Idealism

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
User avatar
Ceisiwr
Posts: 9746
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:36 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Idealism

Post by Ceisiwr »

Dinsdale wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:21 am
Ceisiwr wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:45 am I don’t have time to reply to everyone’s points in full due to workload atm however I’d like to say that I’m not imposing my views on everyone. I’m not even 100% sure of them myself, it’s just something I’ve been moving towards as of late (I used to be a dualist). I certainly don’t think I’m the arbiter of what other people should or shouldn’t believe.
I wasn't suggesting that, but I was questioning the point of adopting an idealist position. How is this useful, practically speaking?


I wasn’t replying to you :smile:
“No one in the world, Dhotaka,
can I release from doubting.
But knowing the most excellent Dhamma,
you will cross over the flood."


Mettagūmāṇavapucchā
User avatar
Ceisiwr
Posts: 9746
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2009 2:36 am
Location: United Kingdom

Re: Idealism

Post by Ceisiwr »

Dinsdale
There must be some basis for sense-objects "out there", which in the suttas is explained as (external) form.
I don't see any other logical explanation for the sense-objects described in the suttas, ie sights, sounds, sensations, odours and flavours
Ok so a quick one whilst on my lunch, all of those things you mentioned are mental phenomena. For example, to put on a dualist hat for a moment, sound is a purely mental phenomena. If a tree falls in the forest be there is no ear or mind around then there is no sound.
“No one in the world, Dhotaka,
can I release from doubting.
But knowing the most excellent Dhamma,
you will cross over the flood."


Mettagūmāṇavapucchā
Spiny Norman
Posts: 7619
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: Andromeda looks nice

Re: Idealism

Post by Spiny Norman »

Ceisiwr wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:08 pm Dinsdale
There must be some basis for sense-objects "out there", which in the suttas is explained as (external) form.
I don't see any other logical explanation for the sense-objects described in the suttas, ie sights, sounds, sensations, odours and flavours
Ok so a quick one whilst on my lunch, all of those things you mentioned are mental phenomena. For example, to put on a dualist hat for a moment, sound is a purely mental phenomena. If a tree falls in the forest be there is no ear or mind around then there is no sound.
A thought would be a "purely mental phenomena", since it occurs independently of the physical sense organs.
The perception of a sound might be a purely mental phenomena. But the sound itself results from a physical stimulus of the ear caused by vibrating air molecules.

A tree falling in a forest will always cause a vibration in nearby air molecules, which would be detected by a recording device left nearby.

This explanation is consistent with a scientific understanding, and is also consistent with what the suttas describe. Again, I don't see what useful purpose the idealist view serves here. What's the point of it?
Buddha save me from new-agers!
User avatar
SDC
Posts: 6405
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: Idealism

Post by SDC »

Dinsdale wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:50 am There must be some basis for sense-objects "out there", which in the suttas is explained as (external) form.
Do you mean along the lines of something like visual perception theory?

The whole basis of things "out there" seems to undermine the impermanence of determinations, which of course applies to the experience as a whole. It is redundant because it is inseparable from the experience, to begin with. So to take an additional step to explain that it is there, makes it two-fold (contributing to it being manifold). For instance, right now Dinsdale sits at the computer and speculates about objects out there. Dinsadale is inseparable from the experience, and the experience “out there” is present with you in the field of experience. That is as close as you can ever get to that notion. So to speculate further and say that it is there “out there”, you keep pushing it just past the fringe of the previous notion of “out there”. No matter how far you go, that entire hierarchy depends on the assumption that it is possible to contact what is out there, all the while disregarding that “you” must have been contacted first in order for any of it to stand.

I know you rely heavily on the “coming together of the three”, but in order for it to be the way you explain (with western psychology hovering), there would have to be some field (or space) for the three things to be “in” or “on” in order for the coming together to be an actual orchestration. In a sense, that means “three things come together in open space” (which makes it 4 things). That really does not seem to be what the Buddha is saying. If you look at it another way, with those three things together, there is contact. In that way, contact is the most general notion, not some big open space where the three things come from their respective corners and crash into each other, which in turn creates contact. I may be misunderstanding you, but the visual perception theory seems to be along those lines.

