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PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2012 1:27 am 
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dharmagoat wrote:
Acchantika wrote:
As Dechen alluded to, in either case you have created a bigger problem than what you set out to solve and violated parsimony. The consequence of which is that the equation is meaningless. If you cannot show how something quantitative and non-conscious becomes something qualitative and conscious then by trying to solve a problem of neuroscience you have created one of ontology and metaphysics. If they are different, what is their relationship? If they are they same, why do they share no properties? If one emerges, is it causative or not? If not, why posit it? If it is, we now have a second mechanism of interaction to explain, before we have explained the first yada yada yada

Fair cop. My suggestion that mental function and brain activity are "one and the same" was an expedient I didn't expect to get away with. How about "two aspects of the same process?"


Then we have substance dualism and are still left with the same or similar problem of how two substances of a discreet ontological order interact. More never-ending conceptual bullshit, in my personal opinion.

Quote:
The important distinction to make is that the two arise mutually, i.e. where there is one there is always the other. Conversely, no brain activity means no mental events, and no mental events means no brain activity.


Not a criticism, but you don't seem to value generalisations versus specifics. That's cool; but, just as neuroscientists, philosophers and Buddhists won't agree that the difference between "some" and "all" as qualifiers is "hair-splitting", they won't agree that the relationship between specific mental events and neural activity therefore means all mental events are equatable with neural activity. You can damage every section of the brain, incapacitating specific functions, but you can't ever remove consciousness, only consciousness of function x. In other words, we have only shown that the given precept, and cause thereof, is associated with brain function, not the reflexive self-awareness that apprehends it, which is independent of whatever area of the brain we remove. Hence why one of the most agreeable attributes of consciousness is intentionality; its ability to "about" things while being independent of that-which-it-is-about. It cannot be "about" what a nervous system cannot represent to itself due to brain damage and so on.

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Causation does not occur because neither is causing the other, and any equation describing their relationship will be meaningless.


You are describing their relationship by saying they are co-emergent. So, you are saying your own argument is meaningless.

You seem to me to be advocating eliminativism: neural activity and a given conscious experience are exactly equivalent and thus there is no relationship to be described. In which case, the subjective experience of consciousness is a complete falsehood, and cannot derive meaningful conclusions. Therefore, since eliminativism is mediated via subjective consciousness and derived thereof, it cannot be trusted and is consequently a meaningless conclusion.

That said, if we accept that causation does not occur, in the Madhyamakan sense, then we have ruled out emergence in any capacity as a possibility. Novel attributes cannot arise from a cause that does not itself arise.

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PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2012 1:51 am 
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dharmagoat wrote:
Acchantika wrote:
Except that when we remove the part of the brain correlated with the activity, you can still do it, or learn to do it using a different part. Therefore, A and B are not one and the same if A's job can be done by C and still result B.

Let me be specific for a moment.


I do appreciate that you have gone to the trouble of referencing real examples and I'm not cutting your quote to be dismissive, but because I don't personally dispute whether there is a correlation between activities that are conscious and parts of the brain. The point is, to use an example: I don't think jellyfish, which don't have brains at all, can form language or have the necessary biological features to do so. But I cannot rule out that they are not conscious in some sense, nor does any empirical evidence associating cognitive functions with the brain.

As soon as you equate consciousness with these kinds of higher-order functions, you rule out the possibility of any other animals possessing sentience, except perhaps apes. That means dogs, bees, jellyfish, sharks and all of these seemingly responsive beings do not experience, because experience is only possible as a consequent of higher-order mammalian functioning that they all lack. This not only makes consciousness pointless but makes it epihenomenal and thus impossible to posit - since an epiphenomena has no causal efficacy, and so cannot cause you to suggest it. These are just some of the problems entailed by taking neural correlates to a superficial conclusion, which is really my only point. This secret echelon of scientists who all agree that consciousness is reducible to a human brain and "that's that" doesn't exist, except on the Internet.

