Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

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

Postby Sarva » Sat Apr 14, 2012 9:03 pm

Moth wrote:--cut for space-- Everything the subject attempts to identify itself with, by principle of being conscious of it, it cannot be. The subject is always a negative space of sorts. If I am conscious of a feeling I cannot be that feeling, if I am conscious of a perception, I cannot be that perception, etc. If I am conscious of the thought "I am" I cannot be that thought, nor can that thought ever correctly reference me.

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

Hello Moth and Sam
This is interesting and correct in my understanding also. Because we are not what we observe so we have no reason to claim it as 'mine'. Consequently we do not need to crave or cling to any sensed phenomena (thought, feeling, sense contact etc). What is more, as you point out Moth, there is no self or permanent subject according to Buddhism (anatta) so there is no 'owner' of any sensed phenomena. Again this implies even when we are angry or gripped by passion, there is no real owner and we have an opportunity to be "free" from its grip, in a sense. This is often not an option we see, instead we believe we are what we feel.

The issue is that through ignorance we can believe and create (or give birth to) a sense of self. If we create a sense of self it can lead to a feeling that we are obliged to act to define our self or protect our self image. This leads to dukkha (frustration) as there is no real self which we can protect or define and it must eventually end (die) or under go change. For example, believing I am a rich business man, having made lots of money in real estate, I have a self image. Propelled by this sense of self I expect to be treated with respect by my employees, however when I am not treated with respect, I become hostile or depressed (dukkha). I may maintain that I am depressed because that is how I am. The truth is that there is no real 'rich business man self', the idea or concept has be born through my ignorance of taking myself to be defined by my situation. There is no self which 'owns' depression. All situations or phenomena are arising interdependently i.e. objectively and hence there is not a subject or a self (as you pointed out) only arising and falling (anicca).

This is my own understanding, subject to improvement, but I hope it adds to the topic.

Metta

PS: Thanks Sam for clarifying your question was different than my own above. :smile:
“Both formerly & now, it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress.” — SN 22:86
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby PadmaPhala » Sun Apr 15, 2012 7:50 am

Moth wrote:I am currently reading Godel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter and I am finding the parallels to Buddhism very striking. While I haven't made it to this section of the book yet (still learning about formal systems), I am aware that it's ultimate purpose is to demonstrate how the capacity for self-reference can arise out of a composition of things which cannot self-reference. I believe this to be a parallel to the arising of sakkaya-ditthi. Again, I haven't read about how this works yet, but I know it has to do with recursive loops.
(...)


thanks for the title of a book (years/months from now)
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby PadmaPhala » Sun Apr 15, 2012 8:18 am

Moth wrote:--cut for space-- Everything the subject attempts to identify itself with, by principle of being conscious of it, it cannot be. The subject is always a negative space of sorts. If I am conscious of a feeling I cannot be that feeling, if I am conscious of a perception, I cannot be that perception, etc. If I am conscious of the thought "I am" I cannot be that thought, nor can that thought ever correctly reference me.
(...)


true. however, remember that anatta means that the vedic concept of atmān is flawed.

the buddhadharma isn't by any means, nihilistic.

you can not be that perception but you own that perception.
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby pulga » Sun Apr 15, 2012 2:32 pm

Moth wrote: Everything the subject attempts to identify itself with, by principle of being conscious of it, it cannot be. The subject is always a negative space of sorts. If I am conscious of a feeling I cannot be that feeling, if I am conscious of a perception, I cannot be that perception, etc. If I am conscious of the thought "I am" I cannot be that thought, nor can that thought ever correctly reference me.


This is why the subject tends to be conflated with consciousness (i.e. the pre-reflexive presence) of the object, or with the lived body (i.e., the ajjhattikāni āyatanāni): both are inherently negative in immediate experience. We need to delve into the nature of the a priori to get a sense of the conditionality that the Buddha speaks of.
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby PadmaPhala » Sun Apr 15, 2012 4:58 pm

nagarjuna was maitreya...
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby Moth » Sun Apr 15, 2012 8:29 pm

pulga wrote:This is why the subject tends to be conflated with consciousness (i.e. the pre-reflexive presence) of the object, or with the lived body (i.e., the ajjhattikāni āyatanāni): both are inherently negative in immediate experience. We need to delve into the nature of the a priori to get a sense of the conditionality that the Buddha speaks of.


Can you elaborate on what is meant by the nature of the a priori? Also, the word reflexive, I've come across it many times in Nanavira's writings but am still not sure what it means. Does it reference meta-cognition, like thinking about thinking? Thank you.
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby pulga » Tue Apr 17, 2012 2:54 pm

Moth wrote:Can you elaborate on what is meant by the nature of the a priori? Also, the word reflexive, I've come across it many times in Nanavira's writings but am still not sure what it means. Does it reference meta-cognition, like thinking about thinking? Thank you.


