Buddhist response to Western ontology

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Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby Coyote » Mon Feb 06, 2012 8:39 pm

How would a Buddhist respond to western ideas of ontology, specifically as it relates to the understanding of a God or first cause/undependant principle?
I hear many Christians and others influenced by a Greek/Western understanding of the world making the argument for a first cause, or the idea that existance has an underlying cause or foundation.
For example
1. Being exists
2. God is the source of being, is being and existance itself
3. Existance needs a source or foundation
4. Since Being exists, needs a source, and God is that source (substitute God here for Ground of being, first cause, Brahman ect), God therefore is self-evident and exists.

I Hope I am not misrepresenting the argument here, but it is something I see often.
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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby Jason » Mon Feb 06, 2012 9:06 pm

Coyote wrote:How would a Buddhist respond to western ideas of ontology, specifically as it relates to the understanding of a God or first cause/undependant principle?
I hear many Christians and others influenced by a Greek/Western understanding of the world making the argument for a first cause, or the idea that existance has an underlying cause or foundation.
For example
1. Being exists
2. God is the source of being, is being and existance itself
3. Existance needs a source or foundation
4. Since Being exists, needs a source, and God is that source (substitute God here for Ground of being, first cause, Brahman ect), God therefore is self-evident and exists.

I Hope I am not misrepresenting the argument here, but it is something I see often.


Interesting topic. While I don't have time to address each question directly, I'll post something I wrote last year that touches upon the subject of Buddhism and ontology just to add some food for discussion:

From my reading of the Pali Canon, it seems to me that the Buddha's teachings generally tend to avoid metaphysics, including ontology, in favour of a pragmatic approach to understanding mental stress and suffering (dukkha) and removing its causes (e.g., see MN 63). If anything, I'd say Buddhism is closer to something like process philosophy in Western philosophical terminology, where the focus is on processes or becoming rather than unchanging being or essence, e.g., Heraclitus vs. Plato; anicca + anatta vs. atman; or anything else that looks at change vs. essence.

Essentially (for those less familiar with these concepts), if something is impermanent, it means that it's subject to change, whereas that which has a permanent being or essence isn't. In other words, becoming (or any process of change) is only possible within the context of impermanence. In the examples I gave above, the former are examples of things dealing with processes or becoming, while the latter are things dealing with unchanging being or essence.

For example, Heraclitus, if we're to believe Plato, is famous for his idea that "everything flows," whereas Plato is famous for his idea of eternal forms. In the second example, the Buddha taught that what we mistakenly cling to as 'self' is really only impermanent phenomena subject to arising, changing, and passing away, whereas the Vedas and Upanishads are general understood to teach that our self is something real and eternal, something that is.

So strict ontology deals more with what inherently is or exists from its own side (i.e., being or essence), whereas the basic idea behind process philosophy is that what 'exists' is best understood in terms of processes rather than things or substances, and that change — whether physical, organic or psychological — "is the pervasive and predominant feature of the real." As such, it's sometimes called 'ontology of becoming.'

Of course, in Buddhism, becoming (bhava) refers more to the sense of identity that arises when there's clinging to one or more of the aggregates, but the basic idea is that our sense of self is a process of 'I-making' and 'my-making,' which I think can be classified as a type of process philosophy. The only area of metaphysics the Buddha does engage in is causality; but even here, he doesn't offer proofs so much as suggests that adopting these views in a pragmatic, common sense manner is empirically useful in the quest to end suffering. Hence, Buddhism avoids many of the metaphysical quandaries, including questions of ontology, that seem to plague other philosophical/religious traditions.


Also somewhat relevant is my post detailing some of my thoughts on the place of God in Buddhism.
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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Feb 06, 2012 9:35 pm

:goodpost:
You might not have written it specially for this thread, Jason, but it's right on target.

Coyote wrote:How would a Buddhist respond to western ideas of ontology, specifically as it relates to the understanding of a God or first cause/undependant principle?
I hear many Christians and others influenced by a Greek/Western understanding of the world making the argument for a first cause, or the idea that existance has an underlying cause or foundation.
For example
1. Being exists
2. God is the source of being, is being and existance itself
3. Existance needs a source or foundation
4. Since Being exists, needs a source, and God is that source (substitute God here for Ground of being, first cause, Brahman ect), God therefore is self-evident and exists.

