"Is there a Self?"

Casual discussion amongst spiritual friends.
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Circle5
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Circle5 » Wed Feb 14, 2018 6:56 pm

boundless wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 6:40 pm
Also expressions like "my mind stores my memories" was deemed nonsensical because it conceived the "mind" as a "box".
So where are memories stored if not inside the neurons ?


Pointing out that language is not perfect in describing the world and in providing good communication does not take a big philosopher to figure out. It would be better if humans would have sonars like dolphins and be able to send pictures to one another. Yet, the human language is pretty good in helping us communicate nevertheless.

I also do not see how the fact that human language is worse in communication than the dolphin sonar has any philosophical implications. I also do not see how "memories are stored in the brain" is nonsensical or in any case providing terrible communication. Any person reading that statement will have no problems understanding what the interlocutor is trying to say.

boundless
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by boundless » Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:25 pm

Circle5 wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 6:56 pm
boundless wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 6:40 pm
Also expressions like "my mind stores my memories" was deemed nonsensical because it conceived the "mind" as a "box".
So where are memories stored if not inside the neurons ?


Pointing out that language is not perfect in describing the world and in providing good communication does not take a big philosopher to figure out. It would be better if humans would have sonars like dolphins and be able to send pictures to one another. Yet, the human language is pretty good in helping us communicate nevertheless.

I also do not see how the fact that human language is worse in communication than the dolphin sonar has any philosophical implications. I also do not see how "memories are stored in the brain" is nonsensical or in any case providing terrible communication. Any person reading that statement will have no problems understanding what the interlocutor is trying to say.
Hi Circle5,

yes I know that realizing that language is not perfect is not such an "impressive" attainment . What Wittgenstein meant, supposedly, is that all languages are in fact "conventional", i.e. all languages are "tools" which have a pratical utility. The problem arises when we make an ontology out of them. For example in Buddhism the "empirical self" does not point to an ultimate one. Using a philosophical perspective, the "empirical self" is not "ontic" (i.e. is not an "ultimately existing thing"), according to Buddhism.

Suppose now you encounter a person who says "hey the self exists and has these properties...". To refute his position we can try to show him that his position is somehow inconsistent. For example one who holds that "consciousness (vinnana) is the self and the self is permanent" holds wrong view because of course "consciousness" is impermanent and therefore it is not permanent. This of course is easy. On the other hand you have those who hold the view proposed by the link. What they are saying is simply that "our" experience is subjective, i.e. it is a definite "frame of reference". And according to them all ways of speaking and thininking about it presupposes the existence of a "being" who experiences, who so to speak defines the "frame of reference". It is seen in fact the reason of the subjective character of our experience. Of course if he is an annihilationist does not even hold that the self is permanent (however the Buddha seemed to hold that in order to be considered a self something must be permanent...) . So to refute him IMO we can proceed in two ways:

1) simply saying that the "unobserved observer" is a useless concept;
2) by showing that his position is inconsistent;
I add: 3) by showing that his concept of "self" is meaningnless;

I think in general buddhists would use either "1" or "2". The problem is that I had still not found an argument that actually refutes on logical ground the notion of "an unoserved observer" (which can also mean that I am not veeery bright, of course :D ). I was pondering if the refutation can be based on a linguistic approach, by showing that the "trascendental" self is literally nonsense.

Regarding the Madhyamaka I read that they regard every conceptualization of reality based on a particular convention, and therefore the "ultimate truth" is inexpressible, i.e. beyond all concepts (since all our possible descritpions of the "ultimate truth" are inconsistent). This sounds quite close to the position held by Wittgenstein (that a "perfect language " is impossible, and therefore all description of the ultimate truth are meaningless)

Regarding the comparison between the mind and the box, I did not want to speak about the brain, which is physical (and therefore like a piece of paper can store information - on this I agree with you), but I referred to the "non-material" mind/consciousness. Wittgenstein, apparently, argued that the mind could not be said to "store" information since it is not a physical object (I think that Buddhism positing rebirth disagrees with him... actually I struggle to understand the rebirth process in Buddhism and in particular how memories etc pass from one life to another :cry: ) . But I do not think it is "central" to the problem of the self. It was intended only as an example. I apologize to have not been clear.

I hope I was clearer this time. :hello:

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Sam Vara
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Sam Vara » Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:51 pm

Hi again aflatun. Apologies for the long delay. The Bradley stuff remains beyond my ken for the moment (I think one actually needs to read it, or at least be more familiar with Nanavira...) But my thoughts on the Vallicella-related topic are, for the moment, thus:
aflatun wrote:
Sat Feb 10, 2018 7:43 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Thu Feb 08, 2018 9:25 pm
I actually think that I'm OK with subjects ( :jawdrop: - stand by to repel boarders!) providing they are merely that personal unity by which we are identified, and nothing more.
:jawdrop: I think I'm with you here. What I am wary of, however, is making this "subject" a condition of perception, consciousness, etc and I think you are too.
Yes, I'm wary, but only if the perception and consciousness, etc. are actually the Buddha's khandas. There may be no reason why sanna, vinnana, etc. should not arise independently, but I would want to save the TUA as a condition of experience. That is, that no conceivable experience like ours could be without transcendental unity. There can't be an experience without structure and "rules", so to speak. And, of course, that condition is a structural, atemporal condition, rather than a causal condition along the lines that some soul-like entity causes these things to come into being, or even causes them to manifest in particular ways. BV doesn't need a thing to exist independently of experience to make his case; merely that all possible experiences should conform in such a way that we could conceivably call it "our experience".
I believe the Buddha taught the opposite, that consciousness, perception, etc are the transcendental conditions that make "I am" and that personal unity possible, not the other way around.


Yes, I think that's a good way of putting it, although I'm not sure whether the term "transcendental" applies here. I would be happier saying that he thought they were necessary conditions, but it might be that I'm just wary of the Kantian use of "transcendental". In terms of dependency, the two halves (i.e. TUA as self, and objects of consciousness) seem to be mutually dependent: back to the two leaning sheaves here! My problem is that I don't know whether the khandas producing or shaping our experience (i.e. as per Gombrich and Hamilton, as opposed to the standard idea of them as our constituent parts) would render them immune from being meaningful unless one had the unity of apperception by which they make any sense.

The argument in DN 15 seems to go like this:

1) A person might think they have a self, but that self is not identical with what they feel (as proven a few lines earlier) and that self is not a thing that feels.

2) Where nothing is felt, the idea of "I am" could not occur.

3) Similarly, a person might think they have a self, but that self is not identical with what they feel, and that self is a (the) thing which feels.

4) Again, where nothing is felt, the idea of "I am" could not occur.

5) Because of (2) and (4), we can dispose of the idea of the self as a thing which feels.

As far as I can see, there are two problems with this as deployed against BV. The first is that feeling - as hedonic tone - is not required for an idea of the self. One could imagine the same "delusional" self-view arising in one who had merely perception and rationality. For this one to work, vedana needs to mean something more like "every possible experience". Claiming as an axiom that there are three types of feeling ("pleasant, unpleasant, and neither pleasant nor unpleasant") which are necessary components of all possible experience obviously won't work here; it just defines the argument into being right. It certainly looks like the Buddha is talking about experience here.

As such, we can still save the limited concept of a transcendental unity of experience for BV. The "get-out-of-jail-free" card is the question as to what the Buddha actually meant when talking in this sutta (and some others) by "the idea of 'I am'". Without feeling, the idea of "I am this" could not occur. But while there is experience, there certainly could. Gombrich would say, of course, that the Buddha is only ever talking about aseity, and an immutable soul-essence, and (although BV might want such a thing!) the non-existence of such a thing doesn't have any bearing on the transcendental unity of our experience.

