Philosophy vs science


(From a discussion in Quora on science vs philosophy)

http://www.advaita-vision.org/science-vs-philosophy-in-three-parts-part-i/#more-3988

— Max Planck: “I had always looked upon the search for the absolute as the noblest and most worth while task of science.”

 

M – ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy’… Objectivism in science was given up long ago (no doubt you know it, from what you are saying). I said previously that knowledge or truth is the relationship /’adequatio’ of ‘rei’ (subject matter) and/with the intellect. I still like that medieval definition of ‘truth’.

In advaita philosophy all truths, being merely conceptual, are relative (mithya) – all of them; they are not only falsifiable but sublatable or stultifiable. The only ‘thing’ that is unsublatable is experience of the transcendental ‘something’ (Consciousness, Atma… the name is not important – “sages call it by many names”), which is indescribable, the only reality there is, and which pervades everything (like the Tao in that other tradition). I happen to be interested in/attracted by this ‘thing’ and this way of thinking about it. The evidence? Purely subjective – in a metaphysical sense, different from the subjectivism of science referred to above). You can call it mysticism if you wish, but it is something more than that, and not just mental speculation… and I cannot provide any evidence for you.’

Y – “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

Yep, and what is the best way to find out what those things are?  Rational inquiry, or just making stuff up?  Personally I’ll stick with rational inquiry.

M – – ‘It cannot be found by searching, but only those who search may find it’ (Nicolas of Cusa). I am not particularly fond of entering into a (forced) marriage between science and philosophy or “spirituality”, so I don’t particularly recommend dipping into a site called ‘Non-duality North America’, or something like that – where a bunch of physicists and cosmologists have their say. Rationality? Why not say ‘(searching), unbiased Intelligence’? That includes the former.

P.S. I said that the evidence is ‘purely subjective’, and that is because there is only one ‘Subject’ – with no object/s. Consciousness reflects on itself, ‘knows’ itself. It cannot be said that Consciousness is aware of ‘anything’, or knows ‘anything’, but everything is known, etc. in its presence, as it were. There are no things; there is only Consciousness (I am no-thing).

 

 

 

About amartingarcia

General surgeon (retired). Studied Western philosophy at U of Toronto. Afterwards interest turned to advaita vedanta and non-duality for past 20 yrs, plus a long interlude in Sufism coinciding with that period. Now contributing in ’Advaita Vision’ with regular posts and discussions.
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26 Responses to Philosophy vs science

  1. saengnapha says:

    Martin said:
    In advaita philosophy all truths, being merely conceptual, are relative (mithya) – all of them; they are not only falsifiable but sublatable or stultifiable. The only ‘thing’ that is unsublatable is experience of the transcendental ‘something’ (Consciousness, Atma… the name is not important – “sages call it by many names”), which is indescribable, the only reality there is, and which pervades everything (like the Tao in that other tradition). I happen to be interested in/attracted by this ‘thing’ and this way of thinking about it. The evidence? Purely subjective – in a metaphysical sense, different from the subjectivism of science referred to above). You can call it mysticism if you wish, but it is something more than that, and not just mental speculation… and I cannot provide any evidence for you.’

    Why do you stop with consciousness? Keep going………….There is no ‘thing’ called consciousness. Why do you need an ‘ultimate’? If it is not graspable, then why name it and describe it as anything, and then proclaim it to be the goal? This is all part of the mental process of thinking and the tendency to grasp and fixate. We reify all insights, all concepts, over and over again. We continue down that road? You are not really different than when you started your search, just more full of ideas and the desire to have a position. This is just a mental habit.

    I am not questioning that there is something called consciousness. I am also not questioning your desire to understand all of this. I am only questioning why you choose to rest in your own subjectivity? Isn’t subjectivity a self created illusion? Why be attached to that and call it ‘your own’? It seems to me that the ‘evidence’ that might be ‘real’ is the absence of this mentation that keeps the mind looking for what cannot be found or held on to.

  2. According to Shankara, more attention should be paid to the means (upaya), like purification of the mind, than to the end (upeya), especially in the case of Self-realization, because the end of Self-realization is by its nature ever accomplished.

