Theravada against mathematics

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Germann
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Theravada against mathematics

Post by Germann » Sun Mar 03, 2019 1:19 pm

Theravada proposes to take on faith the mathematically impossible model of reality: its school Abhidhamma contradicts the theory of probability.
The concept of "satta" in the Theravadin Abhidhamma is the concept of not-existent (satta-pannatti is the avijjamana-pannatti). There was no one who could select events. This means that in the beginningless Buddhist past (the chain of conditioned dhammas does not have a first link) all possible events would have happened. If the realization of Nibbana refers to possible events, then all the causes and conditions of the impersonal-mechanical achievement of Nibbana should have formed in the past.

The infinite monkey theorem: “The probability that an infinite number of monkeys will print any given text on the first attempt is 1”. Here a "monkey" is the past life. A "text" is a sequence of combinations of dhammas, culminating in the realization of Nibbana. As the number of past lives is not limited, the probability of nibbanization in past lives is 1.

Nibbana should be already realized for the infinity of the past by all "people" without exception.

(This contradiction is not removed by the "Two Truths". If the Dhamma is about the true reality (about the given here-and-now), then the logical law of the excluded is valid. True, either "A" or "Not A", the third is not given It is impossible to say at the same time that Satta does not exist (Paramattha-saccha: “A”) and that such a statement is unjust (Sammuti-saccha: “Not-A”). “Two Truths”, simultaneously asserting the truth of the judgments “A” and “Not A" defy logic.)

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Re: Theravada against mathematics

Post by Queequeg » Sun Mar 03, 2019 10:19 pm

Please keep discussion on the question raised. Please do not veer into Mahayana sectarianism.
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Re: Theravada against mathematics

Post by Yavana » Sun Mar 03, 2019 10:42 pm

Germann wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 1:19 pm
Theravada proposes to take on faith the mathematically impossible model of reality: its school Abhidhamma contradicts the theory of probability.
What are the actual odds of awakening?
The concept of "satta" in the Theravadin Abhidhamma is the concept of not-existent (satta-pannatti is the avijjamana-pannatti). There was no one who could select events. This means that in the beginningless Buddhist past (the chain of conditioned dhammas does not have a first link) all possible events would have happened. If the realization of Nibbana refers to possible events, then all the causes and conditions of the impersonal-mechanical achievement of Nibbana should have formed in the past.

The infinite monkey theorem: “The probability that an infinite number of monkeys will print any given text on the first attempt is 1”. Here a "monkey" is the past life. A "text" is a sequence of combinations of dhammas, culminating in the realization of Nibbana. As the number of past lives is not limited, the probability of nibbanization in past lives is 1.

Nibbana should be already realized for the infinity of the past by all "people" without exception.
How do we know that each instance of realization isn't technically the infinite monkey "taming itself" through intrinsic causality? If I've understood Tiantai correctly, we're all tumbling towards our inevitable dance of enlightenment. It's inevitable.

I don't see the contradiction, and I'm not sure if it's because I don't have the proper understanding of the problem in relation to Theravada doctrine, my Dunning has lost track of my Kruger, or the question is framed from a limited perspective that only makes it seem like a problem.

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Re: Theravada against mathematics

Post by smcj » Sun Mar 03, 2019 10:44 pm

Theravada proposes to take on faith the mathematically impossible model of reality: its school Abhidhamma contradicts the theory of probability
Hey, ya know something? You’re right!

Okay, so you’ve won the argument. What are you going to do now?
Last edited by smcj on Sun Mar 03, 2019 10:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Theravada against mathematics

Post by catmoon » Sun Mar 03, 2019 11:25 pm

There is a gaping flaw in the argument. Infinities simply do not behave the same as the numbers we are used to. Example....

Suppose we have an infinite number of points. We can start counting them, numbering them 1,2,3,4,5.....

