Issue 14, February 2002
In the midst of a world where spiritual idealism is all but extinct and feminine mediocrity and worldliness dominates our every thought and action, Genius News strives to re-ignite the noble in Man; to reinvent the philosophic wheel and recapture what has always been best in the human character: Reason. Our goal with this publication is to reach out to those rare souls who have been blessed by Nature with sufficient consciousness to suffer for the nature of the world and for their own ignorance. We hope to inspire them into ever greater levels of idealism with challenging and provocative material suitable only for those with the loftiest of philosophic aspirations. Our aim is to encourage such ones to embrace the Infinite and walk the dangerous but rewarding path to Enlightenment - the path of the true individual.
Welcome to Genius News.
The -[- symbol will return you to this contents table from each major section.
"Letters Between Enemies" is a collection of private
correspondence between Kevin Solway and David Quinn through the late 80's and
into the early 90's. It is an invaluable resource for the truth seeker who
wishes to put a more personal and human face to the trials and difficulties of
the philosophic path. The following is a tantalising excerpt from that
collection. The entire computer-book can be downloaded from : Letters Between Enemies
I have been trying to sort out the problem before me, that is, should I keep thinking of the infinite and all that goes with it? or should I let all that go and live fully each moment? I feel more comfortable with the former, for when I am thinking well I receive unmistakable hints from the infinite and I also get "intuitive" flashes of insight into the various fundamental problems of psychology. However, I can foresee the limitations of this path. I can only go so far before coming up against an impenetrable barrier.
This following statement of Jesus haunts me: "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door". Letting go seems to be the complete opposite! But there are other factors which indicate to me that letting go is the right "step" to take. One is the fact, through reading some science and philosophy books, I see that many very intelligent people who continually think about cause and effect and evolution, or the limitations of reason, or the psychology of fear, have no clue whatsoever of the infinite. I find this astonishing and wonder why I have come in contact with it. I read one philosophers article who impressed me with the clarity of his thinking dealing with nihilism, the limitations of reason etc, but ended it with (in essence) "Well, since there is not certainty in anything, I like to believe that something transcendent does exist". He obviously has had no experience of the infinite even though he, no doubt, thinks about deep problems quite a lot.
The second factor is that I have read that many people who are very hungry for realization become choked with their own desire which prevents them from realizing. Thirdly, I look back at my own experiences and see that they have all occurred when I wasn't trying, at times when I couldn't have cared less about anything. Fourthly, I see in drug experiences that their big attraction is that they allow you to live fully in the present moment, that past and future are seen clearly for what they are - ideas.
But the biggest factor is the reasoning behind letting go. By trying to change me, I am trying to change what is already perfect. I am trying to change according to values picked up in the past. These values change with time and so the futility of it all is obvious. By being completely aware of each moment I accept my faults without resistance. Thus I obtain a quiet, relaxed mind in which spontaneity is achieved.
You, no doubt, have experienced this dilemma I'm going through and can perhaps shed some light on the matter.
Your letter brought up some interesting points. You pose the question: "Should I keep thinking of the infinite and all that goes with it? Or should I let all that go and live fully in the moment?".
The former path holds many problems, interesting problems, with much scope for achievement - like understanding psychology (past and future lives). But it doesn't escape suffering as well as living in the moment does, which seems much more powerful and natural. This question is one of the most important, if not the most important question in all spiritual life.
I tackle the problem as follows: If ever one has a "problem", like trying to understand why a person behaves as they do, then something is lacking - a solution, and one is therefore living is samsara, the cycle of duality. As soon as you solve one problem, and rejoice in your achievement, the sooner you are faced by another, more perplexing problem. It is a circular process, and you find yourself repeatedly trying to solve the same old puzzles. This is O.K for lower levels of the path, still in the intellectual sphere, but it must be abandoned eventually.
And here is where the danger arises, for in the abandoning of such problems one can so very easily abandon reason! The fact is, that problems are important, and have to be dealt with. And so, I say "First the Kingdom of God, then thinking". First attain direct experience of emptiness (a kind of experiencing the moment), then use that divine clarity of mind to turn over all the great problems of mankind.
This will not be easy, because the problems you will wish to consider will be problems deep in the human psyche, and your own! They will tend to arouse the ego again, and when it does arise one is again overcome with a plethora of problems.
The sage meditates on a thousand problems, for which he lacks an answer - but he desires no answer, needs no answer. He simply seeks answers. Kierkegaard says: I go fishing for a thousand monsters in the depths of my own soul.
The enjoyment of "the moment" can be experienced as a pleasure by the ego. It can so easily ignore all those monsters. And eventually one forgets that the monsters exist at all! All this is not easy. Persevere!
Keep an eye on your mind. Is the experience merely one of the heavenly god realms, or is it that of God? It is not difficult to attain the heavens through concentration or by accident, but such powerful experiences are dangerous without wisdom, as the ego will only gain strength through the encouragement.
Your story of the philosopher who resorts to superstition when it comes to the crunch is a familiar one to me. Over the years people build-up a solid base of security for the ego, through admirable planning ahead, courage, perseverance, and so on. People then sit inside the fortress they have created and think proud and comfortable thoughts. Thinking of how wretched their condition would be without all their securities helps to increase their satisfaction and contentedness - making them more thankful for what they've got. They would never even consider giving-up all what they have worked so hard for.
And it all comes down to age. Someone less than about 25 hasn't had time to build-up a lot of securities. They are not so content, not so scared of change, and have the potential of taking on the burden of Truth.
I was talking to an intelligent person at Chenrezig last week. He is about 28, living in a de facto relationship, and is very good with electronics and computers. He is content. He easily has the brains to understand the infinite conceptually, but simply doesn't want to think about it too much! He shows me that he understands one to two things about the infinite, but only one or two things, not thousands. His thinking is very narrow, which it has to be if he is to preserve his ego. He doesn't follow up all the logical consequences of the infinite being Truth. For example, he sees clearly how all things have neither a beginning nor an end, but he cannot understand why there is no life nor death, and he cannot understand why we have no need of attachments. He simply selects what he wants, and rejects what doesn't seem to suit his purposes.
Even though he is more rational than most, he is not really on a spiritual path, having reached a dead-end. His reasoning has led him to contentedness and stagnation, rather than to a burning desire for the Truth. His aim in life is not to discover Truth, but to avoid pain. Or rather, he has chosen to rely on attachments other than reason to avoid pain.
A spiritual path is where one initially places all one's faith in reason. But, at his age, he feels he has too much to lose. When you talk with him he is bright and enthusiastic, but when you reach a certain point he simply turns off, starts mumbling, changing the subject, looking away and daydreaming. There is nothing you can do for these people, and even these are much more rational than most.
Such people have no potential, they are not in the human realm. Better is a person of less developed rationality, but with a desire for truth.
From Genius Forum
Following on from Part 1 (Issue 13) of this debate, we enter more directly into the question of the delusional nature - or otherwise - of happiness and suffering, its attendant emotions, and, indeed, of the emotions generally. This is an issue of the utmost significance as it speaks to the very core of human psychology and the question of the degree to which that psychology can be modified or transcended. Are the emotions hardwired into us, or are they merely responses to certain perceptions of reality which change as the perceptions change?
Dan Rowden: Two things: 1) happiness is deluded nonsense; 2) one cannot be wise and miserable - the two are antithetical notions. Unhappiness exists where one desires happiness.
David Hodges: The phrase "Happiness is deluded nonsense" has been buzzing around in my head for a day or two. Just bouncing, buzzing around, looking for something to latch onto, but not having much luck.
You are anti-misery. You have made many statements about avoiding misery, which to me means pretty much the same thing as avoiding unhappiness.
Dan Rowden: Well, suffering in general, really. But I'm against it not merely because it sucks in itself, but because of its delusional basis. Indeed, I'm primarily against it because of it delusional basis. I do, in fact, extol the virtues of forms of suffering that one necessary has to bear on the path to wisdom.
David Hodges: Yet you refuse to be in favor of happiness. This seems very strange.
Dan Rowden: I don't see why. Unhappiness arises from our desire for happiness. If we did not value and constantly desire happiness, how could unhappiness ever occur? Happiness is the transition from one form of suffering to another. Suffering is the transition of one form of happiness to another. Samsara is made up of these transitions. In it one gets caught in the cycle of life and death. One is driven along by desire and you really have no genuine control over the direction of your life because these desires arise from a source other than our conscious will. Sure, people may consciously strive to be happy because they know they are unhappy (or dissatisfied in some way), but did they consciously strive to be unhappy to begin with? No, this state of mind arose from the unconscious drives of the ego; from ignorance. It arose from the animal in us, the feminine.
It's all well and good to say "I enjoy my fleeting bouts of happiness." But when one considers that one pursues them in the first place because one is responding to the psychology of an unconscious and deluded animal, it kind of takes the gloss off things. The only way you can really enjoy this "happiness" is to turn your mind from what is true. The more one desires and seeks happiness the more one is forced to do this and thus the bigger the lie one is living. If one knowingly chooses this path, then so be it, but most follow it blindly, like the average woman. And even the idea of knowingly choosing such a path doesn't really work because once introduced to the truth of one's psychology - which is necessary for one to be choosing such a path knowingly - it is difficult to just turn away from that understanding.
David Hodges: Misery could be ended by simply killing everyone on the planet, and yet I think that would be a suboptimal solution, because it doesn't reflect the possibility of joy, pleasure, happiness, that can offset that misery and make it worthwhile.
Dan Rowden: Only that portion of our misery that involves engagement with other humans would be removed, and probably not even then since we would suffer from our inability to engage with others, which is a strong force in the ego. Misery arises as a natural and necessary consequence of ego, no matter the conditions and circumstances one finds oneself in. You could be living alone on a beautiful island in the middle of the Pacific and still suffer every day. Egotistical desires and insecurities still arise in such circumstances. For example, no matter what one's circumstances, one suffers for the fact of one's mortality. You don't need other people for that kind of suffering. The real reason it would be suboptimal is because it would not remove suffering at all.
David Hodges: You desire wisdom, but what is the motivation for wisdom? Isn't it because you want to avoid being a fool - because thinking of yourself as a fool would make you miserable? That you can not be happy if you think of yourself as being deluded?
Dan Rowden: All human endeavour begins as a flight from suffering of some kind or another. The pursuit of wisdom is no exception. So, yes, my desire for wisdom was a response to some kind of egotistical unhappiness. That is unavoidable. However, the unique thing about the path to wisdom is that it opens one's eyes to the true nature of one's psychology and one's suffering, which enables the individual to transcend the causes; namely, ego and ignorance. As one develops along this path, one gradually loses that egotistical motivation for wisdom and it becomes an expression of who you simply are. In short, you become a wholly rational being and a rational being seeks wisdom as naturally as a tree spreads its roots. You no longer do it because you think you'll find happiness in it; you do it because that's who and what you've become. One does not say, "If I breathe I will be happy." One merely breathes.
Such a person finally goes beyond the duality of happiness and suffering. He goes beyond ego driven desire. He transcends samsara.
David Hodges: Happiness is indeed ephemeral, but I can be happy driving around in my car, knowing the drive will soon be over and I'll be at work or whatever. One need not fear losing it, as one need not fear losing consciousness when falling asleep. It comes back later.
