Author Archives: signature103

About signature103

Language teacher and researcher. Object Philosopher. Buddhist.

Svabhava – the doctrine of no intrinsic nature

There is no intrinsic nature (svabhava) to conditioned phenomena. All conditioned (samskara) and unconditioned (dharma) phenomena are without self (anatman) and are empty (shunyata). All conditioned phenomena are impermanent (anitya) and unsatisfactory (duhkha).

With this as base Buddhism teaches enlightenment (or release) (nirvana) that ends all rebirth (samsara, reincarnation).

God’s Imperfection

Time is important. 
Change and difference create value. 
God means nothing without man. 
The imperfections of man generates 
the perfection of God.

Yet, God’s perfection 
is nothing and everything. 
For that is the power 
of a knowledge that comes 
from nowhere.

Chicken soup for the non-soul

“So if there is no self, non-self, non-soul or no- soul what is it that gets reborn or reincarnated?”

This is question I often get from Westerners new to Buddhism. How can there be no soul? Who or what is doing these good and bad things?

The Buddha always starts with the idea of impermanence. All real things are impermanent. Real things do no stay the same. This much most people can understand and agree with. Then the Buddha moves on to the idea of unsatisfactoriness. All real things are unsatisfactory. This too most people can agree upon also. But then most people get tripped up by the last statement of the truth of reality. All real and unreal things have no inherent self. Real things are seen to have no coherent core, just as unreal things (ideas and concepts of the of the imagination) do not have any core.

What makes a rock a rock is not anything. There is no “rock-ness” of things. If there is a rock-ness then would that not entail a permanent “something”?

There is also another suggestion here with this formulation – that there is something permanent but without a self. Real things are impermanent and unsatisfactory. But Unreal things are “permanent” and “satisfactory” in some way even though they are without a self. But what can be permanent if it is unreal?

This kind of formulation is not dissimilar to that of God or soul. Since God and soul are permanent and satisfactory. This is the conundrum. So, does God and souls exist or not? According to Buddha they must be unreal but unreal things have no self. But real things have no self either.

The only way forward, I feel, is to deal with these issues separately. Understand the nature of real things before we deal with understanding what the nature of unreal things are.

*Remember that book? Sorry. Clickbait title.

Religion from a biological or anthropological point of view

It seems to me that everything we do is for one purpose and one purpose alone, and that is to survive. We eat, sleep, exercise, work, play, wear clothes, buy houses, read, write, speak, listen, study, teach, sing, have sex, defecate, pretty do everything as a way to survive.

We create institutions to survive. Health care, education, science, philosophy and religion are just some of the institutions we have as a way to survive as a group rather than as an individual.

Seen this way, religion is no different to the ballroom dancing club, tennis club, academic associations that we create in order to survive. Religion, God, souls, mind and self, therefore, are concepts to help us, and should be studied as a biological and anthropological necessities. It should be off-limits to scrutiny.

On nominalism

1.
If we are to take nominalism as 1) the rejection of universals, or 2) the rejection of abstract objects (of the mind) then I am neither.

What I reject is that universals or abstract objects are things in the conventional sense, or even real objects (of the mind). This sentient/animate being conceptualises universals, abstract objects and concrete objects, that is, conceptualisation is a process of a thing, this thing, and not a thing-in-itself. A process is a “characteristic” of a thing.

2.
The communicative symbol is the only “thing” in common between a universal or abstract object (of the mind) in mine and another person’s mind.

Enlightenment is the end of rebirth

There are six realms in Buddhism (mostly Tibetan Buddhism) into which one may be reborn. These are the realms of

  1. gods (through pride)
  2. demi-gods (through jealousy)
  3. humans (through lust)
  4. animals (through ignorance)
  5. hungry ghosts (through greed)
  6. hell-denizens (through hatred)

As you can see, rebirth is not a good thing. Westerners often mistake rebirth to be a positive notion. This partly has to do with shared terminology with Hinduism and Jainism (religions existent at the same time and place as Buddhism), and partly to the lack of any concept that is similar to it in Western cultures.

To be clear,

  1. the goal of Buddhism is to end rebirth (reincarnation) and
  2. enlightenment is the state in which all future rebirths have been extinguished.

So deductive reasoning does have its uses

So I was pushing with it with the example I gave on deductive reasoning earlier. But there was a point to this – that it does have much to do with the type of subjects and predicates you choose. Here are some mixed examples from here with my commentary:

  • All numbers ending in 0 or 5 are divisible by 5. The number 35 ends with a 5, so it must be divisible by 5.

Here we have an abstract system which is completely based on artificial rules. But also will this work in, say, base-6? Why do we assume base-10?

  • All birds have feathers. All robins are birds. Therefore, robins have feathers.

Built into the definition of birds is feather. So we have a tautology.

  • It’s dangerous to drive on icy streets. The streets are icy now, so it would be dangerous to drive on the streets.

Judgment and a matter of degrees, the kind of tires you may have and who is driving or a combination of these.

  • All cats have a keen sense of smell. Fluffy is a cat, so Fluffy has a keen sense of smell.