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PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2012 2:15 am 
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undefineable wrote:
Most of us aren't really into this sciencereligion blah; human beings just yearn for a deeper understanding of their reality and seek it wherever their temperament feels the best chance of finding it. Neither science nor individual religions ever seem to see fit to revise their guiding principles (faith, experimentation, etc.), but atleast with religion-in-general you tend to see progress at that level as cultures advance, e.g. from the aryan gods through vedic Hinduism to to the progressive yanas of Buddhadharma as they unfolded (or alternatively to Advaita Vedanta). In fact, it's not always easy to see the links between the likes of Buddhism, the abrahamic religions, and old-time gung-ho paganism, whereas science (as opposed to quasi-RELIGIOUS philosophies inspired by scientific findings _ _ ) seems all of a piece.

I see science and religion as distinct paths toward uncovering the reality behind what we experience on a mundane level. Both can be pursued in an institutional setting or a more personal setting, and both can suffer corruption at the hands of fundamentalism. In many ways the two are complementary, each correcting the shortcomings of the other. Both serve to challenge the other's belief base and encourage review of their conclusions. On the personal level, I suggest that both are required to keep an individual on a straight course between either extreme of faith, these being the materialism of science and the idealism of religion.

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PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2012 3:16 am 
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Acchantika wrote:
Quote:
Causation does not occur because neither is causing the other, and any equation describing their relationship will be meaningless.


You are describing their relationship by saying they are co-emergent. So, you are saying your own argument is meaningless.

You seem to me to be advocating eliminativism: neural activity and a given conscious experience are exactly equivalent and thus there is no relationship to be described. In which case, the subjective experience of consciousness is a complete falsehood, and cannot derive meaningful conclusions. Therefore, since eliminativism is mediated via subjective consciousness and derived thereof, it cannot be trusted and is consequently a meaningless conclusion.

Well, Acchantika, you are certainly keeping me on my toes, I appreciate your feedback.

If I had the opportunity to rewrite what I have written above, I would have said "There is no causal relationship between them, so of course any equation describing this relationship will be meaningless."

As far as consciousness (i.e. awareness) is concerned, I have chosen to avoid including it in what I have been describing as mental function, and therefore make no assertion either way as to whether it can be attributed to specific activity in the brain. From what I have gathered, if it does have a physical basis in the brain as I suspect, its corresponding activity will be far more diffuse than what brain scanning techniques are presently able to resolve.

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PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2012 3:44 am 
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dharmagoat wrote:
Acchantika wrote:
dharmagoat wrote:
But neuroscience has revealed how so much of a person's mental functioning can be attributed to specific brain activity.
dharmagoat wrote:
I am surprised that he accepts the idea that "mental functioning can be attributed to specific brain activity"...

You removed the qualifier "so much of" to imply "all". This changes the statement quite a lot; versed this way, it is indeed disputed.

Hair-splitting.

Acchantika wrote:
Neuroscientists, philosophers and Buddhists won't agree that the difference between "some" and "all" as qualifiers is "hair-splitting"

Lets put to rest this niggly little detail. Observe how the phrase of "so much of" in my original statement has been reduced to "some" in the last line above. In my statement "so much of" can include "all", whereas "some" certainly can't.

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PostPosted: Thu May 31, 2012 4:38 am 
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Acchantika wrote:
As soon as you equate consciousness with these kinds of higher-order functions, you rule out the possibility of any other animals possessing sentience, except perhaps apes. That means dogs, bees, jellyfish, sharks and all of these seemingly responsive beings do not experience, because experience is only possible as a consequent of higher-order mammalian functioning that they all lack.

I agree, and see no reason why consciousness (i.e. awareness) could not be shared by other animals.

I found this particularly interesting:
Dexing wrote:
The lecturer, Jay Gunkelman, is not a philosopher but is one of the worlds top neuroscientists and has specialized in qEEG and EEG neurofeedback for over 20 years. A pioneer in many areas of research related to the brain and its function.

