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Author Topic: New essay by Adam Cadre
TomDavidson
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quote:
Are you aware that this idea (no one writing the narrative outside of ourselves) is an *explicit* premise of the Buddhadharma? It seems like you want to make a disticntion between atheism and a non-theistic religion like Buddhism...
Yep. As far as I'm concerned, Buddhism stripped of the supernatural elements is philosophy -- and not a bad one, at that. The more supernatural crap you graft on there, unfortunately, the less internally consistent it becomes.
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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by threads:
Adam, how does Buddhism fit into Richard Carrier's definition of supernatural that I posted above? Would Buddhism be a natural worldview?

A quick read gave me this definition:
quote:
In short, I argue "naturalism" means, in the simplest terms, that every mental thing is entirely caused by fundamentally nonmental things, and is entirely dependent on nonmental things for its existence. Therefore, "supernaturalism" means that at least some mental things cannot be reduced to nonmental things. As I summarized in the Carrier-Wanchick debate (and please pardon the dry, technical wording):
If [naturalism] is true, then all minds, and all the contents and powers and effects of minds, are entirely caused by natural [i.e. fundamentally nonmental] phenomena. But if naturalism is false, then some minds, or some of the contents or powers or effects of minds, are causally independent of nature. In other words, such things would then be partly or wholly caused by themselves, or exist or operate directly or fundamentally on their own.

He links to other articles for the reasoning behind this definition, so I can't say why he draws this distinction. Its certainly not one that I agree with on its face, though without having read his argument yet I will reserve judgement. In any case, by this definition, my answer would be "I don't know". [Smile] Some schools consider everything in the observable universe to be an aspect of mind; thus, there are no non-mental things to cause anything. Other schools emphasize dependant-arising, which holds that mental and non-mental are relative, mutually dependant distinctions. There being no valid fixed or absolute meaning to the terms mental and non-mental, the framework doesn't seem to apply.

Its also important to note that these metaphysical views themselves are considered relative tools, not absolute truths. In other words, they are conceptual models that aid in the transformative process of "walking the Buddhist path". While I'm not an expert, I believe that Theravadan metaphysical views could be described as natural under the definition in question. So what we have is a range of different ways of conceptualizing one's situation, so naturalist, some not, and some where the distinction does not apply. Sometimes single Buddhist teachers will apply different approaches for different students, depending on the needs and views of the student. It doesn't seem to be a fixed entity in Buddhism (insofar as there is such a thing as "Buddhism").

Adam

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TomDavidson
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As an example: the principle of samsara, which certainly many people would say is central to Buddhism, can be interpreted either metaphorically or literally. If you take it metaphorically, it renders your Buddhism into a philosophy; if you take it literally, I'd argue it turns your Buddhism into a religion. If you believe, for example, the Six Worlds depicted on the wheel are actually real supernatural dimensions of some sort, as some Buddhists do, I believe you have unnecessarily complicated your Buddhism; those who believe it, though, would reject that opinion.

[ February 01, 2010, 01:01 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
Are you aware that this idea (no one writing the narrative outside of ourselves) is an *explicit* premise of the Buddhadharma? It seems like you want to make a disticntion between atheism and a non-theistic religion like Buddhism...
Yep. As far as I'm concerned, Buddhism stripped of the supernatural elements is philosophy -- and not a bad one, at that. The more supernatural crap you graft on there, unfortunately, the less internally consistent it becomes.
Depending on your definition of supernatural, the first part of your statement is true. Indeed, it strikes me that it would be true of any religion (read Jefferson's Bible, for example). As for internal consistency, Buddhists would probably say that this is not a useful method of evaluation. Plenty of completely abstract and absurd positions can be internally consistent. In Buddhism, as I said in my previous post, conceptual views aren't treated as absolute truths, but rather as useful pointers towards non-conceptual truths. Madyamika in particular would hold that NO descriptive conceptual model is internally consistent, or, at least, none that are even remotely useful in describing reality.

Understand that I am *not* arguing that no distinction exists between atheism and non-theistic religions. Indeed, I am very explicitly NOT an atheist, as I consider it a form of absolutist faith in basically the same way that theism is. Put simply, the question of theism isn't particularly interesting to me, and not at all relevant to my spiritual life.

Adam

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
As an example: the principle of samsara, which certainly many people would say is central to Buddhism, can be interpreted either metaphorically or literally. If you take it metaphorically, it renders your Buddhism into a philosophy; if you take it literally, I'd argue it turns your Buddhism into a religion. If you believe, for example, the Six Worlds depicted on the wheel are actually real supernatural dimensions of some sort, as some Buddhists do, I believe you have unnecessarily complicated your Buddhism; those who believe it, though, would reject that opinion.

