via negativa, via positiva

The obvious problem overlooked with describing God is that describing what He is not is to assume there is a god (or gods) in the first place.

The problem is really the same as describing unicorn with positives. That is, a horse with a straight horn on its head. The speakers assume there exists something horse-like with something horn-like on its head-like part.

The difference is that God has no attributes to describe (which is its description) and a unicorn had attributes to describe. Either way we have described an assumed something.

Pramāna

There are six pramāna (knowledge or valid cognition) in Indian philosophy.

Pratyakṣa (perception) is the sense data, essentially your intuition (Hume’s term) or experience. In Buddhism there are six senses – visual, aural, scent, pallet, tactile, and mind. Each have their corresponding “objects” – sight, sound, fragrance, taste, touch, and mind-object. Perception may correspond to sensation in psychology and not processed content.

Anumāna (inference) is similar to logic. One thing causes another by being inferred.

Upamāna (comparison and analogy) is to link two different unrelated situations or objects through similarity. This may include simile and metaphor.

Arthāpatti (postulation, derivation from circumstances) is implication by knowing the consequences of one action to another. Unlike anumāna it is long term and not immediate.

Anupalabdi (non-perception; negative cognitive proof) is the affirmation of the absence of the positive situation.

Śabda (reliance on past reliable testimony) is the reliance on past evidence given by others.

Buddhism, under Tibetan Buddhism system, recognizes that only perception (pratyakṣa) and inference (anumāna) as valid. All else are denied. This is interesting considering that the Buddhist sutras are taken to be sacred texts. On this count we must wonder how the rejection of śabda works here.

Pure sensation

There are five main faculties. In ordinary language these are sight, sound, smell, taste and touch. It may be obvious but they need to be named. The most used faculty is sight. Your eyes work like a video camera and monitor. The camera captures light creating an image of the things in view and thus determining the space. The faculty of sound does something similar but only in audio form. The faculties of smell, taste and touch are more “localised” where distance and direction is not so important whereas intensity of source is.

Simultaneously, these five faculties give you all the information about the reality, informing you about what exists, their relationship in space and also inform you of time. This information however, needs to be interpreted in synchrony. And this is done by the mind. The act of mental interpretation is called perception.

Does X exist?

1.
I have never physically been to France.

I have read a lot about it. Many things have occurred there. I have met French people. I have friends who have been there. But I have no direct evidence of the existence of France other than the things I read, hear, the maps I see, the people I meet. As far as I am concerned the existence of France could be a conspiracy of the entire world for my benefit.

But why would the world conspire to make me believe its existence? For what reason? Sure, I can go and check. It isn’t that hard. The “French” I have met, if they are not French, surely came from somewhere else. Perhaps they are a people of compulsion to lie collectively. Why?

2.
It doesn’t need to be France. It could be some other place. There are many places I have not been to. But I can go there and check. Korea, for example, is a short plane’s ride. Finances and time willing I can go (it is within my means).

The act of checking and the the ease of such checks surely tells us about the nature of reality and the nature of secondary sources. I have no reason not to believe someone that they come from France, or have been to France. Many a time I have experienced something they have not. Pretty much my life before I came to Japan is a mystery to my children and wife. I tell them about it. They believe it. There is no good reason to lie about it. It is mundane as mundane can be.

3.
The question of God’s existence is a little different.

No amount of wanting to check will bring me to God. God is not anywhere (though it is claimed God is everywhere). I cannot find God except with in thought and name. That is not to deny God’s existence, but rather to say what I know of God.

I know God as thoughts and name as much as I know France as thoughts and name. While I can check France’s existence I cannot check for God’s. Fundamentally France and God are different. One is a concept of a place. The other is a concept of a concept. I’ll let you decide which is which.

But still we talk of God as much as we talk of France, if not more. No amount of talk will allow me to go check of God’s existence. Buying a plane ticket will.

4.
If I want to see God I am told go to a church. But when I get to the church I do not see God but only a church. If I want to know about God I am told go read the Bible. But when I read the Bible I do not know God but only the Bible.

