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Author Topic: SCIENTOLATRY
scifibum
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quote:
Originally posted by Adam Masterman:
quote:
Originally posted by Fenring:
I guess you're going the noumena vs phenomena route. Basically science seems to have consistent results regardless of who does the testing, so insofar as each person's reality is different, it appears to be bounded by common principles. In fact, good testing procedure more or less eliminates whatever bias individuals bring to the table.

Not true at all; the range of things are reliably repeatable is actually quite narrow; certain properties measured in certain ways. Indeed, the biggest scientific revolution of the past century was that, fundamentally, matter itself is indeterminate unless observed. On a literal, quantum level, reality simply isn't real until its observed.

Furthermore, those things that we do agree on are, quite literally, nothing more than a broad consensus. It says interesting things about people, not so much about any reality independent of us.

I probably agree with some of what you're saying, but I think you're extrapolating too much from the quantum physics. Consciousness is not required to collapse from the "possible" to the "real" in physics; the observer need not be a mind. Schrodinger's cat consists of many observers that are all interacting with each other in real ways, and outside of a thought experiment is either alive or dead.
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Aris Katsaris
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Ugh, quantum mechanics.

Frankly, I doubt any of us are equipped to discuss this, but one thing I know is that "collapse" interpretations of quantum mechanics have fallen out of favour in recent decades.

The interpretation I currently favour (though again, I'm not really equipped to discuss this at length) is the many-worlds interpretation: There's no 'collapse'. The cat which is a superposition of dead and alive, when the box is opened, causally interacts with *you* -- that makes *you* enter into a superposition of "seeing a dead cat" and "seeing an alive cat".

For each of your superpositioned selves, the cat-state seems 'collapsed' into one possibility -- but from outside the system, far from a collapse, the superposition has expanded to include you.

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
You may ultimately reject what I'm saying, but in order for you to understand it, you have to at least be able to conceptualize the idea of non-random, non-deterministic action.

Imagine something happening, like an eye blinking. Now imagine it didn't happen as a result of randomness. Then imagine that it didn't happen entirely as a result of determinism. Imagine that at one moment, it could either blink or stay open, and then in the next moment, choice was made, and it closed. But it could have stayed open; nothing about the previous state of the universe said it must close. Just that it may. And then choice was made.

Look, I think the problem is that you keep using the sort 'choice' which has a bazillion ethical connotations for you. And the words 'randomness' and 'determinism' likewise have connotations for you.

So, let's taboo all of this. Let's discuss the ways that a closed system X can move from a state S1 to its following state S2.

After studying the system, let's say that I define two new concepts called "dloodigard" and "rimbarig". Dloodigard means that for any given S1, the same S2 will follow with 100% possibility (though I may be incapable of calculating it in advance, if I rerun the system, the same S2 will always follow).

Rimbarig means that for any given S1, different states S3, S4, S5... Sn will results with various probabilities. Rerunning the system a billion times, I calculate the exact probabilities of each of these eventualities. I may not know which eventuality will result, but I know the probabities of each eventuality.

I believe that Dloodigard and Rimbarig fully express the models of progress for a closed system
-- in fact even Dloodigard can be considered a special case of Rimbarig (just with one eventuality set to 100% probability).

Now, you tell me there's something beyond Dloodigard and Rimbarig: Clocinor. But to me all you seem to be describing is a particular combination of Rimbarig and Dloodigard -- a Rimbarig where the way that the probabilities in question are defined have been Dloodigarded by the purposes of a conscious mind.

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JoshuaD
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quote:
quote:
JoshuaD: Again, where are you getting this "creepy ghost" narrative?
Tom:You are postulating that my body -- the only part of myself that I am aware of as myself -- is actually an avatar, something being manipulated by a controller from outside the known universe that does not interact in normal, predictable, or even detectable ways with regular matter.
I don't believe this. I used an analogy of video games to refute Fenring's objection to my model. It is one easy to understand idea that addresses his objection.

quote:
quote:
Fenring:
The question would then remain how, if some sort of force interacts with matter, matter cannot therefore interact with it, which would normally be automatically implied since interaction is a two-way street. I guess the belief in miracles requires a rejection of the law of action and reaction, where there is a special kind of force that only acts upon and is not acted upon. This would, indeed, be impossible to study except by inference.

JoshuaD: When I play a video game, there are laws that govern how the pieces in the game move, but I myself am not subject to those laws; that world and that "matter" does not interact with me.
I don't believe there is a ghost outside of my body controlling me. I don't believe in an eternal soul. I don't reject that philsophy as an impossibility, but I also don't see any reason to believe it.

I think choice is a fundamental part of this univerese. I think it's fundamental like the laws of gravity are fundamental. I don't know what causes it (any guess about that is beyond my horizon to observe), I just know that I seem to experience it.

quote:
Tom:But that's not how it is perceived. You do not feel, when under the influence of cocaine, that you are a sensible person trying to urge your body to restrain itself and just can't get the message through; you feel like a freakin' superhuman, and drive your body to commit all kinds of wild acts because the part of you that is in control of your body wants to do them.
This isn't my experience at all. When I do things that I believe are harmful to me, I experience that as a struggle. It feels very much like I am struggling against this body. For example, the body wants to eat junk food, and the mind struggles against that.

quote:
Tom:
If you are not your memories and your body, what are you? And what part of your memories and your body are not obviously impacted by the physical world?

