Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
Welcome home! Please contact lincoln@newbuddhist.com if you have any difficulty logging in or using the site. New registrations must be manually approved which may take up to 48 hours. Can't log in? Try clearing your browser's cookies.

Lipstick on a Pig?

personperson Don't believe everything you think'Merica! Veteran

I'm starting a new thread here because the topic splits from rebirth.

@ScottPen said:
As far as I can tell, where humans differ is in our ability to have abstract thought. Meta-thought. We think about thinking. We evaluate our beliefs. We rationalize. We reason. We philosophize. We justify. We argue. We attempt to convince others and ourselves, not just to modify behavior, but also purely to modify thought. We grandstand and make wild assertions on internet forums. We become dissatisfied or satisfied, purely on a meta-thought level. And of course, we create amazingly complex ideas about our own existence which are rooted in and perpetuate the confirmation bias that we are superior, because much of our life is driven by an autonomic nervous system and brain that physiologically reward behaviors and thoughts that decrease any sense of temporary or long-term insecurity- because insecurity and fear can always be peeled away to reveal an instinctive drive to stay alive long enough to reproduce. (in my opinion)

So, for now, I believe that dukkha is caused by our capacity for "meta-thought," which, thankfully, is also what gives us the ability to think and act in ways that reduce or eliminate it. As far as I can tell, the Buddha's teachings all lead back to ending suffering/stress/dissatisfaction, and he expressed as much. As such, any pragmatic hierarchy of sentient lifeforms into which rebirth would be more or less desirable would be the exact opposite of what is conventionally accepted.

I've never heard, read, or experienced anything that has convinced me that anyone's experiences during, or resulting from, their dharma-practice contradicts the above expressed opinions. But I promise that I am completely open to any dialogue about it.

Having read through this again I think you are saying something more interesting and complex than animals and rebirth. I think I misread it as being about the emotional effects of Buddhist practice rather than getting at human beings over estimation of our reasoning ability.

There is a lot of work about how poor our ability to make rational choices actually is. Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Ariely, Predictably Irrational, Kevin Simler and Robin Hansen, The Elephant in the Brain, Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind, and I'm sure others.

Basically, human beings reasoning is largely post hoc rationalization, lipstick on a pig.

Others, like Joshua Greene, don't think it's quite so simple and binary. I tend to agree with this and think there is a Buddhist model that speaks to this view.

The kleshas of greed, hatred and ignorance are usually seen in much the same way as our unconscious biases and impulses. They are largely in control of our attitudes and behaviors, and our wild monkey mind (rational mind) is scattered and unable to exert proper control. If we can tame our monkey mind at least a little we can start to use it to slowly alter our unconscious attitudes. For example we can direct it to engage in metta practices which over time make changes to our base emotional state. So that our post hoc rationalizations now rationalize helpful, kind impulses rather than selfish, harmful ones. It's not so much that we become supreme masters of rationality, though that can be improved too, but that our unconscious attitudes have been improved via effective use of our feeble reasoning ability.

So our rational mind maybe lipstick on a pig, but wearing that lipstick can get us past the bouncer into the human ball.

lobsterkandoKundoDavid

Comments

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited July 18

    Very good post @person

    There are some transformative psychologies. For example

    Buddhism is an early and unique expression and process of helping us to improve our situation. Ideally we become independent of lipstick, pig and mirrors ...
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_poisons

    We can then start being human. I'll join.
    http://meditatinginsafety.org.uk

    person
  • ScottPenScottPen Maryland Veteran

    @person, although my post wasn't intended to be about either what you originally thought OR what you posted above, I think this conversation is way more interesting. BTW, I had to google "klesha."

    Although I haven't read a single thing by any of the guys you're referring to, you seem to be asserting exactly what I say about Dharma practice to anyone who actually wants to listen. Josh Korda, whose podcast I recommended in an earlier post, goes into it at length: Old brain vs new brain. Studies have shown that people, no matter how "rational" they perceive themselves to be, generally make decisions based on the physiological and emotional "gut reactions" that we all have. It's the reptilian complex teaming up with the mammalian complex, effectively tricking the neomammalian complex into thinking it's making decisions for itself.
    Without utilizing dharma, one of the modalities that @lobster provided, or some other method of identifying the whatwherewhenwhyhow of our thoughts and behaviors, we are at the mercy of our brain's perpetual motion machine, doling out just enough chemical reward to keep us striving for the next one.
    In this context I like to think of the brain stem and limbic system as being very much like the Illuminati- pulling the strings of our cerebral cortex marionette while we flop around under the false assumption that we're actually in charge.
    (Maybe humans have an innate knowledge of this, which encourages some folks to keep searching for conspiracy theories since there's one that's simultaneously real and literally all in our heads.)
    That's what we're doing here, (isn't it?) while we bounce ideas off each other, while we meditate, while we chant, while we learn, while we watch our breath instead of chasing every metaphorical carrot (maybe it's a real carrot. That's probably ok) that our neurological illuminati dangles in front of us: we're connecting our steering column to our drive train and bravely taking the wheel instead of napping while the self-driving car mows down pedestrians.

