The "Materialist View"

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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Indrajala » Mon Feb 04, 2013 8:40 am

jeeprs wrote:I don't think there ought to be 'a scientific worldview'. I think science is a method, not a set of beliefs about the world.


Are you aware of Rupert Sheldrake's work?

http://www.sheldrake.org/homepage.html

He's an interesting scientist as he argues that mainstream science now has become ideologically driven. It has assumed it has figured everything out and need only fill in all the details. He has done a lot of experiments to test for telepathy among other such phenomena:

My research on telepathy in animals (summarized in my book Dogs That Know When Their Owners are Coming Home and published in detail in a series of papers (listed here) led me to see telepathy as a normal, rather the paranormal. phenomenon, an aspect of communication between members of animal social groups. The same principles apply to human telepathy, and I have investigated little explored aspects of human telepathy, such as telepathy between mothers and babies, telephone telepathy (thinking of someone who soon afterwards calls) and email telepathy.


In his experience he has met a lot of scientists who in private admit to having an interest in these sorts of subjects and spirituality, yet keep quiet among their colleagues for fear of being reproached.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Mon Feb 04, 2013 8:59 am

Indeed I am, in fact I had the privilege of meeting Rupert Sheldrake in the 1980's when he came to Sydney and gave some talks to some small groups, one of which I was involved with. He was charming and erudite, and I have considerable admiration for him. And he puts up with an awful lot, taking the positions that he does. (I noticed on his website, one of the essays he wrote about the reaction to his notion that people know when they're being stared at, called 'The Sense of being Glared At'. I bet that is something he feels frequently.)
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Mon Feb 04, 2013 5:17 pm

Huseng wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:Vague ideas about inherent human progress for instance.


This is a deeply embedded idea in modernity. To suggest otherwise is only perceived in extremes. We either get Star Trek in the future or complete and total annihilation of the planet. The idea of historical cycles escapes a lot of people despite it being widely acknowledged that nature is all about cycles.

The belief that present day materialist science should prevail over all other competing ideologies offers the promise of a utopia in the future free of disease, hunger, ignorance, superstition and war. The hope it entails is akin to what you find in science's parent Christianity with the resurrection and heaven.


Yeah, there's alot of parallels......I always thought the standard "something from nothing" Big Bang explanation that I was taught in school seemed to be very compatible with Christianity in terms of causality, though it would never be admitted. I find that many of the people who define themselves as 'secular humanist' or something similar can carry beliefs about causality that are really pretty close to your average Christian, the details just differ.

I have friends who classify themselves as Atheist, but still at heart take a view of the world where we going to "evolve" to some new (presumably final) state, physically, socially, whatever, and where there is some kind of cosmic balancing force. It really is not too different from believing in the Kingdom of God on Earth...again, the details differ but the view of how things work is really pretty much the same.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Indrajala » Mon Feb 04, 2013 5:41 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:...again, the details differ but the view of how things work is really pretty much the same.


The hostility shown towards non-believers is also unsettling. It isn't enough to just disagree and maybe shout at each other. Some members of the atheist movement want to take control of the education system and insert their own ideas as unquestionable orthodoxy, anything else being superstition or pseudoscience. This naturally empowers them. The old question cui bono (who benefits) applies here.

There's also discussion of how "religious belief" is some trick of the brain, but with proper training you can liberate yourself from it and be at a superior state of mind. They got the charts and brain scans and everything to push their message.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Mon Feb 04, 2013 6:20 pm

Huseng wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:...again, the details differ but the view of how things work is really pretty much the same.


The hostility shown towards non-believers is also unsettling. It isn't enough to just disagree and maybe shout at each other. Some members of the atheist movement want to take control of the education system and insert their own ideas as unquestionable orthodoxy, anything else being superstition or pseudoscience. This naturally empowers them. The old question cui bono (who benefits) applies here.

There's also discussion of how "religious belief" is some trick of the brain, but with proper training you can liberate yourself from it and be at a superior state of mind. They got the charts and brain scans and everything to push their message.