  3. saengnapha says:

    What kind of upaya does Sankara recommend?

  4. saengnapha says:

    You mention purification of the mind as upaya. Exactly how does Sankara instruct this purification? Has it worked for you? What are its signs?

    • Essential prerequisites:

      1. Humility (as against arrogance, belligerence, conceit, self-assurance).

      2. Non-attachment (to one’s opinions, ideas, desires).

      3. Objectivity – concerning oneself and others; self-criticism; insight (re chiefly one’s defects & shortcomings). Same as humility.

      4. Dispassion – only the truth matters, not ‘my truth’.

      • saengnapha says:

        All good prerequisites. But, I don’t understand how you work with these. Are there some meditation practices that one does that somehow changes these mind states that you list?

      • No, only understanding the Upanishads and two other fundamental texts if one follows Advaita Vedanta, the prime Indian philosophy. It is different with other ways, such as Buddhism, etc. Some meditation, as Dhyana, may help as preparatory; it aids concentration.

  5. saengnapha says:

    In Chan/Zen, the approach is quite different. Studying of fundamental texts is recommended, but the sitting meditation practice is what allows you to discover and integrate one’s own nature into a dynamic process.

    An excerpt from Chan master Zongmi: “All instructional devices aim first to bring the trainee to awakening to the nature and subsequently to a practice grounded in this nature. Grasping of characteristics is the usual obstacle to awakening, and masters must here employ teaching devices of the negative sort, “neither x nor y,” “the path is like a dream or illusion,” and so forth. Unfortunately, novices show a tendency to take this type of saying as ultimate truth. In the case of the practice following awakening, masters are given to exhortations about diligence, regulation of the body and breath, and so forth. Unfortunately, novices, upon hearing these exhortations, have a tendency to lose sight of original awakening and fall into the grasping of characteristics. Only the best students get the meaning of both awakening and practice. Shallow students quit after getting only one. The latter then become teaching masters in their own right and in a biased fashion champion either all-at-once or step-by-step.”

    Without seeing your own nature, neither study or sitting meditation will be more than an intellectual exercise. How can you go past this level if you don’t know how the philosophy becomes integrated into your whole being?

  6. Yes, the philosophy – doctrine and method – has to be integrated into one’s life with complete dedication (we went into into this). “Grasping characteristics is the usual obstacle”. I think you may mean by that ‘seeing difference’ or multiplicity – which is what the mind does – in what is a unity of being. But annulling the mind is not the answer; rather knowing its nature. In Advaita Vedanta mind is seen as a superimposition on reality (the Self or Consciousness), but, more properly, it is not other than the latter; mind is the Self, but the Self is not the mind (in Yogacara the Mind is all, so you can substitute it for Consciousness). ‘Seeing your own nature’, at some point comes to not seeing differences. It means destroying ignorance – not the mind!!; thus, it is knowledge, in the last instance, that which brings about liberation; and meditation – for no matter how many years – falls short of that. Essentially, you say that in your last paragraph. To repeat, in Advaita realization consists in seeing no distinctions in what is oneness or identity of everything – everything is Atman.

  7. saengnapha says:

    I think you are correct about the ‘cittamatra’ that Yogacara postulates as being consciousness. But it is not the final word of Buddhist teaching. The part that you don’t seem to either to know about or understand regarding the consciousness of Yogacara is that it’s nature is also seen as impermanent and ‘void’, not as an ultimate reality. Mind or self is neither existent or non existent. Seeing differences or sameness are characteristics of mind, they are not the nature. The nature of mind is always free of all extremes, free of characteristics, and originally pure. Ignorance is a characteristic, not the nature of mind. The nature of mind is untouched by all the arisings and disappearances of the various consciousnesses and phenomenon they are associated with like sight/eye consciousness, sensation/body consciousness. These are all dualities that appear and disappear and have no inherent existence in themselves.