A few suttas to consider:
SN 12.44 wrote:And what, bhikkhus, is the origin of the world? In dependence on the eye and forms, eye-consciousness arises. The meeting of the three is contact. With contact as a condition, feeling; with feeling as a conditon, craving; with craving as a condition, holding; with holding as a conditon, existence; with existence as a condition, birth; with birth as a condition, aging-and-death, sorrow, lamentation, pain displeasure and dispair. This, bhikkhus is the origin of the world.
MN 43 wrote:Friend, feeling and perception and consciousness - these things are associated, not dissociated. It is not possible to separate them and by separating them point out the difference between them. What one feels, that one perceives. What one perceives, that one cognizes. Therefore, these things are associated, not dissociated. It is not possible to separate them and by separating them point out the difference between them.
Also the two reeds in terms of DO:
SN 12.67 wrote:...Just as two sheaves of reeds might stand leaning against each other, so too, with name-and-form as a condition, conciousness.....Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering...

If, friend, one were to remove one of those sheaves of reeds, the other would fall, and if one were to remove the other sheaf, the first would fall.
Spiny Norman
Posts: 7619
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: Andromeda looks nice

Re: Idealism

Post by Spiny Norman »

SDC wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 1:49 pm
Dinsdale wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:50 am There must be some basis for sense-objects "out there", which in the suttas is explained as (external) form.
Do you mean along the lines of something like visual perception theory?

The whole basis of things "out there" seems to undermine the impermanence of determinations, which of course applies to the experience as a whole. It is redundant because it is inseparable from the experience, to begin with. So to take an additional step to explain that it is there, makes it two-fold (contributing to it being manifold). For instance, right now Dinsdale sits at the computer and speculates about objects out there. Dinsadale is inseparable from the experience, and the experience “out there” is present with you in the field of experience. That is as close as you can ever get to that notion. So to speculate further and say that it is there “out there”, you keep pushing it just past the fringe of the previous notion of “out there”. No matter how far you go, that entire hierarchy depends on the assumption that it is possible to contact what is out there, all the while disregarding that “you” must have been contacted first in order for any of it to stand.

I know you rely heavily on the “coming together of the three”, but in order for it to be the way you explain (with western psychology hovering), there would have to be some field (or space) for the three things to be “in” or “on” in order for the coming together to be an actual orchestration. In a sense, that means “three things come together in open space” (which makes it 4 things). That really does not seem to be what the Buddha is saying. If you look at it another way, with those three things together, there is contact. In that way, contact is the most general notion, not some big open space where the three things come from their respective corners and crash into each other, which in turn creates contact. I may be misunderstanding you, but the visual perception theory seems to be along those lines.
I think the Suttas are simply saying that the experience of seeing depends on the ability to see, and something to be seen. Eye-consciousness arising in dependence upon the eye and visible form. IMO it's a simple functional description which emphasises the conditionality of experience.

The sense of me having the experience of seeing (self-view) is an overlay. In the Bahiya Sutta there is just the experience of seeing, minus self-view. "In the seen, just the seen... no you there."

It seems you don't agree with this explanation, but I struggle to understand the exact nature of your objection. Could you try to be more succinct?

Is your view that eye-consciousness arising in dependence upon eye and form isn't a functional description, but rather a purely mental "bifurcation"? And if so, what in the suttas would support this interpretation?
Buddha save me from new-agers!
User avatar
Sherab
Posts: 239
Joined: Tue Jun 29, 2010 3:53 am

Re: Idealism

Post by Sherab »

Dinsdale wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:50 am
Sherab wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:35 am
Sam Vara wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:32 am

Wouldn't materialism in this sense preclude the existence of God?
You are one step ahead of me. :embarassed:

I want to correct this to:
If the most fundamental level of phenomena is material, then mental phenomena are ultimately emergences of the material. It would also imply that there is no way that the mind/consciousness, being an emergent of that fundamental level can ever access that level. If so, then there is no way to explain the miracles performed by the Buddha that involves the so-called elements such as spouting fire from one half of his body and water from his other half.

