The "Materialist View"

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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Sun Feb 10, 2013 2:20 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
shel wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote: If there is a way to explain it, one can imagine it.

How you figure? Our imaginations are very limited. The basic purpose of a pen is writing, which is one way, the most relevant way, of 'explaining' a pen. A pen could also be explained chemically, or molecularly, or historically, etc. We can't explain what is beyond our experience, knowledge or capability.


You have to imagine something before you can explain it.

Sure.

Thus, whatever you can explain, you can imagine.

Sure.

Or as I phrased it before,
If there is a way to explain it, one can imagine it.
(one has already imagined it).

No, but you could say something like 'if I can explain something I can imagine it', because you don't know and can't even imagine all the possible ways to explain it.

It is hard for language to keep up with imagination.

And vice versa.

There are many things we can imagine which are very difficult to explain.

And many things we can explain are hard to imagine. :tongue:

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
shel wrote:We can't explain what is beyond our experience, knowledge or capability.

Not unless we can first imagine it.
First, we can imagine it. Then we can explain it.

We can't imagine what is beyond our experience, knowledge or capability to imagine. Our imaginations are very limited.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Feb 10, 2013 2:50 am

shel wrote:We can't imagine what is beyond our experience, knowledge or capability to imagine. Our imaginations are very limited.


True, we cannot imagine what is beyond our imagination.
But the imagination is unlimited, because the nature of mind is infinite.
Just look at this human realm, for example.
Amazingly realistic!!!

And what is beyond imagination?
well, I just don't know about that.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Matt J » Sun Feb 10, 2013 4:09 pm

This doesn't follow. Infinite divisibility is a concept. If it weren't, I'd never be able to type since my fingers would have to first travel across half the space, then half of that, and so on. But "POW" here it is.

There is no reason to grant living beings the privilege of sentience and to deny it to non-living energies.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:That amounts to physical matter witnessing its own (appearance of) existence,
and further, witnessing that fact of witnessing, and so on.

Since physical matter can be broken down infinitely,
any nanospeck, any duration of vibration of energy, whatever, can be divided.

Thus, you would have to determine where it is, along that path of infinite division,
that the appearance of self-awareness, or the causes of that appearance, begins.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Matt J » Sun Feb 10, 2013 4:12 pm

What makes us think that our spouses, children, pets, and neighbors have awareness but a tree, an ocean, and a rock do not?

jeeprs wrote:Because it is appears as an objective reality. Anything that appears objectively, only does so to a subject. It is the subject that has the attribute of sentience or awareness. The subject is (by definition) not an object of awareness. That is another way of saying that awareness is something only known in the first person.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Feb 10, 2013 5:47 pm

Matt J wrote:What makes us think that our spouses, children, pets, and neighbors have awareness but a tree, an ocean, and a rock do not?

jeeprs wrote:Because it is appears as an objective reality. Anything that appears objectively, only does so to a subject. It is the subject that has the attribute of sentience or awareness. The subject is (by definition) not an object of awareness. That is another way of saying that awareness is something only known in the first person.


Furthermore, the basic assumption, "our spouses, children, pets, and neighbors have awareness" ,
while accurate in the conventional sense, is inaccurate at this level of reasoning,
because a person's body is, after all, essentially an ocean of cells, is it not?

So, we could also discuss the separate awareness, or consciousness, of each of those cells,
just as we might discuss the separate consciousness of fish in the ocean.
But does a skin cell or a blood cell have(and what does "have" mean?) "awareness"?
You have to define "awareness."
Obviously, the components of the immune system react to invading germs and such.
So, we could, possibly, define "awareness" that way.
It does not mean awareness in the same way that we regard the mind as being aware.

So, you have to be careful about the meanings of the terms being used.
The ocean likewise responds to the gravitational pull of the moon,
but this is not really awareness.
The ocean doesn't "know" that the moon is pulling at it!

Our bodies are "composed of composites" and while it is true that composites react to each other,
the composites in themselves cannot be shown to possess awareness.
If you can show a composite that possesses awareness, I would like to see that, please.

Conventionally speaking, our spouses, children, pets, and neighbors have awareness.
You have awareness, I have awareness.
But ultimately, there is nothing that can be shown to be "you" or "I"
So ultimately, there is no "you" or "I" that can have anything!
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Sun Feb 10, 2013 7:19 pm

Matt J wrote:This doesn't follow. Infinite divisibility is a concept. If it weren't, I'd never be able to type since my fingers would have to first travel across half the space, then half of that, and so on. But "POW" here it is.


