Buddhism And The Scientific Method

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Buddhism And The Scientific Method

Postby Pannapetar » Wed Aug 05, 2009 2:55 am

I brought up this topic on another forum a while ago. Perhaps it is interesting enough to have another look at it. It would seem that the four noble truths can be framed in terms of the scientific method:

The Scientific Method:

1. Define the problem.
2. Form a hypothetical solution.
3. Design an experiment.
4. Test your hypothesis.

The Four Noble Truths:

1. Suffering. (Problem definition.)
2. Origin of suffering. (Hypothetical solution.)
3. End of suffering. (Defining the path, or "experiment," which led previous Buddhas to nirvana.)
4. The way to the end of suffering. (Testing the method for yourself, i.e. conducting the experiment.)

Is the epistemic foundation of Buddhism scientific? What do you think?

Cheers, Thomas
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Re: Buddhism And The Scientific Method

Postby kc2dpt » Wed Aug 05, 2009 3:27 am

That seems forced to me. The 4Nt are usually summarized as:

problem
cause of problem
end of problem
cause of end of problem

I think you can state the basic tenets of Buddhism in terms of the scientific method, but I don't think it's a 1-1 like you've presented it. I would say...

1. Define the problem - suffering
2. Form a hypothetical solution - end craving and suffering will end
3. Design an experiment - the noble eightfold path is the way to end craving
4. Test your hypothesis - people who endeavor to develop the N8FP
- Peter

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Re: Buddhism And The Scientific Method

Postby Individual » Wed Aug 05, 2009 4:44 am

Peter wrote:That seems forced to me. The 4Nt are usually summarized as:

problem
cause of problem
end of problem
cause of end of problem

It's considered to be based on the model4 of medicine:
  • diagnosis
  • prognosis
  • treatment
  • prescription

And it's scientific in that sense that it is systematic.

Correct science and Buddhism are also comparable in the general sense of both being processes of investigation.

A long time ago, Retrofuturist (I think) sent me an article in which there was a section on the relationship between Buddhism and science... I remember it was very good. Maybe he still has it.
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Re: Buddhism And The Scientific Method

Postby Pannapetar » Thu Aug 06, 2009 3:38 am

Individual wrote:It's considered to be based on the model4 of medicine:


Yes, the phrasing of the four noble truths seems to be based on the model of Ayurvedic medicine, which already existed at the time of Siddharta Gautama. The following text is quoted from Tibetan Buddhist medicine and psychiatry by Terry Clifford, page 38-39:

"The Buddha knew Ayurveda well. As Zimmer pointed out the Buddha in expounding his doctrine of salvation, modelled it after the attitude of the Hindu physician toward the task of healing. An Ayurvedic doctor was taught to regard a patient and the sickness in this sequence:

1. Is there a disease, and if so what is it?
2. What is the cause of the disease?
3. Is there a cure for the disease?
4. If the disease is curable, what is the proper treatment?"

Cheers, Thomas
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Re: Buddhism And The Scientific Method

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Aug 20, 2009 1:30 am

Greetings,

Individual wrote:A long time ago, Retrofuturist (I think) sent me an article in which there was a section on the relationship between Buddhism and science... I remember it was very good. Maybe he still has it.


Alas I can't remember it... there's a possibility it could have been something by Ven K. Sri Dhammananda.

Metta,
Retro. :)
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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: Buddhism And The Scientific Method

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Aug 20, 2009 5:01 am

Pannapetar wrote:Is the epistemic foundation of Buddhism scientific? What do you think?


Is Buddhism falsifiable? Buddhism is not science. What is this need to align Buddhism with science?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Buddhism And The Scientific Method

Postby retrofuturist » Thu Aug 20, 2009 5:08 am

Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:What is this need to align Buddhism with science?


I think it's more that it shouldn't contradict science. Both spiritual enquiry and scientific enquiry are built upon observation, and the interpretation of those observations. If there is a conflict, it is worthwhile investigating which discipline has either observed or interpreted incorrectly.

Science can be reasonably used to refute the claims of many of the more dubious and superstitious religious traditions that mankind has created. The fact Buddhism is open to and able to stand up to such scrutiny and investigation is going to be one of its biggest "selling points" (for want of a better term) in the 21st century.