I don't know that its so easily divided. None of the realms are considered real, supernatural dimensions by Buddhists. However, that *includes* the human realm, which is the reality you and I presently perceive. The realms are not considered completely non-existent either; they are not metaphors, for example. So you could say that, from the Buddhist POV, the 5 "other" realms are exactly as "real" as the reality we presently experience.

Practitioners of Buddhism *explore* the concepts you mention. Often disbelief, especially strong disbelief, is more useful to this process than belief. People who merely categorize them in a conceptual manner are rarely (if ever) Buddhists. Rather, they are adherents to "Buddhist philosophy", which, as something outside of the context of practice, is a modern and mostly western invention. Personally, I can't imagine it having much value divorced from its context; kind of like taking the eucharist each week because its an interesting ritual, without really know anything or having any interest in Catholicism (that's just me, of course, it may work great for some people).

Adam

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kenmeer livermaile
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"I don't know that its so easily divided. None of the realms are considered real, supernatural dimensions by Buddhists. However, that *includes* the human realm, which is the reality you and I presently perceive. The realms are not considered completely non-existent either; they are not metaphors, for example. So you could say that, from the Buddhist POV, the 5 "other" realms are exactly as "real" as the reality we presently experience."

That is another thing I adore about core Buddhism: it addresses the ultimate ineffability and agnosis of everything except this thing we call experience.

Life itself is this movie; our views on it, our attempts to extract and distill from it a single encompassing meaning, are just so many movie critics pointing at The Moon (a lovingly remade tribute to the original 1933 film starring Spencer Tracy as Hungry Ghost and Claudette Colbert as the wandering monk Lao-Tzu).

Merrily merrily merrily merrily
Life is but a dream.

[ February 01, 2010, 02:19 PM: Message edited by: kenmeer livermaile ]

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hobsen
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Adam Cadre does a nice job of explaining why it is hard to enact leftist legislation in a country in which most voters are either in the center or on the right, with those on the right as the best financed and organized group.

He might also have explained that such legislation generally gets blocked in the Senate, in which representation is based on geography rather than on population. Even if every voter in the three most populous states of California and New York and Texas had opinions on the far left, all of them together could elect only six out of a hundred Senators. So the Senate is controlled by members representing states which are themselves controlled by voters from conservative rural areas. So it does not matter what most of the voters on the United States want, so long as most of the area of the United States is controlled by voters with opinions on the right side of the political spectrum.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
So you could say that, from the Buddhist POV, the 5 "other" realms are exactly as "real" as the reality we presently experience.
Depends on the Buddhist, of course. [Smile]
And, of course, it's also a load of crap. Of course it's not as real as the reality we experience. The reality we experience is real because we experience it. That's what reality is.

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kenmeer livermaile
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One thing we experience in this reality is our belief in the reality of other realms that exist only in mediated abstractions and our imagination. This is one of the points the Buddha made.

Focusing on hypothetical alternate states of 'reality' help us look at this sense of reality differently.

Once upon a time the existence of atomic reality was strictly highbrow conjecture. Now we know it is real. The same science that proves it real also very strongly indicates the existence of untold myriad manifold alternate realities every bit as *real* as this one.

As far as waking up and smelling the coffee, however, this level of experiential reality is the only actual plane that exists for us.

[ February 01, 2010, 03:16 PM: Message edited by: kenmeer livermaile ]

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
So you could say that, from the Buddhist POV, the 5 "other" realms are exactly as "real" as the reality we presently experience.
Depends on the Buddhist, of course. [Smile]

Of course.

quote:
And, of course, it's also a load of crap. Of course it's not as real as the reality we experience. The reality we experience is real because we experience it. That's what reality is.
If you are talking about experiential reality, there is no "we". There is the reality *I* experience, and a whole host of assumptions about the reality others experience. From that point of view, it is indeed crap, but so is the assumption that you share a common reality with others. You can't have it both ways.

Adam

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TommySama
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"If you are talking about experiential reality, there is no "we". There is the reality *I* experience, and a whole host of assumptions about the reality others experience. From that point of view, it is indeed crap, but so is the assumption that you share a common reality with others. You can't have it both ways."

The reality you or I experience is much more complicated than the reality we think we are experiencing. A person can't necessarily be broken down into a single unified unit that is separate from everything/everyone else. There are competing forces in us which experience in different ways. And of course all these parts that make a person up are closely tied to and related to life, the universe, and everything. A person is as unclear to himself as the universe is unclear to people.

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by TommySama:
The reality you or I experience is much more complicated than the reality we think we are experiencing.