Zeno's paradox, I believe.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby 5heaps » Sun Feb 10, 2013 9:18 pm

Matt J wrote:This doesn't follow. Infinite divisibility is a concept. If it weren't, I'd never be able to type since my fingers would have to first travel across half the space, then half of that, and so on. But "POW" here it is.

if things werent infinitely divisible, left and right would be identical
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Sun Feb 10, 2013 9:42 pm

Matt J wrote:What makes us think that our spouses, children, pets, and neighbors have awareness but a tree, an ocean, and a rock do not?

jeeprs wrote:Because it is appears as an objective reality. Anything that appears objectively, only does so to a subject. It is the subject that has the attribute of sentience or awareness. The subject is (by definition) not an object of awareness. That is another way of saying that awareness is something only known in the first person.


I think the difference between living and non-living things is fundamental but that our ability to recognise this fundamental difference has been bred out of us by the materialist society we live in. In the materialist world there is only a single dimension and everything is understood to b part of it. I have had that argument many times on philosophy forums with people who just don't accept that there is a fundamental difference between living and non-living things. I have found it is a futile argument.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Feb 10, 2013 10:11 pm

Matt J wrote:
There is no reason to grant living beings the privilege of sentience and to deny it to non-living energies.


The point is that living beings are composed of non-living components.
Specifically, the human brain is composed of:
Water 77 to 78 %
fats 10 to 12 %
Protein 8%
Carbohydrate 1%
Soluble organic substances 2%
Inorganic salts 1%

...and using your previous example, all of these can be found in the ocean (which is also why they are found in creatures whose ancestors crawled out of the ocean).

So, of course, one could argue that this only shows that an ocean is or can be sentient.
But it would not be a sound argument. Just having those elements is not enough.
If it were, corpses would be sentient as well.

I like to use the analogy of a typical flat glass mirror with reflective silver paint on the back side.
Here , the correct physical properties are arranged so that when you look into a mirror,
you see your reflection, accurate, although reversed.
Now, if you bend that glass, you get a "fun house" reflection, a distortion.
So, by altering even one component, the result is different.
Likewise, pouring silver paint onto a table and tossing a handful of broken glass into it will not give you any reflection, even though its physical component parts are identical to that of a functioning flat glass mirror.

So, the point of this analogy is that while the components of the human brain, when arranged perfectly,
provide a suitable environment for a series of neurochemical events to occur,
Just as a mirror does not see its own reflection, none of those chemicals, the fats and salts and water and so forth,
none of them, combined or separately, witness their own activity.
A human brain, when arranged imperfectly, results in cognitive errors.

The brain doesn't know that it is thinking, because it isn't thinking. It is only relaying electrical signals.
It functions like your phone does, but it doesn't have the conversation
(well, some phones act like they do, with a responding voice).

The physical brain is only providing the environment,
just as the mirror only provides the environment for the perfect reflection of light.
It is mind which arises with, and influenced by the structure of the brain,
which experiences the activity of witnessing these chemical and electric activities
as such things as fear, anger, empathy, and so on.
When you are angry, for example, anger is not happening in your brain.
Yes, there is a mappable area of the brain which is very active when you are angry,
but the physical brain itself is not angry.
That physical area is just a bunch of turned on juice that is experienced as a mind of anger.
But who is experiencing it?

When mind arises as awareness, along with, say, the brain structure of a dog's brain,
the result is dog's awareness (and in all likelihood you are at this point, in fact, a dog)
and the way the brain processes smells and sounds, for example, will be different from a human's
and the mind that arises as the awareness of the dog's brain activity will experience that.
In the case of my dog, it is an amplified awareness of any squirrel withing a 100 ft. radius.

So, the reason why, for example, all carbon based objects (trees, people, dogs charcoal, etc.)
do not all have awareness is that the structure is just not there for every different thing.
This is why "precious human birth' is regarded as essential, or at least very good, for practice of dharma.
Its rare get all that carbon-based chemistry set up just right.
It is believed by some that the mind can mistakenly thing that another object, perhaps a tree, is its body.
In Thailand, I am told, people put little 'spirit houses' in trees for this very reason.

Likewise, a lama explained to me that when we die, that for a short time
the mind still clings to the corpse and is still aware, in a somewhat distorted way (naturally)
of events regarding that corpse. The mind that has arisen over and over again with that body,
over a long lifetime, can have some separation anxiety. "What is happening to my body?" and so forth.

