"Is there a Self?"

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

Post by SDC » Tue Feb 20, 2018 11:24 pm

boundless wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 5:27 pm
For this reason I tried to argue that the "unobservable observer" is simply a concept that is valid epistemologically but cannot be regarder as a self, because it does not entail self-awareness. I was trying to prove that the view itself is in some ways inconsistent without arguing from the "unfindability" of the self.
...Thus, that thing which was regarded as Self, does not disappear upon realization of anicca and dukkha, it ‘changes direction’, so to speak, and becomes not-Self, anattā. However, even then, the thing remains there and what disappears is Self-view... -Ven. N. Nanamoli, Hierarchy of Awareness
I'm super jealous I have not had the time to join this discussion. If I get a chance to read the BV piece maybe I'll jump in.

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SDC
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by SDC » Wed Feb 21, 2018 3:03 am

Again, I know I am late to the game, but perhaps this bit of marginalia from Ven. Nv can add something:
Heidegger wrote:But if the Self is conceived 'only' as a way of Being of this entity, this seems tantamount to volatilizing the real 'core' of Dasein. Any apprehensiveness however which one may have about this gets its nourishment from the perverse assumption that the entity in question has at bottom the kind of Being which belongs to something present-at-hand, even if one is far from attributing to it the solidity of an occurrent corporeal Thing. Being in Time p. 153/4-9
[From the margin]:
Ven. Ñāṇavīra wrote:Yes—but how does this 'perverse assumption' arise? And how does it cease? Answer: it arises in asking the question Who? It ceases in seeing that it arises in asking the question Who?
The mere questioning of existence, non-existence, both or neither are all forms of some assumption of existence. "Does self exist? Does self not exist? Does self both exist and not exist? Does self neither exist nor not exist?" It is a clear tendency to misinterpret just how significant the question is, and that a thing (self) is granted an existence on that front end of any and all attempts to discover any validity, i.e. self exists in each and every question of whether or not self exists, regardless of the answer. No matter how you adjust the question you cannot remove the existence taken for granted by asking the question in the first place. Plain and simple: there is a subtle "version" of self taken up in order to ask the question of whether or not it exists, both or neither. But here lies the problem: we deal in answers. Answers reveal the soundness and meaningfulness of the question and we yearn for what it will deliver. Therefore the answer is going to take priority over whatever status was posited in the question, because we never considered to look at the positing for information. The damage is already done and this reversal of priority allows for that subtle assumption "in the asking of the question Who?" to pass by unnoticed, with the landscape of "the answer" gets all of the attention.

Sorry if this has come up already.

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aflatun
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by aflatun » Wed Feb 21, 2018 3:38 am

binocular wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 9:12 am
aflatun wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2018 1:48 pm
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.
The analogy with the melody doesn't take into consideration the cultural specificity of melody. For something to be perceived as a melody, the listener has to perceive it as a single entity. For one, tone deaf people can't do that, so for them, the analogy is moot. For two, the existence of atonal music speaks in favor of the cultural specificity of melody. Atonal music on principle avoids melody (at least melody as we're used to it from much of European classical music). A person who doesn't know anything about atonal music could listen to a piece by Schönberg and it would seem like a series of tones, disjointed, not making any sense together, not seeming connected to eachother. Similarly, someone who doesn't know anything about, say, traditional Balkanese music, couldn't hear the melodies there.

My point is that one's perception of the unity of something, of something being one entity is culturally conditioned, and not a given. (I have heard that when Mesoamerican natives first saw Europeans on horses, they were surprised that there was no blood when the men dismounted the horses. They thought there was one entity, which in our terms would be called a man-horse.)

It also seems to me that one's sense of self is primarily conditioned by external factors, by the unity and continuity of external factors. It's because from early on, other people refer to a child in a relatively consistent way, that the child becomes a person with a (particular) sense of self.
In contrast, if people were to call you by a different name each day, your sense of your own unity and continuity would be diminished. Something similar can be observed in people who grow up in unstable circumstances where they are treated inconsistently (like children who frequently move from one foster home to another, or children who grow up with parents who have a mental illness) -- their sense of self is diminished. Which speaks in favor of the idea that selfhood is something conditioned, culturally specific, not innate, or a given.

Of course, we have no real evidence to the contrary, only a few non-scientific experiments were infants had minimal contact with other humans (all those children soon died).
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.
Perhaps for someone who is unaware of atonal music or other tonal/scale systems (like the ones used in folk music) ...
As I understand the Kantian POV its not about whether it is or is not a melody. It could be a stream of cacophonous nonsense, and still the particulars of that stream would be intuited as a unitary whole ("this stream of cacophonous nonsense") which is coordinated to a single subject...or a single individual, or a single point of view, etc ("I am hearing this stream of cacophonous nonsense"). Barring this there is no experience whatsoever.