Dan Rowden: Well, you hope it does. But really, people don't fear losing concsciousnes when they go to sleep because they effectively shut their minds off from the possibility. It's hard to fear something that doesn't even enter your mind. I wonder how many people would get a good night's sleep in they had to contemplate that possibility each time before putting their head down? In the end it's all about the level of consciousness at which one is operating. You're right, basically, people don't fear losing their happiness because they are steadfastly entrenched in a state of unconsciousness, blind in each moment to the truth of its ephemerality (and its origins).
David Hodges: Anyway, I think your position can be summarized as Stoicism, as opposed to Epicureanism.
Dan Rowden: I would summarise my position as Sane, as opposed to Insane.
David Hodges: You are saying that you should not be attached to things, because that brings misery.
Dan Rowden: No, more accurately I'm saying you should not be attached to things because that is a consequence of ignorance and delusion. Suffering is part of the story, but not the whole of it.
David Hodges: But things can also bring great pleasure and happiness. That the things are ephemeral, or even delusional, doesn't mean that the happiness and pleasure isn't real.
Dan Rowden: Pleasure, happiness and delusion are all certainly real. So are murder and rape and stupidity. Should we embrace something just because it is real?
David Hodges: And that pleasure and happiness is what makes life worthwhile. Knowledge and wisdom are good, but they are not everything.
Dan Rowden: Pleasure and happiness only make life worthwhile in the person who does not know or value what is true. The pleasures of the ego can only be obtained out of ignorance. If one wishes to remain ignorant, good luck to them I suppose, but I won't be among those considering them to be people with a conscience, or, for that matter, to be human at all.
Victor Danilchenko: Your problem [Dan] is not attachment and unhappiness and delusion -- it's fear. You speak about fear of unhappiness, fear of loss, fear of losing consciousness -- your world is full of fear, and adopting the stance of philosophical detachment is just a way to deal with fear for you.
Dan Rowden: No, the world, generally, is full of fear. What do think all forms of insecurity are but fear? Are you telling me that most people don't suffer under the weight of a great many insecurities in their lives? The human world is full of all the things you mention. And there is no such thing as a "stance of philosophic detachment". That is pure mythology spread by those who lack an understanding of the nature of attachment and non-attachment. What you're talking about is little more than a redirection of egotistical impulses.
Non-attachment is not a mental posture one adopts, like some kind of Stoicism or Asceticism, so as to avoid suffering; it is a natural consequence of one's attainment of an understanding of the nature of things. One does not seek after non-attachment. Such a course of action would be delusional in itself except insofar as one had already surmised that it is a natural consequence of knowledge (i.e. knowledge before such a one as the primary goal). One enters such a state under the force of one's integrated knowledge. Any contrived form of detachment that I've ever encountered has had either extremely limited efficacy or has taken the person into even greater depths of delusion than that with which they started.
You seem not to have taken all that much notice of what I said to David Hodges. Had you done so, you would surely appreciate that fear is, to me, as delusional as any other form of suffering arising out of ego. Adopting a mindset of acceptance of fear or insecurity or other forms of suffering may have some effect in terms of alleviation or a dilution of their potency, but what such mental techniques do not do at any stage is make one less delusional. They work by shifting one's essential egotistical errors into more palatable mode. This methodology has no effect whatsoever on the one who is truly on the path and who suffers for the fact of his ignorance.
And I perhaps should make it clear that at all times in this discussion I'm really directing my ideas and observations at those comparatively rare individuals who have an introspective relationship to their suffering. Theirs is a type of suffering which is not experienced by the average person whose mind is shallow and without genuine sensitivity - their suffering is mostly superficial; it does not penetrate to the core of their being; they do not suffer for the sake of their suffering, which means they do not enter into an examination of its causes and nature, they simply seek to escape it as swiftly as possible like people who pop pills every time they get a headache, never stopping to consider the causes.
Nietzsche once remarked that most people do not suffer enough to become an individual of true thought and introspection, and I agree. People do not suffer enough (or in the right manner) to be propelled along the path to Truth.
Victor Danilchenko: This fear, it's the cause of unhappiness itself -- if you have no fear of the moments of unhappiness, if you accept them as a part of life (along with the moments of happiness), and simply take things as they come -- then the biggest part of your unhappiness, the fear itself, will vanish.
Dan Rowden: However much this may be so, and there are reasons, which I won't address here, that it is, for the vast majority, not really so at all, it does not address the delusional nature of happiness and unhappiness in the first place. That is my primary concern. Fear is only one cause of unhappiness. Unhappiness arises out of any unsublimated desire as well as any egotistical disquiet. That one may effectively lessen the effects of such disquiet through an attitude of acceptance is all well and good and wonderfully New Agey (to the extent that such a thing ever really occurs) but it does not impact on the core reasons for the creation of the problem.
Victor Danilchenko: Oh, you are your delusional crap again... don't you see? Existence precedes essence! Ego, inherent self, whatever explanations we give to our desires and attachments -- it's all ad hoc. We take authentic, extant impulses, and try to discern explanations for them. If a particular explanation is false (i.e. if, as you believe, self is a delusional construct, not an extant object), all that means is that that specific explanation is false; it does nothing to the impulses that were being explained to it. Your crap about emotions and desires being delusional, it's all just a ad-hoc confabulation designed to give you an appearance of not simply cowering away from pain. We do not sit down and say to ourselves: "gee, I believe I have inherent ego, therefore let me feel an emotion!"
In claiming all of those things as "delusional", you are being as stupid as someone who refuses to believe that apples fall to the ground, because he found out that newtonian physics isn't correct. You got all of your causalities fucked up. Emotions are authentic, they are axiomatic; explanations for them are constructed, theoremic, and can be true to false. Emotions simply are -- apples can be red/yellow/green, people feel fear/love/whatever. Emotions can be constructed as well (like in my earlier example about the bodybuilder who desires to work out because he thinks big muscles will get him laid a lot), but they don't have to be.
Dan Rowden: I gave this argument a lot of thought and whilst there are a few different ways I could respond to it, I've decided to do so in the the simplest fashion possible; that is, by way of a question: If you came upon some bloke in the street who was highly agitated and emotional because he thought an alligator was about to bite off his dick (i.e. he did not live in Florida and was in a delusional mind state) and you were able to show him that the alligator wasn't actually there, do you think the attendant emotions would disappear?
Victor Danilchenko: Probably yes; depends on the nature of his problem of course -- if he believes that a non-existent croc is about to chomp off his dick, he has deeper psychological problems that probably can't be done away with mere convincing; but OK, I will go with your example. Yes, that guy would be rid of his fear. So what? I explicitly acknowledged that some emotions are indeed based on false beliefs (my bodybuilder example in this regard was pretty much equivalent to your croc example). This is the case when an emotion is materially dependent upon a belief that is false -- the presence of a dick-chomping crocodile, the belief that bugg body will automatically land you in any bed you wish; but emotions don't have to be that way, and I would in fact say that for someone consciously seeking happiness, the goal would be exactly to rid of such emotions.
There are many other emotions, however, which to not rest on false beliefs about the state of the world (all of them rest on some beliefs about the state of the world, of course). So the real question here becomes of merely getting your epistemic methodology straight.
Well, the simple fact is that our concept of ego, true or not, plays no causal role in forming such emotions. The croc-fearing hobo says: "I think there's a dick-biting croc, and I would hate to lose my dick, so I fear the croc". But your normal average person doesn't say: "I think I have an inherent ego, so let me feel love/hate/desire/whatever". As I said in the previous posts, much of the time, existence of ego is a post-hoc explanation rather than a cause of such emotions -- as evidenced by the fact that even species lacking self-awareness and capability for abstract thought, and thus lacking such delusions, still feel the emotions.
You may of course deride emotions as "animalistic", but the point is that they cannot be said to be delusional unless, as in the case of the croc-fearing man, they are actually demonstrably based on false beliefs.
Dan Rowden: It seems somewhat obvious to me how one connects ego with emotion. Ego represents the active body of our false perceptions of reality, therefore, it represents the active source of our delusional emotions. Take away the false perceptions of reality (as I understand them) and I can't think of a single emotion that could possibly remain (or arise).
David Quinn: All of the emotions, without exception, are dependent upon the false belief that things ultimately exist. An emotion is a response to a perceived situation; it is an instinctive, self-serving reaction to a particular perception. We experience fear, for example, when we perceive something that seriously threatens our well-being. This shows there is a fundamental link between perception and emotion. If we never perceived any threats in our life, then we would never experience any fear. We would be totally care-free, supremely tranquil, beyond all fear.
There is also a fundamental link between emotion and attachment. If we were so lofty that we were completely unattached to everything in life, including our own selves, then again, we would never experience fear. The same is true for all the emotions, which are all fundamentally based in attachment. So the reason why a great sage is beyond all emotion is because (a) he is no longer taken in by the illusion of "things", and (b) he is no longer attached to anything at all. Needless to say, both are expressions of the one accomplishment.
Victor Danilchenko: Yeah, and what is the problem with attachment? why is attachment delusional?
David Quinn: Because it is based in the delusion that things inherently exist. In reality, things have no more reality or substance than do the reflections in a mirror, or rainbows in the sky, or mirages in the desert. While they present an appearance to our minds and senses, there is nothing ultimately real about them. Indeed, our very own existence has no more reality than a mirage in the desert.
From Genius Forum
Unfolding concurrently with the debate about happiness and the emotions and their delusional nature was the equally interesting and significant issue of how one becomes a rational human being. What motivates a person to walk the path of reason and truth in the first place? Is it reason for reason's sake or is there something else at work in our psychology that we can point to as the source of this drive?
Serpenteen: A tree spreads its roots or else it dies. We breathe
or we die. Like you said, the path to wisdom probably started from the desire
to avoid suffering. When does this motive change? (Your logic appears to skip
Dan Rowden: Initially, one is egotistically motivated to rid oneself of suffering, the suffering, for example, of the thought of being in error on important matters, so one employs reason expediently to that end. As one's understanding develops, however, and assuming one's reason takes the right path, the ego is undermined by that understanding and this automatically results in the loss of that original egotistical desire. However, this process also causes the individual to become a wholly rational being rather than just an emotional and egotistical being employing the tool of reason to a certain end. And, it is in the nature of a wholly rational (or near enough to it) to seek wisdom, since that is the natural consummation of reason. A truly rational mind does not tolerate the existence of error or contradiction within itself and so it naturally gravitates to that which takes it beyond such things, and wisdom is the one and only thing that can achieve that.
In short, wisdom is the most natural direction for the rational mind to take.
Serpenteen: A "rational being" chooses to be rational. Why?
Dan Rowden: Well, not really. A mind becomes rational through the path that the irrational mind decides to take. In a sense, reason takes over and usurps the irrational mind. This occurs because the strong valuing of reason is necessary to the original goal of that irrational mind, but when you value something deeply enough, one tends to become that thing. Or, as the saying goes, Whatever you desire most deeply in your heart, you become.
