Materialism and Buddhism

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Materialism and Buddhism

Postby Laurens » Sat Nov 13, 2010 7:25 pm

This topic is in response to several posts I have seen by the user 5heaps, who seems to condemn materialism. In his/her latest attack, it was claimed that materialism was 'stupid' and I would like to address this viewpoint, as well as explain how I feel that materialism does not conflict with Buddhism, at least not the majority of Buddhist philosophy.

Firstly a distinction should be made; I am not referring to materialism in the sense of a world view in which one wishes to accrue as many material possessions as possible, rather the philosophical view that there is nothing, or at least very unlikely to be anything existent beyond measurable material processes.

The first thing to say is that this view is by no means at conflict with reality, whether or not you agree with it is a different matter, however, everything that we can observe to exist, exists due to natural material processes. Even our thoughts are material, electronic impulses between various neurons in the brain. We have observed this, and we know that when certain areas of the brain are damaged or removed our thought processes can be affected. In light of this, it is not unreasonable, or stupid to assume that all existent things have a material cause.

One can still meditate and practice mindfulness if one holds a materialistic view. Indeed the materialistic view actually agrees with the doctrine of not self, this body, these thoughts etc, are made up of chemical processes that under examination do not construct a solid self. It does not conflict with emptiness, in fact it supports it - nothing has any real substance, its all atoms vibrating at different frequencies. All of the teachings about releasing one's self from greet hatred and delusion still stand.

The only conflict one might find is with the doctrine of rebirth - but even this could be attributed to an as yet undiscovered material process.

For some reason, 5heaps seems to think materialism is at complete odds with Buddhism, and I would state otherwise. Materialism is not stupid, in fact, in light of what we know about the universe, its quite an intelligible view to adhere to.

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby Goofaholix » Sat Nov 13, 2010 7:45 pm

I think materialism is quite a reasonable viewpoint, it's a reasonable assumption, a reasonable starting point. It's certainly more reasonable than beliefism, and very compatible with a mindful enquiry into ones experience of reality.

However adhering to it dogmatically and to the exclusion of all other possibilities is where problems arise, as is the case with beliefism, just because we can explain all of our experience so far in terms of materialism does not mean that this will always be the case.
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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby Laurens » Sat Nov 13, 2010 8:11 pm

Goofaholix wrote:I think materialism is quite a reasonable viewpoint, it's a reasonable assumption, a reasonable starting point. It's certainly more reasonable than beliefism, and very compatible with a mindful enquiry into ones experience of reality.

However adhering to it dogmatically and to the exclusion of all other possibilities is where problems arise, as is the case with beliefism, just because we can explain all of our experience so far in terms of materialism does not mean that this will always be the case.


Indeed, my view is not that there is definitely nothing beyond the material.

Just that reality works as it is without anything supernatural. I would be open to changing my view if some evidence was presented that indicated there was something beyond this material reality. Until then there isn't much reason to believe it.
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby 5heaps » Sat Nov 13, 2010 9:11 pm

Even our thoughts are material, electronic impulses between various neurons in the brain.
not even the most materialistic scientist will claim that this has been scientifically verified. this is because correlation is not scientific evidence. furthermore they have not yet located the correlate for mere awareness itself, which is what the thought process must access in order for it to refer to what we experience in 1st person as a conscious thought.
One can still meditate and practice mindfulness if one holds a materialistic view.
for heaven's sake dont stop meditating. in fact meditate really really well! and practice logic! if correlation was evidence then whenever a car stopped moving on the street we would have to infer that the driver were dead.

Materialism is not stupid
its conceptuality trumping direct experience. the thing which is doing the conceiving is using itself to negate itself. its just a pile of fail.

and it should be understood as such. the philosophy behind emergent properties is very very new. likewise neuroscience is very very new. they will evolve. western materialism's 400 year old quest to survive will also evolve, assuming the civilization it has taken over doesnt destroy itself in the meantime. keep those antidepressants coming, we have to keep those neurons fit and active.

