Brain in a vat, solipsism...

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Brain in a vat, solipsism...

Postby Christian89 » Sun Dec 01, 2013 3:52 pm

Lately i've been reading a lot about BIV and Solipsism and i'm horrified by those scenarios. I'm in severe depression and i can't live normally anymore. I just don't want to exists! I cannot live like that anymore! The possibility that my family and my friends are not real is extremely scary. I'm interested in what buddhists think about this. I mean this is such a fundamental question, if you don't know what's real then what's the point to do anything, what's the point to meditate, to be mindful, to do anything...If you can't disprove that you're BIV manipulated by an intelligent machine or some living being or that you're not the only mind in universe, or to prove that other people are not just robots(created and controlled by a computer program) who look and behave like a human would do...I mean it's obviously extremelly unlikely but it's a possibility. Unbelievably scary possibility. Some of those scenarios are physically possible, hard to achieve but possible. Ofcourse a human being(enligthened or not) cannot prove or disprove those scenarios with 100% certainity, but i'm interested in what Buddhism has to say about those things. I didn't find anything useful on the internet so far.
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Re: Brain in a vat, solipsism...

Postby Khalil Bodhi » Sun Dec 01, 2013 4:27 pm

Hi Christian89,

I recall being stuck in a similar philosophical/existential quandary when I was a Freshman in college. In short, the premises and assumptions one has to make in order for the Cartesian solipsism to make sense are all wrong but if you take them as a priori statements of fact you simply can't argue your way out. I think the more pressing concern is for you to get help with your depression. Are you in treatment? Have you spoken with anyone? If you would like to PM me and let me know where you are located I can help you to find resources in your area. Only once you have taken steps to resolve your depression and overcome your anxiety I think you will see the apparently iron-clad Cartesian position is much less convincing. Whatever you do I wish you freedom from fear and suffering and hope you find relief soon, :group:
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Re: Brain in a vat, solipsism...

Postby kmath » Sun Dec 01, 2013 4:30 pm

Khalil Bodhi wrote:Hi Christian89,

I recall being stuck in a similar philosophical/existential quandary when I was a Freshman in college. In short, the premises and assumptions one has to make in order for the Cartesian solipsism to make sense are all wrong but if you take them as a priori statements of fact you simply can't argue your way out. I think the more pressing concern is for you to get help with your depression. Are you in treatment? Have you spoken with anyone? If you would like to PM me and let me know where you are located I can help you to find resources in your area. Only once you have taken steps to resolve your depression and overcome your anxiety I think you will see the apparently iron-clad Cartesian position is much less convincing. Whatever you do I wish you freedom from fear and suffering and hope you find relief soon, :group:



:smile: Wonderful
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Re: Brain in a vat, solipsism...

Postby Christian89 » Sun Dec 01, 2013 4:56 pm

Khalil Bodhi wrote:Are you in treatment?

No.

Have you spoken with anyone?

No.

Only once you have taken steps to resolve your depression and overcome your anxiety I think you will see the apparently iron-clad Cartesian position is much less convincing.

I'm not sure what do you mean. The depression is caused by the questions i have. Sure, my life is not easy and i have suffered a lot but in the last month(after reading about those philosophical scenarios) things get worse. I was sad sometimes before, but now i'm extremelly depressed. it's just unbearable. I'm interested in Buddhism, but so far only that. I haven't practiced it yet. And i don't see a reason to meditate, read suttas and so on...i mean it doesn't seems like those things lead to answers, basically Buddhism seems like an escape from reality to me, it's not a way to solve your problems. Maybe i'm mistaken, i don't know, but so far that's my impression. Not being able to answer the questions i have is definetely a problem for me. English is not my native language, so i'm sorry if there are mistakes.

Whatever you do I wish you freedom from fear and suffering and hope you find relief soon

Thanks.
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Re: Brain in a vat, solipsism...

Postby santa100 » Sun Dec 01, 2013 7:11 pm

Christian89: Lately i've been reading a lot about BIV and Solipsism..


Whether we're just brains in a vat or some real entities, the issue of suffering is still there. We still face old age, sickness, death, association with enemies, separation from loved ones, etc. And regardless of philosophical positions, as long as one has not transcended greed, hatred, delusion, and all attachment to the "self", then suffering is still very real. And as long as suffering is still there, one'd still need to cultivate the Dhamma to become free from it..
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Re: Brain in a vat, solipsism...