Or much simpler. [Smile] But not necessarily the same, I agree.

quote:
A person can't necessarily be broken down into a single unified unit that is separate from everything/everyone else. There are competing forces in us which experience in different ways. And of course all these parts that make a person up are closely tied to and related to life, the universe, and everything. A person is as unclear to himself as the universe is unclear to people.
I couldn't agree more.

Adam

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TomDavidson
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quote:
From that point of view, it is indeed crap, but so is the assumption that you share a common reality with others.
This is actually why, in my personal philosophy, I have come to rely on the concept of "contexts." While our brains -- and our ability to process perceptions -- are part of our internal context and cannot be shared, we are capable through the use of our perceptive context to interact indirectly with the physical context (i.e. actual reality). And since other people are also capable of interacting with physical reality through their perceptive contexts, it's still possible to say that we share a reality with others -- albeit at two removes.

It is not, however, possible to say that we share a "reality" with demons or reborn spirits, as these things do not intercept reality; they exist purely within our internal contexts, and fall therefore into the category of things that might be said to be "real for me" without being, y'know, actually real.

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
From that point of view, it is indeed crap, but so is the assumption that you share a common reality with others.
This is actually why, in my personal philosophy, I have come to rely on the concept of "contexts." While our brains -- and our ability to process perceptions -- are part of our internal context and cannot be shared, we are capable through the use of our perceptive context to interact indirectly with the physical context (i.e. actual reality). And since other people are also capable of interacting with physical reality through their perceptive contexts, it's still possible to say that we share a reality with others -- albeit at two removes.

It is not, however, possible to say that we share a "reality" with demons or reborn spirits, as these things do not intercept reality; they exist purely within our internal contexts, and fall therefore into the category of things that might be said to be "real for me" without being, y'know, actually real.

I'm failing to see a distinction, in your explanation, between a "demon" (for example) and what you are calling "actual reality". What we perceive through our senses is our perceptual reality. You are positing an "actual reality" beyond that; that there is something "out there" that, due to our imperfect senses, is different from our perceptual reality. You then say that this "actual reality" is experienced (imperfectly) by others. However, at present, this actual reality only exists as a conceptualization. By your definition, it is beyond our perceptual reality. We don't see or hear or experience it. That's called a concept, since it only has any meaningful existence in your mind as an idea. Philosophically, thats nothing new, its essentially the Platonic view of idealized realism. However, its interesting to me that what you are calling "actual reality" is actually the flimsiest of your defined spheres; a mere mental construct. I would also venture that, for that reason, its hardly *less* supernatural than what I am proposing.

Adam

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TomDavidson
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quote:
You are positing an "actual reality" beyond that; that there is something "out there" that, due to our imperfect senses, is different from our perceptual reality.
Yep. And this is of course purely a theory; it is possible that this context does not exist, and everything but our personal contexts is imaginary. (It's even possible that nothing but our internal context exists, and even our perceptions are imaginary; this is the whole "brain in a jar" bit.) I choose to believe that there is in fact an outside world, however, because there appears to be a reality with which I can interact that interacts with me in a way that is neither perfectly predictable nor unexpectedly irregular; when I choose to throw what I perceive as a bouncy ball into the air, where I believe I see it land is not necessarily where I consciously believe it will land -- and yet it behaves in a manner consistent with the way I believe bouncy balls might behave if certain models for physical reality are in fact "true."

While this physical reality only intersects my internal context by way of my senses, the interesting thing is that it's also my only source for external information; while I can posit a hundred thousand things, it is only through manipulating perceived objects in real space -- third-hand, as it were -- that I can learn anything about those objects (or the space in which I perceive that they interact) that I myself do not (consciously) supply.

Of course, there may still be errors; the interesting thing about this third context, however, the "physical world," is that its models appear to work consistently for other entities -- granting for a moment the possibility that other entities exist, which I do -- as well. We both perceive that a ball, when thrown, falls in a predictable way; we both perceive that fire is warm. We may not necessarily perceive the sensation of warmth or the the wavelength of light we've agreed to call "red" the same way, but there appears to be a common -- perhaps consensual -- shared space in which perception might be agreed upon between otherwise divergent contexts.

So let's introduce "demons," or "souls," or "magic" to the model. These things cannot be reliably reproduced in the way that, say, the idea that water is "wet" can be reproduced. It may well be the case that someone's behavior is strongly influenced by a belief in demons -- or, from the perspective of the internal context, demons themselves, since there's no way to distinguish between the two internally; within this context, demons are certainly "real" for that individual. But "demons" cannot be made manifest in that third, shared space; there is no way a "demon" can be called up to, say, interfere with a ball in flight in a way that someone whose internal context does not contain demons can perceive. Interestingly, "demons" can be spread between perceptive contexts as memes, as the idea of "demons" can be translated into words and other forms of communication that, when perceived, transfer the concept to another individual's context. But while the sound waves traveling from one host's mouth to the recipient's ear exist in that shared physical space -- they have to, because it is only that space which is actually shared -- those waves contain nothing of the demon-concept within them. The sound -- waves filtered through the air, captured by fluid in the ear -- must be perceived and then processed by other contexts before any further meaning can be extracted.