I tend to agree with Adam that "I" is an illusory concept, in the ultimate sense. I am say that the collection of things that makes up the apparent "I" includes choice, or will, or striving. Whatever you'd like to call it.
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JoshuaD
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quote:
Fenring: Joshua, the general problem scientists ascribe to the 'supernatural driver' theory is that if some processes are occurring that affect our body, and aren't derived from purely physical factors, we'd be able to see that at work.
As I mentioned to Tom just now, I don't believe in a supernatural driver. I used that as an example to illustrate a concept. Like all analogies and metaphors, there were some rough edges. In hindsight, I regret using that one, because it created a lot of confusion about what I believe.


quote:
Fenring: We have an extraordinarily precise ability to see what's going on in physical substances, and although we don't always understand the mechanism fully (e.g. in the brain) we do know what forces are at work. If there was some 'other force' producing effects not accounted for from the physical forces we'd know; or at least, to an extremely long set of decimal places we can be pretty sure. I've seen a few presentations about this; basically the greater the effect an 'extra force' would have the better the chance we'd see its effects, and the lesser its effect the less chance, but also the less it will affect our general theories of mechanics. The chance we'd fail see a force strong enough to command locomotion in organisms is infinitesimal.
I think this is a vast overstatement. I think we have a tiny sliver of light in a universe that is giant in all directions. The three apparent physical dimensions, the dimension of time, as well as the dimensions of size.

We have a tiny little sliver of light in that huge incomprehensible thing. To suggest that we have it mostly figured out is wildly optimistic. We barely have it figured out.

It's so strange to me to suggest that, because scientists have looked very carefully at a few tiny places in a few tiny labs in a very narrow slice of time, that somehow we have a anomaly-detection net on most of the known universe. It's such a strange, and downright false, model of our level of knowledge and observation.

quote:
Fenring:Regarding the "feeling of choice", coupled with unpredictability (even to oneself) as being hard evidence of extra-natural free will, you might ask yourself whether the wind has free will.
I don't imagine the wind feels that it has choice.

quote:
Fenring:It certainly moves in patterns, and yet chaotically, and it seems to 'have a mind of its own.' Does it?
No, it does not appear to have a mind of it's own to me. You don't really think that either, I don't think.

quote:
Fenring:What does the wind feel when it shifts directions? You might say it can't feel because it has no feedback system, and yet it does - just not locally. You might say it has no mind and so it can't feel, but if you look at small parts of us you wouldn't see 'mind' there either. Each organelle isn't 'mind', and neither is a blood vessel, and neither is a neuron. Somehow the whole of it does achieve a complex functionality and has feedback mechanisms, but this emergent property is very hard to explain; it may just be a bias. Is the solar system alive? Is has a patterned, organized system of operation that includes self-correction, adjustment, a combination of chaos and order, and it even has a lifespan. Solar systems even move, and give birth as well.
I don't see that solar systems do anything other than act as a matter of determinism.

quote:
Fenring:I'm not saying I think you're on the wrong track, per se, but I think the belief in supernatural will has to be taken on faith; I'm pretty sure there is no hard evidence to either suggest or support it. This doesn't mean it's wrong! But it does mean I don't think you'll have much luck finding hard ammo to use for the purposes of convincing skeptics.
Everything we're talking about requires faith. That is the great failing of philosophy, and science is certainly a philosophy. On page two, I asserted that Tom's belief system requires more faith that my system (and I think it's true).
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JoshuaD
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quote:
Adam: I actually think that you [Tom] are closer to being correct than Josh here.
I don't think you think that.

The entire conversation between Tom and I is whether the universe is essentially a machine, or whether it essentially has a component of choice.

When you say "There is freedom, and there is cause and effect, and there isn't any conflict because there isn't any agency.", you seem to be rejecting what Tom said.

I don't care how complex of a machine Tom makes the universe in his model. A machine is a machine; lacking will, lacking choice, lacking effort, and ultimately fatalist.

I don't think you are a fatalist, Adam. I think you believe in striving (perhaps I'm wrong).

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TomDavidson
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quote:
When I do things that I believe are harmful to me, I experience that as a struggle.
Huh. You should really try some irresponsible sex and decent drugs. Struggle is really not the word.

-------

quote:
On page two, I asserted that Tom's belief system requires more faith that my system (and I think it's true).
Except that it isn't true, and you're wrong. Your belief system requires that we postulate an entire, very complicated entity to reproduce experience that we would have without that entity. Nothing you feel cannot be explained by the model I'm suggesting; your model unnecessarily complicates things by insisting that moral values which you have not actually observed must exist, and then struggles to justify them.

---------

quote:
A machine is a machine; lacking will, lacking choice, lacking effort, and ultimately fatalist.
That's a remarkably shallow and limited way of looking at it, and it helps me understand your position, which you appear to hold out of something like fear.

Why do you believe that your life needs to have meaning to some force outside yourself in order for your life to have what you consider meaning? Is your own experience not sufficient? That your choices are a product of your environment does not mean that they are meaningless; it just means that they do not have meaning that somehow rises above your environment.

[ February 27, 2015, 03:09 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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JoshuaD
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quote:
Aris: Ugh, quantum mechanics.
For once, we agree. Whenever I see quantum mechanics evoked in a philosophical conversation, I can't help but think of this XKCD.

quote:
Aris:After studying the system, let's say that I define two new concepts called "dloodigard" and "rimbarig". Dloodigard means that for any given S1, the same S2 will follow with 100% possibility (though I may be incapable of calculating it in advance, if I rerun the system, the same S2 will always follow).

Rimbarig means that for any given S1, different states S3, S4, S5... Sn will results with various probabilities. Rerunning the system a billion times, I calculate the exact probabilities of each of these eventualities. I may not know which eventuality will result, but I know the probabities of each eventuality.

I believe that Dloodigard and Rimbarig fully express the models of progress for a closed system
-- in fact even Dloodigard can be considered a special case of Rimbarig (just with one eventuality set to 100% probability).

Yes.

quote:
Aris:Now, you tell me there's something beyond Dloodigard and Rimbarig: Clocinor.
Yes.

quote:
Aris:But to me all you seem to be describing is a particular combination of Rimbarig and Dloodigard -- a Rimbarig where the way that the probabilities in question are defined have been Dloodigarded by the purposes of a conscious mind.
This is where I think you go wrong. (I'm going to talk using the real words, because there was no reason to use made up words here.)

When I talk about the probability of a dice rolling 6, I am not only talking about the statistical past. I am talking about some real property of the dice. The fact that a six comes up one in six times is directly related to the fact that the die has six equal shaped sides, an even distribution of weight, etc.

I don't think this is the case with beings. I don't think my struggles, failings, and triumphs are the results of a dice roll. I think I made choices.

