The "Materialist View"

No holds barred discussion on the Buddhadharma. Argue about rebirth, karma, commentarial interpretations etc. Be nice to each other.

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Feb 11, 2013 2:48 pm

Huseng wrote: our reality is a result of purposeful action. Specifically, the collective purposeful actions of beings.


No, my understanding is that our perception of reality and the way we relate to events are the result of purposeful action. Otherwise, someone would have to take credit/blame for rain.

When it rains, it rains.
Whether you run from it or go out and play in it is purposeful action.

This is because events have no intrinsic reality of their own.
So, while it is said, for example, that a person who is greedy in this life will be born in poverty in the next,
this has nothing to do with whether that person is reborn into a rich family or a poor one.
Even if he is born into a rich family, we will never be satisfied, and will always perceive that he doesn't have enough
whereas, as person who is generous, even if reborn into a poor family. will not experience a sense of deprivation.

The key word in the passage you quote is variety , which is a conditional thing,
referring to characteristics, thus imputed by the mind, by karma and preferences.

So, it is somewhat accurate to say that "all existence including the universe is a result of volition"
but only in the context that all existence,
including the universe, is empty of intrinsic reality.
Otherwise, one is establishing not only the intrinsic existence of things,
but taking credit for their existence,
which would need an existent self as a prerequisite.
To say that the universe was created by beings
means that you have to start with intrinsically self-arising beings!

The point isn't that the entire physical universe is a figment of your imagination,
rather, that your entire perception of the physical universe is a figment of your imagination,
tainted by clinging and grasping and so forth.

To say that a material or physical universe exists or does not exist,
either inside or outside of the mind,
whether created by volition or some other cause,
is to impute some kind of intrinsic reality to it that one must then try to deconstruct.
Setting things up in order to knock them down.

"setting things up" is what Vasubandhu is talking about.
"knocking them down" is the occupation of
the philosopher who takes things to be real to begin with.
.
.
.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
 
Posts: 2800
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby uan » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:49 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Huseng wrote: our reality is a result of purposeful action. Specifically, the collective purposeful actions of beings.


No, my understanding is that our perception of reality and the way we relate to events are the result of purposeful action. Otherwise, someone would have to take credit/blame for rain.

When it rains, it rains.
Whether you run from it or go out and play in it is purposeful action.

This is because events have no intrinsic reality of their own.
So, while it is said, for example, that a person who is greedy in this life will be born in poverty in the next,
this has nothing to do with whether that person is reborn into a rich family or a poor one.
Even if he is born into a rich family, we will never be satisfied, and will always perceive that he doesn't have enough
whereas, as person who is generous, even if reborn into a poor family. will not experience a sense of deprivation.

The key word in the passage you quote is variety , which is a conditional thing,
referring to characteristics, thus imputed by the mind, by karma and preferences.

So, it is somewhat accurate to say that "all existence including the universe is a result of volition"
but only in the context that all existence,
including the universe, is empty of intrinsic reality.
Otherwise, one is establishing not only the intrinsic existence of things,
but taking credit for their existence,
which would need an existent self as a prerequisite.
To say that the universe was created by beings
means that you have to start with intrinsically self-arising beings!

The point isn't that the entire physical universe is a figment of your imagination,
rather, that your entire perception of the physical universe is a figment of your imagination,
tainted by clinging and grasping and so forth.

To say that a material or physical universe exists or does not exist,
either inside or outside of the mind,
whether created by volition or some other cause,
is to impute some kind of intrinsic reality to it that one must then try to deconstruct.
Setting things up in order to knock them down.

"setting things up" is what Vasubandhu is talking about.
"knocking them down" is the occupation of
the philosopher who takes things to be real to begin with.
.
.
.


