Existence

General discussion, particularly exploring the Dharma in the modern world.
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Thundering Cloud
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Re: Existence

Post by Thundering Cloud » Wed Jan 30, 2019 5:07 pm

Rick wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 3:58 pm
Thundering Cloud wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 10:08 am
"To exist means to be something that can potentially be experienced / encountered / measured by someone somewhere.",
This squares largely with the view I arrived at (somewhere earlier in the thread):

existent = capable of being awared
but that definition divorces the fact of whether something exists or not entirely from direct experience.
Though this definition might be divorced from *my* direct experience, it relies on the direct experience of the awarer.
It would then be, in very real physical terms, nothing more than intellectual philosophizing to say whether something exists or doesn't.
I don't see a way around this. Do you?
That's a good sign that the mental construct of "existence" is starting to crack.
This is also the view I arrived at: that 'existent' is a conceptual construct. And this seems to jibe with the emptiness view that things cannot be said to either exist or not-exist (or both, or neither).

One of the offshoots of this that really interests me is the question of whether 'existent' is a predicate. I think-feel it is, but compelling arguments exist for both sides.
If your operating definition of "to exist" does not need to correlate with your experience in any way, but instead with some hypothetical person's experience, then there will be no way to get around the fact that, well by construction, such a definition is merely an intellectual exercise having nothing to do with your experience. ^_^ I think this is why steve suggested an amended question of how exactly some agreed-upon definition of "to exist" correlates to direct experience. Ultimately, it is your own experiences that you are attempting to form concepts (e.g. "to exist") about, right? :namaste:

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Rick
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Re: Existence

Post by Rick » Wed Jan 30, 2019 5:28 pm

Thundering Cloud wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 5:07 pm
If your operating definition of "to exist" does not need to correlate with your experience in any way, but instead with some hypothetical person's experience, then there will be no way to get around the fact that, well by construction, such a definition is merely an intellectual exercise having nothing to do with your experience.
It sounds like you're saying that the meaning of X either reflects my experience or is a <mere> intellectual exercise ... ?
Ultimately, it is your own experiences that you are attempting to form concepts (e.g. "to exist") about, right?
No, I'm not limiting the field of inquiry to my experiences. If I did, the world would disappear when I closed my eyes!
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

Thundering Cloud
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Re: Existence

Post by Thundering Cloud » Wed Jan 30, 2019 6:35 pm

Rick wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 5:28 pm
It sounds like you're saying that the meaning of X either reflects my experience or is a <mere> intellectual exercise ... ?
Ultimately, it is your own experiences that you are attempting to form concepts (e.g. "to exist") about, right?
No, I'm not limiting the field of inquiry to my experiences. If I did, the world would disappear when I closed my eyes!
Ultimately, all of the concepts you form have basis in your personal experience. There can certainly be no way around that. You were born into the world and began to learn about it, learning along the way the notion of other people having experiences which you can infer to be like yours. And then, for example, your concept of happiness may expand beyond your own immediate well-being to include their experiences insofar as you understand or infer them. (Some pre-schoolers latch onto that one faster than others, incidentally.) But the concept that there are others having experiences separately from one's own, that they might be having a bad day even though you're having a good one, was derived entirely from your direct experience. You have no other basis by which to obtain it.

But at a certain point, as we begin to rely on concepts building upon earlier concepts — we can find ourselves out on a limb, debating over who or what is moving the planets around in Spirograph shapes. Or maybe debating the qualities of the luminiferous ether, the substance that simply must be the material medium through which light travels. Like whether that substance is properly classified as Air, Earth, Fire or Water, because everything naturally fits that scheme… :tongue:

So what I'm trying to say is that it's important, in order not to get lost in concepts and end up chasing your tail over nothing, to be aware of your foundation — your personal "ground truth" direct experience — and of how things connect back to it. In that spirit, I refer to things which do not have such a linkage as "intellectual exercise" or "going out on a limb". It's important to recognize the potential for fallacy when out on a limb. Does that make sense?

