Buddhist response to Western ontology

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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Feb 09, 2012 1:13 am

contemplans wrote:
Goofaholix wrote:Sounds like next thing you'll be telling me if I want to seek him he can be found queueing up at the Social welfare office.


I didn't say God doesn't create. I said that is a separate question.


And my response to that is "But is a god who doesn't create really God?" in other words if you make it another question then you leave things open to the possibility that god doesn't create, and if god doesn't create and his only purpose is to be then that's a lame duck kind of god, you've effectively rendered theism a joke.

A god who doesn't create is like dryer that doesn't dry, or a washer that doesn't wash.
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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby contemplans » Thu Feb 09, 2012 1:33 am

Retro,
I do agree that the Buddha sees these things as unnecessary. I do believe that a belief in God and soul are not an impediment on the path. It wasn't and isn't an impediment to many Christian saints who attained what is called mystical union like Teresa of Avila. One can say, oh they attained the sphere of consciousness, and such like, but the data is clear that the peak of Christian perfection is described in much the same way as nibbana -- freedom from internal suffering, a constant state of contemplation and/or access to it, a perfection in conduct, a sense of ineffability, and after this life an full attainment of the goal. All I can say is that I believe the Buddha would have viewed the founder of Christianity and its teachings with interest. In light of that teaching, I find it hard to call that an impediment to freedom, since that is defined freedom itself. There's no dichotomy there. At the end of the day, many of the same teachings are taught by Christian mystics, and other theistic mystics. I am not saying they all are the same quality, but just that the ideas of not-self and similar are not uniquely Buddhist. Certainly the Buddha had a lot to offer, but I plainly think he operated in his time and did not have the ability (nor claim the ability) to foresee the Greeks, Christians, and the Thomists. New data is good to take into account, even though we can admit the path was fine as formulated 2600 years ago. I agree that everyone's got to drop the first person subjective reasoning to break through.

This is to answer your question you asked, not to derail the thread.

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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby contemplans » Thu Feb 09, 2012 1:36 am

Goofaholix wrote:
contemplans wrote:
Goofaholix wrote:Sounds like next thing you'll be telling me if I want to seek him he can be found queueing up at the Social welfare office.


I didn't say God doesn't create. I said that is a separate question.


And my response to that is "But is a god who doesn't create really God?" in other words if you make it another question then you leave things open to the possibility that god doesn't create, and if god doesn't create and his only purpose is to be then that's a lame duck kind of god, you've effectively rendered theism a joke.

A god who doesn't create is like dryer that doesn't dry, or a washer that doesn't wash.


God's nature is to be. Pure Actuality. Pure Being. Not pure creation. I hope I am being clear here. Creation is another question altogether.

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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Feb 09, 2012 1:37 am

Greetings contemplans,

contemplans wrote:This is to answer your question you asked

That is does, and I appreciate your transparency in this regard.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Feb 09, 2012 1:42 am

contemplans wrote:God's nature is to be. Pure Actuality. Pure Being. Not pure creation. I hope I am being clear here. Creation is another question altogether.


Not really, it's just weasle words.

So instead of saying man created god in his own image we should say man created god in a bum's image?

What you state is a seperate question is what makes god God, the creation bit is what makes him supposedly something special, it's integral, take it away and he's just another 2 bit diety in the pantheon of life.

So it's not a seperate question, if any of your previous points held water this pulled the plug.
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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 09, 2012 2:15 am

contemplans wrote: Will is not a thing, but a process. As I said to retro, you have to prove the jump from all powerful to all doing.
So, you are saying, the supposed god did not create processes.

But a process with justification can be said to be a thing that happens.

Freser: "At least where the sheer existence of things is concerned, He and He alone is directly causing them at every instant."
There is nothing here that says a process can not be considered a thing. Will exists, action exist. Certainly our language allows us to speak of action and processes as things happening. You obviously see the incoherence in Freser's excellent statement and are trying your best to get way from it. Even physical things can be seen, with complete justification, as processes. Your attempt to dodge the incoherence of Freser's statement, by trying to make a dichotomy between things and processes, fails.
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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 09, 2012 2:17 am

perkele wrote::juggling: :stirthepot: :jedi: :tantrum: :shrug: :reading:
It's getting too noisy.
:sage:
Too much passion, too little consideration.
Too much philosophizing, too little substance.


:thinking:
Rather than complain, add some substance.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby perkele » Thu Feb 09, 2012 2:43 am

tiltbillings wrote:Rather than complain, add some substance.