so, mind as an unchanging emergent property is stupid since its internally inconsistent. you cant meditate since 1st person experience is a hallucination. so-called "you" can appear to meditate but all "you" are doing is performing a physical function set off by the big bang a while ago. in fact the success or failure of "your" meditation was already determined 2 nanoseconds after the big bang ended, or perhaps even during the big bang. perhaps in the future we will find out that it was determined before the big bang happened. mind as epiphenomena is a little better since in that system mind can actually perform a function, but its still really stupid. this was already explained 1500 years ago in the analysis of whether the material cause for mind can be a whole with parts, particular parts (ie. atoms), or mere collections of parts.
A Japanese man has been arrested on suspicion of writing a computer virus that destroys and replaces files on a victim PC with manga images of squid, octopuses and sea urchins. Masato Nakatsuji, 27, of Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, was quoted as telling police: "I wanted to see how much my computer programming skills had improved since the last time I was arrested."
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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby Moggalana » Sat Nov 13, 2010 9:41 pm

If you want to challenge your views on materialism, listen to this podcast: Explaining Mind and Brain: The mind exists, and it is something different than the brain. (direct link to audio file.)
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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby Laurens » Sat Nov 13, 2010 11:30 pm

5heaps wrote:not even the most materialistic scientist will claim that this has been scientifically verified. this is because correlation is not scientific evidence. furthermore they have not yet located the correlate for mere awareness itself, which is what the thought process must access in order for it to refer to what we experience in 1st person as a conscious thought.

With or without definite evidence there are no reasons to assume that consciousness and awareness are anything other than products of the brain. Where then do they lie? The most logical explanation is that they are functions of the brain. Rather than things that exist outside of our bodies, outside of our material universe, beyond any capacity for measurement. The most reasonable assumption, in light of the evidence is that these phenomena are something to do with the brain.


its conceptuality trumping direct experience. the thing which is doing the conceiving is using itself to negate itself. its just a pile of fail.


What else should we trump? Fantasy land? Material things are all we can be certain of existing. To posit the existence of anything else requires assumptions to be made.

Let me ask you, why don't you believe in fairies, and pixies, and unicorns, and dragons? I assume it is because you have not observed them to exist in reality, this is the basis of materialism, not assuming anything to exist beyond what we know exists.

and it should be understood as such. the philosophy behind emergent properties is very very new. likewise neuroscience is very very new. they will evolve. western materialism's 400 year old quest to survive will also evolve, assuming the civilization it has taken over doesnt destroy itself in the meantime. keep those antidepressants coming, we have to keep those neurons fit and active.

so, mind as an unchanging emergent property is stupid since its internally inconsistent. you cant meditate since 1st person experience is a hallucination. so-called "you" can appear to meditate but all "you" are doing is performing a physical function set off by the big bang a while ago. in fact the success or failure of "your" meditation was already determined 2 nanoseconds after the big bang ended, or perhaps even during the big bang. perhaps in the future we will find out that it was determined before the big bang happened. mind as epiphenomena is a little better since in that system mind can actually perform a function, but its still really stupid. this was already explained 1500 years ago in the analysis of whether the material cause for mind can be a whole with parts, particular parts (ie. atoms), or mere collections of parts.


I watched a talk by Ajahn Brahm where he stated pretty much the same thing, that free-will is an illusion and that all our choices are predetermined by external factors, I got the impression that he was being deterministic. What makes this so incompatible with meditation and Buddhism?

How exactly is it stupid, other than you disagree with it?
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby 5heaps » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:14 am

Laurens wrote:Material things are all we can be certain of existing. To posit the existence of anything else requires assumptions to be made.
you should really think about that over and over. its an amazing thing to say.

as noam chomsky puts it, "what mind-body problem? we already got rid of the mechanical view of the body" (something very close to that). then he goes on to speak about how noone has the slightest clue what the mind is, or even how to phrase a question that would lead to some understanding of the mind. contrast that to your "The most logical explanation is that they are functions of the brain."
A Japanese man has been arrested on suspicion of writing a computer virus that destroys and replaces files on a victim PC with manga images of squid, octopuses and sea urchins. Masato Nakatsuji, 27, of Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, was quoted as telling police: "I wanted to see how much my computer programming skills had improved since the last time I was arrested."
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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby andre9999 » Sun Nov 14, 2010 2:20 am

5heaps wrote:
Laurens wrote:Material things are all we can be certain of existing. To posit the existence of anything else requires assumptions to be made.
you should really think about that over and over. its an amazing thing to say.

as noam chomsky puts it, "what mind-body problem? we already got rid of the mechanical view of the body" (something very close to that). then he goes on to speak about how noone has the slightest clue what the mind is, or even how to phrase a question that would lead to some understanding of the mind. contrast that to your "The most logical explanation is that they are functions of the brain."