:good: (though it's only my perception...and my perception is that your posting is a bit more than good :D )
uan
 
Posts: 247
Joined: Sat Aug 20, 2011 4:58 am

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby undefineable » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:58 pm

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

Animism/pantheism - To maintain consistency with the world as we know it to be, philosophical materialism can find itself forced into superstitions such as these that directly contradict the original premise of materialism - that there is no such thing as conscious awareness.
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
undefineable
 
Posts: 489
Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2012 1:34 am

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:10 pm

undefineable wrote:the original premise of materialism - that there is no such thing as conscious awareness.

The funny thing about this is that nobody who thinks this can possibly believe it is true,
or else they would have to deny any awareness of (the fact that they are) thinking it.
:thinking:
.
.
.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
 
Posts: 2800
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby undefineable » Mon Feb 11, 2013 6:20 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
undefineable wrote:there is no such thing as conscious awareness.

The funny thing about this is that nobody who thinks this can possibly believe it is true,
or else they would have to deny any awareness of (the fact that they are) thinking it.

See below 8-)

Continuing my old post after further thought, we see scientists as well as "friends of science" resorting to wild speculation rather than evidence-based conclusions, reminiscent of Phlogiston or Ptolemy's "Music of the Spheres", only now with no grounding in physical or even imaginable reality.

Surely there's still mileage in the view -held and evidenced by many neuroscientists- that sentience/awareness can only arise on the basis of a functioning Central Nervous System, as paticca-samuppada appears to suggest in the context of scientific discoveries in that field. The main difficulty, of course, is that if sentience/awareness is indeed an 'apparent but non-existent' by-product of existent matter (as I think someone characterised the materialist stance earlier in this thread), we should indeed expect degrees of it to a) be such a by-product of all matter, and b) still remain consistent with the essential feature of our own experience of sentience - i.e. the sense of a blank slate characterised only by an appearance of unity. Both a) and b) clearly can't both be true at the same time.

At this point, both animist-minded materialists and those who draw logical conclusions from the First Imponderable will object that the phenomenon of consciousness need not be tied, monad-like, to the egos of individual beings. What sense, though, can we really make of this? Why, moreover, should we *assume* inert matter to be filled with the dissipated (for want of a less conceptual description) egoless awareness of enlightened mind?:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:The ocean doesn't "know" that the moon is pulling at it!

I'm unsure that the zen koan 'see the Buddha in a piece of dirt' is meant to be taken this literally, though I remain open-minded :thinking:

Materialism has been under threat from scientific advances since the final model of the solid atom (Dalton's) was contradicted by evidence and then proven false during the course of the 19'th century. I'm sure I'm not alone here in seeing a resemblance between trying to pin down the nature of a given conscious experience and either the wave/particle problem or the apparent nature of the quantum flux at the most minute (i.e. basic) level of physical reality, and wondered if all three are in fact equally indeterminate. Moreover, while materialism still trumps obvious nonsense (not naming names), it runs up against a very hard place when confronted with certain alternative worldviews :stirthepot:

For most who hold to it, materialism functions as little more than the religion of our time, providing a simple, fixed and reassuring understanding of life in a world where only the weakness of the human psyche warrants such. There's no need to resort to apparently eternalistic assertions of mind over and above matter (or the idea that scientists would suddenly lose all employment if materialism were rejected in academia :roll: :rolleye: ) to see this - Other contributors have painted the classic comic stereotype of 'true believers' sticking fingers in their ears:
jeeprs wrote: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

, so it's probably worth picking one's battles in debate, if only to avoid causing pain to others by confronting their core beliefs. At the very least, if someone literally can't see that they can see independently of incoming information, there's nothing to be gained from trying to show them otherwise. {They may simply be playing games with words, given that English can't convey this concept in ways that don't sound eternalistic, but as such they will always claim the upper hand based on language, however epically they may fail intellectually :P }
Last edited by undefineable on Mon Feb 11, 2013 6:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
undefineable
 
Posts: 489
Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2012 1:34 am

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby undefineable » Mon Feb 11, 2013 6:28 pm

shel wrote:
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?

