Phenomenology and Anatta

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Phenomenology and Anatta

Postby PsychedelicSunSet » Wed Feb 26, 2014 11:54 pm

So I heard a quote today, of which I cannot repeat verbatim. But it was something to the affect that everything that we observe is outside of our "self", and therefore "what I observe is not me." I couldn't find who this quote was from, but it seems to be along the lines of the thinking of Phenomenologists (i.e. Edmund Husserl). I know very little of philosophy, so please correct me if this is wrong. Regardless, I was wondering what peoples thoughts were on this subject in relation to Anatta. Obviously they're not entirely compatible as this idea requires there be a "me", and seems to only include external phenomena, in other words excluding mind/thought. However if we were to include mind/thought/all observable phenomena into this, could this perhaps be a feasible (albeit perhaps flawed) way to look at Anatta? If so, what would the implications be? All comments (especially from philosophy majors!) welcome.


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Re: Phenomenology and Anatta

Postby culaavuso » Thu Feb 27, 2014 12:09 am

From Wings to Awakening by Ven. Thanissaro Bhikkhu:
Thanissaro Bhikkhu wrote:The first discipline is phenomenology, the branch of philosophy that deals with phenomena as they are directly experienced, in and of themselves. There are many schools of modern phenomenology, and it is not my purpose to try to equate the Buddha's teachings with any one of them. However, the Buddha does recommend a mode of perception that he calls "entry into emptiness (suññatā)" [see MN 121], in which one simply notes the presence or absence of phenomena, without making further assumptions about them. This approach resembles what in modern philosophy could be called "radical phenomenology," a mode of perception that looks at experiences and processes simply as events, with no reference to the question of whether there are any "things" lying behind those events, or of whether the events can be said really to exist [see passages §230 and §186]. Because of this resemblance, the word "phenomenology" is useful in helping to explain the source of the Buddha's descriptions of the workings of kamma and the process of dependent co-arising in particular. Once we know where he is coming from, it is easier to make sense of his statements and to use them in their proper context.
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Re: Phenomenology and Anatta

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Feb 27, 2014 12:15 am

Greetings PsychedelicSunSet,

I don't see there's necessarily any incompatibility or a need to infer the necessity of self from (your recollection) of the quotes in question.

For example... take the statement "everything that we observe is outside of our "self", and therefore "what I observe is not me." " and compare with the following discourse...

SN 35.23: Sabba Sutta wrote:"Monks, I will teach you the All. Listen & pay close attention. I will speak."

"As you say, lord," the monks responded.

The Blessed One said, "What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range."

Drawn together with the quote in question, both are saying that all that is experienced is not-self.

IF you're suggesting the philosophy is saying there is an unchanging soul/self, AND you believe the Buddha taught "no self" rather than "not-self"..... only THEN would there be a conflict between the two perspectives.

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Re: Phenomenology and Anatta

Postby HenryDLacklaw » Thu Feb 27, 2014 12:58 am

Actually, I would argue that Buddhism itself is a kind of phenomenology. Phenomenology as envisioned by Husserl was supposed to be a scientific study of experiences without imposing any theories on the experience (the term he uses is bracketing, or epoché). I've always thought meditation practice was a kind of phenomenological exercise--all were doing is watching our breath and seeing what comes up and that's what leads us to conclude anatta. Indeed, some phenomenologists, such as Jean-Paul Sartre, ended up coming to a similar conclusion to anatta.

Here's a good philosophy podcast where they interview a philosopher of mind named Owen Flanagan who studied a bunch of Buddhist stuff and integrates Buddhist thought, including Buddhist phenomenology of the Abidhamma, into his work (although I should say that as a dirty postmodernism I completely and utterly disagree with his way of doing philosophy):

http://www.partiallyexaminedlife.com/20 ... -flanagan/
http://www.partiallyexaminedlife.com/2012/04/06/ep54/
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Re: Phenomenology and Anatta

Postby SarathW » Thu Feb 27, 2014 1:28 am

I have no formal education in philosophy at all.
The teachings of Buddha ( Four Noble Truths) are just a fabrications. It is the path (Maga) and hence may be a phenomenology.
The wisdom you gain through (Phala) Buddha’s teaching may not be a phenomenology.
There are many scientist who understand Anatta but they do not have the wisdom to penetrate it.

