PadmaVonSamba wrote:he successfully refutes the argument that any kind of consciousness can appear spontaneously out of nothing, but that they must be preceded by other events of consciousness..
Just like fire doesn't have to be preceded by previous instances of fire (fire can be produced by rubbing two dry sticks
) same with consciousness.
Yes, that's a good example. Except that fire needs three things, a cause (as you say, friction of two sticks), oxygen, and something which burns (the sticks) so in the buddhist way of reckoning, fire only appears
to arise as something that previously wasn't there, but in fact is essentially a continuation, perhaps a transformation, of its previous components.
Nagarjuna's argument goes further, however, as he argues that
anything you might call even a moment of thought cannot be shown to have a beginning or an end,
and that if a moment of thought is different from the thing from which it arises, it cannot be called that thing (from which it arises),
yet, if you say it is not that thing (from which it arises) then it must be constantly occurring, meaning it cannot undergo any change. So, if you think of a chair, that thought will remain and not go away (like a song you can't get out of your head). In other words, thoughts have no substantial reality to them.
Consider a long piece of string. You can't say the string is the same as the beginning end tip, because if it were, it would just end there at the tip and have zero length. And you can't say it is a continuation of that tip, because the string has length, and the tip itself has no length (length being a defining characteristic). Any point along that length of string can be divided infinitely, so no finite point along the length of that string can be found, yet a length of string appears.
Alex123 wrote: For example: If one takes hallucinogenic drugs, the physical substance will alter the mind's perception and create new cognition (ex: of Micky Mouse). Here we have an instance of physical cause, drugs on physical brain.
Well, the fact that a person is tripping wouldn't actually matter to the argument, it would just be a different kind of cognition. you could also call dreams a kind of hallucination, which occur during sleep.
Why can't the first instance of consciousness in a baby be due to purely biological/physical reasons? Why do we see the mental development of a child follow the physical development of the brain, and degradation of the mind follows degradation of the brain?
It could be if it could be demonstrated that purely biological/physical properties can witness their own awareness.
Alex123 wrote: Alter one part of the brain, one kind of mental state alters. Damage another part of the brain and mental effects are different. Sometimes it is even possible to predict the kind of mental changes that can occur if we know what area of the brain was damaged. I understand that correlation is not causation, but there are plenty of such "coincidences".
Oh yes, you can definitely map out areas of the brain where the activity of basically electricity & chemicals are associated with various cognitive functions. You can also prove that chromosome mutations influence brain activity including perception, and the processing of objects perceived. I don't think there is any argument that a brain is needed for cognition, but rather whether physical brain activity alone is sufficient.
My understanding is that cognition, or consciousness, is not the same thing as the causes
and that what we call "mind" and regard as a continuous thing, is not a thing in and of itself, but actually refers to a rapid series of events in which awareness meets with objects of awareness. Ordinarily, we do not experience raw awareness itself, but this is essentially what is called mind resting in its natural state. It is what is realized through Buddhist meditation. Likewise, we do not ordinarily experience the true nature of phenomena, but only experience our limited perceptions of phenomena (for example, we cannot usually see the ultraviolet colors in flowers that some insects can see).
Consider that if the physical brain alone were sufficient for cognition, there would be no cause for any sense of a "self' that is doing the thinking. Saying "my" brain would be redundant, because "I' would simply be
that brain, trapped inside the tiny dark box we call a skull.
From the Buddhist standpoint, even though we can say, relatively, "My thoughts" or "This is what I think" , there is no place where an "I" that possesses those thoughts can be found. In this regard, Materialists and Buddhists might find some agreement. But the materialist view does not answer how that which does not occupy any space or weight (awareness), and which has no substance can arise from purely physical components, much less combine with physical components to result in the experience of the arising of mind (cognition).