Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
User avatar
gavesako
Posts: 1737
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 5:16 pm

Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Post by gavesako » Mon Oct 22, 2012 6:09 pm

daverupa wrote:
gavesako wrote:It is much better to start from our experience rather than from brain physiology when we are investigating the afterlife.'
MN 2 wrote:"This is how he attends inappropriately: ...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?'
It is better not to engage that particular inquiry in the first place, isn't it?

Inappropriate attention leads to wrong view...

(see also my signature; kammapatha includes right view, which is had by attending appropriately to the four truths and dukkha for the sake of the destruction of the asavas - not 'the afterlife')

I think what Sheldrake was talking about is that using the first person perspective, i.e. looking at life from the "inside" rather than an objectified "outside", is much more helpful for actually understanding it. This is similar to Ven. Thanissaro's description here:
Samsara literally means “wandering-on.” Many people think of it as the Buddhist name for the place where we currently live. But in the early Buddhist texts, it’s the answer, not to the question, “Where are we?” but to the question, “What are we doing?” Instead of a place, it’s a process: the tendency to keep creating worlds and then moving into them. As one world falls apart, you create another one and go there. At the same time, you bump into other people who are creating their own worlds, too. ...
It’s true that the Buddha likened the practice for stopping samsara to the act of going from one place to another: from this side of a river to the further shore. But the passages where he makes this comparison often end with a paradox: the further shore has no “here,” no “there,” no “in between.” From that perspective, it’s obvious that samsara’s parameters of space and time were not the pre-existing context in which we wandered. They were the result of our wandering.
http://mettarefuge.wordpress.com/2010/0 ... t-a-place/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

Access to Insight - Theravada texts
Ancient Buddhist Texts - Translations and history of Pali texts
Dhammatalks.org - Sutta translations

User avatar
Alex123
Posts: 3476
Joined: Wed Mar 10, 2010 11:32 pm

Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Post by Alex123 » Mon Oct 22, 2012 7:06 pm

Bhante,
gavesako wrote:There is no funding for so-called para-normal research because this is decided by small committees and reflecting their views.
Maybe it because that current evidence is so against para-normal that we do not study it just like we don't allocate funds to see if Zeus exists or tortoises on which earth swims in universal ocean.
"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..."

User avatar
gavesako
Posts: 1737
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2009 5:16 pm

Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Post by gavesako » Mon Oct 22, 2012 8:58 pm

It is also because we are so used to objectification rather than using the phenomenological approach:
Modern philosophy has a term for thinking in this way: radical phenomenology. The term “phenomenology” is a little daunting, but you probably had your first taste of what it refers to when you were small. At some time during childhood you probably stopped to wonder whether your experience of blue is the same as another person’s experience of blue. You and other people can point to an object and agree that it’s blue, but you can’t get into their experience to see if blue looks the same to them as it does to you. Similarly, they can’t check your experience of blue to compare it with theirs. And neither of you can get outside your experience to see what the blue object “really” looks like. You simply have to accept your sense of blue as the phenomenon it is and leave it at that. That’s phenomenology. In formal terms, it’s the analysis of how experience is directly experienced as phenomena, without getting involved with the questions of whether there is a world “out there” or a self “in here” lying behind those phenomena. It looks at experience “from the inside,” while making the fewest possible assumptions about what lies outside or behind it.

This sort of analysis would be something of an idle issue–how you experience blue is rarely a problem–if it were not for the fact that pain and suffering are also phenomena, and definitely are a problem. And it’s right here that the Buddha focused his attention. He discovered that if you adopt the phenomenological approach to the problem of suffering, you can bring suffering to an end. This is where his teaching differs from modern phenomenology. He doesn’t adopt this perspective simply for the sake of analyzing or describing the experience of phenomena. He puts this perspective to use, manipulating factors directly present to experience to provide a total cure for the primary problem of direct experience: suffering and stress.
...

The tendency to read the categories of objectification into dependent co-arising continues to the present day. Modern-day materialists–who reject the idea that there is a self or soul in the body, and prefer to explain mental events as mere side-effects of biochemical processes–interpret dependent co-arising, with its lack of reference to a self, as compatible with their ideas. This, however, ignores the huge gulf that separates the factors of dependent co-arising from those of a materialist view of the world.