I can only recommend some of Dan Zahavi's writings on subjectivity. The sixth chapter from The New Husserl titled Inner Time-Consciousness and Pre-reflective Self-awareness is particularly good. Just a footnote from the chapter reads:

However, one should not forget that the act of reflection is itself a pre-reflectively
self-given act. The reflected act must already be self-aware, since it is the fact of its being
already mine, already being given in the first-person mode of presentation that allows me to
reflect upon it. And the act of reflection must also already be pre-reflectively self-aware, since
it is this that permits it to recognize the reflected act as belonging to the same subjectivity
as itself. (emphasis added)


As I understand Ven. Ñanavira, rather than positing pre-reflexive self-awareness as an absolute as does Husserl, he interprets it as an infinite "perpendicular hierarchy" in relation to and founded upon the experience of a thing -- a phenomenon -- its meaning being determined within a horizontal hierarchy of the particular and the general. In order for a pre-reflexively given thing to have any meaning it must be contextualized -- i.e. placed against a background -- and this places it in a world of ever broadening layers of complexity whether we attend to such layers or not. Consciousness is merely the presence of such things. He is putting forth an infinite regress -- and stripping time of its foundation -- which is perhaps why he's been ignored by academic phenomenologists for the most part.

If you're not squeamish about using scribd.com, you can download The New Husserl from their website.
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby gavesako » Fri Oct 12, 2012 3:02 pm

M.C. Escher -- I think that he could see some of the cycles of Samsara in the world around him and especially in the human mind: the eternal recursivw patterns.

And now watch this one, a slightly improved version of Escher's stairs going up and down at the same time (the banana can be seen as representing craving). It is really like the suffering in the cycles of Samsara!

A Day in the Life of an M.C. Escher Drawing
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jRmo7iM5vk

Anekajati samsaram...
Wandering through repeated births, searching for the house builder that constructed this house...



Discussion continued at:

viewtopic.php?f=14&t=14308&p=210993#p210033
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Fri Oct 12, 2012 5:32 pm

Doug Hofstadter lives here in Bloomington Indiana and is associated with Indiana University, and is interested in the local (very large) Buddhist community here. GEB is one of my favorite books of all time. When I read it back in the 1980's it blew my mind, and I enjoyed it when he took over the games column in Scientific American (much more so than when Martin Gardener wrote it). I should invite him to join this forum, I'm sure he'd enjoy it.

I once performed in a theater that had one of those transformation Escher borders wrapped around the wall. I opened with this joke off the top of my head: "Did you know M. C. Escher once got depressed and tried to shoot himself in the head and wound up killing his next door neighbor?"

Two people laughed. But they laughed hard.

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

Postby Digity » Fri Oct 12, 2012 6:15 pm

He wrote a follow up book called: "I am a Strange Loop"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_a_Strange_Loop

It's about this whole notion of the self.

I own GEB, but still haven't read it all...it's a heavy, heavy read!
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby gavesako » Fri Oct 12, 2012 9:07 pm

There is a good review of his book by Martin Gardner here (mainly the last page):
http://www.ams.org/notices/200707/tx070700852p.pdf

And this reviewer writes:
It focuses on the "I" - the sense we all have of our own personal identity in relation to the rest of the world. Hofstadter's view is that this notion of "I", so fundamental to us all, is substantially an illusion and emergent from the material substrate. It is a brain created symbol, he argues, one of an indefinitely extensible set of symbols the brain creates from the input it receives. "I" is a consequence of the brain's ability to monitor itself, together with its computational inability to process fully detailed descriptions of itself. In other words, how does one resolve the "mind-body problem"? He firmly plumps for scientific materialism of the currently fashionable variety, but finally admits that there remain "troubling issues" in understanding how the "strange loop" in the brain (or the "strange loop" pattern implemented by the brain) can explain the primacy of our experience of "I". After all, ALL we experience, know and feel is by way of "I". But for Hofstadter the alternative of some mysterious non-material essence that exists in addition to the material world raises far too many problems to be seriously considered. He regards it as "a non-scientific belief in magic". He does not even mention mentalism.
Often the book reads as a personal credo. Hofstadter essentially equates the "I" with self, consciousness, and with soul. And, importantly, he sees levels of soul. Some people have lots of soul, others rather less, dogs still less, and mosquitoes pretty well none. (Hofstadter reveals that he really doesn't think much of mosquitoes nor, perhaps more surprisingly, of John Searle or Dylan Thomas's poems)

http://jasss.soc.surrey.ac.uk/10/3/reviews/doran.html

And this one is pretty hard on Hofstadter:

“Do dreads and dreams, hopes and griefs, ideas and beliefs, interests and doubts, infatuations and envies, memories and ambitions, bouts of nostalgia and floods of empathy, flashes of guilt and sparks of genius, play any role in the world of physical objects? Do such pure abstractions have causal powers? Can they shove massive things around, or are they just impotent fictions? Can a blurry, intangible ‘I’ dictate to concrete physical objects such as electrons or muscles (or for that matter, books) what to do?”

