Buddhism as a "rational" religion.

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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m0rl0ck
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Re: Buddhism as a "rational" religion.

Post by m0rl0ck » Fri Jul 06, 2012 7:36 pm

Take a look around at some of the buddhist bulletin boards. Buddhism is no more "rational" than any other religion and probably wont be until they start making more "rational" humans.

"Rational" seems to be almost a dogma of its own and attachment to the idea is a stumbling block.
“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

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Way~Farer
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Re: Buddhism as a "rational" religion.

Post by Way~Farer » Fri Jul 06, 2012 10:53 pm

Nowheat wrote:Materialists do not deem that humanity evolved out of fortuitous events spontaneously developing for no reason. They see a chain of cause and effect, roughly called "survival of the fittest" or "evolution". We came to be as we are out of causes, not spontaneously for no reason. This is also true of the Buddha's explanation for dukkha -- it is not fortuitous or without cause either -- his teaching on dependent arising explains precisely how it happens. People in his day who wanted to ridicule his teachings saw what he was saying as "causeless" just as sunyavadin is seeing the materialist understanding of evolution as causeless; this is simply misunderstanding what's being said.
I beg to differ. The type of explanation sought by evolutionary science must, in principle, be fully reducible to material causation, for example genes, and ultimately chemistry and so on, with no residue. There is certainly 'causation' on that level, but in my opinion, it is not, and never will be, adequate to explain moral facts, such as karma. You will notice, if you are familiar with the literature on evolutionary psychology, that the evolutionary explanations of morality and altruism must always be sought in terms of survival of the species and adaptive necessity. There is no scope for considering anything a moral good in its own right. All such things are in the realm of moral judgements, which, again, are either the product of the requirements of adaption, or are private or subjective matters of conscience.

The key point is that there is no ontological difference between living beings and inorganic matter, which simply happens to arrange itself in such a way as to give rise to living beings, through a fortuitous combination of circumstances. It is basically very similar to the materialism of the early Indian Carvakas, which the Buddhists were well aware of, and which the criticism of 'fortuitous origins' was directed at.

The implication of the materialist outlook was put very eloquently by Bertrand Russell in his great essay, 'A Free Man's Worship':
That man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins -- all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul's habitation henceforth be safely built.

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daverupa
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Re: Buddhism as a "rational" religion.

Post by daverupa » Sat Jul 07, 2012 1:07 am

sunyavadin wrote:The implication of the materialist outlook:
... the soul's habitation...
Something's not quite right here...
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Way~Farer
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Re: Buddhism as a "rational" religion.

Post by Way~Farer » Sat Jul 07, 2012 1:25 am

Yeah I see your point. I think Russell intended a kind of irony in saying that, by deliberately juxtaposing the ideas of a meaningless material universe with the traditional notion of 'soul'.

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daverupa
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Re: Buddhism as a "rational" religion.

Post by daverupa » Sat Jul 07, 2012 1:33 am

What is the Soul?, by Russell.
Although metaphysical materialism cannot be considered true, yet emotionally the world is pretty much the same as I would be if the materialists were in the right. I think the opponents of materialism have always been actuated by two main desires: the first to prove that the mind is immortal, and the second to prove that the ultimate power in the universe is mental rather than physical. In both these respects, I think the materialists were in the right.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: Buddhism as a "rational" religion.

Post by Way~Farer » Sat Jul 07, 2012 1:47 am

And I disagree with him. But I spent two and a half years arguing against materialism on Philosophy Forum so I had better not reopen that particular can of worms :smile: .

//EDIT// Rather like the look of A Brief History of the Soul.
Last edited by Way~Farer on Sat Jul 07, 2012 3:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Alex123
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Re: Buddhism as a "rational" religion.

Post by Alex123 » Sat Jul 07, 2012 2:39 am

sunyavadin wrote:And I disagree with him. But I spent two and a half years arguing against materialism on Philosophy Forum so I had better not reopen that particular can of worms :smile: .

I've tried to hold idealist position, but cannot hold it anymore.

No matter the arguments, we behave as if matter exists. Just try to close the eyes and walk through the wall while imagining that it doesn't exist...

Materialism as opposed to idealism has contributed to a lot of technological progress, so even if arguments for idealism are as powerful, at least materialism has pragmatic results. When it comes to, for example, to pain-blocking, materialistic conception of how pain is produced, works. Pain killers work because they materially block the material impulse traveling from the injured site to the brain.

