The "Materialist View"

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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Tue Feb 19, 2013 6:15 pm

jeeprs wrote:I agree that that post. That says pretty well all I would want to say on the topic.

shel wrote: The options would seem to be:

A) If the brain contained any memories or thought to begin with, in the absence of anything else (sense input) it would soon degenerate into nothing.

B) The brain would be sustained by non-physical sense data, so a mind would emerge, or be sustained indefinitely if a mind were already present.


Sorry - I had missed this post when I responded to the one posted subsequently.

From what you have said, I think you're not really acquainted with materialist or physicalist theories of mind. They state that the act of thought, itself, can be understood solely in terms of neural mechanisms, the transfer of substances across membranes, and so on. Of course they acknowledge that in the case of the human brain, the processes are immensely complex, but in principle it is understandable through neurobiological analysis, with no residue. The two main forms that materialism takes in modern thinking is this one - the neurobiological - and the evolutionary approach, which is that humans are the outcome of a non-directed, essentially fortuitous material process which can be understood solely through scientific method, in principle, anyway.

However it is not really productive to explain a viewpoint for the sole purpose of saying what's wrong with it. SteveB also linked to some reviews of current criticisms of physicalism in this post. It includes mention of a recent book by UK philosopher, Raymond Tallis, who has the advantage of in-depth knowledge of neuroscience, having been medically trained. He also is not pushing a religious cause, as he is a self-described 'proud atheist'. See also http://www.catholiceducation.org/articl ... ap0396.htm for an in-depth review


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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby muni » Tue Feb 19, 2013 8:00 pm

The antidote for this materialistic outlook is peace, the opposite of stress.

http://www.mipham.com/teachings.php?id=32
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby undefineable » Tue Feb 19, 2013 8:03 pm

shel wrote:The people you describe here as "materialists," who believe that mind is nothing other than the activity of neurochemicals, that living beings are simply material in nature, have most likely not really investigated the matter or put much thought into it. And in their day to day lives it doesn't seem to make any difference. What they find meaningful is simply different from what you find meaningful. It is not any less meaningful.


What you're saying is that -as Padma suggested- many materialists don't feel that they know that the nature of mind is material, if -by 'know'- one means something one has fully investigated with one's mind. It's simply an uninformed belief like any other in this case.

From a scientific or (more broadly) intellectual point of view, this really won't do :soapbox: , but then life is about infinitely more than science and intellect, which in some schools of thought (which I sympathise with) are in themselves a kind of "death in life" in any case.

I'm not sure I agree, say, that the composition of cellulose is ultimately no less or more meaningful than the nature of mind, if only because the one describes a far narrower category of phenomena than the other.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Tue Feb 19, 2013 8:12 pm

undefineable wrote:
shel wrote:The people you describe here as "materialists," who believe that mind is nothing other than the activity of neurochemicals, that living beings are simply material in nature, have most likely not really investigated the matter or put much thought into it. And in their day to day lives it doesn't seem to make any difference. What they find meaningful is simply different from what you find meaningful. It is not any less meaningful.


What you're saying is that -as Padma suggested- many materialists don't feel that they know that the nature of mind is material, if -by 'know'- one means something one has fully investigated with one's mind. It's simply an uninformed belief like any other in this case.


What I wrote is rather plainly stated. But in the last sentence I should have said it's not necessarily any less meaningful.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby 5heaps » Tue Feb 19, 2013 10:08 pm

shel wrote:And in their day to day lives it doesn't seem to make any difference. What they find meaningful is simply different from what you find meaningful. It is not any less meaningful.

from the buddhist pov mental objects constantly appear but their quality of awareness is not ascertained.
having failed to ascertain the nature of their awareness, false conceptions arise regarding awareness.

this has a massive impact on day to day living. for example a materialist will never achieve the mental health of someone with samadhi or dhyana. they will never experience non-hedonistic satisfaction. they will never be able ascertain the qualities of mind and more importantly they will never work towards accumulating the causes and conditions needed to ascertain the qualities of the mind, since by definition they think it is pointless.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Tue Feb 19, 2013 10:15 pm

Materialists believe that working towards non-hedonistic satisfaction and mental health is pointless?
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby 5heaps » Tue Feb 19, 2013 10:34 pm

shel wrote:Materialists believe that working towards non-hedonistic satisfaction and mental health is pointless?

no, "working towards accumulating the causes and conditions needed to ascertain the qualities of the mind" is considered pointless.
have failed to work on accumulating the causes and conditions needed there will be no dhyana.
have failed to achieve dhyana the qualities of the mind cannot be directly ascertained (and there will be no non-hedonistic satisfication. all satisfaction will only be so-called saitisfaction which is nothing other than sense pleasure derived from external objects)


throw in a serious case of not being able to achieve basic samadhi (perfect single-pointed concentration) where a person has the mental strength to concentrate on an object, at will, for as long as they desire, completely effortlessly, and you have a relatively mentally healthy person who is considered highly dysfunctional from the pov of a practitioner
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Tue Feb 19, 2013 11:06 pm

5heaps wrote:
shel wrote:Materialists believe that working towards non-hedonistic satisfaction and mental health is pointless?

no, "working towards accumulating the causes and conditions needed to ascertain the qualities of the mind" is considered pointless.