Now if we look at the number line we can see it already has points labelled 1,2,3,4,5..... but this does not fill the line or even come close to it. In fact there are an infinite number of points between any pair of integers. It appears that the infinity of in-between points is larger than the infinity of integers!

In the same way, the number of possible states of the universe is infinitely larger than the number of states that would actually occur in an infinite time. And the likelihood of any specific state occurring.... say George attains enlightenment in a universe much like this one... is practically zero. In a very loose sense the army of monkey typists does not produce the desired plays because the plays we are talking about here are infinitely long. Or the keyboards they are using are infinitely large.

This kind of logical conundrum crops up every time we try to compare infinities, and it's a minefield out there.

For the commoner type of infinity, it turns out that infinity+infinity=infinity, and thus ten infinities are the same "size" as just one. Please don't ask me what happens when you try to subtract, my brain is fractured enuff already. Yesterday I tried to understand recent Greek history, and something broke inside.
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Re: Theravada against mathematics

Post by Sherab » Sun Mar 03, 2019 11:35 pm

Sherab wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 11:26 pm
Germann wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 1:19 pm
Theravada proposes to take on faith the mathematically impossible model of reality: its school Abhidhamma contradicts the theory of probability.
The concept of "satta" in the Theravadin Abhidhamma is the concept of not-existent (satta-pannatti is the avijjamana-pannatti). There was no one who could select events. This means that in the beginningless Buddhist past (the chain of conditioned dhammas does not have a first link) all possible events would have happened. If the realization of Nibbana refers to possible events, then all the causes and conditions of the impersonal-mechanical achievement of Nibbana should have formed in the past.
Nicely argued. This is the flaw of claiming that dependent origination itself is real or absolute. The alternative way of putting this is that everything is relative and there is no absolute, not mentioning that when everything is relative, then the relative chaining that makes the relative relative must be absolute. A more subtle presentation would be that the relative is all there is and the ultimate is merely the misperception of the relative, not mentioning that the mind that misperceives is in/within the relative, raising the question whether the relative mind can see itself to be relative.

In logic, anytime there is an infinite regression, it should raise a red flag that something is not right.

In mathematics, when an equation gives infinity as a result, you have what is called a singularity where the equation breaks down.

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Re: Theravada against mathematics

Post by PeterC » Mon Mar 04, 2019 3:04 am

Germann wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 1:19 pm
Theravada proposes to take on faith the mathematically impossible model of reality: its school Abhidhamma contradicts the theory of probability.
The concept of "satta" in the Theravadin Abhidhamma is the concept of not-existent (satta-pannatti is the avijjamana-pannatti). There was no one who could select events. This means that in the beginningless Buddhist past (the chain of conditioned dhammas does not have a first link) all possible events would have happened. If the realization of Nibbana refers to possible events, then all the causes and conditions of the impersonal-mechanical achievement of Nibbana should have formed in the past.

The infinite monkey theorem: “The probability that an infinite number of monkeys will print any given text on the first attempt is 1”. Here a "monkey" is the past life. A "text" is a sequence of combinations of dhammas, culminating in the realization of Nibbana. As the number of past lives is not limited, the probability of nibbanization in past lives is 1.

Nibbana should be already realized for the infinity of the past by all "people" without exception.