I think the things beings do are not random, and they are not entirely deterministic. I think beings are as fundamental to this universe as matter. I think choice is as fundamental to this universe as gravity.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
I don't think this is the case with beings. I don't think my struggles, failings, and triumphs are the results of a dice roll. I think I made choices.
But your choices are deterministic.
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MattP
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quote:
I think the things beings do are not random, and they are not entirely deterministic. I think beings are as fundamental to this universe as matter. I think choice is as fundamental to this universe as gravity.
Not to be glib, but how do you distinguish between this being true and, to use the machine analogy, merely being programmed to falsely believe this is true?

I assume that you believe that some functions of your brain, such as the interpretation of physical stimuli, are driven by deterministic algorithms. Why must the sense of self and agency not be?

[ February 27, 2015, 03:20 PM: Message edited by: MattP ]

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JoshuaD
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quote:
Tom: Huh. You should really try some irresponsible sex and decent drugs. Struggle is really not the word.
I have, and I have. And I think it is. I think most alcoholics and heroin addicts would agree with me.

quote:
quote:
Josh: On page two, I asserted that Tom's belief system requires more faith that my system (and I think it's true).
Tom: Except that it isn't true, and you're wrong. Your belief system requires that we postulate an entire, very complicated entity to reproduce experience that we would have without that entity. Nothing you feel cannot be explained by the model I'm suggesting; your model unnecessarily complicates things by insisting that moral values which you have not actually observed must exist, and then struggles to justify them.
Your model is identical to mine, except you insist on adding a caveat: at the ultimate level, even though we have this experience of freedom and we should, for all intents and purposes, act like we do, it's actually just an illusion.

Your system is the same as mine, except it insists on a belief that is contrary to experience.

quote:
quote:
JoshuaD: A machine is a machine; lacking will, lacking choice, lacking effort, and ultimately fatalist.
That's a remarkably shallow and limited way of looking at it
I don't think it is. If you think so, please express why. It doesn't matter if the machine is a clock, or a computer, or a universe. If the thing is a machine, then it's a machine. There is no choice, there is no struggle, there is no effort, and there is ultimately nothing but fireworks. Bright, beautiful fireworks, that cannot be stopped, changed, influenced, or altered in any way.

In your system, nothing I do matters, because I don't do anything. Whatever set this machine in motion at the beginning did it all, and we're all just lifeless automatons at the end of those strings. In your system, the only difference between me and a billiards table is that I'm much more complex.

I don't reject that system out of fear, like you suggested. I reject it because it's patently absurd in the context of my every day experience.

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JoshuaD
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
I don't think this is the case with beings. I don't think my struggles, failings, and triumphs are the results of a dice roll. I think I made choices.
But your choices are deterministic.
This is an assertion of your belief, nothing more. I do understand you believe this.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
Your model is identical to mine, except you insist on adding a caveat: at the ultimate level, even though we have this experience of freedom and we should, for all intents and purposes, act like we do, it's actually just an illusion.

Your system is the same as mine, except it insists on a belief that is contrary to experience.

Rather, it insists that experience does not necessarily reflect reality.

Occam's Razor applies here: you are postulating an entirely separate and highly complex entity that satisfies the same requirement as my own model.

----------

quote:
There is no choice, there is no struggle, there is no effort...
It is hard for me to understand your objection to this, because it is self-evidently wrong. I mean, let's imagine for a moment that we program a machine to be aware of labor, then tell it roll up a very steep slope full of obstacles. That machine will struggle. It will expend effort. It might, given enough complexity, feel tired and look for easier ways up the hill, choosing better paths. There is choice. There is struggle. There is effort.

You keep insisting that there is not, but to me it seems obvious that self-awareness comes with a wide variety of impressions and internal contexts that, at least internally, provide exactly the "meanings" you're looking for. So when you say that a "machine" cannot struggle, I don't understand what basis you're using for that assertion.

This becomes especially bizarre to me when you recognize that we are self-programming machines, both within our own frameworks and across generations. If I fail to make it up the hill, someone who was better at making it up hills will pass those skills and traits on to generations who'll be generally better at hill-scaling than I am. I am also able to decide to tackle the hill at a later time, after I have learned how to climb hills from an expert. That I have a piece of programming in me that says "identify when you are expending wasted effort on something fruitless and search using various algorithms for alternative approaches, including possible abandonment of the goal," does not mean that my choice is not programmed; it just means that we've evolved decent Try/Catch blocks.

quote:
In your system, nothing I do matters, because I don't do anything. Whatever set this machine in motion at the beginning did it all....
So? Is it important to you that, from the perspective of someone standing outside the universe, the decisions you made were fore-ordained? To you, they were not. To you, they were meaningful. And since you are the only person capable of perceiving meaning for yourself, they have meaning.

[ February 27, 2015, 03:34 PM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by JoshuaD:

I don't think this is the case with beings. I don't think my struggles, failings, and triumphs are the results of a dice roll. I think I made choices.

You've hit the nail on the head here. These are the things you think, because you have to think them. These aren't merely biases, they are necessary beliefs in order to live. However, that believing these things is required in order to live doesn't mean they are ontologically true. This is the difference between utility and truth. We don't need truth to live, but we do need functional beliefs that achieve our ends.

In philosophy and science we try to ignore the things we believe in favor of the things we can demonstrate, and for which there is demonstrable evidence. "I feel this is so" is actually the worst devil for rational thought, because the conflict of interest involved in inspecting beliefs that are of vital utility to you is very powerful.

As people we do want to use personal feelings and experience to teach us things. We want to use our natural sensitivity to inform us. If we feel weird, we can take a good bet something's wrong and needs to be addressed. If we feel mistrustful of someone, there may well be a reason. We have access to lots more data than we can rationally process, and we should listen to it. But none of this speaks to the kind of rigor we have come to demand from the laboratory; it's on a totally different level.