In many cultures it is thought that mind can arise with (I prefer this term rather than 'inhabit') rivers, rocks, mountains and so on. But this is not the same as saying the rocks or trees have awareness.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Feb 10, 2013 10:14 pm

jeeprs wrote: I think the difference between living and non-living things is fundamental but that our ability to recognise this fundamental difference has been bred out of us by the materialist society we live in.

The material society?
What about the material body that you live in?
I think, if you are going to blame, you have to start with yourself.
That's an early Buddhist teaching...not being attached to your physical body as "me".
That's where it has been bred out of us!
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Sun Feb 10, 2013 11:13 pm

jeeprs wrote:I think the difference between living and non-living things is fundamental but that our ability to recognise this fundamental difference has been bred out of us by the materialist society we live in.


What is the fundamental difference?
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Mon Feb 11, 2013 1:04 am

That is one of those questions that can either by answered in a few words, or will take libraries.

To me, the difference between life and non-life is what I regard as 'categorical'. It revolves around the ability of living things to seek homeostasis, heal from injury, breed, grow and evolve. Evolutionary science believes that all these principles can be understood through the lens of Darwinian theory and molecular biology. That is called the 'neo-Darwinian synthesis'. This is all underpinned by a theory called 'abiogensis' which is derived from a- non, bio- life. So a-biogenesis is the theory that life arose from non-living elements by a process that can be understood in purely chemical and physical terms. In fact many people simply assume that this is already established, already known in principle, and that we are just filling in the gaps, but I think this is at the heart of the materialist view of life.

As I mentioned I have debated this on Philosophy Forums at some length. Of course if you dispute the idea of abiogenesis, you are automatically categorized with creationism or something similar. I don't see myself in that camp. On the one hand, I don't dispute the physical facts of evolutionary science. I think the fossil record is not something you can argue with. But I still think the question of what is driving evolution is wide open, whereas the neo-Darwinians think they know this. They think it is all driven by the requirements for survival. But they are generally not philosophically astute enough to really consider the question as to whether there is something deeper that drives the survival instinct itself. I think this is, possibly, what the Buddha identifies as trsna. It is something much deeper than simply an evolved trait, but one of the forces that underlie the whole formation of life.

Besides all of that, the inability to distinguish living and non--living, and also sentient and insentient, is the result of the 'flattening' of our world-view associated with materialism. That is simply characteristic of the kali yuga. Everyone's perception gets closed down to anything beyond the gross material. So we have this ironic - actually tragic - situation where we have access to unprecedented amounts of information, yet we are dominated by a worldview that believes everything occurs by chance and life is intrinsically meaningless. All of the traditional philosophies recognize the hierarchical nature of reality, which was called in the West 'the great chain of being', with matter, mind, animals, humans, and devas, representing different levels of the hierarchy. Generally speaking, Western thinking has lost sight of that. Which is why it is thought that life and non-life are basically the same, which also enables the notion that the mind is no different to a computer, and humans are no different to animals. (See those books referred to above by SteveB for detailed analysis of this.)
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Mon Feb 11, 2013 1:56 am

jeeprs wrote:It revolves around the ability of living things to seek homeostasis, heal from injury, breed, grow and evolve.


Wouldn't a so called 'materialist' use the same basic criteria to distinguish life?
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Mon Feb 11, 2013 2:04 am

Most of the debates I had about it, they referred to viruses as being half-way between life and non-life, to make the point that there was no fundamental difference, that it was a matter of degree but not of kind. If you recognize there is something fundamental about the difference between life and non-life, then how can you be materialist? A materialist is obliged to say there is only one thing that is fundamental, which is matter. Otherwise, what are we discussing?
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Mon Feb 11, 2013 2:07 am

jeeprs wrote:Most of the debates I had about it, they referred to viruses as being half-way between life and non-life, to make the point that there was no fundamental difference, that it was a matter of degree but not of kind. If you recognize there is something fundamental about the difference between life and non-life, then how can you be materialist? A materialist is obliged to say there is only one thing that is fundamental, which is matter. Otherwise, what are we discussing?

You still haven't said what the fundamental difference is. Are you a materialist? :tongue:
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:03 am

jeeprs wrote:the inability to distinguish living and non--living, and also sentient and insentient, is the result of the 'flattening' of our world-view associated with materialism. That is simply characteristic of the kali yuga. Everyone's perception gets closed down to anything beyond the gross material. So we have this ironic - actually tragic - situation where we have access to unprecedented amounts of information, yet we are dominated by a worldview that believes everything occurs by chance and life is intrinsically meaningless.