(Of course, I also believe that "meaning" is purely a function of the internal context, but YMMV.)

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kenmeer livermaile
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"A person is as unclear to himself as the universe is unclear to people."

So velly velly good.

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threads
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quote:
Originally posted by Adam Masterman:
quote:
In short, I argue "naturalism" means, in the simplest terms, that every mental thing is entirely caused by fundamentally nonmental things, and is entirely dependent on nonmental things for its existence. Therefore, "supernaturalism" means that at least some mental things cannot be reduced to nonmental things. As I summarized in the Carrier-Wanchick debate (and please pardon the dry, technical wording):
If [naturalism] is true, then all minds, and all the contents and powers and effects of minds, are entirely caused by natural [i.e. fundamentally nonmental] phenomena. But if naturalism is false, then some minds, or some of the contents or powers or effects of minds, are causally independent of nature. In other words, such things would then be partly or wholly caused by themselves, or exist or operate directly or fundamentally on their own.

He links to other articles for the reasoning behind this definition, so I can't say why he draws this distinction. Its certainly not one that I agree with on its face, though without having read his argument yet I will reserve judgement.
It's odd to disagree with the definition as the definition serves to draw a distinction that is useful. Perhaps you don't think that it captures what people mean by supernatural? Are there any examples the come to mind of something that you would classify as natural or supernatural but that Carrier's definition would classify as the opposite?

In case it helps, here's an excerpt from Carrier's section on "Supernatural Beings"

quote:
Let's start with supernatural beings. You know, like God. Or gods. Or demons, angels, faeries, or ghosts. Or invisible pink unicorns or flying spaghetti monsters. You get the picture. These are all supernatural if they have any mental property or power that is not reducible to a nonmental mechanism. If, however, all of their powers and properties can be reduced to nonmental mechanisms, then they are not supernatural beings after all, but natural ones.
It might be easier to discuss your view on the matter rather than trying to hold you accountable for all of Buddhism. If you don't want to then I understand (though I would be disappointed [Razz] ).
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kenmeer livermaile
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"But "demons" cannot be made manifest in that third, shared space; there is no way a "demon" can be called up to, say, interfere with a ball in flight in a way that someone whose internal context does not contain demons can perceive. Interestingly, "demons" can be spread between perceptive contexts as memes, as the idea of "demons" can be translated into words and other forms of communication that, when perceived, transfer the concept to another individual's context. But while the sound waves traveling from one host's mouth to the recipient's ear exist in that shared physical space -- they have to, because it is only that space which is actually shared -- those waves contain nothing of the demon-concept within them. The sound -- waves filtered through the air, captured by fluid in the ear -- must be perceived and then processed by other contexts before any further meaning can be extracted."

Hmmm... since this is expressed so well, and addresses ideas dear to me, I feel compelled to pick nits. This impulse comes primarily from my great big floppy ego but hopes to proceed from there to genuine additional insight.

1st nit: "those waves contain nothing of the demon-concept within them" is not true that we know. What is true is that *no evidence* of the demon-concept has been perceived within them. This lack of evidence is part of that immense empty nothingness our minds love to fill with meaning. The very best motivation for rational inquiry is the irrational (here I use 'irrational' in a sense closer to 'irrational number' than 'lacking reason', for the "irrational" is the reason we project imagined things into the vibrations of air we can exchange between us).

The blessed thing about prevailing, working, tested theories like relativity and quantum mechanics is that they contain irrational voids that require filling if we are to render them completely rational: there's always some wiggle room for our irrationality to fill with all kinds of crazy crap like dark matter and superstrings and demons.

Things like dark matter seem to manifest over time into reality better than things like demons. In pondering these irrational voids, things that never before existed come into being. These things are composed of rational substance, to be sure, but they are still things that never before existed in our shared consensual reality (TomD's 3rd context shared among us). We know now that an atomic explosion is a scarcely noticeable blip compared to a small hiccup by the sun, but it nonetheless makes a helluvan impression on our local shared context, yes?

Our rational inquiries into irrational voids may not to date have pulled ghosts from the ether but they have projected their equivalent through electromagnet transmission "through the airwaves". (One of those neglectedly beautiful cliches.)

