I'm more concerned with direct experience of salt in it's form readily apparent to the senses.
OK. Salt tastes salty. I am ready.
As a quick disclaimer: Faculties that are named and used in making the descriptions and examinations i'm writing about are only temporary and will be discarded at a later point. Something said at one point may be contradicted and negated later on in reference to titles such as, mind, sense-fields, awareness, consciousness, subject, object etc....
When the [ultimate] truth is explained as it is, the conventional is not obstructed; Independent of the conventional, no [ultimate] truth can be found. - Nagarjuna
Ok so throughout this I want to stick with what is sensible. By "sensible" I mean capable of being sensed or that which is perceived by the senses. So audible, visible, tangible, etc... and for this we'll go with what is immediately perceived. Not mediately (through the intervention of something else). For example; when reading a book what you immediately
perceive is letters on the page, but mediately
or by means of these, notions of truth, virtue, vice etc are suggested to the mind. So though notions such as truth, vice, virtue etc are suggested and signified to the mind by sensible marks with which they have an arbitrary connection with, it would be absurd to designate these(truth, virtue etc..) as sensible things. So 'sensible things' means only what is immediately perceived by the senses and sensible things that we investigate don't include such designations inherently. To add; in instances such as a situation where one sees both red and blue in the sky, and thus it is inferred that there must be a cause for the differences in colors, that cause cannot be said to be a sensible quality immediately perceived by eyesight. Likewise, when one hears a variety of sounds it cannot be said that you hear their causes, and when one touches something hot or feels something heavy; one cannot say with truth that you feel the cause of the heat or weight. Hopefully we can agree that the senses perceive only what is perceived immediately because they do not make inferences.
So immediate sensible qualities include:
Sight - light, colors, shapes.
Hearing - sounds.
The palate - tastes.
Smell - odors.
Touch - tangible qualities.
(And obviously combinations of these.)
The purpose for this is to obviously stay with the theme I mentioned in an earlier post which was based on the premise that experience suggests nothing about itself. Aside from our conceptualizations about experience, experience itself communicates nothing. So staying with what is immediately perceived allows us to remain objective (no pun intended) and allows a mutually shared middle ground (non-conceptual awareness) apart from our contrasting notions about that middle ground. So like I said we're empirically investigating the nature of experience itself, and the emptiness or non-emptiness of an objective field in relation to it's validity in being a substantiated attribute of experience.
The underlying inquiry consists of two contrasting notions which are; does the reality of sensible things consist of being perceived? Or do things in fact exist as inherent exterior objects independent of sensual perception, distinct from, and having no relation to being
perceived? And related notions of objectivity, subjectivity, physicality, etc. Inherent separate existence vs. Empty dependent origination.
You started with salt before so... beginning with salt; inquiring into salts characteristics and attributes we'll look into whether salt exists as an objective independent agent which inherently exists and posses these attributes or the contrary.
Salt as it's usually experienced is predominantly comprised of vision, tactile sensation and obviously taste. I suppose salt can, on occasion be heard and also undoubtably bears an aroma to match it's pungent taste but those senses are secondary. So I think approaching salt sense-by-sense will be appropriate so that we can ensure that each sensory field can be properly isolated and examined. The reason for this is that in my opinion the different sense fields are heterogeneous instead of how they are usually taken to be (homogeneous). So even though they seem to amalgamate and interact to create what appears to be an organized and coordinated experience of reality, they are in fact separate fields which only communicate with one another via inferential projection.
This issue was examined rather thoroughly in a philosophical thought-experiment called Molyneux's Problem which consisted of attempting to understand the level of sensorial coordination one would possess upon immediate recovery from blindness. Taken from wikipedia; The problem can be stated in brief, "if a man born blind can feel the differences between shapes such as spheres and cubes, could he similarly distinguish those objects by sight if given the ability to see?"
The question was originally posed to Locke by philosopher William Molyneux, whose wife was blind:
Suppose a man born blind, and now adult, and taught by his touch to distinguish between a cube and a sphere of the same metal, and nighly of the same bigness, so as to tell, when he felt one and the other, which is the cube, which is the sphere. Suppose then the cube and the sphere placed on a table, and the blind man made to see: query, Whether by his sight, before he touched them, he could now distinguish and tell which is the globe, which the cube? To which the acute and judicious proposer answers: ‘Not. For though he has obtained the experience of how a globe, and how a cube, affects his touch; yet he has not yet attained the experience, that what affects his touch so or so, must affect his sight so or so…’
To which Locke responds in "An Essay Concerning Human Understanding":
I agree with this thinking gentleman, whom I am proud to call my friend, in his answer to this problem; and am of opinion that the blind man, at first sight, would not be able with certainty to say which was the globe, which the cube, whilst he only saw them; though he could unerringly name them by his touch, and certainly distinguish them by the difference of their figures felt.