Postby HenryDLacklaw » Sun Dec 01, 2013 7:38 pm

I've been through this. Kant's Critique of Pure Reason solved it for me. Basically he argued that we have these a priori categories built into our minds such that all our experience without exception is conditioned by them. These categories include causality, space, and time, among others. (Picture going through life with pink goggles fused to your eyes.) Ultimately, since all our experience is conditioned by these categories, we have no access to the "real" world, and since we can't know it, we shouldn't bother with it and we should focus on our day to day issues instead.

As for depression, believe me, been there too. I find meditation helps me feel better sometimes, but you really ought to get some help. Even if we are brains in vats, we need not make our situation worse. I hope you feel better soon! :hug:
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Re: Brain in a vat, solipsism...

Postby sphairos » Sun Dec 01, 2013 9:04 pm

Dear Christian,

perhaps at some point you should try the Hilary Putnam's "Reason, truth and history". The first chapter is called "Brains in a vat". The book is hard, but, in short, he demonstrates, that if we were "brains in a vat", we wouldn't be able to say that we are brains in a vat, because all that we could say would be "I'm a brain-image in a vat-image". We would not have any idea of a real brain, real vat or illusory brain, illusory vat, and illusory "I" or "self" etc. In the very phrase "I'm just brains in a vat/epiphenomena of a supercomputer/etc", in its deep structure and in very our faculty of understanding is built the criterion for differentiation between reality and illusion. So the phrase is meaningless, in spite of its alleged power.

You may see the essence of his argument there:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hilary_Putnam#Epistemology

As for Buddhism, as far as I understand, it says that mental and all other phenomena are deceptive/deceitful. And the mental phenomenon "solipsism" or "brains in a vat" is also deceitful. We should develop mindfulness, subtle attentiveness, and cut through all appearances.
Last edited by sphairos on Mon Dec 02, 2013 11:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Brain in a vat, solipsism...

Postby Mkoll » Sun Dec 01, 2013 10:06 pm

Christian89 wrote:If you can't disprove that you're BIV manipulated by an intelligent machine or some living being or that you're not the only mind in universe, or to prove that other people are not just robots(created and controlled by a computer program) who look and behave like a human would do...I mean it's obviously extremelly unlikely but it's a possibility. Unbelievably scary possibility. Some of those scenarios are physically possible, hard to achieve but possible.

It sounds like you are talking about the scenario put forth in the movie, The Matrix. That movie does put forth a frightening scenario that I once entertained as real just as you are. But certain things cannot be definitively proven or disproven. Just as I can't not prove that we aren't all human beings trapped in a horrifying Matrix-like scenario, I also can't not prove that our real bodies have the form of flying-purple-people-eaters who crap rainbows out their behinds and it is these bodies that are housed in vats. My point here is not to make light of your situation but rather that our minds can conceptualize anything and believe it to be true. But if you just change a few of the variables in that conception, it begins to look ridiculous.

Ofcourse a human being(enligthened or not) cannot prove or disprove those scenarios with 100% certainity, but i'm interested in what Buddhism has to say about those things. I didn't find anything useful on the internet so far.

In the Buddha's teaching according to the Pali Canon, the enlightened human being proves to themself the nature of reality. They don't need to validate their experience with anybody and nothing that anyone tells them can possibly change their mind because they alone know their own experience. One of the first "fetters" that one cuts upon stream-entry, the first stage of Buddhist enlightenment, is skeptical doubt. And it sounds to me like doubt is what is causing you suffering.

Christian89 wrote:The depression is caused by the questions i have.

And it sounds to me like doubt is what is causing you suffering. You have questions that no one can answer. So you imagine all sorts of different possibilities, none of which you are sure is more valid than another. And many thinkers in the past and present, like the ones you are reading, imagine all sorts of possibilities.

Christian89 wrote:Sure, my life is not easy and i have suffered a lot but in the last month(after reading about those philosophical scenarios) things get worse.

My first piece of advice you can put into practice right now: stop reading those things. The more you read them, the more your mind will think along solipsist lines. Either do something else or read something else. If you read something else, I recommend Buddhist teachings. For you specifically, I recommend Digha Nikaya 1. Scroll down to Section III if you don't want to read the whole thing. It talks about the views the mind can hold.

Christian89 wrote:basically Buddhism seems like an escape from reality to me, it's not a way to solve your problems. Maybe i'm mistaken, i don't know, but so far that's my impression.


1) Do you suffer? YES/NO

2) Do you want to be free from suffering? YES/NO

If you answered yes to the first question, then you are conceding that there is something real: suffering. The Buddha's First Noble Truth is the truth of suffering.

If you answered yes to the second question, then you are looking for a way out from suffering. The Buddha's Fourth Noble Truth is the Way to the Cessation of Suffering.

