Tuesday, November 21, 2017
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Mentally, certain features and functions of consciousness may be either the same for all or may have overlapping sameness in some areas. Despite the difference between your brain and mine, consciousness is a process, not a thing. It is possible to run windows on two computers that are different. Likewise it may be that joy and sadness are either the same for both of us or have overlapping sameness within them.
Baseline awareness is the calm state everyone returns to after anger, sadness or excitement. If a baby born today has a baseline awareness that is a continuation of the baseline awareness of a baby born 1,000 years ago, then the baby born today is a reincarnation of the baby born 1,000 years ago.
The only way to feel pain is for pain to happen to you. After death there is no you for pain to occur to until you acquire a new you. Pain can only occur once a new you has begun to exist. This you is simply a node which pleasure and pain have recourse to.
Monday, November 6, 2017
Saturday, October 28, 2017
Back when I was a student at Auburn (in 2000-2001) I read a book called What The Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula. I found the book to be incredibly dark. One of the chapters was called The Doctrine of No Soul. In it the Buddha breaks down consciousness to its component parts and notes that a soul or self is not to be found in any of the parts. But of course, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and self is found in the synthesis.
But that was not the extent of what I found foreboding about it. The Buddha introduces the dharma by saying that it is the path to a life "free from cares and troubles." So he sets out by saying that the only way to be free from Samsara (the process of death and rebirth)--the way to attain nirvana--is to be free from desire, to be completely indifferent toward everything in life, to not be bound by attachments to anything dear, to hold nothing dear--basically, to love nothing. And yet he says that compassion is good.
The Buddha also says things that are irrational. Since he says there is no self, he also says, "There is pain but no one to feel the pain." I would say this reduces a person to one dimension, but it goes further that that. It abolishes the person.
But the magic elixir of indifference was slowly presented to me throughout the book. If you stop caring about everything your suffering will end. In Buddhism this indifference is total. Any attachment keeps one bound to the wheel of Samsara. Holding anything dear is a crime against yourself.
I remember you saying that indifference is the opposite of love. But the Buddha, as being a proponent of the Middle Way, says that indifference is a midpoint between hatred and love. Here's how I see it: There is a triangle with love at the top, hatred on the left corner and love on the right corner. In this sense love is opposed by both hatred and indifference. Of course, there is a time and place for everything. There is a time to be indifferent, just like there is a time to love and even a time to hate. One day when the Buddha was meditating he heard a musician teaching his pupil, by saying, "Tighten the string too tight and it will break. Make the string too loose and it won't play." So the Buddha approached everything this way--as if everything were reduced to a flat line. Buddhism is totally reductionistic, and yet it is attended by a great deal of obfuscation. It's designed that way.
Friday, October 27, 2017
If I am my consciousness would a computer that matches my consciousness and is placed in a body just like mine become me after I die? If yes, then it would be possible to trap a person in a computer after his death. If no, then there must be more to me than my consciousness and my body, i.e a soul. If, however, you say this scenario is impossible you are admitting there is some part of my essential being that cannot be replicated.
Earlier I said that a reincarnated person is a continuation of a person from a previous life, meaning that the reincarnated person's baseline awareness was a continuation of the baseline awareness from a previous life. I imagine that if a baby were born today his baseline awareness would be a continuation of the baseline awareness of a baby from a previous life. In truth, I believe a person's baseline awareness is the same throughout his life. How does this square with the possibility of a soul?
A person's awareness is essential to his self. And I don't believe in a disembodied soul. Since the soul must inhabit a body to be conscious it may be the case that a soul gives rise to awareness or at least helps to give rise to awareness. So the possibility of a soul does not contradict my stance on reincarnation. But it may be that memories of a previous life are carried to this life by the soul.
Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Many people call for a level playing ground in our society. But is that the best metaphor we can think of? In some cases people think of society as a stick to be straightened. But society could also be thought of as a body to be nourished. There could perhaps be any number of other metaphors for society. Society has long been called the Body Politic.
In the case of a stick to be straightened, the stick represents a person’s character or the character of society. Some people are born with straight characters. These people are naturally upstanding. A society may also be conceived the same way—giving rights to individuals and ensuring responsibilities. But a society is more than its character because a society is a body to be nourished, not a stick to be straightened.
In the case of the level playing field—that metaphor does not include all of society, but rather the opportunity inherent in society. It is only one aspect of society, so it can be ruled out as a metaphor for the whole of society. The whole of society must be something that integrates all its parts.