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Rick
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Re: Existence

Post by Rick » Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:20 pm

Thundering Cloud wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 6:35 pm
Ultimately, all of the concepts you form have basis in your personal experience. ... You have no other basis by which to obtain it.
What about other, indirect ways of attaining <conceptual> knowledge — inference, reasoning, deduction, hearsay?

Are you saying that obtaining a concept is a direct experience ... no matter what the concept is or how you happened to obtain it?
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

Thundering Cloud
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Re: Existence

Post by Thundering Cloud » Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:31 pm

Rick wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:20 pm
Thundering Cloud wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 6:35 pm
Ultimately, all of the concepts you form have basis in your personal experience. ... You have no other basis by which to obtain it.
What about other, indirect ways of attaining <conceptual> knowledge — inference, reasoning, deduction, hearsay?

Are you saying that obtaining a concept is a direct experience ... no matter what the concept is or how you happened to obtain it?
To obtain something by inference, you must already have something to make the inference from. In that sense, it comes from what knowledge you already had by other, presumably more direct means.

To be more precise about it, your trust in the practical accuracy of a concept should be inversely proportional to the amount of inference from your absolute direct experience said concept requires. To be able to judge that latter, you need to be mindful of the former. (My mathematical background may be showing through slightly here, but I'm not sure how to better phrase that yet.)

Thundering Cloud
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Re: Existence

Post by Thundering Cloud » Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:37 pm

Thundering Cloud wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:31 pm
To be more precise about it, your trust in the practical accuracy of a concept should be inversely proportional to the amount of inference from your absolute direct experience said concept requires. To be able to judge that latter, you need to be mindful of the former. (My mathematical background may be showing through slightly here, but I'm not sure how to better phrase that yet.)
I always get these backwards... :emb:

To be more precise about it, your trust in the practical accuracy of a concept should be inversely proportional to the amount of inference from your absolute direct experience said concept requires. To be able to judge the former, you need to be mindful of the latter.

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Rick
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Re: Existence

Post by Rick » Wed Jan 30, 2019 8:12 pm

Thundering Cloud wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:31 pm
Are you saying that obtaining a concept is a direct experience ... no matter what the concept is or how you happened to obtain it?
So you're not saying this, right?
To obtain something by inference, you must already have something to make the inference from. In that sense, it comes from what knowledge you already had by other, presumably more direct means.
Is looking at an image from an electron microscope of a protein molecule 'direct experience' of the molecule's existence? Does directness of experience come in degrees? <These are questions, not veiled assertions.>
... your trust in the practical accuracy of a concept should be inversely proportional to the amount of inference from your absolute direct experience said concept requires.
What do you mean by 'practical accuracy of a concept?' Its ability to model/predict the real world?
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

Thundering Cloud
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Re: Existence

Post by Thundering Cloud » Wed Jan 30, 2019 8:41 pm

Let me try to take these in order... ^.^;;
Rick wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 8:12 pm
Thundering Cloud wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 7:31 pm
Are you saying that obtaining a concept is a direct experience ... no matter what the concept is or how you happened to obtain it?
So you're not saying this, right?
Certainly not. Actually, you do not obtain concepts from outside of yourself at all, you build them by heuristic trial and error. Even things you are taught in school were not transmuted to you by telepathy; a teacher gave verbal descriptions, diagrams, and examples... and you formed your own concept of the material by trial and error until it agreed with everything the teacher had shown you, at least well enough to pass the teacher's exams. Your concept is still not identical to the teacher's however, and was not given to you by the teacher, you made it yourself with their guidance.
Rick wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 8:12 pm
Is looking at an image from an electron microscope of a protein molecule 'direct experience' of the molecule's existence? Does directness of experience come in degrees? <These are questions, not veiled assertions.>
Precisely what I'm getting at, the degree of directness is important to be aware of. As a general rule, the level of indirectness of a concept from your personal experience corresponds to its probable inaccuracy.
Rick wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 8:12 pm
What do you mean by 'practical accuracy of a concept?' Its ability to model/predict the real world?
Good question! I mean its scope of validity insofar as agreeing with and / or predicting (your) experiences. If that helps?

