The "Materialist View"

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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:52 pm

undefineable wrote:Also, the circularity of the materialist argument is demonstrated by this point:
shel wrote:It is difficult to conduct experiments on things that can't be seen, touched, heard, smelled, or tasted.


That's not an argument, nor does it express a mater- :quoteunquote: -ialist view. :tongue:

Is a carpenter a materialist because they don't know how to build houses with non-material?
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Wed Feb 27, 2013 7:58 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
jeeprs wrote:If it it physical, how come physicists don't know about it?


What is funny is that when people speculate about other realms,
the question always seems to be,
"Are they real, like this one that we experience?".
using the arising appearances of the human realm
as the standard measure of validation.
.
.
.


My question to you is: why are they all like the human realm, or rather, why do they only contain elements of the human realm?
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Alex123 » Wed Feb 27, 2013 11:38 pm

jeeprs wrote:If it it physical, how come physicists don't know about it?



We don't know know everything about every place in the universe. We do not know directly, for example, what precisely lies 5 miles below Pluto's surface at such and such a place.

This doesn't mean that we can justify anything: "Scientists don't know everything about entire universe, thus aliens/demons/devas have to exist there"
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Feb 28, 2013 1:56 am

shel wrote: My question to you is: why are they all like the human realm, or rather, why do they only contain elements of the human realm?

Except for the animal realm, I think this is just how they are presented, in order to be understandable.
This reminds me of a fable by Aesop.
A lion and a human are taking a walk and arguing about which is superior,
when they happen to pass a statue showing a human slaying a lion.
The human says, "See, that proves that humans are superior!"
And the lion replies, "Ah...but that statue was carved by a human.
had it been sculpted by a lion, it would have told a much different story".
So, you know, reality is what we project it as.

It's good to keep in mind that all depictions of realms, and for that matter, of various deities and celestial bodhisattvas and whatever, are done by artists, and artists tend to think up a lot of ways to depict things. They might be inspired by insight, or follow stylistically prescribed canonical texts, but they are, after all, cartoons. The Circle Of Existence portraying the various realms in Tibetan art is really a big round comic strip.

The point is not that the various beings actually resemble "humanoid" forms, but that just as in this realm, the various realms are very, very, realistic experiences that the mind projects. So, the question you pose might more accurately be,
"Why do the beings in various realms imagine themselves in human form?"
...and anyone can come up with a reasonable theory, in either a theistic or an atheistic context.

I once asked a lama friend how anyone could be born in a hell realm,
since generally, birth takes place as a result of having sex
and I didn't think beings in the hell realm would be having sex very often, if at all.
His answer was that the other realms aren't really like this human realm
...whatever that means.

I have also heard, when asked if the other realms are real or not,
that it isn't a matter of them being real or not real, but that
they are no more real than this (human) realm.
If one experiences this realm as "real",
meaning grasping at appearances as inherently substantial,
one is more likely to grasp the experience of rebirth in other realms as "real" too.
Given that as an option,
experiencing that experience in some sort of human shape isn't really so surprising
since that's also what we experience here.
.
.
.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Thu Feb 28, 2013 2:17 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
shel wrote: My question to you is: why are they all like the human realm, or rather, why do they only contain elements of the human realm?

Except for the animal realm, I think this is just how they are presented, in order to be understandable.

Indeed, we can't understand what we have no reference for. So why wouldn't we have a reference for such things?

This reminds me of a fable by Aesop.
A lion and a human are taking a walk and arguing about which is superior,
when they happen to pass a statue showing a human slaying a lion.
The human says, "See, that proves that humans are superior!"
And the lion replies, "Ah...but that statue was carved by a human.
had it been sculpted by a lion, it would have told a much different story".
So, you know, reality is what we project it as.

Exactly, what we project is limited by our experience and knowledge.

The point is not that the various beings actually resemble "humanoid" forms, but that just as in this realm, the various realms are very, very, realistic experiences that the mind projects. So, the question you pose might more accurately be,
"Why do the beings in various realms imagine themselves in human form?"