Sorry. I was just almost about to delete this unsubstantial complaint. But you preempted me here.
However, my point was rather that too much was added at once from all sides and too many people talking past one another. I'd better not add anything now as I hardly understand anymore what it's about. And I have to sleep. My apologies.

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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 09, 2012 2:47 am

perkele wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Rather than complain, add some substance.

Sorry. I was just almost about to delete this unsubstantial complaint. But you preempted me here.
However, my point was rather that too much was added at once from all sides and too many people talking past one another. I'd better not add anything now as I hardly understand anymore what it's about. And I have to sleep. My apologies.
Not a problem. I appreciate your clarification, and it is a legitimate complaint. Hard to know what to do about it with threads such as this. It is really the nature of the beast. I realize this is now a meta-discussion, but it also a good reminder for the participants to try to stay focused. So, no more meta-discussion and back to the topic.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby Sherab » Thu Feb 09, 2012 5:17 am

contemplans wrote:God's nature is to be. Pure Actuality. Pure Being. Not pure creation. I hope I am being clear here. Creation is another question altogether.

Then the presence of man or anything else in this world for that matter is purposeless. There will always be a disjoint between the existence of God and the existence of the world. Therefore the concept of God is incoherent if you assert that God creates the world. If you don't assert that God creates the world, then I have no argument with you.

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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby ancientbuddhism » Thu Feb 09, 2012 2:39 pm

contemplans wrote:I do agree that the Buddha sees these things as unnecessary. I do believe that a belief in God and soul are not an impediment on the path. ...


This idea reoccurs often in your diatribe. Where do you find 'that a belief in God and soul are not an impediment' to the Buddhist path? Whereas in the Nikāyas we often find the Buddha, or his adherents, making direct refutation of the Upaniṣadic notion of the ātman, which in essence is denial of both soul and God.

contemplans wrote:It wasn't and isn't an impediment to many Christian saints who attained what is called mystical union like Teresa of Avila.


And why would it be since x-tian mystics believe in god and soul.

contemplans wrote:One can say, oh they attained the sphere of consciousness, and such like, but the data is clear that the peak of Christian perfection is described in much the same way as nibbana -- freedom from internal suffering, a constant state of contemplation and/or access to it, a perfection in conduct, a sense of ineffability, and after this life an full attainment of the goal.


The 'peak of Christian perfection' has no comparison to Nikāyan Nibbāna by anything you have offered above.

contemplans wrote:All I can say is that I believe the Buddha would have viewed the founder of Christianity and its teachings with interest.


In light of the Nikāyas the Buddha would have engaged with Christ in much the same manner as he did the Brahmans.

contemplans wrote:At the end of the day, many of the same teachings are taught by Christian mystics, and other theistic mystics.


And there were contemporaries of the Buddha who taught, said or practiced similar principles of contemplative life, yet their aims were markedly different.

contemplans wrote:I am not saying they all are the same quality, but just that the ideas of not-self and similar are not uniquely Buddhist.


Again, this is an empty claim.

contemplans wrote:Certainly the Buddha had a lot to offer, but I plainly think he operated in his time and did not have the ability (nor claim the ability) to foresee the Greeks, Christians, and the Thomists.


The Buddha's teachings assimilates the ontology of these just the same as it did the Brahmans.
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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby contemplans » Thu Feb 09, 2012 4:28 pm

To answer Goofaholix, tiltbillings, Sherab, and others participating:

The topic is ontology, the study of being. Western ontology asks the questions concerning existence. The doctrine given called hylomorphism teaches that there is actuality, what is that which is in existence, and potentiality, what is a reference to potentially in existence, either the potential to be altogether, or the potential to be different than what you are. From this reasoning, which is very sound, Aristotle and those who followed him, reasoned that in order for anything to be actually in existence, not just a particular version of us at a given moment, it had to have an ultimate source which is pure existence, with no admixture of potentiality, no possibility that it could be anything other than what it is. In the Christian context we call this principle God. If you don't like that word for some reason, then the principle is also called pure actuality. The basic reasoning is that none of us have within ourselves to give rise to our own selves, that is, we are not self-caused. Therefore we are caused by another. Nowhere, however, within that chain of causes is there any explanation for existence itself, since all the causes are merely in process of actualizing what is potential. It is only outside of that causal chain that we come to an explanation, which Aristotle called Pure Actuality. So either pure actuality is the answer, or it isn't. That is the crux of the debate. But if one posits that it isn't pure actuality, then they need to have an explanation for why anything exists at all. I am just supplying to robust argument. I didn't come up with it, but I am convinced that it is sound and true.

