Buddhist Epistemology

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Re: Buddhist Epistemology

Postby viniketa » Wed Oct 17, 2012 12:58 am

Ikkyu wrote:I've often wondered if the Buddhist epistemic approach is similar to the Jain one...


Similar, not the same:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catu%E1%B9%A3ko%E1%B9%ADi

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Re: I thought Buddhism wasn't about threatening people with Hell

Postby viniketa » Wed Oct 17, 2012 12:59 am

Huseng wrote:The symbols themselves are arrangements of pixels on a screen which if understood are perceived as numbers.


They are simply "understood" as numbers, not perceived as...
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Re: I thought Buddhism wasn't about threatening people with Hell

Postby Indrajala » Wed Oct 17, 2012 1:01 am

viniketa wrote:
Huseng wrote:The symbols themselves are arrangements of pixels on a screen which if understood are perceived as numbers.


They are simply "understood" as numbers, not perceived as...


Semantics.
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Re: I thought Buddhism wasn't about threatening people with Hell

Postby viniketa » Wed Oct 17, 2012 1:05 am

Huseng wrote:Semantics.


Epistemology is highly dependent on semantics...
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Re: I thought Buddhism wasn't about threatening people with Hell

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed Oct 17, 2012 1:58 am

Huseng wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:how are those not perceived through the senses?


1+1=2

The symbols themselves are arrangements of pixels on a screen which if understood are perceived as numbers. The actual process of addition that is perceived is immaterial and not perceived through your senses. It is perceived in the mind.


"It is perceived in the mind"

are you saying that what is perceived in the mind is thus the activity of the mind?
then wouldn't that mean that no object of perception (i.e. addition) is needed?
and if no object of perception is needed, then of what use are examples?
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Re: Buddhist Epistemology

Postby viniketa » Wed Oct 17, 2012 3:48 am

Here is a link to a publication on the Pali Abhidhamma:

Abhidhammattha Samgaha
http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/abhidhamma.pdf

The Sanskrit Sarvāstivādan Abhidharma is longer & more difficult to find...

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Re: Buddhist Epistemology

Postby viniketa » Wed Oct 17, 2012 3:51 am

Here is a good Sanskrit resource that includes many Abhidharma terms, however:

Buddhist Terms
Multilingual Version
Edited by Peter Gäng and Sylvia Wetzel
Buddhist Academy Berlin Brandenburg

http://www.buddhistische-akademie-bb.de ... tTerms.pdf

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Re: I thought Buddhism wasn't about threatening people with Hell

Postby Indrajala » Wed Oct 17, 2012 4:01 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:"It is perceived in the mind"

are you saying that what is perceived in the mind is thus the activity of the mind?
then wouldn't that mean that no object of perception (i.e. addition) is needed?
and if no object of perception is needed, then of what use are examples?
.
.
.


It is a mental object perceived by the mental faculty (mana-indriya). It is not physical. My whole point is that perception or cognition of mathematics is immaterial and non-physical. It is not perceived through your physical sensory apparatus (sight, hearing, etc...).
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Re: Buddhist Epistemology

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed Oct 17, 2012 4:14 am

Actually, getting back to the original post (well, to some of it) the Buddha did advise his followers not to accept as fact something merely because he said it, but to test it out for themselves as a person tests the purity of gold.

That being said, (I love that phrase) there is much especially in the Mahayana texts and perhaps even more in the Vajrayana that one cannot prove empirically, as we say. A good example is the existence of hungry ghosts, or of an entire hungry ghost realm. How can you test that out?

One of the things I think may be unique about Buddhism is that one does not actually have to believe anything in the teachings that one cannot prove to one's satisfaction. One can give the teachings 'the benefit of the doubt" and still remain highly skeptical, and yet still practice meditation and the six perfections and generation of compassion and so on. So, it is not as though the validity of the teachings rests on accepting as fact, for example, that the Buddha was born from his mother's side and took seven steps when he was born and lotuses sprang up from his footprints.

For that matter, one does not really need to believe in rebirth. But I say this not because the concept of rebirth doesn't play an important role in Dharma, but because one's own conceptual definition of rebirth is really all one has on hand to begin with, and so, ultimately, to practice dharma, it is not essential that one accepts one's own (present) understanding (or perception) of things regardless of whether they are imagined or come in through the bodily senses.

In other words, I have no way of verifying rebirth--but this is not because it may or may not be true, but because my own understanding (and thus definition) of rebirth may be severely limited to begin with. So for example, if one's understanding is that Uncle Larry died and came back as my house cat, well, who knows? Maybe yes, maybe no. The fact of not really knowing actually makes it a moot point. proving it one way or another would not have any impact on one's dharma practice. More to the issue, however, would be whether "Uncle Larry comes back as a house cat" is really a good grasp of the concept of rebirth or not.

