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PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 3:30 pm 
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Materialists have an entirely consistent and developed theory of mind...i.e. that it exists only as activity across the synapses.


Whether that is an adequate theory is another question.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 4:55 pm 
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Simon E. wrote:
Materialists have an entirely consistent and developed theory of mind...i.e. that it exists only as activity across the synapses.


Whether that is an adequate theory is another question.


They can claim it but they can't explain it.
All I can ever find is descriptions of brain activity.
I have yet to find an explanation for the arising of an awareness,
which is not material, not physical, which only exists in time but not space,
that witnesses that brain activity, and experiences it as itself.

If everything is physical matter,
then nothing can be produced which is not physical matter.
.
.
.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 7:07 pm 
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Excuse me for replying to my own post. I needed to add something.
PadmaVonSamba wrote:

They can claim it but they can't explain it.
All I can ever find is descriptions of brain activity.
I have yet to find an explanation for the arising of an awareness,
which is not material, not physical, which only exists in time but not space,
that witnesses that brain activity, and experiences it as itself.
If everything is physical matter,
then nothing can be produced which is not physical matter.
Excuse me for replying to my own post. I needed to add something.
It might be argued,
"A trumpet is also a physical object, yet from it arises sound, which also is
not material, not physical, which only exists in time but not space,
and this would be a good counterargument, as these are true.
However, the trumpet only produces waves of vibrations in air molecules,
which then vibrate the ear drum,
which sends an electric (neurological) signal to the brain.
But as the Heart Sutra says, "no ear...no sound"
meaning that within all of this bodily tissue, no hearing is actually taking place.
Just vibrating ear drums.
When a tree falls in the forest,
it doesn't make a sound.
It provides all of the conditions which are perceived, either immediately, or by a recording device,
as sound.
Likewise, the brain may provide all of the conditions needed to produce
something which is perceived as a cognitive awareness to itself
but, to the best of my knowledge, it hasn't been shown to actually produce that cognitive awareness.
Thus, when you hear a tree fall or a trumpet play,
You hear tree or trumpet.
You don't experience "I am hearing my eardrums vibrate".
.
.
.

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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 7:10 pm 
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It does not matter what ontological position anyone holds to, mind is utterly dependent on the "physical." The easiest (but cruel and unethical) way demonstrate this would be to isolate a mind, however you define a mind, from the "physical." For example, if all sense input (connection to "material" world) were cutoff from any of us, but the brain were physically sustained (cells given necessary nutrients), the mind would rapidly degenerate. So in a very real way, the mind is nothing other than the physical world, of which an infinitely small portion is reflected in the brain.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 7:47 pm 
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PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Simon E. wrote:
Materialists have an entirely consistent and developed theory of mind...i.e. that it exists only as activity across the synapses.


Whether that is an adequate theory is another question.


They can claim it but they can't explain it.
All I can ever find is descriptions of brain activity.
I have yet to find an explanation for the arising of an awareness,
which is not material, not physical, which only exists in time but not space,
that witnesses that brain activity, and experiences it as itself.

If everything is physical matter,
then nothing can be produced which is not physical matter.
.
.
.

You stated that materialist have no explanation of mind. They do, but it is not one that would appeal to most Buddhists.
It is that the mind as such does not exist..that the convention called the mind is a series of physical events. That is what is taught in every psychology course and psychology module.
The existence of the awareness you describe which is not material or physical would be utterly rejected


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 8:44 pm 
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I think Simon's comments on the materialist position on the existence (or rather nonexistence) of mind as such accurately describes the state of the scholarship (or at least the pedagogy!) of contemporary psychology. I think there is some variance depending on the discipline in which materialism is deployed or described, however. Philosophical materialists might take (and some do take) a different tack. Cultural Studies, for instance, is tied to a radically materialist ontology, but remains committed to a dialectic of "consciousness and conditions" (stuart hall's term). Which is to say that you have materialists positing the existence of such a thing as consciousness. Whether it is tied to the brain or to social phenomena (the so called "political unconscious") is another matter.

I think this is why those of us with a background in the humanities are more comfortable with materialism as a concept or a way of making knowledge than those of us in the behavioral or mind sciences. Max Weber or Walter Benjamin are easier to draw to your bosom than Daniel Dennett if you are committed to a Buddhist position.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 8:53 pm 
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Certainly, I was addressing those disciplines which would logically seem to ask questions about the nature of mind.
A recent study discovered that theories of mind were now in terms of UK Universities the domain of Humanities and Arts faculties.
They are no longer taught in medicine, psychology or other science courses.
Therapies like CBT are intellectually respectable because they are not posited exclusively on " mind " events.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 8:59 pm 
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Simon E. wrote:
Certainly, I was addressing those disciplines which would logically seem to ask questions about the nature of mind.
A recent study discovered that theories of mind were now in terms of UK Universities the domain of Humanities and Arts faculties.
They are no longer taught in medicine, psychology or other science courses.
Therapies like CBT are intellectually respectable because they are not posited exclusively on " mind " events.