Again, many thanks for your reply, and for your patience if you've got this far! :heart:

auto
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by auto » Sat Feb 17, 2018 2:44 pm

boundless wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:33 am
Hi all,

my two cents.

Maybe saying "there is no self" without qualification suggests a metaphysical speculation. For example see https://suttacentral.net/en/sn35.23: "If anyone, bhikkhus, should speak thus: ‘Having rejected this all, I shall make known another all’—that would be a mere empty boast on his part. If he were questioned he would not be able to reply and, further, he would meet with vexation. For what reason? Because, bhikkhus, that would not be within his domain.". The fact that "the self cannot be found" does not imply that it does not exist (as the article says). But positing a "self" outside all possibile experience is completely useless (and can lead to frustration, vexation ecc).
Or because maybe in the audience the phrase "there is no self" could be misunderstood, for example, as a negation of moral responsibility. And in general a negation of the "empirical self".



However let me also explain why the "trascendental argument" fails. The argument, roughly speaking, says that positing the "self" is a "precondition" to the experience. What actually says is that we cannot speak about a "point of view" whithout considering a specific "observer". So, when we describe something implicitly we assume to describe it from a specific "point of view". Other descriptions take place from different "point of views". The error is to pass from epistemology to ontology implying that an actual "point of view" exists in the same way it is conceived. Also we have IMO to remember that the "trascendental idealist" regarder the "trascendental self" as an "idea", a precondition to speaking meaningfully about experience. According to them it is not possible to apply the "categories" of logic, for example, in a world where no distinct "object" can be found (if you think about it, "A=A", the law of identity, presupposes that it is possible to "distiguish" an object in order to give it a "name". If we want apply logic to our experience we have to divide it into "discrete objects"). Therefore if we want to speak about our experience, of course, we have to say "In my experience...". While epistemologically the argument is sound the problem is that ontologically does not "prove" anything, since no one "proved" that our experience can really be analyzed by "abstraction" (the term "abstraction" roughly speaking means that we "isolate" something). So while I agree that the unfindability of the "subject" does not actually "prove" its "non-existence", at the same time the argument for its existence do not really prove its existence. Therefore the position held in the suttas, which as far as I undestand it is "a self and what belongs to a self cannot be found", has no problem handling this objection. So the hidden assumption in the "trascendental argument" is that we can make a "logical picture" of reality, i.e. we can "discretize" reality in a set of "definite" separate "things" (and in general that it is possible to us to make a map that describes "perfectly" the territory... IMO this is also the mening of the "freedom from views" about existence, non-existence etc). Of course a chair is distinct from a table, but not in the way we normally think.

P.S. For those interested also in non-buddhist authors, I found interesting this passage in the "Chuang tzu" (http://www.faculty.umb.edu/gary_zabel/C ... 20Tzu.html). It somewhat reminds me the notion of "emptiness". The passage is:
"The understanding of the men of ancient times went a long way. How far did it go? To the point where some of them believed that things have never existed - so far, to the end, where nothing can be added. Those at the next stage thought that things exist but recognized no boundaries among them." (Section 2, "Discussion on making all things equal")

@aflatun, thank you for the welcome you gave me in the other thread!

Edit: sorry for the substantial revision, but I changed my mind about what I written.
I think the observer and identity view are not same thing.

When you see something and then describing it, then the identity view is in the description.
Someone with sensual lust, will interpret everything with that dirty mind, like if someone smiles then it immediately means he/she wants me. But if the person who smiled is also like that then it is an evidence, a realism.

Observer is reality. But that is not set in stone, it can be axiome and you get a real sense. So also sense of self can be real.

boundless
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by boundless » Sat Feb 17, 2018 4:54 pm

auto wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 2:44 pm
I think the observer and identity view are not same thing.

When you see something and then describing it, then the identity view is in the description.
Someone with sensual lust, will interpret everything with that dirty mind, like if someone smiles then it immediately means he/she wants me. But if the person who smiled is also like that then it is an evidence, a realism.

Observer is reality. But that is not set in stone, it can be axiome and you get a real sense. So also sense of self can be real.
Hi auto,

Not sure if I understood what you mean. I'll try to answer anyway.

But anyway, if by "identity view" you mean taking something as "me, mine, myself" then I agree that "identity view" lies in the description.

The problem is that also in this case, if you think that there are "observers" out there then I cannot see the difference between this view and annihilationism (the view - as far as I understand it - that there is a "fixed", yet non-eternal, self).

And yet of course it seems that in Buddhism there is the notion of the "empirical self", which is very important for spiritual practice. For example the Buddha in the Ambalatthika-rahulovada Sutta says https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html:
Whenever you want to do a bodily action, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily action I want to do — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Would it be an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?'
But even in this case I doubt that saying that the "observer" is "real" is compatible with anatta (maybe others more expert than me might correct me if I am wrong), since in that case it should coincide with the "empirical self" and when the "empirical self" dies the result is too similar to annihilationism. IMO what can be said to be "real" in Buddhism is "the sense of self". But it is seen ultimately incorrect since it does not refer to any-thing that exist. But the "sense of self" is not an "observer", since the "observer" seems to refer to something "fixed", "set in stone". I prefer to say that there is "a sense of presence of an observer", rather than an observer.

The argument in the link tries to prove with the "trascendental argument" the existence of a "self". Of course the "sense of self" is "real" in both cases. Buddhism however rejects that this sense of self points to an observer.

If you meant instead only that the "sense of self" is real to Buddhism, I would agree. ;) I was trying to find an argument to show that the concept of a "self" was self-contradictory. Not only that it is not necessary to posit a self to explain the "sense of self". See below...

Sam Vara wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:51 pm

The argument in DN 15 seems to go like this:

1) A person might think they have a self, but that self is not identical with what they feel (as proven a few lines earlier) and that self is not a thing that feels.

2) Where nothing is felt, the idea of "I am" could not occur.

3) Similarly, a person might think they have a self, but that self is not identical with what they feel, and that self is a (the) thing which feels.

4) Again, where nothing is felt, the idea of "I am" could not occur.

5) Because of (2) and (4), we can dispose of the idea of the self as a thing which feels.

As far as I can see, there are two problems with this as deployed against BV. The first is that feeling - as hedonic tone - is not required for an idea of the self. One could imagine the same "delusional" self-view arising in one who had merely perception and rationality. For this one to work, vedana needs to mean something more like "every possible experience". Claiming as an axiom that there are three types of feeling ("pleasant, unpleasant, and neither pleasant nor unpleasant") which are necessary components of all possible experience obviously won't work here; it just defines the argument into being right. It certainly looks like the Buddha is talking about experience here.

As such, we can still save the limited concept of a transcendental unity of experience for BV. The "get-out-of-jail-free" card is the question as to what the Buddha actually meant when talking in this sutta (and some others) by "the idea of 'I am'". Without feeling, the idea of "I am this" could not occur. But while there is experience, there certainly could. Gombrich would say, of course, that the Buddha is only ever talking about aseity, and an immutable soul-essence, and (although BV might want such a thing!) the non-existence of such a thing doesn't have any bearing on the transcendental unity of our experience.
Hi Sam Vara,


The problem of seeing anatta as only a criticism to "a-seity" (the "eternal and indestructible" self) is that Buddha rejected annihilationism which posits that there is a destructible self. Therefore the "unity" cannot be thought as a separate and imperament "thing" in Buddhism. To not fall in annihilationism even the "empirical self" cannot be taken as a "distinct thing".

