Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

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Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby Moth » Fri Mar 30, 2012 10:37 pm

I am currently reading Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter and I am finding the parallels to Buddhism very interesting.

Edit 10/29/2012
While the subject is interesting, over the following months I have found the effort to correspond logic/mathematics and Buddhist ultimately pointless, as I feel now it would be a disservice to the Dhamma. The Buddha's teachings are more than enough for contemplation. I cannot reemphasize enough the advice Ben gives below about unnecessary papañca.
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby Ben » Sun Apr 08, 2012 11:53 pm

No Moth, I haven't.
I wish you all the best with your pursuit though I hope it doesn't lead to unnecessary papanca.
with metta,

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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby pulga » Mon Apr 09, 2012 12:52 pm

Moth wrote:I am currently reading Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter and I am finding the parallels to Buddhism very striking.


I recall that Ven. Bodhesako was impressed with the book.
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby piotr » Mon Apr 09, 2012 4:20 pm

Hi,

pulga wrote:I recall that Ven. Bodhesako was impressed with the book.


He played a lot with the idea of recursiveness in his book titled Change: an examination of impermanence in experience.
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby Moth » Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:22 pm

Thanks for the reference to Bodhesako's essay.
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby Sarva » Wed Apr 11, 2012 8:32 pm

Moth wrote:This strikes me because the formula for the five aggregates appears to be recursive as well. This is how I understand it: Form, feeling, perception, and volitional formations are all necessary for consciousness as the fifth aggregate to arise. However, consciousness is necessary for the first four aggregates to arise. This creates an infinite loop, which completely ties into the notion of Samara being a type of infinite loop. The entire structure of experience, as the Buddha describes it, seems to have a lot to do with recursion and escaping recursion.
.

Hi Moth
Perhaps I have overlooked something, but could you briefly tell me why the first four aggregates depend on conciousness (like a loop), please?
I will plan to read the link you provided. :)
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby pulga » Wed Apr 11, 2012 11:22 pm

I'm not really into the phenomenology of mathematics, but it's interesting that Husserl's theory of categorial intuition had a marked influence on some of Godel's ideas. While Frege relegated numbers to an ontological third realm, Husserl contended that even abstract things like numbers are ultimately derived from sensual intuition. From a Buddhist perspective sensual intuition more or less corresponds to phassa. Under the influence of Russell the Anglo-americans sided with Frege, though his Third Realm became a bit of an embarrassment. Analytic philosophy is oddly disembodied: it deals with language, truth, and logic in an inherently abstract manner, whereas phenomenology is grounded in the here-and-now, in one's own personal -- and embodied -- experience.
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby Moth » Fri Apr 13, 2012 11:22 am

Sarva wrote: could you briefly tell me why the first four aggregates depend on conciousness (like a loop), please?
I will plan to read the link you provided. :)


If I am not mistaken, form, feeling, perception, and volitional formations cannot arise without consciousness
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spar%C5%9Ba
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby Sam Vara » Fri Apr 13, 2012 12:14 pm

This is how I understand it: Form, feeling, perception, and volitional formations are all necessary for consciousness as the fifth aggregate to arise. However, consciousness is necessary for the first four aggregates to arise.


Please could you explain this a bit more? I don't understand how something can be the condition of its own conditions. If we are talking about arising, how could something arise before the conditions necessary for its own arising?
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby pulga » Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:34 pm

I think we're dealing with parts and wholes. To use Ven. Bodhesako's analogy, the note is the foundation for the melody. The hierarchy that ensues is one of generality: the presence (or consciousness) of things, each determined as what it is by the context or whole of which it is a part. Each thing is constituted by its own set of pancakkhandha.
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby daverupa » Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:07 pm

This is how I understand it: Form, feeling, perception, and volitional formations are all necessary for consciousness as the fifth aggregate to arise. However, consciousness is necessary for the first four aggregates to arise.


avijja --> sankhara --> vinnana <--> namarupa --> {internal sense base + external sense base + vinnana} --> phassa --> {vedana + sanna + sankhara} --> tanha

I'm not sure about form = internal/external sense base, due to mind as the sixth sense base, but the gist is there.

SN 22.2 wrote:"And what is name-&-form? Feeling, perception, intention, contact, & attention: This is called name. The four great elements, and the form dependent on the four great elements: This is called form. This name & this form are called name-&-form."