If you're saying that this work leads to mental health and non-hedonistic satisfaction, which have practical value, I don't see why a 'materialist' would consider such work pointless.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby steveb1 » Tue Feb 19, 2013 11:27 pm

shel wrote:
steveb1 wrote:I think this is the issue's crux. There is no secular counterpart. Intellectual enlightenment is as far as secular psychological evolution can take the "ordinary secular modern person" - for the simple reason that secularism does not admit of a soul or spiritual nature in humans. No soul or spirit means no soul or spiritual evolution/transformation.


Hi Steveb1,

If this is the crux of the matter then we should be clear about it, yes? You use the terms "soul or spirit," but it's not clear if you regard these terms as synonymous or distinct in meaning. What exactly do you mean by "spirit"?


I'm no philosopher, as we're about to find out, but anyway:

Soul = the Jungian psyche, the subjective ego, the personal and the collective Unconscious, the "archetypal realm", the "psychoid realm"; where spirit and matter meet and intertwine. Where "God is seen" as Meister Eckhart said: "God is seen in the soul"; conversely, where "earth elementals" and primal forms are seen, per psychoactive spiritual/drug experiences (Terence McKenna, Stanislov Grof, etc.).

Spirit = the mostly dormant human function or "organ" which - after awakening of "the Eye of Contemplation" or "the Eye of Spirit" - partakes in what remains after the ego is transcended; enlightenment, experienced buddha nature; where soul and spirit meet and intertwine. Participation in divine union wherein "atman" is not separate from "brahman", where personhood is not separate from buddhahood, where human is not separate from God or divinity.

shel wrote: "If this is the crux of the matter then we should be clear about it"

It's clear at least to me that secularism denies soul and spirit, affirming only soma, the "rational intellect", and matter. That's what I mean by "no soul/spirit no possibility of transformation in those realms", i.e., denial of spirituality is automatically denial of a nonmaterial entity that can undergo transformation. The body, brain and brain-bound mind in this system can undergo transformation, but there is no spiritual entity whatsoever.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby 5heaps » Tue Feb 19, 2013 11:42 pm

shel wrote:
5heaps wrote:
shel wrote:Materialists believe that working towards non-hedonistic satisfaction and mental health is pointless?

no, "working towards accumulating the causes and conditions needed to ascertain the qualities of the mind" is considered pointless.


If you're saying that this work leads to mental health and non-hedonistic satisfaction, which have practical value, I don't see why a 'materialist' would consider such work pointless.

because, as i said, this is only accomplished by people who ascertain the qualities of the mind
not ascertaining the qualities of mental objects which appear, materialists form differing conceptions regarding these mental appearances.
having formed differing conceptions it is extremely difficult to train in a method which one considers mistaken and contrary to ones materialist views.
ergo they miss out on unprecedented practicality and quality of day to day living (much more than anything technology has delivered), which was the original point
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Techno Yogi » Thu Feb 21, 2013 1:16 am

shel wrote:It seems to me that the materialist view is purely a reasoned philosophical position and is not something that can be assumed in others. What I mean is that just because someone describes themselves as an atheist, for example, it doesn't necessarily follow that they hold a materialist philosophical position. Does anyone agree with this?


Theoretically, yes. It's possible to be an Idealist or a Dualist atheist, for example.

In practice, the vast majority of self described "atheists", "Brights", "free thinkers", etc, are hardcore materialists/physicalists. There are a few philosophers out there, like Thomas Nagel, who are both atheist and non-materialist, but they are for the most part obscure academics.

shel wrote:What is other than, or the opposite of a materialist view? Is it only idealism?


The opposite of materialism (the metaphysical view that reality is material or physical in nature) would be idealism (the metaphysical view that reality is mental or spiritual in nature). During the 19th century various forms of idealism were quite popular in philosophical circles, but this largely died out around the early 20th century.

Other potential metaphysical views include various forms of dualism (the metaphysical view that there is a material reality and a mental reality, which are separate), monism (the metaphysical view that "all is one" - there are many versions of this).

shel wrote:What practical difference does it make if someone has a materialist view or any other ontological view?


Metaphysical or ontological views are a "thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. [They are] accompanied by suffering, distress, despair, & fever, and [they] do not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation; to calm, direct knowledge, full Awakening, Unbinding." To the Buddhist practitioner, they are something to be relinquished.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Thu Feb 21, 2013 1:43 am

provided that the alternative isn't cluelessness..... :smile:
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Techno Yogi » Thu Feb 21, 2013 1:54 am

jeeprs wrote:provided that the alternative isn't cluelessness..... :smile:


No, the alternative is direct knowledge, enlightenment, freedom.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Feb 21, 2013 2:29 am

shel wrote:Materialists believe that working towards non-hedonistic satisfaction and mental health is pointless?


The materialist view is that imbalances in physical brain chemistry
(as opposed to, say, past karma or evil spirits) produce mental illness.