    @person, I think where our (your and my, specifically)approaches diverge is in your implication that the human ability to think about thinking somehow elevates our species to a justifiably higher hierarchical position, because I don't think it does.

    personkando
  • kandokando northern Ireland Veteran

    As I'm mildly Aspergers (and it's not so mild from this end of the pointy stick!) the problem with neurological fizzing and going bang at any time is marked. The kieshas have great sport with me! Not so much illuminati as forth of July. Meditation is vital to my functionality, and Buddhist practice is even more helpful. Sorry if this is off topic, not too off I hope as we seem to be talking partly about the effect of Dharma practice on the brain. So here is mine, in this jar over here. O.o

    personScottPen
  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran
    edited July 18

    Is it lipstick on a pig or did someone get a pig all over this lipstick?

    If we don't really remember what our mental processes were when reasoning, leading us to retroactively apply a lipstick of cogency on the unpleasant "pig-like" mental processes, then can we really trust that our lipstick was retroactive? Similarly, how do we know there was a pig at all?

    What if reasoning is like lipstick on the Mona Lisa? Instead of a pig? If we can't remember, how would we know?

    ScottPenkando
  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran

    Also, what if the pig put on the lipstick himself while you weren't looking. They are can be crafty.

    Like the squirrels, as illustrated in the factual story below:

    Jasonlobsterkando
  • kandokando northern Ireland Veteran

    My all time favorite comedian, thank you for that @Vimalajāti :)

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    I listened to the chapter on reason in Steven Pinker's book Enlightenment Now! (highly recommended). There's a lot there and I think he agrees with the notion that humans have a lot of unconscious biases and aren't as good at reasoning as we like to imagine but he makes a pretty good case that we are able to do it and can understand how to do it better. For example the scientific method, humans have been able to use our reasoning capacity to develop a system to remove biases in determining what is true.

    A metaphor I think I like better than lipstick on a pig would be that of a monkey riding an elephant. The monkey is largely along for the ride but thinks it is directing the show. I think we can use methods (meditation, proper reasoning techniques) to tame and train the monkey to actually be able to direct the elephant to a meaningful and very important degree even if not fully control it.

  • kandokando northern Ireland Veteran

    Sounds like another good book @person, I'm gonna need another bookcase! This monkey needs a carpenter :)

    person
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited July 22

    @person said:
    I listened to the chapter on reason in Steven Pinker's book Enlightenment Now! (highly recommended). There's a lot there and I think he agrees with the notion that humans have a lot of unconscious biases and aren't as good at reasoning as we like to imagine but he makes a pretty good case that we are able to do it and can understand how to do it better. For example the scientific method, humans have been able to use our reasoning capacity to develop a system to remove biases in determining what is true.

    A metaphor I think I like better than lipstick on a pig would be that of a monkey riding an elephant. The monkey is largely along for the ride but thinks it is directing the show. I think we can use methods (meditation, proper reasoning techniques) to tame and train the monkey to actually be able to direct the elephant to a meaningful and very important degree even if not fully control it.

    I try to stay away from the free will debates these days but I tend to view it as being somewhere in the middle. We don't have full control but I imagine we have a degree of control and seeing this, we can probably train to achieve higher degrees of control.

    I say this because I think there are degrees of awareness and it follows that with greater awareness, there is greater control.

    Equating this to superiority is less than objective though. It comes from the outdated notion of "human vs nature".

    Humans are natural so we either work with the natural way of things or we fail in our endeavors.

    First day without a migraine in a while so hopefully that made a bit of sense at least.

    person
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    @David said:
    Equating this to superiority is less than objective though. It comes from the outdated notion of "human vs nature".

    Humans are natural so we either work with the natural way of things or we fail in our endeavors.

    I don't have particularly strong or well thought out opinions about this and haven't been much in the mood for debates recently. But I think superior is a bit stronger word than I might think about it and certainly wouldn't say the moral concern of animals is irrelevant, so if you, @ScottPen or anyone else would find it helpful to unpack this I'm sure I could manage a few post hoc rationalizations on the subject. If not though, I'm fine leaving it as is.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @David said:
    It comes from the outdated notion of "human vs nature".

    Humans are natural so we either work with the natural way of things or we fail in our endeavors.

    Perhaps you’d care to explain that a little further? I still see a human vs nature conflict in many places all around me, take the natural environment of fish in the sea versus the trawlers bringing up way too much marine life, or the way we have asphalted and concreted over much of the landscape, leaving only limited natural parks.