I Hope I am not misrepresenting the argument here, but it is something I see often.

This particular Buddhist would say:
1. is ungrammatical and meaningless. 'Things exist' would be better.
2. is an unproven and unnecessary assertion.
3. is another unproven and unnecessary assertion.
4. is an argument based on 1 and 3 and 'proving' 2. If an argument starts from faulty premises, it can't prove anything.

I guess I'm saying that even in Western/Greek/Christian terms the argument is very weak and that I would reject it even without the influence of Buddhism - which is pretty much what happened in my life.
Buddhism, as Jason says, is not very interested in first causes.
I think that if you look at Buddhist cosmology you find a belief that there was no beginning to the world or universe - that it has always existed and always will. If that is the belief, asking 'why it exists' hardly occurs to you, and 'who created it?' is meaningless.

:namaste:
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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Feb 06, 2012 9:38 pm

Coyote wrote:1. Being exists
2. God is the source of being, is being and existance itself
3. Existance needs a source or foundation
4. Since Being exists, needs a source, and God is that source (substitute God here for Ground of being, first cause, Brahman ect), God therefore is self-evident and exists.


Seems like a reasonable line of reasoniong until you get to "God is that source". Who gets to decide that God is that source? Why not be open to the possibility that Coca Cola is that source? or something else for example? Then if we do decide God is that source who gets to decide what God is like?
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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby Otsom » Mon Feb 06, 2012 9:49 pm

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Last edited by Otsom on Thu Feb 09, 2012 12:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby Sam Vara » Mon Feb 06, 2012 10:13 pm

The best response I know of is the Mulapariyaya Sutta:

"A monk who is a Worthy One, devoid of mental fermentations... directly knows earth as earth. Directly knowing earth as earth, he does not conceive things about earth, does not conceive things in earth, does not conceive things coming out of earth, does not conceive earth as 'mine,' does not delight in earth. Why is that? Because, with the ending of passion, he is devoid of passion, I tell you.


(The same applies to everything else that can be known, including mental phenomena, and including Nibbana).

One way of seeing this is to look at the idea that

Existance needs a source or foundation


My only experience of need is my own needs, which have so far turned out to be very strong and rationalised wants and attachments. Things that exist just seem to exist, and only "need" a source or foundation when I want them to have one. The need turns out to be mine entirely. The same applies to existence as a general concept. What exists just gets on with it, except when I start conceptualising about it.
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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Feb 06, 2012 10:50 pm

Otsom wrote:
Coyote wrote:How would a Buddhist respond to western ideas of ontology, specifically as it relates to the understanding of a God or first cause/undependant principle?

I remember hearing from some wise teacher that buddhism is a practice method, not a belief system. In my opinion that would be a good buddhist response.

Right view is the forerunner!

yes there is practice but it is only part of the Dhammavinaya, and it is dependent upon Sammaditthi Right View, whihc isn't only the four noble truths, but also that there is what is given, there is mother, father and spontaniously born beings....
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 Cittasanto » Mon Feb 06, 2012 10:58 pm

Coyote wrote:How would a Buddhist respond to western ideas of ontology, specifically as it relates to the understanding of a God or first cause/undependant principle?
I hear many Christians and others influenced by a Greek/Western understanding of the world making the argument for a first cause, or the idea that existance has an underlying cause or foundation.
For example
1. Being exists
2. God is the source of being, is being and existance itself
3. Existance needs a source or foundation
4. Since Being exists, needs a source, and God is that source (substitute God here for Ground of being, first cause, Brahman ect), God therefore is self-evident and exists.

I Hope I am not misrepresenting the argument here, but it is something I see often.

I maybe misquoting, as I didn't look it up but...

