I've asked this in the other thread, but you didn't address it, so I'm bringing it up again with some additions:
davidbrainerd wrote:From the realist position (that matter is real and individuation is real, i.e. Samkhya) the souls would just have always existed and either (1) they were always intermingled with matter, or (2) by ignorane of what it would mean to intermingle with matter, they did so and got stuck.
In the suttas, this formulation comes up many times:
From an inconceivable beginning comes transmigration. A beginning point is not evident, though beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving are transmigrating & wandering on.
It seems that how exactly one got into this mess called samsara didn't matter much to the Buddha.
I don't think it matters so much whether it was always this way or there was time before, but its logical that there would be time before.
Now as to Buddha's position on the subject. Although some suttas may present Buddha as not caring one way or another, and some may present him as hostile to all creation stories or beliefs of any kind about cosmology, at least one sutta features him giving a creation story, Digha Nikaya 27. You'll have to read it for yourself because my summary is from memory, and would probably be fuzzy even if it wasn't. But essentially his creation story there is of heavenly beings of some sort coming down and eating some kind of very light food that was growing on earth, and this gave them a subtle body. Then due to greed that type of food disappeared, and rice replaced it. Originally they took enough rice for their breakfast, then came back in the evening to find it regrown and took enough for supper. Then the got greedy and started harvesting enough rice for all day in the morning, enough rice for two days, etc. Rice responds by not growing as fast. Their bodies get more gross due to eating grosser food, and they become more material, i.e. they become us. You have to read it for yourself. Its surprising consider the big "you're not allowed to think or take any position on anything" sutta that begins Digha Nikaya, that this creation story would come later in the same Nikaya.
binocular wrote:However, if we do posit a soul/self, some problems come up:
Is this self/soul by nature good, or is it by nature bad?
Good and evil are relative to interactions with others. The soul in its own soulness all alone prior to manifestion in the world can be neither because it is isolated.
binocular wrote:What inherent characteristics does it have?
binocular wrote:How does the self/soul act, do anything?
binocular wrote:If it is neither good nor bad, then why bother with anything?
You'll have to explain what you mean on that one.
binocular wrote:How come the soul is ignorant?
Because it had no experiences.
binocular wrote:If ignorance is part of the soul's nature, an inherent characteristic -- then how can it ever hope to overcome it?
Its an interesting question. Remember all the "you can't have a permanent soul because permanent means unchanging" stuff? Well, technically classical Samkhya says the soul is only an observer, does not act, and never changes, so only the budhi or mahat (an intelligent principle made from matter which only reflects the consciousness of the soul) is the only actor. Jainism is essentially based on the same system, but changes that, makes the soul active. My own judgement would be that Samkhya as it survived only makes the soul a passive observer due to Vedanta influence (i.e. the soul is God, so it has to be perfect, and perfect means unchanging) so this corruption can easily be thrown out without a second thought.
I really think Vedanta screwed up both Buddhism and Samkhya. Samkhya ultimately gets transmitted to us by Vedantins, and I've noticed a serious tendency in modern books on it to try and obliterate the plurality of souls into the Vedantin Brahman, whereas older books are very clear that Samkhya disagreed with Vedanta on exactly that point. Vedanta was very powerful, still is, and nearly subsumed Samkhya, and corrupted Buddhism by making them go too far in opposition.
Coëmgenu will love what I'm about to say, but its true. And I don't see a reason to be ashamed of being raised in a rational tradition. Unlike the constant nihilism of "shut up, take no position" at least Protestantism and Catholicism make their points, and studying your way out of them teaches you how to logically analyze contradictory canons. I really think Buddhism suffers from its adherents largely lacking experience with logic or analysis of any kind because its even more frowned on than in Calvinism (which is saying something). Ok, back to what I was going to say: What happened to Buddhism with respect to Vedanta is exactly what happened to Protestantism with respect to Catholicism. Jesus taught baptism, its unquestionable, Mk 16:16, Matt 28 the last verse, etc. But because Catholicism extended baptism to infants which has no precedent in the Bible, Protestantism threw out the baptismal water with the baby baptism, and ends up taking the position that baptism is just some worthless extra, not important. And because Catholicism seems to them to teach "salvation by works," some Protestant movements (Calvinism) threw out free will entirely. In other words, their opposition took them too far. In similar manner, Buddhism in its furor to oppose the Vedantin corporate-self-god decided to throw out all selves, even the one Buddha taught goes to Nirvana. But please, just dismiss that by saying Dhammapada 323 is only poetry or whatever.
binocular wrote:That doesn't mean that positing no self/no soul solves anything, though.
Positing a self/soul, while seemingly solving some problems, opens up a number of other problems.
Well, like you asked earlier "If it is neither good nor bad, then why bother with anything?" I would say that here: With no self, why bother? Just chant emptiness on your rosary 100 times and call it a day.