A society does not directly conform to its character in the same way that a person’s body does not conform to a person’ individual character. It is rather inspired by its character. You may bend the stick to the right if it is bent too far to the left, but a body is far more complex. The stick is one and only one thing. It’s parts are of no concern so long as they conform to what is required, but a body has its own requirements independent of a person’s character. Each part needs something from the whole and gives something to the whole.
But why straighten a stick? A fletcher may straighten a stick to use it as an arrow, but then the stick is only a weapon, not something that exists for its own sake. Society may use it’s character to propel it toward an end, but society is the archer, not the arrow. The arrow is meant to serve a purpose, to hit a target. Perhaps warring states can be thought of as arrows, but only while they are at war, and even then individuals would have to be considered.
An objection to this might be that all states are constantly at war, in an economic sense, with other states, and that the larger government exists to protect the citizens of the state. But how is economic war waged? And shouldn’t each citizen be given his own autonomy as much as possible?
Economic war is waged both for and against a cause: for the cause of individual liberty and happiness and against anything that might impede on this liberty and happiness. In both cases it must be recognized that individuals are autonomous to a certain degree and will act in their own best interest. If society is seen merely as a stick you will end up with a splintered stick in which the individual parts go their own way or a whole stick in which liberty and happiness is repressed for the sake of cohesion. However, the only people to benefit from this cohesion would be the few that do not have to be constrained for the sake of the whole, namely the ruling class. Survival in such a state would, for most people, mean suffering.
In the case of the body the parts, which may be either individuals or small groups, retain their dignity because each part is necessary. The pinky is perhaps not as honored as the eye, but it is useful in a way that the eye is not. The purpose of the body as a whole is to act in the way that best nourishes itself. In this sense the aspirations of each individual are secondary to the needs of the whole, but the secondary status is sacred and cannot be overridden by the primary needs of the whole.
For instance: My job demands a premium on my time, but cannot require me to practice a certain prescribed religion or think a certain way. I may not enjoy my job, but it is my primary obligation with respect to society. Both my primary and secondary obligations exist independently of each other as long as I wish for them to.
For the health both of the individuals and society at large many small groups are necessary and serve as individuals themselves. Only in small intimate groups do individuals gain societal nourishment. Individuals who do not gain a sense of purpose from small groups will not gain a sense of purpose from the state at large. This is why religion is so important as well as artist guilds, trade unions, historical societies, etc. An isolated person loses his mind in a sense.
Likewise, toes do not work alone but in concert with the other toes. Fingers work in concert with other fingers. The eyes work in concert with each other. And the heart works in concert with veins. So different people work in concert with their respective groups.
Societies nourish individuals only by means of intimate small groups. Likewise, individuals nourish society by relating to small groups. Big Brother is a phenomenon that can only occur when small groups are obliterated. This is why religions and art are controlled in communist states. Communist states are designed to be straight sticks. Small groups, religious groups, artist guilds, were all suppressed in the USSR, because they were seen as subversive.
During the time of the Second World War it was easy to organize the Soviet people around the central cause of defeating Nazi Germany. The straight stick had become an arrow which was being fired by Stalin and the higher ups at the enemy. But once the wars subsided and once the nuclear threat made war too costly the society started to fray. But even during the war most Soviet citizens suffered greatly by the administration. They had no secondary life. Their primary life was the only life they were expected to have. So again, the picture of society was one-dimensional. Good luck controlling people once they get into small groups behind closed doors and start chatting. Then the real plans are made.
So small groups are intermediates, necessary intermediates, in which secondary needs and desires can flourish unimpeded. Only three things need to exist for a society to be viable: individuals, small groups, and the body politic at large. In China today there is a great deal of religion. People get together of one mind and one accord, then the talking starts and decisions are made, promises are made and broken, deals are struck. But most importantly: Secondary purposes and plans are determined.
By “secondary” I do not mean “less important.” I simply mean that with respect to society at large secondary needs are usually not the most important. The secondary needs of a plumber to write poetry may be the plumber’s own primary needs, but for the larger society those needs are secondary.
The state may not always be necessary. For now it is needed to protect the citizens of the nation from other states and their armies. It might be the case that roads could get built and hospitals and universities could be staffed without a state, but I think that would require a higher caliber of human than the ones we have now. People would have to be very disciplined, very generous, and very honest to keep that body from being an amorphous blob.
Sunday, October 22, 2017
I have a question: If I am my consciousness would a computer that matches my consciousness become me after I die? If yes, then it would be possible to trap a person in a computer after his death. If no, then there must be more to me than my consciousness, i.e. a soul.