So, I guess what I am saying is that maybe validating the teachings, or finding a way to validate them is in fact not important, because any means of validation is ultimately suspect, just as much as is a body of teachings that were not even written down until a century after they had been given.
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Re: I thought Buddhism wasn't about threatening people with Hell

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed Oct 17, 2012 4:15 am

Huseng wrote: My whole point is that perception or cognition of mathematics is immaterial and non-physical. It is not perceived through your physical sensory apparatus (sight, hearing, etc...).


Oh, yeah. I'd go along with that.
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Re: Buddhist Epistemology

Postby deepbluehum » Wed Oct 17, 2012 4:19 am

Ikkyu wrote:Split from here:

http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=77&t=8856



@ Huseng and undefineable:

I can't help but feel that I'm reliving the creationists' spouting off "transcendent truths" and how they go beyond science because "science is only concerned with the material". This anti-science rhetoric you've got smacks of the normal religious person's argument when they're backed into a corner of facing irrational beliefs. Yes, in some way it is certainly possible that Buddhist metaphysical theories are true because, yeah, not everything is necessarily a part of the material world. But here's how I'm thinking about it, and just to sum it all up I'll reiterate and condense:

1. We can believe anything without evidence if we already have an underlying notion that anything is in a sense possible because our senses don't fully determine all of reality. ("brain in the vat", Descartes' dream world, etc.) Yes, there are perhaps realities beyond our five senses but in any case wouldn't it be prudent to assume, just for practical purposes at least, that our senses and thus the empirical observations we make with are the most probably the most accurate ways of determining reality that we know of, and thus can't we trust them more than abstract concepts thrown at us from antiquated religious texts? We experience things with our senses. The only reason we know about Buddhism is because we HEARD about it or READ (as in seeing) it somewhere or from someone. We use our SENSES in order to contemplate Buddhism. Buddha used his MATERIAL body in order to convey his ideas. People LISTENED to him using their sense of HEARING. In short, our senses are quite obviously the best way of determining reality and the reality we determine through them is probably, based on the evidence, a material, physical world. That's how we know that meditation-consciousnesses or jhanas take place in the brain, in our neural framework. That's how we know that when we feel empowered or spiritually enlightened by the Dharma it is dopamine being released in our brain causing us to feel happy. Everything we know comes from and is a part of the material, as far as we can directly tell. That isn't to say there may not be a spiritual world beyond the material. There may very well be universes outside of the material one that function in ways we cannot comprehend with our normal state of mind, but how can we infer this with absolute proof? Quantum physics provides some insight into this but to get as detailed as the Buddhist texts do about metaphysical realities seems like sort of a stretch, no?

2. Evidentialism would suggest that instead of believing in bodhisattvas, karma, rebirth, etc. and then working out the evidence as to why these things are true, that a more logical approach would be to learn and gather evidence and come to a conclusion based on that evidence. A priori knowledge clearly doesn't include bodhisattvas, rebirth, etc. We learn these things.

I would actually be very interested in reading about the Buddhist approach to epistemology since there doesn't seem to be a lot written on the subject.


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Re: Buddhist Epistemology

Postby Indrajala » Wed Oct 17, 2012 6:01 am

deepbluehum wrote:The Omniscient one has declared that all there is to know is the six senses and all those senses are just mind.


The model in the earlier discussion mind-body dualism where there is the physical senses and then there is the mental sphere.

Let's not muddy things.
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Re: Buddhist Epistemology

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Oct 17, 2012 7:47 am

Feeling emotions would be another example of non-material perception. Though granted that some can also have bodily sensations associated with them.
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Re: Buddhist Epistemology

Postby Indrajala » Wed Oct 17, 2012 8:04 am

gregkavarnos wrote:Feeling emotions would be another example of non-material perception. Though granted that some can also have bodily sensations associated with them.
:namaste:


The issue of qualia is constantly problematic diehard materialists.

These non-physical processes have causal potency and efficacy, thus rendering theories that the physical world is a "closed system" refuted.
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Re: Buddhist Epistemology

Postby catmoon » Wed Oct 17, 2012 9:56 am

Huseng wrote:
gregkavarnos wrote:Feeling emotions would be another example of non-material perception. Though granted that some can also have bodily sensations associated with them.
:namaste:


The issue of qualia is constantly problematic diehard materialists.

These non-physical processes have causal potency and efficacy, thus rendering theories that the physical world is a "closed system" refuted.


..and for once I completely agree with Huseng. Does this mean we're drinkin' buddies now?
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Re: Buddhist Epistemology

Postby Indrajala » Wed Oct 17, 2012 10:14 am

catmoon wrote:..and for once I completely agree with Huseng. Does this mean we're drinkin' buddies now?


If you mean tea or coffee, sure. :cheers:
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Re: Buddhist Epistemology

Postby undefineable » Thu Oct 18, 2012 3:43 pm

Ikkyu, I'm not talking about truths; I'm talking about things that *might* be true. I'm not bothered about certainty, or about the fact that I'll be dissappointed if the dharma proves to be somehow false.