Serpenteen: [What you're saying] refers to the thought of suffering, or what I would call emotional suffering, but doesn't address physical pain which seems to be the true root of it all. If one is in error on "important" matters that result in unnecessary pain, the original motive (to avoid suffering) is not removed. But another desire to obtain wisdom is developed since it proves to help deal with the problem. Unless you are claiming wisdom eliminates physical pleasure and pain, I don't see how wisdom eventually eliminates their motivational factors. (It does eliminate the unconsciousness of the motivations, though...)
Dan Rowden: I honestly don't see where you're coming from, completely, with this line of reasoning. I don't regard physical pain as being the dominate source of suffering in us. Far from it. What has the suffering experienced through the fact of unsublimated desire have to do with physical pain? What does the loss of an attachment have to do with physical pain? What does the fear we experience with regard to our mortality have to do with physical pain? I perhaps should clarify that when I use the word "suffering" I use it in the way it is employed in Buddhism, which is to indicate any degree of unhappiness or disquiet or dissatisfaction etc. I don't use it to only indicate fairly severe forms of emotional distress.
Enlightenment does not remove physical pain as such (we have drugs for that), but a significant component of the suffering that accompanies such pain is emotional in nature. If you hack off a Buddha's toes with a cleaver he certainly feels physical pain, but this is mitigated by his lack of emotional response to the fact. He does not experience shock or fear or anger or whatever emotions would normally be experienced by a person with ego. Now, you might ask, and Wolf seems determined to so do, which is fair enough: why would he bother to even stop the bleeding, to repair the damage? Does he not require egotistical motivation - a will to preserve the self - in order to take such action? The answer is no, he does not, since his life and well being are part and parcel of his purpose and values; they are valuable within that context and therefore to be preserved. It is therefore no less a consequence of what he is that he administer first aid to himself than it would be for a snake to slither through rocks in order to shed its skin. The buddha is simply acting like "God's" perfect machine. Purpose and values, in themselves, are not consequences of ego (though ego has a role in determining which may be adopted), they are consequences of discriminative consciousness itself, therefore such things do not disappear from us with the elimination of ego.
Speaking personally, physical pain is more of an annoyance, a distraction for me these days. It does not cause me the kind of emotional distress that it once did. It still hurts, of course. I sprained my ankle rather badly a little while ago and, yes, it hurt a great deal, but it wasn't emotionally distressing. Such things become more of an inconvenience than anything else because they occupy the mind in the sense that the body is flooding the communicative highway with messages of pain and physical distress. So, in this sense physical suffering is most certainly significantly mitigated by enlightenment, but it doesn't remove it since pain is the body sending signals to the brain and this happens at an unconscious level like most bodily functions. Similarly, enlightenment doesn't stop you feeling hunger, but it does eliminate the emotional stress that can often accompany strong hunger.
I must admit I never really give all that much thought to the physical pain dimension of human suffering, probably because it doesn't have all that much to do with enlightenment. Is there a simple formula by which I could tell you how much it effects physical pain? No, not really. All I can say is that it most certainly removes the emotional dimension of such pain, and I consider that emotional content to be a very significant element of it. So, indeed, in that sense, wisdom mitigates physical pain to a significant degree by removing the emotional dimension.
Serpenteen: And without the benefits wisdom gives, it would seem to be just an annoying waste of brain energy -- without the gravitational nature you described.
Dan Rowden: Well, yes, if wisdom had no benefits at all it would seem like a splendid waste of energy pursuing it, but there's a degree of danger in your viewpoint, which is that one may be motivated to pursue wisdom solely on the basis that it may remove certain types of suffering. The problem there is that all sorts of false beliefs can have more or less the same effect. For example, many people wholly embrace the idea of transmigrational reincarnation in order to remove their distress over the fact of their mortality (or the notion of a soul etc). If they throw themselves into such a belief well enough, it may well remove that distress, but it remains delusional. This can be said for most religious beliefs. This is why I often say that the most important kind of suffering in relation to the path of wisdom, is the kind where one suffers for the very fact of one's ignorance.
This is why Buddhism can be so helpful, as it recognises the link between suffering and ignorance. The "four noble truths" of Buddhism are designed to address this basic reality. If one does not at some stage become distressed over the fact of one's ignorance, it is highly likely one will rest in comforting beliefs rather than being utterly determined to rid oneself of every last jot of ignorance regarding the ultimate nature of self and Reality.
In Buddhism, this drive is called Bodhicitta. Without Bodhicitta, wisdom is impossible. Bodhicitta can be described as a state of mind where one strives for ultimate perfection without compromise.
Serpenteen: The irrational mind's goals force it to develop reason to attain them. After attaining pleasurable goals by use of wisdom, wisdom suddenly also appears attractive. Hmmm... I wonder why...?
Dan Rowden: I'd have to rearrange that considerably to make sense of it (for me). The irrational mind suffers for its ignorance and lack of reason. In some cases, it will pursue understanding and knowledge, perhaps even ultimate knowledge, in order to deal with that suffering. As this process develops such a mind becomes increasingly rational as a consequence of the valuing of reason (a necessary tool for the attainment of knowledge). But this changes the basic nature of the individual. A paradigm shift occurs and the person proceeds, no longer motivated by the need to mitigate suffering, because suffering actually evaporates with this development, but as a natural consequence of the kind of mind that has been developed. Just as water runs downhill, so does the increasingly rational mind move to fulfill itself, which is really just a colorful way of saying that just as shit stinks, the rational mind thinks, and the fulfillment of such a mind is wisdom.
And just on this issue of suffering for the truth: I don't want to give the impression here that the path to wisdom is one of pure misery and suffering and burden etc. It contains all those things and thus requires courage and commitment, but it also brings joys associated with the liberation from delusions and suffering. However, these joys and sufferings dissipate as the ego is diminished. For one who has achieved a significant degree of progress, these highs and lows cease to exist. One thereafter merely follows the natural path of reason, just as a caterpillar follows its natural path to the butterfly.
Serpenteen: What you seem to side-step and then in your own words agree with, is that physical pain/pleasure motivates our actions. (The snake slithering through grass is a good example.) Although your post is not just talking to me, I, personally, am not talking about egotistical motivations caused by ignorant-based suffering. You mentioned how the Buddha had his purpose and values and acted from discriminative consciousness. Where do you think his values originate from? Of course, you will not admit to it being pleasure and pain, but I'm still curious.
Dan Rowden: Am I side-stepping or simply not giving the response you want to see, I wonder? You're still confusing me somewhat as I think I've already answered the crux of your inquiry a few times. I really don't get your "physical" connection to these matters (maybe someone could help out here). In relation to your question of where values originate, my answer is that they are whims of Nature. It is like asking: where does our basic nature come from? There is only one answer to that and that is: Nature. We do not choose our essential nature and values; Nature does that for us - so to speak (i.e. without wanting to ascribe conscious purpose to Nature). Is that something you're wanting me to say or not?
Serpenteen: Yes, I agree that pleasure and pain are a product of Nature. As far as what I want you to say, this is probably the closest I'll get. What I was trying to explain is that we make decisions based on whether something is pleasurable or painful -- attempting to get the most ideal result between the two. Therefore pleasure/pain is what creates values in the mind.
Dan Rowden: I essentially agree that for the unenlightened person, values are motivated and created by the somewhat broad descriptive brush of the terms "pleasure" and "pain". Our basic values revolve around the will to power and the preservation of the self and all its nuanced attachments. Where the desire to enact these things is not sublimated, pain is experienced, where they are, pleasure. What brings pleasure and pain is going to be different, to some extent, for each individual according to their upbringing and natural psychological propensities, but the emotional connotations in these terms most definitely only apply to those entangled in the delusions of the ego. Having moved beyond such delusions, the enlightened person no longer experiences pain when his plans do not come to fruition or pleasure when they do (at any level). He operates in the purely logical realm of "this is working and that isn't".
If a contradiction exists in his mind, which he knows necessarily represents error, he does not suffer in any way over that error, as he may have done when he still had an ego and was motivated by those forces, he simply moves on to eliminate the error, if he can, because that is what his mind does. However much he should fail or succeed in any given intellectual endeavour, his mind never experiences agitation or emotional excitement because he has gone beyond the emotional realm of loss and gain. That is, he has nothing to lose by failing and nothing to gain [egotistically] by succeeding.
This is obviously a difficult mentality to relate to since it's quite alien to our usual experience of life. One has to make a fair degree of headway on the path to wisdom for it to really resonate. It's a bit like learning a whole new language; at first it seems impossibly difficult but as you begin to understand the basic rules and structure of the language, things begin to fall into place and the path of knowledge becomes much clearer.
- MEN, WOMEN AND "FLOWINESS" -
by Kevin Solway
Is the most feminine man still not as feminine as the least feminine woman?
That's a difficult question, and one which I have been pursuing for many years. Some men are very accomplished women indeed, especially those who have been worshipfully studying the ways of womankind all their lives and have eventually had a sex change and undergone extensive hormone treatment. But I think it's more helpful if we look at masculinity rather than femininity, because femininity is easier to fake. For example, a transvestite may behave in an extremely feminine way, but it will be mostly an act, because there is often a strong core of masculinity beneath, trying desperately to escape itself. It is easier to act like a woman than it is to act like a man because the feminine flows more easily, not requiring thought but only instinct. To be a man is difficult, which is why men are usually clumsy clods.
All men tend to have a definite core of true masculinity (genius/consciousness). This is why a man can genuinely respect a mortal enemy who is about to kill him. There is an intellectual/spiritual bond between them which joins them in one. But the enemy of a woman is in truly grave danger, because there is no such connection.
That is why it is said: "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."
Sometimes I tend to think that some women are more masculine than the least masculine of men. For example, we could compare Camille Paglia, a very masculine woman, with a typical Anglican priest, probably the least noble and masculine of all men. But even in this extreme example I have my doubts. When it comes to the crunch, I mean when it comes to matters of life and death, and of extreme danger to body and soul, even the Anglican priest may shine above Paglia, whose light may only shine when protected from the wind.
So to tell you the truth I haven't quite made up my mind. I suppose you can deduce from that that I think it is a close call. Also, I am very reluctant to go against the judgment of Otto Weininger whom I greatly admire and respect. In my opinion he was consistently accurate in both depth and profundity, so I don't contradict him easily or often.
One of Kierkegaard's characters (John the Seducer) surmises that when the gods created man they feared that they had created a being which was so magnificent that their very own status was in jeapardy, and that man would excel them. So, after concerted and inspired effort, they created woman, the most excellent of all their creations, to distract man and keep him harmless.
"Erotic natures" like himself, says John the Seducer, are aware of the deception, so they are able to "take the bait without getting caught".
I have coined a word for feminine women - "flowies". They wear flowie clothes (bits hanging-off and often see-through), they have flowie hair, they move in a flowie way, and I've even seen fully-grown flowies skipping down the street. Their speech is flowie, and worst of all their "ideas" are flowie.
Flowies don't like taking big risks or big decisions, because these things are hard and unforgiving - not at all flowie. Men are probably the main cause of flowieness. So in a sense women are the karmic result, or the future lives of men. I found this poem somewhere:
I like them fluffy - I know it's bad taste -
With fluffy soft looks and a flower at the waist,
With golden hair flying, like mist round the moon
And lips that seem sighing, "You must kiss me soon,"
Not huffy, or stuffy, not tiny or tall,
But fluffy, just fluffy, with no brains at all.