I disagree with jeeprs' analysis, but then I draw the boundary between organisms with central nervous systems and everything else. To me, the 'fundamental difference' is sentience. Exactly how self-organising molecules arose from inert molecules (and atoms) remains a mystery, but abiogenesis sounds reasonable, so debating it is unlikely to get you far.
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
undefineable
 
Posts: 489
Joined: Fri Feb 03, 2012 1:34 am

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Mon Feb 11, 2013 8:20 pm

undefineable wrote:
shel wrote:
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?

I disagree with jeeprs' analysis, but then I draw the boundary between organisms with central nervous systems and everything else. To me, the 'fundamental difference' is sentience. Exactly how self-organising molecules arose from inert molecules (and atoms) remains a mystery, but abiogenesis sounds reasonable, so debating it is unlikely to get you far.

Jeeprs didn't offer a fundamental difference that a so called 'materialist' would disagree with.
shel
 
Posts: 1350
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:38 pm

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Mon Feb 11, 2013 9:07 pm

I think for the purposes of this argument that I am 'vitalist' or may be described as dualist. That is: mind or sentience is something real in its own right that is not inherently dependent on matter. The difficulty is, it can't be said to 'exist'. Existing things are separate entities that are composed of parts. Spirit or whatever it is, inheres in the formless realm, which is not anywhere, not like a location in space-time. So it is real but transcendent to the phenomenal realm. This is not a particularly Buddhist argument, it is more like Western traditional philosophy.
He that knows it, knows it not.
User avatar
jeeprs
 
Posts: 1428
Joined: Sun May 27, 2012 8:31 am
Location: Sydney AU

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Mon Feb 11, 2013 9:31 pm

jeeprs wrote:I think for the purposes of this argument that I am 'vitalist' or may be described as dualist. That is: mind or sentience is something real in its own right that is not inherently dependent on matter.

You must have considered how this squares with dependent origination or co-arrising. Your thoughts on this would be very interesting, if you'd care to share them.
shel
 
Posts: 1350
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:38 pm

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Mon Feb 11, 2013 9:46 pm

Well, I'm still working on that but to try and start answering it would take a lot of explanation.
He that knows it, knows it not.
User avatar
jeeprs
 
Posts: 1428
Joined: Sun May 27, 2012 8:31 am
Location: Sydney AU

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Mon Feb 11, 2013 9:57 pm

I have no doubt.
shel
 
Posts: 1350
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:38 pm

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Feb 11, 2013 10:56 pm

jeeprs wrote:I think for the purposes of this argument that I am 'vitalist' or may be described as dualist. That is: mind or sentience is something real in its own right that is not inherently dependent on matter. The difficulty is, it can't be said to 'exist'. Existing things are separate entities that are composed of parts. Spirit or whatever it is, inheres in the formless realm, which is not anywhere, not like a location in space-time. So it is real but transcendent to the phenomenal realm. This is not a particularly Buddhist argument, it is more like Western traditional philosophy.


There is yet another suggestion (I have referred to this before) which is that the causes of sentience exist...everywhere, even where actual sentience does not, but do not manifest as sentience unless the right conditions (including the perception of sentience itself) prevail. These causes do not have to exist materially.

Let me offer an analogy.
Suppose you take a painting, a famous painting, such as the Mona Lisa,
which millions of people have seen,
and you lock that painting in a light-proof box or vault.
What happens to the painting? Does it still exist?

Well, "painting" is a vague and ambiguous word clumping together a lot of components. So, let's break it down.
What happens to the image? Does the image exist?
No. In the absence of light, the Mona Lisa is gone.
You can't say, "yes, it is there, but its in the dark" because light is in fact part of its existence.
Without light, there is simply no image of the Mona Lisa.

Are the causes of the painting of the Mona Lisa there?
Yes. They are there, and we can prove it by reintroducing a light source.
The second light is reflected of the surface of the painting, Mona Lisa returns.