That's a different question, but the most apparent reason would be that they know we couldn't understand or have any reference for other forms that are beyond our experience, knowledge or imagination. Which takes us back to the question of why don't we have the reference, experience or imagination? Why is it limited to elements of this world?
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Feb 28, 2013 12:45 pm

shel wrote: Which takes us back to the question of why don't we have the reference, experience or imagination? Why is it limited to elements of this world?


...which brings me back to the statement:
If one experiences this realm as "real",
meaning grasping at appearances as inherently substantial,
one is more likely to grasp the experience of rebirth in other realms as "real" too.
Given that as an option,
experiencing that experience in some sort of human shape isn't really so surprising
since that's also what we experience here.
.
.
.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Thu Feb 28, 2013 5:07 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
shel wrote: Which takes us back to the question of why don't we have the reference, experience or imagination? Why is it limited to elements of this world?


...which brings me back to the statement:
If one experiences this realm as "real",
meaning grasping at appearances as inherently substantial,
one is more likely to grasp the experience of rebirth in other realms as "real" too.

Experiencing other realms as "real" would seem to make it all the more likely that we would retain memories and experiences of those realms. So again, it seems that those other realms are very much like this realm. Of course there is no reason they should not be like this realm, it there? And even if they were not like this realm, and no one could recall anything about them for some reason, it would still only comprise an infinitely small portion of the universe, like two molecules in a grain of sand, out of all the grains of sand in the world, right?

Given that as an option,
experiencing that experience in some sort of human shape isn't really so surprising
since that's also what we experience here.

That's the point, it's what we experience here so it seems that's all we know or have ever experienced.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Feb 28, 2013 7:27 pm

shel wrote: Experiencing other realms as "real" would seem to make it all the more likely that we would retain memories and experiences of those realms. So again, it seems that those other realms are very much like this realm. Of course there is no reason they should not be like this realm, it there?


But if one assumes that a human in this life might have been an animal in a previous life, and we can plainly see the animal realm (which, as primates we are in fact part of), by that reasoning many people would have a memory of being an animal.
I have never heard of anyone having such a memory, except for maybe The Buddha.
You can regard the experience of a realm as the experience as the being in it, and as the experience of the surroundings. For example, my dog and I both experience our back yard as part of our respective realms. But the way in which we have that experience is very different.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Thu Feb 28, 2013 7:57 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
shel wrote: Experiencing other realms as "real" would seem to make it all the more likely that we would retain memories and experiences of those realms. So again, it seems that those other realms are very much like this realm. Of course there is no reason they should not be like this realm, it there?


But if one assumes that a human in this life might have been an animal in a previous life, and we can plainly see the animal realm (which, as primates we are in fact part of), by that reasoning many people would have a memory of being an animal.
I have never heard of anyone having such a memory

But people do have past life memories. Why would they have memories of being Cleopatra but not Fido?

You can regard the experience of a realm as the experience as the being in it, and as the experience of the surroundings. For example, my dog and I both experience our back yard as part of our respective realms. But the way in which we have that experience is very different.

Your dog can recognize you or has memory of you. If he had lived on a very alien world or realm and had memories of unimaginable (to our limited experience) creatures why couldn't he remember them in the human realm?

Try to think of it like this, if we put you in a spaceship and sent you to another galaxy where you experienced all sorts of unimaginable (to our limited experience) creatures and other things, and then brought you back here, why wouldn't you remember those experiences? How is rebirth transmigration different whereby no extraterrestrial memories are retained?
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Alex123 » Thu Feb 28, 2013 8:38 pm

But people do have past life memories.


And how can we be certain that these memories are of one's previous life? Even if they are accurate, they could be perceptions of someone else's life.

Also memories prove rebirth as much as they prove Christianity. A Christian can say that "the kid was possessed by Satan who wanted to implant doubt into Christianity". Try to disprove that. :)


It is strange how an adult person has difficulty remembering one's own childhood (one's own brain was not fully developed then) , and yet we find memories of past lives credible...