A strictly Nanaviran analysis comes to a similar conclusion, with the difference that there there is no appeal to a subject to account for the coherence of experience throughout time, but rather an infinite hierarchy of consciousness:
The infinite hierarchy of consciousnesses, one on top of the other, is always there, whether we are engaging in reflexion or not. The evidence for this is our consciousness of motion or movement, which does not require reflexion—we are immediately conscious of movement (of a falling leaf, for example)—, but which does require a hierarchy of consciousness. Why? Because a movement takes place in time (past, present and future), and yet we are conscious of the movement of the falling leaf as a present movement. This is perhaps too short an explanation, but it is not very important that you should grasp it.[1] When we wish to reflect (we often do it almost automatically when faced with difficult situations) we make use of this hierarchy of consciousness by withdrawing our attention from the immediate level to the level above.
[L. 86 | 93] 25 January 1964

I think you can see the similarity to BV's Neo Kantian argument:
To hear the melody Do-Re-Mi, it does not suffice that there be a hearing of Do, followed by a hearing of Re, followed by a hearing of Mi. For those three acts of hearing could occur in that sequence in three distinct subjects, in which case they would not add up to the hearing of a melody. (Tom, Dick, and Harry can divide up the task of loading a truck, but not the ‘task’ of hearing a melody, or that of understanding a sentence, or that of inferring a conclusion from premises.) But now suppose the acts of hearing occur in the same subject, but that this subject is not a unitary and self-same individual but just the bundle of these three acts, call them A1, A2, and A3. When A1 ceases, A2 begins, and when A2 ceases, A3 begins: they do not overlap. In which act is the hearing of the melody? A3 is the only likely candidate, but surely it cannot be a hearing of the melody. For the awareness of a melody involves the awareness of the (musical not temporal) intervals between the notes, and to apprehend these intervals there must be a retention (to use Husserl’s term) in the present act A3 of the past acts A2 and A1. Without this phenomenological presence of the past acts in the present act, there would be no awareness in the present of the melody. But this implies that the self cannot be a mere bundle of perceptions externally related to each other, but must be a peculiarly intimate unity of perceptions in which the present perception A3 includes the immediately past ones A2 and A1 as temporally past but also as phenomenologically present in the mode of retention. The fact that we hear melodies thus shows that there must be a self-same and unitary self through the period of time between the onset of the melody and its completion. This unitary self is neither identical to the sum or collection of A1, A2, and A3, nor is it identical to something wholly distinct from them. Nor of course is it identical to any one of them or any two of them. This unitary self is given whenever one hears a melody.
For Kantians a unitary consciousness, or subject, is the container that holds together the sequence of temporal objects in one higher order intuition in which it inuits itself (the "I think" must accompany all my representations, to paraphrase Kant) in coordination to its representations, whereas for Nanavira, since there is no subject (consciousness is the presence of phenomena only), all we get are "objects" (phenomena) that are hierarchically arranged in terms of general and particular and "retained" in an infinite hierarchy of consciousness (which is nothing but their presence)...in other words we have a subjectless, infinite hierarchy of the presence of phenomena only. On the latter account we confuse the undeniable unity of this individual, this consciousness-determination-perception-feeling-form, this point of view... with a Self, a Subject, a Perceiver, a Master over the that infinite hierarchy of the presence of phenomena.

Hopefully that helps?
Last edited by aflatun on Wed Feb 21, 2018 3:13 pm, edited 3 times 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 » Wed Feb 21, 2018 4:01 am

HI Mr. Vara!
Sam Vara wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2018 10:04 pm
Yes, sorry, it was poorly expressed. But it's not all that essential, so don't worry if the following attempt is just as botched!

I meant that I'm OK with the "subject" being a condition of perception and consciousness, providing that the perception is merely apperception/labelling (sanna), and the consciousness is merely sense-consciousness or the awareness that it is occurring (vinnana). These might conceivably be some kind of "blip" in existence, but to constitute any kind of meaningful experience for us, they must be subsumed by some unity of consciousness which transcends them.