stevie
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Re: Existence

Post by stevie » Thu Jan 31, 2019 8:21 am

Rick wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 4:06 pm
stevie wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 11:07 am
What is the experiential correlate of 'to exist' (once one has found a satisfactory meaning of it)?
Staying with

existent = aware-able

the awarer <who/what-ever that might be> is the experiencer ... i.e. the experiential correlate is in the mind-body of the awarer.
Maybe you've overlooked that I've written that the experiential correlate of 'to exist' I am referring to is to be found by means of introspection?

In the sphere of my experience the experiential correlate of 'to exist' is cognition as such which covers both, sense perception and inference. I know that this is a far reaching insight since Madhyamaka analysis is negating exactly this experiential correlate of 'to exist' (Madhyamaka analysis doesn't negate a meaning qua definition of 'to exist' to replace it by its own).
However if I apply Madhyamaka analysis I see that I am using exactly the same cognition - perception and inference - that my analysis negates. That means that my cognition is invalidated on its own grounds through revealing its ultimate inherent inconsistency. As a consequence any kind of affirmation is as invalid as any kind of negation (infinite regress implied).
Thus since the intended meaning of Madhyamaka cannot possible be to establish a truth because there isn't any 'valid' cognition in my sphere of experience such a truth could be based on Madhyamaka only provides reasonings for myself to reveal ultimate truthlessness.

Generally spoken: whatever the experiential correlate of 'to exist' one finds by means of introspection Madhyamaka provides reasonings for oneself to negate this experiential correlate of 'to exist'. Only if one finds an experiential correlate with a smaller scope than cognition as such one will end up with a truth and thus with a view.

muni
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Re: Existence

Post by muni » Thu Jan 31, 2019 8:43 am

Per Buddhism, what does "to exist" mean? Can this be answered (satisfactorily) without reference to the two truths? If so, please do.
By mental fabrications all exist and does not exist. For example Buddhism exist, is real. A God not, is not real. By the 'union' of the two truths, since they are not two at all, all statements about existence and so as well nonexistence, collapse like a passed soap bell in the air. Oops. no reference to the two truths...Okay, all references collapsed too.
May I be a guard for those without one,
A guide for all who journey on the road,
May I become a boat, a raft or bridge,
For all who wish to cross the water.

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Rick
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Re: Existence

Post by Rick » Thu Jan 31, 2019 3:18 pm

Thundering Cloud wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 8:41 pm
As a general rule, the level of indirectness of a concept from your personal experience corresponds to its probable inaccuracy.
Maybe as a general guideline ... but there are plenty of examples of personal experience and conceptual accuracy not corresponding, the realm of the counterintuitive is well-populated. ;-)
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

Thundering Cloud
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Re: Existence

Post by Thundering Cloud » Thu Jan 31, 2019 9:39 pm

Rick wrote:
Thu Jan 31, 2019 3:18 pm
Thundering Cloud wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 8:41 pm
As a general rule, the level of indirectness of a concept from your personal experience corresponds to its probable inaccuracy.
Maybe as a general guideline ... but there are plenty of examples of personal experience and conceptual accuracy not corresponding, the realm of the counterintuitive is well-populated. ;-)
The point is that the space of concepts which are both closely tied to direct experience and also in conflict with direct experience is not well-populated. Those counterintuitive experiences you mention arise because one's intuition has been mired in concepts that are many levels removed from one's direct experience.

stevie
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Re: Existence

Post by stevie » Thu Jan 31, 2019 11:08 pm

Thundering Cloud wrote:
Thu Jan 31, 2019 9:39 pm
The point is that the space of concepts which are both closely tied to direct experience and also in conflict with direct experience is not well-populated. Those counterintuitive experiences you mention arise because one's intuition has been mired in concepts that are many levels removed from one's direct experience.
That's interesting. you seem to believe that there are two kinds of conceptuality: 1. a conceptuality that is guided by a direct experience which accounts for its validity and 2. a conceptuality which is guided by itself, is therefore invalid but nevertheless does affect experience which therefore is not direct.