Think of an absolute monarch who rules a nation of serfs. If he is asked questions about whether serfs are equal to him, or about economic disparity or about the value of democracy, you can imagine you're going to get crazily biased answers. It's not that he's incapable of discussing these things with a clear mind, but we can assume that he will have to overcome a great hurdle to be able to do so. Similarly the human organism is a kind of tyrant, whose entire sense of reality suits its own needs and wants and which is designed to create a reality of its own (you even admit this) and call it 'the world.' Given this kind of subjective setup, you can imagine the kind of biases that such a being will have, and would have to overcome if it wanted to discuss things objectively.

As humanists we would say that "I feel this" is a statement of paramount importance, and that each person's feelings need to be taken very seriously. As scientists it's the opposite; the scientific method tries to eliminate biases of perspective from its basic operation.

By the way, earlier you mentioned that your beliefs are in line to an extent with those of Catholics and Protestants, but they absolutely do not believe that 'choice' is a fundamental force of the universe; they believe it actually defies the natural [fallen] laws of the universe and is a God-given exception to natural law.

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
I don't think my struggles, failings, and triumphs are the results of a dice roll. I think I made choices.
If *you* made choices, then *you*, as a part of a system, have *determined* those choices; that's what choosing means. Which means that the concept of 'choice' is actually INEXTRICABLY TIED with the concept of 'determinism', NOT with non-determinism.

When a person determines a choice, that's when the choice is meaningful. I'm talking mathematically here: If the qualities of person P affect the probability of choice C, then the choice C itself when made, reveal characteristics of person P.

When the characteristics, dreams, virtues, purposes of person P do NOT determine the choice C, that's when the 'choice' is as meaningless as a dice roll.

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scifibum
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Found some old threads that proceeded along nearly identical lines. Slightly amused.

http://www.ornery.org/cgi-bin/ubbcgi/ultimatebb.cgi/topic/6/15821.html

(that one starts in an odd place, I think some of the older threads have suffered from some database corruption)

http://www.ornery.org/cgi-bin/ubbcgi/ultimatebb.cgi/topic/6/14189.html

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by JoshuaD:
quote:
Adam: I actually think that you [Tom] are closer to being correct than Josh here.
I don't think you think that.


Well, I guess I should say, "I think you and Tom are both wrong, for completely different reasons." I can easily reframe it in my own head in a way that makes your view much closer to my own. And obviously you and I share a rather specific religious practice which Tom doesn't (to my knowledge). In any case, my basic point is that I think you are both in error.

quote:
The entire conversation between Tom and I is whether the universe is essentially a machine, or whether it essentially has a component of choice.

When you say "There is freedom, and there is cause and effect, and there isn't any conflict because there isn't any agency.", you seem to be rejecting what Tom said.

Well, yes, but I'm also rejecting what you have said. I'm proposing a third possibility (I won't be so pompous as to say that I'm proposing a "middle way". [Smile] ).

quote:


I don't care how complex of a machine Tom makes the universe in his model. A machine is a machine; lacking will, lacking choice, lacking effort, and ultimately fatalist.

I don't think you are a fatalist, Adam. I think you believe in striving (perhaps I'm wrong).

I'm definitely not a fatalist, and personally I value striving (ziji; "joyful exertion").

What I'm reacting against is the idea that there is a Josh, or an Adam or a Tom, that makes choices. There simply is no such entity, which (turnabout is fair play [Smile] ) is something I believe that you would agree with. I'm not saying there is no choice; I'm saying there is no Josh.

That leaves the question: what is happening when "Josh" thinks he makes a choice? My own personal answer (not something I would argue, just my personal article of faith) is that we are seeing the intersection of conditioned and unconditioned phenomena (in this case, those words can also stand in for "determined" and "undetermined". The conditioned phenomena is karma, which is the infallible law of cause and effect in relation to mind. The unconditioned is rigpa, the nature of mind/consciousness, "original mind" (in the zen tradition), luminosity (in the sutras of the third turning of the wheel), etc. The former, karmic consciousness, is where we find desire and aversion; and any choice based on preferring, wanting, hating, avoiding, even striving for enlightenment. Its karmic, determined by previous causes and conditions; I feel the sutras are very clear on this point. Its also fundamentally confused, a total mis-apprehension of the world and how it relates to the "self".

The latter, "nature of mind", is unborn, uncaused, uncreated and unconditioned. It is simple, bare, uncluttered awareness; the light that illuminates any and all sentience. All moments of consciousness arise from this basic ground, and couldn't manifest without it.

So this confused, neurotic, grasping, deterministic mind-stream that makes choices and remains hopelessly mired in afflictive karma; that mind is always within the context of pure, unstained, perfect awareness. In every single moment, there is the possibility to see the truth of all of it: selflessness, non-duality, impermanence and emptiness. There is a source of clarity that is constantly available to the deluded (and conditioned) mind-stream, and this clarity creates the possibility for a different path, one that doesn't lead around and around the wheel for eternity.

In this sense, one's life isn't rigidly determined (some people define determinism as "from a few seconds after the big bang, it was unalterably inevitable that Lee Harvey Oswald would kill JFK in 1963"; this view is complete horses**t). Rather, there are causes and conditions, but they aren't real or true, and there is the constant possibility of seeing that, which could lead to a path out of confusion.

However, the "will" that we typically refer to when we discuss this topic, THAT is a completely determined phenomenon. Its just a fancy word for "wanting", a karmic propensity that is born of past delusion, and gives birth to future delusion. Its the opposite of freedom. And any concept of an entity or agent possessing and enacting such a will is definitely, completely wrong.

That might have been more long-winded than necessary, but does it clarify my position for you?

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JoshuaD
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Adam: There is no disagreement between us. I tend to have a great deal of faith in the Buddhist belief that "I" is illusory, so you won't have a hard time getting me on that train. It's just not something I have focused on here, because I think that context makes it really hard to have a conversation.

From my point of view, what Tom and I are arguing over is this:

quote:
Adam:is that we are seeing the intersection of conditioned and unconditioned phenomena
I agree that both are at play here. That is my argument in this thread. It seems to me that Tom, Donald, and Aris are rejecting the possibility of "unconditioned phenomena". They seem to be saying that all phenomena are conditioned.