In this video, Gunkelman describes how consciousness can be identified by emergent properties between the DC field potentials "glial"
and neural system "eeg rhythms" and how they interact to form consciousness.

It's a scientific theory based on indications happening inside the brain, not just a philosophical opinion without base.


It would appear that any animal with a brain would similarly experience consciousness, to the degree that they possess mental processes to be conscious of.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 2:00 am 
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dharmagoat wrote:
I agree, and see no reason why consciousness (i.e. awareness) could not be shared by other animals.



It would appear that any animal with a brain would similarly experience consciousness, to the degree that they possess mental processes to be conscious of.


However, there are many renowned neuroscientists who would disagree, arguing that consciousness, as qualitative experience, is impossible to explain if it is not unique to a human or higher-mammalian brain. V.S. Ramachandran for example.

The mere fact that they disagree demonstrates that there is no unambiguous conclusion entailed by contemporary evidence.

Quote:
If I had the opportunity to rewrite what I have written above

I am glad that you are willing to upgrade your thoughts and integrate my opinions where considered valid.

But you don't have that opportunity unfortunately, dharmagoat. You forsook it when you declared yourself a de facto spokesman of science and disentitled yourself to your own opinion. Correcting it means that either you don't know or there is more than one possibility. Either way, you are forced to accept that you are not in a position to claim that your beliefs are somehow based in something more meaningful than mere conjecture and faith if you are not sure what they are.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 2:31 am 
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Acchantika wrote:
The mere fact that they disagree demonstrates that there is no unambiguous conclusion entailed by contemporary evidence.

Nor is their agreement necessary, unless one relies on the conclusions of others. I prefer to interpret the information for myself.
Quote:
If I had the opportunity to rewrite what I have written above

Acchantika wrote:
I am glad that you are willing to upgrade your thoughts and integrate my opinions where considered valid.

But you don't have that opportunity unfortunately, dharmagoat. You forsook it when you declared yourself a de facto spokesman of science and disentitled yourself to your own opinion. Correcting it means that either you don't know or there is more than one possibility. Either way, you are forced to accept that you are not in a position to claim that your beliefs are somehow based in something more meaningful than mere conjecture and faith if you are not sure what they are.

Steady on. My purpose here is to construct a sound argument that may be of interest to others that are exploring this issue. Up to this point your feedback has been particularly helpful. I am unfamiliar with the rules you are now playing by.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 1:44 pm 
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dharmagoat wrote:
Acchantika wrote:
The mere fact that they disagree demonstrates that there is no unambiguous conclusion entailed by contemporary evidence.

Nor is their agreement necessary, unless one relies on the conclusions of others. I prefer to interpret the information for myself.


Then we are in agreement - scientific evidence has not reached a consensual conclusion about the origin of consciousness, and all personal views are equally based in a lack of evidence, with no one view representing "the perspective of science". Hence the evidence for your view cannot be overwhelming, nor can one level non-agreement with it as a consequence of religious motivation as oppose to critical and legitimately scientific thinking. :twothumbsup:

Quote:
Steady on.


I apologise if I came across belligerently.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 2:27 pm 
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Acchantika wrote:
dharmagoat wrote:
Acchantika wrote:
The mere fact that they disagree demonstrates that there is no unambiguous conclusion entailed by contemporary evidence.

Nor is their agreement necessary, unless one relies on the conclusions of others. I prefer to interpret the information for myself.


Then we are in agreement - scientific evidence has not reached a consensual conclusion about the origin of consciousness, and all personal views are equally based in a lack of evidence, with no one view representing "the perspective of science". Hence the evidence for your view cannot be overwhelming, nor can one level non-agreement with it as a consequence of religious motivation as oppose to critical and legitimately scientific thinking. :twothumbsup:

Hang about. There is no lack of evidence, just differing interpretations. Does everyone have to agree on something for it to be the most plausible idea? What is this "perspective of science" you are talking about? Who has claimed there is such a thing? As much as I would like to agree with you, it is too early to start waving thumbs around.