I agree with this. Would you object if I countered that this unity of consciousness need not however be a subject? Let me know if my reply to binocular makes any sense in this regard.
We can only make sense of any of the khandas by conceiving them alongside the others. "Pure" vinnana or sanna are not possible; they are abstracted parts of our experience.
I totally agree.
This might be a mere matter of terminology. The unity of experience is an "entity" in that it is a potential object of thought and discourse - it's not nothing - but it's not, of course, a thing which is known as part of our experience. Our experience of it is only our experience of a concept. I'm not sure whether we need to call it a mind, even if Kant and Schopenhauer were forced to.
Check!
Yes, I'm happier with the latter, but would limit it somewhat: "unity is an aspect of experience". Not all experiences whatsoever are unified, at least outside the mind of God or Brahma or whatever; some are forgotten about, and excluding solipisism there is something bounding my experience from those of others, which is equally important for the puzzlement I am experiencing here. (Bill V. has touched on this in some of his blog posts, but not in the one linked in the OP). Not only is there something which appears to underwrite the continuity of my experience, there is something which links the disparate elements (i.e. senses, intellect, action, etc.) and there is something which delimits my experience from being universal in content, if not in concept.
Agreed. Sorry if I sounded like I was going Brahman on you :)
Yes, I agree - BV might want to go that far (he wants to admit the idea of soul, I guess...) but I'm not going with him. "The mind with it's categories" and a "unitary self" (not sure what you mean by this last phrase)
I was alluding to the self same subject, or the unified consciousness that BV (and Kant) seem to believe is a requirement here, e.g.:
BV wrote:The fact that we hear melodies thus shows that there must be a self-same and unitary self through the period of time between the onset of the melody and its completion. This unitary self is neither identical to the sum or collection of A1, A2, and A3, nor is it identical to something wholly distinct from them. Nor of course is it identical to any one of them or any two of them. This unitary self is given whenever one hears a melody.
Sam Vara wrote:seem to imply some self-existent thing, and a "process" is definitely temporal, and would imply the prior existence of that which somehow brings about the unity. That's all ruled out as being impossible; we could not know the temporal ordering of a process that takes place prior to our capacity to order or to temporalise.
I agree with this, and this is one of the important ways that I believe Kant (and Schopenhauer, and all the phenomenologists and existentialists) violated their own ground rules and landed themselves in nonsense, but this is best left for another thread :toilet:
That's why I'm happy with the "two sheaves leaning on one another" solution here. Neither the content of our experience, nor the ordering thereof as per above, can be temporally or even logically prior to the other.
I'm with you yet again!
More of which later, but I'm happy with one of those sheaves being the means to answering all those questions about "what gets reborn, etc., etc."
I'm scared to go here right now, lest I derail our wonderful exchange with another hydra of a post :tongue: But we should return to this!
Sam Vara wrote:I wouldn't be surprised if the problem lies in attempting to eliminate all conceptions of the word "self", without a sufficiently rigorous check on what the Buddha meant by the term atta. Here's a self that definitely exists - I haven't got one, but I have known several people who did have them: http://old.gccfcats.org/breeds/brself.html. (The Buddha denied they existed, of course.)
:rofl:
aflatun wrote: 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.
Sam Vara wrote:Yes, that's an excellent summary. My point is that in this an all other cases, there is no "given beforehand". That's back to temporalising the issue. I cannot conceive of an experience which is not transcendentally unified, any more than I can conceive of that unity lacking something to unify. And - what is worse - I cannot conceive of a beforehand which can serve as the necessary condition for my conception of time.
Apologies I think I should have been more clear. The "experience" i was referring to was the significant and unitary one we have been discussing, with all of its meaning and coordination to an individual, both sheaves present. It's because that is there, that we can take it, with special emphasis on one of those sheaves, as indicating an independent, transcendent self. Let me know if that works better.
Sam Vara wrote:Many thanks again for your contribution and patience. I've given up coffee for lent, and am relying entirely on strong English breakfast tea. If we are on entirely different chemical wavelengths, I apologise!
You're posting like you're running on my own way too strong french press, so I'm impressed! Thank you for this wonderful, gentlemanly exchange. Your insight and engaging demeanor make for a great conversation, everytime.
Last edited by aflatun on Wed Feb 21, 2018 2:52 pm, edited 2 times 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

boundless
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by boundless » Wed Feb 21, 2018 2:23 pm

auto wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:50 pm


Hi,
The unconditional element could be a black hole(a cavity), since there will happen something, the feel or sense goes from head to the bottom if i haven't use that channel longer time and then will see things differently, objects seem float and are part of the perception like objects are water and i am water.

In short there is claims that some say that tree and the observer are one and same, it can be that person somehow went from head to the bottom and viewing things from back side.

It is possible to use eyes in a way that particles are seen. Just holding on that focus, there are seen different kinds of particles, no need to look for they just pass by and mist start to appear or cloud. These aren't the dust from dead cells floating in air. Some of them are with intense blue light.
But sometimes there appear a bigger light compared to these little ones, it is rare sight. That type of sight is also a channel a certain way of using eye and it affects other places, seem like it is quantum mechanics like.
------------
it is boring, but quantum mechanics is somehow spot on how to practice.

there is no way to know what to do, but it is possible by trying out different cominations and probabilty is to make a right combination and change happen, and your mind registers it.
Also still you can't manully yet do it, but next thing is waht happen is your mind notices the relevant thing and leaps towards it, and then next time you can do it.

It reminds me why there is so much repetitions in Suttas, quantum mechanics could be a piece of the puzzle.
Hi,

While I am quite skeptical, generally, about comparisons with science, I agree that some ideas are very similar.