In 1709, in “A New Theory of Vision,” George Berkeley also concluded that there was no necessary connection between a tactile world and a sight world—that a connection between them could be established only on the basis of experience. He speculated:
the objects to which he had hitherto used to apply the terms up and down, high and low, were such as only affected or were in some way perceived by touch; but the proper objects of vision make a new set of ideas, perfectly distinct and different from the former, and which can in no sort make themselves perceived by touch (sect. 95).
There have been events matching this predicament which actually verified these philosopher's educated speculations; one of them being the case of "a woman who gained sight at the age of 12 when she underwent surgery for dense bilateral congenital cataracts. They report that the subject could recognize family members by sight six months after surgery, but took up to a year to recognize most household objects purely by sight."
So starting with vision; I included a reference image we can both use to avoid conflicting imagery.
Salt on a table is a fairly common affair (if one is making a mess) and is good because it entails fairly limited differences in color
, which as it ends up is pretty much equivalent to the very sense of vision we're exploring.
My argument to start is going to be that color is exactly vision and vision is exactly color, they are synonymous in nature and manifestation. The common presupposition that the process of visually perceiving an object consists of 'seeing' a 'color' (which exists separately from said act of seeing) is a misnomer. Wherever there is color there is seeing and vice versa. The two go hand-in-hand and you cannot have one without the other. With color we also get 'shape' which is a result of colors bordering each other in various ways. So color also implies shape, and shape likewise will imply color. Ultimately the object of vision is color and therefore shape.
Vision standing alone as an isolated sense is much like Image A posted above. If we attend to the visual evidence in the image alone we get a circular patch of white surrounded by brown. There is no separating line between the colors and vision. And likewise there is no separating line between the colors and you, no evidence in the colors of being "out there" and no evidence of yourself being an observer "in here". The conclusion that the colors are external to us is based on the principle that these colors change over time. So we accept a story that the colors (object) is separate from us even though the basis for this conclusion is lacking in the visual evidence in-and-of-itself. This aligns with my previous statement that experience suggests nothing about itself. Experience instead receives projected conceptual overlay which over time serves to create habitually solidified subconscious presuppositions conveying a compelling sense of separation.
Separation in general is based on spatiality. We usually conceive of two opposite aspects existing on opposite sides of unbridgeable spatial gaps. In truth we never experience spatial externality or independence. These designations are based on the formation of a subtle reference point of a subjective self "here" as opposed to "there". The feeling of subjectivity is never anything more than a tendency to identify with certain clusters of sensation and project that the remainder is objective and "other". But by looking at experience very directly it can actually be ascertained that this "otherness" is never a part of our experience.
So back to the white salt on the brown table... this image that arises as vision is composed of these colors, we see a white circular expanse of color, and various shades of white within that circular shape. Bordering that we see a brown expanse of color which seems to surround the white, and if we could back up and see a larger image the colors would unfold as we went along.
These colors are all there is to vision. So to examine the 'objectivity' of vision let's examine the 'whiteness' in the image(and you can do this by putting salt on a table in front of you)... speaking specifically about the shades of the 'whiteness' and the particular value of the color. Can we say that the shade itself is salt? Can it be said that wherever you have that particular shade(white) you have salt - and wherever you have salt you have that particular shade(white)? Obviously not. So white itself isn't definitive of salt. Now would you say that there is salt on the far side of that color? Do you directly experience salt behind the white? Because we just established that we wouldn't take the shade of white itself to be salt one should naturally inquire as to whether there is salt behind the white. We'll find that there is in fact no salt to be found on the posterior side of the white. Now on the near side of the color, do we experience any separation between the seeing of the color and the color itself? Attending exclusively to vision and letting go of any arising concepts or beliefs, is there any distance experienced between the seeing of the white and the white itself? You can't see the 'seeing'... so there can't be any distance, the color simply arises. So there's no salt on the far side of the white, and no salt on the near side, and no distance or gap between the white and the seeing of the white itself. Wherever white appears, vision is occurring, there's no access to white without vision, so the objectivity of the salt should melt or fuse into vision itself. The color should disappear into vision, because at that point it makes no sense to say one is "seeing" a "color" in the first place... the two are inseparable. Vision itself means color is arising, they're one and the same. It's not as if you have independent access to colors where you can notice a color out of the visual field and then say now i'm seeing that color, there couldn't be a color unless vision was already there.