(This contradiction is not removed by the "Two Truths". If the Dhamma is about the true reality (about the given here-and-now), then the logical law of the excluded is valid. True, either "A" or "Not A", the third is not given It is impossible to say at the same time that Satta does not exist (Paramattha-saccha: “A”) and that such a statement is unjust (Sammuti-saccha: “Not-A”). “Two Truths”, simultaneously asserting the truth of the judgments “A” and “Not A" defy logic.)
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To highlight a few issues with this (interesting) line of argument, in no particular order:
1. Abhidharma is not solely a Theravedan thing. It is part of the body of teachings of Mahayana schools too.
2. The description of causality in the abhidharma literature is not how you characterize it here. What you're describing is perfect predestination, with the absence of free will. However the model of causality and karma described in the abhidharma, and indeed all Buddhist literature, allows for free will. Living beings make decisions, and later encounter the karma of those decisions. The effects of the karma from past decisions may affect future decisions, but they do not fully determine them.
(Your argument would be better pointed at the Christian concept of an omniscient, omnipotent creator god, which is of course incompatible with free will. This is an issue that theologians danced around for centuries, but for obvious reasons they cannot resolve.)
3. So let's consider the alternative, that we don't have perfect predestination, but that the karmic 'trajectory' of beings follows a standard Brownian motion model. Again in the abhidharma model of time, it is not a given that all beings achieve cessation within a given mahakalpa. I think what you're glossing over here is properties of non-finite numbers. Given an infinite number of lives and a finite number of living beings, then the probability of all achieving cessation would converge to 1. (The last few would be somewhat lonely, but anyway.) However you do not have an infinite number of lives within a mahakalpa, and I believe abhidharmas are silent on the finite or non-finite nature of living beings. If you consider the number of living beings to not be finite, and that the time of a mahakalpa (or indeed a dispensation of the Dharma, which is the more relevant unit) to be finite, then even if you had perfect predestination *or* a random walk down karma street, neither would guarantee that all beings achieved cessation.
4. I don't think you understand the two truths, but that's a longer discussion.
5. You definitely don't understand the view of mahamadhyamika, but that's a much longer discussion. I would suggest you read up on the Four Extremes. The form of logic applied in these systems is not the same as the systems of logic you're implicitly referencing in your last sentence. PUt somewhat crudely, their goal is not to make a positive assertion about anything but rather to undermine incorrect assertions of other systems.

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Re: Theravada against mathematics

Post by amanitamusc » Mon Mar 04, 2019 3:51 am

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Re: Theravada against mathematics

Post by DNS » Mon Mar 04, 2019 7:10 am

Germann wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 1:19 pm
This means that in the beginningless Buddhist past (the chain of conditioned dhammas does not have a first link) all possible events would have happened.
The texts don't say that. It states that there is no discernible beginning.
“Bhikkhus, this samsara is without discoverable beginning. A first point is not discerned of beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving. There comes a time, bhikkhus, when the great oceans dry up and evaporates and no longer exists, when the earth burns up and perishes and no longer exists, but still I say, there is no making an end of suffering for those beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving.” Samyutta Nikaya 22.99
And I'm sure you're familiar with the Fermi paradox? It states that considering the vast size of the universe, the thousands of known planets and solar systems; surely there are others where there is intelligent life, so the Fermi paradox asks "where are they?"

It's sort of similar to the infinity issue in Buddhism. If there is an infinite universe (forever expanding), surely there would have been some visitation (some possibility) of some alien beings visiting us at some time in our history. And surely at least one of them would have wiped us out? Then why are we still here?

One of the potential answers that I happen to agree with is that as intelligent beings advance technologically, eventually there is some catastrophic warfare, something similar to nukes or biological warfare that wipes out the planet or at the least, the intelligent - dominant species. Eventually a super nova occurs and eventually the solar system re-forms again, and the process starts all over.

Remember, for 99.9999% of earth's history, there were no intelligent species, not to the level of humans anyway. It could be the same on other planets too. And the solar systems are all great distances apart -- thousands of light years apart.

In the same way, humans attain enlightenment, nirvana, etc but not all of them. Some don't make it when the planet or intelligent species dies off. So according to traditional Buddhist cosmology, they would be reborn in another world system. And then the cycle continues as above . . .

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Re: Theravada against mathematics

Post by Sherab » Mon Mar 04, 2019 12:37 pm

Germann wrote:
Sun Mar 03, 2019 1:19 pm
(This contradiction is not removed by the "Two Truths". If the Dhamma is about the true reality (about the given here-and-now), then the logical law of the excluded is valid. True, either "A" or "Not A", the third is not given It is impossible to say at the same time that Satta does not exist (Paramattha-saccha: “A”) and that such a statement is unjust (Sammuti-saccha: “Not-A”). “Two Truths”, simultaneously asserting the truth of the judgments “A” and “Not A" defy logic.)
I think it does when one truth is deceptive and the other is non-deceptive. But for this to work, it requires that there be an ultimate reality.