For me, that is the crux of what we are talking about. Without choice, or what you call unconditioned phenomena, I think words like "morality" and "good" and "bad" cease to have meaning.

quote:
Well, yes, but I'm also rejecting what you have said. I'm proposing a third possibility (I won't be so pompous as to say that I'm proposing a "middle way". [Smile] )
[Razz]

[ February 27, 2015, 06:45 PM: Message edited by: JoshuaD ]

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TomDavidson
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I think it's hysterical that we all seem to agree that our "self" is fiction, and are quibbling over who gets author credit. [Smile]
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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
I think it's hysterical that we all seem to agree that our "self" is fiction, and are quibbling over who gets author credit. [Smile]

Agreed, but for the record, the self gets author credit. [Smile]
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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by JoshuaD:
Adam: There is no disagreement between us. I tend to have a great deal of faith in the Buddhist belief that "I" is illusory, so you won't have a hard time getting me on that train. It's just not something I have focused on here, because I think that context makes it really hard to have a conversation.

True; the Buddhist framework makes it impossible to talk about reality independently from the mind, but that's often way too much info to unpack for casual discussions.

quote:


From my point of view, what Tom and I are arguing over is this:

quote:
Adam:is that we are seeing the intersection of conditioned and unconditioned phenomena
I agree that both are at play here. That is my argument in this thread. It seems to me that Tom, Donald, and Aris are rejecting the possibility of "unconditioned phenomena". They seem to be saying that all phenomena are conditioned.

For me, that is the crux of what we are talking about. Without choice, or what you call unconditioned phenomena, I think words like "morality" and "good" and "bad" cease to have meaning.


Well, I am as uncomfortable with the word "choice" as I am with self. I could live with "alternatives", the idea that things could go this way or that way, but I understand "choice" to be a phenomenon deeply embedded in karmic causality.

I also don't think "good" and "bad" have any real meaning. This might be a reflection of the differences between the Mahayana and the Vipassana traditions. Have you ever read the Heart Sutra? I'd be very interested to hear your take (feel free to email me, its a little off-topic). The Sutra of the Heart of Transcendent Knowledge

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Aris Katsaris
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http://www.ibiblio.org/zen/gateless-gate/2.html

quote:
Now may I ask you: Is the enlightened man subject to the law of causation?'

Hyakujo said: `The enlightened man is one with the law of causation.'

quote:
To understand clearly one has to have just one eye.

Controlled or not controlled?
The same dice shows two faces.
Not controlled or controlled,
Both are a grievous error.


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Pete at Home
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I think an atheist who believes in Free Will has more Theologically in common with the Christian that believes in free will, then either one has in common with a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, or any other theist or atheist that denies free will. if we can't even choose what we believe and why are we even having this conversation? it's predetermined. My genetics and upbringing compel me to believe in free will. or I can choose to believe In determinism.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
if we can't even choose what we believe and why are we even having this conversation?
Here's an intellectual exercise for you: answer that question.

There are answers. Let's see what you can come up with.

(If it helps, the specific question is: if what we believe is determined by our state, what is the point of conversations that attempt to persuade? I think, when worded that way, it makes the sensible answer very obvious, but perhaps you'll come up with something surprising.)

[ February 28, 2015, 10:42 AM: Message edited by: TomDavidson ]

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Fenring
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All of that is very nice, but when answering the question about whether science can address spiritual matters, it is really of no use to make use of terms from Buddhist tradition and say that is your belief. If the question is about what science can do, then the answer should relate to what science does. Not that I think anyone did this intentionally, but by using arcane terminology that is not backed up in a rigorous way one makes it impossible to connect these terms to the actual procedures of observation and science.
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Aris Katsaris
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Who are you addressing, Fenring?
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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
I don't think my struggles, failings, and triumphs are the results of a dice roll. I think I made choices.
You've defined this 'choice' as 'non-deterministic, non-random' input. But here you're also adding the characteristic that your true self, (whatever you mean when you say 'I') is the one producing this 'input'.

Why? For all you know your true self is embedded in purely deterministic material, and if there's a 'choice'-producing entity, it's a demonic intruder, or a mindless parasite.

In that case why do you actually desire this "non-deterministic non-random input" which corrupts the output of the desires and purposes expressed deterministically by a true self embedded in your brain.

That's what I mean by how by using words like 'choice', connotations keep sneaking in, to the point that we can't actually discuss what you're saying. E.g. we believe that 'choice' is a good thing to have. So when you define choice as 'non-deterministic non-random input', you now think that non-deterministic non-random input is a good thing to have.

Why exactly should I want to have Clocinor? What's so good about non-deterministic, non-random input, even if such a concept is logically coherent?

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Aris Katsaris
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quote:
I think an atheist who believes in Free Will has more Theologically in common with the Christian that believes in free will, then either one has in common with a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, or any other theist or atheist that denies free will
'Westboro Baptist Church' denies free will? Do you have a link explaining this? I'm amused.

Anyway, as an interesting trivia, it's Christianity that first introduced me to the concept that your free will isn't violated (your choices remain your own) even if from an outside perspective (in Christianity's view, that of God) it is absolutely certain what you will do.

Then SF time-travel stories did likewise. I saw stupid people arguing "If you can go into the past, it automatically means that the people of the past had no free will, because if you don't affect their choices, you already know what they'll decide", and I'm like whaa??? How does *knowing* what they'll decide mean that it's not their decision? Why is them being 'free to choose' somehow dependent to me being ignorant of their eventual choice?

At this point I've gotten tired of arguing that 'free will' and 'determinism' aren't contradictory concepts. People just LOVE to sneak in their connotations, they don't give a damn about being clear and specific and precise.

Well 'determinism' is a clear enough concept, and though I'd love for people to figure out that 'free will' actually depends on determinism rather than lack thereof, by now I'll be just as happy if people stop using the word 'free will' altogether, as the word and its connotations seems to turn their brains into poo either way.

