The "Materialist View"

No holds barred discussion on the Buddhadharma. Argue about rebirth, karma, commentarial interpretations etc. Be nice to each other.

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Feb 15, 2013 4:01 am

shel wrote: A 'secular Buddhist' sounds like an oxymoron, it does to me anyway


It is sufficient for many to simply accept that when one stops grasping at any notion of a constant "self"
that the causes of suffering cease,
that generating compassion towards others is the quickest way of getting to this point,
and that a calm mind is at the root of understanding.

It doesn't take any faith or belief in anything one cannot see in front of them,
no other realms of existence, no concept of rebirth, or of karma
to accept and practice these simple, 'secular' things and call oneself a Buddhist.
.
.
.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
 
Posts: 2800
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Fri Feb 15, 2013 4:55 am

shel wrote:Yes you've communicated your position, but the question of what practical difference any ontological position makes has not really been addressed.

The position you've communicated seems to be rather impractical, because it can't account for people like Stephen Batchelor, or "secular Buddhist," if nothing else. People who are religious, or have a spiritual practice, but are apparently what I believe you might call materialists. A 'secular Buddhist' sounds like an oxymoron, it does to me anyway, but so does a 'religious nihilist'.

That there can be such things as secular Buddhists indicates to me that ontological positions have no practical value other than the meaning they offer.


I am not a big fan of Bachelor or the secular Buddhist movement. They have their place, and I accept that you can practice and benefit from Buddhist principles, without signing on to any beliefs regarding future lives, and so on. So I think secular Buddhism is fine, if it is understood in that limited sense. But I don't accept for one minute that this is the 'real Buddhism', and that many traditional Buddhist teachings are simply 'cultural accretions' that have no place in the purified Atheist dharma of the Secular Enlightenment.

Those who 'I believe are materialists' are those who advocate materialist views, such as the fact that mind is nothing other than the activity of neurochemicals, that living beings are simply material in nature.

What practical difference does it make to be 'spiritually enlightened'. There is an exclamation of the Buddha in one of the Mahayana sutras, I'm sure, along the lines of 'I have realized supreme ultimate enlightenment, and I have gained nothing thereby'. Scary thought, isn't it?
He that knows it, knows it not.
User avatar
jeeprs
 
Posts: 1408
Joined: Sun May 27, 2012 8:31 am
Location: Sydney AU

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Fri Feb 15, 2013 5:07 am

jeeprs wrote:What practical difference does it make to be 'spiritually enlightened'. There is an exclamation of the Buddha in one of the Mahayana sutras, I'm sure, along the lines of 'I have realized supreme ultimate enlightenment, and I have gained nothing thereby'. Scary thought, isn't it?

Wisdom is not an easy thing to acquire.
shel
 
Posts: 1340
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:38 pm

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Fri Feb 15, 2013 5:09 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
shel wrote: A 'secular Buddhist' sounds like an oxymoron, it does to me anyway


It is sufficient for many to simply accept that when one stops grasping at any notion of a constant "self"
that the causes of suffering cease,
that generating compassion towards others is the quickest way of getting to this point,
and that a calm mind is at the root of understanding.

It doesn't take any faith or belief in anything one cannot see in front of them,
no other realms of existence, no concept of rebirth, or of karma
to accept and practice these simple, 'secular' things and call oneself a Buddhist.
.
.
.

Point was that it would be inane to classify them as nihilists.
shel
 
Posts: 1340
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:38 pm

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby muni » Mon Feb 18, 2013 8:16 am

jeeprs wrote:
What practical difference does it make to be 'spiritually enlightened'. There is an exclamation of the Buddha in one of the Mahayana sutras, I'm sure, along the lines of 'I have realized supreme ultimate enlightenment, and I have gained nothing thereby'. Scary thought, isn't it?

Probably scary thought as samsara's gaining-losing of something.
muni
 
Posts: 2735
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 6:59 am

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Mon Feb 18, 2013 5:39 pm

jeeprs wrote:Those who 'I believe are materialists' are those who advocate materialist views, such as the fact that mind is nothing other than the activity of neurochemicals, that living beings are simply material in nature.