Every woman is a man to some degree, just as
every man (non-Buddha) is to some degree a woman.
I am trying to highlight the fact that there is a great difference between the psychology of biological men and women and that while the task (of consciousness, or humanity) is extremely difficult for men, it is vastly more hard for women. I am taking this action particularly to try and counteract the popular modern idea that femininity is a good thing and that it has something to do with spirituality and love, and that women are generally at least as spiritual as men, if not more so. If people continue to accept ideas like that then we can kiss goodbye to all consciousness, and to all the good work that has been done by the great thinkers of the past.
From Genius Forum
The defining process is one of the essential aspects of consciousness and, indeed, of what we call "existent things". That all things are what we define them to be - via the senses and the intellect - and nothing more, is a difficult fact to come to terms with given that we are so engaged with the idea of objective reality. Consciousness defines all things. It defines existence itself. If one doubts this, all one has to do is ask oneself what one means by any given thing.......
Avidaloca: However well-constructed and internally self-coherent
you may consider logic to be, you can never escape the fact that all you can do
is put your belief in it - you will never be able to "know" that it
is more justifiable than any other alternative, and I don't mean
"know" in a utilitarian sense but in an absolute, objective sense.
Dan Rowden: It's not even meaningful to speak of an alternative to logic. The basis of logic is the basis of consciousness itself (A=A; identity; contradiction; excluded middle). What alternative could there be? So long as one's logic conforms to A=A processes, it is possible to know - absolutely - that its formulations are valid.
WolfsonJakk: ...consciousness, as far as we know it. It is true it is not meaningful, but as far as [we] know, only to us. Logic describes the reality we see, but this does not exclude the possibility of a multitude of realities...all local in nature.
Dan Rowden: Consciousness is what we define it to be and nothing more. There can, therefore, be no other forms of consciousness. Sure, there may be small variations within the way consciousness functions, but at bottom, alternative forms of consciousness is a meaningless notion. Let me use a different example to hopefully illustrate my point better: "Life as we know it." - a fairly common phrase, but also a silly one, as there can be no such thing as life other than "as we know it" because we damn well define it! However much we may find ourselves tramping about the Cosmos and whatever new and wondrous phenomena we may encounter we will never find life other than as we know it now because any such phenomena will either fit our definition of "life" sufficiently to receive that designation, or it won't. This fact about the definitional nature of things is a difficult one to comes to terms with but it is absolutely imperative. It applies to everything, even existence itself.
"Alternative forms of existence" is just as nonsensical a notion as alternative forms of life or consciousness or whatever you care to mention. Part of our problem in such matters is that we do not, from the beginning, have a clear idea in our heads of how such terms are defined. We speculate about alternate forms of consciousness or existence without even knowing what it is that we mean by "consciousness" or "existence". How ludicrous is that?
Really, when it comes down to it, talking about alternate form of something like life of consciousness tends to devolve into a Monty Pythonesque scenario:
Nigel: [picture those guys with the handkerchiefs tied round their heads and who speak through their noses] "I believe [pause] in [pause] alternate [pause] life forms!!
Sigsworth: [speaking poshly] And what form would these alternate life forms take?
Nigel: Well, [long pause whilst staring straight forward] alternate!!
Sigsworth: And how would we recognise such "alternate lifeforms" as life?
Nigel: [long pause whilst slightly rocking from side to side] Cause, they'd be [pause] alive!
Sigsworth: Then, I imagine they'd have much the same characteristics as what we already call living?
Nigel: [stares straight ahead, rocks from side to side, says nothing]
Anyway, it strikes me as being as funny at that, but it could just be me. Of course, I should add the rider that I'm talking about these things on a fundamental level. It is possible that we could describe an entity whose senses, for example, function in a very different way from us as an "alternate form of consciousness" but that doesn't cut the mustard for me as there are already multitudinous examples of these variations in Nature. Variations within defintional criteria don't constitute alternative forms of the thing defined.
David Hodges: As we go tramping about the universe, we will come across various things and need to decide whether they are alive or not. The definition of "life" will change, depending on what decisions are made. Right now, there's an arbitrary line drawn that says that (physical) viruses are alive, but crystals aren't.
Dan Rowden: That's right, but such demarcations are always arbitrary and based on pragmatism. There are types of clay that take silicates from the surrounding water and build upon themselves. They don't quite make it into the "living" category because they lack one or more key criteria, but they form the edge of what are necessarily fuzzy boundaries. But, as I said to Victor, that doesn't seem especially relevant to the essence of my point. These fuzzy boundaries and demarcations are also things defined by us. I mean, give me an example of something that isn't defined by us? When and if you do, I'll ask you what that thing is, and you'll necessarily proceed to define it.....
David Hodges: Viral ideas and memes are not thought of as 'alive', even though they share some of the characteristics of physical viruses (reproduction, mutation, eetc.), but in a different sort of substrate. Calling them viruses is a metaphor, not taken to literally mean they are alive.
Dan Rowden: We could, if we wanted to, include such things in the definition of "life" but the question is would that have any practical value? The answer is, it may or may not depending on the practical needs of the time.
David Hodges: As we come across various other sorts of substrates, we will need to make decisions about whether to consider the objects in those substrates, and decide whether they are considered living or not.
Dan Rowden: Sure, but we will do so according to some existent criteria of our own making.
David Hodges: We may come across other sorts of substrates that we have not yet imagined could hold life, and yet find some sort of highly organized activity going on there, and need to decide what to call it.
The definitional criteria for deciding these questions don't yet exist; there has been no need to create them.
Dan Rowden: That is not entirely true. If it was, we couldn't even begin to consider labeling such phenomena as living. It is because such criteria already exists that we can, and do.
David Hodges: Definitions are not as clear-cut and eternal as you seem to suggest. Language changes with the needs of the speakers of that language.
Dan Rowden: Which, again, doesn't change the basic fact that any given phenomenon is regarded to be a certain thing based on our definitional criteria. Perhaps a more significant question might be whether it is even possible for us to experience phenomena that are so radically different as to be indefinable for us (rather than simply tweaking existent definitions to accommodate variations on a theme)?
Victor Danilchenko: When we speak of "life", we can very easily speak of life other than "life as we know it" -- there is also "life as we extrapolate it to be possible". For example, it's theoretically possible for life to be silicone-based rather than carbon-based -- silicone is the one chemical element coming closest to carbon in its chemical "promiscuity". Therefore, if we encountered silicone life, it would match certain key criteria of life (growth/reproduction/whatever), but it would most certainly not be "life as we know it" at the time of encounter; after which of course our knowledge of life would expand, and silicone life would be included in the "life as we know it" designation.
Just because a new entity matches enough criteria of an old concept to be counted as such, doesn't mean that it doesn't have enough differences to also be counted as something drastically new and different; it may be X, but it's not "same old" X. The concept of "life" is defined by a very limited set of criteria, and the variations outside this set of criteria can be drastic -- drastic enough to warrant the usage of "... as we know it" qualifier legitimately.
Dan Rowden: I believe I mentioned variations within definitional criteria. That has no bearing on my point that things are defined by us. The fluidity of definitions, such that it exists, doesn't change that fact.
We also define the fluidity.
You're all over the place there. You want silicon based life to match "certain key criteria of life" (actually, the most important criteria) but to somehow not be subject to our definitional criteria as asserted by me. Your objection, if that is even what it is, seems insubstantive. A "new" form of life is not the same as an alternative form of life as that term is generally employed (or at least as I interpret the way it's employed). Fiddling with definitional criteria to accommodate phenomena that are on the periphery of any current criteria is perfectly kosher by me. But that simply reinforces my point, rather than undermines or refutes it. "Life" continues to be what we define it to be.
The essential criteria for "life" is the state characterised chiefly by metabolism, growth, and the ability to reproduce and respond to stimuli. Whilst I could just about disqualify some people I've met over the years based of the last of those criteria, I see no problem with silicon based phenomena meeting the criteria of "life". Mind you, it may pose problems if you're a Vulcan trying to mind-meld, if Mr. Spock's experience is anything to go by....
Victor Danilchenko: A definition can be much broader than just the specific sample of data upon which it was based, and this is often the case.
Dan Rowden: Any definition is only as broad as its criteria. As I say, the fluidity of such criteria, which I do not really dispute, is irrelevant to the essential point that such criteria is determined by us, therefore, at any time, there cannot be "life" or "consciousness" or whatever, other than as we know and define.
From Genius Forum
Sometimes, it seems, the most obvious and simple truths are the most difficult to come to grips with. The universality and absoluteness of the Law of Identity, expressed in the formula A=A, is one such truth. It's as if the idea that any given thing is itself and not something else is in some way contentious, but how could this be so? Well, apparently, like this........
WolfsonJakk: Some quantum actualities do not follow Newtonian
logic. An existence of a particular particle does not necessarily stem from the
past events and particular inputs, but rather seemingly can be predicted from a
table of variable states based on statistics and observation.
Dan Rowden: Quantum data, and, more particularly, certain interpretations of that data, have no impact on logic or the logical idea of causation (codependent origination). When physicists speak of "uncaused" particles, they're talking about causality in an explicitly scientific, empirical (i.e. linear) way. And to be accurate, they really only refer to such things has lacking well defined causes.
WolfsonJakk: "Logic" is a result of the Newtonian world in which we mostly exist. "A" might equal "A" in this particular environment, but "A" does not inherently have to be limited to A in all environments, with Quantum Physics (part of Nature) as primary example.
Dan Rowden: No, it has nothing to do with it. Any particle, regardless of what may or may not be said about its origins and causes still conforms to A=A. As soon as it exists it does so. This is Aristotelian logic, not Newtonian. To be frank, I've never heard of such a thing as Newtonian "logic". The only thing I can imagine is that the term is meant to refer to a kind of logic underpinning Newtonian Physics. The environment is irrelevant. If a thing exists and is differentiated from what it is not, which is precisely what it means to assert that any thing "exists", it conforms immediately to the essential basis of logic: A=A (another way of expressing the law of identity). The essence of logic is the essence of consciousness itself - differentiation.
WolfsonJakk: Prove these two points please...first, that all forms of Nature conform to Law of Identity (such as inside the event horizon of a black hole, on the quantum level, at the moment of the Big Bang) and secondly that the essence of consciousness is "differentiation".
Dan Rowden: It's obvious, isn't it? These things are what they are and not something else (which is what the law of identify means), which is why we can speak about them as being what they are. If they weren't specific things which their own identity we couldn't even begin to speak about them as specific things. They would, in fact, not exist for us at all. And there's really nothing to prove, [regarding consciousness being differentiation] as this is simply how I am defining the essence of consciousness. If you don't think it's appropriate by all means give me a better one. In other words, if you can break down consciousness into something more essential and basic than that, I'd be happy to see the result of it.
WolfsonJakk: A=A, B=B, etc, etc...but could it be true that A, B, C are actually merely different forms of the same thing? This would imply no inherent differentiation.
