Sujato's thought of the day: on nouns

Note to self: when speaking Dhamma, more nouns, fewer adjectives.


And what about verbs??


Verbs are good. Better than nouns, actually. Adverbs are also okay.


Nirvanize / nirvanas > attains nirvana

It’s weird but it works

Hmm, sceptical… By focusing on nouns the mind’s structure goes to thinking in static patterns instead of processual patterns. I think the latter is the more basic way of thinking. I’m not an expert of this, but it reminds me of some discussion times ago about the implications of converting to platonic/abstract/ideal thinking in history of mind. About the adjectives - to reduce the dosis of adjectives sounds good… :slight_smile:

Additional remark: I just remembered an old article Andreas Goppold in 1994 on “the Shunyata in the work of Nagarjuna” (I think it was his thesis) which caught my interest/sympathy although I never went deeper/systematically into the analytical philosophy. It discusses implications of some basic language-structures for the mind’s thinking-patterns. This text is in german and I just fed it into, perhaps someone likes it and is interested in the text at all. Here is an automatic translation of a part in chap 4:

4. to be or to become, that is the question here.
With his inconspicuous quotation “To be or not to be” Shakespeare made his protagonist Hamlet the representative of the most fundamental of all questions of human systems of thought. This question stands at the beginning of both Western and Eastern philosophy, and it has been answered differently, depending on time and place. Parmenides formulated this core question thus:
estin e ouk estin --
it is or it is not
This is the first preserved version of the most fundamental proposition of Western thought, which is also known by another name:
The Theorem of the Excluded Third.
Plato says on the subject of being and becoming:
First now, in my opinion, we have to distinguish the following: What is the always existing and having no coming into being and what is the always becoming but never existing; the one is to be grasped by rational thinking (28 a), is always equal to itself, the other, on the other hand, is to be assumed by mere meaning connected with sensory perception without reason, is becoming and passing away, but never really existing. Furthermore, everything that comes into being must inevitably come into being from a cause. For it is impossible for everything to come into being without a cause. (BIB:PLATO-WORK7, 27d-28a)
Parmenides formulated his proposition at about the same time as the Buddha formulated his doctrine of shunyata. As the arrow parable makes clear, the Buddha, in contrast to his Greek contemporaries, was not interested in fathoming the nature of things, but only in imparting the knowledge sufficiently necessary to overcome the chaining to the world of the objective. This was the essential point of departure after which the Buddhist and Western systems of thought then diverged in an opposite direction.
4.1 The Being as a Linguistic Category
The Greeks were probably not aware of the fact that they performed with their philosophy only a semantic shadow play, which was based on the grammatical rules of the Greek language. (ANM:EXCLUSIVE[8] <>) Aristotle had driven this game to its climax, and the entire Western world has done nothing else in the following 2300 years but to continue in the tracks he laid. This is what was called at the beginning the “classical-Aristotelian shape of thinking”.
4.2 Ontology as Epiphenomenon of the Structure of Language
We have to realize that the thinking of being is so deeply penetrated and integrated into the Western consciousness that it is hardly possible for us to think anything else than what is formed by this category. This is already made clear to us by one of the basic terms of western philosophy: the word “ontology”. We talk in philosophy about the ontology of all possible things and concepts, even about the ontology of becoming. But this is a contradiction in itself. There is no ontology of becoming, because there is no being of becoming. There are only different conceptions of becoming, and if our whole system of thinking is oriented to being, then we can imagine something under “becoming”, which, however, is always and eternally oriented to the categories of being. (On this problem also the quotations from BIB:BUDDH-STRENG below).
4.2.1 The Being as Language Magic
Being is nothing else than an artifact (i.e. a by-product) of a linguistic category. We humans of the western civilization have become so accustomed to equate the names and designations that we give to the things with the things themselves that it causes highest astonishment and highest incredulity, even rejection and hostility, if one seriously doubts this. The naming of things arises from the fundamental need of security of the people. Here the close connection between naming and magic is evident. To give a thing a name is to put it under the magical spell of human imagination and manipulation. And nothing else than this is also the today’s natural science which has carried the manipulation of the things to the point. (S.a. BIB:HAARMANN92)

(… a bit further: a citation in english in the original text:)

“Fundamental to an understanding of nirvana is the percep­tion of the reality of “becoming” for which nirvana ist the answer. If we see that the “becoming” is a fundamental ontological category denying the static “being”, then there is no need for a static ontological substratum to undergird a “process of becoming”; and the question of whether there “is” or “is not” something remaining when there is no longer fabrication of existence does not apply.” (BIB:BUDDH-STRENG, p. 81)