Interesting read:
http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2005 ... ion_a.html
Reincarnation all over again

Last Thursday, ABC repeated its Primetime Thursday Special on Reincarnation, entitled “Back From the Dead”. This told the story of a little boy who appeared to be the reincarnation of an American World War II pilot shot down and killed by the Japanese. It seemed a pretty compelling story. From the ABC Primetime site:

From an early age, James would play with nothing else but planes, his parents say. But when he was 2, they said the planes their son loved began to give him regular nightmares.

"I'd wake him up and he'd be screaming," Andrea told "Primetime Live" co-anchor Chris Cuomo. She said when she asked her son what he was dreaming about, he would say, "Airplane crash on fire, little man can't get out."
Reality Check (sic)

Andrea says her mom was the first to suggest James was remembering a past life.

At first, Andrea says she was doubtful. James was only watching kids' shows, his parents say, and they weren't watching World War II documentaries or conversing about military history.

But as time went by, Andrea began to wonder what to believe. In one video of James at age 3, he goes over a plane as if he's doing a preflight check.

Another time, Andrea said, she bought him a toy plane, and pointed out what appeared to be a bomb on its underside. She says James corrected her, and told her it was a drop tank. "I'd never heard of a drop tank," she said. "I didn't know what a drop tank was."

(Snip)

Andrea says James told his father he flew a Corsair…

Looks pretty conclusive from the way it was presented on ABC, yes? Actually no. The TV company, looking for ratings rather than the truth, didn’t tell the full story. In particular, they missed this rather important piece of the timeline, as reported by the Pittsburgh Daily Courier:

At 18 months old, his father, Bruce Leininger, took James to the Kavanaugh Flight Museum in Dallas, Texas, where the toddler remained transfixed by World War II aircraft.

A few months later, the nightmares began.

(My bold. Note: this information came from the child’s mother.)

According to the ABC special, the child “was only watching kids' shows… and they weren't watching World War II documentaries or conversing about military history”. Really? Yet somehow they forgot to mention the WORLD WAR II AIR MUSEUM he had visited. Sheesh! Don’t you think that revealing this information might have made a slight difference to the story?

It gets worse:

Andrea's mother suggested she look into the work of counselor and therapist Carol Bowman, who believes that the dead sometimes can be reborn.

With guidance from Bowman, they began to encourage James to share his memories — and immediately, Andrea says, the nightmares started to become less frequent. James was also becoming more articulate about his apparent past, she said.

(My bold.)

I’d like to suggest a slightly different version of this story that is entirely consistent with the facts, but doesn’t require us to believe the extraordinary claim of reincarnation.

Corsair1 It starts when this child’s parents take him to a WWII air museum. Now, the article says this was the “Kavanaugh Flight Museum in Dallas”, but I presume it meant to say the Cavanaugh Flight Museum in Dallas. And at this place they have on display a WWII Corsair (the plane James will later say he flew). According to the museum’s Corsair web page:

The famous gull-wing design of the F4U Corsair makes the plane one of the most distinctive fighters of World War II

This young boy, not unusually, is excited by the planes, and remembers the name of the distinctive Corsair he saw with the unusual gull-wing, plus many other details, including things his mother didn’t remember, such as these drop fuel tanks that are also displayed at the museum.

Naturally, this small boy was fascinated by warplanes and he remembered obscure details about them that his mother didn’t. Of course, he enjoyed showing off this knowledge to her, later.

However, although he was excited by the planes, the images of WWII battles also frightened him, and they soon began to give him nightmares about being trapped in a plane on fire.

This is when the real problem starts. The child’s grandmother, for no obvious rational reason I can think of, suggests he is remembering a past life. She brings in Carol Bowman (an author of several books on reincarnation), to “affirm” James' nightmares. (Bowman is said to have been influenced by Ian Stevenson – another reincarnation proponent who is known to ask leading questions of young children.) Bowman “encourages” James in his fantasies, also with leading questions. Unsurprisingly, the child cooperates in this fantasy building. After all, they’re telling him he was a real pilot.

The father then starts to research the story, obtaining and reading books on WWII fighter planes. While reading one of these books with his father, the child points to a picture of the distinctive Corsair he remembers from the museum and says, "that was my plane." At some point the child starts drawing pictures of planes, signing them "James 3" (his name is James).

