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Mind & matter

metaphysics
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#1

“Instead of the framework of the mind existing somewhere in material time and space, we say that time and space exist within the mind.”

Coming from a Theravada monk, this quote seems like a summary of Yogachara to me. Is this perspective based on the EBTs? Is there are sutta that says time and space actually “exist within the mind”?


#2

Another related question might be is there a perspective based on the EBTs which frames mental objects and the consciousness they give rise to as “existing in the mind.”

That is a more literal way to go about it though. “Where” is this contact occurring? In the mind? Outside it?

Time and space are certainly mental objects, but this might be a cop out. I can’t find of anything that doesn’t have the potentiality to be a mental object, but perhaps my definition of mental object is too vague and not particular enough.


#3

At “Magic of mind” by Ven. Nananda page 31, argued against mind-matter dichotomy based on DN 15 SuttaCentral

By Ven. Sujato
“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition of feeling, namely contact.

‘Name and form are conditions for contact’—that’s what I said. And this is a way to understand how this is so. Suppose there were none of the features, attributes, signs, and details by which the category of mental phenomena is found. Would linguistic contact still be found in the category of physical phenomena?”

“No, sir.”

“Suppose there were none of the features, attributes, signs, and details by which the category of physical phenomena is found. Would impingement contact still be found in the category of mental phenomena?”

“No, sir.”

“Suppose there were none of the features, attributes, signs, and details by which the categories of mental or physical phenomena are found. Would either linguistic contact or impingement contact still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“Suppose there were none of the features, attributes, signs, and details by which name and form are found. Would contact still be found?”

“No, sir.”

“That’s why this is the cause, source, origin, and condition of contact, namely name and form.


#4

Relevant suttas: sn35.116, sn12.44, an9.38 and sn35.23.

From sn35.116:

[Ananda:] This is how I understand the detailed meaning of this passage for recitation. Whatever in the world through which you perceive the world and conceive the world is called the world in the training of the noble one. And through what in the world do you perceive the world and conceive the world? Through the eye in the world you perceive the world and conceive the world. Through the ear … nose … tongue … body … mind in the world you perceive the world and conceive the world.

The other abovementioned suttas also reinforce the EBT idea that ‘the world’ is the world of experience, which makes sense considering that suffering only makes sense in the context of a being’s experience.

The problem IMO is our confusing modern notion of mind vs matter.

“Instead of the framework of the mind existing somewhere in material time and space, we say that time and space exist within the mind.”

On one hand, this could be a way to use the mind-matter terminology to point to the world of experience. I.e. time and space are first and foremost things we engage with through our experience.

Or, it could be interpreted as saying time and space are not fundamental properties of reality (see below).

Or, it could be interpreted as saying that things are actually made of mind-stuff, not matter-stuff.

And probably many other ways as well.

So to conclude, IMO, one needs a lot more context to understand what that saying is supposed to mean.


From a physics perspective, you might be interested in physcisist Nima Arkani-Hamed’s arguments for why spacetime is not a fundamental structure of reality.

From evolutionary theory, it follows from Donald Hoffman’s interface theory of perception that spacetime is not a fundamental property of reality but rather an adaptive part of our species-specific perceptual interface.


#5

Aren’t ‘time’ and ‘space’ (and indeed ‘reality’) like everything else in the EBTs, subject to dependent origination rather than having any sort of intrinsic existence?


#6

An interesting discussion on space here:

Note that space is included as an element in MN140. As for time, I think you could consider it an inherent aspect of anicca. Both are presumably part of The All, so in that sense they are experienced in the mind.


#7

Space has two broad definitions here: space | Definition of space in English by Oxford Dictionaries

  1. An unoccupied region.
  2. The dimensions of height, depth, and width within which all things exist and move (the space of “space and time”).

Meaning 1 seems to be what MN140 is referring to:

… This includes the ear canals, nostrils, and mouth; and the space for swallowing what is eaten and drunk, the space where it stays, and the space for excreting it from the nether regions. …
SuttaCentral

:heart:


#8

Yes, MN140 mentions both interior and exterior space, but I don’t think this means the fabric of the cosmos, it’s just empty space, an absence of objects.


#9

Personally, I take an instrumentalist approach to the ideas in the EBTs.

To me the ideas in the EBTs are tools to achieve the goal of ending suffering. But, are the ideas true? Yes, they are true in the sense that I think they are able to lead me to the desired result.

Are they true in the sense of reflecting a reality that exists independently of my experience? I don’t see any way to be a 100% sure about that, and given a yes or no answer to that question, I don’t see how it would make a difference to the practice – the things you actually have to do.

Is suffering real? To me, it’s real enough to motivate me to do something about it.

I’m happy not thinking in absolutes for now. I’ll see how it goes :stuck_out_tongue:


#10

Thinking of the Sabba Sutta (above) the EBT seem to have a phenomenological rather than an ontological focus, so dealing with what we actually experience.

PS I wish I could pronounce “phenomenological”. :laughing:


#11

I think it’s the other way around isn’t it? Anicca is a characteristic of all things. Time is impermanent too.

How very ‘timely’ this all is :wink: … The end of time, right here (well maybe):

In that case would they (both time and space) not be ‘mental phenomena’? So they would be external to the ‘mind’, just like ‘forms’ are external to the ‘eye’?


#12

I guess anicca means change, from which we discern the passage of time.
It seems like space and time are derived from form, but experienced as mental objects.


#13

As i understand it, the expression is agreeable in the context of Abhidhamma if one takes mind to be mind element rather than mind-consciousness element and explains mind element as sometimes a characteristic of the four planes of existence and sometimes not a characteristic (supramundane). Furthermore one explains ideation as the aggregate of feeling, aggregate of perception, aggregate of volitional activities and that invisible non-impingent form included in the ideational sense-base; the unconditioned element [destruction of greed, anger and delusion].

One could then explain the aforementioned aggregates as perceived expression of causes and conditions of the spacetime [world/existence/reality] and the unconditioned as not associated with spacetime.


#14

No. There’s nothing that says time and space actually exist at all, much less in the mind.

Philosophically, the EBTs present neither ontological realism (“the world exists objectively out there”) nor idealism (“the world exists only in our subjective experience in the mind”).

Rather, they are relationist: the primary reality is experience, which is a complex and shifting relation of many different processes. We tease out different aspects of experience to help understand it. But concepts like “space” and “time”, or “mind” and “matter” are abstractions derived from experience, not primary realities.


#15

Do you have further pointers on what you mean by this term? Stanford’s Encyclopedia defines spacial relationism as there existing real objects with space merely existing between them. What you’re describing sounds more like phenomenology to me.


#17

Does this Wiki article help? Relationalism - Wikipedia


#18

That’s discussing the same thing afaict…


#19

TBH I was just using the word because I thought it had the right meaning, I was unaware of a philosophical school of this name. But yes, this sounds pretty similar. There is a lot of crossover with phenomenology also.