The "Materialist View"

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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Mar 02, 2013 5:33 pm

You can list all the components of thought,
consciousness, awareness, skandhas, sensory response, DNA,
and so on, a mile long, any way you want to group things, or prioritize them,
and out of that list the only component, or factor
which is self-evident, self-referential, and thus
needs no other cause for it (although finding one would be nice)
is awareness.
based on this, and a few other aspects of the situation,
it is reasonable to identify awareness
which, in being self-evident, and self-referential,
thus not arising from components,
and thus not material in nature
as valid evidence for refuting the purely materialist view.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby shel » Sat Mar 02, 2013 5:37 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:You can list all the components of thought,
consciousness, awareness, skandhas, sensory response, DNA,
and so on, a mile long, any way you want to group things, or prioritize them,
and out of that list the only component, or factor
which is self-evident, self-referential, and thus
needs no other cause for it (although finding one would be nice)
is awareness.
based on this, and a few other aspects of the situation,
it is reasonable to identify awareness
which, in being self-evident, and self-referential,
thus not arising from components,
and thus not material in nature
as valid evidence for refuting the purely materialist view.


We've been through this, emptiness is form, etc, which is another way of saying no duality. No duality like materialist/spiritualist. :thumbsup:



ps: I grow weary of this topic so I will now take my leave of it. Thanks to everyone for sharing, especially Jeeprs and PadmaVonSamba.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Mar 02, 2013 5:46 pm

shel wrote: a brain "alone" doesn't produce anything. It apparently requires the world.

I am not sure any more whether you are arguing the materialist view or not.
Seriously...I've lost track.
What is your position?
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Alex123 » Sat Mar 02, 2013 6:43 pm

undefineable wrote:That's an explanation for reality as a whole, but no explanation at all for the boy in question - Why was he born this way and not some other way {I won't say 'learning disabled' or 'dimwitted' since so many prodigies are in fact all three of these things.}



This is question of biology, and upbringing. If his parents were different, he would have different genes and something about him would be different. If his upbringing was different, then his personality would be different in accordance with that.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Alex123 » Sat Mar 02, 2013 6:47 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:...purely materialist view.


And not every scientist is a materialist. Science is not equal to materialism. Atheism doesn't have to adhere to materialism as metaphysical position, nor questioning rebirth has to be due to materialism.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby undefineable » Sun Mar 03, 2013 7:20 pm

Alex123 wrote:
undefineable wrote:That's an explanation for reality as a whole, but no explanation at all for the boy in question - Why was he born this way and not some other way {I won't say 'learning disabled' or 'dimwitted' since so many prodigies are in fact all three of these things.}



This is question of biology, and upbringing. If his parents were different, he would have different genes and something about him would be different. If his upbringing was different, then his personality would be different in accordance with that.


You're not understanding what I meant at all - What determines that it is YOUR awareness that experiences your particular circumstances, 'self', and body, rather than another awareness experiencing them while your own awareness experiences another life-situation? Just understanding this question in its simplest logical sense practically rules out materialism; the only issue is that it takes a long journey away from the 'safe place' ('I am ultimately Myself' etc.) that most non-Buddhists have made/ have had made (even) for their minds. I suspect there has to either be a lot of positivity, or (as for me) a lot of negativity piled up in one's mind before this perspective is reached, so my hope is either that you would have understood me already if I'd communicated better, or that you still don't get it :toilet:
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby undefineable » Sun Mar 03, 2013 7:49 pm

Alex123 wrote:
undefineable wrote:I disagree - New-born baby appears as if it had severe alzheimer's :P
Not if we compare brain-scans of newborn baby and actual person with alzheimer.

Obviously not, but wouldn't most of the activity within both brains be pretty random?
Alex123 wrote:
undefineable wrote:What about inborn skills -basic social skills for example- ? {I don't actually think this is 'carry over of skills' btw, just playing Devil's Advoc8 :twisted: }

Genes could be responsible for some of them. Plus learned behavior from parents and other people.