Also if the most fundamental level of phenomena is ideal, then acts of the Buddha that are seen as miraculous by beings is miraculous insofar as they are beyond the range of the beings concerned.
Sorry but I'm not following your analysis here. The Suttas describe sense-consciousness arising in dependence upon sense-bases and sense-objects, which are derived from form. Eg eye-consciousness arises in dependence on eye and visible form

The fact that there are sense-objects pretty much rules out idealism, doesn't it?

There must be some basis for sense-objects "out there", which in the suttas is explained as (external) form.
I don't see any other logical explanation for the sense-objects described in the suttas, ie sights, sounds, sensations, odours and flavours

And the fact that consciousness arises dependently upon form appears to rule out consciousness as the "fundamental level of phenomena" - that might be true for Hinduism, but not for Buddhism.
In Note 1 to MN 38 Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta, Ven Thanissaro remarked:

The Buddha, knowing that there are two types of consciousness — the consciousness aggregate (viññāṇakkhandha), which is experienced in conjunction with the six sense media, and consciousness without surface (viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ), which is experienced independently of the six sense media (MN 49) — is here giving Sāti the chance to identify which of the two types he has interpreted as running and wandering on. Sāti's answer shows that he is talking about the first type. The remaining discussion of consciousness throughout this sutta is thus directed at this first type. It would have been interesting to see how the Buddha would have attacked Sāti's misunderstanding had Sāti stated that he was talking about the second.

The sense-consciousness that arise in dependence upon sense-bases and sense-objects is the first type of consciousness mentioned above.
In the second type of consciousness, the elements and therefore the sense-objects are not present therein.

In an idealistic framework, it would be possible to argue that the first type of consciousness and the corresponding sense-bases and sense-objects would be an emergent of the second although I would think that projection would be a better word than emergent.
User avatar
SDC
Posts: 6405
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: Idealism

Post by SDC »

Dinsdale wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 2:27 pm The sense of me having the experience of seeing is an overlay.
BOOM! :clap:

It is within the confines of this "overlay" that contact is assumed to be between "me" and "things" - but also by fundamentally assuming you are in contact with the overlay.

You can break it down into a scientific/psychological explanation if you prefer, but that is not what manifests in the experience, i.e. that is not what appears. What appears is: you opposed to things. Within that, idealism and materialism creep up as ways to regard those different aspects, primarily because that which is "you" stands out from that which is not. And worse, it is assumed that "I" can escape the overlay.

By honing in on either idealism or materialism, the distinction is nothing other than a validation that some aspect is the subject. It seems beneficial to look to the view in terms of that overlay.

EDIT: I just saw the edit you made to your post. I'll let you respond before I say anything else.
User avatar
Antaradhana
Posts: 233
Joined: Wed Jun 19, 2019 4:56 pm
Location: Saratov, Russia

Re: Idealism

Post by Antaradhana »

There is a perception. It perceives, for example, the external form, large or small, close or distant, coarse or thin. There is a contact that gives rise to a feeling, and this contact also occurs between the organs of perception and external forms. Buddha never said that there is only the mind, which perceives only its own constructions.
All that is subject to arising is subject to termination, all formations are non-permanent. And that which is impermanent is suffering. Regarding what is impermanent and prone to suffering, one cannot say: "This is mine, I am this, this is my self".
Spiny Norman
Posts: 7619
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: Andromeda looks nice

Re: Idealism

Post by Spiny Norman »

SDC wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 3:03 pm
Dinsdale wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 2:27 pm The sense of me having the experience of seeing is an overlay.
BOOM! :clap:

It is within the confines of this "overlay" that contact is assumed to be between "me" and "things" - but also by fundamentally assuming you are in contact with the overlay.