- Materialism has explanatory power and helps us to function in daily life. We avoid walking into obstacles, we eat when hungry, put on cloth when cold...
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Re: Buddhism as a "rational" religion.

Post by Way~Farer » Sat Jul 07, 2012 3:14 am

I sympathize, but I think what you're proposing is based on a false dichotomy arising from a dualist view of 'mind' and 'matter' as separate substances. I don't think Buddhist philosophy supports a view of that kind. Furthermore, as far as the reality of matter is concerned, science itself has shown that the nature of so-called 'fundamental particles' cannot be conceived of in the terms in which we ordinary understand the idea of matter. As we know, there has been a recent breakthrough regarding the possible existence of a truly fundamental particle. However part of this model also implies a universal 'field'. Quite what 'a field' is, and whether it is, or can be understood, in wholly material terms, is, I think, very much an open question at this point in time.

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Re: Buddhism as a "rational" religion.

Post by Alex123 » Sat Jul 07, 2012 5:13 pm

sunyavadin wrote:I sympathize, but I think what you're proposing is based on a false dichotomy arising from a dualist view of 'mind' and 'matter' as separate substances.
Actually, dualism suffers this problem and what happens from that -> problem of interaction. It is quite possible that there is only one substance, matter (in physicalist sense) that can produce emergent quality such as mind.
Furthermore, as far as the reality of matter is concerned, science itself has shown that the nature of so-called 'fundamental particles' cannot be conceived of in the terms in which we ordinary understand the idea of matter. As we know, there has been a recent breakthrough regarding the possible existence of a truly fundamental particle. However part of this model also implies a universal 'field'. Quite what 'a field' is, and whether it is, or can be understood, in wholly material terms, is, I think, very much an open question at this point in time.
Of course materialism (or physicalism) is a bit more complex than theory that there are "bricks" or tiny balls of matter that constitute everything. Sub-atomic forces, gravity, and strings, for example, are not some tiny indivisible spheres or bricks floating around.
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Re: Buddhism as a "rational" religion.

Post by LonesomeYogurt » Sat Jul 07, 2012 5:22 pm

Alex123 wrote: I've tried to hold idealist position, but cannot hold it anymore.

No matter the arguments, we behave as if matter exists. Just try to close the eyes and walk through the wall while imagining that it doesn't exist...

Materialism as opposed to idealism has contributed to a lot of technological progress, so even if arguments for idealism are as powerful, at least materialism has pragmatic results. When it comes to, for example, to pain-blocking, materialistic conception of how pain is produced, works. Pain killers work because they materially block the material impulse traveling from the injured site to the brain.

- Materialism has explanatory power and helps us to function in daily life. We avoid walking into obstacles, we eat when hungry, put on cloth when cold...
But don't you believe we behave as though mind exists? Just as you can't walk through a wall if you simply imagine that it doesn't exist, you can't not feel an emotion simply by assuming it doesn't exist either.

In reality, we all function, regardless of belief, on the unspoken assumption that both mind and matter exist. I have yet to see a materialist live their life in a way truly consistent with the idea that all mental phenomena have physical causal bases.
Gain and loss, status and disgrace,
censure and praise, pleasure and pain:
these conditions among human beings are inconstant,
impermanent, subject to change.

Knowing this, the wise person, mindful,
ponders these changing conditions.
Desirable things don’t charm the mind,
undesirable ones bring no resistance.

His welcoming and rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
- Lokavipatti Sutta

Stuff I write about things.

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Re: Buddhism as a "rational" religion.

Post by Way~Farer » Sat Jul 07, 2012 10:42 pm

Alex123 wrote: Actually, dualism suffers this problem and what happens from that -> problem of interaction. It is quite possible that there is only one substance, matter (in physicalist sense) that can produce emergent quality such as mind.
Where does this idea occur? What is it that creates this analysis? What defines matter and mind? What is 'matter'? It is defined in 'the standard model' which is an intellectual construction.