There is no discernable beginning!
any source would need causes and conditions for its arising, and that would nullify the argument of an original source!
existence needsa a foundation but that foundation or foothold is not the same as or logically close to a source, but a fabricated thing itself.

but on another train of thought Brahma the Great Brahma, thought he was the originator, but was mistaken, one could guess due to the ontological argument.

beings don't necesarily need a source they need causes and conditions, which leads back to the first statement of no discernable beginning.

unfortunately, to my knowledge, the ontological argument is a week one, and was logically flawed enough not to last more than a day before it was logically proved unsound/incorrect. and that is all ontoloy is a form of logical reasoning.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby contemplans » Tue Feb 07, 2012 3:21 am

Coyote, you're going to get varied answers as to Buddhist teachings. Probably the most authentic Buddhist response would be that the Buddha set these questions aside. As for arguments against God, Buddhism really hasn't come up with any native arguments. The earliest argument is that Brahma is actually just a puffed up deva. And maybe that was fine for 500 BC, but many philosophers posit the idea of God not by what a deva thinks of himself, but about fundamental concepts like being, goodness, actuality, and even the concept of any perfect deathless state. Would a perfect deathless being have anything to do with a state like that? The other arguments I've seen in the Pali Canon are the problem of evil. And really this is the only argument which is worth debating, but any answer goes into the realm of faith. All I have seen circulating now has been lifted from the current atheist teachings. You can view on YouTube debates between Christopher Hitchins and William Lane Craig to get the run down of the merit of each side (or with Sam Harris, or any of those guys), or read the book "The Last Superstition" by Edward Feser.


Seems like a reasonable line of reasoniong until you get to "God is that source". Who gets to decide that God is that source? Why not be open to the possibility that Coca Cola is that source? or something else for example? Then if we do decide God is that source who gets to decide what God is like?


God is the word put on the source. The source is predefined as pure being, perfection in every aspect. We naturally tend toward such a definition. The Buddha agreed that the quest of life was happiness. Other people have put a word on that perfect happiness, not as experience, but as existing, as source, and that word is God. We could just as well rebuke the Buddha for telling us that Nibbana is peace. Why isn't it dukkha? What's wrong with dukkha? Who decided that dukkha was a bad thing?


I remember hearing from some wise teacher that buddhism is a practice method, not a belief system. In my opinion that would be a good buddhist response.


Rebirth and karma are beliefs. They are the central beliefs in which the other doctrines sit. Your practice may look different depending on your belief of present moment shaped by an interplay of impersonal karma with no reference to any ordering principle (for instance, your karma somehow stays with you and doesn't jump ship to another stream of consciousness, as though compelled), or an interplay of karma with an ordering principle, name that intelligent being called God.
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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Feb 07, 2012 3:25 am

Greetings,

contemplans wrote:As for arguments against God, Buddhism really hasn't come up with any native arguments.


MN 1 wrote:“He perceives the Overlord as the Overlord. Having perceived the Overlord as the Overlord, he conceives the Overlord, he conceives [himself] in the Overlord, he conceives [himself apart] from the Overlord, he conceives the Overlord to be ‘mine,’ he delights in the Overlord. Why is that? Because he has not fully understood it, I say."

Jataka 2, 22, 936–38, Kare translation wrote:If God (Brahma) is Lord of all the world
and creator of all life,
why did he give the world
so many sorrows?
Why did he not create
all the world happy?

If God (Brahma) is Lord of all the world
and creator of all life,
why did he create
so much deceit, injustice and lies
and fraud in the world?

If God (Brahma) is Lord of all the world
and creator of all life,
then this Lord is evil,
since he created injustice
where he could have created justice.

MN49: Brahma-nimantanika Sutta wrote:The Blessed One said: "On one occasion recently I was staying in Ukkattha in the Subhaga forest at the root of a royal sala tree. Now on that occasion an evil viewpoint had arisen to Baka-Brahma: 'This is constant. This is permanent. This is eternal. This is total. This is not subject to falling away — for this does not take birth, does not age, does not die, does not fall away, does not reappear. And there is no other, higher escape.'..

..."When this was said, I told Baka Brahma, 'How immersed in ignorance is Baka Brahma! How immersed in ignorance is Baka Brahma!...