However if our experiencies are all momentary (anicca) and therefore cannot be taken as "me, mine, myself" and outside experience there is no sense of self, then a supposed "unity" cannot be "self-aware" and therefore possibly it is meaningless to think of it as a "self" (If I recall correctly this was the view of Professor Harvey). So while we cannot disprove the existence of such an unity, the concept becomes useless in the sense that since it cannot be "self-aware" without experiencies then it is not to be taken to be as "a self". So If the self "denied" by the Buddha was something that could arise the idea of "I am" (i.e. self-awareness) like, say the Hindu Atman, then the "abstract, trascendental" self argued by this kind of arguments is not "negated" by the Buddha but at the same time it cannot be taken as a self (I wonder if the Personalists meant this kind of "inexpressible self").
Therefore IMO while the abstract unity cannot be denied, if all possible experiences are momentary and if outside all experience no thought of self-awareness can occur then such a unity cannot be taken as a "self" and therefore it is not a problem for Buddhists. Therefore the concept of "unobservable observer" cannot be taken as a "self". So "sabbe dhamma anatta" could refer to the impossibility to find a "dhamma" that can be regarded as a "Self", which in this view is an ultimate reality that can be self-aware.

BUUUT at the same time "anatta" as far as I have understood means "non-substantiality" and therefore even the concepts like that of an "abstract unity" are denied. Surely if we could show that the concept of "substance" itself is contradictory then of course all these "trascendental arguments" are completely rejected.

Thoughts? :smile:

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Sam Vara
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Sam Vara » Sat Feb 17, 2018 9:29 pm

boundless wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 4:54 pm
Hi Sam Vara,


The problem of seeing anatta as only a criticism to "a-seity" (the "eternal and indestructible" self) is that Buddha rejected annihilationism which posits that there is a destructible self. Therefore the "unity" cannot be thought as a separate and imperament "thing" in Buddhism. To not fall in annihilationism even the "empirical self" cannot be taken as a "distinct thing".
Hi boundless,

Many thanks for your interesting response. I think my way around this particular problem is that eternalism and annihilationism seem to be about entities or substances, whereas the transcendental unity of apperception required for experience is not a substance (i.e. a thing like atman or a soul) but merely the condition of our experiencing anything in this world. When the Buddha proscribed those two positions, he seemed to be warning listeners not to get tied up in metaphysical speculation about what (if anything) underlies our experience. As such, the unity of our perceptions is not an "empirical self" (i.e. one known to the senses) at all, and is not a "thing" in the same way that any of the objects of our perception could be.
However if our experiencies are all momentary (anicca) and therefore cannot be taken as "me, mine, myself" and outside experience there is no sense of self, then a supposed "unity" cannot be "self-aware" and therefore possibly it is meaningless to think of it as a "self"
I'm not sure that anicca means that all our experiences are momentary. I think momentariness was more likely a later expedient to shore up an untenably strong version of anatta. Experience itself is certainly not momentary, in the sense that it is not how we experience things. Momentariness is an intellectual reflection upon or abstraction from our actual experience. If experience were momentary, then there would be nothing connecting successive moments - except the unity of apperception itself.
a supposed "unity" cannot be "self-aware" and therefore possibly it is meaningless to think of it as a "self"


Yes, that's probably true, but I don't think it is necessary to stipulate that such a unity be self-aware. Merely that it is the precondition for any meaningful experience. Presumably, the atman would need to be self-aware at some level, but this is a much more modest claim.
IMO while the abstract unity cannot be denied, if all possible experiences are momentary and if outside all experience no thought of self-awareness can occur then such a unity cannot be taken as a "self" and therefore it is not a problem for Buddhists. Therefore the concept of "unobservable observer" cannot be taken as a "self".
Yes, that's a good summary. My problem with it is that experiences are what they are, and not what a theory of momentariness claims they must be. The fact that they are linked to earlier experiences (e.g. you have your memories, whereas I don't have them, etc.) merely refers back to the unified nature of experience as a whole. And "self-awareness" is not required, in that all awareness is subject to the unity of such awareness, rather than being another object within experience.
So "sabbe dhamma anatta" could refer to the impossibility to find a "dhamma" that can be regarded as a "Self", which in this view is an ultimate reality that can be self-aware.
Yes, I agree.

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aflatun
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by aflatun » Sun Feb 18, 2018 1:37 am

Sam and boundless

Thank you for your wonderful posts, I'm sorry I have not been able to keep up with you. I will be back as soon as I can.

:bow:
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

boundless
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by boundless » Sun Feb 18, 2018 11:16 am

Hi Sam Vara,

Thanks for your answer!
Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 9:29 pm

Many thanks for your interesting response. I think my way around this particular problem is that eternalism and annihilationism seem to be about entities or substances, whereas the transcendental unity of apperception required for experience is not a substance (i.e. a thing like atman or a soul) but merely the condition of our experiencing anything in this world. When the Buddha proscribed those two positions, he seemed to be warning listeners not to get tied up in metaphysical speculation about what (if anything) underlies our experience. As such, the unity of our perceptions is not an "empirical self" (i.e. one known to the senses) at all, and is not a "thing" in the same way that any of the objects of our perception could be.
Mmm I see. I think the concept of "empirical self" is exactly what you are referring to. It cannot be a "substance", per anatta, but it is "sufficiently distinguishable" to create the illusion of "separateness". Like a wave in the ocean, the wave seems separate from the ocean but in reality it is an illusion. I know that this might seem pantheism, but there is an important difference. According to pantheism the "realization" is when we identify with the Whole, i.e. when we identify the wave with the whole great ocean. In Buddhism IMO the situation is similar, but the "realization" occurs when we stop the process of identification and process. What I am trying to say is somewhat similar to the whirpool analogy by Ven. Nanananda* found here http://www.meditation2.net/htdocs/Books ... .htm...the "Whole" is the ocean. But the "realization" is to stop the process of identification.

*As a side note: I read only a little of his 33 sermons. I found what I read interesting, however I do not agree with some of his positions...

Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 9:29 pm
I'm not sure that anicca means that all our experiences are momentary. I think momentariness was more likely a later expedient to shore up an untenably strong version of anatta. Experience itself is certainly not momentary, in the sense that it is not how we experience things. Momentariness is an intellectual reflection upon or abstraction from our actual experience. If experience were momentary, then there would be nothing connecting successive moments - except the unity of apperception itself.
Interesting... in fact after some reflection I am inclined to think that you are right about "anicca". "Anicca" seems to refer simply to the "impermanence" (i.e. to the "finitude" of life) and not, strictly speaking, to "momentariness". Even the most "pleasurable" of the deva-worlds is impermanent, i.e. it lasts a very long but finite amount of time (and therefore it is not a "refuge" like Nibbana, the only Unconditioned dhamma).
I'll surely think more about it. Thanks for the insight!
Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 9:29 pm
Yes, that's probably true, but I don't think it is necessary to stipulate that such a unity be self-aware. Merely that it is the precondition for any meaningful experience. Presumably, the atman would need to be self-aware at some level, but this is a much more modest claim.
To clarify (I admit that I made some confusion between the "trascendental/abstract unity" and "empirical self"). What I meant was that while our self-awareness is "due" to the "empirical self" which cannot be a "thing" (per anatta), the "trascendental/abstract unity" referred to a sort of "Kantian/Schopenhauerian/Early Wittgensteinian" "trascendental self" (or even the "atman" of some Hindu schools). This kind of "unity" refers certainly to a precondition of experience, but it is not necessarily "self-aware". To quote the Tractatus of Wittgenstein:
"Wittgenstein in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus" wrote: 5.63 I am my world. (The microcosm.)

5.631 The thinking, presenting subject; there is no such thing.

If I wrote a book "The world as I found it", I should also have therein to report on my body and say which members obey my will and which do not, etc. This then would be a method of isolating the subject or rather of showing that in an important sense there is no subject: that is to say, of it alone in this book mention could not be made.

5.632 The subject does not belong to the world but it is a limit of the world.

5.633 Where in the world is a metaphysical subject to be noted?

You say that this case is altogether like that of the eye and the field of sight. But you do not really see the eye.