During this time the parents buy him plane toys and read him plane books. From the TV program we know they bought him a toy plane big enough for him to sit in, and every shot showed him in pilot’s goggles or by a plane. Carol Bowman asked him leading questions and encouraged his fantasy at every turn. Being a young child, he loved making up fantasies of being a pilot, to go with the toys he had been given. But they were just stories.

Admittedly there appear to be a couple of inexplicable hits. First, the child said he flew off a boat. When asked the name of the boat he says "Natoma", and when asked the name of someone on the boat, he says "Jack Larson". While flipping through another book on WWII, James points at Iwo Jima and says that's where he got shot down. The father discovers there was a boat called the Natoma Bay, and finds there was only one Corsair pilot from this ship who was shot down at Iwo Jima, and his name was James M. Huston Jr. (So now they have an explanation of the "James 3" he keeps writing on his pictures, since "3rd" would come after "Jr.".) Also, John Larson turns out to be a real person who knew James M. Huston Jr.

But do these few apparent hits really need explaining? First, James is not an unusual name. Little James wrote his name on his pictures as most children would, but the “3” could mean anything (and we have no way of knowing if it was written before or after his father found out about James M. Huston Jr.).
Edited to add:

As pointed out by Tim in the comments below, James had just had his third birthday, so it is hardly surprising that he started to sign his pictures “James 3”; at least, we now have a prosaic explanation for “James 3”. And as another person commented, James the third should be written “James III” not “James 3”. In summary: "James 3" means nothing.

“Natoma” is the name of a ship he could no doubt have seen in one of his father’s books. But “Natoma” is not quite “Natoma Bay” - and did he say “Natoma” or just something similar? We’ll never know. Only “John Larson” can’t be explained easily. But even with this we really don’t know:

If James really said these words
If he was prompted
If he said it after his father had read the name to him, and the father’s timeline is confused
If he said something close that the father mis-remembered later when he read the name John Larson
How many other things the kid said over the course of four plus years that did not match up but that the parents have forgotten

Considering how his mother has apparently “forgotten” about the museum visit that started the whole thing off, I am disinclined to take either of James’ parents’ word for it that the child “remembered” these items exactly as claimed. This is hardly extraordinary evidence for such an extraordinary claim.

Paul Kurtz chairman of the Center for Inquiry and CSICOP, was briefly featured on the program saying he thinks the parents are self-deceived: “They're fascinated by the mysterious and they built up a fairy tale". Yes, that sounds quite possible. Following this, a TV company interested more in ratings than the truth makes a sensationalist program about it, conveniently forgetting to mention the museum trip that actually started the whole thing off. And so another legend is born, to be added to the literature that supposedly shows reincarnation really happens, to be repeated ad nauseam by believers. Yawn.

Edited to add:

According to this source, James Huston was shot down in a FM2 Wildcat, not a Corsair as little James “remembers”:

From July to September of 2000, James began to tell his parents that the plane in his nightmares was shot down by the Japanese after it had taken off from a ship on the water. When James was asked if he knew who the pilot was, he simply replied “James.”

Andrea asked James what type of plane he was flying in his dreams, and he said it was a “Corsair.”

(Snip)

After vigorously checking into the squadron’s aircraft action records, [James’ father] found out that Huston was shot down in a FM2 Wildcat fighter plane – not a Corsair.

(My emphasis.)

Which is the more prosaic explanation:

James Huston was shot down in a Wildcat, and would only have had traumatic memories of being shot down / unable to get out of his Wildcat, yet inexplicably his reincarnated soul remembers being shot down in the Corsair, or
Little James only remembered the distinctive Corsair from the museum, and so only made up stories about the Corsair?

I suggest that people insisting in option 1 above are unnecessarily choosing the less parsimonious explanation.

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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Fri Mar 01, 2013 12:41 am

Rebirth doesn't really have much to do with the topic, if anything. As I've tried to express, there are many many many many many... a lot of things in the universe that we couldn't even begin to explain or imagine.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Mar 01, 2013 12:53 am

shel wrote:But people do have past life memories. Why would they have memories of being Cleopatra but not Fido?