Visuddhimagga, Ch. XIX, §3 wrote:To begin with, he considers thus: 'Firstly this mentality-materiality
is not causeless, because if that were so, it would follow that [having no
causes to differentiate it,] it would be identical everywhere always and
for all. It has no Overlord, etc., because of the non-existence of any
Overlord, etc. (Ch. XVI, §85), over and above mentality-materiality. And
because, if people then argue that mentality-materiality itself is its Over-
lord, etc., then it follows that their mentality-materiality, which they call
the Overlord, etc., would itself be causeless. Consequently there must be
a cause and a condition for it.'


Metta,
Retro. :)
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)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Feb 07, 2012 3:40 am

contemplans wrote:As for arguments against God, Buddhism really hasn't come up with any native arguments.


A couple of different ways to look at God. There is a God, but it is not quite what it thinks it is, or that there is no God that is permanent, omniscient, and the creator of the universe:

The Buddha states (Anguttara-Nikaya X 29):

'As far as the suns and moons extend their courses and the regions of the sky shine in splendour, there is a thousandfold world system. In each single one of these there are a thousand suns, moons, Meru Mountains, four times a thousand continents and oceans, a thousand heavens of all stages of the realm of sense pleasure, a thousand Brahma worlds. As far as a thousandfold world system reaches in other words, the universe], the Great God is the highest being. But even the Great God is subject to coming-to-be and ceasing-to-be.'

And in the 83rd discourse of the Middle Length Sayings:

"God truthfully answers [the questions of the Buddha] in succession: 'Good sir, those views I previously held are not mine; I see the radiance the world of God as passing; how could I say that I am permanent and eternal?'"

In other words God is still bound by karma and union with God is still to be within the realm of karma, which is inferior to the attainment of nirvana.

In Digha Nikaya 24 where the Buddha states:

"There are some ascetics and brahmins who declare as their doctrine that all things began with the creation by God, or Brahma."

And this singular god is characterized so:

"That Worshipful God, the Great God, the Omnipotent, the Omniscient, the Organizer, the Protection, the Creator, the Most Perfect Ruler, the Designer and Orderer, the Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be, He by Whom we were created, He is permanent, Constant, Eternal, Unchanging, and He will remain so for ever and ever."

which is a nice characterization of the brahmanical notion of the creator God one finds in the early Brahmanical and Ishvara literature, and it seems to fit for most every other creator God notion that has come down the pike.

The Buddha goes on in this discourse, using mythic language, to give a biting satirical re-telling of the creation myth of the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad making it quite clear that God is not quite what the absolute entity it imagines itself to be. It is not the creator, and we can see in this discourse by the Buddha and in other related ones that the idea of a single, absolute cause for the multiplicity of things, an infallible source of revealed knowledge that was different in kind from ordinary human knowledge, an unconditioned being that participates in any way in (even only as a witness to) the changes of human experience, and any kind of being that can interfere with the natural consequences of karma is rejected by the Buddha.

Elsewhere the Buddha states:

Anguttara Nikaya 3.61: "Again, monks, I [the Buddha] approached those ascetic and brahmins and said to them: 'Is it true, as they say, that you venerable ones teach and hold the view that whatever a person experiences...all that is caused by God's creation?' When they affirmed it, I said to them: 'If that is so, venerable sirs, then it is due to God's creation that people kill, steal ...[and otherwise act badly][/b]. But those who have recourse to God's creation as the decisive factor, will lack the impulse and the effort doing this or not doing that. Since for them, really and truly, no (motive) obtains that this or that ought to be done or not be done...."'[/b]

"If the pleasure and pain that beings feel are caused the creative act of a Supreme God [Issara-nimmana-hetu], then the Niganthas [Jains] surely must have been created by an evil Supreme God." MajjhimaNikaya II 222.

"The universe is without a refuge, without a Supreme God." MN II 68.

And then let us add these statement from the Pali Canon:

"He who eyes can see the sickening sight, why does not God set his creatures right? If his wide power no limits can restrain, why is his hand so rarely spread to bless? Why are his creatures all condemned to pain? Why does he not to all give happiness? Why do fraud, lies, and ignorance prevail? Why triumphs falsehood, - truth and justice fail? I count your God unjust in making a world in which to shelter wrong." J VI.208

"If God designs the life of the entire world -- the glory and the misery, the good and the evil acts, man is but an instrument of his will and God alone is responsible." J V.238.