The irrational, disciplined by the rational, adds new things to our shared consensual realities (SCR). One wonders if someday we will manifest into our SCR previously nonexistent things that are more than just reconfigurations of the prime essential components of SCR, like all the new kinds of subatomic particles we continue to knock loose from bigger subatomic particles, but instead, are things that truly never existed anywhere but in our imagination. Not just some-assembly-required but some-stuff-that-never-existed-needs-manifesting.

The sad thing about religion is that it strives so little to actually manifest its imaginary things and beings; that when it does try to do so it uses the same old tired methods that have been shown over history not to work -- prayer, spells, incantations,potions, living sacrifice, offers to sell one's 'soul' (an offer itself requiring magic in order to produce a soul for a demon to purchase) -- while applying little and mostly lackluster scientific (rational) methods.

The most unscientific aspect of religion is not what it chooses to believe but the methods by which it attempts to manifest those beliefs.

Thank you, TomD, TommySam, Adamasterson, and thank you, bringer, for inspiring the original tangent that spurred this digression. I needed that.

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kenmeer livermaile
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But really, Ahnald expreses it so much better:

Pui!

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kenmeer livermaile
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"Religion consists of the belief that everything that happens to us is extraordinarily important. It can never disappear from the world for this reason."

"To know the world one must construct it."

Cesare Pavese (10-9-1908 –- 8-27-1950)

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kenmeer livermaile
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Hmmm... this was poorly written:

"The very best motivation for rational inquiry is the irrational (here I use 'irrational' in a sense closer to 'irrational number' than 'lacking reason', for the "irrational" is the reason we project imagined things into the vibrations of air we can exchange between us)."

What I meant to convey was that it is the small irrationalities (the holes in our rational understanding, be the holes 'why is the sky blue' or tiny bits of missing data) reward rational inquiry best. Day-to-day research fills in these small voids.

But the Big Irrationalities (from why are we here? to is the universe expanding or contracting?) that fire up our questing curiosity.

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RickyB
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"My impression is that core Buddhism is a philosophy, one that has acquired the trappings of more traditional supernatural religion."

Good way to put it, I think.

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
I choose to believe that there is in fact an outside world, however, because there appears to be a reality with which I can interact that interacts with me in a way that is neither perfectly predictable nor unexpectedly irregular; when I choose to throw what I perceive as a bouncy ball into the air, where I believe I see it land is not necessarily where I consciously believe it will land -- and yet it behaves in a manner consistent with the way I believe bouncy balls might behave if certain models for physical reality are in fact "true."
I don't think there's anything wrong with this position, as long as its understood to be a belief.

The viewpoint of a practitioner is that whatever exists beyond the realm of perception (beyond mind) is basically irrelevant. Buddhist practice is about exploring the nature of experience (perceptual reality) directly; therefore its better not to have *any* beliefs about reality (which is a practical impossibility; better to say that its advised to try and recognize those beliefs as beliefs, and not cling to them to tightly).

As for the consensual aspect of "physical reality", I would just point out that its not nearly a clean-cut as you point out. If we are talking about consensus of average persons, well, we're still debating human origins. [Smile] If we are talking about scientific method as the final arbiter of objective reality, I'd simply refer you to quantum mechanics, where its pretty well established that the observer and the observed are inextricably linked. The idea of an objective reality "out there" hasn't really conformed to scientific observation in decades (on the macro scale, it basically works, in the same way that Newtonian physics still basically work, but as a valid description of "reality", its increasingly flawed).

Adam

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Al Wessex
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Adam, is it fair to say that in your spiritual reflections, belief (faith, etc.) is something to be avoided?
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Adam Masterman
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quote:
It's odd to disagree with the definition as the definition serves to draw a distinction that is useful. Perhaps you don't think that it captures what people mean by supernatural? Are there any examples the come to mind of something that you would classify as natural or supernatural but that Carrier's definition would classify as the opposite?
I disagree on its face because its based on a materialist assumption (that mental phenomena are caused by and can be reduced to non-mental phenomena). That's a whole other debate, and it seems kind of silly to just throw it in as a given to help clarify terms in a different debate.

I understand what the author is trying to do: provide a definition of kind that corresponds to common usage of the terms natural and supernatural. I also think that such enterprises generally lead to epic fails. Common-use definitions generally have pretty clear central domains (the ghost of Christmas past is supernatural, my Buick Skylark is not), but very unclear boundaries (the chinese concept of Chi?). Definitions of kind draw sharp boundaries; inevitably they will include too much or too little, depending on the audience.

Personally I would say that common usage is generally fine; I don't disagree that the ghost is supernatural or that the Buick is not. What prompted my request for a definition was Tom's unsupported assertion that supernatural elements invalidated Buddhist concepts. But I wasn't asking "what is the actual definition of supernatural?", I was asking "how are you (Tom) using this word, and why does it invalidate these claims?" I think defining "supernatural" is a separate discussion, and, since I consider this to be a common-usage, categorical word, I don't really see the point in trying to craft a strict definition. "Ghosts, demons and stuff" is the best you are likely to get.

