Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

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Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Dec 18, 2011 8:51 pm

kirtu wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:So the thing is, when someone asks a Buddhist, "what happens to your consciousness when you die?" the appropriate answer should probably be something like: "do you mean the consciousness I had a couple a moments ago, the one I have now, or the one I am likely to have in the next few seconds?


Yeah but they mean what happens to the stream of experience or the stream of mental experience and that continues in some form. Exactly what Bachelor is at least agnostic about.

Kirt


But the thing is, this stream of mental experience also continues...or rather, appears to continue through out our day to day "life" even though the brain chemistry is changing, the molecules are moving around, cells come and go. So, why shouldn't this apparent continuity cease when new cells replace dead ones?

There isn't really a continuous stream at all...it's more like beads on a string (but without the string). "Continuity" is the illusion.

My point is that the entire question is flawed because it presents consciousness as a continuous thing,(mind) as arising from or in conjunction with another continuous thing, (body).
But (my understanding is) The Buddha teaches that this is not really what is happening at all, and further, that this mistaken view is at the crux of the problem of suffering of existence.

If we experienced thought as we do a large flock of blackbirds in the sky, then just as those birds appear as a single dark shape from a distance, we could easily grasp the idea that consciousness isn't a single "thing" after all because just as we know that the dark shape is merely an appearance resulting from an accumulation of blackbirds, we would understand that "consciousness" is just an appearance resulting from an accumulation of aggregates (skandas).

Nobody asks "what happens to that big dark shape in the sky when the birds fly off in different directions?" but this is precisely the question people ask about consciousness, and what happens to it when the body dies.

It's simply the wrong question. It is an understandable question, but wrong.
PadmaVonSamba wrote:Rather, your cognitive awareness is a sort of constantly replicating, ever slightly changing template. One thought follows another in rapid succession, and ordinarily we experience this as a continuum. It is similar to moving picture film, where separate and slightly different still images follow one another at a speed of 24 per second so as to create the illusion of continuous movement.


This looks like i just contradicted myself. But the point is that these are separate instances of arising awareness, each one producing the next. It's sort of like a line of dominoes, each one knocking down the next. It isn't, strictly speaking, a single, constantly -changing consciousness.
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Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Postby kirtu » Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:53 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:There isn't really a continuous stream at all...it's more like beads on a string (but without the string). "Continuity" is the illusion.

My point is that the entire question is flawed because it presents consciousness as a continuous thing,(mind) as arising from or in conjunction with another continuous thing, (body).
But (my understanding is) The Buddha teaches that this is not really what is happening at all, and further, that this mistaken view is at the crux of the problem of suffering of existence.


No that is what happens - one mind moment gives rise to the next mind moment.

If we experienced thought as we do a large flock of blackbirds in the sky,


Thought as we normally conceive of it is different from a mind moment. The Abhidharma goes into this extensively.

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Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Postby Acchantika » Sun Dec 18, 2011 10:06 pm

beautiful breath wrote:If the mind is merely an emergent property of the brain then there is nothing to be re-born nor is there anything to receive the (potentially negative) consequences of this life.


The problem with these kinds of issues is that they use defintional terms across two systems of thought that developed in complete isolation with one another as if the signifiers are synonymous. Awareness, mind and consciousness are used in various different ways within different Buddhist contexts. So if they are not interchangeable, even within the same traditions, they are not going to be easily interchanged with neo-Aristolean philosophy.

The basic answer to the question "Does the Physicalist theory of mind make Buddhism redundant" is no, even if it is conventionally true, which it isn't anyway.

The Physicalist claim is "consciousness emerges from physical brain functions" either synergistically or epiphenomenally.

The first question then is, how are Physicalists defining consciousness? The answer Chalmers gave is: in terms of two aspects, access and phenomenal.

Access consciousness is just the various cognitive functions, like pattern recognition and so on.

Phenomenal consciousness is subjectivity. However, because, in Physicalism at least, critical analysis is reductive, subjectivity needs to be reduced in order to be discussed meaningfully. Therefore subjectivity here only ever means discreet qualitative experiences, called qualia, the smallest reducible units of conscious experience.

