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Are you an idealist, materialist or dualist? And what does your Buddhist school say?

SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
edited September 2016 in Philosophy

Putting it rather crudely, the main options seem to be mind only ( idealist ), matter only ( materialist ), or both mind and matter ( dualist ).
The debate seems to revolve around the question of whether consciousness is an independent entity/quality.

So what do you personally believe is correct, and what does your Buddhist school say about it?

Wiki has reasonable definitions if you're not sure.

Comments

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    Dualist, but there are lots of different versions. So I'm not the sort of Cartesian dualist who thinks of the mind as a sort of soul that floats in the body and moves the neurons around in the brain.

    I relate my view to the more Buddha nature schools, like Zen, Dzogchen, Mahamudra that talk about the true nature of mind being like a mirror or a light. So instead of the mind directing the brain, the mind only illumines what the brain is doing giving us conscious experience.

    Also, there are reasons to question the other options. If reality was mind only what about the behavior of matter traced back to before there were minds? It would seem that either disembodied minds would have to be floating around in every corner of the vast universe or the previous universe would have to collapse from some sort of quantum wave indeterminicy into matter.

    I question materialism because we can easily imagine a universe where everything is the same except we have no inner experience. Without our own subjective consciousness what reason would we ever think that the firings of the brain would give rise to it. Also if a criticism of dualism is explaining how something immaterial can influence the atoms and molecules of the physical world the inverse is true, how can physical stuff give rise to an immaterial phenomena. Materialism is utterly lacking a causal explanation for consciousness, but it has the broad position of being the default metaphysical assumption.

    Vastmind
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited September 2016

    @person said:Materialism is utterly lacking a causal explanation for consciousness, but it has the broad position of being the default metaphysical assumption.

    Materialism would explain consciousness as being the result of electro-chemical processes in the brain.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Materialism

    I find idealism rather far-fetched and anthropomorphic, and I can't see any evidence for it. So I fluctuate between materialism and dualism.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @person said:Materialism is utterly lacking a causal explanation for consciousness, but it has the broad position of being the default metaphysical assumption.

    Materialism would explain consciousness as being the result of electro-chemical processes in the brain.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Materialism

    Yes they would, but they also wouldn't have any evidence to support that hypothesis. Just by looking at and understanding the workings of the brain what in there would ever make you think that it produces consciousness, other than the fact that you are conscious? The belief is, well I am conscious, and poking the brain affects that so everything that makes consciousness must be in there. Take out the unprovable statement well I am conscious and what do you have that says the brain makes consciousness?

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @person said:

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @person said:Materialism is utterly lacking a causal explanation for consciousness, but it has the broad position of being the default metaphysical assumption.

    Materialism would explain consciousness as being the result of electro-chemical processes in the brain.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Materialism

    Yes they would, but they also wouldn't have any evidence to support that hypothesis. Just by looking at and understanding the workings of the brain what in there would ever make you think that it produces consciousness, other than the fact that you are conscious? The belief is, well I am conscious, and poking the brain affects that so everything that makes consciousness must be in there. Take out the unprovable statement well I am conscious and what do you have that says the brain makes consciousness?

    I struggle with the philosophy of consciousness. I tend to look more at the natural world, where it seems like consciousness is an emergent property of biological life. Simple organisms have a basic awareness of their environment, this awareness gets more sophisticated with more complicated organisms until at some point we call it consciousness. Another layer of sophistication is self-awareness.

    I have heard consciousness described as the interaction between an organism and it's environment, which is an interesting way of looking at it. It is somewhat reminiscent of how the suttas describe eye-consciousness arising in dependence on the eye and visible forms.

    lobster
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran
    edited September 2016

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @person said:

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @person said:Materialism is utterly lacking a causal explanation for consciousness, but it has the broad position of being the default metaphysical assumption.

    Materialism would explain consciousness as being the result of electro-chemical processes in the brain.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Materialism

    Yes they would, but they also wouldn't have any evidence to support that hypothesis. Just by looking at and understanding the workings of the brain what in there would ever make you think that it produces consciousness, other than the fact that you are conscious? The belief is, well I am conscious, and poking the brain affects that so everything that makes consciousness must be in there. Take out the unprovable statement well I am conscious and what do you have that says the brain makes consciousness?

