Saturday, February 28, 2009

"Ragged Wood"

"Oh No"

Maya / Sunyata

Somewhere along the line I had stated that I would post something on the Maya concept, which I aim to do here by making a comparison, and talking more directly about the Zen Buddhist concept of Sunyata. Whereas these two concepts are derived from different schools of thought, one Hindu, the other again Buddhism, I believe most certainly that both share the same underlying essence and use and thus I will talk about the one and infer onto the other – not to mention I’m no follower of Hindu.

The school of Buddhism associated with Zen was derived quite simply for the purposes of experiencing the enlightenment of Sakyamuni; which is in turn expressed through the doctrine of Sunyata. Of course the term Sunyata being one of those wonderful oriental terms that’s difficult to translate into English, it can be said to mean something along the lines of “emptiness”, or “void”, and directs ones attention to the essential character of being. By doing this though, it gives sunyata somewhat of a negative character, and thus a sense that it exists within the usual dualistic concepts of mind, where further we have the ability to apply our logic and generalizations over it, and/or the notion that it arises as a result of these tools. It should not be looked at then, as something one asserts, or as something that one has/had once asserted. Certainly it could be argued that no doubt the term was brought into light through human utterance, however it should not be considered that through this utterance a form of inquiry was born into the spirits of mans intellect, or that attention to some empirical insight was born such that through a philosophical dialogue we could come to know something once hidden behind a veil.

Sunyata, we can say, is simply that which makes everything possible, but it is not once a pre-supposition, or a fairy we can discover buzzing around the lilies; quite simply put, it has no individual existence, and/or should hold within the mind no conception of a dualistic existence whereby on the one hand it is this, while on the other it is that. To have a dialogue on the matter, to bring sunyata into the world of philosophical discourse and thus apply the forms of logic and analytic upon it is to then cease to talk about it, or anything at all. The doctrine of sunyata, again, is the means through which we experience enlightenment of Sakyamuni. To make a simple comparison, surely one can speak and talk of love, even apply logic to the experience, but within this dialogue we cannot at once capture the essence of what love is – one must experience it for himself, thus at this point the dialogue becomes meaningless and it is well understood by those who are in love that no such dialogue can ever hope to pass on meaning and understanding to those who have not experience being in love.

We should then consider sunyata as enveloping the world of dualism, of subjects and objects; it is both immanent, and transcendent, non-contradictory and absolutely one. For Zen then, to know sunyata is to experience it, as once it is conceptualized it is lost. Like love, to experience love is to know it and/or be aware of it; however in the case of sunyata, we are not to be seen as becoming aware of the world of sensation and intellection. Again, the world of sense and intellect is a world which pits a dichotomy between subject and object – of a subject at first sensing, an object being sensed, and then the subject creating differentiations between object X and object Y vs. subject A. Transcendence of this dualism then, is to have awareness of sunyata – this is the essence of Zen and Zen practice.

Sunyata then, is experienced only as both subject and object and is not felt within the world of everyday experience. This is because our experience of the everyday is a conceptualized experience, one where we apply the forms of our thought through a reconstruction of reality; in some cases a reality that is said to be that which is in itself, others simply the forms and tools of thought to serve needs and interests. In either case there is a clear sense of dualism which takes either a classic form, or a binary form. In a philosophical sense we aim to reconstruct the world via a starting point from empiricism (for example), thus creating a dualism which destroys the concept of sunyata. Certainly mans power of reason is a wonderful tool at predicting and controlling phenomenon, and improving the quality of life, however the foundation of sunyata is not this sort of cold hard intellection, but an experience in and of itself. One must cast aside his reason, and his desire to differentiate to first begin to enter into such an experience.

It is said that “Knowing and seeing” sunyata is sunyata knowing and seeing itself – in other words there is no outside knower, no man at the machine, it is its own knower and it’s own seer. Although our experience is condition and relative to certain contingencies, it should be seen that WE ARE sunyata; our capacity to reason arises out of it, however is not the path that leads back to it. As sunyata is part of reason itself and leaves its mark in the wake of reason, to all together engulf oneself in the enterprise of reason in an effort to discover truth is akin to rigorously applying geology to discover the secrets of the objective world.