You are right that when looked at in a very narrow way, Buddhism is an escape from reality. However, you are wrong in saying it's not a way to solve your problems. Rather, practicing the Buddha's teachings is the best way to solve your problems because the teachings point to the roots from which problems spring and teaches you how you can uproot them.

Please don't hesitate to ask any questions. I have been in a similar state of mind as yourself so I think I can help you.

Bhikkhus, whatever a bhikkhu frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind.
-MN 19

Remember, your mind was not born with your conceptions. You've trained your mind to think along certain lines that cause you consternation and thus you can train your mind to think along certain lines that cause you freedom from consternation.
When this is, that is.
From the arising of this comes the arising of that.
When this isn't, that isn't.
From the cessation of this comes the cessation of that.
-SN 12.61

Ex nihilo nihil fit.

Peace,
James
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Re: Brain in a vat, solipsism...

Postby Dan74 » Sun Dec 01, 2013 10:35 pm

Hi Christian

There are many horrific hypothetical constructs one can come up with, including yours. A friend keeps fearing about the future, inevitably constructs the worst-case scenario and gets depressed about it. She thinks she is just being a realist, but of course her life and the lives of people around her are not helped but harmed by this pattern. I suspect it is similar with you, even if you believe that others around you are possibly unreal, you are being harmed by this idea.

At the end of the day, our reality is furnished by our senses and our minds, and it behooves us well to understands these thoroughly, which is what Buddhism proposes. We can construct fantasies and react emotionally to them or we can let them be, and get on with it. Sometimes it is a good idea, like Khalil said, to get a bit of help, because some repetative ideation and the emotions it produces can be hard to shake.

With Buddhist practice we get to investigate solipsistic ideas from inside which is the the only side really and it turns out to be quite different to what we may have previously imagined.
_/|\_
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Re: Brain in a vat, solipsism...

Postby kmath » Mon Dec 02, 2013 12:20 am

Dan74 wrote:Hi Christian

There are many horrific hypothetical constructs one can come up with, including yours. A friend keeps fearing about the future, inevitably constructs the worst-case scenario and gets depressed about it. She thinks she is just being a realist, but of course her life and the lives of people around her are not helped but harmed by this pattern. I suspect it is similar with you, even if you believe that others around you are possibly unreal, you are being harmed by this idea.

At the end of the day, our reality is furnished by our senses and our minds, and it behooves us well to understands these thoroughly, which is what Buddhism proposes. We can construct fantasies and react emotionally to them or we can let them be, and get on with it. Sometimes it is a good idea, like Khalil said, to get a bit of help, because some repetative ideation and the emotions it produces can be hard to shake.

With Buddhist practice we get to investigate solipsistic ideas from inside which is the the only side really and it turns out to be quite different to what we may have previously imagined.


Well said, Dan. :)
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Re: Brain in a vat, solipsism...

Postby PeterB » Mon Dec 02, 2013 9:10 am

Christian89 I am going to go out on a limb here...Your depression is probably NOT caused by ' the questions you have '. Its probably the other way round.
And as others have suggested, seek help. And I don't mean online.


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Re: Brain in a vat, solipsism...

Postby manas » Mon Dec 02, 2013 8:21 pm

Hi Christian

Look at how much stress and anxiety comes from trying to figure out what life 'is'. Which even if we ponder for a hundred years, we would still not conclusively figure out. Look at your own mind instead, at how this obsession - which I can relate to, by the way - is causing suffering for you.

The problem isn't that you don't know whether life is 'real' or not. The problem is that you actually think this question can somehow be answered - which it cannot.

Unburden your mind of questions that have no conclusive answer. Seek instead to care for your own mind, by seeing what leads to stress, and what leads to ease.

:anjali:
Primum non nocere: "first, do no harm."
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Re: Brain in a vat, solipsism...

Postby Samma » Mon Dec 02, 2013 10:02 pm

I suppose the most modern version of this idea is that ware are living in a computer simulation.
http://www.simulation-argument.com/

Bottom line is get a grip, this can be interesting to think about, but taking extreme skepticism as a normal way to view and live life can tie you up in knots and mess up up pretty quickly. As you recognize yourself, obviously extremelly unlikely. I think this sort of extreme skepticism that most often leads nowhere is the sort of question the buddha would have put aside.

What does dhamma say?
"the realm of all that can be described goes no further than the six senses. "
"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. [1] Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." (SN 35:23)[/quote]

That's what you can know. Trying to go beyond often leads to grief. So you take that as your base experience for increasing for skillful actions around right vew, right resovle, and so on in the 8fold path.
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Re: Brain in a vat, solipsism...