Would you mind expounding further on the former point? Also, do you know the actual quote or where I can read more about what Chomsky said?
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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby Prasadachitta » Sun Nov 14, 2010 2:35 am

Let me know if this is congruent with the general understanding.

Materialism reduces all cause and effect to the operations of something called "material".

Ok?

But if materialism is true what purpose does the designation "material" have? It would be a thing without context. Since there is nothing which is not material what need do we have for the word. All designations are useful only because they are not something else.


Hmmmm :thinking:

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby Hanzze » Sun Nov 14, 2010 6:04 am

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Thu Jan 13, 2011 4:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby Laurens » Sun Nov 14, 2010 10:20 am

5heaps wrote:
Laurens wrote:Material things are all we can be certain of existing. To posit the existence of anything else requires assumptions to be made.
you should really think about that over and over. its an amazing thing to say.

as noam chomsky puts it, "what mind-body problem? we already got rid of the mechanical view of the body" (something very close to that). then he goes on to speak about how noone has the slightest clue what the mind is, or even how to phrase a question that would lead to some understanding of the mind. contrast that to your "The most logical explanation is that they are functions of the brain."


These people might not know what the mind is, but that does not mean to say that it has an immaterial cause.

People used to think that weather, disease, drought, earthquakes etc were supernatural because they couldn't explain them. We now know that these things have natural material causes, and we also know better than to make assumptions like that in future.

To posit something existing that is not a material process, yet interacts with matter, requires the following assumptions to be made:

1. That it is even possible for something to exist that is immaterial
2. That it is possible for something immaterial to interact with something material

Time and time again we discover natural processes behind things that at first may seem miraculous. In light of what we know, there is no reason whatsoever to assume miracles or supernatural any more. It's better to assume that something has an as yet undiscovered natural cause than to assume the supernatural.
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Sun Nov 14, 2010 10:46 am

Laurens wrote:These people might not know what the mind is, but that does not mean to say that it has an immaterial cause.



I'm still not sure what is meant by "materialism" and "immaterialism" in this thread. There is probably a technical philosophical definition, but is that what we're discussing?
And how does consciousness fit into these categorisations?

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby Sanghamitta » Sun Nov 14, 2010 10:48 am

5heaps wrote:
Laurens wrote:Material things are all we can be certain of existing. To posit the existence of anything else requires assumptions to be made.
you should really think about that over and over. its an amazing thing to say.

as noam chomsky puts it, "what mind-body problem? we already got rid of the mechanical view of the body" (something very close to that). then he goes on to speak about how noone has the slightest clue what the mind is, or even how to phrase a question that would lead to some understanding of the mind. contrast that to your "The most logical explanation is that they are functions of the brain."

This a series pf non sequiturs and fallacies... "we " ( who ? ) have done no such thing." as " get rid of the mechanical view of the body " ,
Depending of course what is meant if anything by " mechanical " view.
If you mean the paradigm that says that our psychological/physiological being is the result of a series of accidents and is maintained by entirely measurable processes then "we" have a situation, as does Chomsky, where his best efforts have not altered at all the overwhelmingly universally held consensus in the biological , psychological, evolutionary and cosmological sciences.
And psychology will tell you very clearly that they have a very good idea what the mind is, and that it is that mind does not exist.
Now we are free to reject their conclusions. We are not free to portray them as wandering in circles scratching their heads.
In their view " mind" is a construct, a convenient portmanteau term, with no intrinsic meaning, and that Chomsky's critique is therefore redundant,
Lets address the actual debates, not invent non existent ones. We are free to reject the findings of psychology. We are not free to posit on psychologists behalf a wrong understanding of a phenomenon , the reality of which in objective terms, they deny
For those not au fait with current psychology it might seem extraordinary to state that psychology does not recognize " mind" as a viable description of an objective phenomenon...but a little research will soon confirm this to be the case.
The most interesting point is that Buddhadhamma posits a series of constructs in place of "mind" too...........That is precisely what the concepts of the kandhas as they function in the domains of cognition and perception alludes to.
The issue as I see it is not the relationship to materialism which depending on how we define it could be entirely consistant with Buddhism. The real problem lies within the views of spiritism contrasted with those of Buddha Dhamma.
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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby kirk5a » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:36 pm

Awareness is not an objective phenomenon. Are Buddhist teachers who talk about awareness engaging in "spiritism in contrast to the Buddha Dhamma"?
"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: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby Sanghamitta » Sun Nov 14, 2010 1:51 pm

No , because they do not posit an owner of that awareness. Awareness is an process that arises when the conditions for its arising are present. It needs no "mind" entity to account for it.
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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby kirk5a » Sun Nov 14, 2010 2:30 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:Awareness is an process that arises when the conditions for its arising are present.