Samyutta Nikaya III 144: "Bhikkhus [monks, the Buddha said, holding a fleck of dung on his fingernail], if even if that much of permanent, everlasting, eternal individual selfhood/metaphysical being (attabhava), not inseparable from the idea of change, could be found, then this living the holy life could not be taught by me."

Atta, in Sanskrit Atman, in this context carries a heavy metaphysical connotation, and given that the Buddha was speaking against backdrop of the two or three Upanishads that predate the Buddha, atman is a term equivalent to brahman, the absolute, the godhead - that is, self existence being par excellence (which is personified or mythologized as Brahma). The point is the Buddha was not silent on the question of god.

Which brings us to this later text:

"The assumption that a God is the cause (of the world, etc.) is based on the false belief in the eternal self (atman, i.e. permanent spiritual substance, essence or personality); but that belief has to be abandoned, if one has clearly understood that everything is impermanent and subject to suffering." Abhidharmakosha 5, 8 vol IV, p 19
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.

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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby contemplans » Tue Feb 07, 2012 3:40 am

Here's an interesting read to develop your argument from.
(source: http://jwwartick.com/tag/ontological-argument/)


The most powerful version of the ontological argument, in my opinion, is presented in the book God and Necessity by Stephen E. Parrish.

The argument goes as follows:

1) The concept of the Greatest Possible Being (GPB) is coherent (and thus broadly logically possible).

2) Necessarily, a being who is the GPB is necessarily existent, and would have (at least) omnipotence, omniscience, and moral perfection essentially.

3) If the concept of the GPB is coherent, then it exists in all possible worlds.

4) But if it exists in all possible worlds, then it exists in the actual world.

5) The GPB exists (Parrish, 82)


This argument is also deductively valid. Premise 1) argues that the Greatest Possible Being is coherent–that is, there is no logical contradiction within such a being. 2) further defines what a GPB would be (Plantinga’s argument outlines this thoroughly). Premise 3) states the major part of the argument in a different way. Rather than arguing that it is possible that “maximal greatness” is exemplified in some possible world, Parrish argues that the concept of the GPB entails logical necessity along with such maximal greatness, and thus 3) follows from the previous premises, just as Plantinga’s version of the argument does. The key is to remember that in Parrish’s version of the argument, the coherence of the GPB is what is important, not the possibility (for if it is coherent, it is possible). 4) This is tautologically true. 5) follows from the previous premises.

What Parrish does here is actually takes out the possibility of denying premise 1) in Plantinga’s argument. Let’s look into this closely. Parrish argues that the concept of the Greatest Possible Being is coherent. Why is this so important? Well, because if we grant for a moment that the GPB exists, such a being could not fail to exist due to some kind of chance mistake or having some other being or thing prevent the GPB’s existence (Parrish, 105). The first point (that chance could not prevent the GPB’s existence) is true because the GPB would be logically necessary (it would either exist or not exist in all possible worlds). This claim is reinforced by the idea of maximal greatness being a universal property (above). The second point (nothing else could prevent the GPB’s existence) seems quite obvious. If there were a being or body or thing, etc. that could prevent the GPB’s existence, the GPB would clearly not be the Greatest Possible Being. If some other being were powerful enough to prevent the GPB’s existence, then that being would be greater.

So the only thing that could prevent the GPB from existing is self-contradiction within the concept.

Why is this? Well, after a little investigation it seems pretty clear. If the GPB is a coherent (and logically possible) concept, then such a being does exist. Let us say that the GPB is coherent. Let us then take some world, W, and see whether the GPB can fail to exist.

The concept of the GPB includes logical necessity in all possible worlds. The GPB has all the properties of maximal greatness. This means that these properties are universals. We can simply refer back to the argument above. If the GPB exists and has omnipotence, omniscience, etc. then it must exist universally, because, again, if some being is the GPB in only 200/1,000,000,000 possible worlds, the being that is GPB in 2,000 is greater. But this seems ridiculous, for the truly Greatest Possible Being must exist in all of them, for if there was a possibility for some being to exist in all the worlds that the GPB exists in +1 and exemplify the maximally great attributes, then that being would be the GPB (and the previous one would not really have omniscience, etc., for the GPB would be more powerful, existing in all possible worlds, and being sovereign in all possible worlds) . Now let us return to W. It now seems completely clear that W could not be such that, if the GPB is coherent (and therefore possible), W could not fail to exemplify the GPB.

