Buddhism and logic?

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Buddhism and logic?

Postby greenjuice » Thu Nov 14, 2013 2:05 am

I've become interested in Buddhism mainly connected to my interest in Stoicism and other Ancient Greek philosophical schools and their opinions on mind, emotions and happiness. Basically all the Ancient Greek schools of philosophy delve into various fields, including logic.

Has Buddha has talked specifically about it?

Also, I have seen multiple times in the suttas constructions that have illogical sounding phrases. Like, the example I can think of now, is when Buddha talks about the question of whether the Buddha exists after death, or not, or both or neither. OK, I understand people wondering if Buddha exists after death or not, but who would wonder if Buddha after his deaths both exists and doesn't, or neither exists nor doesn't? Those are logical impossibilities.
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Re: Buddhism and logic?

Postby SarathW » Thu Nov 14, 2013 3:01 am

Ultimate goal of Buddhism is to realise Nirvana.
Which has to be accomplish by practice and knowledge not by logic.
:meditate:
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Re: Buddhism and logic?

Postby Modus.Ponens » Thu Nov 14, 2013 3:09 am

Both exists and doesn't exists means, in my interpretation, that it could be attributed some truth to each statement. For example, one could say that from the point of view of soul, the Buddha doesn't exist after death, but from the point of view of a process of the agregates, the Buddha continues to exist after death. But the Buddha said that this cannot be said. Similarly with the "neither exists nor doesn't exist" because it's a different way to phrase the first statement, but stated nevertheless probably for pedagogical reasons.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: Buddhism and logic?

Postby reflection » Thu Nov 14, 2013 7:07 am

There is logic in Buddhism, but the teachings are something to be applied, not just to ponder upon.

As for quotes where the Buddha and his direct disciples specifically spoke about this:

Bhante, there are some ascetics and brahmins who come to Kesaputta. They explain and elucidate their own doctrines, but disparage, denigrate, deride, and denounce the doctrines of others. But then some other ascetics and brahmins come to Kesaputta, and they too explain and elucidate their own doctrines, but disparage, denigrate, deride, and denounce the doctrines of others. We are perplexed and in doubt, Bhante, as to which of these good ascetics speak truth and which speak falsehood.”

“It is fitting for you to be perplexed, Kālāmas, fitting for you to be in doubt. Doubt has arisen in you about a perplexing matter. Come, Kālāmas, do not go by oral tradition, by lineage of teaching, by hearsay, by a collection of scriptures, by logical reasoning, by inferential reasoning, by reasoned cogitation, by the acceptance of a view after pondering it, by the seeming competence of a speaker, or because you think: ‘The ascetic is our guru.’ But when, Kālāmas, you know for yourselves: ‘These things are unwholesome; these things are blameworthy; these things are censured by the wise; these things, if accepted and undertaken, lead to harm and suffering,’ then you should abandon them.
http://suttacentral.net/an3.65/en/


Then the Venerable Saviṭṭha said to the Venerable Musı̄la: “Friend Musı̄la, apart from faith, apart from personal preference, apart from oral tradition, apart from reasoned reflection, apart from acceptance of a view after pondering it, does the Venerable Musı̄la have personal knowledge thus: ‘With birth as condition, aging-and-death comes to be’?”
http://suttacentral.net/sn12.68/en/


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Re: Buddhism and logic?

Postby santa100 » Thu Nov 14, 2013 2:48 pm

Modern science continues to defy logic all the time: double-slit experiment, quantum entanglement, parallel-aligned quantum spins, etc.. And more findings in the future will continue to redefine the "logical impossibilities" barrier..
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Re: Buddhism and logic?

Postby Kare » Thu Nov 14, 2013 3:26 pm

greenjuice wrote:
Also, I have seen multiple times in the suttas constructions that have illogical sounding phrases. Like, the example I can think of now, is when Buddha talks about the question of whether the Buddha exists after death, or not, or both or neither. OK, I understand people wondering if Buddha exists after death or not, but who would wonder if Buddha after his deaths both exists and doesn't, or neither exists nor doesn't? Those are logical impossibilities.


This is the tetralemma, a standard feature of Indian logic. If you want to explore this further, I'll suggest you read TH. Stcherbatsky, "Buddhist logic".
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Re: Buddhism and logic?

Postby greenjuice » Thu Nov 14, 2013 3:57 pm

do not go by ... logical reasoning, by inferential reasoning, by reasoned cogitation, by the acceptance of a view after pondering it,


Did I understand that correctly- Buddha actually says that one shouldn't use logic and rational inquiry?
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Re: Buddhism and logic?