And from nothing in the field of sight can it be concluded that it is seen from an eye.

5.64 Here we see that solipsism strictly carried out coincides with pure realism. The I in solipsism shrinks to an extensionless point and there remains the reality co-ordinated with it.

5.641 There is therefore really a sense in which in philosophy we can talk of a non-psychological I.

The I occurs in philosophy through the fact that the "world is my world".

The philosophical I is not the man, not the human body or the human soul of which psychology treats, but the metaphysical subject, the limit—not a part of the world.
(emphasis mine... note that in the proposition 5.631 he seems to be aware of the difference of the "empirical self" - when he speaks of my will etc - and the "trascendental self" which cannot be found "in the world")
Such a "non-psychological" I cannot be "self-aware" IMO, i.e. if there is no "experience" (no "my" world) it would not be possible to have thoughts like "I am, this is mine", simply because it is only the an "unobserved observer", like the eye in the visual field. So if even such a "abstract/metaphysical/trascendental" unity cannot be refuted this is not a problem for Buddhism. Since as I said in my previous post: can we call a "non self-aware self" (or an "unobserved observer") a "self", after all? is such an argument really "dangerous" for Buddhism? I am currently re-reading the "World as Will and Representation" by Schopenhauer and he seems to be very aware between the "experiencing subject" and the "cognizing subject". After all what matters is the "psychological/empirical/experiencing" self. The other one after all cannot even, IMO, be called a "self" (nor the Platonic Forms, for example). So saying that there is a "self" behind the "empirical self" is nonsensical, for it would not be rightly called a "self"(because it would not be aware of itself, no thoughts of "I am" would arise and so on). Of course I am not suggesting that in Buddhism there is such "trascendental unity" of which the Buddha never spoke about. But simply that it is at best irrelevant for the "anatta" doctrine.


Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 9:29 pm
Yes, that's a good summary. My problem with it is that experiences are what they are, and not what a theory of momentariness claims they must be. The fact that they are linked to earlier experiences (e.g. you have your memories, whereas I don't have them, etc.) merely refers back to the unified nature of experience as a whole. And "self-awareness" is not required, in that all awareness is subject to the unity of such awareness, rather than being another object within experience.
I understand your issues about momentariness (sometimes I wondered how it was not reductionistic...). The subjectivity IMO is a strong empirical argument for the "pluralists". After all as you say I do not have your memories and your experiences. This argument interestingly also can be used to criticize Advaita Vedanta, Spinoza, pantheists of various sorts etc - other than Buddhism. But again I find the "wave-ocean" or "whirpool-ocean" analogy quite convincing. And as a line of Ghost in The Shell (I am referring to the 1995 anime. It and its sequel are among my most favourite movies!) says "I guess once you start doubting, there's no end to it" :tongue:
Sam Vara wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 9:29 pm
So "sabbe dhamma anatta" could refer to the impossibility to find a "dhamma" that can be regarded as a "Self", which in this view is an ultimate reality that can be self-aware.
Yes, I agree.


Well if the meaning of "anatta" is this, then IMO even the Personalists were to be considered "heretics", after all :thinking: :thinking: (I am not suggesting that they were right, but that maybe their interpretation was not "heretic" but simply "unorthodox"... Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh after all appreciated them, it seems).
Very interesting response, thank you again! :anjali:
aflatun wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 1:37 am
Sam and boundless

Thank you for your wonderful posts, I'm sorry I have not been able to keep up with you. I will be back as soon as I can.

:bow:
Hi aflatun!

No problem! I will have too some problems in the next days. I will certainly read your response if you will have time to write it.

:anjali:

auto
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by auto » Sun Feb 18, 2018 4:58 pm

boundless wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 4:54 pm
auto wrote:
Sat Feb 17, 2018 2:44 pm
I think the observer and identity view are not same thing.

When you see something and then describing it, then the identity view is in the description.
Someone with sensual lust, will interpret everything with that dirty mind, like if someone smiles then it immediately means he/she wants me. But if the person who smiled is also like that then it is an evidence, a realism.

Observer is reality. But that is not set in stone, it can be axiome and you get a real sense. So also sense of self can be real.
Hi auto,

Not sure if I understood what you mean. I'll try to answer anyway.

But anyway, if by "identity view" you mean taking something as "me, mine, myself" then I agree that "identity view" lies in the description.

The problem is that also in this case, if you think that there are "observers" out there then I cannot see the difference between this view and annihilationism (the view - as far as I understand it - that there is a "fixed", yet non-eternal, self).

And yet of course it seems that in Buddhism there is the notion of the "empirical self", which is very important for spiritual practice. For example the Buddha in the Ambalatthika-rahulovada Sutta says https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html:
Whenever you want to do a bodily action, you should reflect on it: 'This bodily action I want to do — would it lead to self-affliction, to the affliction of others, or to both? Would it be an unskillful bodily action, with painful consequences, painful results?'
But even in this case I doubt that saying that the "observer" is "real" is compatible with anatta (maybe others more expert than me might correct me if I am wrong), since in that case it should coincide with the "empirical self" and when the "empirical self" dies the result is too similar to annihilationism. IMO what can be said to be "real" in Buddhism is "the sense of self". But it is seen ultimately incorrect since it does not refer to any-thing that exist. But the "sense of self" is not an "observer", since the "observer" seems to refer to something "fixed", "set in stone". I prefer to say that there is "a sense of presence of an observer", rather than an observer.

The argument in the link tries to prove with the "trascendental argument" the existence of a "self". Of course the "sense of self" is "real" in both cases. Buddhism however rejects that this sense of self points to an observer.

If you meant instead only that the "sense of self" is real to Buddhism, I would agree. ;) I was trying to find an argument to show that the concept of a "self" was self-contradictory. Not only that it is not necessary to posit a self to explain the "sense of self". See below...

Sam Vara wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:51 pm

The argument in DN 15 seems to go like this:

1) A person might think they have a self, but that self is not identical with what they feel (as proven a few lines earlier) and that self is not a thing that feels.

2) Where nothing is felt, the idea of "I am" could not occur.

3) Similarly, a person might think they have a self, but that self is not identical with what they feel, and that self is a (the) thing which feels.

4) Again, where nothing is felt, the idea of "I am" could not occur.

5) Because of (2) and (4), we can dispose of the idea of the self as a thing which feels.

As far as I can see, there are two problems with this as deployed against BV. The first is that feeling - as hedonic tone - is not required for an idea of the self. One could imagine the same "delusional" self-view arising in one who had merely perception and rationality. For this one to work, vedana needs to mean something more like "every possible experience". Claiming as an axiom that there are three types of feeling ("pleasant, unpleasant, and neither pleasant nor unpleasant") which are necessary components of all possible experience obviously won't work here; it just defines the argument into being right. It certainly looks like the Buddha is talking about experience here.

As such, we can still save the limited concept of a transcendental unity of experience for BV. The "get-out-of-jail-free" card is the question as to what the Buddha actually meant when talking in this sutta (and some others) by "the idea of 'I am'". Without feeling, the idea of "I am this" could not occur. But while there is experience, there certainly could. Gombrich would say, of course, that the Buddha is only ever talking about aseity, and an immutable soul-essence, and (although BV might want such a thing!) the non-existence of such a thing doesn't have any bearing on the transcendental unity of our experience.
Hi Sam Vara,


The problem of seeing anatta as only a criticism to "a-seity" (the "eternal and indestructible" self) is that Buddha rejected annihilationism which posits that there is a destructible self. Therefore the "unity" cannot be thought as a separate and imperament "thing" in Buddhism. To not fall in annihilationism even the "empirical self" cannot be taken as a "distinct thing".