I guess this is what I find most perplexing about your views. The people you describe here as "materialists," who believe that mind is nothing other than the activity of neurochemicals, that living beings are simply material in nature, have most likely not really investigated the matter or put much thought into it. And in their day to day lives it doesn't seem to make any difference. What they find meaningful is simply different from what you find meaningful. It is not any less meaningful.
shel
 
Posts: 1340
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:38 pm

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Mon Feb 18, 2013 9:38 pm

Shel wrote:The people you describe here as "materialists," who believe that mind is nothing other than the activity of neurochemicals, that living beings are simply material in nature, have most likely not really investigated the matter or put much thought into it.


No, that would be you. When I was a philosophy undergraduate, the Head of Philosophy was famous for a book called A Materialist Theory of Mind which said exactly this. Daniel Dennett, who (for some reason) is regarded as a major philosopher in America, says exactly the same. There are very many advocates of this view amongst the secular intelligentsia, in fact, it is regarded as 'what sensible, scientifically-informed people believe'.

I think I already mentioned the most recent book by Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False. It criticizes exactly the view that I have mentioned above. It has generated a lot of controversy, and a great deal of scorn on the part of those who advocate a materialist view of life.

So I am not depicting 'straw men' or criticizing a viewpoint which nobody really holds.

As for 'the effect on everyday life' - when I say there is a broad tendency towards nihilism, I don't mean that people will identify themselves as nihilistic, or conscientiously defend an fully articulated materialist view. Most people wouldn't think it through. But it nevertheless profoundly affects their view of life.
He that knows it, knows it not.
User avatar
jeeprs
 
Posts: 1408
Joined: Sun May 27, 2012 8:31 am
Location: Sydney AU

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:24 pm

jeeprs wrote:
Shel wrote:The people you describe here as "materialists," who believe that mind is nothing other than the activity of neurochemicals, that living beings are simply material in nature, have most likely not really investigated the matter or put much thought into it.


No, that would be you.

Any moron who put five minutes of thought into it could realize the belief that "mind is nothing other than the activity of neurochemicals" is silly. Do I need to explain why?

So I am not depicting 'straw men' or criticizing a viewpoint which nobody really holds.

Then how about a quote from anyone who says "mind is nothing other than the activity of neurochemicals"

As for 'the effect on everyday life' - when I say there is a broad tendency towards nihilism, I don't mean that people will identify themselves as nihilistic, or conscientiously defend an fully articulated materialist view. Most people wouldn't think it through. But it nevertheless profoundly affects their view of life.

As opposed to what? A purposeful life based on non-materialistic views?

I didn't think people burned witches to death any longer, but I was wrong. See: http://apnews.myway.com/article/20130208/DA4AEA1G2.html

At least no one can accuse them of being nihilists.
shel
 
Posts: 1340
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:38 pm

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Mon Feb 18, 2013 10:35 pm

shel wrote:Any moron who put five minutes of thought into it could realize the belief that "mind is nothing other than the activity of neurochemicals" is silly. Do I need to explain why?



Go to Philosophy Forums and try it. You might learn something.

//edit// incidentally there was a link posted yesterday to an article on 'nihilism', by Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche.

Q: The term nihilism figures prominently in your book White Sail. What do you mean by it?

A: According to my understanding, nihilism means not believing in any spiritual point of view. Nihilists only believe in what they can see, what they can hear, and what they can think, or the substantial reality of whatever temporarily exists in front of them.

For example, they believe only in this life and not in previous lives or future lives, because they don’t believe in continuous mind, although it is inevitable that mind is continuous. Nihilists don’t accept Buddhist beliefs such as the interdependence of reality, or that relative truth, whose essence is delusion, only exists according to beings’ reality habits. When something happens through previous karma, if nihilists cannot find any explanation to prove why it has happened, they think it is just coincidence.

From a Buddhist point of view, nihilism is just a habit of mind. Even though nihilists have the potential of Buddha-nature, from their lack of belief they have no capacity or method to change their fragmented phenomena toward the continuity of a sublime level.