You can break it down into a scientific/psychological explanation if you prefer, but that is not what manifests in the experience, i.e. that is not what appears. What appears is: you opposed to things. Within that, idealism and materialism creep up as ways to regard those different aspects, primarily because that which is "you" stands out from that which is not. And worse, it is assumed that "I" can escape the overlay.

By honing in on either idealism or materialism, the distinction is nothing other than a validation that some aspect is the subject. It seems beneficial to look to the view in terms of that overlay.

EDIT: I just saw the edit you made to your post. I'll let you respond before I say anything else.
I don't think that idealism and materialism are directly relevant to this question of self-view, if you look at it as an "overlay" on top of experience.

I'm not even sure that the distinction between "internal" and "external" is directly relevant. As MN140 explains, internal form and external form is all just form - the point is to not regard it as "me" and "mine". Not my body, but also not my car, or house, or whatever. And as MN1 explains, things (including the elements of form) are known directly when seen with a view that isnt self-referential, or self-interested. That's another angle on the Bahiya Sutta passage.

A question this raises in my mind - are not-self and non-duality actually the same thing here?
Last edited by Spiny Norman on Tue Jul 09, 2019 7:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Buddha save me from new-agers!
Spiny Norman
Posts: 7619
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: Andromeda looks nice

Re: Idealism

Post by Spiny Norman »

Sherab wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 2:59 pm
Dinsdale wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:50 am
Sherab wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:35 am
You are one step ahead of me. :embarassed:

I want to correct this to:
If the most fundamental level of phenomena is material, then mental phenomena are ultimately emergences of the material. It would also imply that there is no way that the mind/consciousness, being an emergent of that fundamental level can ever access that level. If so, then there is no way to explain the miracles performed by the Buddha that involves the so-called elements such as spouting fire from one half of his body and water from his other half.

Also if the most fundamental level of phenomena is ideal, then acts of the Buddha that are seen as miraculous by beings is miraculous insofar as they are beyond the range of the beings concerned.
Sorry but I'm not following your analysis here. The Suttas describe sense-consciousness arising in dependence upon sense-bases and sense-objects, which are derived from form. Eg eye-consciousness arises in dependence on eye and visible form

The fact that there are sense-objects pretty much rules out idealism, doesn't it?

There must be some basis for sense-objects "out there", which in the suttas is explained as (external) form.
I don't see any other logical explanation for the sense-objects described in the suttas, ie sights, sounds, sensations, odours and flavours

And the fact that consciousness arises dependently upon form appears to rule out consciousness as the "fundamental level of phenomena" - that might be true for Hinduism, but not for Buddhism.
In Note 1 to MN 38 Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta, Ven Thanissaro remarked:

The Buddha, knowing that there are two types of consciousness — the consciousness aggregate (viññāṇakkhandha), which is experienced in conjunction with the six sense media, and consciousness without surface (viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ), which is experienced independently of the six sense media (MN 49) — is here giving Sāti the chance to identify which of the two types he has interpreted as running and wandering on. Sāti's answer shows that he is talking about the first type. The remaining discussion of consciousness throughout this sutta is thus directed at this first type. It would have been interesting to see how the Buddha would have attacked Sāti's misunderstanding had Sāti stated that he was talking about the second.

The sense-consciousness that arise in dependence upon sense-bases and sense-objects is the first type of consciousness mentioned above.
In the second type of consciousness, the elements and therefore the sense-objects are not present therein.