A good example of a sound scientific theory (or is it now considered scientific fact?) on which not everyone agrees is evolution. There will always be people that will disagree over something that is glaringly obvious to the majority of others. Richard Dawkins deals with these people all the time.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 2:40 pm 
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Acchantika wrote:
...scientific evidence has not reached a consensual conclusion about the origin of consciousness, ...

Evidence does not reach a conclusion, people do. How can I take your argument seriously if you state things like this?

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 3:31 pm 
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dharmagoat wrote:
Acchantika wrote:

Hang about. There is no lack of evidence, just differing interpretations. Does everyone have to agree on something for it to be a sound theory? What is this "perspective of science" you are talking about? Who has claimed there is such a thing?


You stated:

Quote:
But neuroscience has revealed how so much of a person's mental functioning can be attributed to specific brain activity. Reliable evidence for this is accumulating like never before. But no amount of evidence can influence someone who is unwilling to accept its validity, which seems to be the case with so many people "of faith".


The implications of this paragraph are: 1) neuroscience has revealed the truth of a reductionist, physicalist model of mind 2) those who deny it do so only out of religious motivation and 3) you as an individual are in a position to make this claim and defend independent of being associated with a particular set of assumptions. These three points are what I consider to place a large onus on you, worthy of response, and have thereafter tried to show to be false.

Quote:
A good example of a sound scientific theory (or is it now considered scientific fact?) on which not everyone agrees is evolution. There will always be people that will disagree about something that is glaringly obvious to the majority of others. Richard Dawkins deals with these people all the time.


There is no debate within the scientific community itself about evolution as a theory, as a scientific fact is an oxymoron. The people who debate it are solely religiously motivated, by their own admission. There is also nothing suggested by the evidence for evolution to posit anything else, a crucial difference. Micro-evolution is publicly observable, unlike subjectivity.

People who disagree that consciousness is reducible and/or physical do so based on the evidence itself or lack thereof and often have no religious allegiance whatsoever. This debate exists within science and philosophy itself, among people who are actually in the fields. It is universally accepted within the scientific and philosophic community that this debate exists and is valid, unlike the evolution "debate". Moreover, evolution is a theory in biology, in science. Physicalism/reductionism is a theory in philosophy. One is falsifiable, the other is not. So the examples are not comparable on any level at all.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 3:42 pm 
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dharmagoat wrote:
Acchantika wrote:
...scientific evidence has not reached a consensual conclusion about the origin of consciousness, ...

Evidence does not reach a conclusion, people do. How can I take your argument seriously if you state things like this?


Of course evidence reaches a conclusion. Scientists collect data, not evidence. Data becomes evidence when it is imbued with meaning i.e. content. This requires a conclusion about 1) the relevance of the data to reality 2) the efficiency of the method used to obtain the data and 3) the ability of the scientist to contextualise the data.

I tried to explain this before, but you became agitated. Okay, man. I am not trying to impose some view onto you or annoy you. I am just saying: this is how science works, these distinctions are important, these are not just language games. If you want to believe that science "just" decodes reality independent of assumptions, then cool, do so. But if you are looking for this truth thing then not examining these beliefs and dismissing those who do is not going to be beneficial, in my personal, amicable and ultimately inconsequential opinion. You don't have to take me seriously to find value in what I'm saying, which is that all this is just a very complicated kind of attachment and not truth.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:07 pm 
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Acchantika wrote:
The implications of this paragraph are: 1) neuroscience has revealed the truth of a reductionist, physicalist model of mind 2) those who deny it do so only out of religious motivation and 3) you as an individual are in a position to make this claim and defend independent of being associated with a particular set of assumptions. These three points are what I consider to place a large onus on you, worthy of response, and have thereafter tried to show to be false.