The rococo verbosity here is as annoying as it is deceitful, and it’s easily stripped bare. All the paired things in the first part of the passage, regardless of their varied vocabulary, are thoughts. As such they are not “pure abstractions” or “impotent fictions” … they’re thoughts, flashing across the neural network of the human brain. They don’t occur in stones or steel girders or supermodels, because those things don’t have neural networks. Underneath the dorm-room-wowing trickery of his verbiage, Hofstadter is asking this frankly stupid question: “do thoughts cause people to do things?” Since the answer to such a question is evident to anyone over the age of five (including, we presume with perhaps a touch too much confidence, Hofstadter), it’s entirely warranted to assume the author knows its answer and entirely fair to wonder why, then, he would ask it in the first place.
What bears pointing out here (aside from the author’s somewhat pugnacious attitude toward mosquitoes) is that Hofstadter is rigging the jury to bring in a guilty verdict. He writes an entire book about the nature of consciousness and then glibly dismisses all forms of consciousness that don’t have credit cards. Flush toilets and thermostats are inanimate machines, serving mechanical purposes when activated; mosquitoes choose mates, invent hunting strategies, and make judgment calls about possible dangers in their immediate environment. Because their neural networks are virtually nonexistent, their awareness of self is no doubt equally nonexistent; but their individual selfhood is demonstrated beyond question, and a serious inquiry into it would be a worthy intellectual exercise. That Hofstadter would miss this opportunity in order to be blithe is criminally lazy, but it goes further than that. It suggests that he equates individuality with the ability to conceptualize (and vocalize) individuality.

http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/a-tin ... able-mind/

And in this interview with Hofstadter, he presents an alternative view on "rebirth":

One of the most surprising arguments in the book (it has in fact appeared in his previous book, Le Ton beau de Marot) is the idea that the soul outlives the body by having its copies, or “soul-shards”, exist in many brains — the brains of other people, who have known the deceased; perhaps a stronger variation of the idea that a person lives so long as others remember him.

You present a compelling argument for the notion of a soul surviving its physical body by being spread across multiple brains; the more a person is familiar to others, the better his soul is “present” in their brain, too. How will you respond to the claim that the “presence” of one soul in another soul's brain is merely a simulation mechanism, developed by the evolution process as a means to improve survival? (Being able to predict what members of your clan are about to do can certainly be a powerful survival tool.)

My argument in I Am a Strange Loop is spelled out clearly. If a person's soul is truly a pattern, then it can be realized in different media. Wherever that pattern exists in a sufficiently fine-grained way, then it is, by my definition, the soul itself and not some kind of “mere simulation” of it.

http://tal.forum2.org/hofstadter_interview


Although this discussion of strange loops and patterns is interesting, it is also -- alas -- based on an unjustified belief in physicalism which leads the author into some blind alleys. Thus from a Buddhist point of view, it does not contribute much to an understanding of consciousness (which it does not "explain") and ethics based on that. The Buddha takes the opposite approach:

Cittena niyati loko
cittena parikissati
cittassa ekadhammassa
sabb'eva vasam anvagu. - S. I, 39

The world is led around by mind,
by mind the world is plagued.
Mind is itself the single thing
which brings all else beneath its sway.
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Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Oct 13, 2012 12:47 am

Digity wrote:GEB [is] a heavy, heavy read!

Hi, Digity,
It's years since I read it but what I remember most is the opposite of this: it's incredibly playful. Playful in brain-stretching ways, maybe, but funny and whimsical and stimulating.
Give it another go :smile:

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

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Oct 13, 2012 12:51 am

Thank you for these reviews and insights, bhante.
gavesako wrote:Although this discussion of strange loops and patterns is interesting, it is also -- alas -- based on an unjustified belief in physicalism which leads the author into some blind alleys. Thus from a Buddhist point of view, it does not contribute much to an understanding of consciousness (which it does not "explain") and ethics based on that. The Buddha takes the opposite approach:

Cittena niyati loko
cittena parikissati
cittassa ekadhammassa
sabb'eva vasam anvagu. - S. I, 39

The world is led around by mind,
by mind the world is plagued.
Mind is itself the single thing
which brings all else beneath its sway.

So it seems we can base our understanding of the world either on the mind or on the physical body, but we still haven't got a solid bridge between the two? No wonder it is called 'the hard problem'!

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

Postby BubbaBuddhist » Sat Oct 13, 2012 3:08 pm

I hope my future existence doesn't rely on how others remember me, because so very many people have and still do misunderstand me, so it wouldn't be "me" they remember. Possibly they misunderstand me because I've deliberately set out to make sure they do. But I'm not certain because I'm fairly sure I've always misunderstood myself. And there's a Strange Loop for you. My brain just melted. :tongue:

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

Postby gavesako » Sun Oct 14, 2012 9:53 am

Perhaps we can get some clues about afterlife from here:

viewtopic.php?f=16&t=14433
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Re: Godel, Escher, Bach ...and Buddha

Postby drifting cloud » Mon Oct 15, 2012 11:26 pm

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

I'm hoping someone else has contemplated this interesting correspondence between mathematics, computer science, and the Dhamma and would share their understandings. The Buddha presents his teaching in the language of logic, and the Dhamma is in many ways a formal system. I think it would be a very beneficial study to look at the Dhamma from the angle of logic and mathematics.


You might check out Mutual Causality in Buddhism and General Systems Theory: The Dhamma of Natural Systems which touches on some of these issues.
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