From my perspective the problem is that the term 'experience' does necessarily rely on meaning and therefore does rely on conceptuality which is why 1 is necessarily circular. That means there is no experience whatsoever that could be nonconceptual. The addition of 'direct' to 'experience' is therefore irrelevant.
As to 2: Conceptuality can certainly be guided by philosophical tenets and thus determine the contents of experience which is necessarily conceptual be it called 'direct' or not.

Maybe you borrowed your 'direct' from the buddhist epistemologists who are talking of 'direct perception' and 'inference' (type of conceptuality) as the two means of valid cognition. But the buddhist epistemologists are in error insofar as an utterly nonconceptual ('direct') perception wouldn't perceive anything. Why? Because in order to perceive 'something' meaning, i.e. conceptuality, is required.

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Rick
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Re: Existence

Post by Rick » Thu Jan 31, 2019 11:43 pm

Thundering Cloud wrote:
Thu Jan 31, 2019 9:39 pm
Those counterintuitive experiences you mention arise because one's intuition has been mired in concepts that are many levels removed from one's direct experience.
What about: rainbows as 3d objects, the present moment as an actual slice of time, quantum reality as magic, flat earth, the primal feeling of I as a real enduring entity, of objects as real, thoughts and images as real? These are all fruit of direct experience.

My favorite description of emptiness: Things are not what they seem, nor are they otherwise.

It's the first part I'm getting at, that things don't exist/work like we intuitively think-feel they do. Sometimes, like you say, because of our being mired in misleading concepts. And sometimes because the apprehension of what's really going on is just plain above our pay grades!
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

stevie
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Re: Existence

Post by stevie » Fri Feb 01, 2019 12:39 am

Thundering Cloud wrote:
Thu Jan 31, 2019 9:39 pm
Those counterintuitive experiences you mention arise because one's intuition has been mired in concepts that are many levels removed from one's direct experience.
Intuitions are an integral part of conceptuality and thus are as deceptive as conceptuality is.

Suchness is necessarily counterintuitive because suchness does not support fabrication, be it intuition or full-fledged conceptuality.

stevie
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Re: Existence

Post by stevie » Fri Feb 01, 2019 11:24 am

Thundering Cloud wrote:
Thu Jan 31, 2019 9:39 pm
...
Dear friend Thundering Cloud,

I have to apologize that I have not selected my last words more carefully. Why? The way I expressed myself may easily appear as if I were making assertive truth statements but that can't be the case and if I did I would have fallen prey to my ignorance again.
Why is this so?
Because when I apply words on the basis of the fundamental deceptiveness of my (!) conceptuality as shown to me (!) by the kindness of Madhyamaka teachers (incl. authors of scriptures and commentaries) these words are naturally trapped in the dichotomies/dualities of language, i.e. in 'is' vs 'isn't' and 'has' vs hasn't' and 'does' vs 'doesn't' etc. There is no way out of this dilemma when expressing myself with words but I should have more often applied expressions like 'from my perspective' or 'talking from within the sphere of my experience' to sort of 'attenuate' the deceptive appearance of my words as assertive truth statements.
If my conceptual expressions through language would be understood in light of Madhyamaka then there would be no problem. But such an understanding is not the common and conventional way language is understood in the world and most of us may therefore be conditioned to understand conceptual expressions through language in a non-Madhyamaka way. But understanding my conceptual expressions through language in a non-Madhyamaka way from my perspective necessarily entails that 1. they are understood as assertive truth statements although they are not intended to be such and that 2. if they are understood as assertive truth statements an infinite regress that doesn't arrive at any truth would be necessarily implied by my words due to the fundamental deceptiveness of my conceptuality which is trapped in the dichotomies/dualities of language.

