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An unique experiment - First time on a buddhist forum


#82

@suaimhneas

To the materialist: I agree to you that this organism is made out of matter, consciousness, feeling etc. and operates in a certain way. Yet, you claim one of the pieces of this engine is a self. Then, I invite you to make an argument for this, otherwise one can just as easy say there is an evil banana monster down deep somewhere that is playing a big trick on everyone, yet provide no evidence for this evil banana monster.

To the eternalist: I invite you too to provide an argument for your position.

PS: This is what this topic is about, providing arguments, discussing the matter using critical thinking.


#83

What he did is identical to what the mechanic from my bushman example would do: he would explain how the car works in detail, so that the bushman, after understanding how the car actually works, will see there is no tiger-force pushing the car. And this is why every time Buddha is asked such questions he answers “with volitional formations… then there is this, etc.”

That is the only way to answer such a problem. All you can do is to show how the car actually works, so that the person will stop believing in invisible tiger-forces pushing it. There is no way to prove there is no tiger force pushing your car or that there is no giant spaggete monster.


#84

Putting on a naive materialist hat: "I’m currently sitting on a wooden chair as I type this. I can’t prove by argumentation that there’s a chair under me. Similarly, there’s an organic process going on here on top of that chair that I choose to label as “me”. Like the chair I can’t prove that by argumentation. It’s simply my self-evident ongoing experience. What’s this about ‘evil banana monsters’? That my experience or some aspect of it isn’t happening? Or that my experience is happening but it would be better for me to view it differently? "

Eternalist hat (well, one type of eternalism anyway): "Argumentation isn’t knowledge. This underlying reality cannot be demonstrated via argumentation. My path shows me how to remove perceptual and mental blocks to the awareness of this reality (hatred, lack of love etc.), leading my perception and thinking to align more and more closely with this underlying benign reality. Physical demonstration isn’t possible either. Even if I could make a demonstration of psychic powers what would that prove? However, it’s only when all these blocks are removed completely, that the final leap can be made beyond even this purified perception and thinking (to beyond perception and thinking entirely) to direct knowledge and experience of this reality. "

OK, some of the above hopefully shows some of what I think are the limitations of argumentation. Your viewpoint also relies on certain premises, which IMO cannot be proved or disproved via argumentation.


#85

Ok. If you really want a wide-open inquiry: proof for a self existing is that I am me. I am myself. I am my " self".


#86

Answer to naive realist: Oh yes you can prove that that there is a chair beneath you. We can all see that chair. Sure, it’s not really a chair, it’s just a complex of properties that appear like that when that info is insterted into a human being to analyze it. Similar to how there actually is no light or color existing, but only radiowaves that, when analyzed by a human organism, appear like that. Similar to how this suttacentral website is actually not a website but a series of html, php, etc. code that, when insterted into chrome browser, goes out as a website. But yet, there is a html, php, etc. code there, otherwise there would be no output from the chrome browser. Similary, there are phisical proprieties that when inserted into a human, get out as a chair, otherwise to chair would get out.

Answer to the eternalist: Again you’re making statements. There is no place for you in the debating hall. I can make the same statements as you and put a “NOT” inside them, because they are simply statements. For example: “No, your path isn’t taking you anywhere because your path is a wrong path. All your opinions are based on delusion caused by this wrong path you are following”. So unfair isn’t it ?


#87

No you’re not. Similarly, your computer is a computer. Yet, is that computer the computer of your computer ? Does it belong to himself ? How are you different then him, in such a way that makes you believe that you belong to yourself ?

Maybe what you tried to say is that there is this feeling that things belong to you, or a feeling that there is a self, or etc. There is this feeling that exists in you and does not exist in a computer. When you say “I am myself” what you are trying to say is “I feel that there is a me” or “I feel this is me or belong to me” or something of that sort. There certainly is that feeling there, nobody can deny.


#88

Naive realist here again :slight_smile:
I’m not sure what you’ve trying to say here. I think you’re making a distinction between the chair and the organic brain process, which I label the self? Are you saying one is real and one is not? Surely, with some kind of futuristic scanner and high-powered computer to analyze the patterns, I could identify the cascading waves of triggered neurons in my brain and see the waves of concepts and experience flow through my biological brain? That is: see this organic process in action (like I could see the web of atoms and protons that make up the chair), like I’m sure it would be possible to monitor the action of the code that makes up this html page.

Eternalist back again:
Unfairness? Shrug. My point was that I could only make a statement. You’ve countered my statement with another statement. However what use is argumentation or the debating hall in this case? Can you use argumentation to prove that your statement:

No, your path isn’t taking you anywhere because your path is a wrong path. All your opinions are based on delusion caused by this wrong path you are following

is true and mine were false?