    There are a few places where mankind has learned to leave more room for Mother Nature, such as in organic farming or the managing of levees for water in large rivers, but these seem to be the exception rather than the rule. We are still struggling with plastic waste, electronics, decreasing insect counts in the wild, and so on (and on).

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    @David said:
    It comes from the outdated notion of "human vs nature".

    Humans are natural so we either work with the natural way of things or we fail in our endeavors.

    Perhaps you’d care to explain that a little further? I still see a human vs nature conflict in many places all around me, take the natural environment of fish in the sea versus the trawlers bringing up way too much marine life, or the way we have asphalted and concreted over much of the landscape, leaving only limited natural parks.

    There are a few places where mankind has learned to leave more room for Mother Nature, such as in organic farming or the managing of levees for water in large rivers, but these seem to be the exception rather than the rule. We are still struggling with plastic waste, electronics, decreasing insect counts in the wild, and so on (and on).

    If I can take aim at another sacred cow here, organic agriculture has some benefits but leaving more room for Mother Nature isn't one of them. Yields are lower than conventional farming meaning more land is needed to provide the same amount of food. There are other not quite so pristine about organic as well.

    https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/httpblogsscientificamericancomscience-sushi20110718mythbusting-101-organic-farming-conventional-agriculture/

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited July 25

    @Kerome said:

    @David said:
    It comes from the outdated notion of "human vs nature".

    Humans are natural so we either work with the natural way of things or we fail in our endeavors.

    Perhaps you’d care to explain that a little further? I still see a human vs nature conflict in many places all around me, take the natural environment of fish in the sea versus the trawlers bringing up way too much marine life, or the way we have asphalted and concreted over much of the landscape, leaving only limited natural parks.

    And that's just it. There is a disconnect here and we are failing in these endeavors. We treat the world as if it is a place we live and have to fight against to survive. This is backwards thinking. We are not separate from the world but we don't treat it as a part of us. A large percentage of those fish go to waste and concrete doesn't produce oxygen.

    There are a few places where mankind has learned to leave more room for Mother Nature, such as in organic farming or the managing of levees for water in large rivers, but these seem to be the exception rather than the rule. We are still struggling with plastic waste, electronics, decreasing insect counts in the wild, and so on (and on).

    Human vs nature is folly. We are nature and if we study the way things go we can work with it in harmony and prosper together.

    lobster
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @David said:
    Human vs nature is folly. We are nature and if we study the way things go we can work with it in harmony and prosper together.

    Totally agreed. Maybe we should use more of those leftover people and labour time to do forestry and gardening, and have every available space dedicated to having growing things on it.

    lobster
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran
    edited October 11

    I came across someone talking about a natural conclusion of the sort of intuitionist model of human viewpoints in this thread. Our rational reasoning mind is more like the rider on the elephant of our intuitive sense, we are bad at seeing our own biases and blind to weak points in our views. Since that is so, ideological or viewpoint diversity is vital to an understanding of truth. Much like the "marketplace of ideas" promotes or the scientific process that depends not just on scientific studies but then needs peer review so others with a different perspective can check the work so a more objective view can be reached.

    For example I was listening to a male social scientist today talk about his research into evolutionary group selection and he was thinking about the way that the needs of groups select for certain traits. He was thinking about in tribal societies if resources become scarce due to the whims of nature or some sort of bad planning, warlike and aggressive males would be an evolutionary desirous traits for some members of the group to have so they could "obtain" the needed resources to survive. He passed his work onto several colleagues to get their thoughts and it was a female evolutionary biologist who pointed the rather obvious fact that group survival also totally depends on the ability of groups to "turn resources into babies".

    Viewpoint diversity obviously extends well beyond gender. It would include racial and cultural experiences, differences in personality such as creative vs orderly or extroverted and introverted. Too often in the fractured world today when we are able to find our people, we get comfortable there and sometimes build walls or dig trenches and can even convince each other of the superiority of our trench and the inferiority or impurity of other viewpoints that we may build bombs to throw at others.

    It may be uncomfortable but I think we should subvert the trend towards viewpoint exclusiveness and rather than dig trenches we should build bridges and extend hands.

  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited October 11

    @person, That female biologist's point jibes with the traditions in parts of the world where resources are scarce and life is challenging. For example, the Siberian arctic, where a type of polyandry was practiced until the Soviet regime put an end to it in the 1960's. Tribes there believed that women should be free to chose their mates at any time, as the woman would naturally select for the strongest male with the best chance of survival, thereby strengthening the tribe. So even though she had a primary mate who stuck around to raise the kids, she was free to chose a different father for each of her kids, as she saw fit. I wonder if this was also true of some populations in Alaska and the Canadian north.