In an idealistic framework, it would be possible to argue that the first type of consciousness and the corresponding sense-bases and sense-objects would be an emergent of the second although I would think that projection would be a better word than emergent.
It's an interesting point, but is there any evidence that sense-consciousness is an emergent of consciousness without surface? This does begin to sound more like Hinduism than Buddhism. Its tricky, because there isn't much in the suttas about consciousness without surface, and its not at all clear how it relates to sense-consciousness.
Buddha save me from new-agers!
User avatar
Sherab
Posts: 239
Joined: Tue Jun 29, 2010 3:53 am

Re: Idealism

Post by Sherab »

Dinsdale wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 7:23 pm
Sherab wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 2:59 pm
Dinsdale wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:50 am

Sorry but I'm not following your analysis here. The Suttas describe sense-consciousness arising in dependence upon sense-bases and sense-objects, which are derived from form. Eg eye-consciousness arises in dependence on eye and visible form

The fact that there are sense-objects pretty much rules out idealism, doesn't it?

There must be some basis for sense-objects "out there", which in the suttas is explained as (external) form.
I don't see any other logical explanation for the sense-objects described in the suttas, ie sights, sounds, sensations, odours and flavours

And the fact that consciousness arises dependently upon form appears to rule out consciousness as the "fundamental level of phenomena" - that might be true for Hinduism, but not for Buddhism.
In Note 1 to MN 38 Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta, Ven Thanissaro remarked:

The Buddha, knowing that there are two types of consciousness — the consciousness aggregate (viññāṇakkhandha), which is experienced in conjunction with the six sense media, and consciousness without surface (viññāṇaṃ anidassanaṃ), which is experienced independently of the six sense media (MN 49) — is here giving Sāti the chance to identify which of the two types he has interpreted as running and wandering on. Sāti's answer shows that he is talking about the first type. The remaining discussion of consciousness throughout this sutta is thus directed at this first type. It would have been interesting to see how the Buddha would have attacked Sāti's misunderstanding had Sāti stated that he was talking about the second.

The sense-consciousness that arise in dependence upon sense-bases and sense-objects is the first type of consciousness mentioned above.
In the second type of consciousness, the elements and therefore the sense-objects are not present therein.

In an idealistic framework, it would be possible to argue that the first type of consciousness and the corresponding sense-bases and sense-objects would be an emergent of the second although I would think that projection would be a better word than emergent.
It's an interesting point, but is there any evidence that sense-consciousness is an emergent of consciousness without surface? This does begin to sound more like Hinduism than Buddhism. Its tricky, because there isn't much in the suttas about consciousness without surface, and its not at all clear how it relates to sense-consciousness.
There must be a connection between emergent sense-consciousness and consciousness without surface. Otherwise, talking about the latter is irrelevant. And we know that the Buddha eschewed from talking about irrelevant things.

What this connection is is not spoken of in the Suttas, at least not as far as I am aware of. In the Mahayana tradition and in particular, the Tibetan tradition however, there is the idea that the world is but a "manifestation" of our minds. Perhaps "manifestation" could mean "emergent" or "projection".

In Hinduism, there is the idea of a universal mind. In Buddhism, since liberation and enlightenment is an individual thingy, the idea of a universal mind is not a logical position to take because that would be inconsistent with liberation/enlightenment being something individual. If there is a universal mind, it cannot be fundamental from a Buddhist perspective. It has to be a manifestation/emergent/projection of individual minds.
User avatar
SDC
Posts: 6405
Joined: Mon Dec 14, 2009 11:08 pm

Re: Idealism

Post by SDC »

Dinsdale wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 7:07 pm I don't think that idealism and materialism are directly relevant to this question of self-view, if you look at it as an "overlay" on top of experience.

I'm not even sure that the distinction between "internal" and "external" is directly relevant...
If the discussion is aimed at finding the problem within our understanding, the distinctions should be acknowledged. After all, we have to be able to admit that somewhere within our experience are distortions and misunderstandings. If a person were to pursue the Dhamma within these fixed views by way of some reconciliation, they'll just keep finding more clever ways to justify both. Exposing them keeps them from standing. Think about it, if the two positions are both understood to be lesser aspects of a more fundamental picture, they will lose their potency. Overall, they are wrong views, in that they are inapplicable to experience as a whole. Namely, the Self will no longer be able to find footing in either - it will no longer be everywhere and nowhere. It will have to be understood as part of the overlay, of the experience as a whole - not the overlay appearing for it, or because of it.
Dinsdale wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 7:07 pm A question this raises in my mind - are not-self and non-duality actually the same thing here?
Could you clarify what you mean here when you say "duality"?
binocular
Posts: 8292
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Idealism