To begin with, the materialist view deals in the categories of objectification. It identifies a person as a being existing in a particular world. It takes the physical world “out there” as real, and regards the processes of the body that can be measured by people or instruments “out there” as the real causes for what is directly experienced to awareness. As for events as they are directly experienced to awareness, the materialist view relegates them to a purely subjective realm, in which the idea of causation from within awareness is regarded as purely illusory. You may think that you’re choosing one course of action over another, for instance, but the choice was actually determined by the chemistry in your body. What you actually are is limited to what people outside, along with their instruments, can measure. In terms of an old debate from the Buddha’s time, materialism maintains that the soul is the same thing as the body. When the body dies, that’s it.

What this means is that–unlike phenomenology, which looks at experience from the inside–materialism looks at it from the outside and holds as real only the aspects of consciousness that can be explained from the outside. This puts materialists in a peculiar position. On the one hand, because they hold that consciousness is simply the by-product of chemical processes, they call into question the idea that consciousness can have an accurate view of the world outside, for–after all–how can the occurrence of a chemical process guarantee that it conveys true knowledge of anything? Yet, on the other hand, they claim that their knowledge of those chemical processes is a proven fact. Where does this knowledge come from, if not from the world outside their consciousness? And when they convey this knowledge to us in their writings, what has it come through if not through their consciousness, whose reality and ability to know they have called into question?

Dependent co-arising, however, takes a very different approach. Instead of taking a stand on whether the soul is the same as the body or something different, it explains experience in terms of processes “right here.” For instance, it sees the experience of the world “out there”–which the Buddha equates with the processes of the six sense spheres (SN 35:82)–as the result of mental processes such as ignorance and fabrication as they are immediately experienced. And as for the experience of the material body, dependent co-arising shows how that, too, depends on mental processes. Even the birth of this body, it describes in non-objectified form, not as requiring a soul independent of the body, but as the result of acts of craving and clinging, which feed acts of consciousness at the same time they feed off acts of consciousness, as they pass from the experience of one life “right here” in consciousness to the experience of the next life (SN 44:9), also “right here.

In other words, from the point of view of dependent co-arising, consciousness is not merely the result of physical processes. It’s what allows the experience of physical processes to occur. At the same time, the craving and clinging dependent on acts of consciousness are what allow for acts of consciousness to experience those processes in a new body after an old body dies.

What’s more, dependent co-arising focuses primary attention on a problem that cannot be detected by people or instruments “out there”: namely, the problem of suffering. No one outside can detect your mental pain. They may know that certain physical processes are accompanied by pain, but only if you report the pain to them. The actual pain is a phenomenological issue.

At the same time, dependent co-arising treats suffering as a problem that can be cured in a phenomenological way: not through the manipulation of biochemical processes, which can’t be directly experienced–you can’t directly detect which chemicals are combining in your brain–but through mental factors such as intention, attention, and perception, which can be directly detected, or as the Buddha says in MN 18, “delineated” as steps in a process. This is a fact of great consequence. The main problem of experience–the suffering that comes from craving, clinging, becoming, and birth into one confining puddle after another–is caused by factors directly present to experience, and can also be solved by factors directly present to experience, without having to look outside of direct experience to material or other causes hidden behind it.
http://www.theravada-dhamma.org/blog/?p=9567" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

Access to Insight - Theravada texts
Ancient Buddhist Texts - Translations and history of Pali texts
Dhammatalks.org - Sutta translations

Mawkish1983
Posts: 1286
Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:46 am
Location: Essex, UK

Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Post by Mawkish1983 » Tue Oct 23, 2012 3:49 am

That wall of text doesn't explain to me why I should consider experience as 'evidence' or 'proof' of anything, as per the OP; especially if that experience belongs to someone else.

User avatar
Kim OHara
Posts: 4975
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Post by Kim OHara » Tue Oct 23, 2012 11:31 am

Mawkish1983 wrote:That wall of text doesn't explain to me why I should consider experience as 'evidence' or 'proof' of anything, as per the OP; especially if that experience belongs to someone else.
Hi, Mawkish,
I'm with you so far as rejecting any one person's subjective experience as 'evidence' or 'proof' of anything beyond the news that they have had the experience.
But one part of that 'wall of text' builds on that very rejection to cast grave doubt on the strictly materialist position you seem to favour:
What this means is that–unlike phenomenology, which looks at experience from the inside–materialism looks at it from the outside and holds as real only the aspects of consciousness that can be explained from the outside.
This puts materialists in a peculiar position.
On the one hand, because they hold that consciousness is simply the by-product of chemical processes, they call into question the idea that consciousness can have an accurate view of the world outside, for–after all–how can the occurrence of a chemical process guarantee that it conveys true knowledge of anything?
Yet, on the other hand, they claim that their knowledge of those chemical processes is a proven fact. Where does this knowledge come from, if not from the world outside their consciousness? And when they convey this knowledge to us in their writings, what has it come through if not through their consciousness, whose reality and ability to know they have called into question?
Have you any way around this difficulty?

