Monthly Archives: November 2019

The philosophy of brown

“There is a book on the table. The book is brown. I will accept the book exists. But does the colour brown exist?”

Brown is a wavelength. White light bounces off the book. The characteristics of the book absorb certain wavelengths. What is not absorbed is reflected. Let us call this isolated, reflected wavelength (low-intensity light at 600 nanometres) which reaches our eyes “brown”. The eyes, which are receptive to wavelengths, transmits that information from the retina down the nerves to the brain where it is equated to “brown”.

You see the book. I see the same book. The colour which is reflected corresponds to “brown” in your vocabulary and my vocabulary. But whether we see the same colour in the same manner does not matter. As long as we are talking about the same “thing” is all that is important.

In this sense, we have isolated the property “brown” to be the wavelength and given it this agreed-upon name. The wavelength exists as light, as energy. I would say “yes”, it physically exists.

Linguistic efficiency

Chomsky believed there were innate ideas when it came to language. But cannot the patterns (deep structures) of language explained by the limitations of probable choice and the tendency towards linguistic efficiency, rather than some kind of pre-determined given?

In some ways this is what Chomsky is saying. But somehow there is a gap between his understanding of the physical reality and the reality of his language.

Language is a physical property and should be treated as such, not as some mystery akin to religions and gods.

Statements of non-facts

By simply saying, “God” does not bring God into existence anymore than saying “Harry Potter” will bring this fictional character into existence.

Human beings are very good at creating abstract objects. And indeed we treat ideas and thoughts as objects, often mixing them up with the real objects of the world.

Absolutes

Do absolutes exist? Or do they only in relation to relative things … thus making it relative. Furthermore, since absolutes are not affected by the relative things it is a constant. It also works in the opposite direction where it does not affect the relative. This suggests absolutes can be safely ignored.

Nirvana has no value

Central to the teaching of Buddhism are the three marks of existence (trilaksana).

The three marks of existence are:

  • saṅkhārā aniccā — “all saṅkhāras (conditioned things) are impermanent”
  • sabbe saṅkhārā dukkhā — “all saṅkhāras are unsatisfactory”
  • sabbe dhammā anattā — “all dharmas (conditioned or unconditioned things) are not self”

Conditioned things (sankhara), according to Buddhism, do not make up the entirety of things. There are also unconditioned things. Together conditioned and unconditioned things are called the dharma – the entirety of the world.

Nirvana (the realization of the non-self or emptiness of everything, conditioned and unconditioned) is neither impermanent nor permanent, and neither unsatisfactory nor unsatisfactory. To say it is permanent would be to not understand its characteristics. To say it is satisfactory would be to not see the inconsistency of duality. The neutral, zero position of Buddhism is something rather hard to grasp. And by being unenlightened is to be not fully understanding the zero position, but be like somewhere between -1 and +1, other than 0. By having a value – positive or negative – we are not understanding the meaning of 0. The irony is, we cannot know zero without recourse to every other number, that is, zero means nothing without something.