Depending on what kind of social skills you are talking about, some people (with autism, for example) have to learn them more than someone with more normally functional brain.

So if skills effectively appear out of nothing (from the point of view of rebirth), would there not be 'carry-over- of skills?
Alex123 wrote:
undefineable wrote:Personally, I'm skeptical about everlasting nothingness post-death ;) -

Prove to me that there is some sort of existence after brain permanently ceases to function.

See my last post and elsewhere; the Dalai Lama has made several traditional Buddhist demonstrations of the logical absurdity of post-death annihilation.

Just for the record, again, I'd prefer to believe that there is in fact no after-death existence ;)
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby undefineable » Sun Mar 03, 2013 7:51 pm

shel wrote:
undefineable wrote:
shel wrote: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?

Yes; between the lines you seem to be hinting that subatomic particles are unfindable, yet millions/billions put their 'faith in science' into the assumption that they're more real than anything else.

Not at all, for example I read somewhere recently that people are working on trying to find a hypothetical graviton particle.

I was under the impression that quantum mechanics demonstrates the literal unfindability of all such particles. I'm sure, though, that such data -scarce and abstruse as it is- fails to prove such conclusions as yet, but the whole thing sounds more like trying to prove the existence of God than trying to find a more parsimonious explanation for the universe.

I didn't really word my original response correctly, though, in that I referred to the 'existence of things', which implies physical objects/forces, whereas the context and background within which such things have their place (their 'ontological status' if you like) ought to be the aim of non-scientific understanding, in as much as it can't strictly be the aim of scientific understanding.
shel wrote:
What's to say, though, that the [scientific] method might not have to be tweaked slightly, as with the 'first-handedness' of Buddhist meditation? {In this case, one's findings would just be harder to demonstrate to everyone else}

The structure of the method is pretty basic. I'm not sure where or how it could be tweaked to accommodate insight, or even why it would be interested in the first place. Even if something like no-self were scientifically proven, if that makes any sense, what good would it do anyone?

I'm not asking if a particular method is interested in changing :rolleye:
I'm asking if our search for the truth (about our reality) might demand some flexibility as to method, in order for every aspect (not object :sage: ) within that reality to be understood as it is.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Alex123 » Sun Mar 03, 2013 11:11 pm

undefineable wrote:You're not understanding what I meant at all - What determines that it is YOUR awareness that experiences your particular circumstances,


The brain. If its activity ceases, so is any kind of conscious awareness of "I", "Alex", etc.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Alex123 » Sun Mar 03, 2013 11:18 pm

undefineable wrote:Obviously not, but wouldn't most of the activity within both brains be pretty random?


If we don't know what each activity means, than it can appear meaninglesss, random, as you say. But alzheimer's brain is malfunctioning, while baby's brain is developing into, hopefully, fully functional brain.


undefineable wrote:So if skills effectively appear out of nothing (from the point of view of rebirth), would there not be 'carry-over- of skills?


Some behavior can be passed through genes. Other behavior is learned from parents, peers, media, environment.


undefineable wrote:See my last post and elsewhere; the Dalai Lama has made several traditional Buddhist demonstrations of the logical absurdity of post-death annihilation.


If as empirical experiments show, mind is TOTALLY dependent on the brain... Then when brain goes... So does the mind...

As for logical sophisms, a clever person can prove anything. I want concrete evidence, not sophistry.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Mar 04, 2013 1:50 am

undefineable wrote: If as empirical experiments show, mind is TOTALLY dependent on the brain... Then when brain goes... So does the mind

Not accurate.
Mind is partly dependent on the physical brain,
and partly dependent on awareness of the activity of the physical brain.
It cannot be demonstrated that the physical brain witnesses its own awareness.
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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.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Mar 04, 2013 1:53 am

undefineable wrote:
So if skills effectively appear out of nothing (from the point of view of rebirth), would there not be 'carry-over- of skills?


In The Seventy Stanzas by Nagarjuna, 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.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Alex123 » Mon Mar 04, 2013 2:22 am

Some thoughts.