Postby mahat » Tue Dec 03, 2013 3:35 am

This is why Buddha taught Metta -- even if they might just be robots or illusory beings …always have a loving heart, be observant and detach and you'll be safe. :jumping:
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Re: Brain in a vat, solipsism...

Postby Christian89 » Wed Dec 04, 2013 10:33 am

Detachment sound like desocialization to me. I really don't want that.

Your depression is probably NOT caused by ' the questions you have '. Its probably the other way round.
And as others have suggested, seek help. And I don't mean online.

No, it's definetely caused by these questions. And by "help" you mean a psychiatrist? They'll just give me some pills(which probably wouldn't have an effect), that's not a solution.
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Re: Brain in a vat, solipsism...

Postby Christian89 » Wed Dec 04, 2013 10:44 am

Also it seems that Buddha was deluded. If you can't answer you're not BIV or a solipsist mind there is no way to answer whether your life wouldn't continue after your death(if you're englightened). I think this simple fact easily disproves the teachings of the Buddha and shows that he was deluded, he just replaced one delusion with another. In his time no one has ever heard of BIV, solipsism, supercomputers and things like that, so that's why he thought he achieved something extraordinary.
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Re: Brain in a vat, solipsism...

Postby Mkoll » Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:49 pm

Christian89 wrote:Also it seems that Buddha was deluded. If you can't answer you're not BIV or a solipsist mind there is no way to answer whether your life wouldn't continue after your death(if you're englightened). I think this simple fact easily disproves the teachings of the Buddha and shows that he was deluded, he just replaced one delusion with another. In his time no one has ever heard of BIV, solipsism, supercomputers and things like that, so that's why he thought he achieved something extraordinary.


Then who isn't deluded? You?

If your opinion is that the Buddha was deluded when you yourself are deluded, then what does that make your opinion?

As a Buddhist, I agree with you that we are deluded and that we suffer for it. But I take on faith the idea that through excruciatingly great effort, a human being can free themselves from delusion/suffering and then teach others how to free themselves from delusion/suffering. That being is what we call "a Buddha" and his teachings are what we call "the Dhamma". Those who've seen the end of delusion using a Buddha's teaching are called "the (Noble) Sangha". I take on faith that I myself, with patience and consistent effort, can become a member of the Sangha if I follow this being's teachings and be true to myself.

Your current vision of the world is completely hopeless. There is no hope, no escape from suffering. No end to suffering until you die. Or is death really the end? You're betting your future on it, aren't you? Be careful with what you wager.

Know that you've trained your mind to think in this way. You've made it an unconscious habit. You haven't always thought this way. Does thinking in this way cause you stress or not? If it causes you stress and you want to change this thinking, know that there is a way to live, to train yourself as to become less and less stressed, day after day.

It's up to you.

Bhikkhus, whatever a bhikkhu frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind.

-MN 19
When this is, that is.
From the arising of this comes the arising of that.
When this isn't, that isn't.
From the cessation of this comes the cessation of that.
-SN 12.61

Ex nihilo nihil fit.

Peace,
James
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Re: Brain in a vat, solipsism...

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Dec 04, 2013 10:14 pm

Greetings,

Christian89 wrote:Also it seems that Buddha was deluded. If you can't answer you're not BIV or a solipsist mind there is no way to answer whether your life wouldn't continue after your death(if you're englightened). I think this simple fact easily disproves the teachings of the Buddha and shows that he was deluded, he just replaced one delusion with another.

This sutta might offer you an alternative perspective...

MN 63: Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Brain in a vat, solipsism...

Postby kmath » Wed Dec 04, 2013 10:24 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

Christian89 wrote:Also it seems that Buddha was deluded. If you can't answer you're not BIV or a solipsist mind there is no way to answer whether your life wouldn't continue after your death(if you're englightened). I think this simple fact easily disproves the teachings of the Buddha and shows that he was deluded, he just replaced one delusion with another.

This sutta might offer you an alternative perspective...

MN 63: Cula-Malunkyovada Sutta
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Metta,
Retro. :)


Excellent. :clap:
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Re: Brain in a vat, solipsism...

Postby kmath » Wed Dec 04, 2013 10:44 pm

Christian89 wrote:Detachment sound like desocialization to me. I really don't want that.

Your depression is probably NOT caused by ' the questions you have '. Its probably the other way round.
And as others have suggested, seek help. And I don't mean online.

No, it's definetely caused by these questions. And by "help" you mean a psychiatrist? They'll just give me some pills(which probably wouldn't have an effect), that's not a solution.


I know plenty of people who have found psychiatrists and medication very helpful. Or you could also talk to clinical psychologist. People in these professions are the real experts on depression. Making a visit couldn't hurt, right?

:anjali:
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