A matter of degrees.

  • Cacti are plants, and all plants perform photosynthesis. Therefore, cacti perform photosynthesis.

Part of the definition of plant so a tautology again.

  • Red meat has iron in it, and beef is red meat. Therefore, beef has iron in it.

Tautology again.

  • Acute angles are less than 90 degrees. This angle is 40 degrees, so it must be an acute angle.

Self defining term.

  • All noble gases are stable. Helium is a noble gas, so helium is stable.

Categorisation.

  • Elephants have cells in their bodies, and all cells have DNA. Therefore, elephants have DNA.

The major premise is reversed with the minor one.

  • All horses have manes. The Arabian is a horse; therefore, Arabians have manes.

This is an unusual case with naked foal syndrome but mutations may occur for better or worse. The question remains does a mane define a horse?

Admittedly, this is not the best page for examples. The point though is formal logic is highly restrictive in its use and content. It also says much about language as a medium for communicating truth, particularly when tautological definitions are used. Mathematics seems a better medium but then it is formed upon an abstract system not apply in reality. For this attempts have been made with set theory.

I do not mind enumerative and eliminative induction methods, and probability in the shape of abduction. It only needs to be stated from the outset. Rigour is possible with these if used carefully.

I have yet to touch upon apoha, Saussurean system of difference, fuzzy logic or even prototype theory as a methodologies, but I will.

Deductive reasoning is flawed, therefore we should move on.

Consider this common example for an argument of deductive reasoning.

All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

We start with a major (general) premise, move to a minor (particular) premise, then draw a conclusion. Not so difficult. But let’s look at the major premise again.

All men are mortal.

I have met many men. Hundreds, perhaps thousands. But to be sure I have not met all men. Every time I go shopping I see someone I have yet to meet. So what am I basing this statement upon, if it is not based upon observations of the men I have met until now. Where do I find the universal truths? I may ask my wife, children, relatives, friends and co-workers too “have you met any man who isn’t mortal?” and usually (there is always one wisecrack who would claim “yes, I have!”) get a favourable answer (does hearsay count?), but I still have not confirmed that all men are indeed mortal.

What I really have done is enumerated (enumerative induction) all of my experiences with men and come to a probable conclusion that this statement ‘all men are mortal’ is a “truth”. What I really should be saying is that “all the men I have met (and heard about) are mortal”. It would not be truthful to make that major premise. It seems, then, all deductive reasoning is based on an assumption from an experience of high-probability without acknowledging itself to be doing so. There is no true deductive reasoning that can be true as such, only probable conclusions.

Now I am not saying probability are not good. I am saying exactly the opposite, that we only ever have most-probable-answers and likely-to-be-true statements to work with. I am saying, deductive reasoning is flawed, therefore, we should move on.

Conditioned and unconditioned things

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

I have had a tough time translating sanskara (conditioned) and dharma (unconditioned) in this passage. The question is the what is conditioned and what is unconditioned.

Perhaps it is better to translate sanskara as subjective concepts and dharma as objective concepts. As the fourth category of the skandha (personality) sanskara comes after feelings (vedana, pleasant, unpleasant and neutral) perception (samjna, identification of differences).

So this could be summed up as all subjective concepts are temporary and unsatisfactory. And all concepts – subjective and objective – are without substance.

But what does that say about objective concepts? That they are permanent and satisfactory? But since both subject and objective concepts are without substantiality we are left to wonder what we should be placing our trust in.

So, being equally insubstantial, the objective concept (as a concept) can only be a temporary solution as well. Here lies the paradox.

Words and actions

Yes, I have privileged access to my thoughts, words and actions.

But what access do I have of someone else’s thoughts, if it is not only their words and actions. Equally, no one has access to my thoughts except for my own words and actions.

The concepts in one’s head remains in there until it reveals itself in the form of matter as representation to me or as representation to them.

Object Philosophy

As I work through my philosophy it is slowly becoming clear that it is best named Object Philosophy. I had considered “concept philosophy” as well but because my philosophy is about fully engaging with the physical world in a meaningful way it seems more accurate a name than concept philosophy, even though concepts play a huge part in it.

Object Philosophy explains how the ontology of things, and the processes of conceptualisation (concepts) and symbolisation (signifiers) relate, and how many of our fundamental assumptions have been wrong, leading to many of the problems and dead-ends in current philosophy, thinking and way of life.

halfway through the show

forever, we come in
“halfway through the show”.
never to go back
to the beginning of time,
to our parents’ birth or
even to the last minute
or second that had just past.
for that is time’s character.

there is neither reverse to reality,
nor fast forward, but only ‘play’
we must live with it, deal with it,
but also enjoy the show while it’s on.

Alien archeology

In the future, human beings may (will) disappear from the face of the earth and cease to exist in the universe.

“Aliens” may visit earth and see the bones and ruins and surmise in an act of archeology what kind of being created these things. They will see the books and writings (words) but not understand them. For they have no access to the concepts (mind-objects) that no longer exist. What is left are only things and words (as things).

There are no concepts lying around to be found like cultural artefacts. For that is the case. That is the only reality.