Firstly, neither of these are what any Buddhist systems claim continues from one life to another.

Secondly, in relation to the first point, whether or not both of these types of consciousness are reducible to a brain is completely unimportant to Buddhist theory.

So, while a Buddhist may say "minds" are reborn, while a Physicalist may say "minds" emerge entirely in dependence upon a single brain, they are categorically not talking about the same thing, simply using the same terms.
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Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Postby Richard » Mon Dec 19, 2011 3:32 am

Dechen Norbu wrote:Even if the person remained conscious somehow, without brain or body, how would we know? We can't measure consciousness directly.


We detect consciousness in the same way that we detect anything else - with our senses. When a thing has the characteristics of consciousness then we say "it is consciousness". We are ourselves consciousness-o-meters.

In an analogy of sorts, what you're stating is the same as saying that if a primitive man who encountered a TV, knowing nothing about EM waves, destroys it, he will also believe he destroyed the source of information being transmitted by it


If primitive man were intelligent then they would know that they are only destroying the vehicle, rather than the source. Sorry to abuse your analogy, but those are the facts.

Also the EM waves - even if they are known about or inferred by the primitive man - need not represent a problem, since they are completely harmless and ineffectual without TV sets.

Build me a consciousness-o-meter. Then, when you fail to detect consciousness after death, come back and tell me.
Right now you're only dispensing materialist propaganda, metaphysical predilections rooted in a paradigm unfit to deal with consciousness from which all sorts of erroneous assumptions about the nature of consciousness stem.


We are consciousness-o-meters. We detect what we call consciousness and then we call it consciousness. If you completely destroyed your physical brain then I don't think anyone would be detecting your consciousness any more - including yourself.

That's not to say that your consciousness has no consequences, or that it will never arise again in a somewhat recognizable form - though it may never arise again in a somewhat recognizable form.
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Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Postby Richard » Mon Dec 19, 2011 3:36 am

Those who truly believe that consciousness is not dependent on the physical world can test their theory very easily. Simply starve yourself of oxygen for a mere fifteen minutes, and see what happens.
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Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Postby tobes » Mon Dec 19, 2011 4:28 am

Acchantika wrote:
beautiful breath wrote:If the mind is merely an emergent property of the brain then there is nothing to be re-born nor is there anything to receive the (potentially negative) consequences of this life.


The problem with these kinds of issues is that they use defintional terms across two systems of thought that developed in complete isolation with one another as if the signifiers are synonymous. Awareness, mind and consciousness are used in various different ways within different Buddhist contexts. So if they are not interchangeable, even within the same traditions, they are not going to be easily interchanged with neo-Aristolean philosophy.

The basic answer to the question "Does the Physicalist theory of mind make Buddhism redundant" is no, even if it is conventionally true, which it isn't anyway.

The Physicalist claim is "consciousness emerges from physical brain functions" either synergistically or epiphenomenally.

The first question then is, how are Physicalists defining consciousness? The answer Chalmers gave is: in terms of two aspects, access and phenomenal.

Access consciousness is just the various cognitive functions, like pattern recognition and so on.

Phenomenal consciousness is subjectivity. However, because, in Physicalism at least, critical analysis is reductive, subjectivity needs to be reduced in order to be discussed meaningfully. Therefore subjectivity here only ever means discreet qualitative experiences, called qualia, the smallest reducible units of conscious experience.

Firstly, neither of these are what any Buddhist systems claim continues from one life to another.

Secondly, in relation to the first point, whether or not both of these types of consciousness are reducible to a brain is completely unimportant to Buddhist theory.

So, while a Buddhist may say "minds" are reborn, while a Physicalist may say "minds" emerge entirely in dependence upon a single brain, they are categorically not talking about the same thing, simply using the same terms.


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Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Dec 19, 2011 4:51 am

Richard wrote: We detect consciousness in the same way that we detect anything else - with our senses.