Fairly complex, which seems to me to be made worse when one attempts to understand it as a chronology. Instead, try thinking of it as a series of nested Russian dolls; the smallest central doll is avijja, and each iteration of larger doll is a non-temporal concatenation based on that.

Sort of like this:

[[[[[[[avijja] sankhara] vinnana-namarupa] salayatana] phassa] vedana] tanha]...
    "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: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby santa100 » Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:53 pm

A schematic of the Five Aggregates and how they interact below might be helpful..
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:PancaKhandha
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby Sarva » Fri Apr 13, 2012 4:38 pm

Sam Vega wrote:
This is how I understand it: Form, feeling, perception, and volitional formations are all necessary for consciousness as the fifth aggregate to arise. However, consciousness is necessary for the first four aggregates to arise.


Please could you explain this a bit more? I don't understand how something can be the condition of its own conditions. If we are talking about arising, how could something arise before the conditions necessary for its own arising?

Hi
I am still with Sam at this point, how can consciousness be necessary for the first four aggregates to arise? If I understand Daverupa's reply, consciousness arises together bit is itself not a catalyst.
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby pulga » Fri Apr 13, 2012 6:34 pm

Sarva wrote:I am still with Sam at this point, how can consciousness be necessary for the first four aggregates to arise?


I think paticcasamuppáda is meant to be descriptive rather than explanatory, i.e. when the Buddha teaches viññānapaccayā nāmarūpam, he isn't trying to expain how or why it is so, only that it is so.
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby Sam Vara » Fri Apr 13, 2012 7:29 pm

Sarva wrote:
I am still with Sam at this point, how can consciousness be necessary for the first four aggregates to arise?


I think paticcasamuppáda is meant to be descriptive rather than explanatory, i.e. when the Buddha teaches viññānapaccayā nāmarūpam, he isn't trying to expain how or why it is so, only that it is so.


My perplexity is to do with a slightly different issue - that of making sense of something being the condition of its own conditions, especially as regards a causal process - but the same general principles apply.

If the Buddha's words on this or any other matter are indeed descriptive and not explanatory, then I am fine with that. I will take it on faith if I need to. But if I can't make sense of something, I am more likely to assume that translators got it wrong and that the current form of words is misleading, than give up on an account that squares with logic.
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby Viscid » Fri Apr 13, 2012 8:30 pm

Moth wrote:Wow, thanks for the reference to Bodhesako's essay, it's amazing. Here's a link for others who are interested.
http://pathpress.wordpress.com/bodhesako/change/


Brilliant essay. Bodhesako was so cool. 8-)
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby Moth » Sat Apr 14, 2012 6:25 pm

Sam Vega wrote:My perplexity is to do with a slightly different issue - that of making sense of something being the condition of its own conditions, especially as regards a causal process - but the same general principles apply.


That is the whole idea. Samsara is an infinite loop, and in order to create an infinite loop we must either self-reference, or we must create a circular dependency, which is also a type of suspended self-reference. This is called recursion. For example, if I were to define a function:

function demonstrateRecursion(){
print "This is an example of recursion";
demonstrationRecursion();
}

This function would keep calling itself and the output would be:
This is an example of recursion
This is an example of recursion
This is an example of recursion
...(onwards into infinity)

Another example is the liar's paradox, which is stated as such: "This statement is not true". If it is true then its not true, which means that it is true, which means that it's not true, etc.

Another is a fractal: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal. A fractal is a mathematical image composed entirely of repetitions of itself at different scales onwards into infinity. This image is caused by plotting certain recursive equations (i.e the Mandlebrot set: z^n+1 = z^n^2 + c).

In the Dhamma, namarupa and vinyana create a circular dependency.

DN15 wrote:"'From consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form.' Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how from consciousness as a requisite condition comes name-&-form. If consciousness were not to descend into the mother's womb, would name-&-form take shape in the womb?"

"No, lord."

"If, after descending into the womb, consciousness were to depart, would name-&-form be produced for this world?"

"No, lord."

"If the consciousness of the young boy or girl were to be cut off, would name-&-form ripen, grow, and reach maturity?"

"No, lord."

"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for name-&-form, i.e., consciousness.