    Finally, from the Chan master Zongmi, “the direct teaching that openly shows that the true mind is the [dharma] nature. (It points directly to the realization that one’s own mind [svacitta] is the true nature [tattva]. It does not show in terms of phenomenal characteristics, nor does it show by eradicating characteristics. Therefore, we say: “Is the nature.” It does not involve teaching devices or a hidden, cryptic meaning, and, therefore, we say: “Openly shows.”) This teaching says that all sentient beings possess the true mind of voidness and calm that is intrinsically pure from without beginning. (It is not a case of becoming pure by cutting off the depravities and, therefore, we say: “Intrinsically pure.” The Ratnagotra-śāstra says: “There are two kinds of purity. The first is intrinsic purity, and the second is the purity [that results from] the removal of stain.” The Śrīmālā says: “The intrinsically pure mind is difficult to understand. This mind made impure by the depravities is also difficult to understand.” Comment: This mind transcends the principles of the two previous axioms of voidness and existence, and that is why it is difficult to understand.) Bright and never darkening, it is a clear and constant Knowing.”

    This is also called Tathagatagarbha or Buddhanature. Please don’t ask me to explain this.

    The biggest difference is in your last line ‘Advaita realization consists in seeing no distinctions in what is oneness or identity of everything – everything is Atman.’

    True mind, or Thusness doesn’t see oneness or identity. It is originally pure and without distinctions, essentially, no-mind. This would tally with your statement about meditation not bringing about liberation. But, that is not what meditation is designed for.

    As for everything is Atman, this would hold true as the same as Yogacara’s ‘cittamatra’, but without the concept of self. It is not considered the real truth of Buddanature, and therefore is not a ‘goal’ of Buddhism. Final realization is said to see everything as Buddhanature, Suchness. This is completely absent of a self. Not all of the Buddhist teachings openly point to this. There are many provisional sutras and treatises that help with a gradual unfolding of the nature of mind. But the real practice is to be understood from the seeing of the nature of mind and not from the grasping point of view. This is why Zen’s immediate approach called ‘sudden awakening’ produced a slew of great masters early on in China.

    It’s a lot of words. Chew carefully.

  8. This is what I wrote (missing above) and that is highly pertinent:

    ‘Together with the first part, this is a comprehensive and highly satisfying account. ‘Nonduality’, a book by David Loy, has many interesting things to say about its subject matter, even though I found some areas concerning mostly Advaita Vedanta with which I tend to disagree. Here is an extended quotation from that book: ‘… there are a few pages in the Pali Cannon that contradict the usual Theravada interpretation. In the Brahmanimantanika Sutra (Majjhima-Nikaya), the Buddha says: “Do not think that this (nirvana) is an empty or void state. There is this consciousness, without a distinguishing mark, infinite and shining everywhere (…..); it is untouched by the material elements and not subject by any power”… within the Pali Cannon “there is no expressed contradiction or even recognition of the Vedanta theory of an atman or brahman as the one ultimate reality’.

  9. saengnapha says:

    In Buddhist teachings, essence of mind is different than the Advaita definition. I understand the difficulty of conceptualizing these things. Buddhism has many different schools and many don’t agree with each other. Constant debate, analysis, and views are hotly contested. It can be a confusing mess unless one is grounded in a practice that points to the Truth, or Buddhanature. There are many provisional teachings which don’t point to this and unless one is familiar with the sutras/treatises or a teacher that does point directly, we miss the mark. Quoting random sutras will not give one any certainty unless it is coupled with direct experience. The sutras are used as a ‘seal’ to confirm the direct experience of a practitioner. Having no direct experience will leave one feeling hollow with empty words about Truth. There are endless skillful means to lead one to the truth, but one must engage it fully.
    An excellent book which can give you a very clear picture of Buddhist teaching and the development of all of these various yanas is MIPHAM’S BEACON OF CERTAINTY, ILLUMINATING THE VIEW OF DZOGCHEN, by John W. Pettit.

    Consciousness is not viewed as being apart from what is called ‘thusness’, the nature of the true mind. Consciousness, or the Alaya-Vijnana is considered the storehouse of karmic seeds and the producer of the other 7 types of consciousnes, like eye, ear, etc. Thusness and Alaya share the same nature. Together in the awakened mind, they are the Tathagatagarbha (Buddha in embryo) which is the Buddha body (Dharmakaya). The Alaya is Thusness. Advaita considers the Alaya to be Atman, an eternal Self. This is an erroneous belief according to Buddha. It’s nature is originally pure and not separate. Consciousness is what produces the unreal when unawakened. It is awakened through the nature of Mind.