If I am understanding correctly what you are saying, then yes what we normally take "reality-as-it-is" in fact depends on how we "interact" with "reality". We are not "outside" the world, we are "in" the world and therefore our experience arises due to a complex interaction between our mind, our body and the world "outside" (in Buddhist terms I am thinking about the concept of "contact"). Normally we think that we observe "reality-as-it-is" because we unconsciously adopt what in philosophical terms is called "naive realism", i.e. the view that our perception is infallible. However when we begin to analyze our experience we begin to realize that it is much more complicated than what we think it is. For example the "experience" of reality changes if I am "nervous" : sounds seem louder, colours seem brigher etc. Therefore our mental condition reflects our perception of reality (here the first two verses of the Dhammpada are enlightening). As you noted we are in the flux, we participate in it.

Regarding the Unconditioned, IMO it is beyond our grasp. For this reason I think the Buddha spoke in negative terms describing it as the "not-conditioned, the not-born, the nont-formed etc" *. To me the reason is to stress that it is empty of all qualities we can think with our "conditioned minds", so to speak. It is "empty" because all our conceptualization cannot "apprehend" it (therefore even saying that it is a "thing" maybe it is too much. At the same time saying that is a "mere absence" is even worse IMO) and therefore we should avoid to speculate (too much) about it. So I agree that it seems, so to speak, "very empty" but comparing it to "something" that we can imagine can lead to misunderestandings.

*To my knowledge in the Suttas there is never an esplicit statement that says "Nibbana is permanent". IMO the first time in the Canon where there is such such an explicit that I am aware of is in the Abhidhamma: https://suttacentral.net/en/kv1.6 (Kathavatthu, Abhidhamma) where it is said that "Nibbana is permanent, persistent, eternal...". This shows how Buddhist tradition have been always reticent to speak about the Goal, to avoid probably misunderestanding. In fact the "negative" language is a source of freedom. As a friend of mine said if the Unconditioned could be "conceptualized" it would be very "depressing" since it would take some of its "greateness" from it, so to speak (in fact it is not possible to compare it to anything, then of course our words are unable to "express" it). But this is off-topic and I apologize for my "digression".







@SDC and @Sam Vara, please be patient I will reply also to you!

Circle5
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Circle5 » Thu Feb 22, 2018 4:29 am

boundless wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 5:27 pm
Circle5 wrote:
Mon Feb 19, 2018 10:59 pm

We were not speaking about self awareness. Your post to which I responded was a little older, I was late to respond. What you were talking about was "subjectivity of experience", this feeling that things are mine. There is this feeling there, nobody can deny it.

Here is where the trickery to understandin no-self lies. Here is where Buddha insight comes at play. Sam Vera and Alfatun are not interested in it. If you are interested in this, I can explain it and post the suttas in question. This is the hearth of the problem, this is where the trickery to understanding no-self lies.
Greetings Circle 5,

In my opinion there is a sort of misunderstanding here.

I agree wit you that the reason why the belief of self arises, according to Buddhism, is because we feel "the subjective experience". From the "subjective experience" we (incorrectly) infer that there is a "self".

So the problem is like this as far as I understood it. We have the feeling of "subjective experience". You, following the suttas, in my opinion are arguing that we cannot "find" the self as an "object" of our experience and therefore searching the self is useless. This leads anatta etc.

BV (but also Kant, Schopenhauer etc) instead are arguing that the "self" cannot be an object of experience because it is the subject of experience. In the same way you do not see in the eye in the visual field. Therefore the argument of "unfindability" against this position is incorrect because it already says that the "subject" exists but cannot be found, i.e. it cannot be an object of experience. So in my opinion arguments like "the self cannot be found in experience, therefore is like the rabbit's horn" cannot be applied against this type of "self theories". So if the arguments you want to share argue for "anatta" are like these, IMO they cannot refute this particular view (about the "unobserved observer", or better "unobservable observer"). This is the reason why IMO Sam Vara and aflatun are not interested in arguments from "unfindability of the self in experience" (and they cannot be used here to disprove the "trascendental self" argument).

For this reason I tried to argue that the "unobservable observer" is simply a concept that is valid epistemologically but cannot be regarder as a self, because it does not entail self-awareness. I was trying to prove that the view itself is in some ways inconsistent without arguing from the "unfindability" of the self.

I hope to have been clearer this time and/or to have not misunderstood what you are trying to say :smile:

By the way, I am interested in your arguments, for simply the sake of learning the Dhamma (actually, being nothing more than a beginner I am here in DW for this reason...). But if they argue for "anatta" from the conclusion that a "self" cannot be found in experience, then IMO they cannot be applied to refute BV's position (and maybe this is the reason why Sam Vara and aflatun are not interested in them...).

Thank you in advance!

:anjali:

auto wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:50 pm
...
Greetings auto,

than you for the response.

Sorry if I do not answer now. I will respond you as soon as I can.


:anjali:
Hello again. Indeed I see you point. But then, let me ask you this: based on what does this opinion that there might be an "unobservable observer" lay on ? What made Kant think such a thing might exist ? Was it not this same feeling of subjectivity that we are speaking about ?