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Re: Theravada against mathematics

Post by PeterC » Mon Mar 04, 2019 12:55 pm

DNS wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 7:10 am

One of the potential answers that I happen to agree with is that as intelligent beings advance technologically, eventually there is some catastrophic warfare, something similar to nukes or biological warfare that wipes out the planet or at the least, the intelligent - dominant species. Eventually a super nova occurs and eventually the solar system re-forms again, and the process starts all over.
There's another possible explanation that I've always found a little sad, which is that physics simply does not permit travel between stars - for instance, faster-than-light travel is not possible, and the amount of mass you'd need for fuel/survival to travel at subliminal speeds exceeds what a world can produce or a ship can carry. Or at the edge of the observable universe, it is expanding faster than the speed of light, so we will never even receive any information from it in the form of signals. So there could be an infinite number of intelligent species out there, but basic physics dictates that they can never meet.

I wonder if we would live any differently if we knew this theorem to be true or false. I doubt we would, somehow. One can never completely extinguish the possibility that there might be something out there - who knows, we might have got all our calculations wrong - or ever quite overcome the feeling that we'll probably never see it.

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Re: Theravada against mathematics

Post by Germann » Mon Mar 04, 2019 2:28 pm

PeterC wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 3:04 am
1. Abhidharma is not solely a Theravedan thing. It is part of the body of teachings of Mahayana schools too.
There is no total denial of the existence of sattva in the Mahayana Abhidharma. Only permanent, unchanging, separate from the dharmas, self-existent sattva is denied. The concept of "sattva" has a denotation in reality - the flow of dharmas. The Pali concept of "satta" does not have a denotation in reality. This is concept of non-existent (avijjamana-pannatti).

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Concept of the non-existent (avijjamana-pannatti)

Post by Germann » Mon Mar 04, 2019 3:00 pm

"Concept of the non-existent, which is, for example, the conceptualizing of “female,” “male,” “persons,” etc., which are non-existent by that standard and are only established by means of current speech in the world; similarly “such impossibilities as concepts of a fifth truth or the other sectarians’ Atom, Primordial Essence, World Soul, and the like." Bhikkhu Ñánamoli (The Path of Purification p. 233.)

The Pali Abhidhamma is a system of mereological nihilism.

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Re: Theravada against mathematics

Post by PeterC » Mon Mar 04, 2019 3:20 pm

Germann wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 2:28 pm
PeterC wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 3:04 am
1. Abhidharma is not solely a Theravedan thing. It is part of the body of teachings of Mahayana schools too.
There is no total denial of the existence of sattva in the Mahayana Abhidharma. Only permanent, unchanging, separate from the dharmas, self-existent sattva is denied. The concept of "sattva" has a denotation in reality - the flow of dharmas. The Pali concept of "satta" does not have a denotation in reality. This is concept of non-existent (avijjamana-pannatti).
Exactly what type of existence is refuted in the Mahayana is a substantial topic. How does your argument depend on this?

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Re: Theravada against mathematics

Post by Germann » Mon Mar 04, 2019 4:43 pm

PeterC wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 3:20 pm
Germann wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 2:28 pm
PeterC wrote:
Mon Mar 04, 2019 3:04 am
1. Abhidharma is not solely a Theravedan thing. It is part of the body of teachings of Mahayana schools too.
There is no total denial of the existence of sattva in the Mahayana Abhidharma. Only permanent, unchanging, separate from the dharmas, self-existent sattva is denied. The concept of "sattva" has a denotation in reality - the flow of dharmas. The Pali concept of "satta" does not have a denotation in reality. This is concept of non-existent (avijjamana-pannatti).
Exactly what type of existence is refuted in the Mahayana is a substantial topic. How does your argument depend on this?
The denial of the existence of _satta_ is not the same as the negation of the _constant, unchanging_ sattva. The subject of denial is different. The Mahayana Abhidharma is not a mereological nihilism. No denies the existence of a subject making a free choice of events.