The sources of Mona Lisa are the various chemical components (pigments) in the paint that Leonardo Da Vinci used,
as well as the medium of the paint itself, egg and oil and glue and whatever the stuff was that had to dry.
And light. Without light, there is no color...only the chemicals in the paint that reflect color when hit by light.
There is no shortage of light outside of the box, and when the light outside the box comes into contact with,
and is reflected off the surface of the paint, the image of Mona Lisa returns, instantly,
at practically the speed of light.

Likewise, the sources of sentience are there,
even when they are not brought together in a way that results in sentience itself,
or what we would recognize and label as any degree of 'sentience'.

The physical brain is like the material paint and pigment,
...and here I am going to go out on a limb, and say that Dharmakaya,
in the sense of "dharmata", meaning, by one usage, the totality of what is
is somewhat, in this sense, like the light that hits the surface of the painting
and that what results is awareness, a combination of subject and object,
here represented in this analogy by the image of Mona Lisa.

I suggest that it is Dharmakaya, because it is asserted in some, if not all Mahayana Schools,
That the appearance of a Buddha is a perfect manifestation of Dharmakaya,
clearly and without any distortion from clinging or kleshas and whatever else drives samsara.
When the sources of confused mind are removed, perfectly,
what remains is Buddha, or perfect awareness.
it is the same mind reflected perfectly or imperfectly
which determines either a Buddha or an ordinary being.

But this does not mean that Dharmakaya is some sort of particular "thing' like a light source.
So, if one is looking for "something real in its own right that is not inherently dependent on matter"
This would be close, except be careful not to regard it as some kind of "spirit-plasma" or substance,
or as anything possessing any characteristics whatsoever.

I may be wrong about this.
.
.
.
Last edited by PadmaVonSamba on Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
 
Posts: 2800
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:03 pm

Well said! That is very close to the view I am developing also. I am pretty well in complete agreement with that, especially that last point - not to reify, or 'thing-ify', such ideas.
He that knows it, knows it not.
User avatar
jeeprs
 
Posts: 1428
Joined: Sun May 27, 2012 8:31 am
Location: Sydney AU

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:18 pm

Everything in the universe is happening simultaneously, in only the immediate, indivisible now.
Looking anywhere else is a sidetrack.
:jumping:
.
.
.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
 
Posts: 2800
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:27 pm

Well, glad we have that sorted.

Next topic..... :smile:
He that knows it, knows it not.
User avatar
jeeprs
 
Posts: 1428
Joined: Sun May 27, 2012 8:31 am
Location: Sydney AU

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Thu Feb 14, 2013 12:01 am

jeeprs wrote:Next topic..... :smile:


I think the time is right for the last question of the OP.

What practical difference does it make if someone is a materialist or if they're a dualist like yourself?
shel
 
Posts: 1350
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:38 pm

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Thu Feb 14, 2013 1:15 am

that's not a 'last question'! Anyway, never mind, electrons are free.

In my experience, debating with materialists, they have to pin everything back to something which they believe can be validated by science. In the case of the humanities and philosophy, this usually amounts to some kind of evolutionary rationale: it is simply assumed that the reason for any human attribute whatever is ultimately underwritten by the notion that it 'contributes to survival', and survival is the ultimate and only good. So basically this is a form of utilitarianism. As soon as you get to a level of question beyond the simply utilitarian - existential or metaphysical questions about whether anything beyond survival is meaningful - then the utilitarian view looses traction. This manifests as impatience with all such questions, and the determination to take the debate back to grounds where it can be discussed in terms of evolutionary or other physical sciences. Materialists have to think in very concrete terms, even if it entails abstractions along the way. (In fact the physical sciences have now forced many people to think in terms of extremely abstract notions such as strings and multiverses.) Everything has to be anchored in what can be seen, touched, felt, examined by scientific instruments. You can see this in the writings of logical positivists, behaviourists, Dennett, Dawkins, and the other materialist writers.