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)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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Re: Buddhism And The Scientific Method

Postby acinteyyo » Thu Aug 20, 2009 7:39 am

science and buddhism are completely different, they just appear to be comparable.
where buddhism investigates the view of subjectivity (of a being in subjectivity or a being believing in subjektivity), seeing that there isn't really any subject-object relationship but (dependent) phenomena "acting" in a way where (related to particular circumstances) "objects appear for a subject" (which is wrong view, because of avijja and so on...) - science instead investigates the view of absolute objectivity, which is also not correct because, what is to be investigated is seen from the point as "a subject who investigates objects" and after such an investigation/examination science reduces every subjective evidence, loosing every subjective gained information of an actual situation to represent it as a repeatable objective situation, with always the same results. the objective/scientifc determined situation hasn't still really much to do with the actual situation, due to a lack of a lot of subjective information.
science does not have the ability to say us anything about phenomena like consciousness, feelings, mind and so on... because they are totally subjective/private, not possible to examine or investigate through "others" and thus out of any scientific range.
whereas these particular phenomena are mainphenomena in buddhistic investigation/examination.

I apologize, if there are parts difficult to understand. I tried to make myself as clear as possible with my available english knowledge.

best wishes, acinteyyo
Pubbe cāhaṃ bhikkhave, etarahi ca dukkhañceva paññāpemi, dukkhassa ca nirodhaṃ. (M.22)
Api cāhaṃ, āvuso, imasmiṃyeva byāmamatte kaḷevare, sasaññimhi samanake lokañca paññāpemi lokasamudayañca lokanirodhañca lokanirodhagāminiñca paṭipadan. (AN4.45)

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Re: Buddhism And The Scientific Method

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Aug 20, 2009 10:54 am

Pannapetar wrote:
Is the epistemic foundation of Buddhism scientific? What do you think?

Cheers, Thomas


Hi Thomas,
No! but it could be argues that they have similare roots, although these roots are from two different trees, but the soil was the same? just a though, but buddhism being older than science the reverse (is the foundation of sciance Dhammic/Buddhistic) would make some more sense in a time line manner.

EDIT - and I suppose both can be mutually benefisial
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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: Buddhism And The Scientific Method

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Aug 20, 2009 10:57 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:What is this need to align Buddhism with science?


I think it's more that it shouldn't contradict science. Both spiritual enquiry and scientific enquiry are built upon observation, and the interpretation of those observations. If there is a conflict, it is worthwhile investigating which discipline has either observed or interpreted incorrectly.

Science can be reasonably used to refute the claims of many of the more dubious and superstitious religious traditions that mankind has created. The fact Buddhism is open to and able to stand up to such scrutiny and investigation is going to be one of its biggest "selling points" (for want of a better term) in the 21st century.

Metta,
Retro. :)


:anjali:
but what is the need to raise science above everything else?
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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: Buddhism And The Scientific Method

Postby Mawkish1983 » Fri Aug 21, 2009 7:48 am

tiltbillings wrote:Is Buddhism falsifiable?

Nice :) and, I think, no. If someone was to say "I practiced Buddhism and didn't free myself from suffering" I think we'd all have the same response.
tiltbillings wrote:Buddhism is not science. What is this need to align Buddhism with science?

That movement is pandemic across all religions it seems. To the "modern" world and the non-thinking public, anything "religious" is automatically extraneous at best, or even damaging. I don't think that's true, but it seems public opinion is against religion, so the more ungrounded adherents to there religions have been trying to abandon the stigma of "religion". I've heard Christians say "christianity isn't a religion, it's a relationship with Jesus", and Muslims making bold claims about how much science is in the Qu'ran. I don't think this trend for Buddhism to be called a science is any different.

That is, of course, just what I think but in my opinion if something is a religion the adherents should not be ashamed to say it is. Not saying that anyone here is ashamed, genuinely that's not what I mean. Hmmm, time to stop typing methinks
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Re: Buddhism And The Scientific Method

Postby BlackBird » Sat Aug 22, 2009 6:33 am

The Dhamma, as taught by the Buddha is emperical truth.
Science is also said to be emperical truth.

To that end, Dhamma is science. In fact, Dhamma is the most important science of them all.