Now the idea that there is a bordering line between an internal aspect of the body and an external aspect apart from the body has to be taken into account as well. This 'bordering line' creating the dichotomy of internal/external is based on identification with 'the body'. But the body itself is not separate from vision either, there are other colors and shades which are identified as 'my body' but just like the colors which composed the salt, these colors appearing as a 'body' do not communicate a possessive nature. The colors simply arise no different than any other color in the field of vision. We only impute a notion of 'my body' over these colors. There are other faculties that seem to correlate with vision to give the appearance of a homogeneous cluster of sensations conventionally called the body and we can discuss those separately, but all are merely qualities appearing to awareness as awareness itself. So the notion of an 'subject inside' viewing an 'object outside' is not self-evident in vision. Vision simply appears and is completely non-discriminitive. Another thing which isn't self-evident in vision is the presence of 'eyes' doing the seeing, we never experience or see our own eyes at any time, even in the act of looking at a mirror we only are ever seeing colors and shapes arise that we identify with as 'me' and 'my eyes' but the eyes appear nowhere within vision itself, we again only accept a story about this.
About this Nagarjuna states: "Through this the eyes, visible forms and so forth, which are described as the elements, these should be known also as [the twelve] sense-fields, and as the objects and the subjects as well.
Neither atom of form exists nor is sense organ elsewhere; even more no sense organ as agent exists; so the producer and the produced are utterly unsuited for production." - Nagarjuna
"In terms of objects and subjects, whatever appears to the consciousness, apart from the cognitions themselves, no external objects exist anywhere.
So there are no external objects at all existing in the mode of entities. The very perceptions of the individual consciousnesses arise as appearances of the forms." - Nagarjuna
So vision is color. You can't even say they arise as mutually interdependent co-emergent qualities because the duality is lacking to begin with. The notion of the duality between observing and observed is a conceptual imputation. A story simply arises and say "i'm seeing white" and we accept this story, but the story is never evident in vision itself. The objectivity of color as an external quality isn't substantiated by experience. Now vision itself doesn't appear separate from awareness, or 'that' which 'knows' vision to be apparent. But that-which-knows is the appearance itself, there is no duality, even to say appearance implies something to which the appearance would appear-to, so what "is" escapes all such conceptualizations (aside from conventional descriptive concepts). So the objectivity of the salt collapses, the objectivity of color collapses, the objectivity of vision collapses as well. We can't say that vision is a 'thing' out there which is separate that we have access to sometimes and not at other times. Vision is awareness, there is no separation and there are no 'objects', all we have is awareness. And this same exercise is done for every sense modality. (Awareness itself must also be refuted as such.)
For the salty taste; my argument would be much like what has been proposed for vision, i saw that namdrol used the example of MSG in showing the appearance of 'saltiness' to not be unique to salt itself. So following the same examination done with vision and focusing on the palate alone one can successfully find taste to be empty as well. I would also add that with your argument being that saltiness is an innate quality with which salt itself is inherently endowed with; if one runs the gamut of taste congruent with other sensory appearances such as heat; it can be seen that an intense level of taste such as spiciness correlates with an intense heat in that at the highest volume of appearance both arise as pain. The pain that arises is in fact the taste. There are not two appearances such as taste and then also pain, they are one and the same. So to posit that an external objective thing like salt inherently contains it's taste would be akin to claiming it also contains the appearances of pain and pleasure. One also cannot attribute lesser volumes of the same spectrum such as a general mild taste to an object without naturally accrediting higher and lower volumes of that same spectrum. So salt cannot be said to contain it's taste. And taste cannot be said to be anything more than awareness itself and empty. This insight combined with the former which coincides with the experiment done in vision should hopefully annihilate this false designation(of inherent objective existence) apart from mere conventional usage.
Ultimately awareness itself is empty. Because for one to claim that this inquiry has successfully reached a foundation at 'awareness' implies a 'ground' of being of some type where none can be found. Yet conventionally awareness is a clear and proper concept to use in describing that-which-is, for such an awareness likewise cannot be denied.
The Buddha attempted to capture these realizations in The Heart Sutra when he stated:
There are no eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind. There is no seeing, no hearing, no smelling, no tasting, no touching, no imagining. There is nothing seen, nor heard, nor smelled, nor tasted, nor touched, nor imagined.
Devoid of all real entities;
Utterly discarding all objects and subjects,
Such as aggregates, elements and sense-fields;
Due to sameness of selflessness of all phenomena,
One's mind is primordially unborn;
It is in the nature of emptiness.