Postby daverupa » Thu Nov 14, 2013 9:50 pm

greenjuice wrote:
do not go by ... logical reasoning, by inferential reasoning, by reasoned cogitation, by the acceptance of a view after pondering it,


Did I understand that correctly- Buddha actually says that one shouldn't use logic and rational inquiry?


One shouldn't accept soteriological claims based solely on reasoning, but on knowing and seeing for oneself. Reasoning is a valuable critical faculty, but it isn't infallible.

The book Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge by K.N. Jayatilleke is a thick work going over these issues, if you like.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Buddhism and logic?

Postby reflection » Thu Nov 14, 2013 10:02 pm

greenjuice wrote:
do not go by ... logical reasoning, by inferential reasoning, by reasoned cogitation, by the acceptance of a view after pondering it,


Did I understand that correctly- Buddha actually says that one shouldn't use logic and rational inquiry?

He doesn't say that we should totally ignore it, but the point is that it is not the end of things. Through logic and reasoning one can arrive at many different ideas. But the Buddha didn't get his insight through a logical reasoned analysis of facts, but by seeing deeply within his mind directly. The Buddhist path is set up for others to do the same thing. If you read the suttas you will find that the path is always described in terms of practice and personal experience.

The "either does and doesn't, etc" seems to be a standard way of logical inquiry at that time, because we see it more often in the suttas. The culture was quite developed with logical thinkers. But in my eyes the Buddha was one who saw that logic can only take you so far.

Though there are suttas with logical reasoning, and the Buddha was good at it too. But I guess my point is that you should always take these suttas in light of the others and realize that Buddhism isn't a logical exercise.


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Re: Buddhism and logic?

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Nov 14, 2013 10:09 pm

greenjuice wrote:I've become interested in Buddhism mainly connected to my interest in Stoicism and other Ancient Greek philosophical schools and their opinions on mind, emotions and happiness. Basically all the Ancient Greek schools of philosophy delve into various fields, including logic.

Has Buddha has talked specifically about it?

Also, I have seen multiple times in the suttas constructions that have illogical sounding phrases. Like, the example I can think of now, is when Buddha talks about the question of whether the Buddha exists after death, or not, or both or neither. OK, I understand people wondering if Buddha exists after death or not, but who would wonder if Buddha after his deaths both exists and doesn't, or neither exists nor doesn't? Those are logical impossibilities.

Going all the way back to the OP to head off in a different direction ...
Arguments in the form "[proposition] is true or false or both or neither" (your example is "whether the Buddha exists after death, or not, or both or neither") are quite standard in the Buddhist literature.* It seems odd to us, but mainly because we have been brought up with the simpler "[proposition] is true or false" model.
Those two are not all the possibilities, however, by a long way. A statement can be ...
Meaningless (neither true nor false)
Tautological (necessarily true) e.g. "Triangles have three sides"
Necessarily false e.g. "Triangles have four sides"
Self-contradictory, e.g. "This is a very long sentence."
Purely a matter of opinion.
Partially true or false.
True but misleading
...and so on.
How many of these should we normally include in our standard decision-making?

If you really want to get into Buddhist logic, get into the Abhidhamma :reading: but be warned (1) it is later than the Buddha, i.e. not his direct teaching and (2) it's complicated and gets tedious (IMO) just like Western mediaeval philosophy of the "how many angels on the head of a pin" variety. I steer clear of it myself.

:namaste:
Kim

* As Kare has just said, while I was writing this .
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Re: Buddhism and logic?

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Nov 14, 2013 10:14 pm

santa100 wrote:Modern science continues to defy logic all the time: double-slit experiment, quantum entanglement, parallel-aligned quantum spins, etc.. And more findings in the future will continue to redefine the "logical impossibilities" barrier..

Sorry, Santa - science doesn't defy logic. Logic is a matter of argument, not observation.
Science finds things which run counter to our common sense, sure, but that's not quite the same.

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Re: Buddhism and logic?

Postby santa100 » Fri Nov 15, 2013 2:44 am

Kim OHara wrote: Sorry, Santa - science doesn't defy logic. Logic is a matter of argument, not observation.
Science finds things which run counter to our common sense, sure, but that's not quite the same.

Sorry Kim, some new science's findings do defy logic, at least the duality true/false kind of logic that you mentioned in your above post. For example, logic say that the same single entity is either here or there, but not both. In other word, either it's here (true), or it's not here (false). Guess what, the double-slit experiment shows that the the same electron is both here and there. Using conventional logic, you'll have to conclude that the electron is BOTH here AND NOT here, or both True and False!
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Re: Buddhism and logic?

Postby greenjuice » Fri Nov 15, 2013 2:54 am

santa100 wrote:Modern science continues to defy logic all the time: double-slit experiment, quantum entanglement, parallel-aligned quantum spins, etc.. And more findings in the future will continue to redefine the "logical impossibilities" barrier..