EDIT: Anyway high time for “naive realist” & co. to hit the hay and get some shut-eye here :wink:


#89

Response to naive realist: No, I am not saying that. Of course both of them exist. Same as the appearence of suttacentral website that we see now exist, the browser algorhitms doing the work exist, and also the code behind it exists. All 3 of them exist.

As for the alghoritms doing the transformation from magnetic waves into light or color, or the transformation of physical proprieties into a chair, I do not understand how one could consider them a self. A computer, a car, an airplane, all have such processes too, yet nobody would claim that a computer or an airplane has a self. Nobody would claim that the software of the computer is the self of the computer.

Eternalist back again:
Unfairness? Shrug. My point was that I could only make a statement. You’ve countered my statement with another statement. However what use is argumentation or the debating hall in this case? Can you use argumentation to prove that your statement:

Response to eternalist: No, there is no place for the eternalist in the debating hall in this case. The place of the eternalist is in front of a big audience, serving as a guru and delivering monologs. Debates are for arguments, not for statements, same as I have already told the eternalist in my previous message.

As for using argumentation to prove that counter-statement to the eternalist - yes, it is possible to use argumentation to back up that statement. If that would not be possible, then nobody would ever change his views or his religion. But there is no need to do that, since the eternalist is not a valid debating partner and is only a person making statements. And since he is insulting his interlocutors from the debating hall by delivering monologs and “things are so because I say so” kind of reasoning, his place is simply not in the debating hall to begin with.


#90

That sounds a bit convenient, to decide who’s in and out. But anyhow, going back to ‘Buddhist language’: are you with your strong proposition of no-self/soul, are you ‘knowing and seeing’ or ‘clinging to a view’? Because if you’re ‘clinging to a view’ that would also be a flawed beginning for a debate.

Like in a bus to Oklahoma reborn Christians once tried to convert me, they gave it the form of a ‘debate’ at the beginning, but in the end it was just that - missionaries out for conversion.


#91

Willingness to surrender acknowledge accept rest and mull takes discipline or courage or faith imo but is delightful.


#92

After ending a debate where one is on the top, being the one who is right, always gives me a feeling of loss after these few seconds of feeling like a champion.


#93

Morning. Naive realist here again! Finally got a chance to reply :slight_smile: What can I say? I’m a materialist and I do believe that. I expect that within the next few hundred years that humans with sophisticated enough technology will be able to build a talking, reasoning artificial intelligence housed in silicon (or some other physical medium) that would have a “self” much like myself. I also tend to subscribe to information theory views of physics (for example see the “Digital Physics” wiki link). So it wouldn’t seem incredible to me that everything is fundamentally algorithms.

Eternalist here again (an open-minded one also I hope). I hope I haven’t said anything insulting earlier (I don’t seem to have). I suppose I also haven’t previously said what brand of eternalist I am (other than being a generic one). I might not necessarily have a guru (maybe I’m into Christian mysticism) but let’s suppose I have a guru. My intent earlier (though perhaps not clear) was, rather than simply shouting out a monologue, to politely lay out some of my eternalist premises so that they could be dissected or picked apart by perhaps better minds.

And some of your words do indeed sound promising. Your earlier statement that:

No, your path isn’t taking you anywhere because your path is a wrong path. All your opinions are based on delusion caused by this wrong path you are following

I don’t find insulting, but rather intriguing. I am an open-minded eternalist after all! :slight_smile: This guru of mine does seem rather impressive. However, gurus do differ. Perhaps he’s wrong and I’ve made the wrong bet. You follow a famous ancient guru called the Buddha, don’t you? Let’s hypothetically suppose my premises might be wrong.

You also made another promising statement:

As for using argumentation to prove that counter-statement to the eternalist - yes, it is possible to use argumentation to back up that statement.

That sounds great! It sounds like you do have some decent argumentation up your sleeve. Of course, this is your debating hall, so your debating hall - your rules. I politely laid out my premises for examination and criticism earlier. I’m open to the possibility that my guru may have taken me down a “wrong path”.

However, your last reply was merely a long monologue composed or a series of statements and assertions. I am still hoping for some debate in your debating hall. As host, perhaps you could kick off the debate? I’ve stated some of my eternalist premises and been told they are wrong and perhaps misguided. Well, I humbly and with some interest ask, why? Though, of course, I’d hate to impose on your Buddhist debating hall if you find this particular subject matter boring or irritating, and so will promptly step out if asked.