"By clearly understanding that there is no absolute essence to which “emptiness” (or “nirvana” and “perfect wisdom”) refers, we recognize that when emptiness is described as inexpressible, inconceivable, and devoid of designation, it does not imply that there is such a thing having these as characteristics. Emptiness is nonsubstantial and nonper­ceptible. As “nonsubstantiality” does not indicate non-exi­stence, but a denial that things are real in themselves, so “non-perceptibility” does not mean a state of unconscious­ness; rather, it serves to check the inclination to substan­tialize phenomena through conceptualization. Thus, “emp­tiness” itself is empty in both an ontological and an episte­mological sense: “it” is devoid of any self-sufficient being, and it is beyond both designations “empty” and “non-empty”. Only if both senses are kept in mind can we see how Nagarjuna relates the “emptiness of the phenomenal world” to the “emptiness of any absolute entity or asser­tion”. (BIB:BUDDH-STRENG, p. 80)

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… and thus upon hearing these words the readers of the Internet thread achieved instant awakening.

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Well, verbs are better to be sure.

Verbs > nouns > adjectives

Adverbs? (Might they even belong at the beginning, before verbs?)


  • citation required.


Bhante @Sujato perhaps you could say a few words about the Nama-Rupa/consciousness dependency/conditionality in this context :pray:

Lol, “a few words”, that’s admirably ambitious of you, but I think not.


Umm, I understand this as thoughts of the author (Goppold) himself, not a citation from elsewhere, at most a partial paraphrase from a text of “Haarmann92”. On the other hand I never did analysis of his citation-index/bibliography, I simply let this text as something like a singularly blooming flower in my much random collection of downloads.

To have a bit better insight in what he means (the translation might be imprecise/wrong) here is the paragraph in german.

"4.2.1. Das Seiende als Sprachmagie

Das Seiende ist nichts anderes als ein Artefakt (also ein Nebenprodukt) einer sprachlichen Kategorie. Wir Menschen der westlichen Zivilisation haben uns so daran gewöhnt, die Namen und Bezeichnungen die wir den Dingen geben, mit den Dingen selber gleichzusetzen, daß es höchstes Erstaunen und höchste Ungläubigkeit, sogar Ablehnung und Feindlichkeit hervorruft, wenn man das ernsthaft in Zweifel zieht. Die Benennung der Dinge entspringt dem fundamentalen Sicherheitsbedürfnis der Menschen. Hier ist die enge Verbindung von Namensgebung und Magie offenbar. Einem Ding einen Namen geben, heißt, es den magischen Bann des menschlichen Vorstellungs- und Manipulationsvermögens zu ziehen. Und nichts anderes als das ist auch die heutige Naturwissenschaft, die die Manipulation der Dinge auf die Spitze getrieben hat.

from Chap 4 in:

Die Logik der Lehre von der Leere:
Die Shunyata des Nagarjuna
Andreas Goppold | FAW Ulm | 89010 Ulm | Germany

“I seem to be a verb.” – Buckminster Fuller

Sorry, I wasn’t being clear: that is a way of saying “they’re presenting something as if it were a fact, but I think they just made it up”.

Let me state it plainly. The quoted passage asserts:

We humans of the western civilization have become so accustomed to equate the names and designations that we give to the things with the things themselves that it causes highest astonishment and highest incredulity, even rejection and hostility, if one seriously doubts this.

But I do not know a single person who does this, and I don’t think a single western philosopher of the last 2500 years would actually hold such a naive and absurd position.

Well, the way you pointing this out makes it indeed a curious speculation. Perhaps the author mentally swims in a flow that he himself has created in the composition of his text before; the old-time term “bramarbasieren” comes to mind… : not a good habit, surely.

I cannot say more at the moment; for me the interesting aspect in Goppold’s essay was the attempt to connect linguistic structures with structures of thinking/world-shaping at all. When I first met buddhistic texts (in pali-canon), the analysis of the structure of thinking, of its conditionedness and its mental world-shaping features has been an exorbitant highlight for me (I’m even tempted to compare this with Einstein’s discovery of fundamental relativity in the physical world). So I like the Goppold’s general composition of reasoning, and see now, by your example, that, on the other hand, it’s good not to get too involved into his over-bold statements…

Indeed, yes. I think there is something there, but a more temperate approach would yield more satsfying results.