Why would one not think that there might be an unobservable observer inside a computer ? The fact that we can't see it does not disprove it in any way because neither can you see a self in another person, same as you can't see it in yourself. Based on this logic, of possible invisible things that can not be perceived by anyone existing, then there might be a self inside every rock, every airplane, every ciggarete.

This is the classic spaggete monster defense that I spoke about. Sure, one can never prove that there is no spaggete monster. That is fighting a strawman. Have you ever seen me saying that you can disprove the self or the spaggete monster in that way ? But the burden of prof lies on the one making the claim. Even if this invisible self or spaggete monster is totally invisible and can not ever be perceived, neither in onself neither in others, then one should try to prove that such a conclusion could be inffered from other information. For example when they tried to prove the world is round, they did not have pictures from outer space, but could make a case for that based on certain measurements and penomenons.

In the same one, one that makes a claim that a self or a spaggete monster might exist, he has to provide at least some form of evidence. The fact that the spaggete monster theory is irrefutable from a logic point of view does not in any way make a case for anything. The burden of prof is on the one claiming such a thing might exist.

boundless
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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by boundless » Fri Feb 23, 2018 1:59 pm

Circle5 wrote:
Thu Feb 22, 2018 4:29 am
...
Hello Circle 5,

See for example this article by the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/kant-transcendental/. I find difficulties to explain it. However I find the "eye" analogy very interesting.

Anyway I try to summarize the argument with the "eye-visual field" analogy. When our eyes are open and functioning we have the experience of the visual field. However if we search to "find" the eyes as part of our visual field, we fail because at best we can experience seen eyes, like in a reflection in a mirror. At the same this visual field is "private" in the sense it can be "marked" by an identifier (i.e. "my" visual field, "your" visual field etc). This "unity" seems to be correlated to something that makes this "visual field", "this particular visual field". All my vision therefore is correlated with "something" that makes them part of the totality of "my" visual experiences. When the eyes do not function or are closed we do not experience a visual field. Logically speaking (I know of course the Sutta's take on this with the concept of contact etc) we cannot even say that the "opening" of the eyes causes the visual "field" since correlation does not imply causation. Logically we can only say that "when eyes are open and functioning, there is the visual experience", i.e. the "eye" and "its visual field" are associated, correlated etc.

In the same way our experience is private. Hence there must be something that is correlated all "my" particular experiences to make them part of all "my" experience. As the eye-visual field analogy however we cannot find "what" gives the mark of "myness" to all our experience. Therefore this unifying "factor" of all my experience cannot be found by examining the objects of our experiences. The "spaghetti monster" instead is a possible occurance of our experience. The "self"/"subject" and its "experience"/"object" are associated, coordinated. We cannot say that the "subject" causes its "object", but instead that the "object" is there whenever there is a "subject". So the subject in reality in this view is not even a "controller" of its experience, but simply is the "unifying" principle of its experience. Schopenhauer as reported here (https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/self ... scSelfCons) wrote “that the subject should become an object for itself is the most monstrous contradiction ever thought of”. However the simple analysis of our experience cannot be used to "deduce" the subject, rather must "deduce" it as what render it "unified".

But of course, this argument cannot IMO strictly speaking "prove" the existence of the unifying principle (also because there is the assumption that our experience is "unified") that renders experience "my experience". But in the same way the arguments by the analysis of our experience cannot "disprove" it simply because it is already posited that it cannot be "found" in experience.

I hope to have outlined the difference :anjali:
Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 6:31 pm

Hi boundless,

Many thanks for your contributions to this thread, and in particular for this very nice summary. My point about the unity of apperception being a potential candidate for some type of selfhood (briefly mentioned in one of my posts above) is that I don't think that self-awareness is a necessary requirement of the type of self that Sam Harris and Hume are concerned to deny. In terms of a coherent conception of anatta, I don't think it is necessary to eliminate either a unity of apperception, or self-awareness, although both of them may well be dependently originated. (Self-awareness certainly is...)
Hello Sam Vara,

Let me separate two similar concepts of "self". One is a dynamical, dependently originated "unifier of experience". The other is the fixed "unifier of experience". The first is what can be thought to be the "empirical self". The second is the "trascendental" self, which is the "mark" that renders all experience as "my" experience.

The first seems to be accepted by "anatta", but with a "precisation". It is conventional, i.e. it is an abstraction. To make sense of our subjectivity we need to "distinguish" our experience as "ours". But as I understand "anatta" this is ultimately untrue, there is "no thing", "no mark" that really make "distinct", i.e. our experience is not really distinct from others. To re-use the "wave-ocean" analogy, the "distinctivness" of the "wave" to the rest of the ocean is ultimately illusory. To reify it is to posit the "self" of the "trascendentalists". This however should not to be taken as an assertion of the denail of the "wave". If we look to a "macroscopic" perspective there is the wave. However if we analyze the wave we find that at some levels of the analysis the "water" contained in the "wave" is not "special".