#94

What place is there in a debate, for one who does not want to use the art of argumentation, but just make statements. (I am speaking about the eternalist)

As for how much one might be clinging to a view - one can cling a lot to a view, or one can not cling at all to a view. Yet, that is irrelevant to weather that particular view is correct or wrong. The only way to determine that is through the use of critical thinking.


#95

Sure, those are great ideas. But that’s is like a person entering a debating hall in india and saying “hello. I believe in this and that” - well that is very good, but the whole point on a debating hall is to try to find out weather those ideas are correct or wrong.

I don’t find insulting, but rather intriguing. I am an open-minded eternalist after all! :slight_smile: This guru of mine does seem rather impressive. However, gurus do differ. Perhaps he’s wrong and I’ve made the wrong bet. You follow a famous ancient guru called the Buddha, don’t you? Let’s hypothetically suppose my premises might be wrong.

That’s great. So when can we start discussing these ideas of these gurus, to see weather they are correct or wrong ?

However, your last reply was merely a long monologue composed or a series of statements and assertions. I am still hoping for some debate in your debating hall. As host, perhaps you could kick off the debate? I’ve stated some of my eternalist premises and been told they are wrong and perhaps misguided. Well, I humbly and with some interest ask, why? Though, of course, I’d hate to impose on your Buddhist debating hall if you find this particular subject matter boring or irritating, and so will promptly step out if asked.

Answer to eternalist : Well I can’t make up the arguments for you. You need to make up your arguments yourself. You entered the debating hall, claimed that you believe there might be a self, so I can’t wait to hear at least an argument. With no argument, there is no response that I can give. I got it, you believe there might be a self, that’s great. But, why do you believe that ? What makes you believe that ? Surely the eternalist must have at least an argument on which his opinion is based.

With no arguments, with simply nothing to say, there is just no place for a person at a debate. It would be much better to go to a social club or something that involves a presentation of oneself. A place where one can go and say “hello. I am X and I believe in this and that”. If that is all one has to say, then that’s the place for one to go.


#96

As per the Kaccānagotta Sutta existence (atthitā) and non-existence (n’atthitā) are not suitable terms for this discussion. You want us to indulge in metaphysical speculations on the basis of experience. The early Buddhists did not believe this to be a profitable use of our time. Nor do I.


#97

The answer about what Buddha taught about existence can be found also in this topic, page 62: An unique experiment - First time on a buddhist forum

Is Buddha engaging in speculation in SN 22.94 ?


#98

Yes, that is the common position of popular Buddhism. Good luck with that. I’ve given it up as unuseful and ineffective.


#99

I have tried to show that I believe the suttas make a case for the position: ‘questioning the existence of self is wrong attention and leads to wrong view’, but it seems you don’t want to believe that, nor try giving up that wrong attention. As you wish. Good luck with that.


#100

I’m taking off the eternalist and realist hats now (sounded all a bit too much like some kind of strange metaphysical personal column: “naive realist, good sense of humour, seeks open-minded eternalist for some philosophical speculating and maybe later something more …” :wink: ).

I actually agree with a lot of what you say above. However, my issue with your experiment is that for meaningful debate and discussion, there really needs to be a reasonable amount of common ground between participants.

Theists have endlessly debated the nature of reality, the nature of the Divine, the problem of evil and the like. Similarly, there has been no shortage of materialistic philosophers theorizing about the nature of reality. Plenty of hairs have been split and many arguments had between the various Buddhist schools early and modern .

Lots of the spiritual systems and paths make certain fundamental assumptions about the universe and nature of reality and, then assuming those things actually are true, would be perfectly reasonable ways of living.

I think if you want widen your experiment beyond Buddhism, you have to, rather than arguing about the alternative systems themselves, you have to argue about the assumptions they make about reality, whether those assumptions accord with reality as it is. And I don’t think that argumentation is really useful in that regard (not at least when there are such large chasms between the sets of assumptions).

A theist may say there is some transcendent reality beyond material reality (the five aggregates or whatever). It’s a fundamental premise. It’s either true or not. I’ve not even sure how one would prove or disprove it (argumentation surely won’t help). It’s a kind of get out of jail clause to the argument you make in your OP. Where’s the self to be found? Well there’s space in this transcendent reality (if it exists that is). That’s a bit of a discussion killer really.

A materialistic would probably be perfectly fine with the notion that their self is some kind of organic process of a type that could be replicated by sophisticated algorithms in silicon. They’d probably wonder about the utility of the whole “no self” idea (other than perhaps thinking that it might reduce egotism , but perhaps puzzled otherwise at your OP argument).