"From name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness.' Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how from name-&-form as a requisite condition comes consciousness. If consciousness were not to gain a foothold in name-&-form, would a coming-into-play of the origination of birth, aging, death, and stress in the future be discerned?"

"No, lord."

"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for consciousness, i.e., name-&-form.

"This is the extent to which there is birth, aging, death, passing away, and re-arising. This is the extent to which there are means of designation, expression, and delineation. This is the extent to which the dimension of discernment extends, the extent to which the cycle revolves for the manifesting [discernibility] of this world — i.e., name-&-form together with consciousness."


SN - 22 wrote:"And what is name-&-form? Feeling, perception, intention, contact, & attention: This is called name. The four great elements and the form dependent on the four great elements: This is called form. This name & this form are called name-&-form.

"And what is consciousness? These six are classes of consciousness: eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, intellect-consciousness. This is called consciousness.


Wikipedia - Skhanda wrote:-The concurrence of an object, its sense organ and the related consciousness (viññāṇa • vijñāṇa) is called "contact" (phassa • sparśa).[22][23][24]
-From the contact of form and consciousness arise the three mental (nāma) aggregates of feeling (vedanā), perception (saññā• saṃjñā) and mental formation (saṅkhāra • saṃskāra).[25][26]
-The mental aggregates can then in turn give rise to additional consciousness that leads to the arising of additional mental aggregates.[27]

In this scheme, form, the mental aggregates,[28] and consciousness are mutually dependent.[29]


This continual self-referencing perpetuates the whole process into infinity.
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby Sam Vara » Sat Apr 14, 2012 6:57 pm

Thanks for this, Moth, which I am struggling to understand.

That is the whole idea. Samsara is an infinite loop


Is it? How could we know this?

This is called recursion. For example, if I were to define a function:

function demonstrateRecursion(){
print "This is an example of recursion";
demonstrationRecursion();
}

This function would keep calling itself and the output would be:
This is an example of recursion
This is an example of recursion
This is an example of recursion
...(onwards into infinity)


Sorry, you've lost me here.

This continual self-referencing perpetuates the whole process into infinity.


I can take this on faith if needs be, but it does seem to be a portentous way of saying what is analytically true about consciousness, i.e. that it requires subject and object in all its instantiations.
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby Sarva » Sat Apr 14, 2012 7:34 pm

Hi Moth
Just a small observation, I believe the consciousness spoken of in DN15 is a different consciousness spoken of in the last two quotation.
My understanding is there is no first cause in Buddhism, e.g. the chicken and the egg arise together.

Hope it helps with your research. :)
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby Moth » Sat Apr 14, 2012 8:10 pm

Sam Vega wrote:I can take this on faith if needs be


Well, don't take my words on Faith, I am just making correlations, speculations, etc. Buddha says Samsara is a cycle of birth and death with no discernible beginning or end, so I made the correlation of indefinite cycle --> infinite loop, just for my own understanding. The Buddha never said that explicitly.

Sam Vega wrote:it does seem to be a portentous way of saying what is analytically true about consciousness, i.e. that it requires subject and object in all its instantiations.


This reminds me of Sartre's theory in Being and Nothingness. By nature of the subject-object duality, subject and object must always be separate. The subject can only perceive objects, it is incapable of perceiving itself because it is always the one perceiving. In order to perceive something, that thing must be an object, and thus it cannot be the subject. However, we are constantly attempting to do just this, to self-reference. We constantly think, I am [insert form, feeling, perception, or volition] thinking that the [object] is the subject, or belongs to the subject. Everything the subject attempts to identify itself with, by principle of being conscious of it, it cannot be. The subject is always a negative space of sorts. If I am conscious of a feeling I cannot be that feeling, if I am conscious of a perception, I cannot be that perception, etc. If I am conscious of the thought "I am" I cannot be that thought, nor can that thought ever correctly reference me.

Thus the subject cannot be associated with anything, because anything you associate it with it cannot be. I am what I am not and I am not what I am. This is further complicated by the Buddha's teaching that consciousness arises from contact between, for example eye and form. This makes me think that it is incorrect to say that the subject is conscious of an object, rather the consciousness is an awareness of the contact between two objects, and there is no subject at all. GAH.
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