I find myself of two minds here, on the one hand, I do not want Christians having any more hand in education more than they do in this country, on the other hand I also lament that what you mention above seems to be put forth as the alternative to Christianity, an unthinking devotion to the status quo version of reality - which art heart is really base on wealth generation and accumulation. The last part about religious belief being a 'trick' is particularly disturbing and smacks of of something similar to eugenics. If you read people like Sam Harris in places he seems to actually be advocating for The Wests dominance over other "primitive" cultures and belief systems based on just this kind of idea - gross.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby steveb1 » Mon Feb 04, 2013 6:26 pm

Not a direct reply to any posts here, but just a few recommendations as pertain to the non-materialistic elements of this discussion :)

Raymond Tallis: Aping Mankind; Michelangelo's Finger
Tallis is also present in a half-dozen or so You Tube videos, his website:

http://www.raymondtallis.com/

Mario Beauregard: The Spiritual Brain; Brain Wars

Anything by B. Alan Wallace, who has a bunch of You Tube video discourses and interviews, his website:
http://alanwallace.org/

The Waning of Materialism, ed. Koons & Bealer, Oxford University Press: 2010

Carl G. Jung's Introduction to Answer to Job
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Mon Feb 04, 2013 7:46 pm

jeeprs wrote:I don't think there ought to be 'a scientific worldview'. I think science is a method, not a set of beliefs about the world. Insofar as it is a set of beliefs about the world, such as 'the universe is devoid of meaning' and 'life arose as a consequence of random interactions of material particles', then it is something other than science

The former is of course other than science, it's philosophy or something. The latter may be a theory, in which the scientific method could be applied.

This is where it becomes an ideological attitude rather than a method for eliciting knowledge. Some people understand that, and others don't. But in my experience, many of those who don't understand it, don't understand what it is that they don't understand, and there is no way of explaining it. It's like asking someone to look at their spectacles, not through them - to which the reply comes 'I can't see anything without them'. :tongue:

Getting back to Fromm, he says that the way to become truly free in an individual sense is to become spontaneous in our self-expression and behaviour and respond truthfully to our genuine feelings. This is crystallised in his existential statement "there is only one meaning of life: the act of living it". He seemed to believe that being truly in touch with our humanity is to be truly in touch with the needs of those with whom we share the world. Anything else is just moving from one pair of spectacles (belief system that offers meaning(security)) to another, to use your analogy.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Mon Feb 04, 2013 9:07 pm

You can see, then, how the views of Fromm and D. T. Suzuki converge, and indeed Fromm's 'Psychoanalysis and Zen', published in 1959, was arguably the first work in the whole sub-genre which brings together Buddhist and psychoanalytical insights. Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis by Erich Fromm: http://amzn.com/0060901756
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Mon Feb 04, 2013 11:02 pm

jeeprs wrote:You can see, then, how the views of Fromm and D. T. Suzuki converge, and indeed Fromm's 'Psychoanalysis and Zen', published in 1959, was arguably the first work in the whole sub-genre which brings together Buddhist and psychoanalytical insights. Zen Buddhism and Psychoanalysis by Erich Fromm: http://amzn.com/0060901756

I'm afraid that I don't, being that Fromm's work was biologically rather than metaphysically based. Or are you saying that metaphysics are irrelevant to the topic?
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Mon Feb 04, 2013 11:34 pm

Fromm actually trained in sociology and psychoanalysis, not biology. I don't quite get your use of the term 'metaphysics' here. A lot of 20th century continental philosophy and psychological theory is 'post-metaphysical'. It doesn't proceed in terms of traditional metaphysical categories, as such, but in terms that originated with phenomenology and thinkers such as Jaspers (under whom Fromm did his PhD), Husserl and Heidegger. To be sure, all of those thinkers were critics of scientific materialism, in fact one of Husserl's best-known books was The Crisis of the European Sciences, but they were also critical of traditional metaphysics and religions. I think that is why they sought out Buddhist intellectuals such as Suzuki, because they saw in him an alternative, a kind of third way which was neither materialistic nor based on the Western notions of 'faith' as defined by mainstream Christianity.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Tue Feb 05, 2013 12:20 am

jeeprs wrote:Fromm actually trained in sociology and psychoanalysis, not biology. I don't quite get your use of the term 'metaphysics' here. A lot of 20th century continental philosophy and psychological theory is 'post-metaphysical'. It doesn't proceed in terms of traditional metaphysical categories, as such, but in terms that originated with phenomenology and thinkers such as Jaspers (under whom Fromm did his PhD), Husserl and Heidegger. To be sure, all of those thinkers were critics of scientific materialism, in fact one of Husserl's best-known books was The Crisis of the European Sciences, but they were also critical of traditional metaphysics and religions. I think that is why they sought out Buddhist intellectuals such as Suzuki, because they saw in him an alternative, a kind of third way which was neither materialistic nor based on the Western notions of 'faith' as defined by mainstream Christianity.