Dan Rowden: If they were the same thing it would simply be that we employ more than one symbol to denote the same thing, as we do in language with synonyms. But as soon as there are any differences whatever, the law of identity comes into play (even where more than one example of the so-called "same thing" exists such as 2, 2, 2, 2, 2 - as difference includes spatiotemporal location.) But in a sense all things are different forms of the same thing. They are all manifestations of existence.
WolfsonJakk: What causes this perception of differentiation?
Dan Rowden: Reality.
WolfsonJakk: But one cannot be absolutely sure, except to appease oneself, that this differentiation is inherently fundamental. It is quite possible that this differentiation is a merely a product of our minds and delusional. To say it is obvious that one thing is not another, and thus identity is proven, is mere wordplay based in the different objects of the language and human logic. Simply because the language differentiates objects and things does not necessarily provide evidence of this inherent differentiation as far as actual nature is concerned. It seems to me it is an assumption of truth on your part based on appearances.
Dan Rowden: What could be more fundamental than differentiation? There is only the Totality and things that are less than the Totality. What would consciousness that is not differentiation be? Isn't that what consciousness means (remembering that we define such a thing) - awareness of something? At the very least this rests in the differentiation of observer and observed. I think you're grasping for an objection here. Just because we can cast doubt on an idea verbally doesn't mean that genuine doubt has been
cast on said idea.
The fact is one requires the truth of A=A and the law of identity to begin to question it, which results in incoherence if one proceeds to question. And it doesn't really mean anything to say that a thing may not be what we think it is from the perspective of some thing-in-itself nature. A thing is what it is from the perspective of any individual observer in any given moment. The subject of any given observation is what is being observed, not what is being inferred to be related to (or "behind") what is being observed. The object of that further inference is yet another differentiated thing. For instance, the object on my desk I call "coffee cup" is something I differentiate from the stuff around it. This differentiation immediately makes it what it is. I assume that the part of the coffee cup that I cannot see is there, but that is separate from the fact of the thing I am observing and differentiating. A=A refers to the fact of that which is observed being other than what it is differentiated from. That there may be more to what is observed is really neither here nor there to that fact. The inference of there being more, or some thing-in-itself perspective, to any object just becomes another thing we differentiate from what is actually being observed.
Now, you will probably raise the point that this makes A=A relative to the observer, but this is not strictly so. The specific object observed, denoted by "A", is certainly relative to the observer, but the truth of A=A is universal and applies to all possible observers. This is proven by what we mean by the terms "observer" and "observed".
WolfsonJakk: Perhaps I am just slow and a bit dim-witted, but I am still not understanding how an individual can draw universal conclusions for others without falling into egotism and delusion. If one spoke of his coffee cup as differentiated from the other objects on his desk, he would be correct in a particular frame of reference, but not all. It is possible to see the cup, the desk, and all the other objects on it as merely collections of quantum particles, which do exist albeit transitorily. One may then conclude that nothing above the quantum level has inherent existence, which would seem true. But for a particular frame of reference (place and time), it IS a coffee cup...as well as the collection of quantum particles. Existence seems to have this inherent duality in the way that a sand castle is merely sand, but it IS ALSO a castle, at least for the time being.
Dan Rowden: You're creating a false dilemma here. There is a difference between an observed thing and its constituent parts, which are conceived (inferred) separately. We don't actually have to know what a thing is made up of to the slightest degree to observe and differentiate it from what it isn't. A sandcastle, whatever it's made of, certainly is a sandcastle whilst it is observed to be that, but it is thus observed and labeled because it is not something else. What are thought to be the constituent parts of any thing are irrelevant to the notion of identity. The only reason we can begin to speak of or label an object a "sandcastle" is because it is differentiated from what it is not. How this differentiation occurs, whether it reflects reality as it really is or not, are things that are not relevant to the brute fact of differentiation. A=A as an expression of the law of identity speaks to the brute fact of experience, which manifests as differentiation. Whether things are real or illusory, separate or connected, subjective or objective, etc etc has no actual bearing of the raw fact of identity and the universality of A=A.
Again, it comes down to the essential point that all we have is the Totality and that which is less that the Totality. We can only speak of such terms and things that are, indeed, less than the Totality by way of identity and differentiation. The idea of a consciousness that doesn't operate on this basis in not only incoherent, it is impossible to conceive of. On what grounds could we sensibly speak of a consciousness that perceives nothing? Because that's necessarily what we'd have to be asserting if we assert the possibility of the lack of universality and absoluteness of A=A and the law of identity.
This law does not suggest or imply to any degree that observers see the same things or that there is any kind of objective reality to things (the "A" and "not-A" that I observe may not exist for any observer other than me); it simply states that for any observer in any possible world, "observation" (and consciousness) itself makes no sense other than in the context of identity and differentiation. Without that being applicable, the whole notion of observation (and consciousness) is rendered nonsensical. The enlightened observer has learned to see things though "empty" eyes, projecting neither form nor formlessness onto them. This kind of observing only occurs when one has come to understand the "empty" nature of the things themselves.
From Genius Forum
Avidaloca: What do you think about what Otto Weininger says
about taking logic on faith?:
"A matter of fact can be affirmed in two ways, either through knowledge or through belief. If I make an affirmative judgement in the form of knowledge, I regard its content as independent of me. I place in nature, so to speak, a text that everyone ought to read in the same way, I posit a fact as something that is not conditional on my existence; I objectify something to which I, like others, will in future always have to defer, but which has no further need of us. On the other hand, when I believe something, I put my personality in the place of that objectivity, of that universally valid existence; through a free act I give my agreement to a possibility, I vouch for a problematic judgement. The certainty of something known is independent of my knowledge; the certainty of something believed is based on the fact that I believe it. A belief is nothing without the community that believes it. The certainty of my being healed through touching a relic exists because of my belief in this possibility. A man entirely stands and falls with his belief, depending on how much of himself he has invested in it. If he has put his whole self into it, then it is a matter of life and death.
"Belief and conjecture are thus sharply distinguished. The conjecture of a man of science that something in his field will behave in a certain way, an hypothesis, does not absolutely dispense with proof. The clarification of the concept of belief is held up again and again, because conjecture is confused with belief, and clothed with the same name. Scientific probability has logical structure, belief is fully alogical, but the former is very often simply reduced to their common aspect both are not-knowledge and put on the same level as the latter. We ought only to be speaking about the belief as such which has nothing to do with probability, and not about something entirely different which is called by the same name. Belief proper does not require logic, whereas at very bottom logic cannot dispense with belief.
The ultimate propositions of logic, the law of non-contradiction and the law of identity, cannot be known, but must be believed. Just as ethics presupposes a subject that wills, so too pure, formal logic, whose principles seem enthroned, proudly sublime and self-contained, above the heads of individuals, requires a subject that believes. We will be more inclined to agree that ethics must be chosen, that the moral maxim addresses itself to the will, that ethical value only makes its appearance with the demand for the will's creation, than that the theoretical principles of logic must be tied to the assent of the individual. Nevertheless that is the case. Logic is addressed to the autonomous individual as a second categorical imperative which demands unconditional obedience, and whose source is just as much to be sought in our intelligible essence as is that of the other imperative [ethics], which Kant erroneously considered to be unique doubtless because at bottom both are one."
Victor Danilchenko: The problem here is that there is no way to not "believe" logic. By the very fact that we are having this conversation, each one of us already accepts logic; in fact, you can make no meaningful statement without accepting logic (it's easy to prove that if you don't accept even one logical axiom, everything -- everything -- is both true and false simultaneously).
Speaking about belief is only meaningful when disbelief is an option; concepts (like belief) are defined by their boundaries, by that which they are not. With logic, disbelief is not an option -- and so you cannot meaningfully speak about accepting logic as belief either. Logic is presupposed. Logic is the framework within which everything else fits. In this case, I am inclined to be generous to Weininger -- he wrote before the nature and role of meaning were analyzed (by Wittgenstein and the logical positivists), and so his oversight of the incoherence of the alternative is excusable.
David Quinn: I think what Weininger was getting at is that a person has a choice between valuing logic and not valuing it. Even if a person is aware that logic is behind every coherent thought, he might decide, as many seem to do, that he would rather be illogical. He might think it's more liberating and more fun being illogical. And so he deliberately refrains from developing his reasoning to any serious extent and contentedly allows his mind to drift from one groundless thought to the next.
Since there is no logical reason to value logic, the person who does decide to value it does so purely as an act of will. That is, as a leap of faith.
Victor Danilchenko: Yes, there is [a reason to value logic] -- if you accept logic in the first place (which you have no choice but to do), and if you are interested in survival.
People who say that they don't value logic, pretty much don't know what they are talking about. They constantly use logic in all of their daily activities -- it's necessary for them to do so; if that's not valuable, I don't know what is. No, what such people usually mean is that they desire to avoid having to apply logical thinking to certain pet areas of theirs -- god, ESP, whatever. They take pervasiveness of logic in all other aspects of their lives for granted, and stumble only when it comes to the areas where they wish to hold irrational beliefs with clear conscience.
Most of the above BTW also applies to skepticism.
David Quinn: And yet most people on this earth are freely rejecting logic and reason countless times each day. So even though it is perfectly true that logic underpins all coherent thought, it doesn't change the fact that people have the freedom to reject logic if they want to. For example, a person might use his logic to conclude that he doesn't like being too logical in his life because it would make him too serious in his manner and too unattractive to women. And so instead he develops the habit of using his logic to short-circuit his logical thought processes as much as possible. So here is a case in which a person is able to reject logic as a value, even while his mind is consistently being driven by logic.
Since there is no logical reason to value logic, the person who does decide to value it does so purely as an act of will. That is, as a leap of faith.
Victor Danilchenko: As I said before, they accept logic to a far greater extent than they reject it. Their every mundane action, every breath, is implicit acceptance of logic; and they reject is in a small and disparate number of instances. They speak only of the latter and not the former, because use of logic in everyday life is taken for granted.
David Quinn: The number of times a person accepts or rejects logic throughout the course of his day isn't very relevant. It's where he rejects it which is crucial. By your argument, a Christian theologian could be said to be a highly rational being by virtue of the fact that he accepts logic 99% of the time. Yet, to me, it is precisely that 1% of the time in which he abandons logic (usually at the most crucial stages of his thought) that makes him extremely irrational.
You can't call someone "rational" simply because they happen to use their logical faculties a lot of the time (e.g. for the purpose of selecting a brand of toothpaste and deciding upon what colour shirt to wear, and so on ad nauseum), not if they're not applying their logical powers just as freely to their beliefs and philosophical assumptions in an effort to seek truth. A person is only rational if he chooses to apply reason to every aspect of his existence, without exception.
Next thing you'll be doing, Victor, is giving us a statistical survey which compares the number of times people accept logic vs. the number of times they reject it and using it to prove that we are all highly logical beings.
Typical academic madness.
Victor Danilchenko: You asked for rational reasons to value logic -- I gave them to you: the simple rational fact is that use of logic is a prerequisite for survival. Where's the problem?
David Quinn: What happens when logic begins to interfere with the value of survival? For example, I have mentioned in the past that it is logically true that all things are illusory. And interestingly, you had responded by saying that if I believed this, why didn't I step out in front of a big truck?