5.
This is true of all other religions, philosophies, sciences. There is a difference between first-hand knowledge (experience) and second-hand knowledge (reading, hearsay). Check for yourself when possible. Be weary of indirect sources. Do not confuse the two.

Things are individuated. The p=q is not a truth. Categorically, this can be true. Realistically, p is p and q is q.

No direct access to anything, inside or out

Following partially Berkeley’s conclusion, Hume also concluded that we have no access to the thing-in-itself. It is always indirect knowledge. It is always the representation. Schopenhauer concluded that we have access to one special thing – the self. It being so, this being the will, as opposed to representation. But I will contend that the will is also secondhand access.

Like the things “outside” we can know it only through sense perception. The self “inside” is also known only through sense and perception. The feelings and emotions are only ever representations themselves.

Two things, then. There is no direct access to anything, including to the self. And secondly, there is strictly nothing to be inside or outside.

On Anaxagoras

All things were together; then came Mind and set them in order.
(Anaxagoras, 500~428BCE)

1.
While Anaxagoras is considered the first Western philosopher to place mind above matter, this quote should also be noted that it suggests that matter came first before mind.

I wholly agree that matter comes first. I also agree that there is no “order” to matter but only that it exists. It is the mind (with a little ‘m’) that organises, categorises matter into any order. In other words, order, organisation and categorisation are processes of a mind.

The question of whether mind exists without matter is the primary concern of philosophers, East and West, now and then. Doubt it will be ever resolved. One can only hold positions by reasoning. Given Evidence A I draw Conclusion B. It is all too easy to reject A and not reach B. It is harder to give reason to reject A, for which this should be the task of philosophers.

2.
I am puzzled at the purpose of matter if mind is sufficient without matter. Perhaps this is a strange way to put it.

I have seen evidence of matter surviving mind, but not mind surviving matter. The argument against this is to shut down sensation and perception, ignore the sensory evidence, belittle perception. I have also talked about The Coma as again evidence for a case against mind over matter. Again, a mind without a reality has nothing to function upon. That is enough evidence against prioritising mind over matter. We would be far happier if we are to accept matter over mind as a starting point, scientifically, philosophically and spiritually.

Sleep, time, reality

“Those who step into the same river have different waters flowing ever upon them.” (Heraclitus, in Freeman, 25)

Heraclitus observing the world accepted change as the its fundamental nature. Often Heraclitus is paraphrased as everything is in flux. Time is seemingly a fundamental part of observed material reality. It can be observed to pass at a constant rate. This, of course, is all  but sense observation. But nonetheless, we function on, coordinate, avoid accidents, play games of tennis with our shared understanding of time. And we have no other choice but observe time with the senses.

Think of coma patients. For day, months, perhaps even years they are in a locked-in state of non-awareness of the “outside” sensed world. The shock comes when they come out of their comatose state feeling something only like a single night’s sleep. For them, time had stood still.

Our daily slumber also feels like this. The time between closing your eyes to sleep and waking up is but an instant in your mind.

This, to me, is sufficient evidence of the nature of time and its relationship to reality. Every night is a miniature coma.

The subjective/objective paradox

Consider these four statements:

  1. What is subjective is subjective.
  2. What is objective is objective.
  3. What is objective can be subjective in disguise.
  4. What is subjective can be objective in disguise.

Only the fourth statement is illogical. This necessarily says something of objectivity, namely that it is an illusion.

The question then is, are these objective and/or subjective statements?

The Experience

The Experience is the source of all knowledge. By experience I mean sensation from the senses. The five basic senses are the eyes, ears, skin, nose, and tongue, in the modes of sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste respectively. Perception is also part of experience. Perception is the interpretation of the physical data from the senses and also the interpretation of the concepts (mental data). Conceptualisation is a part of this experience. It is the accumulation of concepts – physical and mental data – that I term knowledge. Signification (language) is the part of this experience of this particular animal.

Without sensory experience we do not have knowledge. The beginning of sensory experience is what we call life, and its end is death. Everything in between is The Experience.