Thundering Cloud
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Re: Existence

Post by Thundering Cloud » Sat Feb 02, 2019 9:18 pm

Rick wrote:
Thu Jan 31, 2019 11:43 pm
Thundering Cloud wrote:
Thu Jan 31, 2019 9:39 pm
Those counterintuitive experiences you mention arise because one's intuition has been mired in concepts that are many levels removed from one's direct experience.
What about: rainbows as 3d objects, the present moment as an actual slice of time, quantum reality as magic, flat earth, the primal feeling of I as a real enduring entity, of objects as real, thoughts and images as real? These are all fruit of direct experience.

My favorite description of emptiness: Things are not what they seem, nor are they otherwise.

It's the first part I'm getting at, that things don't exist/work like we intuitively think-feel they do. Sometimes, like you say, because of our being mired in misleading concepts. And sometimes because the apprehension of what's really going on is just plain above our pay grades!
I am not sure I am following you. The examples you give are of course scientifically wrong perceptions, but they do not conflict with one's direct experience (well, maybe perception of a flat earth would conflict with what you see if you happen to be an astronaut). They are examples of intuitive conceptualizing. To understand what's "really there" in a scientific sense, we have to go a little further out on a limb from what we can experience directly, and make inferences, and inferences upon those inferences. By doing so we can build and refine a fairly robust conceptual description of the world, but at the expense of potential for it to clash with more direct experiences. This is when things become counterintuitive (not to mention fun, IMO :tongue: ).

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Rick
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Re: Existence

Post by Rick » Sat Feb 02, 2019 9:47 pm

Yeah, I think we might be talking past each other ...

Before I respond, please tell me if this is right, i.e. what you meant:

The more closely a concept I have coincides with my direct experience, the more accurate (right, correct) that concept is likely to be.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

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Vasana
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Re: Existence

Post by Vasana » Sun Feb 03, 2019 10:21 pm

Rick wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 3:34 pm
Vasana wrote:
Wed Jan 30, 2019 9:37 am
This is a common misconception about Buddhism that there are no feelings or pleasures or passions. They're just related to more skilfully and with greater wisdom and compassion depending on which strand you follow.

If anything I think realization would entail an even wider spectrum of pleasure and feeling than what we're used to.
Pleasure is inextricably linked to pain and good feelings to bad feelings. You can't have positive valence without negative valence.

If this is true <is it?> then an end to suffering would mean an end to pleasure/feeling ... or at least what we experience now as pleasure and feeling.

What say yas, Vasana et alia?

If you follow the sutric path of renunciation as a monastic then sure, pleasure or feeling is not something to actively pursue if it causes attachment and the wheel of dependent origination to continue. If your're a lay mahayana practitioner then there are methods to utilize or at least relate more wisely with feeling and pleasure/displeasure.

Feeling or emotion is not the trouble here but attachment or averson to the feeling or emotion as it manifests. An end to suffering in this life does not mean an end to feeling it just means that feeling is experienced as the nature of wisdom rather than its potential for suffering (yet this can't really be got at by intellect )

Milarepa once sung a song with the line "the suffering being bliss feels so good that even feeling bad feels good!" Looked at this way, what we call the pleasures we tally up for the day are mere table scraps compared to what realized beings experience in an unbroken continuity 24/7, come rain or shine.
'When alone, watch your mind. When with others, watch your speech'- Old Kadampa saying.

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Rick
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Re: Existence

Post by Rick » Sun Feb 03, 2019 10:54 pm

Vasana wrote:
Sun Feb 03, 2019 10:21 pm
An end to suffering in this life does not mean an end to feeling it just means that feeling is experienced as the nature of wisdom rather than its potential for suffering (yet this can't really be got at by intellect )
Gotcha, thanks.
Milarepa once sung a song with the line "the suffering being bliss feels so good that even feeling bad feels good!"
Oh that Milarepa! :applause: It reminds me of something Atmananda Krishna Menon said:
Every feeling is said to be a wave in the ocean of Peace. ... Understanding feelings in this manner, we can enjoy even the feeling of misery, by emphasizing the real content of that misery and dismissing the illusory name and form. ... Thus every emotion is a clear pointer to that permanent background Peace.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

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