The essence of Zen, of sunyata, of maya, is the unconditioned experienced of life itself – it’s the zone of the athlete, the middle stage of the act of shoveling ones driveway, being in the midst of battle with the enemy, or being within the act of a crime. It knows no morally right or wrong, evils or goodness, it is not held high and felt only by the righteous, but is woven into the lives of everyone; it permeates, it is here, it is not here, it is everywhere, it is everything, it is….

There is the idea that maya simply means illusion, and directs ones attention to the idea that the world of dualism we live in is unreal, that (for example, as in ZMM) the millions of people who perished as a result of the Hiroshima bomb, was merely illusory. But this represents a certain shallowness to the idea of maya. To see maya as an illusion is not to disregard life per se, be to direct one to a path of enlightenment which circumvents the use of reasoning for such a task.

From Pirsig’s ZMM:
“In all of the Oriental religions great value is placed on the Sanskrit doctrine of Tat tvam asi, "Thou art that," which asserts that everything you think you are and everything you think you perceive are undivided. To realize fully this lack of division is to become enlightened.

Logic presumes a separation of subject from object; therefore logic is not final wisdom. The illusion of separation of subject from object is best removed by the elimination of physical activity, mental activity and emotional activity. There are many disciplines for this. One of the most important is the Sanskrit dhyna, mispronounced in Chinese as "Chan" and again mispronounced in Japanese as "Zen." (there’s a bit of ignorance in this statement I won’t here point out, but the inference is clear enough) Phædrus never got involved in meditation because it made no sense to him. In his entire time in India "sense" was always logical consistency and he couldn't find any honest way to abandon this belief. That, I think, was creditable on his part.

But one day in the classroom the professor of philosophy was blithely expounding on the illusory nature of the world for what seemed the fiftieth time and Phædrus raised his hand and asked coldly if it was believed that the atomic bombs that had dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were illusory. The professor smiled and said yes. That was the end of the exchange.

Within the traditions of Indian philosophy that answer may have been correct, but for Phædrus and for anyone else who reads newspapers regularly and is concerned with such things as mass destruction of human beings that answer was hopelessly inadequate. He left the classroom, left India and gave up.”

It’s obvious from this passage that Pirsig was looking for the sort of enlightenment found through connection with the universe by means of pure reason (he was a Kantian slob was he not), and as a result failed to see the point of what was being conveyed, which resulted in years later going nuts. I suppose it’s difficult to get away from the idea that one can paste they’re conditioned forms and ideas onto the world, call it what it is and move on. That the world is illusion is not a plea to see it as such, and thus ignore it, it is nothing more then a warning of the ills which arise when applying logic to its discovery as a means of ultimate Truth - it is forever an empty cup. Could one live life with only the reasoning of love, and not love itself? If we once called love an illusion, does this negate what one reads in the paper or sees on the street? No – it says that love on sight, sound and intellect is an illusion as there is no experience there to be had, only the illusion of an experience that is not understood; one could at first be pretending, could be acting, so on. Is the love one is seeing between two people on a street corner illusory? Yes, and in the same way the Hiroshima bomb was.

The illusion of these concepts arises as the result of a particular form of inquiry that would limit them to the world of site, or of sense in general – that is the illusion…

A redundant after-thought:
The Illusion, Maya, and love is like a card trick. What makes the card trick illusiory is the fact that within the experience of the trick an essential component is missing, and thus an experience of illusion is had, which of course we call magic. What one sees when he uses reason to contemplate maya, or views love from a coffee shop window, is an illusion in the same way as an essential component of the experience is missing, and that is of course, the experience itself. Only upon plunging oneself into the act of living can he grasp what he sees, and only in this instance do the words he speaks make any sense. Once the illusion of the card trick is revealed, and one can directly experience the slight of hand, does one understand that through the illusion there is really no illusion at all…

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hate Mail

MARGIE vs. HERBERT (Fargo/Deliverance)

Ok, this is great. Back on November 26th Stephen put up THIS POST on Toby Keith.