People have thoughts that are considered by some to be past life memories. Most of these claims have no real evidence to back them up. However, there are also Tibetan lamas who are said to not only predict their future rebirth but can also describe a previous life. For example, HH Dalai Lama is purported to have known where the dentures of his previous incarnation were hidden in the Potala Palace.However, there are often holes in many of the claims by lamas, or interpretations of events that conform to a preconceived idea, such as someone saying that in a previous life they lived in a house situated between two trees, as though every house isn't somehow located between two trees.



shel wrote: Try to think of it like this, if we put you in a spaceship and sent you to another galaxy where you experienced all sorts of unimaginable (to our limited experience) creatures and other things, and then brought you back here, why wouldn't you remember those experiences? How is rebirth transmigration different whereby no extraterrestrial memories are retained?


It would be more accurate to ask, what are the causes for why a person would either remember or not remember events of a previous life (and regarding a comment that it might be a previous life of somebody else, yes, that is always the case).

First of all, one has to stop regarding a lifetime as a specific thing that belongs to a specific being.
a lifetime is a collection of events. But that's just the start.
.
.
.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Fri Mar 01, 2013 1:14 am

The past-life research of Ian Stevenson is instructive in this regard, not least because it is proper research. He conducted interviews with many hundreds of subjects, discarding any that he believed were fraudulent, manipulative, or insupportable by evidence, and reporting only those that he thought were suggestive of real past-life memories.

One of the particular things I noticed about his cases was that children did NOT remember being Cleopatra, or Julius Ceaser, or some great historical figure. They usually remembered previous lives of great anonymity and even poverty and suffering. The previous lives were those of ordinary people who often died in very tragic circumstances.

Again, there is nothing known to Western science that provides for such a phenomenon. But it is of little use explaining that to people who have very little grasp of what 'materialism' means or why it is significant, so I won't make further efforts in that regard. The only point I am making here is that rather than uninformed speculation on the topic of re-birth, it is worth reading Ian Stevenson's cases in this matter, because they are based on empirical research.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Alex123 » Fri Mar 01, 2013 1:20 am

jeeprs wrote:The past-life research of Ian Stevenson is instructive in this regard, not least because it is proper research. He conducted interviews with many hundreds of subjects, discarding any that he believed were fraudulent, manipulative, or insupportable by evidence, and reporting only those that he thought were suggestive of real memories of past-life memories.



Stevenson never claimed that he had proved the existence of reincarnation, and cautiously referred to his cases as being "of the reincarnation type" or "suggestive of reincarnation".[34] He concluded that "reincarnation is the best — even though not the only — explanation for the stronger cases we have investigated".[35]

His methodology was criticized for providing no conclusive evidence for the existence of past lives.[36] In a book review criticizing one of Stevensons' books, the reviewer raised the concern that many of Stevenson's examples were gathered in cultures with pre-existing belief in reincarnation
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reincarnat ... #Criticism
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby jeeprs » Fri Mar 01, 2013 1:27 am

That's right. He was a cautious researcher, and never claimed to have proven the case. And, of course his methodology would be criticized, because in a culture where such ideas are regarded as outlandish or taboo, how else would you go about discrediting such suggestions? It is the age-old method of 'discrediting the witness'.

This, however, is a Buddhist forum, and I would rather hope that contributors here would be both better informed, and have a more open mind, about such matters.

Alas, such expectations are often dashed.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby undefineable » Fri Mar 01, 2013 1:27 am

shel wrote:
undefineable wrote:Also, the circularity of the materialist argument is demonstrated by this point:
shel wrote:It is difficult to conduct experiments on things that can't be seen, touched, heard, smelled, or tasted.