Practically speaking, I think this often culminates in nihilism, although advocates for the materialist view won't usually admit that, because, again, they don't really know what it means. This is where there is a real difference between the likes of Nietzsche, Camus, Sartre, and some of the other Continental existentialists, and the current materialists. They actually thought through the implications of materialism and the realization that in this outlook, nothing actually means anything.

David Bentley Hart wrote: [Nietzsche's ] famous fable in The Gay Science of the madman who announces God’s death is anything but a hymn of atheist triumphalism. In fact, the madman despairs of the mere atheists — those who merely do not believe — to whom he addresses his terrible proclamation. In their moral contentment, their ease of conscience, he sees an essential oafishness; they do not dread the death of God because they do not grasp that humanity’s heroic and insane act of repudiation has sponged away the horizon, torn down the heavens, left us with only the uncertain resources of our will with which to combat the infinity of meaninglessness that the universe now threatens to become.

.....If we are, after all, nothing but the fortuitous effects of physical causes, then the will is bound to no rational measure but itself, and who can imagine what sort of world will spring up from so unprecedented and so vertiginously uncertain a vision of reality?


Whereas those who understand the reality of being itself, don't need to derive their ethical basis from something that they know is essentially meaningless.
He that knows it, knows it not.
User avatar
jeeprs
 
Posts: 1428
Joined: Sun May 27, 2012 8:31 am
Location: Sydney AU

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Thu Feb 14, 2013 6:57 pm

jeeprs wrote:that's not a 'last question'! Anyway, never mind, electrons are free.

The last question of the "OP" (opening post or first post that initiated the topic). This question is my primary interest and why I started the topic.

In my experience, debating with materialists, they have to pin everything back to something which they believe can be validated by science. In the case of the humanities and philosophy, this usually amounts to some kind of evolutionary rationale: it is simply assumed that the reason for any human attribute whatever is ultimately underwritten by the notion that it 'contributes to survival', and survival is the ultimate and only good. So basically this is a form of utilitarianism.

Utilitarianism is the doctrine that actions are right if they are useful or for the benefit of a majority. That an action is right insofar as it promotes happiness, and that the greatest happiness of the greatest number should be the guiding principle of conduct.

That doesn't sound so terrible.

Practically speaking, I think this often culminates in nihilism, although advocates for the materialist view won't usually admit that, because, again, they don't really know what it means.

Intriguing claim that someone can be nihilistic without realizing it. If you can recognize nihilism in others, who may not be able to even recognize it in themselves, there must be some practical way for you to recognize it. So how do you recognize nihilism in others who may not recognize it in themselves? This may begin to show the practical difference between a materialist and a dualist like yourself.

Or maybe you believe that there is no practical difference, and it's just about meaning?
shel
 
Posts: 1350
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:38 pm

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Fri Feb 15, 2013 1:46 am

I don't think that my view is strictly dualist. I think of dualism as a model, which is applicable in some respects. Anyway, I have communicated my position on the question, and thanks for the opportunity of doing so. :namaste:
He that knows it, knows it not.
User avatar
jeeprs
 
Posts: 1428
Joined: Sun May 27, 2012 8:31 am
Location: Sydney AU

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Fri Feb 15, 2013 2:13 am

Yes you've communicated your position, but the question of what practical difference any ontological position makes has not really been addressed.

The position you've communicated seems to be rather impractical, because it can't account for people like Stephen Batchelor, or "secular Buddhist," if nothing else. People who are religious, or have a spiritual practice, but are apparently what I believe you might call materialists. A 'secular Buddhist' sounds like an oxymoron, it does to me anyway, but so does a 'religious nihilist'.

That there can be such things as secular Buddhists indicates to me that ontological positions have no practical value other than the meaning they offer.
shel
 
Posts: 1350
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:38 pm

PreviousNext

Return to Open Dharma

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot], JKhedrup, MSNbot Media, Norwegian, smcj, Son of Buddha, udawa and 18 guests

cron
>