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Shannon number great, but not infinite.

Post by Germann » Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:10 am

Shannon number great, but not infinite. The number of possible combinations of a finite number of elements is not infinite. The number of chess pieces is limited. The number of dhammas in the Abhidhamma is limited. The number of combinations can not be infinite.

One chess game corresponds to one life. (No one lives forever. The game ends.)

A life without reaching Nibbana corresponds to a lost chess game. Life with the achievement of Nibbana corresponds to the won chess game. If it is possible to win this game, then such a chess game - life with the achievement of Nibbana - is included in the final set of all possible games. All possible chess games - all possible lives, all possible sequences of combinations of dhammas - should already be played in the infinity of the past.

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Re: Shannon number great, but not infinite.

Post by Grigoris » Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:00 pm

Germann wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:10 am
Shannon number great, but not infinite. The number of possible combinations of a finite number of elements is not infinite. The number of chess pieces is limited. The number of dhammas in the Abhidhamma is limited. The number of combinations can not be infinite.

One chess game corresponds to one life. (No one lives forever. The game ends.)

A life without reaching Nibbana corresponds to a lost chess game. Life with the achievement of Nibbana corresponds to the won chess game. If it is possible to win this game, then such a chess game - life with the achievement of Nibbana - is included in the final set of all possible games. All possible chess games - all possible lives, all possible sequences of combinations of dhammas - should already be played in the infinity of the past.
Well, see, the thing is that due to ignorance (and ensuing rebirth) we actually play the same game over and over, thus denying ourselves the opportunity of playing a winning game.
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Re: Shannon number great, but not infinite.

Post by Kuluru » Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:43 pm

Germann wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:10 am
A life without reaching Nibbana corresponds to a lost chess game. Life with the achievement of Nibbana corresponds to the won chess game. If it is possible to win this game, then such a chess game - life with the achievement of Nibbana - is included in the final set of all possible games. All possible chess games - all possible lives, all possible sequences of combinations of dhammas - should already be played in the infinity of the past.
But there is an "additional rule", a condition: You are only allowed to play a game after having lost a game. Newcomers are not welcome. :(

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Re: Shannon number great, but not infinite.

Post by Germann » Mon Mar 11, 2019 1:26 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 12:00 pm
Germann wrote:
Mon Mar 11, 2019 11:10 am
Shannon number great, but not infinite. The number of possible combinations of a finite number of elements is not infinite. The number of chess pieces is limited. The number of dhammas in the Abhidhamma is limited. The number of combinations can not be infinite.

One chess game corresponds to one life. (No one lives forever. The game ends.)

A life without reaching Nibbana corresponds to a lost chess game. Life with the achievement of Nibbana corresponds to the won chess game. If it is possible to win this game, then such a chess game - life with the achievement of Nibbana - is included in the final set of all possible games. All possible chess games - all possible lives, all possible sequences of combinations of dhammas - should already be played in the infinity of the past.
Well, see, the thing is that due to ignorance (and ensuing rebirth) we actually play the same game over and over, thus denying ourselves the opportunity of playing a winning game.
All games must be played mechanically if there is no free choice between them. The final number of steps in the game is less than an infinite number of events in the past. Theravada _totally_ denies the existence of sattа (_totally_ denies the existence of the subject of free choice).

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it is impossible to totally deny the subject of free choice

Post by Germann » Mon Mar 11, 2019 1:34 pm

To endlessly repeat the game, you need a free choice. And where there is a free choice, it is impossible to totally deny the subject of free choice.

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