Post by binocular »

Dinsdale wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 9:08 amDo you mean telling other people that what they think is real isn't real?
Isn't that just trying to impose an opinion?
Of course, and it's very effective. It's how society is organized: the social hierarchy of power.
Dinsdale wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 11:21 amI wasn't suggesting that, but I was questioning the point of adopting an idealist position. How is this useful, practically speaking?
That's how:
SDC wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 3:03 pmWhat appears is: you opposed to things. Within that, idealism and materialism creep up as ways to regard those different aspects, primarily because that which is "you" stands out from that which is not. And worse, it is assumed that "I" can escape the overlay.
Idealism takes things a step further than materialism.
Hic Rhodus, hic salta!
Spiny Norman
Posts: 7619
Joined: Fri Mar 05, 2010 10:32 am
Location: Andromeda looks nice

Re: Idealism

Post by Spiny Norman »

SDC wrote: Wed Jul 10, 2019 3:22 am
Dinsdale wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 7:07 pm I don't think that idealism and materialism are directly relevant to this question of self-view, if you look at it as an "overlay" on top of experience.

I'm not even sure that the distinction between "internal" and "external" is directly relevant...
If the discussion is aimed at finding the problem within our understanding, the distinctions should be acknowledged. After all, we have to be able to admit that somewhere within our experience are distortions and misunderstandings. If a person were to pursue the Dhamma within these fixed views by way of some reconciliation, they'll just keep finding more clever ways to justify both. Exposing them keeps them from standing. Think about it, if the two positions are both understood to be lesser aspects of a more fundamental picture, they will lose their potency. Overall, they are wrong views, in that they are inapplicable to experience as a whole. Namely, the Self will no longer be able to find footing in either - it will no longer be everywhere and nowhere. It will have to be understood as part of the overlay, of the experience as a whole - not the overlay appearing for it, or because of it.
Dinsdale wrote: Tue Jul 09, 2019 7:07 pm A question this raises in my mind - are not-self and non-duality actually the same thing here?
Could you clarify what you mean here when you say "duality"?
I think I'm asking about the difference between dissolving the distinction between internal and external (non-dualism), and not regarding either of these as "me" and "mine" (anatta).
Do you see these as the same experience, or as different? Or does one follow from the other?
Buddha save me from new-agers!
User avatar
mikenz66
Posts: 17913
Joined: Sat Jan 10, 2009 7:37 am
Location: Aotearoa, New Zealand

Re: Idealism

Post by mikenz66 »

Dinsdale wrote: Wed Jul 10, 2019 9:01 am I think I'm asking about the difference between dissolving the distinction between internal and external (non-dualism), and not regarding either of these as "me" and "mine" (anatta).
Do you see these as the same experience, or as different? Or does one follow from the other?
Different expressions of dualities:
“What, bhikkhu, is the earth element? The earth element may be either internal or external. What is the internal earth element? Whatever internally, belonging to oneself, is solid, solidified, and clung-to, that is, head-hairs, body-hairs, nails, teeth, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, bone-marrow, kidneys, heart, liver, diaphragm, spleen, lungs, intestines, mesentery, contents of the stomach, feces, or whatever else internally, belonging to oneself, is solid, solidified, and clung-to: this is called the internal earth element. Now both the internal earth element and the external earth element are simply earth element. And that should be seen as it actually is with proper wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self.’ When one sees it thus as it actually is with proper wisdom, one becomes disenchanted with the earth element and makes the mind dispassionate towards the earth element.
https://suttacentral.net/mn140/en/bodhi#sc21
:heart:
Mike
Post Reply