But in MN 2, he dismisses a set of rather similar questions as "inappropriate attention":Herein, bhikkhus, a certain recluse or a brahmin is dull and stupid. Due to his dullness and stupidity, when he is questioned about this or that point, he resorts to evasive statements and to endless equivocation: 'If you ask me whether there is a world beyond — if I thought there is another world, I would declare that there is. But I do not take it thus, nor do I take it in that way, nor do I take it in some other way. I do not say that it is not, nor do I say that is neither this nor that.'
I don't quite understand the difference between eel-wriggling and the practice of attending appropriately. If you steer clear of inappropriate attention, in effect you are giving the same answer as the eel-wriggler: you do not say what we will be in the future or what we were in the past.This is how he attends inappropriately: 'Was I in the past? Was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?' Or else he is inwardly perplexed about the immediate present: 'Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where has this being come from? Where is it bound?'
If the "dull and stupid" recluse/brahmin had given definite answers in the passage above, wouldn't he in effect be answering inappropriate questions?
The MN 2 passage is often cited in support of Buddhist agnosticism, while the DN 1 passage is used to oppose it -- but beyond that particular debate, I would like to know how consistency is maintained across the two statements. I'm sure this must have been brought up on DW before, so links to relevant threads would be helpful (in addition to any new responses).