Indeed! That's how it is here in the States, too. Lacan (for instance) is discussed intensively in the humanities, and completely disregarded in psychology departments.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 10:17 pm 
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Simon E. wrote:
It is that the mind as such does not exist..that the convention called the mind is a series of physical events. That is what is taught in every psychology course and psychology module.


Indeed it is, and it violates even common sense. This is one of the reasons that Penrose called his book on he subject 'The Emperor's New Mind' - that is, the notion that mind doesn't exist is quite as ridiculous as the Emperor believing himself clad in invisible garments.

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 10:29 pm 
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shel wrote:
It does not matter what ontological position anyone holds to, mind is utterly dependent on the "physical." The easiest (but cruel and unethical) way demonstrate this would be to isolate a mind, however you define a mind, from the "physical." For example, if all sense input (connection to "material" world) were cutoff from any of us, but the brain were physically sustained (cells given necessary nutrients), the mind would rapidly degenerate. So in a very real way, the mind is nothing other than the physical world, of which an infinitely small portion is reflected in the brain.


If mind is utterly dependent on the physical, then to isolate a mind would be impossible.

There is an option which this statement overlooks, which is that
non-physical causes of cognitive awareness
manifest as "mind" in response to the specific physical conditions
in whose context they arise,
in much the way that your reflection only appears in a (physical) mirror when a mirror is there,
accurately or distorted, depending on the flatness of the mirror,
but could also appear in a pond, if the water is not moving,
but is not produced by either mirror or pond.
The pond and mirror do not cause your reflection,
otherwise they would produce images on their own,
or would store reflections.
You, as the cause of your reflection, are there whether there is a reflection available or not.

In other words, it isn't what we call "mind" until it is manifest in a way that we recognize it,
corresponding to the attributes of a (relatively) physical world.
Up until that time, it is merely a cause of mind.
but this does not mean it is anything permanent in itself, not a soul or spirit, either.

And the reason why it is not illogical to suggest this,
is because, as I mentioned, thoughts, awareness, cognition, only arise for short durations of time
if even that, and do not occupy any physical space whatsoever.
It is true that we can map out specific areas of neurological activity
in physical areas of the brain corresponding to different thought patterns.
But all we are doing is seeing how the doorbell works.
This does not include an explanation of who hears it ringing.
.
.
.

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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.


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PostPosted: Thu Feb 21, 2013 11:17 pm 
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PadmaVonSamba wrote:
shel wrote:
It does not matter what ontological position anyone holds to, mind is utterly dependent on the "physical." The easiest (but cruel and unethical) way demonstrate this would be to isolate a mind, however you define a mind, from the "physical." For example, if all sense input (connection to "material" world) were cutoff from any of us, but the brain were physically sustained (cells given necessary nutrients), the mind would rapidly degenerate. So in a very real way, the mind is nothing other than the physical world, of which an infinitely small portion is reflected in the brain.


If mind is utterly dependent on the physical, then to isolate a mind would be impossible.

The same reasoning applies to everything, right? and if that's the case we could only mean effectively isolating anything. The effect of cutting off all sense input [from the physical world] to the human brain would be rapid degeneration.

Quote:
There is an option which this statement overlooks, which is that
non-physical causes of cognitive awareness
manifest as "mind" in response to the specific physical conditions
in whose context they arise,
in much the way that your reflection only appears in a (physical) mirror when a mirror is there,
accurately or distorted, depending on the flatness of the mirror,
but could also appear in a pond, if the water is not moving,
but is not produced by either mirror or pond.
The pond and mirror do not cause your reflection,
otherwise they would produce images on their own,
or would store reflections.
You, as the cause of your reflection, are there whether there is a reflection available or not.

This isn't inconsistent with the example given. A reflection isn't the product of a mirror by itself, it requires something to reflect.

Quote:
In other words, it isn't what we call "mind" until it is manifest in a way that we recognize it,
corresponding to the attributes of a (relatively) physical world.
Up until that time, it is merely a cause of mind.
but this does not mean it is anything permanent in itself, not a soul or spirit, either.

And the reason why it is not illogical to suggest this,
is because, as I mentioned, thoughts, awareness, cognition, only arise for short durations of time
if even that, and do not occupy any physical space whatsoever.

What space does a reflection in a mirror occupy?