:namaste:
Kim

User avatar
daverupa
Posts: 5980
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Post by daverupa » Tue Oct 23, 2012 12:13 pm

  • "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]

User avatar
imagemarie
Posts: 420
Joined: Thu Feb 12, 2009 8:35 pm

Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Post by imagemarie » Tue Oct 23, 2012 1:27 pm

I have been reading Gerald M. Edelman's "A Universe of Consciousness - how matter becomes imagination". And it also seems pertinent to the thread.
I hope this contribution of another "wall of text" is not considered too obstructive ..

Consciousness As A Physical Process

We have argued throughout this book that consciousness arises from certain arrangements in the material order of the brain. There is a common prejudice that to call something material is somehow to refuse it's entry into the realm of exalted things - mind,spirit,pure thought. The word material can be used to refer to many things or states. As it is used in these pages, it applies to what we commonly call the real world of sensible or measurable things, the world that scientists study. That world is considerably more subtle than it first appears. A chair is material (shaped by us, of course), a star is material, atoms and fundamantal particles are material - they are made of matter-energy. The thought "thinking about Vienna", however, while couched in material terms, is a materially based process but is, itself, not material.
What is the difference?
It is that conscious thought is a set of relations with a meaning that goes beyond just energy or matter (although it involves both). And what of the mind that gave rise to the thought? The answer is, it is both material and meaningful. There is a material basis for the mind as a set of relations:The action of your brain and all it's mechanisms, bottom to top, atoms to behaviour, results in a mind that can be concerned with the processes of meaning. While generating such immaterial relationships that are recognised by it and other minds, this mind is completely based in and dependent on the physical processes that occur in it's own workings, in those of other minds, and in the events involved in communication. There are no completely separate domains of matter and mind and no grounds for dualism. But obviously, there is a realm created by the physical order of the brain, the body, and the social world in which meaning is consciously made. That meaning is essential both to our description of the world and to our scientific understanding of it. It is the amazingly complex material structures of the nervous system and the body that give rise to dynamic mental processes and to meaning. Nothing else need be assumed..

:anjali:

User avatar
ancientbuddhism
Posts: 884
Joined: Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:53 pm
Location: Cyberia

Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Post by ancientbuddhism » Tue Oct 23, 2012 5:01 pm

imagemarie wrote:I have been reading Gerald M. Edelman's "A Universe of Consciousness - how matter becomes imagination". And it also seems pertinent to the thread.
I hope this contribution of another "wall of text" is not considered too obstructive ..

Consciousness As A Physical Process ...
Also related to this, Damasio presents an interesting theory on how the brain produces images of bodily experience in his “somatic marker hypothesis”:

“The key idea in the hypothesis is that ‘marker’ signals influence the processes of the response to stimuli, at multiple levels of operation, some of which overtly (consciously, ‘in mind’) and some of which occur covertly (non-consciously, in a non-minded manner). The marker signals arise in bioregulatory processes, including those which express themselves in emotions and feelings, but are not necessarily confined to those alone. This is the reason why these markers are termed somatic: they relate to body-state structure and regulation even when they do not arise in the body proper but rather in the brain’s representation of the body.”