The trascendentalists disagree and say that, the "water" inside the wave is "special" at all level of analysis. They think that the water of the wave is somewhat "marked". So our experience are "marked" by the correlation to the "self". We cannot find a particular "experience" (i.e. a particular droplet of water) that shows the existence of the self. It is what is common to all experience. And again we cannot "go inside" others. So we cannot in any way find, in experience, that there is a "unifying principle" that makes "our" experience as ours.

What I meant with my observation that such a "self" cannot be "self-aware" without change is that according to DN15 it seems that we posit a self because we are "self-aware". But if there are no experience then our "trascendental self" neither experiences neither is self-aware.

:anjali:
SDC wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 11:24 pm
boundless wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 5:27 pm
For this reason I tried to argue that the "unobservable observer" is simply a concept that is valid epistemologically but cannot be regarder as a self, because it does not entail self-awareness. I was trying to prove that the view itself is in some ways inconsistent without arguing from the "unfindability" of the self.
...Thus, that thing which was regarded as Self, does not disappear upon realization of anicca and dukkha, it ‘changes direction’, so to speak, and becomes not-Self, anattā. However, even then, the thing remains there and what disappears is Self-view... -Ven. N. Nanamoli, Hierarchy of Awareness
I'm super jealous I have not had the time to join this discussion. If I get a chance to read the BV piece maybe I'll jump in.
Hello SDC,

IMO Ven Nanamoli here asserts what I am talking about. What really matters if we can be "self-aware" and "happy" perpetually. However "anicca" implies that all our possible "lives", where we are self-aware, are not eternal. This renders them dukkha because we want to exist forever (even at a unconscious level). And therefore if we do not to suffer we have to consider them "not me, not mine, not myself" (anatta). I interpret Nibbana the only "state" (I am sorry if you find this word problematic) that is both "positive" and "not impermanent". However (per DN15) there is no self-awareness "in" it. So even Nibbana is "not me, not mine, not myself" (anatta).

I do not know Nanamoli's work, but I wonder if he was influenced by the "Personalists" in asserting that a "thing" remains there. IMO the Personalists were very close to the "trascendentalists" (maybe they were "trascendentalists", asserting the reality of the "mark" that makes "my experience" as "my"). Could you please explain what Nanamoli intended in this passage?

By the way Nanamoli seems close to what I was trying to say. Possibly "anatta" refers more to "self-awareness". In fact if Samsara is beginningless and endless* the fact that there is "something" that continues forever does not bring necessarily happiness to us (i.e. permanent/"nicca" does not imply "sukha")!

:anjali:

*As an (off-topic) note. The beginningless character of Samsara seems to follows from causal chain. If everthing we see is due to causes, then a "beginning" of time either requires a First Cause or a "coming to existence out of nothing". To my knoledge no Buddhist school accepts either possibility. In the same way in the sutta the "world" is neither said to be finite (in time) nor "eternal" (it is one of the "imponderables"). I was wondering if the Pali word "loka", translated as "world", refers to the "experienced world" rather than the "physical world", so to speak. In the first case I can see how a beginningless samsara can be reconciled to this "imponderable". However the "regression ad infinitum" seems to be implied by the suttas. (Maybe I will open a thread on this issue...)

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by SDC » Fri Feb 23, 2018 4:17 pm