But have we then demonstrated that coherence is really the issue here? Is it possible that we are just thinking up some thing, calling it the GPB, and then arguing it into “supposed” existence? Logically, it does not seem so.

The reason is because we are arguing that the GPB entails these properties. Things have, essentially properties. I exemplify the property of “having fingers.” I also exemplify the properties of “being finite,” “being human,” “having two feet,” etc. These properties don’t belong to me simply because someone sat around and decided to assign them to me, rather they belong to me because of the kind of thing I am. (Parrish argues similarly, 55). But in the same way, we could answer such objections by saying that these properties are part of the concept of God because that’s the kind of thing God is. Certainly, there have been all kinds of “gods” claimed throughout history that are finite in power or activity, but those aren’t the “gods” whose existence we are arguing for. Rather, we are arguing for the existence of the God of classical theism, and that God has such properties as necessary existence (in the analytic sense), omnipotence, omniscience, etc. This objection really doesn’t have any weight. But again, let’s assume for the sake of argument that it does.

Let’s assume that the objection may be true. We are just taking some “X” and arbitrarily saying that it is omnipotent, necessary, etc. Does that preclude such an object existing? I don’t see how this could be true. But even further, some claim that this doesn’t match up with Christianity’s concept of God. This seems preposterous. One needs only to open a Bible to find that, while words like “omnipotence” are not used, words like “Almighty”, “Most High”, and the like constantly are. And what kind of objection is this really? Is the person making this objection going to concede that it is possible that there exists some nearly-omnipotent-but-not-actually-omnipotent creator of the universe? No, the objection is beyond logic and into emotional repugnance at the thought of God actually existing.

But we can even go further. For let us simply define God as the Greatest Possible being. This seems like it could very easily operate as a definition of what “God” is, at least on classical theism. Well then, what properties might this Greatest Possible Being have? And then we simply build them up. Omnipotence seems obvious, as does omniscience, as does necessity, etc. So this isn’t some arbitrary assigning-to of properties, but rather such properties are part of the GPB simply because of what the GPB actually is, if the GPB existed.

Now we can return to the matter at hand. Does God exist? Well it follows from all of this that yes, God does exist. The theist has established that there are some arguments that deductively prove that God does exist. The only “way out” for the atheist is to attack premise one and argue that the concept of the GPB is, in fact, contradictory. And let’s be honest, there have been many attempts to do so. I can’t possibly go into all of them here, but I can state simply that I remain unconvinced. Often these arguments are things like “Omnipotence and omniscience are impossible to have, because if God knows in advance what He’s going to do, He can’t do anything else!” This argument is obviously false, for simply knowing what is going to happen is not causation. I know that a sheep is an animal, this does not cause the sheep to be an animal. I know that I am going to finish typing this post, that does not cause me to do so. Rather, I choose to continue typing and finish this post.

Of course, one might say “You can’t really know you’re going to finish this post! Your computer might explode and you may get brain washed, etc.” Well that is a whole different debate, but I think that such objections, ironically, actually apply not at all to God. For if God is omniscient and omnipotent, it seems clear that God actually would be above such things! For nothing could prevent God from finishing something He knows He’s going to do! Not only that, but God’s knowledge is such that He actually would know He is going to do something, and freely chooses to do so. I don’t see why God’s foreknowledge of an event somehow limits omnipotence, especially when one considers that God is part of agent-causation, so God chooses to do the things He is going to do. Thus, the argument falls apart.

But now I’m already farther off track than I was (and thus preventing myself from finishing this post, AH the irony!). Suffice to say that I very much doubt that any objection to the coherence of the GPB even comes close to succeeding. But then, if that is true, God exists.