Remainder here http://welcomingbuddhist.org/archives/124

That would describe many contributors I interacted with on Philosophy Forum. There were some who did not have these views. But all the materialists advocate views exactly like that.
He that knows it, knows it not.
User avatar
jeeprs
 
Posts: 1408
Joined: Sun May 27, 2012 8:31 am
Location: Sydney AU

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:25 pm

jeeprs wrote:
shel wrote:Any moron who put five minutes of thought into it could realize the belief that "mind is nothing other than the activity of neurochemicals" is silly. Do I need to explain why?



Go to Philosophy Forums and try it. You might learn something.

Okay, let’s try walking through it.

What do you get with a collection of neurochemicals, as might be found in the human brain, and nothing else? That question is a little awkward. Let’s rephrase it this way: if you were to put a perfectly structured and functional human brain in a vacuum, all by itself, would a mind result?

The options would seem to be:

A) If the brain contained any memories or thought to begin with, in the absence of anything else (sense input) it would soon degenerate into nothing.

B) The brain would be sustained by non-physical sense data, so a mind would emerge, or be sustained indefinitely if a mind were already present.
shel
 
Posts: 1340
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:38 pm

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:40 pm

jeeprs wrote://edit// incidentally there was a link posted yesterday to an article on 'nihilism', by Dungse Thinley Norbu Rinpoche.

Even though nihilists have the potential of Buddha-nature, from their lack of belief they have no capacity or method to change their fragmented phenomena toward the continuity of a sublime level.

Potential means having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future, yet from a lack of belief they have no capacity? Do they have capacity or don't they?

No one would deny the transformative power of religious belief, but is there reason to believe that secular beliefs have any less transformative power? Can you think of any reasons why they would have less transformative power?
shel
 
Posts: 1340
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:38 pm

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Tue Feb 19, 2013 12:03 am

Why are you on a Buddhist forum? Are you trolling?
He that knows it, knows it not.
User avatar
jeeprs
 
Posts: 1408
Joined: Sun May 27, 2012 8:31 am
Location: Sydney AU

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Tue Feb 19, 2013 12:17 am

jeeprs wrote:Why are you on a Buddhist forum? Are you trolling?


I didn't see this coming.

I'm being serious, perhaps too serious?
shel
 
Posts: 1340
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:38 pm

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Tue Feb 19, 2013 12:36 am

No, it's not 'too serious', I just don't get where you're coming from.

Shel wrote:No one would deny the transformative power of religious belief, but is there reason to believe that secular beliefs have any less transformative power? Can you think of any reasons why they would have less transformative power?


What is an example of 'a secular belief' and in what way could it be 'transformative'?

If the Buddhist teaching concerns the ending of suffering and passing altogether beyond the trials and tribulations of the world, then what maps against that in the secular worldview? What is the equivalent? If ''transformation' is a spiritual phenomenon, then what is its 'secular' counterpart?

I would have thought that the aims of secular existence are understood in terms of economic security, political freedom, scientific discovery and so on, There is nothing the matter with any of those, but how are they 'transformative' in the way that soteriological philosophies are?

(I suppose I should say a few words about 'secular'. My understanding of 'secular' is that it is simply an aspect of a society that recognizes the separation of religious concerns from the state, government, and so on. 'Secularism' is not actually a philosophy as such, or a normative view of life, but simply a general term which refers to those aspects of life which are not concerned with religious or spiritual values.)
He that knows it, knows it not.
User avatar
jeeprs
 
Posts: 1408
Joined: Sun May 27, 2012 8:31 am
Location: Sydney AU

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Feb 19, 2013 2:40 am

This discussion has gotten both funny and impolite.
The essential point of nihilism, what is shared by all things with which nihilism is concerned,
is that outside of the comosition of something, it has no extraneous (most often meaning ethical) purpose.
Hence, fire is not meant to warm things, it is merely hot.
From a Buddhist point of view, this would mean that a thing is empty of any imputed meaning.
However, nihilism is a term generally borrowed by buddhists to mean that nothing "exists".