If I were leader of my nation, I would earmark a lot of taxpayer dollars towards scientific research in this field.

*ROAR*
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'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Buddhism And The Scientific Method

Postby Mawkish1983 » Sat Aug 22, 2009 8:48 am

BlackBird wrote:Science is also said to be emperical [sic] truth.


Science is the process of obtaining knowledge by using the scientific method. There's no such thing as 'empirical truth' (for 'truth', see philosophy). In science, all evidence must be empirical, but this does not mean all empirical evidence is science ;)

The scientific method, as laid out by our friendly wikipedia editors, is:

1) Characterisations (observations, definitions, and measurements of the subject of inquiry)
2) Hypotheses (theoretical, hypothetical explanations of observations and measurements of the subject)
3) Predictions (reasoning including logical deduction from the hypothesis or theory)
4) Experiments (tests of all of the above)

Superficially, this might look a lot like Buddhism: characterising the problem (dukkha), hypothetical explanation (craving), predictions (get rid of craving, get rid of dukkha) and experiments (follow the noble eightfold path and see for yourself) but importantly this isn't strictly the scientific method: point 4, experiments, pertains to conducting experiments to try to disprove point 2 by getting a different result than point 3. Conducting experiments to try to 'proove' point 3 constitutes a converse error, a logical fallacy. Hence, science is in the business of forever trying to prove itself wrong.

With the four noble truthes, can practicing them lead to evidence that the hypothesis (craving causes dukkha) is wrong? I don't think so for two reasons. Firstly, if someone was practicing it their whole life but did not attain freedom from dukkha we would not say "ah, that means Buddhism is wrong", we might say "they weren't doing it right" or "their past conditioning meant they weren't ready" or something else like that. I wonder, has this ever happened? If it had, I doubt it would have been documented but it would be interesting :).

The second reason is simple: I believe that dukkha IS caused by craving. I believe the Buddha was right. In my practice I've seen a lot of anecdotal evidence to make me believe it. My belief isn't strictly based on science, it's based on reason and anecdotal evidence. I personally believe that no experiment can be formulated to try to prove the Buddha wrong because, simply, the Buddha was right.

<shrugs> so, just like it says in the Canki Sutta:

Canki Sutta wrote:Buddha: "Exertion is most helpful for the final attainment of the truth, Bharadvaja. If one didn't make an exertion, one wouldn't finally attain the truth. Because one makes an exertion, one finally attains the truth. Therefore, exertion is most helpful for the final attainment of the truth."

Bharadvaja: "But what quality is most helpful for exertion? We ask Master Gotama about the quality most helpful for exertion."

Buddha: "Contemplating is most helpful for exertion, Bharadvaja. If one didn't contemplate, one wouldn't make an exertion. Because one contemplates, one makes an exertion. Therefore, contemplating is most helpful for exertion."

Bharadvaja: "But what quality is most helpful for contemplating?..."

Buddha: "Being willing... If one weren't willing, one wouldn't contemplate..."

Bharadvaja: "But what quality is most helpful for being willing?..."

Buddha: "Desire... If desire didn't arise, one wouldn't be willing..."

Bharadvaja: "But what quality is most helpful for desire?..."

Buddha: "Coming to an agreement through pondering dhammas... If one didn't come to an agreement through pondering dhammas, desire wouldn't arise..."

Bharadvaja: "But what quality is most helpful for coming to an agreement through pondering dhammas?..."

Buddha: "Penetrating the meaning... If one didn't penetrate the meaning, one wouldn't come to an agreement through pondering dhammas..."

Bharadvaja: "But what quality is most helpful for penetrating the meaning?..."

Buddha: "Remembering the Dhamma... If one didn't remember the Dhamma, one wouldn't penetrate the meaning..."

Bharadvaja: "But what quality is most helpful for remembering the Dhamma?... "

Buddha: "Hearing the Dhamma... If one didn't hear the Dhamma, one wouldn't remember the Dhamma..."

Bharadvaja: "But what quality is most helpful for hearing the Dhamma?... "

Buddha: "Lending ear... If one didn't lend ear, one wouldn't hear the Dhamma..."

Bharadvaja: "But what quality is most helpful for lending ear?... "

Buddha: "Growing close... If one didn't grow close, one wouldn't lend ear..."