Alex123 wrote: Of course materialism (or physicalism) is a bit more complex than theory that there are "bricks" or tiny balls of matter that constitute everything. Sub-atomic forces, gravity, and strings, for example, are not some tiny indivisible spheres or bricks floating around.
Quite right. Which is why 'materialism' doesn't actually mean anything, any more. We have lost sight of the fact that what it used to mean was that 'the eternal and imperishable' comprised the 'fundamental building blocks' of reality. Everything we saw, then, was simply permutations of these eternally existent indivisibles ('a'- not 'tom' - divisible). So now this has become the hope that one day science will reveal all. Instead what we are doing is supercharging samsara. :tongue:

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Re: Buddhism as a "rational" religion.

Post by Alex123 » Sat Jul 07, 2012 11:20 pm

LonesomeYogurt wrote:But don't you believe we behave as though mind exists?
as a complex physical process, yes. But not as substance totally separated from matter.
LonesomeYogurt wrote:In reality, we all function, regardless of belief, on the unspoken assumption that both mind and matter exist. I have yet to see a materialist live their life in a way truly consistent with the idea that all mental phenomena have physical causal bases.
Whenever we make any choice it is done depending on belief. For example, if one feels hungry, one go get something to eat. One doesn't merely imagine oneself being well-fed, some material action is required to stop feeling of hunger. When someone feels sleepy, one could take coffee or other stimulant to feel more alert. Drinking alcohol (physical action) can alter one's state of mind.

If certain part of the brain gets damaged, then certain aspect of mental functioning alters.
If another part of the brain gets damaged, another type of mental functioning alters.

LonesomeYogurt, when you get cold - do you imagine warm temperature, or do you put on more cloth?
If you are thirsty, do you imagine water or do you actually drink it?
If you are hungry, do you imagine food or do you actually eat it?


Now tell me if we live in material or idealistic world.
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Alex123
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Re: Buddhism as a "rational" religion.

Post by Alex123 » Sat Jul 07, 2012 11:25 pm

sunyavadin wrote:Where does this idea occur? What is it that creates this analysis? What defines matter and mind? What is 'matter'? It is defined in 'the standard model' which is an intellectual construction.
It occurs in the brain.

Thought is a complex action of matter in the brain which is why it can be altered if the functioning of the brain is altered.

This is why if the brain gets damaged, so does intellect and behaviour.

If one takes a hammer and hits one's thigh hard, one will not pass out unconscious. But if one hits one's head in a certain spot...
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Re: Buddhism as a "rational" religion.

Post by Way~Farer » Sun Jul 08, 2012 12:20 am

Alex123 wrote:
sunyavadin wrote:Where does this idea occur? What is it that creates this analysis? What defines matter and mind? What is 'matter'? It is defined in 'the standard model' which is an intellectual construction.
It occurs in the brain.

Thought is a complex action of matter in the brain which is why it can be altered if the functioning of the brain is altered.

This is why if the brain gets damaged, so does intellect and behaviour.

If one takes a hammer and hits one's thigh hard, one will not pass out unconscious. But if one hits one's head in a certain spot...
If you hit a television with a hammer, it will stop transmitting. But drama and comedy don't originate with the television. And if you take a brain, removed from the context of a living body which exists in an environment, what you have is complex organic matter which is inert. It doesn't do or contain anything. Conversely, the brain can be reconfigured by the application of conscious attention and is also capable of re-configuring itself after accident or injury, both of which indicate 'top-down causation'.

I am curious as to why you are interested in the subject of this particular forum, if you advocate a materialist view? Surely you're aware that Buddhism, right from day one, did not support materialism?

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Alex123
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Re: Buddhism as a "rational" religion.

Post by Alex123 » Sun Jul 08, 2012 12:32 am

sunyavadin wrote:If you hit a television with a hammer, it will stop transmitting.
TV does not transmit, it converts signal into audio/video

sunyavadin wrote:But drama and comedy don't originate with the television.
The signal, is material, so are actors, camera, setting, etc. If they are gone, the show is gone.

sunyavadin wrote: Conversely, the brain can be reconfigured by the application of conscious attention and is also capable of re-configuring itself after accident or injury, both of which indicate 'top-down causation'.
Yes, neurons in the brain can rewire themselves. This process is purely physical. As you may know, there is problem of interaction. If we posit only one substance, then there is no problem of interaction.

sunyavadin wrote:I am curious as to why you are interested in the subject of this particular forum, if you advocate a materialist view? Surely you're aware that Buddhism, right from day one, did not support materialism?
I am having my little "crisis of faith" (at least into idealism/dualism) after being aware of more and more facts.
"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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