Off the cuff, I made the following comment:
“Stephen,don't judge Americans based on the red neck SOB's that lost the civil war.... Those are the people who listen to Toby Keith.:”

Of course for those who know me, Stephen’s blog, my Blog, understand the nature of this comment. Anyway, evidently some lone sole was surfing the internet, likely Googling “Toby Keith”, and stumbled upon Stephen’s Blog. As a result I get the following e-mail this morning from southern belle Audrey Hopper:
“ im responding to a post about toby keith written by andrew not a big toby fan but i am one of those so called rednecks & damn proud to be from the south! you need to shut your mouth about people &cultures you know nothing about.we have a good life down here.we are not the toothless ,barefoot,racist that you cocky ass yankees try to make us out to be & your comments just prove how ignorant you really are. please do us a favor & never bring your stupid ignorant ass to the south because we dont want you or your kind here to demoralize & destroy our beautiful states.dont even vacation here.oh ,one question please, If the south and all us ignorant rednecks are so ignorant then please tell me why your kind of people keep moving down here to retire or escape your filthy crime ridden the way even if we were as dumb as you say,then thats ok because you couldnt last 5 minutes up against these southern men. we are survivors which is something you yankees know nothing about
screw you sincerely,
proud southern belle!"

So I’m thinking, “WHAT”??? Of course I realize these blog conversations aren’t private, but come on - you don't need a keyboard to surf the internet. So I responded as such:
“We were being satirical, but it seems that fact was somehow lost on you.

I do find it interesting that you would feel the need to shoot someone an e-mail regarding a thread on a blog from so long ago. Do you make it a habit of going around the internet fighting perceived southern discrimination? Perhaps if you took the time to understand Stephen's blog, it's content and what he talks about you'd understand. Or even better, stop by, read and understand my blog and understand me. Evidently (I'm guessing) you googled "Toby Kieth" and came upon Stephen's blog, then immediately overreacted. Again, that's unfortunate.

I’d here apologize, but I find no real need to – with your e-mail to me, you seem to be merely feeding into the very stereotype you’re fighting against. Sort of ironic isn’t it…?"

I'll update with her response if there is one.... Or perhaps she'll stumble on by and speak for herself - that would be nice.

P.5 The Two Horns of Realism and Non-realism

Because I’m often obsessive and just can’t help myself, let me have one last go at this…

First, what am I talking about when I say representation?
This is simple; what I’m rejecting is the idea that the mind is a mirror, or a reflection of objective reality and that in some manner or another our words get us closer to that reflection. Furthermore I reject the idea that through science, metaphysics, logic (whathaveyou) we are brought closer to a commensurable dialogue through which to communicate and know things. Along with this realist view is also the idea that we can be in come manner or another certain of the notion we’re representing, certain that we’re closer to truth, so on and so forth, even though it’s generally agreed upon that such a certainty cannot be maintained outside of a circular argument.

The map analogy has been often appealed to in this conversation, however there’s a problem I see in that. First off, I don’t reject the sort of rhetorical language that likes to say this squiggly line and this box represents this and that particular thing as in these instances we’re not talking about philosophical matters, we’re merely navigating the world and behaving as humans behave. In a better way, we’re merely being metaphorical; we’re being intelligent tool users.

Here-in lies the problem - and I think it’s pretty simple:
A representational / correspondence theory of truth is being maintained, however, a pragmatic / utilitarian justification for that position is being used. Now, more then a mere contradiction, the justification raises the anti and/or trumps the held position as it reduces the position to the state of affairs of the justification.
You said the following on your blog:
“There is no contradiction in saying that to discard representation is incorrect, yet at the same time no map can be the 'correct' one.”