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by Fenring:
All of that is very nice, but when answering the question about whether science can address spiritual matters, it is really of no use to make use of terms from Buddhist tradition and say that is your belief. If the question is about what science can do, then the answer should relate to what science does. Not that I think anyone did this intentionally, but by using arcane terminology that is not backed up in a rigorous way one makes it impossible to connect these terms to the actual procedures of observation and science.

That response was written specifically to Josh; it doesn't address the broader topic, it only explains how I can reject the concept of choice without adopting fatalism (which Josh knows from other contexts that I definitely don't adhere to). I apologize for the jargon, its just a heck of a lot of work to unpack a lot of those concepts. Josh and I often discuss this topic over email, so we can slip into familiar vocabulary and cover a lot more ground. But that answer doesn't apply to the general question here (for one thing, Dharmadatu (mind at the beginning) can't be logically established, by its very nature).

Your last reply to me was this:

quote:
What you are describing is a case against logical positivism, not against determinism. When you say that we can't know the facts of the objects and events in the universe, you're right, but such knowledge isn't relevant in terms of stating that the universe operates on physical principles that are subject to no other forces than those within the system. Our chief goal in the sciences is to determine the nature of the laws at work, not the identities of the objects governed by those laws. So even if the universe is nothing more than probability cones viewed each from our own perspective, you're simply describing the impossibility of cataloguing (or in some sense even discussing) individual events and phase states. But we don't need to know any of these things in order to determine the laws of the universe. We definitely want to know them, since it is very useful to have information! But for scientific purposes the fact of the universe consisting of roughly infinite frames of reference isn't an obstacle to finding its functionality a deterministic one.
To which I would answer: I'm not saying that the universe beyond our perception is un-knowable in a catalogued or classification sense, I'm saying it doesn't exist at all in any sense of the word "exist" that is distinct from imaginary constructs.

It is certainly useful to understand and refine predictive laws of physics; However, that process seems to prompt a philosophical conception of the universe as a mechanistic phenomenon existing independently of our experience of it. That concept, I would argue, is nothing *more* that a concept; its validity no more established than that of Middle Earth's. Its a useful fiction, as the self can be, but failure to grasp its fictional quality is, IMO, problematic in a number of ways.

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TomDavidson
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It seems to me that postulating that the entire physical universe is a fictional concept makes it difficult to explain surprising phenomena which, when discovered, appear to have existed for far longer than we humans have, and yet which were unanticipated and unexpected until discovered. It's rather like the Creationist's insistence that the speed of light changed at some point, because otherwise their timeframes don't make sense.
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Pyrtolin
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quote:
If *you* made choices, then *you*, as a part of a system
That assertion there, I feel, begs the question. "You" interact with the system. "You" have a body and mind that interface with the system, but the assertion of free will can effectively be seen as a statement that the entity or consciousness that is you or that gives rise to you transcends or even contains the system, but is not not the whole of it.

The notion that you (or any individual) and your consciousness are emergent properties of the system is an assumption that leads to the conclusion of determinism, but it is not a universally accepted axiom.

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Fenring
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Josh and Adam, I'm curious about one thing: You both appear to reject Tom's use of the term "some creepy ghost", which he used to connote whatever thing is the passenger that both makes choices and is non-deterministic in your parlance. Since you're operating in a Buddhist framework, I assume this passenger is also the one that is transferred from life to life over the karmic cycle and can inhabit first a human, then a kitty, then maybe a human again, and has some chance eventually at enlightenment.

Since this entity, whatever it is, is passed from being to being, it must be something. Since it's not a physical thing (which would make it deterministic) you must think it's a thing not made of anything in the universe; or rather, something that exists outside of the illusion that we imagine is the universe.

My question is: Why do you deny Tom's use of the term "creepy ghost", aside from the fact that he meant it in a somewhat flip way? Is it because the passenger you believe in is categorically different from a ghost projected from outside the universe, driving the body, or is it because you think it's a ghost but just not a creepy ghost?

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Adam Masterman
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First of all, I'm not talking about the entire physical universe; I'm talking about the vast majority of it that we have no experience of, and merely construct in our minds. And I'm not going quite as far as you are saying. Noting that the any posited universe independent of our experience is a supposition is not an assertion of its non-existence. Rather, its an observation that the phenomena we are actually interacting with are ideas (and, as such, are no more or less tangible and established than Middle Earth). This is not to say that there isn't reasonable cause to assume their existence, that the fiction isn't useful; just an insistence on being precise. We all take the world around us on faith, assuming that it doesn't disappear every time we blink, and it mostly works out quite well to do so. However, its still an act of faith, and a mistake to deny that. You can be a believer, but don't mistake me for an atheist; I'm agnostic. [Smile]

"Fiction" might be a poor word choice, as it implies that something is definitively false. What we are talking about it definitively unknowable.

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by Fenring:
Josh and Adam, I'm curious about one thing: You both appear to reject Tom's use of the term "some creepy ghost", which he used to connote whatever thing is the passenger that both makes choices and is non-deterministic in your parlance. Since you're operating in a Buddhist framework, I assume this passenger is also the one that is transferred from life to life over the karmic cycle and can inhabit first a human, then a kitty, then maybe a human again, and has some chance eventually at enlightenment.

Since this entity, whatever it is, is passed from being to being, it must be something. Since it's not a physical thing (which would make it deterministic) you must think it's a thing not made of anything in the universe; or rather, something that exists outside of the illusion that we imagine is the universe.

My question is: Why do you deny Tom's use of the term "creepy ghost", aside from the fact that he meant it in a somewhat flip way? Is it because the passenger you believe in is categorically different from a ghost projected from outside the universe, driving the body, or is it because you think it's a ghost but just not a creepy ghost?

Actually, I (and this is a very central tenet of all schools of Buddhism) *deny* any kind of entity or enduring soul/ego/personhood that persists from lifetime to lifetime. You are describing a basic western understanding of the doctrine of rebirth, which actually owes more to various spiritualist movements than to either Buddhism or Hinduism.