Nothing I write should be understood to be Buddhist orthodoxy, btw (if there is such a thing). My POV is just my own, informed by the fact that I am a Buddhist practitioner. So no worries there; I won't (and haven't ever) argue a position I don't personally hold.

Adam

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by Al Wessex:
Adam, is it fair to say that in your spiritual reflections, belief (faith, etc.) is something to be avoided?

Not necessarily. Its simply understood to be a relative phenomenon. For example, some level of faith/belief is necessary just to do the practice. I wouldn't spend an hour a day sitting on a cushion if I didn't at least *suspect* that enlightenment was possible for me. One teacher explained it as "taking the dharma as a working hypothesis." You needn't have absolute, unwavering faith; just enough of a hunch to practice and try it out. After that, you discover for yourself whether what you were taught was true or not.

aside: One of the great things about the Dharma is that that level of personal verification is there right from the beginning. I can't personally attest to the possibility of enlightenment of the continuation of consciousness, but Buddhist teachings give you descriptions of mind and its function at every stage of the path; so there ARE things that I was taught and able to personally verify. Usually, when that verification takes place, you realize that you hadn't really understood the teaching initially, but experiencing it directly lets you appreciate how apt the "pointer" really was.

Adam

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TomDavidson
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quote:
What prompted my request for a definition was Tom's unsupported assertion that supernatural elements invalidated Buddhist concepts.
I didn't say they invalidated 'em. I said they unnecessarily complicated them. The most valuable parts of Buddhism, IMO, do far better once they're stripped of the silly "cosmic rebirth" and "800-year-old man" and "chi punch" mysticism that appears to accrete on any philosophy that crops up in Asia.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
The viewpoint of a practitioner is that whatever exists beyond the realm of perception (beyond mind) is basically irrelevant.
Adam, is it your understanding, then, that the Buddhist position towards a Matrix-like situation -- where humans are kept in an illusory mind-reality while their physical bodies are xploited -- is one of neutrality? That, in fact, the Matrix is functionally "real" and should be addressed as such by the humans experiencing it, and that there is no moral value in exposing it as "unreal?"
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kenmeer livermaile
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" If we are talking about scientific method as the final arbiter of objective reality, I'd simply refer you to quantum mechanics, where its pretty well established that the observer and the observed are inextricably linked. The idea of an objective reality "out there" hasn't really conformed to scientific observation in decades (on the macro scale, it basically works, in the same way that Newtonian physics still basically work, but as a valid description of "reality", its increasingly flawed)."

I'd say that the definition of "out there" has been adjusted somewhat, but all that's changed, really, is the notion that "out there" (OT) is fixed and absolute. That was a silly notion in the first place: nothing is fixed and absolute.

I would say (conjecturally, not fixedly nor absolutely [Wink] ) that one key aspect of 'enlightenment' is to achieve some fixed/absolute reference point within oneself.

[ February 02, 2010, 10:39 AM: Message edited by: kenmeer livermaile ]

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
The viewpoint of a practitioner is that whatever exists beyond the realm of perception (beyond mind) is basically irrelevant.
Adam, is it your understanding, then, that the Buddhist position towards a Matrix-like situation -- where humans are kept in an illusory mind-reality while their physical bodies are xploited -- is one of neutrality? That, in fact, the Matrix is functionally "real" and should be addressed as such by the humans experiencing it, and that there is no moral value in exposing it as "unreal?"
Hmmm. I would say that, ultimately, getting out of the matrix doesn't really change your situation. You are still in your own self-created matrix, still deluded about the relationship between yourself, your perceptions, and your world. In a relative sense, it might lead to better outcomes to get people out of the matrix, and so be a moral good.

I'm assuming you are aware that the Matrix is, in part, an analogy of the Buddhist view of reality. Within the context of the analogy, escaping the Matrix represents liberation, whereas Neo's "seeing through" the matrix at the very end represents enlightenment (slightly different concepts in Buddhism). So, in that case, escaping is moving from ignorance to wisdom (not necessarily moral, but good, as in good for you). My previous paragraph was more literal, assuming that the Matrix was an actual event.

Adam

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Al Wessex
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" Its simply understood to be a relative phenomenon."

I've never heard the notion expressed that belief/faith is relative, so I suspect we're talking about different things. Real faith is non-rational, whereas the method/practice you outline is clearly not.