Therefore God exists.
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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Feb 07, 2012 3:44 am

Greetings,

contemplans wrote:1) The concept of the Greatest Possible Being (GPB) is coherent (and thus broadly logically possible).

:buddha1:

contemplans wrote:2) Necessarily, a being who is the GPB is necessarily existent, and would have (at least) omnipotence, omniscience, and moral perfection essentially.

Wrong - fail.

contemplans wrote:Therefore God exists.

Therefore your conclusion is non-sequitur.

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Metta,
Retro. :)
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)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Feb 07, 2012 4:28 am

contemplans wrote:... there are some arguments that deductively prove that God does exist. The only “way out” for the atheist is to attack premise one and argue that the concept of the GPB is, in fact, contradictory.

The only “way out”? Uh, uh.
Let's see how many I can think of in five minutes (they are all separate):
1. The argument assumes that 'existence' is a Good Thing. Maybe it isn't.
2. The same line of argument 'proves' the existence of a 'Greatest Possible Mosquito', a 'Greatest Possible Eiffel Tower', a 'Greatest Possible Flying Spaghetti Monster' and even a 'Greatest possible squirrelly little critter with a sore left toe'. Which means that a GPB is not at all special.
3. A GPB should be beyond our mere mortal understanding and our mere mortal logic, so anything we can say about it is probably wrong.
4. Perhaps our whole idea of 'existence' is wildly wrong. Perhaps we are merely the dreams of a basking narwhal, and the narwhal is not dreaming of a GPB.
Oops! Time's up!
But there are lots more where those came from.

:namaste:
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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby Kenshou » Tue Feb 07, 2012 4:38 am

Whoa.

Guys, I think I just became a Christian.

Can someone direct me to the nearest church?

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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby ground » Tue Feb 07, 2012 5:26 am

Coyote wrote:How would a Buddhist respond to western ideas of ontology, specifically as it relates to the understanding of a God or first cause/undependant principle?

I guess there is a variety of responses depending on a variety of Buddhists. From my perspective the most appropriate response would be to discern ideas as ideas.

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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Feb 07, 2012 5:46 am

contemplans wrote:The argument goes as follows:

1) The concept of the Greatest Possible Being (GPB) is coherent (and thus broadly logically possible).
Not that you have shown.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Feb 07, 2012 5:59 am

The following is something I pulled together a number of years. While the focus here is on what the DL says about the subject of a god, everything he says can also be drawn from the Pali suttas. (Given the that is compilation is years old, i doubt that the links are functioning.)

    Now, as for what the Dalai Lama has said about the idea of a Creator.

    In THE GOOD HEART: A Buddhist Perspective on the Teachings of
    Jesus (pub by Wisdom), the Dalai Lama comments on a number of
    Gospel passages and has dialogues with a number Christians about this.
    It is a wonderful book, showing that dialogue is possible and showing
    the kind of work that such dialogue entails, in this book the Dalai Lama
    states:

    "The entire Buddhist worldview is based on a philosophical standpoint
    in which the central thought is the principle of interdependence, how all
    things and events come into being purely as a result of interactions
    between causes and conditions. Within that philosophical world view, it
    is almost impossible to have any room for an atemporal, eternal,
    absolute truth. Nor is it possible to accommodate the concept of divine
    Creation [page 82]" "The belief in creation and divinity is not universal
    to all major religious traditions. ... Buddhism, which is a nontheistic
    religion.... [page 74]."

    In the World Tibet Network News
    Thursday, May 20, 1999

    the Dalai Lama states:

    "I mentioned the Buddhist law of causality, cause and effect,
    which means no beginning, therefore no Creator."

    On http://www.cuenet.com/~fpmt/Teachings/ironbird.html

    the Dalai Lama states:

    "Basically, religions may be divided into two groups. One group,
    including Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and some ancient Indian
    traditions, I call God religions. Their fundamental faith is in a Creator.
    The other group of religious tradition, including Jainism, Buddhism, I
    usually call godless religions. They do not believe in a Creator."