This is interesting because it suggests that your valuing of survival is actually preventing you from making profound logical connections that a perfectly rational person would normally make. In fact, this is always the way with non-rational values and attachments. They invariably interfere at some point with the rational process and close off the mind to the more profound areas of life. People naturally want to protect their attachments and warding off logic is always the first thing they do.
In short, logic has to be chosen for its own sake, and not for the sake of some other goal, such as survival. Otherwise, one will only end up abandoning logic at crucial stages and become indistinguishable from the fundamentalist Christian.
Victor Danilchenko: You missed the point. I am saying that it's impossible for a human to not choose logic, and remain functional human. The question is not for what reasons we must accept logic, but whether we can avoid accepting it at all -- and I am saying that no, we simply cannot avoid accepting it.
David Quinn: To the degree that a person has a choice between being rational and not being rational, he has to decide whether to value logic or not. You can't have it both ways, Victor. You can't say that people have no choice in accepting logic, and then say that some people are rational and others aren't. The two don't go together.
Let's be frank. It's plainly obvious that most people on this planet are incredibly irrational in the way that they think and conduct their lives, which means that they are jettisoning logic from their lives on a very large scale. All your talk about the impossibility of rejecting logic flounders in the face of this.
Victor Danilchenko: Survival is keyed to being able to interact with the world appropriately, to analyze the world, to predict and affect events. All of these tasks are possible only by application of logical thought to the senses' evidence, and so logic becomes a crucial survival tool.
David Quinn: That's true. On the other hand, too much truth can cause a person tremendous stress and greatly impair his ability to function. It would thus enhance his survival prospects to retain a certain degree of ignorance.
Examples: A woman blocking out evidence that her husband is having an affair; an honest cop blocking out the truth that his superiors are corrupt; an unstable person blocking out the fact that his religious crutches are unreal; a scientist blocking out the fact that his investigations are ultimately inconsequential and will tell him nothing about the nature of the reality; the average human being blocking out the fact that his existence is an illusion, and so on.
Yes, people do need a certain level of truth in order to survive, but at the same time, they don't want too much of it. To my mind, the greatness of a person can be measured by how much truth he is prepared to put up with.
Victor Danilchenko: What's the point here, anyway? You wanted a logical reason to value logic? I gave you one.
David Quinn: But for me to accept it, I would first have to value logic. It's a dilemma .....
From Genius Forum
Bondi: Evolution is a scientific theory, just a fundament of
the some-centuries-old modern science, while creation is neither a modern
scientifical theory nor a theory at all. (Only if one considers the meaning of
the word: theory. One can see its root: god.) No one had ever imagined to made
it questionable since time immemorial, until...
Dan Rowden: I disagree that evolution is a scientific theory. I regard it as a philosophic fact, first and foremost, in that all things are a product of change and causal forces. The specific dynamics of evolution are certainly scientific theories. And whilst creationism is obviously pseudo-scientific bunkum, it fails on a philosophical level as much as it fails on an empirical one.
Victor Danilchenko: But mere "change and causal forces" isn't what biological evolution is about. Evolution, in the sense of "change of allele frequencies", is an observed fact in the same way existence of the Sun is an observed fact. Evolution, as the means by which life on Earth developed, is a theory -- a very well-supported theory.
Bondi: Victor is right here. And, it is false to automatically label every simple change as if it were "evolution". And, we must not confuse paralel/analogical concepts. I.e. I do not believe in the scientifical (and biological) theory of evolution, while I understand the "philosophical" (I'd rather call it metaphysical, though) doctrine of "evolution".
As I pointed out former, I neither believe in evolutionism nor in creationism: I observe "evolutionism" in a wider sense, as a madness, which automatically labels every real or putative change with "evolution", almost as they were synonyms; while "creationism" is only a pathetic attack against the theory of biological evolution.
Dan Rowden: I don't really care about specific theories of the dynamics of evolution. It's interesting, but only academically. The bottom line is that any given state in any given physical system is a result of previous states within the system. That is the heart and soul, philosophically, of evolution in any sphere. It is precisely that way of viewing evolution that cuts Creationism down in a single thrust of the blade. In short, "creation" as a concept is indefensible in and of itself.
Victor Danilchenko: Really? Creationists would love this view of evolution -- because then the world is a result of god's actions, so as long as you consider world+god to be the system, creationism is absolutely unharmed by this sort of "evolution", your contrary assertion notwithstanding.
Dan Rowden: I regard "change" and "evolution" as having more or less the same meaning
Victor Danilchenko: See? Again you are mangling perfectly good definitions, by deliberately conflating distinct meanings -- evolution as [seemingly] purposeful change, and change in general. You are doing the same thing I was accusing David of doing -- you are disrupting our ability to communicate, by redefining terms in such a way as to deny certain extant distinctions. In effect, by redefining "evolution" as "change", you have lost ability to talk about "evolution" as it's usually meant in English (at least without either inventing a new terms, or going into a lengthy diatribe explaining the common english meaning of "evolution"). This is perhaps flattering to your ideological prejudices, but certainly disruptive to communication, and intellectually dishonest to boot.
Evolution denotes a purposeful, or seemingly-purposeful, change. In biological context, it's change that's driven by natural selection.
David Quinn: All things are driven by natural selection, at bottom. The rock that sits outside in the garden, for example, has been "selected" by Nature to continue existing. And when Nature "decides" that rocks no longer have any place in Her abode, then they will become extinct.
Victor Danilchenko: Again, even granting [Dan's] broader context than just biological evolution, [he is] still being too broad. We say that worldviews evolve, species evolve, societies and ideas and mores evolve -- but we don't say that dust evolves, or rocks evolve, etc.
David Quinn: We might not say that in normal life, but rocks can and do evolve when their surrounding conditions change, just as what happens in biological evolution. For example, if the sun were to expand and heat the earth to many thousands of degrees, rocks will evolve into liquid substances.
The fact that rocks don't seem to evolve in our present time is because they currently have a stable niche.
From Genius Forum
The following conversation was triggered by an article sent in to Genius Forum, by a fellow called Kookaburra, which outlined the tenets and statements of belief of the modern intellectual movement called "secular humanism". The conversation begins with David Quinn taking issue with the secular humanists' belief that they are open-minded and dogma-free, before evolving into a discussion on mysticism. The full article sent in by Kookaburra can be accessed at: Secular Humanism
David Quinn: In the article posted by Kookaburra, it is written
that "secular humanism" involves:
"A conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested by each individual and not simply accepted on faith. Commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, in seeking solutions to human problems and answers to important human questions."
Here lies the internal contradiction of "secular humanism". On the one hand, it claims to promote open-mindedness, tolerance, reason, freedom from dogma, etc, but on the other, it takes a dogmatic, close-minded stance against the phenomenon of mysticism. Indeed, it even lumps faith and mysticism together in the same category, as though the two were the same thing. Not only is this sloppy thinking, but the whole thing smacks of pure dogmatism to me.
If a secular humanist was truly open-minded, rational, in love with knowledge, etc, he would have no reason to dismiss mysticism out of hand. It is one thing to rationally investigate and dismiss a particular instance of mysticism as expressed in the claims of an individual, but to dismiss the whole subject altogether is narrow-minded and contradicts the basic principles of secular humanism outlined above.
Indeed, even the name "secular humanism" reveals its close-mindedness and bias in this regard, and thus I have to agree that it possesses all the hallmarks of being a cult religion.
Victor Danilchenko: Why [do you call it] dogmatism? This is perfectly in keeping with the epistemic programme you mentioned: the idea in question (mysticism) is weighted and tested rationally -- and found wanting. Mysticism isn't rejected "out of hand", it's rejected because it failed to pass the rational examination that everything is subjected to.
David Quinn: Or more accurately, it is not something that can easily be subjected to scientific, empirical testing - which is merely a subset of the entire field of rational examination.
Victor Danilchenko: The grouping of mysticism and faith, within the right context, is perfectly acceptable: faith is the [unsound] epistemic method upon which mysticism is built. Mysticism would be rejected because faith, as the epistemic paradigm, is rejected.
David Quinn: I grant you that most mysticism is built on the unsound foundations of wishful thinking and blind belief. But what about the kind of mysticism that doesn't rely on any beliefs or faith at all? On what basis does the secular humanist reject this?
Victor Danilchenko: Well, show me an example of mysticism that doesn't rely on faith, and I will give you an answer... but you may have to search for a while.
David Quinn: A non-faith mystic: Anyone who regularly experiences mystical states and yet doesn't construct any interpretations of them, apart from what can be solidly backed up by reason. I used to be such a mystic, although I'm not involved in mysticism anymore.
Victor Danilchenko: Recall that your original question was: "I grant you that most mysticism is built on the unsound foundations of wishful thinking and blind belief. But what about the kind of mysticism that doesn't rely on any beliefs or faith at all? On what basis does the secular humanist reject this?"
If you are this sort of "rational mystic" -- mystic who doesn't interpret the mystical experiences as indicating any sort of mystical, super-rational and super-sensory "truth" -- then secular humanists and other similar folks will have no objection to you. The objection is to "mysticism" as the word is usually used in English, to indicate not merely the neurological fact of the peculiar "mystical experience" (which in itself is no more irrational, or rejectable on rational grounds, that an epileptic seizure), but also a particular sort of interpretation for it.
Again, you get tangled in private definition and in their confusion with the public ones. When you spoke of secular humanists rejecting mysticism, I agreed with you because I assumed that you were using public definition, as outlined above -- experience + certain sort of interpretation of experience. If you include mere experience, without subjectivist irrational interpretation, into 'mysticism", then of course secular humanists won't be rejecting that -- only the former subset, not the latter.
In fact, I can pretty much guarantee you that many secular humanists are also buddhists and taoists and similar, seriously practice meditation, and have occasional "mystical experiences"; but just like you and me, they don't interpret them in supernatural ways.
You really have to re-examine your unpleasant habit of using private definitions all the time.
David Quinn: There is another problem with the "secular humanist" movement. I always receive the distinct impression that its advocates have never experienced a mystical state, which weakens their stance considerably. If a person has a powerful mystical experience and is looking for some kind of explanation for it, he's not going to find it within the teachings of secular humanism, is he. Nor is this person ever going to be convinced by the secular humanists that his experience was just a delusion. The mystical experience is simply too powerful and awe-inspiring for that to ever happen.
Tell me, Victor, have you ever had a proper, full-on mystical experience? I guarantee you, you wouldn't be so gung-ho about dismissing it has mere "faith" if you had.
Victor Danilchenko: Yes, I have; more than one. I wasn't always an atheist, you know. However, I also know enough about psychology and epistemology to not let my emotions, no matter how powerful, determine my beliefs about the world; you -- well, obviously, you are saying that your emotions rule your beliefs...
Realizing this -- that I was deceiving myself, that my mystical experiences were just a fluke of brain chemistry -- was painful; but I made a decision to be honest with myself, and so it went. I ditched every irrational and unsupported belief I could find, and what I am now is the result. Faith, no matter how emotionally powerful, doesn't rule me.