boundless wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 1:59 pm
...Thus, that thing which was regarded as Self, does not disappear upon realization of anicca and dukkha, it ‘changes direction’, so to speak, and becomes not-Self, anattā. However, even then, the thing remains there and what disappears is Self-view... -Ven. N. Nanamoli, Hierarchy of Awareness
I do not know Nanamoli's work, but I wonder if he was influenced by the "Personalists" in asserting that a "thing" remains there. IMO the Personalists were very close to the "trascendentalists" (maybe they were "trascendentalists", asserting the reality of the "mark" that makes "my experience" as "my"). Could you please explain what Nanamoli intended in this passage?
He is stressing the point that although the significance of the self-view disappears, it does not imply that that which was taken as SELF is gone also. Quite the opposite. That thing remains, but is no longer in that position of prominence and all that that implied. That "for me" nature that once defined the experience gave that "I" a fundamental position. With the realization, the position reverses, is pulled inside out. And although it remains an arisen phenomena, it is "not for me", i.e. things are not for it. Things just are - including that thing that things used to arise for.
This nature, if mindfulness pursued to the extent necessary, can eventually be completely understood and the gratuitous “I” destroyed. This, however, should not be taken in a sense that the phenomenon of “I” would disappear like it was never there, but in a sense that that “I” will cease to be “me” and “mine”. It will remain just standing there, hollow and dry. -Ven. N. Nanamoli, Notes on Meditation
So for the arahant, even that conceit "I am" is destroyed. First you take its prominent position, then you destroy the conceit and - as a result - any significance aside from that mere arising, i.e. the five aggregates continue to rise and fall.
boundless wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 1:59 pm
By the way Nanamoli seems close to what I was trying to say. Possibly "anatta" refers more to "self-awareness". In fact if Samsara is beginningless and endless* the fact that there is "something" that continues forever does not bring necessarily happiness to us (i.e. permanent/"nicca" does not imply "sukha")!
If by "awareness" you mean seeing it for how it is, then absolutely. And it is not so much that a thing continues forever as much as it is that the "nature of things" is infinite.
boundless wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 1:59 pm
*As an (off-topic) note. The beginningless character of Samsara seems to follows from causal chain. If everthing we see is due to causes, then a "beginning" of time either requires a First Cause or a "coming to existence out of nothing". To my knoledge no Buddhist school accepts either possibility. In the same way in the sutta the "world" is neither said to be finite (in time) nor "eternal" (it is one of the "imponderables"). I was wondering if the Pali word "loka", translated as "world", refers to the "experienced world" rather than the "physical world", so to speak. In the first case I can see how a beginningless samsara can be reconciled to this "imponderable". However the "regression ad infinitum" seems to be implied by the suttas. (Maybe I will open a thread on this issue...)
Absolutely. It is beginningless in the sense that experience is always sankhara-sankhata dhamma, it is always a thing there with its determination. All attempts to quantify this nature, "hold both together as a whole" fails to take into account that that "held whole" is just another thing with its own determination. Why? Because you assumed a position on the outside of this nature, a position not subject to the nature of DO, a position of permanence in regard to change that is both "me" and "mine". But that is the infinity. That nature can be known without identifying position of origin that is permanent. (cf. aflatun's signature and Notes on AN 1.51)

Sorry if any of this was unclear, I wrote it kind of fast.

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by boundless » Fri Feb 23, 2018 5:21 pm

SDC wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 4:17 pm
...
Thank you for your answer! :smile:

I apologize for the misinterpretation of Ven. Nanamoli.

I will ponder on it in the next days.

P.S.
Thanks for the elaboration about samsara. Even though I need further reflections on this issue,
I now understand how a temporal infinity (no beginning and no end for the cycles of the universe)
can be compatible with the "imponderability".

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by binocular » Fri Feb 23, 2018 7:25 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:52 pm
binocular wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 11:41 am
An identical subject is inconceivable.
Given the preceding, I'm not sure what you mean by this.
That this whole discussion is progressively undermining itself. You want to talk about the true, indentical subject, but admit that anything you investigate is an object, so the moment you set out to investigate the subject, you make it an object, thus never being able to investigate the subject.
Thus an identical subject is inconceivable.

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by binocular » Fri Feb 23, 2018 8:05 pm

aflatun wrote:
Wed Feb 21, 2018 3:38 am
As I understand the Kantian POV its not about whether it is or is not a melody. It could be a stream of cacophonous nonsense, and still the particulars of that stream would be intuited as a unitary whole ("this stream of cacophonous nonsense") which is coordinated to a single subject...or a single individual, or a single point of view, etc ("I am hearing this stream of cacophonous nonsense"). Barring this there is no experience whatsoever.

A strictly Nanaviran analysis comes to a similar conclusion, with the difference that there there is no appeal to a subject to account for the coherence of experience throughout time, but rather an infinite hierarchy of consciousness:
/.../
For Kantians a unitary consciousness, or subject, is the container that holds together the sequence of temporal objects in one higher order intuition in which it inuits itself (the "I think" must accompany all my representations, to paraphrase Kant) in coordination to its representations, whereas for Nanavira, since there is no subject (consciousness is the presence of phenomena only), all we get are "objects" (phenomena) that are hierarchically arranged in terms of general and particular and "retained" in an infinite hierarchy of consciousness (which is nothing but their presence)...in other words we have a subjectless, infinite hierarchy of the presence of phenomena only. On the latter account we confuse the undeniable unity of this individual, this consciousness-determination-perception-feeling-form, this point of view... with a Self, a Subject, a Perceiver, a Master over the that infinite hierarchy of the presence of phenomena.

Hopefully that helps?
I know people here really dislike it when I bring up the point that the intense focus on the subject and the felt need to postulate a permanent self is probably to a considerable extent due to the Christian motivation to judge people and to deport them to either eternal heaven or eternal hell.
I still think that this Christian influence, along with its later secular developments and variations, should be acknowledged as playing a role in many Westerners' obsession with the topic of selfhood.

Take away the threat of eternal damnation or the promise of an idyllic afterlife, take away the threat of social ostracism, and it becomes perfectly okay that there are experiences, but no appeal to a persisting, self-contained subject.
Christians, some other Abrahamists, and people committed to maintaining social hierarchies need to postulate such a self, because without it, their religious or social system has no footing. This, I think, is enough to consider their notions of selfhood to be suspect.