(The Somatic marker hypothesis and the possible functions of the prefrontal cortex, by Antonio R. Damasio)

Also read:

Self Comes to Mind, by Antonio R. Damasio
I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

A Handful of Leaves

Mawkish1983
Posts: 1286
Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:46 am
Location: Essex, UK

Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Post by Mawkish1983 » Tue Oct 23, 2012 5:03 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:...the strictly materialist position you seem to favour
1) When have I stated my own position?
2) How would my position be relevent to the OP?
Kim O'Hara wrote:...Have you any way around this difficulty?
The difficulty, as I see, it one of existentialism. It appears to me like a sort of solipsism arguement is being put forwards.
1) Solipsism cannot be successfully refuted using logic
2) It's not relevent to the OP, i.e. argueing things from a solipsist point of view simply displaces the problem. If I cannot trust anything apart from my own mind, why would I trust the subjective experience of someone else? This is precisely why subjective experience cannot be used as evidence (in the sense of the scientific method), and certainly not proof. My main objection to this whole neurosurgeon issue is that his experience is being presented as 'evidence' or 'proof' when it simply isn't. The fact that this neurosurgeon is suggesting that his experience IS evidence casts doubt on his understanding of the scientific method and, thereofore, doubt on him as a professional. Ad hominem's aside, the simple fact is that this neurosurgeon's perceived experience can be explained using the materialist framework and the only 'evidence' against that framework is his own memory of the experience, which isn't evidence at all.

I'm not argueing for or against a materialist view, I'm not argueing for or against the existance of heavenly realms, I'm not argueing for or against the concept that consciousness/mind/memory can exist independent of the brain. I AM argueing against using subjective experience as evidence. THAT is what I object to.

User avatar
Kim OHara
Posts: 4975
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Post by Kim OHara » Wed Oct 24, 2012 4:47 am

Hi, Mawkish,
I'm sorry if I misinterpreted your position. I wasn't quite sure (which is why I said 'seems to be') but it did seem like a reasonable one-word description of where you were coming from.
Anyway, your prime objection was, "against using subjective experience as evidence," and that was the problem which was stated in a slightly different form in the chunk of text I quoted to you.
If we take the view that subjective experience can never be satisfactory evidence, we can say nothing about the world we experience. But subjective experience is all we've got - all information about the world and about our minds is subjective experience - so that position obviously doesn't work, and we hardly ever act as though it does.
Science, however, insists that that position is not only valid but necessary. It rejects subjective experience in favour of something it believes is objective evidence, although that 'objective' evidence still comes to each person through the same sense doors.
Does [subjective x 10] = [objective]?
Although it doesn't say so, that's the way science like to work. And one cost is that the subjective experience of any one person is unexaminable by science.

It is a real problem and one I don't have a good solution to. Like you, I am reluctant to accept the objective reality of something that has been subjectively experienced by only one person. In practice:
• I accept science when it says something which is within its realm of competence but place less faith in it when it talks about things it doesn't know or can't examine.
• I usually accept subjective experience as evidence when it agrees with others ... which is what science does.
• I have a large mental bin labelled "unproven" and throw a lot of stuff into it. Within it, like sticks to like; and if enough bits stick together I haul them out and put them in the "may be true" bin.
:shrug:
It's the best I can do.

:namaste:
Kim

User avatar
ancientbuddhism
Posts: 884
Joined: Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:53 pm
Location: Cyberia

Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Post by ancientbuddhism » Wed Oct 24, 2012 7:38 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:If we take the view that subjective experience can never be satisfactory evidence, we can say nothing about the world we experience. But subjective experience is all we've got - all information about the world and about our minds is subjective experience - so that position obviously doesn't work, and we hardly ever act as though it does.
Subjectivity applied to demonstrable scientific rigor is not the same as subjective inference.
I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

A Handful of Leaves

User avatar
Kim OHara
Posts: 4975
Joined: Wed Dec 09, 2009 5:47 am
Location: North Queensland, Australia

Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Post by Kim OHara » Wed Oct 24, 2012 10:45 am

ancientbuddhism wrote:
Kim O'Hara wrote:If we take the view that subjective experience can never be satisfactory evidence, we can say nothing about the world we experience. But subjective experience is all we've got - all information about the world and about our minds is subjective experience - so that position obviously doesn't work, and we hardly ever act as though it does.
Subjectivity applied to demonstrable scientific rigor is not the same as subjective inference.
I'm not quite sure what you mean by that, AB. Can you expand upon it?