David Quinn: What about faith in reason? Faith in objective reality? Faith in materialism? Faith in the existence of your own self? Faith in your own certainty that you are on the right path? I dare say you're as faith-filled as the next person.
Incidentally, I've also come to the conclusion that mystical experiences are products of brain chemistry, just as all our mental states are. And I've also come to the conclusion that mystical experiences cannot give us knowledge of God (the Totality). They can give us some interesting insights, but, as you allude to, none of these insights are worth much if they cannot be verified by rational analysis.
Victor Danilchenko: Faith is unjustified belief; reason is the justification for the belief. Demanding justification for reason and logic
is self-referrentially incoherent -- logic must be accepted axiomatically, there is no other way (of course, there's also the fact that logic is necessarily true, but that's also a logical statement). You cannot take reason and logic on faith -- to say such is a meaningless statement.
As to the rest:
I have no faith in "objective reality". "Objective reality" for me is a model imposed on my sensory data, a scientific hypothesis if you will. Materialism is one aspect of this model, also an aspect very well supported by evidence (but if you can formulate a coherent dualism hypothesis and support it with evidence, I will of course reconsider). Existence of my own self is presupposed by the fact that I am actually considering existence of my own self.
If I can be said to have faith in anything, it's the two assumptions needed for scientific method -- that the Universe (whatever it is) is persistent and consistent. On the gripping hand, such presuppositions are necessary to make sense of the world anyway -- there's no alternative; while such suppositions aren't logically necessary in the strict sense, they are pragmatically unavoidable, and so again hardly qualify as faith (a person who doesn't make those assumptions would be completely unable to function).
It's obvious that you are defending this position as a means of defending yourself, your own irrationality and faith. You cannot -- no, that's wrong, you don't want to -- conceive of someone who is committed to reason, someone who actually uses their intellect to think of themselves as critically as they think about others. It's a self-defense mechanism for you, isn't it?
Did you know that "mystical experiences" can be reliably induced in about 50% of the population by electric stimulation of a certain area of the posterior superior parietal lobe?
David Quinn: They can also be induced by swallowing LSD. But the fact that brain chemistry is the root of all mystical experiences only threatens the belief that mystical experiences come from a supernatural God. It doesn't really mean anything for those mystics who don't believe in the supernatural - i.e. the atheistic and pantheistic mystics.
I used to be an atheistic mystic, for example. I used to interpret my mystical experiences in a very down-to-earth, materialistic fashion. To me, a mystical experience is what the mind naturally experiences when it is suddenly pulled free from its normal pattern of thoughts. It suddenly views the world very differently, sometimes profoundly, often timelessly. Being free of its normal habits, the mind is able to attain a great degree of clarity and flexibility, and is capable of great penetration. The kinds of insights one has in these experiences depends very heavily on how rational one is, and by how much one's mind is still being swayed by religious concepts.
In the end, mysticism isn't a pathway to the supernatural, simply because there isn't a supernatural realm. But it can lead to very interesting forms of knowledge for those who are curious enough.
Jon: I am an atheist and secular humanist living in Hawaii if you hadn't guessed.(at least my brain chemistry tells what I perceive as my consciousness that the above description is true, depending of course on your definition of truth.)
So a few thoughts if you're interested. We've talk here of mysticism and faith and whether or not they can be attributed in whole or part to brain chemistry. Reality for me at least is that everything we perceive is brain chemistry. Realizing this does not however mean that one cannot relish the mystical experience. Since mystical experiences are almost by definition difficult to describe, I'm not exactly clear what is meant here by mystical. There have been references to feelings of well being and oneness with the Universe and even LSD. So I'll roll from there. I have to say that since I have fully accepted my atheistic beliefs, I experience more frequent and more profound mystical experiences then previously (even without LSD). I am in total awe and amazement of this Universe and since everything I see, feel, hear or touch is part of that Universe, it doesn't take much to set me off.
Driving into town earlier in the rain, I witnessed the Sun setting between the sea and clouded sky that was magnificent. I got chicken-skin(goose-bumps to you malahines), and nearly pulled over to avoid running over a local goat or something because of my distraction. BTW-Is chicken-skin mystical? I think in some cases, yes.
You see, realizing the Universe is a natural phenomena makes it even more mystical to me, not less. The exquisiteness and beauty of a blade of grass, or a fish in the ocean, or a supernova, or a cloudy day sunset is far more astounding and awesome when one realizes that they are NOT some constructs of an imagined supreme being.
So for me the question of whether faith is necessary for a mystical experience is a moot point. Perhaps my definition of mystical is too broad but it works for me.
Why are humans able to experience the mystical? Well, for one thing, it's usually a pretty good feeling, and pleasure and feeling good are essential to the mental, and probably physical, well being of any creature, and most especially humans. We got mystical because of evolution. Evolution postulates that mutations that are advantageous to a species are more likely to be passed on to following generations. At some point in the past, it was probably advantageous to be able to experience the mystical. Ergo, we now can. Why it was a plus? That's speculation. Perhaps the mystics were prone to think more deeply because of their experiences. Perhaps mystics created the first elementary religions from their experiences. We all know that the priestly class has always been a powerful and protected elite. This would certainly be an advantage. Or maybe the simple pleasure was enough. It made us happy, and therefore healthy. Or our perception of mysticism may simply be founded on instinctual feelings that other creatures also experience.
I believe mystical experience is closely related to fear, hence the occasional chicken-skin, and curiosity. This of course is another advantage. Fear and awe keep us from getting too close to things we find fearful and awesome. If we overcome the fear though, our curiosity will lead us to investigate the awesome, and eventually the fearful. The birth of science?
And here's a wild one for you. I see many references to philosophers and others here to justify positions. It's all well and good to study and learn from previous thinkers, but when all is said and done, I think we must make these ultimate decisions on our own. Philosophy basically boils down to interpretation and analysis of human thought, how and why we think (and do) what we do. Like mysticism, the thoughts of the philosophers are basically interaction of brain chemicals. So we are using our own brain chemistry to contemplate the brain chemistry of philosophers who were using theirs to interpret brain chemistry of the general population. Whew! My brain chemistry is getting all foamy, how about yours?
David Quinn: While I agree that everything we perceive is a construction of our own brains, it begs the question, what of the brain itself? After all, being a perceived entity, it too must be a construction. But what exactly is it a construction of? It can't be a construction of the brain because that would be tantamount to saying that everything we perceive is a construction of a construction, which would be meaningless.
So in reality, it isn't actually the case that everything we perceive is a construct of the brain, but of something deeper. What is it?
Night Terror: I have a few questions regarding this mysticism. Does anyone know of any case studies, research or findings as to why we as homosapiens even have it? I realize that a certain part of the brain is a direct cause as mentioned but I am looking for why. Why is it that this part of the brain produces such experiences?
Victor Danilchenko: I don't know of further studies but the ones demonstrating the existence of the said area; but the fact that this center is also responsible for the sense of self (the separation of self from the environment) probably has something to do with it. In effect, the fuzzification of the boundaries of self tends to be an integral part of most mystical experiences, and it's quite reasonable to hypothesize that the mystical experiences are simply a quirky side effect of the sense of self's evolution.
David Quinn: This is a complex subject, but also an important one and worth discussing in some detail. As with love, the mystical experience is a complicated phenomenon with many contributing factors. Some of these factors include: one's experiences as an infant and young child, the nature of one's ego, the structure of one's mind, one's deep-seated fears and yearnings, one's cultural conditioning, one's level of spirituality, one's level of rationality, and so on. From this mix arises a wide variety of mystical experiences, ranging from the clear-sighted and highly philosophical at one end of the spectrum to the crudely emotional and semi-conscious at the other. Some mystical experiences are very abstract and formless, while others are very hallucinogenic and symbolic. But despite all these differences, they are all alike in that they constitute an altered state of consciousness, wherein normal everyday consciousness has subsided and a very different perspective of the world takes its place.
The subject is far too large to fully analyse in one post, so I think what I'll do is concentrate on three basic aspects of the mystical experience, which should give the reader an idea of how I view mysticism as a phenomenon. These three aspects are: (a) the sense of familiarity, (b) the sense of timelessness and (c) the sensation of bliss.
(a) The sense of familiarity. Often when people enter into the mystical experience for the first time they have the strong sensation that they have had the experience before. Many even have the feeling that it is like "coming home again". Indeed, this was exactly what I experienced in my own case. Upon entering my first mystical state, I acutely felt as though this is where I belonged. I felt that my entire life, both as a child and as an adult, was nothing more than a temporary diversion from my true abode. I felt like I was entering into real life once again, and that my entire life as David Quinn, as a human being living on this earth, was like a mirage and wholly insignificant.
Most people tend to interpret this feeling of "coming home" as an indication that they have experienced God, but I view it differently. To my mind, the sense of familiarity arises from the fact that we used to have prolonged experiences of altered states when we were very young, particularly in the period when our consciousness was starting to develop and become more aware of everything around it, but not so "developed" that it is dominated and imprisoned by conventional thought-processes, as what happens to all children at a certain stage in life.
In other words, there is a period in the child's development when the mind is extremely flexible and open to all kinds of experiences, and which naturally slips into altered states as a matter of course. It is only a bit later, when it begins to flow habitually down the conventional pathways of its era, that it ceases to enter into these altered states and, indeed, forgets their existence altogether. The sense of "coming home" in the adult mystical experience is really just the re-awakening of a long, forgotten mode of consciousness.
(b) The sense of timelessness. The origins of this sensation are just as mundane. Whenever we have an unusual set of experiences and are thrust outside of our normal comfort zones, our sense of time naturally tends to go out of whack. The regular routines which give us our sense of time are no longer there. Thus, whenever our minds leave behind conventional consciousness and enters into an altered state, there is an accompanying sense of timelessness.
(c) The sensation of bliss. This too has mundane causes. The bliss that a person experiences in an altered state is nothing other than the egotistical will to power. When the mind leaves behind conventional consciousness, it also leaves behind the various burdens of conventional life. All of the normal fears and worries that constantly weigh us down are no longer there, which causes our egos to experience a sense of liberation and hence a feeling of bliss.
Also, when a person misinterprets his altered state as a religious experience that comes from God, his ego immediately latches onto the sense of superiority and specialness that comes with believing that one has connected with God - which invariably translates into more bliss. Importantly, most of the sensations, images and insights that are associated with altered states are the product of the ego and its various misunderstandings of reality. At best, an altered state can offer a correction to an unbalanced and incorrect view of life. More often, though, it can drive people into even deeper forms of delusion, from which they never recover. A fully enlightened Buddha never has a mystical experience, due to the fact that he doesn't have an ego and no longer misunderstands life.
Bondi: In other words: life itself is a mystical experience.
From Genius Forum
Although the following
conversation is ostensibly about Richard Dawkins, the world-renowned
evolutionary biologist and author of "The Selfish Gene" and "The
Blind Watchmaker", it is really a discussion about the connection between
science and genius. Dawkins merely represents the archetype of the more lofty-minded
scientist - one who is interested in discovering broad principles rather than
just simply collating facts.