In other words your justification is that, whereas there are no correct maps, we know that some maps work better then others – which isn’t a justification of representation at all. Let me put this in a simpler way; a realist position is one that says quite clearly, idea X is better then idea Y because it better represents phenomenon Z. However that’s not your argument at all, your argument is; idea X is better then idea Y because it better suits our needs and interest with respect to phenomenon Z.

If this is your argument/justification (which seems clearly the case), then representation is (like I’ve said) merely rhetorical and/or simply a nice way of talking about things. Your contradiction is simply that you’re not arguing for the ontological reality of your position, but merely trying to justify talking in a certain way. Since this is all your doing, and I have no problem whatsoever with the tool like use of saying that formula X represents phenomenon Y, then it’s really unclear that your even arguing a realist position at all. In other words if I assert “GOD”, the realist position would argue for the grounds at which God is represented in reality – but you, relative to your justification, would look for in what way making that assertion “WORKS”. If you took the realist horn however, I would simply forfeit my response and ask that you prove your representational position, in which case you’d grasp the other horn and we’d never get anywhere. The bottom line is, my justification can merely be that it works to talk about God; furthermore that God, as I’ve said, is metaphorical. Now here you might be tempted to ask, “a metaphor for what” (grasping realism), but then I’d ask, “what are you representing in your position and how do you know?” Which would get us right back to, “IT WORKS”.

Bottom line – you maintain realism, however justify it pragmatically. So you’re suggesting, as William James did, “Truth is what works by way of belief.” Not, truth is a correspondence with reality. But more accurately you seem to being saying; “It’s True that truth is a correspondence to reality as it works by way of belief.” More importantly, your pragmatic justification rendors your position of representation arbitrary.

Can I say, “It’s true that I’m an atheist because God say’s I am.”

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Brief MOQ Rant

I’ve been browsing the MOQ threads for quite some time now – even subscribed – and I find myself a bit, perhaps put off, by a number of conceptual schemes…

I don’t know, take this statement:
“the basic argument in ZAMM is a pre-existing reality before the subject becomes aware of the objective world. Thus the pre-something (now called Quality) must necessarily be the DQ that
spawns static qualities.”

Ahhh, the wonderful effervescence of pre-suppositionalism… We may as well restate this paragraph to say something like; the basic argument of Christianity is a pre-existing reality before man became aware of the objective world. Thus the pre-something (called God) must necessarily be the thing that spawns human awareness… I’ll add to this that God created everything, but he didn’t create objects per se, he created Goodness; he created a man, called him Adam and said he was “Good”. Of course this sort of language being spoken before the time Plato fk’d us all up.

Sprinkling in that bit of dogma suddenly doesn’t make that paragraph sound so great now does it? Now of course, I can almost hear the screams of packeted electrons flowing across wires to servers all over the world. How dare I, you must not understand the MOQ at all…

The problem with Dynamic Quality, like Zen, and like Yahweh before the Christians got a hold of it, is that it’s (should be) well understood that one cannot talk about such things – as soon as it’s uttered it should be immediately discarded. Consider this statement (another quote from the board):
"Therefore, for Pirsig, immediate experience (or Quality) is experience where there is no distinction between what is experienced and the act of experiencing itself."

Yes, great, so what are we talking about again???

Here’s the deal; Rorty was, for me, always one small phrase/word away from mysticism – in practice his philosophy (as I’ll argue later) is the final act of a Buddhist play. You find Pirsig in the religious/Buddhist sections of book stores (as apposed to philosophy sections) because his language is necessarily mystical. He wants to be fully pragmatic on the one hand (and oh so Zen), while on the other hand he wants to be fully Kantian. People (it seems to me) who are drawn to his philosophy as apposed to his mysticism are those who want a “theory of everything”, a language within which we can capture the essence of all things; and this leads to the sort of pre-suppostional talk I seem to see here and there. Those who are attracted to his mysticism probably don’t do a whole lot of talking about it – although I’m probably wrong about that.