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by binocular » Fri Feb 23, 2018 8:14 pm

NOTE TO THE MODERATORS:
As I tried to post the above post, I kept getting locked out/timed out (which has been happening for me ever since the upgrade to the new software). So I refreshed the page and tried again, but nothing seemed to be happening. Until the post finally went through, and then it turned out that it was posted many times in a row. I deleted the multiple postings. I apologize for the inconvenience.

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Feb 23, 2018 10:36 pm

binocular wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 7:25 pm
You want to talk about the true, indentical subject,
Not really. Apart from it being a good candidate for selfhood, I don't have much to say about it at all. As far as your posts are concerned, I've mainly pointed out that you seem to be confusing it with objects of consciousness.

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Feb 23, 2018 11:23 pm

boundless wrote:
Fri Feb 23, 2018 1:59 pm

Let me separate two similar concepts of "self". One is a dynamical, dependently originated "unifier of experience". The other is the fixed "unifier of experience". The first is what can be thought to be the "empirical self". The second is the "trascendental" self, which is the "mark" that renders all experience as "my" experience.

The first seems to be accepted by "anatta", but with a "precisation". It is conventional, i.e. it is an abstraction. To make sense of our subjectivity we need to "distinguish" our experience as "ours". But as I understand "anatta" this is ultimately untrue, there is "no thing", "no mark" that really make "distinct", i.e. our experience is not really distinct from others. To re-use the "wave-ocean" analogy, the "distinctivness" of the "wave" to the rest of the ocean is ultimately illusory.
Hi boundless,

Many thanks for your response. I'm not sure that I understand the distinction between the two concepts of "self" that you suggest, or that they have much bearing on the points I made. Anatta seems to be the key issue here, and with a much more modest conception of what the Buddha meant by the term, I think I can safely use the term "self" for either or both of these. One aspect of this is that if anatta requires that my experience is ultimately not different from any other experience, then I can make no sense at all of anatta. I could concede that my experience is also experienced by another in a manner I am not aware of, but for it to be universally true, I would need to also have that experience of everything that could be experienced. I don't have that, so it would make the anatta doctrine a piece of theory-saving metaphysics. At the moment, my experience is clearly unitary, and clearly bounded, which is all I need to retain that use of the term "self" while simultaneously subscribing to a more modest conception of anatta in the Buddha's teaching.

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Re: "Is there a Self?"

Post by auto » Sat Feb 24, 2018 3:06 pm

boundless wrote:
Wed Feb 21, 2018 2:23 pm
auto wrote:
Tue Feb 20, 2018 12:50 pm
...
Hi,

While I am quite skeptical, generally, about comparisons with science, I agree that some ideas are very similar.

If I am understanding correctly what you are saying, then yes what we normally take "reality-as-it-is" in fact depends on how we "interact" with "reality". We are not "outside" the world, we are "in" the world and therefore our experience arises due to a complex interaction between our mind, our body and the world "outside" (in Buddhist terms I am thinking about the concept of "contact"). Normally we think that we observe "reality-as-it-is" because we unconsciously adopt what in philosophical terms is called "naive realism", i.e. the view that our perception is infallible. However when we begin to analyze our experience we begin to realize that it is much more complicated than what we think it is. For example the "experience" of reality changes if I am "nervous" : sounds seem louder, colours seem brigher etc. Therefore our mental condition reflects our perception of reality (here the first two verses of the Dhammpada are enlightening). As you noted we are in the flux, we participate in it.

Regarding the Unconditioned, IMO it is beyond our grasp. For this reason I think the Buddha spoke in negative terms describing it as the "not-conditioned, the not-born, the nont-formed etc" *. To me the reason is to stress that it is empty of all qualities we can think with our "conditioned minds", so to speak. It is "empty" because all our conceptualization cannot "apprehend" it (therefore even saying that it is a "thing" maybe it is too much. At the same time saying that is a "mere absence" is even worse IMO) and therefore we should avoid to speculate (too much) about it. So I agree that it seems, so to speak, "very empty" but comparing it to "something" that we can imagine can lead to misunderestandings.

*To my knowledge in the Suttas there is never an esplicit statement that says "Nibbana is permanent". IMO the first time in the Canon where there is such such an explicit that I am aware of is in the Abhidhamma: https://suttacentral.net/en/kv1.6 (Kathavatthu, Abhidhamma) where it is said that "Nibbana is permanent, persistent, eternal...". This shows how Buddhist tradition have been always reticent to speak about the Goal, to avoid probably misunderestanding. In fact the "negative" language is a source of freedom. As a friend of mine said if the Unconditioned could be "conceptualized" it would be very "depressing" since it would take some of its "greateness" from it, so to speak (in fact it is not possible to compare it to anything, then of course our words are unable to "express" it). But this is off-topic and I apologize for my "digression".
The unconditioned is beyond our grasp because it rises autonomously. You can't will it happen, it is empty of self. From a self-view these sensations rise randomly, by change and probably.
In order to see something new, you need get lost first. These sensations are everfresh, new.

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