Biology is a science. That's what I mean.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Tue Feb 05, 2013 2:21 am

Did Fromm's work include postmortem rebirth or other Buddhist doctrine which is outside the realm of science? It did not, correct? So the question is, are those aspects superfluous, or worse?
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Tue Feb 05, 2013 11:08 am

'postmortem' is a term I generally associate with medical pathology. But, no, from my reading of Fromm, which is not extensive, I don't recall him talking about it. Bear in mind, he was inclined re-interpret traditional ideas in existential terms. For instance, he read the Myth of the Fall as representing the origin of self-consciousness and therefore the sense of mortality (which is how I see it also). And there is an approach in Zen Buddhism which is to depict 'the wheel of birth and death' as something which is happening at every moment. Really, have a look at the top customer review of http://amzn.com/0060901756, it will say a lot more than I could about the relationship between Suzuki and Fromm (OK, I haven't read the whole book, I googled it, but I have read excerpts from it in the past :emb: )
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Tue Feb 05, 2013 7:18 pm

jeeprs wrote:... there is an approach in Zen Buddhism which is to depict 'the wheel of birth and death' as something which is happening at every moment.


Hence the postmortem (after death) descriptor, thought it apparently proved misleading.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Wed Feb 06, 2013 12:54 am

I'm one of the people who doesn't think that Buddhism makes a whole lot of sense without the notion of many lives.

We mentioned Rupert Sheldrake above. His notion of morphic resonance, that 'nature has memories', provides a means by which memories can be transferred beyond the individual life:

Rupert Sheldrake wrote:If memories are stored in the brain then there’s no possibility of conscious, or even unconscious survival of bodily death, because if memories are in the brain, the brain decays at death, and your memories must be wiped out through the decay of the brain. No form of survival in any shape or form, even through reincarnation, would be possible in such a scenario. That’s one reason why materialists are so attached to the idea of memory storage in the brain, because it refutes all religions in a two line argument. But, in fact, there’s very little evidence they’re stored in the brain.


So if they’re not stored in the brain then the memories won’t decay at death, but there’ll still have to be something that can tune into them, or gain access to them. So could some tuning system, could some non-physical aspect of the self survive death and still gain access to the memories? That’s the big question. I regard it as an open question. I myself think that we do survive bodily death in some form, and that some aspect of the self does survive with access to memories. And that’s a personal opinion. The theory [of morphic resonance] leaves this question quite open.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Wed Feb 06, 2013 1:29 am

jeeprs wrote:I'm one of the people who doesn't think that Buddhism makes a whole lot of sense without the notion of many lives.


If that's the case then how do "Fromm and D. T. Suzuki converge" in any sensible or meaningful way?
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Wed Feb 06, 2013 3:03 am

You can talk meaningfully about Buddhist principles and philosophy without any explicit reference to the notion of 'many lives'. The dialogues between Zen and various psychologists are examples of that. But in the broader context of the relationship between Buddhism and the modern world, I don't believe that you can remove the notion of 'many lives' from Buddhism without changing it.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Wed Feb 06, 2013 3:42 am

jeeprs wrote:You can talk meaningfully about Buddhist principles and philosophy without any explicit reference to the notion of 'many lives'.


Of course. I will assume that you believe Fromm and D. T. Suzuki converge sensibly without the notion of many lives (and beliefs of similar nature) also, without an explanation as to how they converge. Again Fromm was apparently a scientist and not more concerned with meaning/mysticism/religion in his work, so wherever they converged it would seemingly not have been through mysticism or faith based notions. You probably don't regard "many lives" as a faith based notion and if that's the case I'd be happy to hear you make sense of the idea in a way that converges with Fromm's work.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Indrajala » Wed Feb 06, 2013 3:44 am

jeeprs wrote:You can talk meaningfully about Buddhist principles and philosophy without any explicit reference to the notion of 'many lives'. The dialogues between Zen and various psychologists are examples of that. But in the broader context of the relationship between Buddhism and the modern world, I don't believe that you can remove the notion of 'many lives' from Buddhism without changing it.


All the classical literature I've read demonstrates an ongoing Buddhist concern over the last twenty-five centuries for postmortem consequences of actions. This is not limited to one or several cultural forms of Buddhism, but every form of Buddhism up until a few decades ago when a few people in Japan and the west decided they wanted a Buddhism without rebirth and other disagreeable elements not in accord with their materialist beliefs.