However if our experiencies are all momentary (anicca) and therefore cannot be taken as "me, mine, myself" and outside experience there is no sense of self, then a supposed "unity" cannot be "self-aware" and therefore possibly it is meaningless to think of it as a "self" (If I recall correctly this was the view of Professor Harvey). So while we cannot disprove the existence of such an unity, the concept becomes useless in the sense that since it cannot be "self-aware" without experiencies then it is not to be taken to be as "a self". So If the self "denied" by the Buddha was something that could arise the idea of "I am" (i.e. self-awareness) like, say the Hindu Atman, then the "abstract, trascendental" self argued by this kind of arguments is not "negated" by the Buddha but at the same time it cannot be taken as a self (I wonder if the Personalists meant this kind of "inexpressible self").
Therefore IMO while the abstract unity cannot be denied, if all possible experiences are momentary and if outside all experience no thought of self-awareness can occur then such a unity cannot be taken as a "self" and therefore it is not a problem for Buddhists. Therefore the concept of "unobservable observer" cannot be taken as a "self". So "sabbe dhamma anatta" could refer to the impossibility to find a "dhamma" that can be regarded as a "Self", which in this view is an ultimate reality that can be self-aware.

BUUUT at the same time "anatta" as far as I have understood means "non-substantiality" and therefore even the concepts like that of an "abstract unity" are denied. Surely if we could show that the concept of "substance" itself is contradictory then of course all these "trascendental arguments" are completely rejected.

Thoughts? :smile:
Anatta is a doctrine. That there is no self or soul in living beings. What it refers is there is current flowing in living beings, a power.
Frankenstain could be possible, or raising dead back to life.

Read on if want:

There is the action during what you have come aware of yourself doing that activity.
After that some time later, you can then stop the outflows from heart via seeing, that means torso is not used, but only head and mind; being aware that you have hands.
Beforehand somewhere there happens a lucid dream where vibrational power(similar to feeling alternating current)) is felt in your hands and in your body.
That lucid dream gives you a taste and a way how to trace the sense of self in waking reality.

The sense of self is used to get into the head, in head there is a cavity what is flushed during mating; a feeling when it happens is O-gasm.

Done lesser degrees of that process and defeated the natural urge to move or act when the peak happens heat is released and a stabile state is entered, then at some point you will attain a sense of self as a type of concentration, this concentration is used for to untie two knots.
These two knots are 'mouth, belly, talking' and 'brain thinking mind'. If you continue purification you can shut the flows in thinking and talking much easier.
Also later you can notice a sensual cloud appear before you can stop heart outflows. Can assume that cloud once were attractive enough to drag us towards some sensual activity what lack awareness.

conclusion is that not to discard new age soul, over soul, higher lower selves, channelings so easily. Some of them are interesting, probably written on past merit or certain soul mission to deliver a message, one thing is that the forward cultivation is weak or even absent in them.

boundless
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by boundless » Sun Feb 18, 2018 6:39 pm

Hi auto, all,

I agree that in Buddhism there is no abiding "entity" that can be taken as "me", but "we" or "our sense of self" or "our empirical self", however you want to call the "empirical I", are rather a "flow", i.e. our mind is more a river or a flame, i.e. a process, rather than a fixed "stone", a fixed entity. At the same time both Buddhism and many, if not all, forms of Indian "eternalist" philosophies accept rebirth. If we accept rebirth of course we cannot have the same concept of "mind" that a "physicalist" have. We cannot say that our mind is an epiphenomenon of the brain. If that would be the case, then rebirth would not be possible. Our consciousness is not annihilated at death, according to both Buddhism and other eternalist philosophies.


The big difference between Buddhism and other eternalist philosophies is that according to Buddhism it is not possible to have either a "perpetual" happy rebirth or an "unchanging" blissful self-awareness. From https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/aut ... el048.html in fact this view is refuted:
MN 22 wrote: 25. "If there were a self, monks, would there be my self's property?" — "So it is, Lord." — "Or if there is a self's property, would there by my self?" — "So it is, Lord." — "Since in truth and in fact, self and self's property do not obtain, O monks, then this ground for views, 'The universe is the Self. That I shall be after death; permanent, stable, eternal, immutable; eternally the same shall I abide, in that very condition' — is it not, monks, an entirely and perfectly foolish idea?" — "What else should it be, Lord? It is an entirely and perfectly foolish idea."

It is impossible to have an unchanging, eternal self-awareness. Instead to "be" self-aware requires change, requires that there is some type of feeling. In fact the argument of DN 15 seems to really go as @Sam Vara described:
Sam Vara wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:51 pm
The argument in DN 15 seems to go like this:

1) A person might think they have a self, but that self is not identical with what they feel (as proven a few lines earlier) and that self is not a thing that feels.

2) Where nothing is felt, the idea of "I am" could not occur.

3) Similarly, a person might think they have a self, but that self is not identical with what they feel, and that self is a (the) thing which feels.

4) Again, where nothing is felt, the idea of "I am" could not occur.

5) Because of (2) and (4), we can dispose of the idea of the self as a thing which feels.
Without the "flow of experience" it is not possible to have "self-awareness" since the idea "I am" could not occur! Then contrary to the eneternalists it is really self-awareness that is incompatible to idea of a "permanent, unchanging" atman. Self-awareness is a process, like a river or a flame and not a thing. There is no such an unchanging thing that "feels". There is instead a process of "feeling" and a process of "self-awareness", so to speak. Therefore the "anatta" doctrine is perfectly compatible with the sense of self.

In fact we can summarize the issue in this way:
1) The "empirical unity" is the "empirical self", our "mind-stream". The argument that there is an abiding "atman" because we are self-aware because we feel the "empirical unity" fails because it only shows that there is a process of "self-awareness", and not an abiding atman.
2) The "trascendental argument" that posits an unchanging, trascendental "self" instead seems self-contradictory because an "unchanging self" cannot be self-aware. In timelessness there could be no idea of "I am".

And in fact what the Buddha seems to say in DN15 is that without experience ("feelings") there could not be any awareness of change, any self-awareness. We are instead self-aware because we feel the "flow" of experience. If this flows ceases it seems that also our self-awareness ceases. But interestingly also in Nibbana there are no feelings.

From https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html :
"AN 9.34" wrote: I have heard that on one occasion Ven. Sariputta was staying near Rajagaha in the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrels' Feeding Sanctuary. There he said to the monks, "This Unbinding is pleasant, friends. This Unbinding is pleasant."

When this was said, Ven. Udayin said to Ven. Sariputta, "But what is the pleasure here, my friend, where there is nothing felt?"

"Just that is the pleasure here, my friend: where there is nothing felt..."

(actually to me this passage sounds like an enigma. It leaves me with a sense of "wonder"...)
In the Unbinding (Nibbana) there is nothing felt and therefore there is no self-awareness, and this is maybe the reason that Nibbana is not-self. Nibbana in fact, where nothing is felt, is also "timeless", duration does not apply. But since there is no duration and change there is no self-awareness. The error of some eternalists maybe is thinking that there could be an "unchanging" self-awareness. An unchainging self-awareness seems to be in fact an inconsistent concept.

Therefore both Buddhism and eternalists agree on the empirical self and on rebirth.
Buddhism however denies that behind the "empirical self" and the "flow of experience" there is the "unchanging self-aware self". So when the "I am" stops there is no "annihilation"of a thing but instead only a stopping of a process.

The problem with the arguments of BV therefore that they either show that there is an "empirical self" or they try to show that a "unchanging self" exists. But IMO the "unchanging" self is inconsistent!

I hope my "reasoning" makes sense.