It sounds like you trust the Buddhist method/practice and seek to discover what it reveals in a way similar to how a bottle is a "method" that *might* contain a refreshing (or ultimately satisfying) drink. Your "bottle" is only as full as what you are able to discover within it and can be empty one moment, half-full another, etc. Faith would always see the bottle as completely filled with the tastiest stuff imaginable. I'm using metaphors to try to help me understand you; I'm not trying to put you in the bottle...

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kenmeer livermaile
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"Hmmm. I would say that, ultimately, getting out of the matrix doesn't really change your situation. You are still in your own self-created matrix, still deluded about the relationship between yourself, your perceptions, and your world. In a relative sense, it might lead to better outcomes to get people out of the matrix, and so be a moral good."

Bingo. The Matrix was a verisimilitude of "reality". Morpheus/Neo's belief that it was better to leave one "reality" for "another" was as much an attachment to the conceit of "self" as it was a choice of "free will". A major theme of Matrix 1 was that knowing the truth is the best, will set you free. Matrix 2 challenged that notion. I haven't seen Matrix 3; the Buddhist in me avoids suffering. [Wink]

The best thing about breaking the illusion of the Matrix was that one could then, inside the Matrix, realize that "the spoon isn't there" and do cool stuff like fly around.

But the goal of Buddhism is to relieve suffering. That is it's prime objective. (Right?) If living in a hallucination relieves suffering, good. Buddhism simply asserts that knowing one lives in an illusion is an aid to reducing suffering. (Right?)

[ February 02, 2010, 11:37 AM: Message edited by: kenmeer livermaile ]

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threads
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quote:
Originally posted by Adam Masterman:
quote:
It's odd to disagree with the definition as the definition serves to draw a distinction that is useful. Perhaps you don't think that it captures what people mean by supernatural? Are there any examples the come to mind of something that you would classify as natural or supernatural but that Carrier's definition would classify as the opposite?
I disagree on its face because its based on a materialist assumption (that mental phenomena are caused by and can be reduced to non-mental phenomena). That's a whole other debate, and it seems kind of silly to just throw it in as a given to help clarify terms in a different debate.
It's not based on that assumption rather it distinguishes between claims that make that assumption and claims that don't. It classifies mental phenomena that cannot be reduced to non-mental phenomena as supernatural.

quote:
Originally posted by Adam Masterman:
I understand what the author is trying to do: provide a definition of kind that corresponds to common usage of the terms natural and supernatural. I also think that such enterprises generally lead to epic fails. Common-use definitions generally have pretty clear central domains (the ghost of Christmas past is supernatural, my Buick Skylark is not), but very unclear boundaries (the chinese concept of Chi?). Definitions of kind draw sharp boundaries; inevitably they will include too much or too little, depending on the audience.

That's true in general but it would be nice if you could point out an actual exception. I suggested the definition because I've found it to be very good at handling corner cases.

quote:
Originally posted by Adam Masterman:
Personally I would say that common usage is generally fine; I don't disagree that the ghost is supernatural or that the Buick is not. What prompted my request for a definition was Tom's unsupported assertion that supernatural elements invalidated Buddhist concepts. But I wasn't asking "what is the actual definition of supernatural?", I was asking "how are you (Tom) using this word, and why does it invalidate these claims?" I think defining "supernatural" is a separate discussion, and, since I consider this to be a common-usage, categorical word, I don't really see the point in trying to craft a strict definition. "Ghosts, demons and stuff" is the best you are likely to get.

From what I can tell, Buddhism tends to use terms such as supernatural, mental, spirit, etc. in a different way from how they are traditionally used in Western societies. I think it would be useful to be able to precisely (to the best extent possible) identify what certain terms mean.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
If living in a hallucination relieves suffering, good.
This raises the question, though, of self-actualization. Is it better to suffer in order to be self-actualized, or is it better to never suffer? Leaving aside the question of the Matrix, imagine someone whose conscious mind has been clouded with drugs or electrical stimuli that make him incapable of perceiving anything but bliss. Is this person truly living the Buddhist ideal?

----------

quote:
From what I can tell, Buddhism tends to use terms such as supernatural, mental, spirit, etc. in a different way from how they are traditionally used in Western societies.
I know Buddhists who light incense because they believe it drives demons away and who believe in actual reincarnation. They do not use these things as metaphors; they literally believe that, for example, a little incense will keep sentient bad entities from sticking around in their houses.

I know that not all Buddhists are this superstitious, but I think the superstitious ones do the non-superstitious ones a disservice.

[ February 02, 2010, 11:41 AM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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kenmeer livermaile
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"Is it better to suffer in order to be self-actualized, or is it better to never suffer?"

One reason my life took such extreme departures from normal behavior is that I self-actualized at age 16. In that actualization, I came to the conclusion that the only thing in life that mattered was to be happy.

So the superficial answer to your question would be that it is better to never suffer. However, that asks whether absence of suffering allows happiness.