    I have heard consciousness described as the interaction between an organism and it's environment, which is an interesting way of looking at it. It is somewhat reminiscent of how the suttas describe eye-consciousness arising in dependence on the eye and visible forms.

    That would be one way of understanding it. I'm talking about a further level though, like why when an organism interacts with its environment does there need to be anything that its like to experience that interaction, why doesn't the interaction occur in the mental dark, so to speak. If the organism was an advanced robot able to interact with the environment, "see" objects, interpret them, avoid them, seek them out, would it necessarily have to have an inner awareness appearing to it?

    If we're just electro-chemical machines, why do we need conscious experience? And how do we have it?

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @person said:

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @person said:

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @person said:Materialism is utterly lacking a causal explanation for consciousness, but it has the broad position of being the default metaphysical assumption.

    Materialism would explain consciousness as being the result of electro-chemical processes in the brain.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Materialism

    Yes they would, but they also wouldn't have any evidence to support that hypothesis. Just by looking at and understanding the workings of the brain what in there would ever make you think that it produces consciousness, other than the fact that you are conscious? The belief is, well I am conscious, and poking the brain affects that so everything that makes consciousness must be in there. Take out the unprovable statement well I am conscious and what do you have that says the brain makes consciousness?

    I have heard consciousness described as the interaction between an organism and it's environment, which is an interesting way of looking at it. It is somewhat reminiscent of how the suttas describe eye-consciousness arising in dependence on the eye and visible forms.

    That would be one way of understanding it. I'm talking about a further level though, like why when an organism interacts with its environment does there need to be anything that its like to experience that interaction, why doesn't the interaction occur in the mental dark, so to speak. If the organism was an advanced robot able to interact with the environment, "see" objects, interpret them, avoid them, seek them out, would it necessarily have to have an inner awareness appearing to it?

    If we're just electro-chemical machines, why do we need conscious experience? And how do we have it?

    When you say "conscious experience", are you actually referring to self-awareness, what would be the sixth sense base in Buddhism, the mind?

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran
    edited September 2016

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @person said:

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @person said:

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @person said:Materialism is utterly lacking a causal explanation for consciousness, but it has the broad position of being the default metaphysical assumption.

    Materialism would explain consciousness as being the result of electro-chemical processes in the brain.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Materialism

    Yes they would, but they also wouldn't have any evidence to support that hypothesis. Just by looking at and understanding the workings of the brain what in there would ever make you think that it produces consciousness, other than the fact that you are conscious? The belief is, well I am conscious, and poking the brain affects that so everything that makes consciousness must be in there. Take out the unprovable statement well I am conscious and what do you have that says the brain makes consciousness?

    I have heard consciousness described as the interaction between an organism and it's environment, which is an interesting way of looking at it. It is somewhat reminiscent of how the suttas describe eye-consciousness arising in dependence on the eye and visible forms.

    That would be one way of understanding it. I'm talking about a further level though, like why when an organism interacts with its environment does there need to be anything that its like to experience that interaction, why doesn't the interaction occur in the mental dark, so to speak. If the organism was an advanced robot able to interact with the environment, "see" objects, interpret them, avoid them, seek them out, would it necessarily have to have an inner awareness appearing to it?

    If we're just electro-chemical machines, why do we need conscious experience? And how do we have it?

    When you say "conscious experience", are you actually referring to self-awareness, what would be the sixth sense base in Buddhism, the mind?

    Technically I'd be referring to qualia. I would parse out self-awareness and say that an unconscious (non-qualia containing) robot could be self aware in that it distinguishes itself as a distinct entity from other entities, but could at the same time not have something it feels like to be a robot.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran
    edited September 2016

    Kind of a counterpart but not identical to materialism and opposed to idealism is philosophical realism, the idea that things exist apart from our ideas or perceptions.

    Does quantum entanglement undermine realism and perhaps give some credence to idealism?

    This YouTube channel doesn't require math but doesn't pull any punches in the conceptual area of physics. The gist is easily understandable early on but the details after will probably require multiply views.

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @person said:

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @person said:Materialism is utterly lacking a causal explanation for consciousness, but it has the broad position of being the default metaphysical assumption.

