Neither X nor not-X in Buddhist texts

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Neither X nor not-X in Buddhist texts

Postby JamesNewell » Thu May 29, 2014 3:51 pm

Scholars have found that when texts are copied by a series of scribes, the texts drift due to an accumulation of mistakes by scribes. Usually it is said that the texts become corrupt, but I'm not fond of that word in this context. In any case, this produces different texts from different lines of scribes.

Therefore, it is no surprise that a dream last night alerted me to a glitch in the Buddhist literature which seems to indicate one or more mistakes by scribes.

Ancient Indian logic has four categories, not two as in the West. These are true, false, both true and false, and neither true nor false.

Now remembering from what I read several decades ago, the Buddha was asked if he would still exist after final Nirvana. He said "no". Then he was asked if he would cease to exist after final Nirvana, and he again said "no". Then he was asked if he would both exist and not exist, and said no, and then was asked if he would neither exist nor not exist, and he said "no" still again.

In the literature, this is taken to mean that neither the philosophy of Eternalism nor Nihilism is correct.

However, notice that the Buddha was asked about a neither existing nor not existing, and said "no". But neither X nor not-X is what the neither Eternalism nor Nihilism pair is. So there is a glitch in the Buddhist literature there.

Now let us look at the fourth and highest immaterial state described in the Visuddhimagga. That is a state of neither perception nor nonperception, so it is another neither X nor not-X and parallel to the one described above. As I understand it, the state of neither perception nor nonperception is below the state of enlightenment.

"Form is Emptiness and Emptiness is Form" is both X and not X, so is partly similar and partly different from the two above.

Now comparisons often help, so for a comparison, let us look at Kant.

Kant held that only something which transcends space and shapes can perceive space and shapes. To sort of understand this, let us look at an example. The example should not be confused with the limits of small changes in calculus, for near the limits, the changes become INVISIBLE to the eye. So for visible shapes, one cannot make a true circle out of small squares. Therefore, a group of small squares could not be a consciousness perceiving a circle.

All shapes are on one level. It is necessary to move up to a transcendent level for them to be perceived. Kant calls that transcendent which can perceive phenomena the "noumenon".

Now back to the Buddhist literature. The neither X nor not-X defines a transcendent. Thus, since neither perception nor nonperception, and neither Eternalism nor Nihilism are themselves transcendents, and Nirvana is a level above them, then Nirvana seems to be something somewhat like a transcendent of transcendents. That kind of complexity could be confusing to a scribe.

Now on a related matter, the information processing in the brain involves physical movements of ions and neurotransmitter molecules in various changing shapes in space. We can compress this idea to "changing shapes of nerve impulse patterns" in order to make is easier to talk about. The brain's function is limited to those physical changes in the shapes of nerve impulse patterns. Therefore, the brain itself cannot perceive space and shapes, because only something transcendent can perceive space and shapes. The brain can only calculate. Since the brain itself cannot transcend, the brain cannot be conscious.

Consciousness, which does and must transcend, decodes the nerve impulse patterns and overlays them with consciously perceived subjective space and shapes, and so forth.

That is also where evidence for reincarnation comes in. It takes great skills, which in this case operate in the "unconscious" part of consciousness, to decode nerve impulse patterns of up to hundreds of thousands of nerve impulses. For comparison, consider how difficult it is to find the hidden figure in a page of dots on a conscious level, which even of the best quality, contains many fewer dots than the nerve impulses in a nerve impulse pattern. Of course, dots on paper are different from nerve impulses, and we don't have a long history of working with dots on paper. In any case, the skill to decode nerve impulse patterns is so great that it could only have been learned over many lifetimes. That is thus evidence for reincarnation.

There are a vast number of details still to be discovered about what a mind is and how it gets from one brain to another.

If one only wants to become enlightened, it is said that one doesn't have to learn or discover all that knowledge. One can become enlightened just by meditating properly.

However, if one wants to save other beings, it is important to discover everything until one has a full knowledge of consciousness.
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Re: Neither X nor not-X in Buddhist texts

Postby asunthatneversets » Thu May 29, 2014 4:05 pm

Neither X nor not-X does not define nor suggest a transcendent. It suggests that the X which could allegedly exist or not-exist cannot be found to begin with. X is non-arisen.
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Re: Neither X nor not-X in Buddhist texts

Postby daverupa » Thu May 29, 2014 5:42 pm

asunthatneversets wrote:Neither X nor not-X does not define nor suggest a transcendent. It suggests that the X which could allegedly exist or not-exist cannot be found to begin with. X is non-arisen.


This structure of argument can also highlight false dichotomies.
    "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: Neither X nor not-X in Buddhist texts

Postby JamesNewell » Thu May 29, 2014 8:28 pm

The point that the X cannot be found is an astute comment and is very likely correct in some uses of that logical category.

I could always be mistaken. However, my feeling about the use in this context is that the X has been found. The Buddha has found it, and anyone else could find it. Also, the state of neither perception nor nonpercetion is part of the list of meditations which presumably have been found. I can't verify this however because I don't know what neither perception nor nonperception would feel like in my head.

Anyway, your comment should be included in any future research.

The comment about these categories highlighting false dichotomies was also astute. One wonders why Western logic doesn't include such useful categories. What does that say about the Western intellectual system?
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Re: Neither X nor not-X in Buddhist texts

Postby catmoon » Sat Jul 05, 2014 8:31 am

Consider this proposition:

All unicorns are Republicans.

Both the proposition and it's inverse are untrue. This does not indicate some cosmic paradox that might end the universe or lead to enlightenment. It simply indicates that the question and the worldview of questioner are in need of some adjustment.

When Buddha tells us he neither exists, nor does not exist after death, he's not being mystical, he's demonstrating that our concepts of life, death, existence and the afterlife are somehow inaccurate.
Sergeant Schultz knew everything there was to know.
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Re: Neither X nor not-X in Buddhist texts

Postby Jesse » Sat Jul 05, 2014 2:17 pm

catmoon wrote:Consider this proposition:

All unicorns are Republicans.

Both the proposition and it's inverse are untrue. This does not indicate some cosmic paradox that might end the universe or lead to enlightenment. It simply indicates that the question and the worldview of questioner are in need of some adjustment.

When Buddha tells us he neither exists, nor does not exist after death, he's not being mystical, he's demonstrating that our concepts of life, death, existence and the afterlife are somehow inaccurate.


Inaccurate is a bit of an understatement, the real nature of things is pretty much incomprehensible isn't it ? In a way that makes it easier to stop trying to grasp it, that is if we can ever get it through our thick heads haha.

Anyhow it's been a long time since I've seen you post catmoon, how are you?
"We know nothing at all. All our knowledge is but the knowledge of schoolchildren. The real nature of things we shall never know." - Albert Einstein
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Re: Neither X nor not-X in Buddhist texts

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Jul 05, 2014 2:47 pm

Let me remind people that we are in the "Academic Discussion" sub forum and the rules state that:
Academic Discussion Forum Guidelines

The aim of academic argument is to explore a question, a proposition or an area of knowledge and achieve reasoned mutual understanding. It is not important who "wins". What matters most is the quality of the argument itself. Please offer your opinion complete with reason and support from academic sources.
Thank you.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Neither X nor not-X in Buddhist texts

Postby Queequeg » Sat Jul 05, 2014 2:50 pm

Hm. The Buddha's answer in the negative seems to conform to the blowing out of the flame. The problem seems more that there is an assumption that nirvana is some transcendence. The problem seems to be with the proposed problem than with the text. Maybe I'm missing something because I'm just not that sharp.
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