As we recall, Agent Smith explained how the original Matrix was designed to make humans happy. The machines were not malevolent toward humans, only imperial. But human brains would not accept that happifying matrix, and so it was replaced by one that sucked a la normal reality. Hence, I suppose, Smith's enormous contempt for homo saps.

"...imagine someone whose conscious mind has been clouded with drugs or electrical stimuli that make him incapable of perceiving anything but bliss. Is this person truly living the Buddhist ideal?"

Who knows? Asks I: who cares? Probably not the neuro-blissful one.

"Neuro! You're the One!"

"Whatever."

[ February 02, 2010, 12:01 PM: Message edited by: kenmeer livermaile ]

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
If living in a hallucination relieves suffering, good.
This raises the question, though, of self-actualization. Is it better to suffer in order to be self-actualized, or is it better to never suffer? Leaving aside the question of the Matrix, imagine someone whose conscious mind has been clouded with drugs or electrical stimuli that make him incapable of perceiving anything but bliss. Is this person truly living the Buddhist ideal?


No. That person is in a temporary bliss state, which is one way of understanding the God realm. Liberation is not the absence of painful sensations, its freedom from experiencing pain as suffering. "Pain is a part of life; suffering is optional." [Smile]

quote:
quote:
From what I can tell, Buddhism tends to use terms such as supernatural, mental, spirit, etc. in a different way from how they are traditionally used in Western societies.
I know Buddhists who light incense because they believe it drives demons away and who believe in actual reincarnation. They do not use these things as metaphors; they literally believe that, for example, a little incense will keep sentient bad entities from sticking around in their houses.

I know that not all Buddhists are this superstitious, but I think the superstitious ones do the non-superstitious ones a disservice.

Well, I hope the rational Buddhists can weather the disservice I'm doing to them. [Smile] Seriously, you are welcome to your opinion, but you can hardly expect it to hold much weight as a criticism. Displays of wisdom and compassion do service to the Buddhist community. Since ALL conceptual models are understood to be fundamentally flawed, we tend not to squabble over who's is better.

The insistence on , and weight given to, doctrinal/metaphysical "correctness" is a remnant of western Christian thought that persists in (and seems to define) contemporary western Atheism, even as it rebels against the present form of that Christian thought. I understand that, in your context, the differences are significant, but from my point of view Theists and Atheists are making the same basic mistake (with, of course, many exceptions to this in both camps).

Adam

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kenmeer livermaile
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"Pain is a part of life; suffering is optional."

Such detachment can easily be attained via ketamine, itself neither a blissful nor painful experience, merely disassociative. This state may be temporary too, but then, so is enlightenment insomuch as it happens to a sentient mortal being.

This is not an attempt to refute but to refine. I can conceive of how a "vision" (better I say gestalt awareness?) of emptiness, what the Dalai dude says he feels he's experienced a few times, can create a nugget of infinity that transcends one's mortality. After all, infinity itself is impossible to actually to exist through; I mean, that takes, like, forever, dude.

But an *awareness* of infinity or emptiness, that can conceivably be experienced. Some array of neurons firing in such a way as to create a perfectly closed feedback loop, an internal Moebius strip.

I suppose a prolonged discussion distinguishing pain/hurt from suffering/misery might follow.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
The insistence on , and weight given to, doctrinal/metaphysical "correctness" is a remnant of western Christian thought that persists in (and seems to define) contemporary western Atheism...
This is because contemporary western atheists are rationalists first and foremost.
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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
The insistence on , and weight given to, doctrinal/metaphysical "correctness" is a remnant of western Christian thought that persists in (and seems to define) contemporary western Atheism...
This is because contemporary western atheists are rationalists first and foremost.
This seems to be the case, but I was driving towards *why* they are rationalists. In Islam, for example, and in Hinduism, one's intellectual view of reality/metaphysics is considered relatively unimportant. Christianity was somewhat unique in enforcing *doctrinal* conformity (as opposed to ritual conformity). The remnant of this shift in modern western atheism is the idea that doctrine, or intellectual view, is the defining aspect of one's philosophy/theology. Indeed, atheism could be said to carry this idea to its ultimate conclusion, since it apparently consists of nothing else (I am trying to be value neutral here; I'm not saying this is good or bad, merely that it is).

Adam

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PSRT
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quote:
The remnant of this shift in modern western atheism is the idea that doctrine, or intellectual view, is the defining aspect of one's philosophy/theology. Indeed, atheism could be said to carry this idea to its ultimate conclusion, since it apparently consists of nothing else (I am trying to be value neutral here; I'm not saying this is good or bad, merely that it is).
That is because atheism is a metaphysical statement, not a philosophy or theology.
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