has all kinds of ways of understanding the world -- whether it was considered God's creation or φῠ́σῐς. To believe we've settled on the ultimate interpretation is common in every era.
    Xtrix

    Fantastic point. The Heraclitean maxim panta rhei will probably never lose its relevance. As you so correctly remarked, the axiom I'm using in my argument is that whatever there is, if there is, beyond our senses and instruments is simply impossible to access and ergo, all that we can ever do is speculate, speculate and speculate. Given that these speculations will forever be impossible to verify, to invest belief in any one of the many theories that will invariably pop up would be a grave mistake because there'll be implications, some of which may not be beneficial to us. Think of religion for instance - it is, in essence, a theory of what is beyond the senses and our instruments and look how much damage its responsible for.
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