You seem over-attuned to reading implications that are not there. You read "truth of" when I write "evidence for", read "only out of religious motivation" in a neutral observation, and insist that I "claim" when I make a special point of making no such claims or assertions.

Acchantika wrote:
People who disagree that consciousness is reducible and/or physical do so based on the evidence itself or lack thereof and often have no religious allegiance whatsoever. This debate exists within science and philosophy itself, among people who are actually in the fields. It is universally accepted within the scientific and philosophic community that this debate exists and is valid, unlike the evolution "debate".

I have actually left the question of consciousness well alone except for a few casual observations. If you were keeping track as you purport, you will have noticed this.

I expect all this nit-picking is all getting boring for others. I suggest we give it a rest. I won't if you won't. Deal?

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 4:17 pm 
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Acchantika wrote:
I tried to explain this before, but you became agitated. Okay, man. I am not trying to impose some view onto you or annoy you. I am just saying: this is how science works, these distinctions are important, these are not just language games. If you want to believe that science "just" decodes reality independent of assumptions, then cool, do so. But if you are looking for this truth thing then not examining these beliefs and dismissing those who do is not going to be beneficial, in my personal, amicable and ultimately inconsequential opinion. You don't have to take me seriously to find value in what I'm saying, which is that all this is just a very complicated kind of attachment and not truth.

I am open to the truth, of course. It may have been a mistake to reach the conclusion that you were wasting my time on this forum. I would like to hear your criticisms of my stance equally well presented from another party. Anyone?

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 01, 2012 8:38 pm 
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this is quite an interesting thread, too bad there is more argumentation than investigation! then again, it is a webforum that's supposed to try to increase knowledge right?

i'm not a scientist, but i've been knocked unconscious a few times. due to some of the cause n effect nature to memory, it's difficult to recall anything during those times. But, i can say, from my last major concussion, i woke up on the ground answering peoples questions about whether or not i was ok. in which i kept saying "oh yea, i'm fine!" meanwhile blood was pouring down the side of my head, and i had no idea either. science has been somewhat helpful over the years, but not very much.

anyways, the following is an excerpt of an interview conducted back in 1999, so please forgive me if progress has been made.

the subject is about the self and consciousness and i thought i might enhance this thread, not start arguments.

first off COS is Claus Otto Scharmer, then there are translators speaking for Master Nan Huai Chin.

"COS (to Zhao): I know that I have asked my question already four times. But I do not think that I’ve got the answer yet. So if I was to ask one more question, I would ask this question a fifth time. Do you think I should?
Professor Zhao: Go ahead.

X. On the Origin of the Self

COS: My last question concerns the nature of self. What is the nature of the self, both the self with the small s and the Self with the capital S – what is the nature of these selves and where is the source from which they originate, both individually and collectively?

Huai-Chin Nan
Master Nan/Professor Zhao: The small self and the big Self come from the same source. The mind comes from the same thing. One origin for both of them. The whole universe is just one big Self. Religious people call it God. Philosophers call it the fundamental nature. Scientists call it energy. Buddhists call it the Atma. Chinese call it the Tao. The Arabs call it Allah. So every culture, in a sense, they know there’s something there, ultimate something.

Religious people, we just personalize this. Make him like a person, like a god. Okay, so this god is this supernatural, has all these super capacities, etc. That’s religion. Philosophers use logic to analyze it and try to get down to the bottom of the conclusion. The scientists want to uncover or try to find the big Self in all of this, you know, the physical research, etc. If you really look at human culture, they say it starts with religion and then people begin to have doubts about religions, and why, and then they begin to do research on them. Then you come to philosophy. And then there’s still doubt about it. It’s all based on reason and logic. It’s too abstract, it’s not real. So they want to do experiments with it, and then that’s how science became to evolve, to emerge. That is the Western civilization’s development. From religions, to philosophy, to natural science.

Religion, science, philosophy, they’re all trying to look for this big Self, this origin of life. This big self was originally just one body, altogether in one. Let’s give you a metaphor analogy.