I am not sure that this is entirely accurate.
"chance" does or does not include interconnectedness, or the interdependent arising of phenomena.
For example, many people misunderstand karma to be a sort of predestined fate,
or a kind of system of judgement meted out by the universe itself. This is not accurate.
Yet karma can function fully as the dynamic perception of the experience of interconnectedness in a universe operating purely on chance interactions.
and
"meaning" can refer to either an ultimate "purpose" imposed from an outward source
("God put us here to do such and such"), a common view, you know,
but it can refer equally to any freely imagined reason for being,
with full acknowledgement that such a reason is purely arbitrary --yet okay.

So, life and existence and being don't really need to have a purpose.
It is our own clinging and projections that create this need.
Outside of our thoughts, where is any purpose necessary?
So, I don't think you can blame materialists for that.
For many things, perhaps. But I don't think that is one of them.
As I said before, materialism begins with clinging to one's physical existence as "me"
...this is basic Buddhism 101.

I don't think that dharma is necessarily at odds with materialism per se,
only with the view that mind is produced by matter
as opposed to the assertion that the experience of mind arises with matter, conditionally
and thus has no ultimate reality to it.

Just as water takes the shape of the physical container in which it is poured.
This doesn't mean that something outside of awareness is called mind and is floating around looking for a home,
but rather that the causes of awareness exist whether or not the material conditions are there
for it to manifest as some type of consciousness.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:19 am

:zzz:
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:20 am

The bacteria cells in our body outnumber human cells 10 to 1

How Much Bacteria Do People Carry Around?

Enough to fill a big soup can. “That’s three to five pounds of bacteria,” says Lita Proctor, the program coordinator of the National Institutes of Health’s Human Microbiome Project, which studies the communities of bacteria living on and in us. The bacteria cells in our body outnumber human cells 10 to 1, she says, but because they are much smaller than human cells, they account for only about 1 to 2 percent of our body mass—though they do make up about half of our body’s waste.

The host of bacteria we carry around weren’t well-cataloged until recently. In July, (2011) at North Carolina State University, the Belly Button Biodiversity study found about 1,400 different strains of bacteria living in the navels of 95 participants. Of these, 662 strains were previously unrecognized.


source: http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2 ... rry-around
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:28 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Outside of our thoughts, where is any purpose necessary?


How does karma work, then? I don't equate karma with fatalism, even though I know that there is a tendency to do that. But the reason materialists can't accept karma, is because there is no scope for a 'non-material causal mechanism'. As far as they are concerned, if there is no a physical or chemical link from one step to another, there can be no causal relationship. Whereas Sheldrake, for instance, posits 'morphic resonance' which is a way that biological information can be transmitted by a means that is neither chemical nor physical. That is why he is rejected by the mainstream, and why they think he is appealing to 'magic' instead of science.

It is also not accurate to say that the basis of materialism is "belief in physical existence as me". In fact in the early texts, the criticism of 'eternalism' is not criticism of materialism. Eternalists believe there is a self that is reborn in perpetuity. However nowhere is it suggested that this self (actually usually written as 'self and world') are material in nature. Materialists generally believe that at death, when the material body breaks up, there are no further consequences, so they were generally classified as 'nihilistic'.

As for 'purpose', it is not necessary to conceive of it as some kind of grand plan, but think about the meaning of 'dharma' - to uphold, to hold together. And another meaning of dharma is 'what ought to be done'. So in that sense dharma is purpose, in the sense of 'what ought to be done'. Whereas the modern materialist mindset is, or often is - it is not unanimous - that purpose is solely the attribute of intelligent creatures who are the products of a basically purposeless process. (This is a big, deep, controversial question, I will acknowledge.)
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Indrajala » Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:52 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:So, life and existence and being don't really need to have a purpose.
It is our own clinging and projections that create this need.


Perhaps, but in the Buddhist project all existence including the universe is a result of volition and more importantly volitional action:

Vasubandhu in Abhidharma-kośa-bhāsya:

Who created the variety of the world of living beings and the receptacle-world which we have described in the preceding chapter?

    It was not a god who intelligently created it.


The variety of the world arises from action.


The variety of the world arises from the actions of living beings.




Outside of our thoughts, where is any purpose necessary?
So, I don't think you can blame materialists for that.


Whether it is necessary or not is beside the point -- our reality is a result of purposeful action. Specifically, the collective purposeful actions of beings.
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