Even within Buddhism, I’m not sure argumentation has been of much use in bridging differing views of non-self between Mahayanists and Theravadins. You can argue about what the Buddha did or didn’t say making use of various suttas (early or later) and argue about their historical credentials, but that’s a type of argument that indirectly appeals to authority (or attempts to figure out what that authority actually said).

I think your experiment is fine within fairly Buddhism confines, but I’d suspect is less useful is you broaden it out much further than that.


#101

So we are all clear, what the sutta says is:

nāhaṃ, bhikkhave, lokena vivadāmi, lokova mayā vivadati. Na, bhikkhave, dhammavādī kenaci lokasmiṃ vivadati. Yaṃ, bhikkhave, natthisammataṃ loke paṇḍitānaṃ, ahampi taṃ natthī’ti vadāmi. Yaṃ, bhikkhave, atthisammataṃ loke paṇḍitānaṃ, ahampi taṃ atthī’ti vadāmi. (SN iii.138)

"I do not dispute with the world (lokena), the world disputes with me. Bhikkhus, a Buddhist doesn’t dispute with anything/anyone in the world (lokasmiṃ). What the scholars (paṇḍita) agree is not in the world (loke), I also say that ‘it isn’t’ (taṃ natthi). What the scholars agree is in the world, I also say ‘it is’ (taṃ atthi).

The word loka is used in two difference senses in this sutta, as marked by the two different forms of the locative - lokasmiṃ is a Sanskritised form, and loke is the standard Pāli form. As per Jan Gonda’s long essay on the word in Sanskrit, loka is primarily “the visible world”, or in our terms “the perceptual world” (cf the Sabba Sutta SN 35:23). As Sue Hamilton has shown in Early Buddhism: A New Approach, at least in some contexts, Pāli suttas refer to one’s experience (dukkha), arising from the apparatus of experience (the khandhas) as being one’s world (loka).

The khandhas… "are the factors of human experience (or, better the experiencing factors) that one needs to understand in order to achieve the goal of the Buddhist teachings.” (Hamilton 2000, p. 29)

Bhikkhu Bodhi has come to a similar conclusion:

“The world with which the Buddha’s teaching is principally concerned is ‘the world of experience,’ and even the objective world is of interest only to the extent that it serves as that necessary external condition for experience.” (Bodhi 2000, The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: 394, n.182)

Loka is sometimes substituted for dukkha as the product of paṭiccasamupāda.

evametassa kevalassa dukkhakkhandhassa samudayo hoti
Such is the arising of this whole mass of dissatisfaction

ayaṃ kho bhikkhave lokassa samudayo
This, monks, is the arising of the world

And cf also

dukkhameva hi sambhoti, dukkhaṃ tiṭṭhati veti ca;
nāññatra dukkhā sambhoti, nāññaṃ dukkhā nirujjhatī ti (S i.136)

Only disappointment is produced, disappointment persists, and ceases; Nothing other than disappointment is produced; nothing other than disappointment ceases.

And what is it that the scholars agree is in the world (loke) in SN 22.94? It is precisely the five khandhas. But what would it mean for the khandhas to be in the world (i.e. in experience)? The khandhas are the apparatus by which we have experiences, they are synonymous with the experiential world.

So SN 22.94 is not metaphysics, it is epistemology. It is often translated with a metaphysical spin, i.e. by translating taṃ atthi as “it exists” rather than “it is”. There is a big difference between saying “the khandhas exist in the world” and “the khandhas are in the world”. So we do have to keep in mind that it is precisely with respect to loka that the Kaccānagotta Sutta denies the applicability of existence (atthitā) and non-existence (n’atthitā) because they are two poles of a duality. Existence implies permanence (in this worldview) and ceasing (nirodha) tells us that permanence doesn’t apply. Similarly arising (samudāya) contradicts the idea of non-existence.

It is a vitally important distinction to make for practising Buddhists. We are not in search of some transcendental reality beyond experience; there is no absolute being (Brahman/ātman). The acme of Buddhism is the end of rebirth and therefore the extinction of dukkha (aka conditioned experience) (nibbāṇa), after which things are inexplicable (avyakata). This is why the suññatāvihāra later became such an important focus for some Buddhists, since in it all sense and cognitive experience ceases (nirodha).

There is plenty of metaphysical speculation in the Pāli suttas, but I don’t believe this to be an example. Rather it is part of a series of thematically linked suttas which discuss the world of experience and how to abandon it (SN 35:24).


Suttas against 'no self' and 'no soul'