My bet is that Pirsig will forever remain a cult figure as apposed to a respected philosopher – and this is the way it should be. Dynamic Quality, as a philosophy, simply isn’t intellectually honest and shouldn’t be discussed in philosophy classes. If it ever came to pass that it was, then bring on Zen and bring on God…

What is the context under which we should discuss Pirsig and Dynamic Quality?
If we maintain a philosophical discourse, then what ground are we picking up? Why should I include Dynamic Quality in my philosophical language any more then I should include God or Zen?
It’s question begging, and it’s mysticism – why not leave it at that? Certainly his metaphysic makes sense within the context of the game he’s playing, but outside that why have a public discourse on Quality? Not that we are, or that someone is suggesting we should, but certainly as many would like to see Pirsig get his due it would suggest to me that we bring him into the world of philosophy.


Friday, February 13, 2009

P.4 The Two Horns of Realism and Non-realism

Of course “in front of me right now is a computer monitor”; which of course I’m eyeing to a greater degree as I type…

However, outside of a certain behavior which includes making marks and noises, this statement really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. In the same way, outside of a system of communication which includes speaking, marking, making symbols, systems of arithmetic, logic, etc. a map makes no sense at all either.

As the example goes, the map is a representation of the terrain; it corresponds to certain objective/material aspects of it – dark lines with perpendicular hashes are railroads, blue squiggly lines are streams and rivers, while blue patches are lakes – green patches are parks and forested areas, with broad circles and numbers representing altitudes – then there’s those little blue boxes with the tent, those are camping areas, or perhaps a wayside rest, with little black lines paving they’re way adjacent to them, through the cities and past my house… This, it’s supposed to be believed, represents the land.

Direct intuition seems to suggest quite clearly that such is the case, to the point that no-one outright would have a problem accepting it – however I find it highly problematic. Certainly before a squiggly line can be conceived of as representing a river, it has to be understood the enormous amount of contingencies that lead to that particular symbol being coherent in the first place. Looking at it just by itself we say, “this line stands for the river.” Is it the representative character of that statement that allows me understand what you’re saying, or is it rather your behavior as a whole that allows me to understand it? In another way, to say that words and marks represent and correspond is to suggest (or so I take it as suggesting) that outside of human contingencies these words and marks still hold a certain truth in and of themselves – it’s the old, “the universe speaks a certain language” bit. Which is for me to suggest that languages are not elements of human behavior, but elements of the way things are in themselves – and this seems to lead somewhat dubiously to the thought that speaking (in the form of representing) is really a third person enterprise with my hands firmly grasping the controls of a mysterious chimera inside the skull of meat puppet.

As elements of the way things are in themselves it suggests to me that, outside of human needs and interests there are still “blue squiggly lines and green patches”, but then I’m confused because, where are those blue squiggly lines and green patches? In other words, maps (if I can loosely use “represent” without being attacked) are at best representations of human behavior, not land masses. They represent certain contingencies which are always relative to ourselves.

I can’t escape the idea that behind any realist worldview is the idea of some sort of absolute – which either exists in a certain sort of commensurate lingo, or an all powerful all knowing God. How can you be certain that you’ve represented reality? In what way is the manner of my speak incorrect? You see, the only way to validate a strict realist, representative circular worldview is [again] to appeal to a ghost in the machine (a third person perspective), which ultimately validates the claim. A view of language (on the other hand) which is more tool-like and behavioral, has no requirement for ultimate justification or circular reasoning as what I’m saying has no ultimate relation to things in themselves, but only relates (once again) to behavior.