Quote:
It is true that we can map out specific areas of neurological activity
in physical areas of the brain corresponding to different thought patterns.
But all we are doing is seeing how the doorbell works.
This does not include an explanation of who hears it ringing.

I understand they've mapped out areas of the brain responsible for a sense of self, if that's important to the topic.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 1:57 am 
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shel wrote:
A reflection isn't the product of a mirror by itself, it requires something to reflect.
Exactly.
Quote:
thoughts, awareness, cognition, only arise for short durations of time
if even that, and do not occupy any physical space whatsoever.

What space does a reflection in a mirror occupy?

None, only the illusion of depth. Again, my point exactly.

shel wrote:
I understand they've mapped out areas of the brain responsible for a sense of self, if that's important to the topic.

"responsible for a sense of self" means what?
Again, just like a mirror, which also provides a sense of self.
the point is, where is the "who" that is looking?
All they have been able to map out is where the lights in the brain go on and off, so to speak.\
But that is not the experience beings have.
If it were, we might just as well imagine ourselves as brains,
and the cause of suffering would be that we are trapped inside little round dark boxes made of calcium.
.
.
.
.
.
.

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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 2:04 am 
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PadmaVonSamba wrote:
shel wrote:
A reflection isn't the product of a mirror by itself, it requires something to reflect.
Exactly.
Quote:
thoughts, awareness, cognition, only arise for short durations of time
if even that, and do not occupy any physical space whatsoever.

What space does a reflection in a mirror occupy?

None, only the illusion of depth. Again, my point exactly.


I must have misunderstood you. I thought you were saying that there was an option which my example overlooks.

Quote:
shel wrote:
I understand they've mapped out areas of the brain responsible for a sense of self, if that's important to the topic.

"responsible for a sense of self" means what?
Again, just like a mirror, which also provides a sense of self.

The metaphor doesn't really work here, because a mirror does not have a sense of self. There are many sentient creatures which cannot recognize themselves in a mirror, because they lack the capacity.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 3:23 am 
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shel wrote:

The metaphor doesn't really work here, because a mirror does not have a sense of self. There are many sentient creatures which cannot recognize themselves in a mirror, because they lack the capacity.


The metaphor does work, because, likewise, nothing in the brain has a sense of self.
Whether other beings have any concept of 'self' whatsoever is not the point.
There is nothing in a physical being that is, for example, attracted to food,
yet, a being may (or may not) respond to a chemical reaction in the brain as "hunger".
.
.
.

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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:49 am 
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PadmaVonSamba wrote:
shel wrote:

The metaphor doesn't really work here, because a mirror does not have a sense of self. There are many sentient creatures which cannot recognize themselves in a mirror, because they lack the capacity.


The metaphor does work, because, likewise, nothing in the brain has a sense of self.


I don't know what you mean by that. I do like the metaphor though. The mirror, and the world it reflects, are all that is and there doesn't seem to be anything else. The mirror does not reflect what which cannot reflect or emit light. What reflects or emits light, I sorry to report, is all material. :(


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 10:40 am 
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But there is no image without a subject to interpret it. Whatever material entity you wish to endow with reality depends upon the minds' ability to designate, describe, and impart meaning. Furthermore the nature of light itself cannot be described in material terms, as shown by the famous wave-particle experiments, in which the role of the observing subject is inextricably intertwined with the experimental result.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 12:50 pm 
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Great thread with some good points raised. In my opinion materialist views work well enough for those outside of buddhism who hold them but I have problems with materialists who try to re-write chunks of Buddhism to fit with 'modern' thinking.

This article covers a fair bit of what I mean:
http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2010/10/a- ... d-buddhism’s-new-rationalists/
A materialist is forced to distort buddhism in order to make it fit a modern, scientific (and therefore rational) world view.

Important assumption: Buddhism teaches No Self. This chimes very nicely with the idea that 'self' is the non-existing construct of electrical impulses in the brain. But look again, Buddha taught anatta Not-Self. In other words the realisation that the objects we cling to do not constitute us, the release of the grasping thereof being liberation from the suffering this grasping brings.

But No Self is also important for the Buddhist/materialist for another reason. It is the scriptural "support" for his denial of a continuum or transmigration from life to life. The alternative must be some kind of migrating Atman right? A Soul or Spirit is refuted by all Buddhists, so the materialist is on safe territory here.

Well, not quite. Buddha spoke extensively about his past lives, which causes an uncomfortable problem. Still, this can be explained away in terms of moment-to-moment consciousness, ie the child I was has died and the adult I am is reborn, the thought I had five minutes ago etc. etc. Whilst this is fine as a tool to observe or mind and map our behaviour, it doesn't exactly fit with the past-life material in the suttas or sutras, if we are honest about it. We can hear the materialist peg starting to grind as it's being rammed into the Buddhist hole.