    Materialism would explain consciousness as being the result of electro-chemical processes in the brain.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Materialism

    Yes they would, but they also wouldn't have any evidence to support that hypothesis. Just by looking at and understanding the workings of the brain what in there would ever make you think that it produces consciousness, other than the fact that you are conscious? The belief is, well I am conscious, and poking the brain affects that so everything that makes consciousness must be in there. Take out the unprovable statement well I am conscious and what do you have that says the brain makes consciousness?

    I re read the thread and I think I overstated a bit here, I made it sound like the brain as the sole cause of consciousness is ruled out.

    All the components for producing qualia could be in the brain, its that at this point no mechanism has been found at all. So thinking it is in the brain is more a matter of philosophy than science. As is thinking it is more than the brain.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited September 2016

    I'm really not sure anymore. But when I used to think about such matters a lot, I started to think that perhaps what we call mind and matter are ultimately groups or structures of events arising from a substance that's neither mental nor material, but in between the two a la neutral monism. As far as this might apply to Buddhism, the idea is that neither mind nor matter has any inherent reality or substance, which in turn means that neither has an intrinsic locality, i.e., they can't be viewed in terms of extended or non-extended, physical or non-physical, finite or infinite, existing non-existing, etc. I see a great deal of similarity between the Buddha and Hume in this regard. Both rejected the idea of mental substance in favour of what Hume called association of ideas and bundle of perceptions, and what the Buddha called heaps (khandha). As Bertrand Russell summerizes Hume's empiricism, "Ideas of unperceived things or occurrences can always be defined in terms of perceived things or occurrences, and therefore, by substituting the definition for the term defined, we can always state that we know empirically without introducing any unperceived things or occurrences." Thus, "all psychological knowledge can be stated without introducing the 'Self'. Further, the 'Self', as definied can be nothing but a bundle of perceptions, not a new simple 'thing'" (History of Western Philosophy, 603).

    person
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran
    edited September 2016

    @Jason said:
    As Bertrand Russell summerizes Hume's empiricism, "Ideas of unperceived things or occurrences can always be defined in terms of perceived things or occurrences, and therefore, by substituting the definition for the term defined, we can always state that we know empirically without introducing any unperceived things or occurrences." Thus, "all psychological knowledge can be stated without introducing the 'Self'. Further, the 'Self', as definied can be nothing but a bundle of perceptions, not a new simple 'thing'" (History of Western Philosophy, 603).

    I think I agree with that but I would also say that we don't know everything so our empirical definitions are sometimes wrong or incomplete. So ultimately all knowledge may be empirical but since we aren't at a place were we have total empirical knowledge somethings may need some rational guesswork.

  • Without going into quantum physics and multi dimensional stuff, I believe the question was, "Are we mind only, matter only or both?"
    We are both. Mind and matter are interrelated and inter dependent. Life, as we know it, is a blend of the two. Our bodies make up the physical aspect of life manifest and our minds comprise the non-physical aspect.

    Incomplete as the thought is, I will leave it here...

    Peace to all

  • Suiseki7Suiseki7 Pennsylvania, USA Explorer

    What debate?

    Buddha saw into his true nature and realized he had never been anything BUT AWAKE. Where was Buddha mind before Gautama's very first (probably Hindu) ancestor ever drew their first breath? Mind when comprehended contains no debate, no form, no Quantum particle and/or wave-nature disparity yet it encompasses everything.

    This is too easy and therefor confounding to most of us. Intellectual dialectic and conceptualization convey nothing but empty words fomenting discursive thought and reinforcement of the ego-I which is nothing but an obstruction to realizing our True nature and original Mind- The Mind of Buddha.

    With a smiling Gassho and Loving Kindness,

    Suiseki G:)

    lobster
  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    @Suiseki7 said:
    What debate?

    Buddha saw into his true nature and realized he had never been anything BUT AWAKE. Where was Buddha mind before Gautama's very first (probably Hindu) ancestor ever drew their first breath? Mind when comprehended contains no debate, no form, no Quantum particle and/or wave-nature disparity yet it encompasses everything.

    This is too easy and therefor confounding to most of us. Intellectual dialectic and conceptualization convey nothing but empty words fomenting discursive thought and reinforcement of the ego-I which is nothing but an obstruction to realizing our True nature and original Mind- The Mind of Buddha.

    With a smiling Gassho and Loving Kindness,

    Suiseki G:)

    Like any good Zennie, reminding us finger lookers that the finger is not the moon.

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