One of the reasons why I bring up democracy over and over (to which I haven’t received a response on the matter), is if language represents the terrain, then what is the terrain of Democracy? Where do we see Democracy? Where do we bump into it and how is this bumping into any different from bumping into the so-called terrain? This is why I infer that the answer is naturally, that “Democracy is merely a creation of the human spirit.” But if that’s the case, what’s it representative of (what’s spirit, or whatever word one would insert here)? Is Democracy real? Is it a fairy? The realist perspective fails to account for such phenomenon’s – of which we could include religion, love, goodness, and countless other human institutions. However, looked at from a behavioral point of view, the line between the terrain and human institution is blurred to a point that it makes no sense to conceive of such distinctions; that anything and everything from rocks to God, to love, to physics, are nothing more then human conventions based on certain contingencies that arose in our effort to thrive, survive, be happy and procreate.

I’m thinking to myself that this sounds like a sort of reductionism of God and religion, however I must remind myself that at this point in the string of this talk on Realism vs Non-realism, I’ve merely been talking about God as it pertains to a behavioral perspective… I think after this post I’d like to move on and get back to some thoughts I’ve been having on Rorty and Buddhism – as Buddhism is my secret love, and this whole liberal ironist thing is really eatin’ a hole through me…..

Psiomniac, I’m not really sure where to go… And I’m really bothered by the fact that maybe I’m severely misunderstanding your point of view – it could be because I’m too much of a novice, or that I’m being too forceful with my own thoughts, I’m not sure. Perhaps you could draft a post on your blog that elucidates your major points??? Cuz I can be a little slow and stuff.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Chinese Translation

This was posted in my side bar for quite some time... It's one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite artists, and I suppose it sums up my current mode... I'm still a bit flustered and searching for a clear thought...

...So mix yourself a drink three fingers deep, listen to the guitar at the end of this song, and be convinced you don't know shit about nothin'... Like the Oracle said, "...By the time you get done, you'll be as right as rain..." [tear]

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Fleet Foxes

Great video, great song - (subpoprecords)

P.3 The Two Horns of Realism and Non-realism

Ok, so where was I...
From P.2 (HERE), Psiomniac's comment. My statments are in Green, Psiomniac in Blue, my response in Black

"It's my belief that in this instance the theist needs to offer up a reason why one should believe such a thing in the absence of proof."
"It is my assessment so far that the reasons we have for thinking we interact in dependable ways with a mind-independent reality, are an order of magnitude stronger than any reasons you have offered so far for belief in a specific god."

Since it’s clear that I’m not talking about interacting with a God who’s existence is mind-independent, and since (as of yet) no noncircular reason has been given as to why we should accept that mind-independent entities exist, then I’m not all together certain what burden I’m sacked with in this instance? If we both agree that such an argument doesn’t exist, than no real reason beyond my pragmatic (non-realist) account need be offered for my appeal to God.

"I think we’d both agree following your first paragraph that it would merely be an assumption."
"I wouldn't agree with 'merely'. Rather, I'd say that any functional world view must have a set of foundational assumptions. What differs is what they are and the basis upon which they are held."

Sure, Psiomniac, however I can make the same foundational assumption under my worldview and assert, “God exists”, but as it stands it’s no more or less provable from the realist perspective then your representationalism. What are your foundational assumptions I wonder?

"If one cannot show the truth of represenation, then why should I beleive it?"
"For the same reason that you should believe that you have a head, namely because it is sensible to do so."

Believing that one has a head has nothing necessarily to do with adhering to representationalism or correspondence theory – in other words, I can assert that belief (make the statement) without the philosophical point of view. Or to put it in yet another way, It’s sensible to have the statement in a language game “I have a head”, for reasons outside of philosophy; it directs our attention, speaks to our behavior, makes sense in a given language game, but doesn’t say anything about mind-independent entities per se. Since we don’t sprinkle in theories of truth within our everyday conversations, it’s clear that sensible in this case refers only to philosophical discourse – nothing more.

The way I talk about God, on the other hand, is not so much philosophical as it is just part of the way I (and the community of believers I’m part of) talk. It’s not about philosophy, it’s not about foundational theories of truth, its about understanding one another through a particular sort of dialogue – which is to say nothing at this point about a personal sense of mysticism.

Monday, February 02, 2009