That's not an argument, nor does it express a mater- :quoteunquote: -ialist view. :tongue:


No, but your statement points to a subconscious assumption that I suspect many materialist worldviews depend on at least in part, most easily expressed as the following fallacious/circular argument:
"I can use a particular method (the scientific method) to prove the existence of certain things,
THEREFORE
the only real things are those whose existence I can prove in that particular way"

Btw, Houses are material things (and I am a material girl :lol: )
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby undefineable » Fri Mar 01, 2013 2:02 am

shel wrote:Experiencing other realms as "real" would seem to make it all the more likely that we would retain memories and experiences of those realms. So again, it seems that those other realms are very much like this realm.

Not so - A baby most likely experiences its baby-realm as real, but given the vast difference in character between its own experience and that of its future (grown up) self, memories are not generally transferred between those two beings :P .
shel wrote:Rebirth doesn't really have much to do with the topic, if anything. As I've tried to express, there are many many many many many... a lot of things in the universe that we couldn't even begin to explain or imagine.

Well if they're all physical then don't we already have something of a handle on them?
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Fri Mar 01, 2013 7:44 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
shel wrote:But people do have past life memories. Why would they have memories of being Cleopatra but not Fido?

People have thoughts that are considered by some to be past life memories. Most of these claims have no real evidence to back them up. However, there are also Tibetan lamas who are said to not only predict their future rebirth but can also describe a previous life. For example, HH Dalai Lama is purported to have known where the dentures of his previous incarnation were hidden in the Potala Palace.However, there are often holes in many of the claims by lamas, or interpretations of events that conform to a preconceived idea, such as someone saying that in a previous life they lived in a house situated between two trees, as though every house isn't somehow located between two trees.

Not that it needs to be, but this isn't really responsive to my post.

shel wrote: Try to think of it like this, if we put you in a spaceship and sent you to another galaxy where you experienced all sorts of unimaginable (to our limited experience) creatures and other things, and then brought you back here, why wouldn't you remember those experiences? How is rebirth transmigration different whereby no extraterrestrial memories are retained?

It would be more accurate to ask, what are the causes for why a person would either remember or not remember events of a previous life (and regarding a comment that it might be a previous life of somebody else, yes, that is always the case).

Well, whether it's a more accurate question or not, both questions are academic because no one can answer them. Or maybe someone could answer them but they would have to kill us. :spy:

First of all, one has to stop regarding a lifetime as a specific thing that belongs to a specific being.
a lifetime is a collection of events. But that's just the start.

Please, finish what you've started. :tongue:
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Fri Mar 01, 2013 8:01 am

undefineable wrote:
shel wrote:That's not an argument, nor does it express a mater- :quoteunquote: -ialist view. :tongue:

No, but your statement points to a subconscious assumption

People don't usually start pointing at my subconscious until they get to know me a bit better. But it's alright, I'd like to know my subconscious better.

that I suspect many materialist worldviews depend on at least in part, most easily expressed as the following fallacious/circular argument:
"I can use a particular method (the scientific method) to prove the existence of certain things,...

The scientific method is applied to a wide range of applications. Proving the existence of things might be something like trying to find subatomic particles?

THEREFORE...

All hands brace for impact!

... the only real things are those whose existence I can prove in that particular way"

Generally, a real thing is a thing that exists as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed. But I think you may have missed the point. No one knows how to apply the scientific method to that which cannot be sensed in any way. Or maybe I'm wrong and they can.

Btw, Houses are material things (and I am a material girl :lol: )

Good to know.
shel
 
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Fri Mar 01, 2013 8:09 am

undefineable wrote:
shel wrote:Experiencing other realms as "real" would seem to make it all the more likely that we would retain memories and experiences of those realms. So again, it seems that those other realms are very much like this realm.

Not so - A baby most likely experiences its baby-realm as real, but given the vast difference in character between its own experience and that of its future (grown up) self, memories are not generally transferred between those two beings :P .

Why are we trying to rationalize it anyway. If there are no stories about other realms being unlike this realm then why should we try to figure out how there could be such realms?

shel wrote:Rebirth doesn't really have much to do with the topic, if anything. As I've tried to express, there are many many many many many... a lot of things in the universe that we couldn't even begin to explain or imagine.

Well if they're all physical then don't we already have something of a handle on them?

Why would we assume they are all "physical"? and even if they were, how would that give us a handle on them?
shel
 
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