Bharadvaja: "But what quality is most helpful for growing close?... "

Buddha: "Visiting... If one didn't visit, one wouldn't grow close..."

Bharadvaja: "But what quality is most helpful for visiting? We ask Master Gotama about the quality most helpful for visiting."

Buddha: "Conviction is most helpful for visiting, Bharadvaja. If conviction [in a person] didn't arise, one wouldn't visit [that person]. Because conviction arises, one visits. Therefore, conviction is most helpful for visiting."


Conviction is most helpful for beginning on that long path with the dhamma to final attainment. I don't think this fits well with point 4 of the scientific method: trying to prove it wrong.

(Just my thoughts on the matter)
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Re: Buddhism And The Scientific Method

Postby BlackBird » Sat Aug 22, 2009 11:46 pm

Mawkish1983 wrote:
BlackBird wrote:Science is also said to be emperical [sic] truth.


Science is the process of obtaining knowledge by using the scientific method. There's no such thing as 'empirical truth' (for 'truth', see philosophy). In science, all evidence must be empirical, but this does not mean all empirical evidence is science ;)


This is word play my friend. I'm fairly sure you understood the meaning of my post.

Mawkish1983 wrote:The scientific method, as laid out by our friendly wikipedia editors, is:

1) Characterisations (observations, definitions, and measurements of the subject of inquiry)
2) Hypotheses (theoretical, hypothetical explanations of observations and measurements of the subject)
3) Predictions (reasoning including logical deduction from the hypothesis or theory)
4) Experiments (tests of all of the above)

Superficially, this might look a lot like Buddhism: characterising the problem (dukkha), hypothetical explanation (craving), predictions (get rid of craving, get rid of dukkha) and experiments (follow the noble eightfold path and see for yourself) but importantly this isn't strictly the scientific method: point 4, experiments, pertains to conducting experiments to try to disprove point 2 by getting a different result than point 3. Conducting experiments to try to 'proove' point 3 constitutes a converse error, a logical fallacy. Hence, science is in the business of forever trying to prove itself wrong.

With the four noble truthes, can practicing them lead to evidence that the hypothesis (craving causes dukkha) is wrong? I don't think so for two reasons. Firstly, if someone was practicing it their whole life but did not attain freedom from dukkha we would not say "ah, that means Buddhism is wrong", we might say "they weren't doing it right" or "their past conditioning meant they weren't ready" or something else like that. I wonder, has this ever happened? If it had, I doubt it would have been documented but it would be interesting :).

The second reason is simple: I believe that dukkha IS caused by craving. I believe the Buddha was right. In my practice I've seen a lot of anecdotal evidence to make me believe it. My belief isn't strictly based on science, it's based on reason and anecdotal evidence. I personally believe that no experiment can be formulated to try to prove the Buddha wrong because, simply, the Buddha was right.


To cut a long story short, in my brief spell in this world I have never thought that Science was in the business of proving itself wrong. I have always assumed Science was concerned with fact, with truth, hence why colloquially we tend to refer to any practise or habit of relative truth as being a 'science' as opposed to an art.

This is the position from which I wrote my previous post.

In response to your post: Very well, if Science is concerned with proving itself wrong then Buddhism is not Science, because the Dhamma has no need to prove itself wrong. You say that "No experiment can be formulated to try to prove the Buddha wrong..." and I agree wholeheartedly, but what about an experiment to prove he was right?

It might also pay to explain to me why attempting to prove point 3 is a logical fallacy, for this is not something I understand.

Thanks Mawk
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'The Blessed One is the Teacher, I am a disciple. He is the one who knows, not I." - MN. 70 Kitagiri Sutta
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Re: Buddhism And The Scientific Method

Postby Mawkish1983 » Sun Aug 23, 2009 7:10 am

BlackBird wrote:This is word play my friend. I'm fairly sure you understood the meaning of my post.