I disagree. As I've said, I've been interested in Ancient Greek philosophy, and therefore logic, for a long time, and I remember when I started to get familiar with chemistry and physics a bit more, being that I didn't really remember about them from my schooling. A bunch of things seeded ridiculous, but I thought to myself- it's science, if they say so, then they must have proof for it. After a lot of research, which expanded also in philosophy of science, I cam to the conclusion- no, they don't. After reading Kuhn and Fayerabend, I consider most of quantum mechanics, and a fair part of modern science is pretty much a religion for itself.

Kare wrote:This is the tetralemma, a standard feature of Indian logic. If you want to explore this further, I'll suggest you read TH. Stcherbatsky, "Buddhist logic".

I can't say I've delved much into Indian logic, but I don't remember seeing such tetralemmas in Nyaya, or when reading (about) Ramanuja and Dhyaneshwar, all of which use a lot of logical analysis in their explanations. I'll take a look at the book, thanks.

daverupa wrote:One shouldn't accept soteriological claims based solely on reasoning, but on knowing and seeing for oneself.

This sounds a little hypocritical to say. I don't think anyone has accepted Buddhism by giving a try and then trough practice achieving arahantship, thereby seeing with the eye of the mind one's all previous incarnations and directly acquiring knowledge of the nature of reality, at least I've never heard of such an example, but all accept Buddhism based on faith and/or rational deliberation.

The book Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge by K.N. Jayatilleke is a thick work going over these issues, if you like.

I've give it a look, thanks.

reflection wrote:Though there are suttas with logical reasoning, and the Buddha was good at it too

Could you reference some of them, I'm interested in reading them.

Kim OHara wrote:Going all the way back to the OP to head off in a different direction ...
Arguments in the form "[proposition] is true or false or both or neither" (your example is "whether the Buddha exists after death, or not, or both or neither") are quite standard in the Buddhist literature.* It seems odd to us, but mainly because we have been brought up with the simpler "[proposition] is true or false" model.
Those two are not all the possibilities, however, by a long way. A statement can be ...
Meaningless (neither true nor false)
Tautological (necessarily true) e.g. "Triangles have three sides"
Necessarily false e.g. "Triangles have four sides"
Self-contradictory, e.g. "This is a very long sentence."
Purely a matter of opinion.
Partially true or false.
True but misleading
...and so on.

That's all great, but doesn't change the fact that something to both be and not be, or to neither be nor not be are impossibilities :mrgreen:
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Re: Buddhism and logic?

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Nov 15, 2013 3:16 am

Greetings,

We've approved a couple of the above posts because they're tangentially related to the topic, but can we please ensure that all further responses are directly connected to the original question posed, mindful of the fact this is the Discovering Theravada section?

:focus:

If we want to discuss the relationship between science and logic for example, that can be done elsewhere in a new or existing topic.

Alternatively, greenjuice, if you're happy for the scope of the question to be relaxed a bit we can move the topic to a different forum without such stringent quality controls. Let us know.

Thanks.

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If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Buddhism and logic?

Postby SamKR » Fri Nov 15, 2013 4:01 am

greenjuice wrote:That's all great, but doesn't change the fact that something to both be and not be, or to neither be nor not be are impossibilities :mrgreen:

Maybe but then the same can be said of "something is" and "something is not" too.

I don't think the Buddha gave importance to logic which is one of the sources of forming views. After all the Buddha's teachings are about getting rid of view-obsessions like "everything exists", "everything does not exist", "tathagata exists after death", "I am or the self is the knower of the experiences", etc.

After reading suttas like KaccayanaGotta Sutta, Kalaka Sutta, etc., and a little bit of contemplation, I think that any statement of truth/false and existence/non-existence about the reality as such is necessarily bound to be an incorrect statement. The best word to represent reality is "such", and this suchness is not to be stated in a statement but to be realized. But we as beings are obsessed with two views: existence and non-existence. Normally, we can not conceive of a phenomena being anything other than existent/non-existent or true/false. But the Buddha says that the one who has realized the suchness gets himself free of these obsessions, biases, and clingings to innate wrong-views (views that do not represent or do justice with the actual suchness).

I love Kalaka Sutta:
"Whatever is seen or heard or sensed
and fastened onto as true by others,
One who is Such — among the self-fettered —
wouldn't further claim to be true or even false.
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Re: Buddhism and logic?

Postby daverupa » Fri Nov 15, 2013 12:19 pm

Pending approval:

greenjuice wrote:
daverupa wrote:One shouldn't accept soteriological claims based solely on reasoning, but on knowing and seeing for oneself.