David Quinn: Although I like his style, I really can't think of Dawkins as a genius. He fails to extend his understanding of evolution and causality into the philosophic realm and thus fails to open his mind up to the Infinite, which is the source of true genius. One of the reasons why he doesn't do this is because he is a respected professor and celebrated author, and would only become a laughing stock if he went beyond the accepted norms of the scientific community. Although intelligent, he is essentially a coward.
Victor Danilchenko: Squawk, squawk... infinite... squawk... ultimate truth... squawk... genius... squawk!
Sanduleak: I would speculate that one reason Richard Dawkins doesn't move in the philosophical realm of 'the infinite' is that 'the infinite' itself is mostly a subjective tag given to whatever thinker happens to be pondering it. Dawkins is first and foremost a biologist, segueing into the field of 'evolution' as a natural progression (still within the realm of objective physical science) from biology. His comments on religion (and war) are those from a member of the human community. I would venture he simply 'uses' his name to increase the chances of his words being published. Simple practicality.
To label him a coward for not stepping into some realm that the admins of this board appear to hold as 'precious' would be to then apply (by extension) the same rationale to everyone who also doesn't step into said realm. Thereby you can potentially render everyone bar yourselves as cowards, can you not. A rather disingenuous 'fait accompli' on your part, one is tempted to think.
David Quinn: While most people cowardly shy away from developing a consciousness of the Infinite, Dawkins' cowardice is more apparent because he is more intelligent than most, and his hard-nosed brand of neo-Darwinism brings him somewhat closer to an understanding of causality and the lack of inherent existence of all things. But he refrains from making the all-important breakthrough into infinite consciousness, partly because he is a coward.
Sanduleak: By any commonly used criteria I've encountered, Richard Dawkins would comfortably fit the criteria of genius (for whatever that is worth.)
David Quinn: Why? He's not discovered anything essentially new. He has merely refined and developed the theories propounded by Darwin. Darwin has a far greater claim to genius than Dawkins.
Victor Danilchenko: Really? his "selfish gene" idea was something drastically new; furthermore, it perfectly fits the notion of the insight of a genius. It's simple, powerful, and once you understand it, you go: "gee, why didn't I think of it myself?"... except that it took Dawkins to think of it first. that's what genius is all about, isn't it -- thinking outside the box, looking at the world from a different angle, and arriving at conclusions that seem self-evident in retrospect?
David Quinn: It wasn't all that drastic or new. It was simply a refinement of Darwins's theory of natural selection. There is no great leap from the idea that the "fittest" survive to pass on their genes to the idea that our genes are "purposefully" geared towards reproducing themselves. Darwin set up the overall framework; Dawkins simply did a bit of interior decorating.
Victor Danilchenko: And Darwin extended the work of Lamarck, and Lamarck built upon the work of "stamp collector" scientists before him; Einstein built upon the work of Newton, Newton built upon the work of Galileo... this is how science works -- you extend the previous ideas. Saying "Oh, this is just an extension of previous work" misses the point; the real question is, how long an extension -- and the selfish gene idea (the notion that competition is not between, and evolution is not in terms of, species, but genes, the information carriers) is as drastic with respect to Darwin, as Darwin's idea of evolution (of evolution happening by random traits being selected for in reproduction) was with respect to Lamarckian idea of evolution.
David Quinn: That's a good point. Darwin's theory of natural selection was a theory whose time was ripe. Capitalism was already sowing the seeds with its principle that only the strongest and most well-run businesses survive, and there was another fellow (I forget his name) who also happened to arrive at the theory of natural selection during this period. So Darwin didn't really do anything extraordinary, other than meticulously compile lots of evidence in support of the theory.
So you're right, Darwin was no more a genius than Dawkins is.
Victor Danilchenko: Darwin did do something extraordinary -- he took an existing problem, and thought about it in a new way. He built upon the previous work, of course; but that doesn't make his achievement any less extraordinary. Every good new idea is only partially new; every idea was born within its cultural context, and owes much to the ideas that were before it. No idea is totally new; no idea can be totally new, due to all ideas being linguistically and socially grounded. You seem to be under mistaken impression that an idea can spring, whole and wholly original, like Athena from Zeus's hip.
Nietzsche's ideas weren't born in a vacuum; he was influenced by Kierkegaard and Schopenhauer. These two worthies in turn owed a lot for their intellectual development to others who preceded them. Siddhartha Gautama owed a lot to Hindu philosophy and mysticism -- both as positive influence on his worldview, and later as the subject of rejection. Similar statements can be made about any person you consider to be a great philosopher, about anyone who contributed any worthy ideas to the human pool of knowledge.
In short, you are missing the point... again.
Sanduleak: In reading the various threads on this board it seems that David Quinn and Dan Rowden have a rather unusual interpretation of the term 'genius.' A suggestion; perhaps you would be better served by coining some other term for this capacity to "open (the) mind up to the Infinite, which is the source of true genius" rather than applying an extreme tincture to it and making judgements over who does and doesn't qualify under your terms.
David Quinn: Naturally, I disagree. From my point of view, the "genius" exhibited by people such as Darwin, Newton and Einstein were echoes of a more concentrated form of genius exhibited by people such as Socrates, Buddha, and Lao Tzu. The scientists listed had an unconscious, undeveloped connection to genius. They didn't allow their genius to unfold and flower because they kept themselves firmly locked within the scientific realm.
Sanduleak: I have read through your various spin off pages and
the 'newsletter' and the tone and ideas are somewhat eccentric. Your views on
genius and its application to gender border on the laughable. They are your own
views and you're welcome to them, but if you propound them within your personal
spin on genius then, with all due respect, you run the risk of simply looking
David Quinn: What non-geniuses happen to think is of no concern to me. The word "genius" has been hijacked and distorted by the scientific and artistic communities over the years - that is, it has been hijacked by non-geniuses. My goal is to restore the term back to its original meaning.
Quotes of quality from Genius-L and Genius Forum
Logic is only limited by the materials avaliable to it. If the aim is to understand, say, the processes occuring inside the sun, then logic needs the raw data of empirical observation concerning the sun. If that is missing, then logic cannot do anything.
By the same token, if the aim is to understand the nature of Reality, then logic needs raw data in the form of wisely chosen definitions that take into account everything that exists in Reality. If this is missing, then once again, logic cannot do anything.
In each case, once the data is there, logic can proceed to do its handiwork. In this sense, it is unlimited it what it can do. David Quinn
Avidaloca: Here's what Weininger says about the mystic, scientist and systemiser types:
Three things constitute the philosopher, three elements must come together to produce him:
A mystic (opposite: sadist), a scientist (opposite : artist), a systemiser (opposite : experimenter).
The mystic + scientist: only yields a theologian, a dogmatist of some belief or other.
The mystic + systemiser: yields a theosophist, who simply follows his individual intuition, without seeking for proof or guarantee.
The scientist + systemiser: yields a theoretical physicist, biologist etc.
I would say David Quinn and co. fit the second or first category and Victor Danilchenko the third.
David Quinn: I'm not sure that I agree with Weininger's formula for the philosopher (mystic + scientist + systemizer). Often the best philosphers are those who don't systemize - e.g. Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Lao Tzu, Huang Po, Socrates, etc - although they were "mystics" (In Weininger's terminology, anyone who was interested in ultimate knowledge was a "mystic") and they did value reason (a variation of the scientist type).
The philosopher's decision to systemize or not depends very heavily on what kind of society he happens to be living in and what kind of delusions it suffers under. The Buddha, for example, was very systematic because he perceived that Hinduistic philosophy was in need of a major overhaul. Nietzsche, by contrast, was very non-systematic because it was an essential part of his program to dismantle all the many systems of thought that were strangling the Western world.
So in my view, systemizing one's thought is merely an optional extra for the philosopher. The essential ingredients are love of ultimate knowledge and the will to be perfectly rational.
I'm not sure what this obsession we moderns have with "subjectivity" is all about. Since any piece of information is dependent on a subject, it is, by definition, subjective, but that doesn't mean that it cannot also be true. The true nature of love and relationships is that they are based entirely in ego and therefore delusional. Love (eros) is 100% selfish and delusional. Almost all human relationships are expressions of egotistical attachment and that makes them delusional as well. A person possessed of real intelligence cannot help but be at the very least intuitively aware of this deeper dimension of such phenomena and cannot possibly just unconsciously wallow in the psychology of them like most people do.
How do I know all this? By observing. Dan Rowden
Usually the challenges that face a partnership are met by one partner giving in to the wishes of the other. Thus, a dynamic of dominance is created and usually marks any relationship. But for me the most important point in this is why do we need these emotional support systems in the first place? What causes us to make these demands on another human being and how ethical is it that we do? How can we make these demands knowing that, quite likely, the only reason that other is acceding to them is because they think they'll get something in return? One of the most salient features of love between a man and a woman is its conditionality. It began on the condition that the person was and would probably continue to be someone in whom the other could find comfort and pleasure; it continues on the basis that that comfort and pleasure continues to be found. Dan Rowden
I realize that his work in game theory and economics -- the matter of equilibrium -- are applicable theorems that have been used practically. Still, it all seems to be such a waste. A lot of game theory was used during the Cold War.
I simply find it to be mind-boggling that these elite mathematicians were given free reign by RAND (Princeton, Harvard, MIT) to tinker around with such problems concerning manifolds -- rough manifolds, smooth manifolds -- whatever -- nice abstract ideas, granted -- but nothing whatsoever to do with Reality.
Truly astonishing. To me, the absolutely astonishing thing was that these men were looked upon as geniuses. Yes, they were all very talented in the same way that a singer is talented or an artist is talented. But unlike most visual artists or singers, they were rewarded for their talent. They were given carte blanche to develop their talents. They were immediately and highly valued for their talents and it did not seem to matter one iota that their work was very abstract and inaccessible -- that was all right because they were mathematical geniuses.
Had they merely been philosophers, they would not have been granted such freedom as these men were granted. No philosopher ever was granted the full rein to write and research as these men were granted.
I certainly recognize and esteem the mathematical talent of such men as Nash and Godel but the way to fruition of their talents was made easy. Had Nash been forced to work in Burger King to support himself while researching and solving mathematical problems at night, his mental illness would have reared its head long before it did. He could not have withstood the pressure. He could not have withstood the necessity of working in an intellectual vacuum; the necessity of having to exist in a void of mediocrity. His intellect was extremely delicate; his understanding of reality extremely fragile.
He was no better than Van Gogh. He would have killed himself rather than to suffer the hellishness of Reality. He lived in a dream world that cushioned him from it.
How pleasant. How boyish. He was a talented mathematician. That is all.
By stating that, I do not dispute his "genius" for abstract problem solving. But he had absolutely no genius for an understanding of life. In the area of experience and insight into experience, he was below average.
That is a pity because, with that, he may have achieved much. Marsha Faizi
All images in this publication are taken/adapted from "The Devil's Gallery"
Disclaimer: editorial opinions expressed in this publication are those of its authors and do not, necessarily, reflect the views of subscribers to Genius-L or Genius Forum. Dialogues adapted from Genius-L and Genius Forum have been edited for the purpose of brevity and clarity. Certain spelling mistakes and typographical errors have been corrected to preserve meaning.
Copyright © 2000 - 2007 David Quinn & Dan Rowden