In any case, there's plenty of evidence for rebirth which a few scientists take the time to investigate. U of Virginia has some people who work on cases of children claiming to remember past lives:

http://www.medicine.virginia.edu/clinic ... types-page

They call it "evidence highly suggestive of reincarnation" and not proof. Nevertheless, such evidence does undermine the theories of countless thinkers who believe the brain produces consciousness and hence with the demise of the brain so too is the persona erased from existence forever. Naturally, that would not bode well for many careers and cherished beliefs, which is perhaps why this kind of research seldom gets the attention it should. A few on the fringes acknowledge it, but orthodox scientists, I reckon, are generally hesitant to even acknowledge the phenomena even if it does not mean accepting it.

A lot of vocal atheists and materialists are quick to point out how religious people cling to beliefs that evidence would refute, but then they're often guilty of the same sin.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Wed Feb 06, 2013 4:14 am

shel wrote:Of course. I will assume that you believe Fromm and D. T. Suzuki converge sensibly without the notion of many lives (and beliefs of similar nature) also, without an explanation as to how they converge. Again Fromm was apparently a scientist and not more concerned with meaning/mysticism/religion in his work, so wherever they converged it would seemingly not have been through mysticism or faith based notions. You probably don't regard "many lives" as a faith based notion and if that's the case I'd be happy to hear you make sense of the idea in a way that converges with Fromm's work.


I don't think of Fromm as a scientist. He never published any scientific papers, although I suppose in his day, psychoanalysis was regarded as, or was trying to be regarded as, a scientific discipline. But as to his background:

Wikipedia wrote:Central to Fromm's world view was his interpretation of the Talmud, which he began studying as a young man under Rabbi J. Horowitz and later studied under Rabbi Salman Baruch Rabinkow while working towards his doctorate in sociology at the University of Heidelberg and under Nehemia Nobel and Ludwig Krause while studying in Frankfurt. Fromm's grandfather and two great grandfathers on his father's side were rabbis, and a great uncle on his mother's side was a noted Talmudic scholar. However, Fromm turned away from orthodox Judaism in 1926, towards secular interpretations of scriptural ideals.

The cornerstone of Fromm's humanistic philosophy is his interpretation of the biblical story of Adam and Eve's exile from the Garden of Eden. Drawing on his knowledge of the Talmud, Fromm pointed out that being able to distinguish between good and evil is generally considered to be a virtue, and that biblical scholars generally consider Adam and Eve to have sinned by disobeying God and eating from the Tree of Knowledge. However, departing from traditional religious orthodoxy, Fromm extolled the virtues of humans taking independent action and using reason to establish moral values rather than adhering to authoritarian moral values.


So, very much in the tradition of secular humanism, but based more in hermeneutics - the re-interpretation of traditional texts - than science per se. His whole notion of 'freedom' was founded on a re-interpretation of the meaning of 'the fall' in relation to the human condition.

I would have to do some digging to find any references in Fromm to what he understood the notion of re-birth to mean. It would probably be there, somewhere, but unfortunately I don't have time to research it right at the moment.

//edit// Ain't google marvellous? Herewith an article on Erich Fromm's Views on Buddhist Philosophy.

Huseng wrote:Nevertheless, such evidence does undermine the theories of countless thinkers who believe the brain produces consciousness and hence with the demise of the brain so too is the persona erased from existence forever. Naturally, that would not bode well for many careers and cherished beliefs, which is perhaps why this kind of research seldom gets the attention it should. A few on the fringes acknowledge it, but orthodox scientists, I reckon, are generally hesitant to even acknowledge the phenomena even if it does not mean accepting it.


I quite agree. I think Ian Stephenson was another man who was basically ignored, if not vilified, because of what he chose to research. He was a very sober, careful, methodical individual, but the whole subject is so taboo in Western science that he was ostracised by the scientific community.

By the way, there is another interesting connection between Stephenson and Buddhism. Stephenson's private chair at the University of Virginia was funded by Chester Carlson, who has made a fortune from devising the process of xerography. His wife, in particular, was very interested in Eastern philosophy, and so apart from funding Stevenson's chair, they also provided the initial funding which allowed Roshi Philip Kapleau to set up the Rochester Zen Centre, which remains an influential teaching centre to this day.
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