:anjali:

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aflatun
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by aflatun » Sun Feb 18, 2018 6:42 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:51 pm
Hi again aflatun. Apologies for the long delay. The Bradley stuff remains beyond my ken for the moment (I think one actually needs to read it, or at least be more familiar with Nanavira...)
No worries, and I apologize, I can't seem to avoid thinking in three directions at once sometimes. The reader's digest on what I was getting at with Bradley (and no need to reply to or address these points any further):

1) Restricting things to the "given" is simply not going to work, in principle leaving the door open for Self, which is a logically defensible approach. (Nevertheless Bradley rejects self, but has no problem replacing it with another higher order unity, the Absolute).

2) What we do take as self is actually something that does appear, albeit not in the same way that my tasty cup of french press appears to me when I turn to my left right now and reach for a sip, but more akin to the vague and peripheral sense of irritation I feel right now at the fact that my pager went off early this morning for no good reason :tongue:
Sam Vara wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:51 pm
Yes, I'm wary, but only if the perception and consciousness, etc. are actually the Buddha's khandas. There may be no reason why sanna, vinnana, etc. should not arise independently, but...
I'm not sure what you were getting at here Sam, could you explain?
Sam Vara wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:51 pm
That is, that no conceivable experience like ours could be without transcendental unity.
I agree!
Sam Vara wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:51 pm
There can't be an experience without structure and "rules", so to speak.


I agree!
Sam Vara wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:51 pm
And, of course, that condition is a structural, atemporal condition, rather than a causal condition along the lines that some soul-like entity causes these things to come into being, or even causes them to manifest in particular ways. BV doesn't need a thing to exist independently of experience to make his case; merely that all possible experiences should conform in such a way that we could conceivably call it "our experience".
Thank you for clearly pointing out the difference between structural, atemporal conditions and efficient causes which is very important here! That said, this is where I run into trouble. If there is no entity that provides or is that condition, then what is it? Isn't the entire Kantian-Schopenhauerian enterprise built on the premise that there must be a mind with its categories and process of synthesis in place in order for there to be experience such as we have it?

"TUA is the condition of all possible experience" as I understand it posits a mind and synthetic process that is the effector of that unity. If we remove them, we have

"All experience by definition is unified."

What I've removed here is the transcendental condition. But all is not lost! Because we can set aside the reductionist/empiricist appeal to raw data, bundles, etc as fictions, because no one has ever experienced such a thing, and they never will.

I guess I don't find the transcendental move from the unity to a condition of that unity particularly convincing anymore (not to knock it, I've been a die hard transcendental idealist for most of my life!) I agree that there is no conceivable experience like ours without transcendental unity, 100%. What I am not so comfortable with, and this is why I'm a poor-or no longer-Kantian, is the inference from the unity of experience to a principle (the Mind with its categories, or an actual unitary self) or process (synthesis) that is the condition of this unity. Experience always involves transcendental subjects as well as objects, no doubt, but I see these more as idealities than realities. (I don't mean they are any less real than the particulars they "unify", I wouldn't posit any ontological hierarchy here).

Please voice your objections! :heart:

aflatun wrote:I believe the Buddha taught the opposite, that consciousness, perception, etc are the transcendental conditions that make "I am" and that personal unity possible, not the other way around.

Sam Vara wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:51 pm
Yes, I think that's a good way of putting it, although I'm not sure whether the term "transcendental" applies here. I would be happier saying that he thought they were necessary conditions, but it might be that I'm just wary of the Kantian use of "transcendental".


You are right to be not sure because I'm abusing the word transcendental here, hah!
Sam Vara wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:51 pm
The argument in DN 15 seems to go like this...
Thank you for the beautiful analysis. I might be wrong, but I do actually read the Buddha as more or less referring to " all possible experience" here, given that there is no (ordinary) experience without hedonic tone. What do you think?

And so the way I understand the argument would be something like: Without experience being there, given beforehand, the attribution of that experience to Self would not be possible. So rather than Self-the unseen seer, the unheard hearer, etc- being the condition of all possible experience, its the other way around. Experience is the condition that makes the conceit of an unseen seer, unheard hearer etc possible. And the fact that experience is unified, and by definition has a directionality, makes this conceit all the more compelling:
Self' as subject can be briefly discussed as follows. As pointed out in PHASSA (b), the puthujjana thinks 'things are mine (i.e. are my concern) because I am, because I exist'. He takes the subject ('I') for granted; and if things are appropriated, that is because he, the subject, exists. The ditthisampanna (or sotāpanna) sees, however, that this is the wrong way round. He sees that the notion 'I am' arises because things (so long as there is any trace of avijjā) present themselves as 'mine'. This significance (or intention, or determination), 'mine' or 'for me'—see A NOTE ON PATICCASAMUPPĀDA [e]—, is, in a sense, a void, a negative aspect of the present thing (or existing phenomenon), since it simply points to a subject; and the puthujjana, not seeing impermanence (or more specifically, not seeing the impermanence of this ubiquitous determination), deceives himself into supposing that there actually exists a subject—'self'—independent of the object (which latter, as the ditthisampanna well understands, is merely the positive aspect of the phenomenon—that which is 'for me').
Atta

Thank you for your time as always, Sam ! :heart:
Last edited by aflatun on Sun Feb 18, 2018 8:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

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aflatun
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by aflatun » Sun Feb 18, 2018 7:04 pm

boundless wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:33 am
However let me also explain why the "trascendental argument" fails. The argument, roughly speaking, says that positing the "self" is a "precondition" to the experience. What actually says is that we cannot speak about a "point of view" whithout considering a specific "observer". So, when we describe something implicitly we assume to describe it from a specific "point of view". Other descriptions take place from different "point of views". The error is to pass from epistemology to ontology implying that an actual "point of view" exists in the same way it is conceived.
Well said boundless, this is more or less how I see it.

You might be interested to read BV's entries on Butchvarov which touch on many of these issues. BV has a bone to pick with "perspective without a perceiver" and as much as I hate to admit it, he has some very strong points :toilet:
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

boundless
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by boundless » Mon Feb 19, 2018 9:26 am

Thank you, aflatun for the answer and the link! ;)

:reading:

I'll try to give a response to this new argument by BV as soon as possible!

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by binocular » Mon Feb 19, 2018 10:54 am

aflatun wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 6:42 pm
Self' as subject can be briefly discussed as follows. As pointed out in PHASSA (b), the puthujjana thinks 'things are mine (i.e. are my concern) because I am, because I exist'. He takes the subject ('I') for granted; and if things are appropriated, that is because he, the subject, exists.
Atta
I've always had a problem with this.
Who are these puthujjanas who think that way?
I don't know anyone who thinks that way, and I can't imagine anyone thinking that way, except maybe some amateur philosophers.

While I agree that ordinary people take for granted their own existence, ie. that they exist, I don't think anyone concludes 'things are mine (i.e. are my concern) because I am, because I exist'.

I think most people externalize and assume objectivity, as in 'One should be concerned about things because they are objectively important. One's personal opinions and stances have nothing to do with their importance. If I take them to be important, it's because they are important, not because I think them so.'

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by aflatun » Mon Feb 19, 2018 1:48 pm

binocular wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2018 10:54 am
aflatun wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 6:42 pm
Self' as subject can be briefly discussed as follows. As pointed out in PHASSA (b), the puthujjana thinks 'things are mine (i.e. are my concern) because I am, because I exist'. He takes the subject ('I') for granted; and if things are appropriated, that is because he, the subject, exists.
Atta
I've always had a problem with this.
Who are these puthujjanas who think that way?
I don't know anyone who thinks that way, and I can't imagine anyone thinking that way, except maybe some amateur philosophers.

While I agree that ordinary people take for granted their own existence, ie. that they exist, I don't think anyone concludes 'things are mine (i.e. are my concern) because I am, because I exist'.