    I could see this being related to as Brahman, everything is Brahman, but not Atman as defined by AV. In any case, there must be an avenue into all of this in one’s life. My own teacher prefaced everything he said with the reminder to drop all views.

  10. Too many words, too many differing doctrines… merely intellectual if, that is, there is no grasping of what is essential in any, or all, of them. This can get tiring, an unending speculation..for which I have no appetite.

    “There is no ‘thing’ called consciousness” (?¿)

    Consciousness (or awareness) is a universal fact, not a theory.

    To repeat what I said before – May 18th/17 – and that you copied and pasted next day:

    ‘In advaita philosophy all truths, being merely conceptual, are relative (mithya) – all of them; they are not only falsifiable but sublatable. The only ‘thing’ that is unsublatable is experience of the transcendental ‘something’ (Consciousness, Atma… the name is not important – “sages call it by many names”), which is indescribable, the only reality there is, and which pervades everything (like the Tao in that other tradition.’

    I am really surprised you have not made the slightest comment on my reply to you of yesterday, including the affirmation of that thing, consciousness, in the Pali Canon.

    • saengnapha says:

      I did reply with the Mahayana view of consciousness and also said that some teachings were provisional, while others pointed directly. Even within Buddhist circles, ‘eternalist’ views like AV turn up along with so-called ‘nihilist’ views. There is usually a misunderstanding of what is being put forth. If you just focus on the Tathagathagarbha teachings, it should clarify any differences. But, as I’ve said, this most often just leads to an intellectual understanding, and without a practice grounded in awakening to the nature of mind, it’s just armchair philosophy.

      • Thank you. At this stage in my life I am only interested in AV, which has proved to be illuminating in all areas of life and understanding. Sat-chit-ananda.

  11. saengnapha says:

    That’s fine with me. I would like to hear what the difference is between Atman and Brahman, in your view. Is Atman considered some kind of emanation of Brahman? It’s not clear to me how it is explained.

    • I will give you an answer in my own words. You will not be satisfied, I’m sure.

      Brahmán/Atman are mere conceps. Two apparent poles of one reality.

      Atman is the apparently immanent or indwelling Brahman – only reality – in an apparent individual.

      Atman=Brahman=pure Consciousness=reality=the Absolute=all there is.

      Brahman in itself (noumenon) is ineffable, thus indescribable and indefinable – grokked only by intuition, by being It.

  12. saengnapha says:

    If I may ask, how can a concept be an Absolute? You state the Brahman and Atman are concepts, yet you go on to equate both with reality and being an Absolute. How can this be?

  13. Brahman, or Atman, have, as concepts or symbols, the merit or significance of being direct pointers to what is real – they can serve as focus in meditation. They are metaphysical, not empirical, concepts – and primary at that; equally so with ‘consciousness’.

  14. saengnapha says:

    There must be a better explanation than this. This makes little sense to me. I get the feeling you have little experience with meditation and you have constructed this little pointer out of your concepts, not out of direct experience. What do the masters say?

  15. I don’t meditate (finally it doesn’t do ‘the thing’). I only think, reflect on what I think, hear or read, and contemplate… may be a fly moving on a glass panel, or looking into empty space.

  16. saengnapha says:

    So, there is no connection to your own nature? What you think, hear, read or see, are just the movements of your mind. They come and go. That’s it? This is what you have been taught to do?

  17. If you sit in meditation, all you do is seeing/watching the movements of your mind. Where is the connection?

  18. saengnapha says:

    Agreed. But what is the nature of your mind? Is there a mind? Is it an entity, something permanent or substantial? Isn’t this what is to be ‘discovered’? Watching yourself is just mentation. The question is what are you? Thinking cannot answer this in a satisfactory way that gives certainty. It has to be put aside. Clarity comes when you stop believing in the content of thought. Clarity is presence. You seem to not understand this.

  19. All along you have been using a lot of argumentum ad hominem, a common fallacy, and I am quite tired of this. I will likely screen you out (and you will then stop having fun).

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