I wish you all well. :anjali:

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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby kirk5a » Thu Feb 09, 2012 5:51 pm

contemplans wrote: in order for anything to be actually in existence,

What is an example of something actually in existence?
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby contemplans » Thu Feb 09, 2012 8:00 pm

kirk5a wrote:
contemplans wrote: in order for anything to be actually in existence,

What is an example of something actually in existence?


The keyboard of your computer.

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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Feb 09, 2012 8:44 pm

contemplans wrote:
kirk5a wrote:
contemplans wrote: in order for anything to be actually in existence,

What is an example of something actually in existence?


The keyboard of your computer.

Where is the Keyboardness of the Keyboard?
that has causes and conditions for it to be called a keyboard and it is a keyboard because it fulfils certain requirements, which involve the coming together of parts.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby perkele » Thu Feb 09, 2012 8:51 pm

The topic is ontology, the study of being. Western ontology asks the questions concerning existence. The doctrine given called hylomorphism teaches that there is actuality, what is that which is in existence, and potentiality, what is a reference to potentially in existence, either the potential to be altogether, or the potential to be different than what you are.


I don't get it. Hylomorphism, actuality, potentiality, ... For me those are just a bunch of lofty words. I don't see how they apply to reality.
I admit that I also often don't understand how the technical words used in the doctrine of Buddhism apply to reality, what they really mean, etc. However, there I just have more faith that they do somehow and that others have understood it, since they are supposed to point to actual aspects of experience that are to be observed.
In this case, however, I don't see how "actuality", "potentiality" etc. point to something that is to be experienced.
Maybe for unenlightened persons like us it's a matter of faith to a great extent. I don't think that you can convince me of these notions. However if you would want to you should try to clarify how they are related to experience.

From this reasoning, which is very sound,


If you say so.

Aristotle and those who followed him, reasoned that in order for anything to be actually in existence, not just a particular version of us at a given moment, it had to have an ultimate source which is pure existence, with no admixture of potentiality, no possibility that it could be anything other than what it is.


You (or those philosophers and thinkers you refer to) speak very much in riddles to me.

In the Christian context we call this principle God. If you don't like that word for some reason, then the principle is also called pure actuality. The basic reasoning is that none of us have within ourselves to give rise to our own selves, that is, we are not self-caused. Therefore we are caused by another. Nowhere, however, within that chain of causes is there any explanation for existence itself, since all the causes are merely in process of actualizing what is potential. It is only outside of that causal chain that we come to an explanation, which Aristotle called Pure Actuality.


I can feel how such an idea can be emotionally appealing.
I don't see that it gives me any clear understanding.

So either pure actuality is the answer, or it isn't. That is the crux of the debate. But if one posits that it isn't pure actuality, then they need to have an explanation for why anything exists at all. I am just supplying to robust argument. I didn't come up with it, but I am convinced that it is sound and true.


Either 42 is the answer or it isn't. But if it isn't then this needs to be explained. :?

To me you seem to live very much in a hypoethetical platonic world which I admit I don't understand. I was never very fond of theoretical philosophy.

But let's get back to some point which I think I do understand partly and where our viewpoints diverge.
You posit the need for an ultimate cause and say that a viewpoint without an ultimate cause needs explanation. Furthermore you say that the Buddha never seemed to get beyond infinite regress.
One could turn that argument around and say that you did not get beyond the need for a first cause on which to fall back on. The Buddha admonished us not to go for a speculative search for such an ultimate security. That is how I understand it. We should purify our actions right where we are, because that is the only way out of suffering. And that is the reality we are confronted with.
Earlier you pointed out that the ultimate cause you are looking for is not necessarily meant to be temporal but rather functional. In the temporal sense I don't see what's wrong with infinite regress, and I gather you don't see it either (although it's not completely clear, would be nice if you could confirm or deny that). But in the functional sense the Buddha did point out an ultimate cause, namely avijja/ignorance/not seeing things as they are. If you are looking for an ultimate cause that is at the same time ultimate goodness then this is of course not a satisfying answer and that is the reason why you keep looking. But as others have pointed out such an idea holds no water, because existence does not seem to be ultimately good.
After all I don't really see what you are looking for other than a platonic idea. And the explanation that you claim is needed for not looking for such a platonic idea is just honesty and integrity: "But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world does not occur to one."

Now I have to do some university stuff and will hopefully not be participating in this debate anymore until tomorrow.