Do we detect consciousness with our senses
or do we detect our senses through consciousness?
when you see something in a dream, which of your senses sees it?

Richard wrote: Those who truly believe that consciousness is not dependent on the physical world can test their theory very easily. Simply starve yourself of oxygen for a mere fifteen minutes, and see what happens.


Brain activity is 100% dependent on the flow of blood and the oxygen it carries. Absolutely true.
But brain activity is merely the interaction of chemicals and electricity.
The experiences we "have" are actually just doses of one substance or another,
secreted by glands, into the blood and into the brain.
the chemistry that we experience as fear, that makes us perspire, makes outr hair staind on end, and causes a rapid heart beat, is, as a molecular structure, almost identical to the molecular structure we experience as anger.
That's all a matter of physiology.
Adrenaline, hormones, we're all constantly shooting up!

But this ignores the question, "who is it that experiences this chemical activity?"
who takes those few drops of serotonin and perceives it has happiness?
Does the chemical activity experience itself?
When do the molecules begin thinking?
For that matter, when do any molecules in the universe begin thinking?

The arising of what we call consciousness depends on a living brain.
But the "who" that witnesses and experiences this brain activity,
this "who" that has no true, intrinsic reality,
since it has no real existence,
how can you say it is produced by anything?
.
.
.
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Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Postby Richard » Mon Dec 19, 2011 5:13 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:when you see something in a dream, which of your senses sees it?


Consciousness. And that fact is also ascertained by consciousness. Again, we are consciousness-o-meters.

Richard wrote:
Those who truly believe that consciousness is not dependent on the physical world can test their theory very easily. Simply starve yourself of oxygen for a mere fifteen minutes, and see what happens.


But this ignores the question, "who is it that experiences this chemical activity?"


There is no such thing. That is the Buddha's teaching of "anatma". "No self".

Does the chemical activity experience itself?


Indirectly, yes. It cannot directly perceive itself for the reason that a fingertip cannot touch itself.

When do the molecules begin thinking?

For that matter, when do any molecules in the universe begin thinking?


Whenever they appear to. When your computer becomes so advanced that it appears to be thinking on its own, then we will say It is thinking.

The arising of what we call consciousness depends on a living brain.
But the "who" that witnesses and experiences this brain activity, this "who" that has no true, intrinsic reality, since it has no real existence, how can you say it is produced by anything?


Physical matter has no intrinsic reality. You are speaking about it as though it does.

There is no "who" apart from ordinary things, just as there is no car apart from all the parts that make up a car. That is the Buddha's teaching of "anatma" in a nutshell.
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Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Postby Adamantine » Mon Dec 19, 2011 8:27 am

Richard wrote:
We are consciousness-o-meters. We detect what we call consciousness and then we call it consciousness. If you completely destroyed your physical brain then I don't think anyone would be detecting your consciousness any more - including yourself.



Clearly spoken by someone who never has experienced consciousness outside of a living body. But there are many of us, who have been with people who are dying, with corpses, or in places where there are disembodied consciousness (you can call them spirits, ghosts, etheric entities, whatever) whose so called consciousness-o-meters have gone totally bonkers-off-the-charts. So if you place value in living human-beings as your consciousness-o-meters, you'll have to accept all of these accounts of the consciousness-o-meters showing results that are inconvenient for your thesis: consciousness apparent without physical brains.

And if you only decide to selectively accept or reject the meters' results based on your own assumptions, then your premise is disingenuous.
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Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:02 am

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"When one is not in accord with the true view
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One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Postby Stewart » Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:14 am

Brilliant Greg! :rolling:

I see 'alwayson' is back, and up to the same on another thread, using sock puppets 'Center Channel' and 'Emptiness'....
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Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Postby catmoon » Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:30 am

While we are off the topic: Some of us are seriously considering mass deletion of posts if this sock puppetry does not cease. some are already gone, the one posted under the name "Trev". I'm thinking about deleting every post by every Solway sockpuppet on the board, including those predating the original puppet offense.