I'll only explain how rebirth is understood in my tradition if you are interested; its not necessary for the larger topic, as long as its clear that Buddhism denies any such enduring entity.

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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by Adam Masterman:
Actually, I (and this is a very central tenet of all schools of Buddhism) *deny* any kind of entity or enduring soul/ego/personhood that persists from lifetime to lifetime. You are describing a basic western understanding of the doctrine of rebirth, which actually owes more to various spiritualist movements than to either Buddhism or Hinduism.

I'll only explain how rebirth is understood in my tradition if you are interested; its not necessary for the larger topic, as long as its clear that Buddhism denies any such enduring entity.

That's funny. I'm not saying you're wrong, as I'm not an expert on this, but I've heard several Buddhist scholars saying the opposite of this; that the karmic rebirth cycle is the assignment of a life fitting based on spiritual 'performance' in the previous life, and that the idea is to eventually see the trap of the cycle and to emerge from the shackles of a self-imposed false reality.

If you're saying this then ok; we don't need to derail the thread. But let me go back to Aris' three words: Dloodigard, Rimbarig, and Clocinor. Josh said before that he believes Clocinor is a basic part of the universe; or in his terms, that mind or thought are a fundamental part of all matter. Would you say it's accurate in Buddhist terms to say that not only is Clocinor part of all matter, but in fact that Dloodigard and Rimbarig really are not? That they are just the product of false beliefs and that Clocinor is the only true substance? Translated: the only true substance is mind, the rest is a delusion.

Is this roughly accurate?

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Adam Masterman
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quote:
Originally posted by Fenring:
That's funny. I'm not saying you're wrong, as I'm not an expert on this, but I've heard several Buddhist scholars saying the opposite of this; that the karmic rebirth cycle is the assignment of a life fitting based on spiritual 'performance' in the previous life, and that the idea is to eventually see the trap of the cycle and to emerge from the shackles of a self-imposed false reality.

Well, that's all basically true, but it doesn't contradict what I said. The "you" of today contains no inherent element or enduring part that was there in the "you" of a previous life. Rather, each moment gives birth to the next in an ongoing process of change. We can draw a circle around some finite part of this interplay and say "this is me", but that doesn't mean that some enduring entity or soul is magically created. People are actually different, not just lifetime to lifetime, but moment to moment. You can't step in the same river twice.

quote:


If you're saying this then ok; we don't need to derail the thread. But let me go back to Aris' three words: Dloodigard, Rimbarig, and Clocinor. Josh said before that he believes Clocinor is a basic part of the universe; or in his terms, that mind or thought are a fundamental part of all matter. Would you say it's accurate in Buddhist terms to say that not only is Clocinor part of all matter, but in fact that Dloodigard and Rimbarig really are not? That they are just the product of false beliefs and that Clocinor is the only true substance? Translated: the only true substance is mind, the rest is a delusion.

Is this roughly accurate?

Well, there are Buddhist schools of thought that can be fairly summarized that way, for sure. Yogachara is often translated as "mind-only"...

Something I should note before I go much further is that Joshua and I are involved in different Buddhist traditions, and that Buddhism has a MUCH broader range of diverse but accepted doctrines than Christianity. Its not always safe to assume that, insofar as we are both "Buddhists", we agree. Its practice that makes a Buddhist a Buddhist (and the practices that Josh and I do are very very similar); philosophies, conversely, can be completely opposite.

So, speaking only for myself, I would say that none of them are real. There is no meaningful existence of mind apart from that which mind conceives/percieves. When the mind apprehends an object (you see a flower), there is only a flower insofar as the mind designates it as such; however, there is only mind insofar as it perceivesand designates the flower. Each is dependent on the other as a necessary component of any meaningful existence it might have. Without the mind, there isn't a flower; without the flower, there is no mind. This is called "dependent origination." Its a long topic, but its ruthlessly, systematically logical. Honestly, I don't consider it all that important, as my primary mode isn't logical/rational. But I'm familiar enough with it to see the holes in most metaphysical assertions, so I suppose its a useful tool.

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Fenring
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Adam,

Dependent origination, then, has a lot in common with the Christian view on 'relationship', which permeates the entire Christian metaphysics all the way up to the trinity (I don't know anything about Mormon beliefs so I can't speak for that). The idea is that the basic mode of ontology is relation between two entities joined by a third, and that nothing exists outside of this framework.

However, the Christian model offers a convenience that yours perhaps does not: Since God created the universe, and did so in an ordered way, a Christian can feel free to assume that the universe operates based on fixed, systematic design. They also believe, mind you, that God can change it or interfere with it whenever he likes, but the actual design of it excluding that is 'consistent' and not chaotic. It is fallen, and so includes the element of corruption and decay, but it's still orderly in its operation. A Christian may well believe that studying God's creations is a way of indirectly studying God.

In your case, however, if mind is the only basic substance, and if even that is mutually defined by the objects of its attention, then the universe essentially has no teleological basis for existing, and fixed first principles upon which it rests. In short, you are lacking a reason to believe in the consistency of the laws of nature. And yet, an amazing thing we find is that no matter who observes nature, the results come back the same. Observations from centuries or millennia ago are checked and found to be accurate. Current states can be traced back billions of years, to a time when there were no minds. Reconciling the apparent objective consistency to nature's laws and history would seem to be a massive hurdle to get around with your way of thinking. How can mind come before nature, if nature literally preceded the existence of minds? If individual minds are the source of existence, how come they all agree on its details? I can even ask how, if you say there is no immortal soul, you can assert the existence of karmic rebirth, since that presupposes a 'system' that is consistent over time, even though you suggest that he universe doesn't have an objective system that exists in its own right?

All of these may have answers you can summon up, but as Tom points out, it may end up creating a burdensome model of existence that is rather complicated with assumptions.

[ March 02, 2015, 03:47 PM: Message edited by: Fenring ]

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JoshuaD
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@Fenring: One thing you should understand about Buddhism is that it is deeply rooted in direct experience, and the Buddha wasn't interested in created a comprehensive philosophy of the universe. As a result of that, it doesn't typically make claims about things that can't be directly experienced. There are schools and philosophies which do, but (as far as we can tell) the Buddha's teaching had very little to do with that stuff. It is said that when asked what he taught, he said "I teach suffering and the path out of suffering. Nothing else."