:namaste:
Kim

Mawkish1983
Posts: 1286
Joined: Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:46 am
Location: Essex, UK

Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Post by Mawkish1983 » Wed Oct 24, 2012 4:26 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:I'm sorry if I misinterpreted your position.
Think nothing of it :)
Kim O'Hara wrote:If we take the view that subjective experience can never be satisfactory evidence, we can say nothing about the world we experience.
To me, that sounds just like the arguements in favour of solipsism. I do, however, see your point. We have instruments that make measurements, but we, as people, read those instruments.
Kim O'Hara wrote:Science, however, insists that that position is not only valid but necessary.
Sorry to nitpick (genuinely), but science does no such thing. Science is a displine, it has no free will and so insists nothing. If I were to interpret what you said as 'scientists insist that the position [that no evidence can ever be objective] is not only valid but necessary', then I would struggle to disagree with you (for the same reasons that the solipsist viewpoint is difficult to argue against).
Kim O'Hara wrote:It rejects subjective experience in favour of something it believes is objective evidence, although that 'objective' evidence still comes to each person through the same sense doors.
Nit picking again, science doesn't reject something, scientists do. Science doesn't favour anything, scientists do. Science doesn't believe in anything, but I'm sure scientists do. This issue of 'sense doors' I've addressed earlier. Extending this line of thinking to its obvious conclusion casts doubt on pretty much everything, with the exception of our own minds.
Kim O'Hara wrote:Does [subjective x 10] = [objective]?
No. Nor does 1000 subjective experiences. Nor does 1000000. Here is an example: the majority of people on the Earth believe in a God, and I assume a large proportion of them will have 'experienced' something to confirm that belief to them (whether it's co-incidences, fuzzy warm feelings, feelings of comfort etc). Does that mean that peoples' experiences consistutes objective evidence for the existence of a God? No. I am not saying God doesn't exist, I'm not saying God does exist. Quite simply, the subjective experience of people is not scientific evidence supporting the notion of a God because:
1) their individual experiences can be explained without the need for a God to exist and
2) their collective experiences do not support a predictive theory that can be tested
Kim O'Hara wrote:It is a real problem and one I don't have a good solution to.
Me neither, and I agree it is a real problem. For me, the problem isn't an issue of whether to trust the evidence that scientists propose (after all, the observations that, collectively, we call evidence must be verifiable by other people so that, given the same initial conditions, the same outcome occurs.) The issue simply becomes a broader question of ontology and existentialism. I'm not a philosopher. I enjoy thinking about existentialism, but only for pleasure.
Kim O'Hara wrote:Like you, I am reluctant to accept the objective reality of something that has been subjectively experienced by only one person
If someone claimed to have experienced something in their dreams, I am happy to concede that they believe they experienced something in their dreams. If someone else, under precisely the same conditions, does not have that experience it casts doubt on its validity. How can precisely the same conditions be made? I don't think they can, which adds an extra dimension to the problem.
Kim O'Hara wrote:• I accept science when it says something which is within its realm of competence but place less faith in it when it talks about things it doesn't know or can't examine.
Science doesn't say anything, but scientists do. I agree, when scientists pontificate beyond their realm of competence (I like that expression), I find it difficult to take what they say seriously.
Kim O'Hara wrote:• I usually accept subjective experience as evidence when it agrees with others ... which is what science does.
Not quite, as explained above. What a scientist calls 'evidence' and what is colloquially called 'evidence' are two different things. For scientists, evidence must be repeatable. This does not mean 'lots of people have experienced the same thing', because the evidence must point towards the prediction of outcomes from a situation.
Kim O'Hara wrote:• I have a large mental bin labelled "unproven" and throw a lot of stuff into it. Within it, like sticks to like; and if enough bits stick together I haul them out and put them in the "may be true" bin.
That's a rather good analogy. I have a similar approach to things. Nevertheless, this neurosurgeon has no evidence and certainly no proof of any afterlife. He is either being deliberately provocative in his language, or he is a 'scientist saying something outside his ream of competence'.

... in my opinion.

User avatar
LonesomeYogurt
Posts: 900
Joined: Thu Feb 23, 2012 4:24 pm
Location: America

Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Post by LonesomeYogurt » Wed Oct 24, 2012 5:02 pm

Mawkish1983 wrote:[No. Nor does 1000 subjective experiences. Nor does 1000000. Here is an example: the majority of people on the Earth believe in a God, and I assume a large proportion of them will have 'experienced' something to confirm that belief to them (whether it's co-incidences, fuzzy warm feelings, feelings of comfort etc). Does that mean that peoples' experiences consistutes objective evidence for the existence of a God? No. I am not saying God doesn't exist, I'm not saying God does exist. Quite simply, the subjective experience of people is not scientific evidence supporting the notion of a God because:
1) their individual experiences can be explained without the need for a God to exist and
2) their collective experiences do not support a predictive theory that can be tested
I'd like to address these two points, if I may.