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Re: Phenomenology and Anatta

Postby chownah » Thu Feb 27, 2014 2:51 am

So, if everything we observe is outside our self then what is inside our self?
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Re: Phenomenology and Anatta

Postby PsychedelicSunSet » Thu Feb 27, 2014 3:03 am

chownah wrote:So, if everything we observe is outside our self then what is inside our self?
chownah



I don't think that the use of this perspective includes an answer to that question. However, I'm also not sure if an answer to that question is entirely a necessary one, and therefore I wouldn't consider the lack there of as a fault. :lol: Although I'm sure others disagree.


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Re: Phenomenology and Anatta

Postby SamKR » Thu Feb 27, 2014 3:19 am

PsychedelicSunSet wrote:... everything that we observe is outside of our "self", and therefore "what I observe is not me."

I think it would be more accurate to say "whatever is observed is not I, not mine, not my self".
It is because in actuality we don't observe but we think that we observe. Or, more accurately: with observation there arises a separate process of thinking "I observe".
If we can be free of this erroneous and obsessive belief/thought "I observe" what remains is mere observation.
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Re: Phenomenology and Anatta

Postby chownah » Thu Feb 27, 2014 3:59 am

PsychedelicSunSet wrote:
chownah wrote:So, if everything we observe is outside our self then what is inside our self?
chownah



I don't think that the use of this perspective includes an answer to that question. However, I'm also not sure if an answer to that question is entirely a necessary one, and therefore I wouldn't consider the lack there of as a fault. :lol: Although I'm sure others disagree.


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Metta

I think the Buddha taught that we should have no doctrine of self and it seems to me that saying something is outside of our self is creating the idea that there is a self with an inside and an outside and I guess something that separates the inside from the outside etc.........and this seems like a doctrine of self which the Buddha would have us guard against.
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Re: Phenomenology and Anatta

Postby boris » Thu Feb 27, 2014 8:37 am

chownah wrote: I think the Buddha taught that we should have no doctrine of self and it seems to me that saying something is outside of our self is creating the idea that there is a self with an inside and an outside and I guess something that separates the inside from the outside etc.........and this seems like a doctrine of self which the Buddha would have us guard against. chownah


Your reasoning is quite good, but the idea of self is not something that can be corrected just by simple advice: "you should have no doctrine of self" - where you answer: 'OK, done". You just can not help and start from idea of self. And here advice that whatever is present to you as an object should be treated as not self, is in itself the heart of Dhamma. Following it you do not embody yourself, you avoid any positive identification, and this practice may lead you to insight and loss of sakkaya-ditthi.
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Re: Phenomenology and Anatta

Postby chownah » Thu Feb 27, 2014 9:15 am

boris wrote:
chownah wrote: I think the Buddha taught that we should have no doctrine of self and it seems to me that saying something is outside of our self is creating the idea that there is a self with an inside and an outside and I guess something that separates the inside from the outside etc.........and this seems like a doctrine of self which the Buddha would have us guard against. chownah


Your reasoning is quite good, but the idea of self is not something that can be corrected just by simple advice: "you should have no doctrine of self" - where you answer: 'OK, done". You just can not help and start from idea of self. And here advice that whatever is present to you as an object should be treated as not self, is in itself the heart of Dhamma. Following it you do not embody yourself, you avoid any positive identification, and this practice may lead you to insight and loss of sakkaya-ditthi.

I think that the idea of self can not be "corrected" in any simple way. To say that what we see is outside our self is positing a self and also things which have a relationship to a self. This is in fact a doctrine of self and I think that people benefit from having this pointed out even of it is just as an encouragement to read what the Buddha taught a bit more thoroughly.....I find it very helpful to identify thoughts which are dependent on the idea of self so that I can see how they have arisen.....but I do agree that not everyone will benefit from having this pointed out and that there will even be people who think it is bad advise to point it out and suggest that I should post differently. To those people I usually suggest that if they think there is something that should be said that they should just go ahead and post it themselves.
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