So, does self exist or not exist? Both exist and not exist or neither exist nor not exist? Buddha was never drawn on any of these ontological positions. Ultimately belief in, or refutation of self, is a mental distraction Buddha never participated in.

So what practical difference does any of this make? The reason I have a problem with it, is that it distorts the teachings and thus pre-supposes outcomes. Not a problem for an experienced practitioner but very confusing and misleading for newcomers. Over the years I've seen certain 'authoritative' Buddhists tell aspirants such things as they should avoid Jhana as it is dangerous/ not suitable for our times/ Buddhist dope. I've witnessed all kinds of stuff being pushed as 'what Buddha taught' and I feel sorry for newbies who take this kind of thing on faith. Doubt is one of the worst obstacles any of us face on the path and the accusation that Buddhism is "Life-Denying" sticks when we look at what materialists make of it.

There is a responsibility to present a balanced view, so as not to prejudice the experience a newcomer could gain. If materialists wish to use buddhist principles as a therapy for this life, it's fine. Why not? But I find their insistence on being 'right', and their stigmatization of those who hold another view, to border on fundamentalism.

The irony of the situation is that an authentic past life recall would be the best teaching on anatta anyone could ever have. What clearer way to directly demonstrate the extent of that which we do not own.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 1:36 pm 
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shel wrote:

I don't know what you mean by that. I do like the metaphor though. The mirror, and the world it reflects, are all that is and there doesn't seem to be anything else. The mirror does not reflect what which cannot reflect or emit light. What reflects or emits light, I sorry to report, is all material.


Yes, what I mean is that what is ordinarily referred to as the mind, is actually a secondary effect composed of the relatively existent phenomena involved, and an awareness of that relatively existent phenomena.

So, for example, the adrenal gland sends the brain a dose of molecules
in response to the vibration of the ear drum
caused by a wave of air molecules suddenly produced by a barking dog.
Basically, a domino effect. What is experienced is sound,
and perhaps some panic or fear.
So, yes, all of these things are material.

But no physical explanation is shown for why these merely electric-chemical events are experienced as sound and panic, meaning that there is no accounting for the experiencer, or witness and interpreter of these physically occurring events.

Ordinarily, people say it is the mind that experiences these things, and then try to find where the mind is.
My understanding of the Buddhist view is that mind arises both with, and as these interactive experiences.
So, mind cannot be isolated, or separated from awareness,
even awareness of dreams or abstract thoughts, which have no other physical reality to them.
So, mind arises as a combination of subject and object (the metaphor of reflection in a mirror)
neither of which has any finite, or inherent reality to them both empty of intrinsic existence.

Typically then, the materialist rebuttal would be,
"Well, if on the one hand, you say you have all this physical stuff, and on the other hand, something that you call "awareness" that is observing all this physical stuff, and you call that arising of observation "mind", you still have to account for what this "awareness" is.

My understanding is that identifying what awareness is in unnecessary,
because awareness is totally self-referential,
but when enlightened, with no "self' involved,
and simply is, and frequently referred to as "original mind" or"unborn mind" (Bankei),
and that this is where it all ends.
Or if you prefer, where it all begins, for the Buddhist.

...probably a very unsatisfactory answer for the materialist.
.
.
.

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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.


Last edited by PadmaVonSamba on Fri Feb 22, 2013 1:44 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 1:43 pm 
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I'd like to suggest a video pertaining to this discussion. It is an interview with Rupert Sheldrake where he discusses the "science delusion" and the ideologically driven collective it has become which dogmatically promotes fundamental materialism despite evidence often showing faults in such a model:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqaATPAnTZQ

"Modern science is based on the principle of give us one free miracle and we'll explain the rest."

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 22, 2013 6:14 pm 
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jeeprs wrote:
But there is no image without a subject to interpret it.

No "image," sure.

Quote:
Whatever material entity you wish to endow with reality depends upon the minds' ability to designate, describe, and impart meaning.

Like a mirror is dependent on something to reflect, in order to be a mirror, I've tried to show that the mind is entirely depended on 'something to reflect' or sense data. There is no mind without sense data, as there is no mirror without something to reflect. Also both are limited to what can be 'reflected' and by the capacity of the 'reflector'.

Quote:
Furthermore the nature of light itself cannot be described in material terms, as shown by the famous wave-particle experiments, in which the role of the observing subject is inextricably intertwined with the experimental result.

Personally I'm not so interested in polarized distinctions between what is or isn't material. We have a very limited capacity to perceive and understand what goes on around us, and in any case it's all impermanent. Heaven and hell, and all realms between, are no less impermanent in nature than a physical world.


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