A lot of it boils down to me *not remembering* the thought processes that brought me to the conclusions about reality that I consider the most likely . I'm pretty sure I remember them being rational, however. For your part, you seem to be looking at Buddhism as if it didn't advocate emptiness, just as physicists do (apart from the Higgs-Boson set!)
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Re: I thought Buddhism wasn't about threatening people with Hell

Postby undefineable » Thu Oct 18, 2012 8:15 pm

Lemme try that last sentence again :juggling: - "For your part, you seem to be looking at Buddhism as if it didn't advocate emptiness, while many physicists (let alone Buddhists) view reality as empty (apart from the Higgs-Boson set, perhaps?!)"

Moving on,

viniketa wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Huseng wrote:Logic, patterns, numbers, language, jhana...


how are those not perceived through the senses?


In what way are they perceived by what sense? These are abstractions. For example, the sounds of language may be perceived by ears, the marks by eyes, but 'language' is intelligible only via the intellect (bodhi).


Maybe this explains much of Buddhism's apparent reduction of everything to Mind - If our senses are functional, then ALL our conscious perceptions are abstractions, but only if our senses are dysfuctional do we have to begin our mental activities with such abstractions, since trains of unconscious activities normally precede them. It's a commonplace to point out that what we sense is not some condensed essence of the sensed matter or energy itself, but a commodification of its dynamics within our world, mediated by our bodies such as to be intelligible to our minds. The more input we receive, though, the more we "know what's going on" - Consider the enormous number of sensed details needed to give one a well-founded 'bad feeling' about someone. On the other hand, where we have no sensory input at all, there's nothing for our brains to abstract from, so no abstractions form in our minds that appear as a result of this vacuum.

catmoon wrote:
viniketa wrote:
gregkavarnos wrote:When it comes down to it, all samsaric sensations are perceived by the sense organ of mind.


However, abstractions are not sensations.

:namaste:


Aren't they? If they are not sensed how do you know they exist?


Surely the cognition of an abstraction constitutes its existence :thinking: - ?!? Padma, I take your point about sensing the workings of the brain, but language gets sketchy here, as I'm sure you'll agree!

viniketa wrote:In Buddhist epistemology, abstractions are kalpanā (invention, imgination), not parikalpita (incorrectly apprehended).


Here, hopefully we return to more conventional examples of abstraction, such as number, which is a good example of what I (atleast) understand by that word - It's 'tied' to sensation, as I argued, since when we first learn numbers, they're always numbers of something we might perceive through our senses _ _
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Re: I thought Buddhism wasn't about threatening people with Hell

Postby viniketa » Thu Oct 18, 2012 9:29 pm

undefineable wrote:Here, hopefully we return to more conventional examples of abstraction, such as number, which is a good example of what I (atleast) understand by that word - It's 'tied' to sensation, as I argued, since when we first learn numbers, they're always numbers of something we might perceive through our senses _ _


Above sounds as if you are describing saṃjñā:
saṃjñā - (ideation, cognitions, discernment, discrimination, idea, notion, perception, conception, associative-thinking, conceptualization)
This is the aggregate of ideas, namely the apprehension (determination) of "marks" (nimitta) such as blue or yellow, long or short, female or male, friend or enemy, and so on. I.14. Samjna is…that which grasps the marks (male, female, etc.) of an object (ii.34b-d). II.24 [AVA: ―This is that which comprehends, by combining conceptually the appearance (nimitta), name (nama) and the signified (artha) [of a dharma]…It is the cause of reasoning (vitarka) and investigation (vicara).


From a source on Vasubhandu's Abhidharmakośa (p. 31).

Also, from the same source:

“The two mental states, sensation and ideas, are defined as distinct skandhas because they are the causes of the roots of dispute, because they are the causes of transmigration, and also by reason of the causes which justify the order of skandhas.” This question arises because the 2nd and 3rd skandhas are actually samskaras (see for example the panca-vastuka scheme) and could have been subsumed under the 4th skandha. They are taught as distinct skandhas because of the key functions they carry out as conditions for cyclic suffering. This point is also expressed in teachings regarding the order of the skandhas which exemplify the special importance of vedana [feeling] and samjna.
(p. 24).


* Another source: A Survey of Buddhist Thought
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Re: Buddhist Epistemology

Postby nilakantha » Sun Oct 21, 2012 7:27 am

Buddhist epistemology (Pramanavada) reaches its most consistent formulation in the works of Dharmakīrti, a seventh century cittamatrin scholastic. A good place to begin is Foundations of Dharmakirti's Philosophy by John Dunne. Sangharakshita's Tattvasamgraha is also very useful in clarifying Buddhist epistemology, especially about the place of Buddhavacana.
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