Jeepers is correct in saying that secularism: "...is simply an aspect of a society that recognizes the separation of religious concerns from the state, government, and so on. 'Secularism' is not actually a philosophy as such, or a normative view of life, but simply a general term which refers to those aspects of life which are not concerned with religious or spiritual values."

a phrase that sheloffered, "If the brain contained any memories or thought to begin with..." --and this brings up an interesting and possibly often overlooked point, that people talk about memory, consciousness, thought, and so on, as though they are whole things in themselves.

When we "have a thought" what does that actually mean? We can see from famous cases involving brain injury that what we experience as a single thought (for example, you close your eyes and picture a beach ball) is really a lot of different events taking place, and that the experience of thought itself is something we impute on these events.

I recall a couple of years ago, just before falling asleep one night, I was suddenly thinking there was something that I had forgotten to do, and was trying to remember what it was. The funny thing is, there were all sorts of random "clues" coming to mind, the way a mental clue might be ( as in, "it was something I meant to buy at the store") but for the life of me, I couldn't put them together to form an answer. Then I realized, and this is a VERY strange experience, that one part of my brain had already fallen asleep and was in fact dreaming, and the 'awake' part was observing that dream activity, and mistaking it for something urgent that I needed to remember.
.
.
.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
 
Posts: 2800
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby steveb1 » Tue Feb 19, 2013 2:55 am

jeeprs wrote:

"If ''transformation' is a spiritual phenomenon, then what is its 'secular' counterpart?"

I think this is the issue's crux. There is no secular counterpart. Intellectual enlightenment is as far as secular psychological evolution can take the "ordinary secular modern person" - for the simple reason that secularism does not admit of a soul or spiritual nature in humans. No soul or spirit means no soul or spiritual evolution/transformation. Secularism of course can and does produce geniuses, people morally/intellectually/scientifically "enlightened" - but who are enlightened only in the secular, not the spiritual, sense of the word.

This is why when spirituality speaks of "love", "forgiveness", etc., these terms have already been transformed into another level of meaning. They are no longer secular. They have undergone a complete transvaluation and now describe love and forgiveness only from the "Spirit-Side" of things, using the old terms as poor metaphors for a much richer, profound experience and way of being-in-the-world.

The New Testament warns about loving "only" or "merely" as the world loves. Yes, the world loves and forgives (sometimes) but spirituality's definition of these terms is no longer from the world's perspective, and no longer conform to the world's definition, but rather from the perspective of God, Spirit, Buddha, Dharmakaya, Dharma, Shinjin, Bodhi ... and other spiritual states that are by nature simply not available in a secular context.

Loving as "Man" and "World" love is fine, it's our birthright. But it's incomplete. So spirituality also offers a birthright that is "soul-sh", "unwordly", transcendent. This birthright can be seen and experienced, but not by secular means. Rather, the "third eye", "the eye of Spirit", "the eye of Contemplation" must first be opened. This is what Buddhism and other transformative technologies attempt to do, so that humankind can be both secular and "secular-plus" ... or as Osho said, so that humankind can become "Zorba the Buddha" :)
steveb1
 
Posts: 243
Joined: Thu Oct 13, 2011 9:37 am

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Tue Feb 19, 2013 3:05 am

I agree that that post. That says pretty well all I would want to say on the topic.

shel wrote: The options would seem to be:

A) If the brain contained any memories or thought to begin with, in the absence of anything else (sense input) it would soon degenerate into nothing.

B) The brain would be sustained by non-physical sense data, so a mind would emerge, or be sustained indefinitely if a mind were already present.


Sorry - I had missed this post when I responded to the one posted subsequently.

From what you have said, I think you're not really acquainted with materialist or physicalist theories of mind. They state that the act of thought, itself, can be understood solely in terms of neural mechanisms, the transfer of substances across membranes, and so on. Of course they acknowledge that in the case of the human brain, the processes are immensely complex, but in principle it is understandable through neurobiological analysis, with no residue. The two main forms that materialism takes in modern thinking is this one - the neurobiological - and the evolutionary approach, which is that humans are the outcome of a non-directed, essentially fortuitous material process which can be understood solely through scientific method, in principle, anyway.