What's interesting for me is that, for whatever reason, I was drawn to a tradition which places very little emphasis on philosophy. As a result of that, I don't consider myself anything more than a novice on Buddhist philosophy. Despite my natural affinity and affection for intellectual pursuits, my tradition is very practice oriented. On ten-day retreats, which I typically attend once a year and serve once a year, we spend up to 12 hours a day meditating, about an hour and a half listening to a discourse, and the rest of the time eating and resting. No talking, no reading, and no encouragement to pursue intellectual exercises or discursive thought.

The only "philosophy" we are encouraged to experience is during the discourses, and it is directly related to what we practice that day. Not much beyond that. These discourses are much more of a road-map and stories which provide inspiration than a philosophy.

I have a basic philosophical framework that I've pieced together by reading reputable sources, primiarly in the Theravadin tradition. I use this for inspiration in my practice and to (hopefully) help guide my practice, and I can talk about it, but I don't think it's all that well formed (in the western sense), and I don't think that it will be terribly satisfying to anyone who doesn't practice. I think Buddhist philosophy is best understood in conjunction with practice.

quote:
Fenring:Since you're operating in a Buddhist framework, I assume this passenger is also the one that is transferred from life to life over the karmic cycle and can inhabit first a human, then a kitty, then maybe a human again, and has some chance eventually at enlightenment.

Since this entity, whatever it is, is passed from being to being, it must be something. Since it's not a physical thing (which would make it deterministic) you must think it's a thing not made of anything in the universe; or rather, something that exists outside of the illusion that we imagine is the universe.

My question is: Why do you deny Tom's use of the term "creepy ghost", aside from the fact that he meant it in a somewhat flip way? Is it because the passenger you believe in is categorically different from a ghost projected from outside the universe, driving the body, or is it because you think it's a ghost but just not a creepy ghost?

Here is my understanding of anatta (the Buddhist idea of no-self), which is deeply entwined with the idea of annica (the Buddhist idea of impermanence):

When you look at an ocean, there are waves. On the apparent level, you can see a wave arise, move across the ocean, and pass away. It seems like that wave persists for some time and has an independent self.

But at the ultimate level, there is nothing permanent or independent about that wave. Every moment the wave is changing. Each moment, the previous wave is gone, and the new wave is a completely new entity. Nothing persists moment to moment.

For convenience purposes, maybe we can draw imaginary bounds around the life of that wave, and say "it was born here, it persisted from here to here, and it died at this point." And that would be true from a certain perspective. But it would also be an illusion from the ultimate perspective. From moment to moment, nothing persisted.

What we identify as "I" is like this wave. It appears to me that this Joshua has persisted for some time. On the surface level it seems like there is some persistent self that has been present since I was born.

But, when we look very deeply at ourselves, the Buddha says that we will see that what seems to be "I" is really the combination of Five Aggregates, and none of these five have a permanent nature. They all arise and pass away. As the things that make up "I" are constantly changing and impermanent, so, therefore, is "I": ephemeral, lacking a self, constantly changing, and impermanent.

In the context of Buddhism, this is important because it is these characteristics of no-self and impermanence which makes everything we experience in the mundane field ultimately unsatisfying and full of of suffering. These three marks: No-self (anatta), Impermanence (anicca), and Suffering (dukkha), are at the core of the Buddha's teaching.

So, to answer your question:

quote:
Fenring:Since this entity, whatever it is, is passed from being to being, it must be something. Since it's not a physical thing (which would make it deterministic) you must think it's a thing not made of anything in the universe; or rather, something that exists outside of the illusion that we imagine is the universe.
What is passed moment to moment in the wave? What is passed from this wave and into the next wave, or back into the ocean? The wave influenced the next wave, which influenced the next wave, and so-forth, but what persisted?

quote:
Fenring: Why do you deny Tom's use of the term "creepy ghost", aside from the fact that he meant it in a somewhat flip way? Is it because the passenger you believe in is categorically different from a ghost projected from outside the universe, driving the body, or is it because you think it's a ghost but just not a creepy ghost?
I reject it because I don't believe it's true. I don't believe there is some eternal controller or some "creepy ghost". I think there is a stream of mind and a stream of matter. The two are each constantly changing, interacting, and co-arise dependent on one another. My experience is that, in this flow of mind and matter, there is some physical cause-and-effect and there is some freedom. I call this freedom "Free Will", although I do ultimately believe that there is no self in that will. It is choice without a chooser; will without an "I".

My understanding is that Karma and Sankhara persists in this stream of mind and matter like a dye might persist in a stream of water.

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JoshuaD
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
I think it's hysterical that we all seem to agree that our "self" is fiction, and are quibbling over who gets author credit. [Smile]

I am constantly amused that you and I strongly disagree over what seem to be benign points to me, but often agree over what should be contentious and outlandish ideas.
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quote:
quote:
JoshuaD: I think the things beings do are not random, and they are not entirely deterministic. I think beings are as fundamental to this universe as matter. I think choice is as fundamental to this universe as gravity.
MattP: Not to be glib, but how do you distinguish between this being true and, to use the machine analogy, merely being programmed to falsely believe this is true?

I assume that you believe that some functions of your brain, such as the interpretation of physical stimuli, are driven by deterministic algorithms. Why must the sense of self and agency not be?

Sorry about the delayed response. I wasn't able to post much this weekend, and I fell behind on responses.

I don't try to make that distinction. I don't think I can. Like I said on page 1: the determinist model may be true. My experiences seem to say there is an aspect of determinism and an aspect of choice, and so that's what my model outlines.

I think the model I have put forward is less intellectually aggressive than determinism. I think this model fits our experiences, but does not try to draw conclusions about the reality that is beyond our experience. I think determinism does, and so I think it is more aggressive, and therefore should be subjected to a higher level of scrutiny. (Obviously, there is disagreement here over this point).

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