How do we know that the other person has consciousness? We know it by their behavior, their speech and their response to situations. We see their physical actions or hear their speech (sound). All these are physical. Through inference we say that "he has to be conscious to feel the pain and to grimace or to feel happy and smile".

When person is angry, brain activity alters, his pulse increases, adrenalin or other hormones are secreted, s/he frowns, makes fists, and other angry jestures. Without these and similar physical things, how can we tell if he is angry or not?

Without physical, we cannot know the existence of other minds.

Lets imagine this hypothetical situation where there are bio-robots that behave exactly the same as alive person would. One robot has consciousness, another does not. How can we distinguish which robot is conscious and which is not? We can't.


We cannot know anything about dis-embodied consciousness, but we can observe physical objects that do not have consciousness (ex: table).
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby Alex123 » Mon Mar 04, 2013 2:25 am

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.

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.

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?

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".
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:13 am

Alex123 wrote:
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.
COMPLICATED!!!!

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.

Alex123 wrote:
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 of consciousness,
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).
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby futerko » Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:22 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
undefineable wrote:
So if skills effectively appear out of nothing (from the point of view of rebirth), would there not be 'carry-over- of skills?


In The Seventy Stanzas by Nagarjuna, 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.
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Which stanza is this?
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:25 am

futerko wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:
undefineable wrote:
So if skills effectively appear out of nothing (from the point of view of rebirth), would there not be 'carry-over- of skills?


In The Seventy Stanzas by Nagarjuna, 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.
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Which stanza is this?


I gave my copy away. I don't remember.
Or the materialist would say,
my body gave the copy away
and my brain does not remember.
But I think you can look it up. 70 stanzas is not very long.
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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.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby futerko » Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:28 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:I gave my copy away. I don't remember.
Or the materialist would say,
my brain does not remember.
But I think you can look it up. 70 stanzas is not very long.
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Not long no, but quite dense! Thanks anyway, I will plough through it for a bit of light bedtime reading.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:38 am

futerko wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:I gave my copy away. I don't remember.
Or the materialist would say,
my brain does not remember.
But I think you can look it up. 70 stanzas is not very long.
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Not long no, but quite dense! Thanks anyway, I will plough through it for a bit of light bedtime reading.


What I found that in some ways, the way he states his case is rather weak in the sense of how the west, inheriting from the Greeks, would frame an argument. There are some "givens" such as karma, which he doesn't bother to "prove" but they don't really have much bearing, and that if you can try to understand the point his is making, and it is mostly logic by deduction, that his argument is sound. But it is a tough read, or at least it was for me. Good to read it and meditate, alternately.
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Re: The "Materialist View"

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Mar 04, 2013 4:44 pm

Alex123 wrote: We cannot know anything about dis-embodied consciousness, but we can observe physical objects that do not have consciousness (ex: table).

With certain types of microscopes we can observe sperm swimming to an egg, white blood cells moving as part of the immune system, and other types of, if you will, 'purposeful' interactions between things we refer to as "living". None of these possess what we would generally refer to as "consciousness" or any sort of cognitive ability whatsoever.

There is nothing to suggest that sperm cells are "thinking' about fertilizing the egg. However, there is a sort of "awareness" (and I use that term loosely) meaning that there is a type of purposeful (again, a term to use loosely) response activity going on.

This does not mean, however, that all things which respond to each other do so as the result of any sort of awareness.

For example, magnets attract, acid reacts with water, there is some gravitational pull between the Earth and the Moon, and so on. So, mere physical interaction between objects does not imply awareness. And with these as well as with sperm and egg, there is nothing to show that they cognitively witness any aspect of their activity.

But awareness of physical interactions, whether playing with magnets or regarding the signal that one has a splinter as pain is itself mind arising.

Without awareness of the physical interactions, there is no mind. No consciousness at work. Meteors crashing into each other in deep space, not making any sound, and with nobody aware of it. Likewise, without awareness, there is no mind arising with regards to the "universe" of the physical brain. But the physical brain does not conjure up awareness of itself, meaning of its interactions.

This is my understanding of it.
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