This sounds a little hypocritical to say. I don't think anyone has accepted Buddhism by giving a try and then trough practice achieving arahantship, thereby seeing with the eye of the mind one's all previous incarnations and directly acquiring knowledge of the nature of reality, at least I've never heard of such an example, but all accept Buddhism based on faith and/or rational deliberation.


"Accepted Buddhism"? This is a very intriguing phrase, with a lot of inbuilt assumptions. Note that you are taking an "all or nothing" approach, which isn't very nuanced. Faith and rational deliberation are the two approaches, yes, but they don't necessitate "in for a penny, in for a pound", and the practices which lead to stream-entry and conviction are themselves amenable to motives grounded in critical analysis as well as faith, however one wants to investigate.

But the trick is to reserve judgment about those things for which one hasn't got evidence. You can say "the texts say X" or "I heard Y from someone" or "I experienced Z" and protect the truth at all stages of discussion, for example. One then doesn't accept the claims one hasn't verified for oneself, as I said above, even as one investigates various claims and various practices, Dhamma among them.

I'd like you to point out any hypocrisy here, for our scrutiny, as long as this remains within the scope of the inquiry...
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Buddhism and logic?

Postby mahat » Fri Nov 15, 2013 4:21 pm

Buddhism is about bringing about greater states of mental clarity which is a prerequisite to logic.

Without mental clarity there is no logic. This is why Buddha in the Kalama Sutta said don't go by your logic or reasoning, because your logic might be incorrect since you are lacking the mental clarity to thoroughly understand your arguments.

For example, theists insist on saying they are using logic when they say this:

1) I was created by the union of my mother and father.

Therefore, if I see another human being I can assume they too had a mother and father.

2) The world was created.

Therefore, I can assume there is a creator since something created automatically assumes there is a creator.

Is that logical? Yes, in a way. Is that completely correct? No. There might be faulty assumptions and kinks in your logic and reasoning due to lack of mental clarity and insight.
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Re: Buddhism and logic?

Postby mahat » Fri Nov 15, 2013 4:28 pm

Practicing Buddhism is about gaining greater and greater levels of mental clarity until Nirvana is reached.

Mental clarity is the prerequisite to correct logic and reasoning.

In the Kalama Sutta Buddha said to not go by logic or reasoning because those might be faulty due to a lack of mental clarity and proper mental development.

:anjali: Sorry about the repeat, when I am new here so when I didn't see the post I reposted.
Last edited by mahat on Sat Nov 16, 2013 12:06 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Buddhism and logic?

Postby greenjuice » Fri Nov 15, 2013 5:54 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Alternatively, greenjuice, if you're happy for the scope of the question to be relaxed a bit we can move the topic to a different forum without such stringent quality controls. Let us know.

Yes, maybe it would be better that way, it seems that the topic as I formulated it is a bit narrow, and could use a laxer discussion.

SamKR wrote:Maybe but then the same can be said of "something is" and "something is not" too.

Yes, if one is a solipsist or an epistemological nihilist, thus negating the existence of one's body, other people, and the whole outer world, thereby negating the existence of kamma and planes of existence in which the fruit of kamma actualize. Which I don't think has anything to do with Buddhism.

daverupa wrote:I'd like you to point out any hypocrisy here, for our scrutiny, as long as this remains within the scope of the inquiry...

Saying that one shouldn't accept anything on tradition, hearsay, scripture etc. or logic and rational inquerty, but on seeing for oneself- is a bit hypoctical, because, I'm pretty sure, not only all the people on this forum, but virtually every Buddhist alive accepted Buddhism on the bases on what is said that shouldn't be one's basis for acceptance. If there is some Buddhist who has tried and experimented with Buddhism to the point of reaching the direct knowledge of nature and e.g. remembering all one's past births, let him step forward and explain the knowledge he has attained, and the way he has attained it.

For example, it sounds like Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo (1907-1961) achieved such knowledge. In a text called "Knowledge", translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu, he talks about various 'powers' developed by concentration, like seeying the thoughts of other people, remembering one's past lives, or seeing with one's mind's eye into the reamls of hell or hungry ghosts- and talks about conversing with the people in hell and about how many hungry ghost look funny.
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Re: Buddhism and logic?

Postby reflection » Fri Nov 15, 2013 7:53 pm

Hi,

First of all I'd like to say it is not about fully accepting or fully discarding. One can also accept certain parts and not accept others. Then also, the "seeing for oneself" is not saying we have to see the entire path and results of the Buddha. Ideally of course, yes, but if we just see a starting part of it, for example how virtue leads to happiness, we may begin to have some faith in the path. This faith is then arrived at not through logic or merely accepting what somebody else says, but by having a taste for ourselves.

Is the fact that virtue leads to happiness something we can arrive at logically? I don't think so, but if it does, then it will not generate the faith in a similar manner.

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