While it is verified that emptiness and CC are one and the same, I am open to evidence that both are sockpuppets of alwayson. PM if you have any solid evidence of sock puppetry by any user. If you have trace capabilities exceeding ours, that info is useful too.
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Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Postby Richard » Mon Dec 19, 2011 11:33 am

Adamantine wrote:So if you place value in living human-beings as your consciousness-o-meters, you'll have to accept all of these accounts of the consciousness-o-meters showing results that are inconvenient for your thesis: consciousness apparent without physical brains.

And if you only decide to selectively accept or reject the meters' results based on your own assumptions, then your premise is disingenuous.


People experience all sorts of things, but very often what people experience is a product of their imagination. Samsara itself is one of those things. So we can't trust what people experience. What we need is proof. Give me proof that there are disembodied spirits flying around the place and then I'll believe it. Nobody has ever provided any convincing proof for the existence of such things. My neighbour believes in the existence of such spirits, but he spends all his time going in and out of a hospital for the mentally ill.

Then of course there is the very serious problem that if these spirits are non-physical then there is no possible way they can have any effect on the physical world, and therefore no possible way they could influence us, and therefore no possible way we could detect them.
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Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Postby Dechen Norbu » Mon Dec 19, 2011 3:48 pm

Another sock puppet bites the dust.
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Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Postby Dechen Norbu » Mon Dec 19, 2011 3:55 pm

By the way, his arguments fail the mark. We don't detect consciousness directly. This is not something that can be argued. We detect behavior and electrochemical reactions. A good enough machine could fool us well without being self aware. This is why sometimes people under anesthesia are aware and nobody knows it. Because we can't detect consciousness directly. Neither do we know when the fetus becomes conscious and so on and so forth. KS's arguments are nothing but hot air, written in an authoritative style. They hold no water.
We don't detect any mental phenomena directly unless our own.

Greg, awsome post. :lol:
I think I'll download that image!
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Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Dec 19, 2011 8:56 pm

you could just create a "sock-puppet" category and move all of his posts there. :tongue:
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Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Postby edearl » Tue Dec 20, 2011 12:03 am

Whether rebirth occurs or not, Buddhism is not redundant. Buddhist philosophy is IMO a way to minimize suffering in the world. Thus, Buddhism is needed as much or more than at any other time in history.
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Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Dec 20, 2011 1:48 am

edearl wrote:Whether rebirth occurs or not, Buddhism is not redundant. Buddhist philosophy is IMO a way to minimize suffering in the world. Thus, Buddhism is needed as much or more than at any other time in history.


Re dun dant: from L. redundantem (nom. redundans), prp. of redundare "come back, contribute," lit. "overflow," from re- "again" (see re-) + undare "rise in waves," from unda "a wave" (see water).
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Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Postby wisdom » Tue Dec 20, 2011 4:18 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:you could just create a "sock-puppet" category and move all of his posts there. :tongue:


Then we could all create sock puppets and try to guess who is who on the sock puppet board :spy:
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Re: Does this render the Buddhism redundant?

Postby 5heaps » Fri Dec 23, 2011 12:54 am

beautiful breath wrote:I have always struggled with the Mind/Body issue and have't visited it again up until reading this...

which part did you have the problem with? because as Chomsky points out, "[Isaac] Newton exorcised the machine [ie. the body] and left the mind untouched". this was due to his finding (much to his chagrin) that the world, from planetary motion down to tiny objects, rather than being a machine is in fact governed by invisible "occult forces" aka gravity.

but to answer your question, according to buddhism, there is a 3rd type of phenomena which functions yet is neither physical nor mental.

thus although mental and physical never touch, they will impact one-another when the necessary conditions are met (for people like us, almost always)

Stephen Batchelors idea is not new, its a pretty standard thought. anyone will come across it when studying this material to any half-decent degree

Richard wrote:That is the Buddha's teaching of "anatma". "No self".

a common misunderstanding of buddhism. the buddha did not deny functioning persons, he denied a self to persons--a person that could be unchanging, unitary, and independent of its parts. such a person does not exist but this does not mean persons themselves do not exist (that would be nihilism)
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