How do you know that?
"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: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby Sanghamitta » Sun Nov 14, 2010 2:57 pm

Perhaps Kirk5a you could cite Theravadin Buddhist sources that suggest that awareness arises independantly ?
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby 5heaps » Mon Nov 15, 2010 1:54 am

andrer9999 wrote:
5heaps wrote:
Laurens wrote:Material things are all we can be certain of existing. To posit the existence of anything else requires assumptions to be made.
you should really think about that over and over. its an amazing thing to say.

as noam chomsky puts it, "what mind-body problem? we already got rid of the mechanical view of the body" (something very close to that). then he goes on to speak about how noone has the slightest clue what the mind is, or even how to phrase a question that would lead to some understanding of the mind. contrast that to your "The most logical explanation is that they are functions of the brain."


Would you mind expounding further on the former point? Also, do you know the actual quote or where I can read more about what Chomsky said?
Newton's discoveries of planetary motion etc broke the cartesian mind-body problem. this is because it was no longer clear what was meant by body, because matter suddenly was governed by "occult forces" (not matter). then he goes on to talk about how this increased staggeringly through the advancement into modern physics which makes all available data on what what it means to be matter quite meaningless.


ill look for the audio for this since i have some clue where it might be + its really important.
at one point he is analyzing a particular "river" and what it means to be a river. its very Dharmakirti/Nagarjuna-ish (ie. if we change 20% of the molecules is it the same river.. how bout 21% of the molecules is it still the river.. if you change the direction of the flow is it still the river? they did that in russia, and it was still the same river. etc)
A Japanese man has been arrested on suspicion of writing a computer virus that destroys and replaces files on a victim PC with manga images of squid, octopuses and sea urchins. Masato Nakatsuji, 27, of Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, was quoted as telling police: "I wanted to see how much my computer programming skills had improved since the last time I was arrested."
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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby 5heaps » Mon Nov 15, 2010 2:08 am

Laurens wrote:To posit something existing that is not a material process, yet interacts with matter, requires the following assumptions to be made:
you never actually studied buddhism so its no wonder you dont have a clue what youre talking about. buddhism doesnt assert that we should stick on heads in the sand. it asserts direct perception and it defends it with logic, texts, debate, instructions on how produce the same results, etc.
as yet undiscovered natural cause than to assume the supernatural.
what exactly is supernatural about nonphysicality? is a number physical? is a letter physical? youre reading a word and staring at it (not the pixels), is that "supernatural"?
A Japanese man has been arrested on suspicion of writing a computer virus that destroys and replaces files on a victim PC with manga images of squid, octopuses and sea urchins. Masato Nakatsuji, 27, of Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, was quoted as telling police: "I wanted to see how much my computer programming skills had improved since the last time I was arrested."
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Re: Materialism and Buddhism

Postby 5heaps » Mon Nov 15, 2010 2:20 am

Sanghamitta wrote:The real problem lies within the views of spiritism contrasted with those of Buddha Dhamma.
Buddha asserted persons which function, which collect karma, are born and die, etc. not appearances of persons and appearances of suffering people. likewise, the 4 arya truths are not appearances of truths and appearances of being applicable to your life, they do apply to your life. likewise you are alive, there is not the appearance of being alive. i hate to be the one to tell you but _your_ actions produce effects, not appearances of effects; just like physical things produce effects, not appearances of effects. materialism is so nihilistic that pretty soon there will be a substantial school of though which says even physical things only appear to function.
A Japanese man has been arrested on suspicion of writing a computer virus that destroys and replaces files on a victim PC with manga images of squid, octopuses and sea urchins. Masato Nakatsuji, 27, of Izumisano, Osaka Prefecture, was quoted as telling police: "I wanted to see how much my computer programming skills had improved since the last time I was arrested."
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