I think so, but I wouldn't say it's wordplay :s, words like 'truth' are thrown around but I think it's important to remember that truth is a technical word and a philosophical minefield. I personally believe truth is subjective. Science has to be objective.
BlackBird wrote:I have never thought that Science was in the business of proving itself wrong.
How can anything be 'proven' right except by every experiment that can ever possibly be conducted not contradicting?
BlackBird wrote:I have always assumed Science was concerned with fact, with truth


Fact and truth are not the same. The scientist tries to create a model and test it to see is it predicts the same outcome as that which is obtained in the lab. I don't think any reasonable scientist would say 'this is true', they might say 'this model predicts accurate results under these conditions and maybe more'. Consider the ongoing saga of the atom, if at any point we would have thought 'we now know the way things really are' we wouldn't have developed further, but we devised experiments to test our theories. We didn't know how at atom was structured, some thought it was like a plumb pudding (technical term, look it up :)), others like a solar system. We did an experiment to prove the plumb pudding teams wrong, but we didn't stop. As the accuracy of our instruments improved we continued to try to see the smaller detail, each step trying to prove ourselves (or opposing theories) wrong. The discovery of the quark is just as interesting.
BlackBird wrote:explain to me why attempting to prove point 3 is a logical fallacy

Best advice I can give is to look up 'converse error' on wikipedia :)

Good luck :)

Edit: see here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Converse_e ... in_science
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Re: Buddhism And The Scientific Method

Postby Fede » Sun Aug 23, 2009 8:25 am

Science is fundamentally not about Altruism, and in fact there is much in science which is detrimental to humanity.

There is nothing in Buddhism which is detrimental to humanity, and it is entirely altruistic.
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


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Re: Buddhism And The Scientific Method

Postby Mawkish1983 » Sun Aug 23, 2009 9:13 am

Fede wrote:There is nothing in Buddhism which is detrimental to humanity, and it is entirely altruistic.

:thumbsup:
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Re: Buddhism And The Scientific Method

Postby clw_uk » Sun Aug 23, 2009 6:54 pm

Fede wrote:Science is fundamentally not about Altruism, and in fact there is much in science which is detrimental to humanity.

There is nothing in Buddhism which is detrimental to humanity, and it is entirely altruistic.




Some people will take a different view such as loving those who hate and are violent as being an evil concept, for example loving and not striking out against the Nazis in ww2 or the Buddhas teaching of abandoning Sex, if we all did this then Humans would die out



As for science, there is nothing good or evil about it. Science is simply knowledge, the problem is how Humans use that knowledge


metta
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Re: Buddhism And The Scientific Method

Postby cooran » Sun Aug 23, 2009 7:59 pm

The Buddhadhamma is for individual beings who make up the nations of the world. The background of samsaric existence goes on and on. Living in samsara, but not being distracted from practising sila, samadhi and panna is a difficult but realisable goal.
A Government doesn't "love" - only individual beings do. A Dhamma practitioner can love those performing unwholesome acts, can work to ameliorate or prevent the harmful consequences if the opportunity arises for them to do so, without harming others.
The whole world doesn't have to become celibate (As if!!). An individual, should they feel it is best for their practice, can - as a lay person or ordained person - lead a celibate life.
Most Scientists aren't working altruistically in their isolated homes - they are working on projects for governments and large companies.
A scientist who is a follower of the Dhamma can choose the work in an area benefiting beings.

metta
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Re: Buddhism And The Scientific Method

Postby clw_uk » Mon Aug 24, 2009 1:53 am

The Buddhadhamma is for individual beings who make up the nations of the world. The background of samsaric existence goes on and on. Living in samsara, but not being distracted from practising sila, samadhi and panna is a difficult but realisable goal.


I agree but as i said some people will see Buddhadhamma as immoral since, for example, non-violence is at the heart of it and so having non-violence towards the Nazis would have resulted in mass death (greater than it was)

A Government doesn't "love" - only individual beings do.


And what is a government made up of?


The whole world doesn't have to become celibate (As if!!). An individual, should they feel it is best for their practice, can - as a lay person or ordained person - lead a celibate life.


I agree and i dont think every human will be, however the Buddha did teach celibacy as a way towards nibbana


Most Scientists aren't working altruistically in their isolated homes
- they are working on projects for governments and large companies.


why is working for govrenments a bad thing?


metta
“ Your mind is likewise blocked. But the right road awaits you still. Cast out your doubts, your fears and your desires, let go of grief and of hope as well, for where these rule , then the mind is their subject." Boetius
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