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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 09, 2012 9:22 pm

contemplans wrote:To answer Goofaholix, tiltbillings, Sherab, and others participating:

The topic is ontology, the study of being. Western ontology asks the questions concerning existence. The doctrine given called hylomorphism teaches that there is actuality, what is that which is in existence, and potentiality, what is a reference to potentially in existence, either the potential to be altogether, or the potential to be different than what you are. From this reasoning, which is very sound, Aristotle and those who followed him,
Again, and as usual, you do not answer the points put to you, and you assiduously avoid addressing any argument that carefully counters you position.

Now, as for hylomorphism:
reasoned that in order for anything to be actually in existence, not just a particular version of us at a given moment, it had to have an ultimate source which is pure existence,
It is an interesting line of reasoning, but it is one that really does not tell us anything useful. It certainly has no empirical, experiential, basis. It is naught more than a mental construct.

with no admixture of potentiality, no possibility that it could be anything other than what it is.
Again, not really meaningful.

In the Christian context we call this principle God.
And here you make my point, the idea of god explains nothing and has no empirical basis.

then the principle is also called pure actuality.
Yes, like atman.

The basic reasoning is that none of us have within ourselves to give rise to our own selves, that is, we are not self-caused. Therefore we are caused by another. Nowhere, however, within that chain of causes is there any explanation for existence itself, since all the causes are merely in process of actualizing what is potential. It is only outside of that causal chain that we come to an explanation, which Aristotle called Pure Actuality.
Poor Aristotle. And how does this pure actuality actually function? Sadly, for something to be, to be actual, to exist, it must undergo a process, which means there will have to be an infinite number of pure actualities that lead up to the final existent actuality, and then when the final actuality ceases to exist, what happens to the pure actuality? Goes to pure actuality heaven?

So either pure actuality is the answer, or it isn't.
It obviously is not the answer, in that it can explain nothing in a meaningful way.

That is the crux of the debate. But if one posits that it isn't pure actuality, then they need to have an explanation for why anything exists at all.
No you don't. One might want to explain why anything exists, and then come up with something like a god notion as an explanation, but then then same question gets leveled at the god notion, why does god exist? Given that a god notion tends to be highly incoherent (and that has to do with the fact that god notions are really nothing more than grand extensions of one's self notion), so , given that god notions tend to be highly incoherent, best not to bother. Taking the universe as it, as it is found to be, without layering upon it unnecessary, indemonstrable notions such as "pure actuality" aka god, would be a far better way to go.

I am just supplying to robust argument.
It is actually rather flaccid.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson

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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Feb 09, 2012 9:42 pm

contemplans wrote:Aristotle and those who followed him, reasoned that in order for anything to be actually in existence, not just a particular version of us at a given moment, it had to have an ultimate source which is pure existence, with no admixture of potentiality, no possibility that it could be anything other than what it is. In the Christian context we call this principle God.


It's just a fancy pants way of saying "How can anything exist without a creator (ultimate source)".

The trouble with that line of reasoning is that it opens up a bigger can of worms than the one it closes, so "How can a creator (ultimate source) exist without a creator (ultimate source) before that", and "How can a creator (ultimate source) before that exist without a creator (ultimate source) before that before that", and so on and so on to infinity.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah

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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Feb 09, 2012 9:52 pm

contemplans wrote:To answer Goofaholix, tiltbillings, Sherab, and others participating:

The topic is ontology, the study of being. Western ontology asks the questions concerning existence. The doctrine given called hylomorphism teaches that there is actuality, what is that which is in existence, and potentiality, what is a reference to potentially in existence, either the potential to be altogether, or the potential to be different than what you are. From this reasoning, which is very sound, Aristotle and those who followed him, reasoned ...

Putting that much more simply: Aristotle came up with an unsupported theory which contemplans likes. That doesn't mean it bears any relationship whatsoever to an accurate description of what exists, why it exists or how it exists.

And this post is another attempt to restart the debate with relocated goalposts.
At this point I think I will go back to my book, but I'll give it a plug here since it is sort of relevant to the thread and a lot more entertaining. It's American Gods, by Neil Gaiman. His thesis is that all the gods of all the immigrant groups came to America with their believers and live on, much reduced, in modern times.
Now, however, a new generation of native gods has arisen - Media, Technology and so on - and is trying to wipe out Odin and Loki, Horus and Anubis, and the others (JC gets a walk-on part :smile: ). The book won every major SF/Fantasy award when it came out and deservedly so.

:namaste:
Kim
:reading:

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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Feb 09, 2012 10:08 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote: It's American Gods, by Neil Gaiman.
Brilliant, and I'd recommend Terry Pratchett's Hogfather. See: viewtopic.php?f=16&t=9276&p=143215&hilit=Hogfather#p143215
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson


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