    Kerome
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran
    edited October 11

    @Dakini said:
    @person, That female biologist's point jibes with the traditions in parts of the world where resources are scarce and life is challenging. For example, the Siberian arctic, where a type of polyandry was practiced until the Soviet regime put an end to it in the 1960's. Tribes there believed that women should be free to chose their mates at any time, as the woman would naturally select for the strongest male with the best chance of survival, thereby strengthening the tribe. So even though she had a primary mate who stuck around to raise the kids, she was free to chose a different father for each of her kids, as she saw fit. I wonder if this was also true of some populations in Alaska and the Canadian north.

    Interesting, do you know enough about the cultures to answer how they kept track of the genetic lineages to prevent inbreeding or how the "caretaker" male was selected for and loyalty maintained in the absence of the child bond and socially normative or enforced monogamy?

  • DakiniDakini Veteran

    @person said:

    @Dakini said:
    @person, That female biologist's point jibes with the traditions in parts of the world where resources are scarce and life is challenging. For example, the Siberian arctic, where a type of polyandry was practiced until the Soviet regime put an end to it in the 1960's. Tribes there believed that women should be free to chose their mates at any time, as the woman would naturally select for the strongest male with the best chance of survival, thereby strengthening the tribe. So even though she had a primary mate who stuck around to raise the kids, she was free to chose a different father for each of her kids, as she saw fit. I wonder if this was also true of some populations in Alaska and the Canadian north.

    Interesting, do you know enough about the cultures to answer how they kept track of the genetic lineages to prevent inbreeding or how the "caretaker" male was selected for and loyalty maintained in the absence of the child bond and socially normative or enforced monogamy?

    What I do know, is they didn't select mates from their own tribe each time. There were other unrelated tribes in the region, so there was opportunity for genetic variability. People migrated around with their reindeer herds, or to summer fishing camps, and so on, and met with other peoples passing by, or in nearby grazing or fishing areas. The Chukchi are one example of this.

    I was wondering about the "loyalty" issue, too, but somehow, it worked.

    person
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    @Dakini said:

    @person said:

    @Dakini said:
    @person, That female biologist's point jibes with the traditions in parts of the world where resources are scarce and life is challenging. For example, the Siberian arctic, where a type of polyandry was practiced until the Soviet regime put an end to it in the 1960's. Tribes there believed that women should be free to chose their mates at any time, as the woman would naturally select for the strongest male with the best chance of survival, thereby strengthening the tribe. So even though she had a primary mate who stuck around to raise the kids, she was free to chose a different father for each of her kids, as she saw fit. I wonder if this was also true of some populations in Alaska and the Canadian north.

    Interesting, do you know enough about the cultures to answer how they kept track of the genetic lineages to prevent inbreeding or how the "caretaker" male was selected for and loyalty maintained in the absence of the child bond and socially normative or enforced monogamy?

    What I do know, is they didn't select mates from their own tribe each time. There were other unrelated tribes in the region, so there was opportunity for genetic variability. People migrated around with their reindeer herds, or to summer fishing camps, and so on, and met with other peoples passing by, or in nearby grazing or fishing areas. The Chukchi are one example of this.

    I was wondering about the "loyalty" issue, too, but somehow, it worked.

    Yeah, that makes sense.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran
    edited October 13

    @Dakini said:

    @person said:

    @Dakini said:
    @person, That female biologist's point jibes with the traditions in parts of the world where resources are scarce and life is challenging. For example, the Siberian arctic, where a type of polyandry was practiced until the Soviet regime put an end to it in the 1960's. Tribes there believed that women should be free to chose their mates at any time, as the woman would naturally select for the strongest male with the best chance of survival, thereby strengthening the tribe. So even though she had a primary mate who stuck around to raise the kids, she was free to chose a different father for each of her kids, as she saw fit. I wonder if this was also true of some populations in Alaska and the Canadian north.

    Interesting, do you know enough about the cultures to answer how they kept track of the genetic lineages to prevent inbreeding or how the "caretaker" male was selected for and loyalty maintained in the absence of the child bond and socially normative or enforced monogamy?

    What I do know, is they didn't select mates from their own tribe each time. There were other unrelated tribes in the region, so there was opportunity for genetic variability. People migrated around with their reindeer herds, or to summer fishing camps, and so on, and met with other peoples passing by, or in nearby grazing or fishing areas. The Chukchi are one example of this.

    I was wondering about the "loyalty" issue, too, but somehow, it worked.

    I generally think the evolutionary psychological view explains a lot of human behavior. Most primates are patriarchal, but bonobos are matriarchal. I don't know much about their behavior aside from their use of sex as a social tool, maybe there are parallels that can be drawn there? But I think the social constructionist understanding offers important tools of understanding too, and really these two are just modern, more sophisticated versions of the nature v nurture debate that's never really been solved aside from its some combination of both.

    Dakini
Sign In or Register to comment.