Electricity. You can’t see it, you can’t touch it, right? But it’s all over the place, actually, with energy. The source of energy is actually one thing. Everything from that system is one thing. It should be that the big Self, that we all have this. Part of it can come out and generate this, another part of it could come out and give you this.
So this is the large Self. Of course, when this is a small self, you are going to have many things happening there, also. Layers and layers and layers. So there’s a self there. So for cultivation, learning Buddhism, the first thing you do is try to get rid of this view of the [small] self.

Once you reach the state of no self, the small self, you reach the state of the big Self. Getting rid of the small self you reach the state of the big self or the large self. Compassion, loving, etc., all of that originates from the big Self. You no longer will be selfish from that large self.

XI. The Consciousness-Only School

This is actually a whole system. If you are able to spend some time in really studying the consciousness and then go back to Germany and publish them in German? As he said, you would probably make a big name for yourself. Most people were talking materialistic or only the spiritual or the only the realistic school of thought. Well, in Entering the Seven Meditative Spaces of Leadership this one batch of Buddhist studies, they call them the consciousness the consciousness-only school, can also become very scientific, also.

The Americans, the British, all of them have touched upon these, but haven’t really gone into it. If you spend like a few years on this consciousness-only, then you’d become a big figure in the field.

You’re still young. You have many years till you’re 80 years old, right? You can spend like a few years, five or six years, and study this. Then you can make really something out of it. They already have some English translations of the consciousness-only school teachings, but then you have to create new words in German, put them into German. Nobody really knows it, so if you are able to publish that it will be shocking to the intellectual community.

Especially when Teacher teach this to you, he will combine them with science, and that will make it even more in touch with the reality now. This we just talk about, we’re just chatting about it. It doesn’t mean I’m asking you to do this. I’m not asking you to do this. I say this because if looks like you are very serious.

That’s why I mention this. Especially since you came all the way just to have a talk. I’ll feel bad if you go home empty-handed."

source: http://www.presencing.com/presencing/dol/Nan-1999.shtml

*i broke it up due to poor copy/pasta.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2012 1:43 am 
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Some interesting citations there, but I'm puzzled by:

"The whole universe is just one big Self. Religious people call it God. Philosophers call it the fundamental nature. Scientists call it energy. Buddhists call it the Atma. Chinese call it the Tao."

I'm not clear that Buddhists think of the universe as a Self; or naming it "Atma". Isn't the universe in Buddhism a collection of heaps of skandhas, root-processes with no single permament Thing-ness?

Moreover, isn't the Therevadan view that Atma or Atman is a delusion, and that our true condition is anatta/anatman or "No-Self"?

I don't see how, if there is a Buddhist Ultimate/Absolute, it can be exchanged with personal deities like Allah or with the normative Western theological concept of God. The Western God is a creator. Buddhism rejects the notion of a single, originating "creator of all things".

I think in this one statement his syncretism, though well-intentioned, seems a bit undisciplined :)


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2012 1:49 am 
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Certain Zen teachings refer to a big Self.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2012 3:04 am 
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steveb1 wrote:
Some interesting citations there, but I'm puzzled by:

"The whole universe is just one big Self. Religious people call it God. Philosophers call it the fundamental nature. Scientists call it energy. Buddhists call it the Atma. Chinese call it the Tao."


I think he taking liberties there. I actually agree with the sentiment but I don't think it's doctrinally sound. The 'Anatta' teaching is that 'nothing is self' which is not the same as 'there is no self', but the distinction is a very subtle one. The emphasis in Buddhist teaching is always realization rather than arriving at some formulaic description, no matter how profound. So I don't think the statement would be supported by many other Buddhist scholars, on face value and without further qualification. It could easily lead to misleading conclusions.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 02, 2012 3:11 am 
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This kind of syncretism is always more well-intentioned than it is useful to understanding, in my opinion.

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