However it is not really productive to explain a viewpoint for the sole purpose of saying what's wrong with it. SteveB also linked to some reviews of current criticisms of physicalism in this post. It includes mention of a recent book by UK philosopher, Raymond Tallis, who has the advantage of in-depth knowledge of neuroscience, having been medically trained. He also is not pushing a religious cause, as he is a self-described 'proud atheist'. See also http://www.catholiceducation.org/articl ... ap0396.htm for an in-depth review


PadmaVonSambha wrote:When we "have a thought" what does that actually mean?


What's 'an idea'? Where to start? There are obviously many ways to begin to explore that topic. But the approach that I ended up with on the Philosophy Forums was this: 'a thought' is, in some senses, irreducibly subjective. That is, it has to occur to someone! A thought is never an object, as such. There is no 'thought' anywhere in the objective realm (except for what can be conveyed symbolically by various means). But thought, as such, only ever occurs to a subject, which is never fully disclosed in any act of thought, nor is fully part of the objective realm. That mode of argument opens out on to phenomenology, linguistics, art, and many other areas, (most of which 'materialists' showed very little interest in.)
He that knows it, knows it not.
User avatar
jeeprs
 
Posts: 1408
Joined: Sun May 27, 2012 8:31 am
Location: Sydney AU

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby muni » Tue Feb 19, 2013 8:41 am

shel wrote:Any moron who put five minutes of thought into it could realize the belief that


Yes, I can agree with this. Whether moron or non moron; a whole materialistic world and beliefs is arising in "our thoughts".
muni
 
Posts: 2735
Joined: Fri Apr 17, 2009 6:59 am

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Feb 19, 2013 2:10 pm

jeeprs wrote:
PadmaVonSambha wrote:When we "have a thought" what does that actually mean?

'a thought' is, in some senses, irreducibly subjective. That is, it has to occur to someone! A thought is never an object, as such.


Yes, irreducibly subjective is one characteristic of the thinking process.
My point is that to say "a thought" is actually misleading.
We only perceive "a thought" as a single thing, a link in a chain of thoughts or whatever,
when actually, there is no (single) thing that arises that can be called 'thought'.
A "thought" is somewhat like a huge orchestra, all the members blaring one brief note at the same time.
There is only the assembly or collection of component parts that we label as a single "thought".

I think there is, at the end of the book The Dharma: That Illuminates All Beings Impartially Like the Light of the Sun and the Moon By Kalu Rinpoche, a table which essentially breaks down a thought into its various component parts. Furthermore, studies of people with brain injuries suggest that what we regard as thoughts are really very vague and abstract compositions of random elements, perceived the way that a crack in a sidewalk might resemble a smiling face or something. When we believe we are thinking about some events from yesterday, our brains may really be only processing bits and pieces of memories, say, of a color or smell, and only for a split second even though if asked, we would say that we had thought about those events for a much longer time.

A flaw in either the materialist point of view or non-materialist point of view will occur if this is overlooked.

.
.
.
Profile Picture: "The Foaming Monk"
The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
User avatar
PadmaVonSamba
 
Posts: 2800
Joined: Sat May 14, 2011 1:41 am

Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Tue Feb 19, 2013 6:09 pm

steveb1 wrote:I think this is the issue's crux. There is no secular counterpart. Intellectual enlightenment is as far as secular psychological evolution can take the "ordinary secular modern person" - for the simple reason that secularism does not admit of a soul or spiritual nature in humans. No soul or spirit means no soul or spiritual evolution/transformation.


Hi Steveb1,

If this is the crux of the matter then we should be clear about it, yes? You use the terms "soul or spirit," but it's not clear if you regard these terms as synonymous or distinct in meaning. What exactly do you mean by "spirit"?
shel
 
Posts: 1340
Joined: Fri Mar 12, 2010 9:38 pm

PreviousNext

Return to Open Dharma

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: JKhedrup, Johnny Dangerous, Lotus108, Simon E., supermaxv and 11 guests

>