    A HUMAN APPROACH TO WORLD PEACE by His Holiness Tenzin
    Gyatso, The Fourtheenth Dalai Lama:

    "While pointing out the fundamental similarities between world
    religions, I do not advocate one particular religion at the expense of all
    others, nor do I seek a new 'world religion.' All the different religions
    of the world are needed to enrich human experience and world
    civilization. Our human minds, being of different caliber and disposition,
    need different approaches to peace and happiness. It is just like food.
    Certain people find Christianity more appealing, others prefer Buddhism
    because there is no creator in it and everything depends upon your own
    actions. We can make similar arguments for other religions as well.
    Thus, the point is clear: humanity needs all the world's religions to suit
    the ways of life, diverse spiritual needs, and inherited national traditions
    of individual human beings."

    On http://www.uky.edu/StudentOrgs/UKBA/dependento_DL.htm

    the Dalai Lama states:

    "This principle [of Buddhism] means that all conditioned things and
    events in the universe come into being only as a result of the interaction
    of various causes and conditions. This is significant because it precludes
    two possibilities. One is the possibility that things can arise from
    nowhere, with no causes and conditions, and the second is that things
    can arise on account of a transcendent designer or creator. Both these
    possibilities are negated."

    Hinduism Today Feb 1998 states of the Dalai Lama:

    "He also gave a bold voice to the Buddhist belief that there is no creator
    God. It was a defining moment of these sessions. In all such interfaith
    meetings religious leaders speak in terms of God, intone prayers to God,
    write their formal statements of purpose in acknowledgement of God. To
    the Buddhists this Creator-centric presumption is presumptuous. It leaves
    them out. The Dalai Lama was challenging them, in his sweet way, to
    find words and concepts that could bridge the Abrahamic world and the
    Buddhist/Jain world."
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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Feb 07, 2012 6:10 am

The Dalai Lama is cool... :sage:

I've personally noticed that about interfaith things. People think they are being very inclusive when they say things like "you can invoke the God of your choice", and I'm left thinking, umm.... :thinking:

Though I can sometimes relate "surrendering to the will of God" to the Buddhist concept of conditionality...

:anjali:
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Re: Buddhist response to Western ontology

Postby ancientbuddhism » Tue Feb 07, 2012 6:29 am

Jason wrote:From my reading of the Pali Canon, it seems to me that the Buddha's teachings generally tend to avoid metaphysics, including ontology, …


"Buddhist response to Western Ontology” seems a poorly framed topic, but as to Jason’s stock reply, this is simply wrong. The assumption of self (ātman) and ‘I am’ (asmī) as support of the khandhas was rooted in the Upaniṣads, as we find in Bṛhad-āraṇyaka Upaniṣad I. 4.1 (S. Radhakrishnan):

    THE CREATION OF THE WORLD FROM THE SELF

    I. ātmaivedam agra āsīt puruṣavidhaḥ, so’nuvīkṣya nānyad ātmano’paśyat, so’ham asmīty agre vyāharat; tato’haṃ nāmābhavat, tasmād apy etarhy āmantritaḥ; aham ayam ity evāgra uktvā, athānyan nāma prabrūte yad asyabhavati. sa yat pūrvo’smāt sarvasmāt sarvān pāpmana auṣat, tasmāt puruṣah; oṣati ha vai sa tam, yo’smāt pūrvo bubhūṣati, ya evaṃ veda.

    I. In the beginning this (world) was only the self, in the shape of a person. Looking around he saw nothing else than the self. He first said, ‘I am.’ Therefore arose the name of I. Therefore, even to this day when one is addressed he says first ‘This is I’ and then speaks whatever other name he may have. Because before all this, he burnt all evils, therefore he is a person. He who knows this, verily, burns up him who wishes to be before him.

The Buddha put Upaniṣadic ontology in a proper context by deconstructing what props up the assumption of self through an analysis of the khandhas. And In MN. 22 this ontology of ātman was soundly refuted as a doctrine of fools (bāladhammo), which is in effect a denial of both soul and God. Clearly the Buddha took a position on these matters, but it was no mere view.
Katamo ca bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo: samatho ca vipassanā ca. Ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the path leading to the unconditioned? Calm and insight. This, bhikkhus, is called the path leading to the unconditioned.” SN. 43.2 – Samathavipassanāsuttaṃ

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