I don't know that "non-hedonistic satisfaction", whatever that actually means, has much to do with materialism one way or another.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Thu Feb 21, 2013 2:33 am

Techno Yogi wrote:
jeeprs wrote:provided that the alternative isn't cluelessness..... :smile:


No, the alternative is direct knowledge, enlightenment, freedom.



Well, I agree (and welcome to Dharma Forum by the way). But the point that needs to be made is that many people operate with materialist assumptions and views about life, without any real awareness that they have them. These then are vikalpas that are strongly reinforced by the cultural milieu. So if you simply speak of 'abandoning views' without, in some sense, deconstructing those vikalpas, then the result might well be 'social conformity' rather than 'direct knowledge, enlightenment, freedom'.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Techno Yogi » Thu Feb 21, 2013 3:09 am

jeeprs wrote:
Techno Yogi wrote:
jeeprs wrote:provided that the alternative isn't cluelessness..... :smile:


No, the alternative is direct knowledge, enlightenment, freedom.



Well, I agree (and welcome to Dharma Forum by the way). But the point that needs to be made is that many people operate with materialist assumptions and views about life, without any real awareness that they have them. These then are vikalpas that are strongly reinforced by the cultural milieu. So if you simply speak of 'abandoning views' without, in some sense, deconstructing those vikalpas, then the result might well be 'social conformity' rather than 'direct knowledge, enlightenment, freedom'.


Thanks for the welcome. :)

The quotation I posted earlier should be seen in the broader context of both the Sutta it was taken from and the contours of Buddhist practice (which of course encompasses Right View).
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Thu Feb 21, 2013 5:30 am

Techno Yogi wrote:
shel wrote:What practical difference does it make if someone has a materialist view or any other ontological view?


Metaphysical or ontological views are a "thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. [They are] accompanied by suffering, distress, despair, & fever, and [they] do not lead to disenchantment, dispassion, cessation; to calm, direct knowledge, full Awakening, Unbinding." To the Buddhist practitioner, they are something to be relinquished.


They are, and all the worse when polarized, sometimes expressed as "a tendency to 'demonize' those who are 'outside the fold'."
Last edited by shel on Thu Feb 21, 2013 5:40 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Thu Feb 21, 2013 5:39 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
shel wrote:Materialists believe that working towards non-hedonistic satisfaction and mental health is pointless?


The materialist view is that imbalances in physical brain chemistry
(as opposed to, say, past karma or evil spirits) produce mental illness.

No, it is obvious that conditions outside the narrow range of brain chemistry are part.

I don't know that "non-hedonistic satisfaction", whatever that actually means, has much to do with materialism one way or another.

It doesn't, clearly. Hedonism means self-indulgent, so non-hedonistic satisfaction would mean something like selfless satisfaction, or basically the satisfaction of generosity to others.

So call 'materialists' are not necessarily nihilistic, nor are they necessarily selfish.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby 5heaps » Thu Feb 21, 2013 12:54 pm

n
shel wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:I don't know that "non-hedonistic satisfaction", whatever that actually means, has much to do with materialism one way or another.

It doesn't, clearly. Hedonism means self-indulgent, so non-hedonistic satisfaction would mean something like selfless satisfaction, or basically the satisfaction of generosity to others.

So call 'materialists' are not necessarily nihilistic, nor are they necessarily selfish.

there is also the attachment to the senses. pleasure/satisfaction that is derived either directly or indirectly from sense objects. even the compassion of people attached to sense pleasure (hedonists) is necessarily hedonistic.

this is compared to the equanimity, bliss, peace, etc, born of concentration. these are formed entirely in the skillful absence of contact with the senses.

materialists are necessarily hedonistic, because if they are ever able to shut down the sense consciousnesses and attain dhyana they will be able to ascertain the qualities of mind ie. bring about a cessation to their materialist view
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Feb 21, 2013 2:16 pm

There is a jumble of three terms here, Nihilism, Materialism, and Hedonism,

Strictly speaking, Nihilists would argue that
things do not exist in order to fulfill any kind of "purpose".
They are just there.
The example I used before was that fire is merely fire.
It isn't fulfilling any sort of "purpose".
God didn't put fire on earth
for the purpose of keeping people warm.

Materialists must likewise argue that, ultimately,
things do not exist in order to fulfill any kind of "purpose".
This is because purpose is an imputed thing,
and in a purely physical or material world
imputation could not arise.
This is why the purely materialist view has trouble
reconciling a material-only reality with the fact of cognitive awareness
(they can't explain the nature of mind).

These arguments do not exclude relative purposes,
for example, that the purpose of a hard eggshell is to protect the developing duck inside,
but ultimately, that there is no purpose ("divine reason") for ducks to exist.

But a hedonist would argue that there is a purpose,
that the purpose of life is to indulge in pleasure,
and that the purpose of objects is to satisfy that indulgence.
The purpose for a duck is to be eaten.
A hedonist might argue that there is no purpose in denying pleasure,
that there are no moral or ethical reasons for, what you say,
"non-hedonistic satisfaction".
No reason to assume seeking pleasure at any expense is wrong.
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