I agree that the experiences claimed as evidence for God can be explained away without the need for God; in fact, in most cases, the non-God explanation is more reasonable and makes fewer assumptions. However, I do not believe the same holds true for the existence of subjective qualia. The experiences we as human beings have that support the existence of non-physical qualia (which I would argue includes all experience ever) cannot be explained away in a parsimonious or otherwise consistent manner without 1) appeal to that very same qualia, or 2) making assumptions and leaps of faith based in a presupposition of materialism that does not have its basis in the data.

We can observe our experience and see that it does not behave like physical matter, nor does it have a verifiable base in physical matter. Neuroscientists and psychologists agree with me; the only difference is that most of them have a presupposition of materialism because the methods they use require it...which leads me to my next point:

If we posit the existence of a non-physical, phenomenological approach to the existence of qualia, then why on Earth should we be expected to verify our theory through the methodology of the physical, objective approach? This doesn't mean that Buddhism gets a free ride when it comes to demonstrating the validity of a theory - it just means that our methods, which I believe to be just as capable of accurately ascertaining the nature of mental phenomenon as materialism is in dealing with the physical, are not going to fit the testable model in the same way. You're free to argue against the Buddhist methodology, but it cannot simply be discounted because it does not fit the model used to examine unrelated phenomenon.

What I'm getting down to, I guess, is that I see materialism as the opposite side of the solipsistic coin; whereas one says that the appropriate response to ontological uncertainty is the assumption of an all-mental world, the other acts in the same way by adhering, not through evidence or even reason, by through presupposition, to a philosophical position that posits a material base to all things. Both come up against the hard problem of consciousness (or in the solipsist's case, the hard problem of matter) in that neither can explain, in the confines of their worldview, why certain things behave in ways that do not fit their model. Buddhism rejects both dichotomies by making what is, in my mind, the only rational assumption: that what appears to be physical is in fact physical, and that what appears to be experience of the physical is in fact experience of the physical. Buddhism does not have to make any leap of faith, either in finding ways to twist the physical into some sort of debased mental projection, or in finding equally silly ways to paint the experiential as a mystical projection of an assumed physical process for which their is no evidence. The radical empiricism of the Buddha's teachings, the middle path between solipsism and materialism, is the true "scientific" path because it is the only one that follows the evidence instead of molding it to fit a presuppositional worldview that exists not as a reaction to observation but an assumption.
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.

User avatar
ancientbuddhism
Posts: 884
Joined: Fri Apr 01, 2011 12:53 pm
Location: Cyberia

Re: Neurosurgeon's visit to heaven - proof of afterlife?

Post by ancientbuddhism » Wed Oct 24, 2012 5:41 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:
ancientbuddhism wrote:
Kim O'Hara wrote:If we take the view that subjective experience can never be satisfactory evidence, we can say nothing about the world we experience. But subjective experience is all we've got - all information about the world and about our minds is subjective experience - so that position obviously doesn't work, and we hardly ever act as though it does.
Subjectivity applied to demonstrable scientific rigor is not the same as subjective inference.
I'm not quite sure what you mean by that, AB. Can you expand upon it? ...
While it is true that “subjective experience is all we’ve got - all information about the world and about our minds is subjective experience”, mere subjective experience, with its tendency toward inference and assumptions, does not equal discernment into what is real.

Although I think Ṭhānissaro’s article would support that statement, his straw-man on unnamed “Modern-day materialists”, which for our purposes is to be interpreted as science (?), does not square with the analysis of subjective reality for the contemplative as taught by the Buddha which has been met by at least some neuroscience without conflict. The reason for this incongruence may simply be the par-usual of Ṭhānissaro’s agenda for bolstering-up his special interpretations of self and consciousness. In any case, his diatribe is less than helpful or accurate.

With reference to the OP and this tangent, I think that at least some science mentioned in this thread is not rejecting subjectivity as a valid interpretation of experience, but rather is in kind with the Buddha’s approach as sweeping past the mere habit of subjective inference to look at the how of the mechanics of experience.
I say, beware of all enterprises that require new clothes, and not rather a new wearer of clothes.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

Secure your own mask before assisting others. – NORTHWEST AIRLINES (Pre-Flight Instruction)

A Handful of Leaves

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 57 guests