I think most people externalize and assume objectivity, as in 'One should be concerned about things because they are objectively important. One's personal opinions and stances have nothing to do with their importance. If I take them to be important, it's because they are important, not because I think them so.'
I believe what he's getting at is much more primordial than the kind of concern and importance you're referring to. He's taking about the fact that experience points to, signifies, presents itself as for, the self same subject, as Kant and BV have argued, like the melody example in the OP's link.
"People often get too quick to say 'there's no self. There's no self...no self...no self.' There is self, there is focal point, its not yours. That's what not self is."

Ninoslav Ñāṇamoli
Senses and the Thought-1, 42:53

"Those who create constructs about the Buddha,
Who is beyond construction and without exhaustion,
Are thereby damaged by their constructs;
They fail to see the Thus-Gone.

That which is the nature of the Thus-Gone
Is also the nature of this world.
There is no nature of the Thus-Gone.
There is no nature of the world."

Nagarjuna
MMK XXII.15-16

auto
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by auto » Mon Feb 19, 2018 4:03 pm

boundless wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 6:39 pm
Hi auto, all,

I agree that in Buddhism there is no abiding "entity" that can be taken as "me", but "we" or "our sense of self" or "our empirical self", however you want to call the "empirical I", are rather a "flow", i.e. our mind is more a river or a flame, i.e. a process, rather than a fixed "stone", a fixed entity. At the same time both Buddhism and many, if not all, forms of Indian "eternalist" philosophies accept rebirth. If we accept rebirth of course we cannot have the same concept of "mind" that a "physicalist" have. We cannot say that our mind is an epiphenomenon of the brain. If that would be the case, then rebirth would not be possible. Our consciousness is not annihilated at death, according to both Buddhism and other eternalist philosophies.


The big difference between Buddhism and other eternalist philosophies is that according to Buddhism it is not possible to have either a "perpetual" happy rebirth or an "unchanging" blissful self-awareness. From https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/aut ... el048.html in fact this view is refuted:
MN 22 wrote: 25. "If there were a self, monks, would there be my self's property?" — "So it is, Lord." — "Or if there is a self's property, would there by my self?" — "So it is, Lord." — "Since in truth and in fact, self and self's property do not obtain, O monks, then this ground for views, 'The universe is the Self. That I shall be after death; permanent, stable, eternal, immutable; eternally the same shall I abide, in that very condition' — is it not, monks, an entirely and perfectly foolish idea?" — "What else should it be, Lord? It is an entirely and perfectly foolish idea."

It is impossible to have an unchanging, eternal self-awareness. Instead to "be" self-aware requires change, requires that there is some type of feeling. In fact the argument of DN 15 seems to really go as @Sam Vara described:
Sam Vara wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:51 pm
The argument in DN 15 seems to go like this:

1) A person might think they have a self, but that self is not identical with what they feel (as proven a few lines earlier) and that self is not a thing that feels.

2) Where nothing is felt, the idea of "I am" could not occur.

3) Similarly, a person might think they have a self, but that self is not identical with what they feel, and that self is a (the) thing which feels.

4) Again, where nothing is felt, the idea of "I am" could not occur.

5) Because of (2) and (4), we can dispose of the idea of the self as a thing which feels.
Without the "flow of experience" it is not possible to have "self-awareness" since the idea "I am" could not occur! Then contrary to the eneternalists it is really self-awareness that is incompatible to idea of a "permanent, unchanging" atman. Self-awareness is a process, like a river or a flame and not a thing. There is no such an unchanging thing that "feels". There is instead a process of "feeling" and a process of "self-awareness", so to speak. Therefore the "anatta" doctrine is perfectly compatible with the sense of self.

In fact we can summarize the issue in this way:
1) The "empirical unity" is the "empirical self", our "mind-stream". The argument that there is an abiding "atman" because we are self-aware because we feel the "empirical unity" fails because it only shows that there is a process of "self-awareness", and not an abiding atman.
2) The "trascendental argument" that posits an unchanging, trascendental "self" instead seems self-contradictory because an "unchanging self" cannot be self-aware. In timelessness there could be no idea of "I am".

And in fact what the Buddha seems to say in DN15 is that without experience ("feelings") there could not be any awareness of change, any self-awareness. We are instead self-aware because we feel the "flow" of experience. If this flows ceases it seems that also our self-awareness ceases. But interestingly also in Nibbana there are no feelings.

From https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html :
"AN 9.34" wrote: I have heard that on one occasion Ven. Sariputta was staying near Rajagaha in the Bamboo Grove, the Squirrels' Feeding Sanctuary. There he said to the monks, "This Unbinding is pleasant, friends. This Unbinding is pleasant."

When this was said, Ven. Udayin said to Ven. Sariputta, "But what is the pleasure here, my friend, where there is nothing felt?"

"Just that is the pleasure here, my friend: where there is nothing felt..."

(actually to me this passage sounds like an enigma. It leaves me with a sense of "wonder"...)
In the Unbinding (Nibbana) there is nothing felt and therefore there is no self-awareness, and this is maybe the reason that Nibbana is not-self. Nibbana in fact, where nothing is felt, is also "timeless", duration does not apply. But since there is no duration and change there is no self-awareness. The error of some eternalists maybe is thinking that there could be an "unchanging" self-awareness. An unchainging self-awareness seems to be in fact an inconsistent concept.

Therefore both Buddhism and eternalists agree on the empirical self and on rebirth.
Buddhism however denies that behind the "empirical self" and the "flow of experience" there is the "unchanging self-aware self". So when the "I am" stops there is no "annihilation"of a thing but instead only a stopping of a process.

The problem with the arguments of BV therefore that they either show that there is an "empirical self" or they try to show that a "unchanging self" exists. But IMO the "unchanging" self is inconsistent!

I hope my "reasoning" makes sense.

:anjali:
About the flow is, that if you are on the shore, then it is flow, but if you enter the flow then it is particles or elements or whatever makes up that flow. It is possible to catch the deathless element or what is unchanging element.
---
If you look tree without active awareness, that is pitch black state, it is not for real pitch black because sense organs are functioning, you just are state what is sleep.
Coming out of pitch black state is when seeing something like bird flew, it is becoming, birth of consciousness: if there is clinging, attraction.

It is possible to appear in that state where the awareness of sense organs, body is disappeared. That possibility ends after you are able to appear in body, making your body as your head.

In short, when you look objects then they are empty, the state you are is dark, you supposed to see nothing, but because of clinging to body you see things.
Last edited by auto on Mon Feb 19, 2018 5:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Circle5
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Circle5 » Mon Feb 19, 2018 4:51 pm

binocular wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2018 10:54 am
aflatun wrote:
Sun Feb 18, 2018 6:42 pm
Self' as subject can be briefly discussed as follows. As pointed out in PHASSA (b), the puthujjana thinks 'things are mine (i.e. are my concern) because I am, because I exist'. He takes the subject ('I') for granted; and if things are appropriated, that is because he, the subject, exists.
Atta
I've always had a problem with this.
Who are these puthujjanas who think that way?
I don't know anyone who thinks that way, and I can't imagine anyone thinking that way, except maybe some amateur philosophers.

While I agree that ordinary people take for granted their own existence, ie. that they exist, I don't think anyone concludes 'things are mine (i.e. are my concern) because I am, because I exist'.

I think most people externalize and assume objectivity, as in 'One should be concerned about things because they are objectively important. One's personal opinions and stances have nothing to do with their importance. If I take them to be important, it's because they are important, not because I think them so.'
I too have pointed out this problem before. It is fighting a strawman, fighting positions that nobody holds. And why is this done ? Because according to Nanavira philosophy, he and his followers, who submit to this philosophy, are sotapannas and the rest are "wordlings". He considers that he rediscovered the lost meaning of the dhamma by combinding it with western phiosophy and that only those who submit to his interpretation can be sotapannas while the rest are simply wordlings.

But on the other hand, you have the problem of him believing in a self. Because of this, you need to modify the stream entry deffinition. And you do that by claiming something like 99.(9) of people believe in ideas such as those posted in that paragraph, so the ones that do not believe in them (like him or his followers) are therefore different than them and are sotapannas. The problem here is, leaving aside the buddhism-related problems, that basically nobody believes in those strawman positions except, as you have said, some random amateur philosophers. So it has no value in differentiating sotapannas from "wordlings" as he likes to call them, since there is almost nobody believing in those strawman positions.

I have pointed out to this problem before and this is my opinion on it.

Circle5
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Circle5 » Mon Feb 19, 2018 5:39 pm

boundless wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 9:25 pm
Hi Circle5,

yes I know that realizing that language is not perfect is not such an "impressive" attainment . What Wittgenstein meant, supposedly, is that all languages are in fact "conventional", i.e. all languages are "tools" which have a pratical utility. The problem arises when we make an ontology out of them. For example in Buddhism the "empirical self" does not point to an ultimate one. Using a philosophical perspective, the "empirical self" is not "ontic" (i.e. is not an "ultimately existing thing"), according to Buddhism.

Suppose now you encounter a person who says "hey the self exists and has these properties...". To refute his position we can try to show him that his position is somehow inconsistent. For example one who holds that "consciousness (vinnana) is the self and the self is permanent" holds wrong view because of course "consciousness" is impermanent and therefore it is not permanent. This of course is easy. On the other hand you have those who hold the view proposed by the link. What they are saying is simply that "our" experience is subjective, i.e. it is a definite "frame of reference". And according to them all ways of speaking and thininking about it presupposes the existence of a "being" who experiences, who so to speak defines the "frame of reference". It is seen in fact the reason of the subjective character of our experience. Of course if he is an annihilationist does not even hold that the self is permanent (however the Buddha seemed to hold that in order to be considered a self something must be permanent...) . So to refute him IMO we can proceed in two ways:
Hello. Sorry for the long time to respond but I simply keep forgetting about this topic because it's in the lounge section and I keep browsing the general therevada one.

Very good point made in this paragraph and finally this topic is touching the hearth of the problem, the thing people here kept avoiding. The way to refute that argument is through explaining how this feeling that there is a self, or this feeling that experience is subjective originates.

I kept posting here that, just as Buddha said, whatever argument one might make for a self existing, it all comes down to this feeling that experience is subjective. Here is where the trickery to understanding no-self lies. But, without understanding the whole higher dhamma this will be impossible to understand on it's own. Nevertheless, let's discuss the trickery a little.

At 22:49 there might arise a feeling that "this X thing is mine" or similar feelings tainted by conceit. As a matter of fact, almost all the time the feelings, experiences that will appear are tainted by this coinceit. Most of the experiences (feelings, perceptions, etc.) that will appear in one second or another are tainted by conceit and therefore feel like "being mine" or "being subjective".

It is because of this that the opinion "there is a self" arrises. The logic goes like "why does this subjectivity of experience exist ? Well of course because there is a self. If there would be no self, why would this feeling/subjectivity of experience exist ?" This is how the logic of "uninstructed wordlings" goes.

I kept trying to bring people to this hearth of the problem during this topic, but they did not seem interested, not even when they themselves quoted people making this very same argument.

Buddha said this too. He said that all attempts to justify a self all come down to this feeling, to this "feeling of subjectivity" and as you can see from this topic, both the quote you are reffering too and many others, such as what Alfatun posted all fall down to this argument. This is the hearth of the problem, this is where the trickery lies.

But why should I post the answer to this, since nobody seems interested ?

Circle5
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Circle5 » Mon Feb 19, 2018 5:50 pm

It is ridiculous to have people try to understand no self, without understanding the answer to the problem from my previous post. That's the whole trickery, that's the hearth of the problem.

But how can one understand without attempting even the slightest to listen to what the Buddha had to say ? It is like in my example with the bushman, some mechanic might come along and claim to know how to explain this question they all have, this same argument that they all make, yet the bushman are simple not interested at all and keep doing something else, being totally uninterested in at least hearing what the guy has to say.

There is the same problem happening in this topic. You see Sam Vera, Alfatun, etc. quoting people making the same argument, you see the same argument being made a billion times. Then you hear me saying that that argument is the hearth of the problem, repeating that over and over post after post, trying to get people attentive to the problem, saying that there is where the whole trickery lies, and then nobody cares even the slightest to hear what Buddha had to say in the suttas about the problem, and what the response to that is.

So how can anybody understand no-self, without at least listening to Buddha argument about the problem ? All I can say to most people in this topic is: good luck discussing anything but the hearth of the problem itself. Good luck playing a game of philosophy sudoku. Only when there will be a honest desire to discuss the hearth of the problem, only then one might be able to understand.

Circle5
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Circle5 » Mon Feb 19, 2018 6:10 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Wed Feb 14, 2018 11:51 pm
The argument in DN 15 seems to go like this:

1) A person might think they have a self, but that self is not identical with what they feel (as proven a few lines earlier) and that self is not a thing that feels.

2) Where nothing is felt, the idea of "I am" could not occur.

3) Similarly, a person might think they have a self, but that self is not identical with what they feel, and that self is a (the) thing which feels.

4) Again, where nothing is felt, the idea of "I am" could not occur.

5) Because of (2) and (4), we can dispose of the idea of the self as a thing which feels.

As far as I can see, there are two problems with this as deployed against BV. The first is that feeling - as hedonic tone - is not required for an idea of the self. One could imagine the same "delusional" self-view arising in one who had merely perception and rationality. For this one to work, vedana needs to mean something more like "every possible experience". Claiming as an axiom that there are three types of feeling ("pleasant, unpleasant, and neither pleasant nor unpleasant") which are necessary components of all possible experience obviously won't work here; it just defines the argument into being right. It certainly looks like the Buddha is talking about experience here.

As such, we can still save the limited concept of a transcendental unity of experience for BV. The "get-out-of-jail-free" card is the question as to what the Buddha actually meant when talking in this sutta (and some others) by "the idea of 'I am'". Without feeling, the idea of "I am this" could not occur. But while there is experience, there certainly could. Gombrich would say, of course, that the Buddha is only ever talking about aseity, and an immutable soul-essence, and (although BV might want such a thing!) the non-existence of such a thing doesn't have any bearing on the transcendental unity of our experience.

Again, many thanks for your reply, and for your patience if you've got this far! :heart:
You're approaching the hearth of the problem. The trickery involved in this is not explained in DN 15 but in another sutta that few know about. It takes a little more explaining of course, it takes explaining how the 5 aggregates work and interact with each other, how conceit works, etc. It's more complicated than that. Remember even Buddha 5 ascetic friends took 4 days of explaining to get the idea.

And what is stated in DN 15 is correct. Does the idea that "I am" or "There is a self" appear in a computer ? No, because there is no feeling. There are many ideas and conclusions that might appear in a computer but not this one, because the information that could lead to the arrising of this idea is not there.

The information is of course the thing I posted in my prev topic, the argument that all of you keep making in this topic. The opinion that there is a self arises in an organism because of the feeling tainted by conceit that exists. A feeling of "this is mine" or "subjectivity of experience" (in western philosophical language) appears in living organisms. From this information getting processed, we get "why did this feeling of subjectivity appear ? Because there is a self. If there would be no self, how could such a feeling as this one appear in the first place" ?

As Buddha said, all who argue for a self all fall down to this idea. This is the process through which the opinion that there is a self stands on. It is because of not understanding this problem, that "uninstructed wordlings" continue to believe there is a self.

But why would I explain it and bring up the suttas dealing with this problem, if no-one is actually interested in hearing them and all keep avoiding discussing this problem ? :shrug:

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