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Investigating the implications anatman

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Investigating the implications anatman Mark 12/22/15 5:16 PM
RE: Investigating the implications anatman Chris Marti 12/20/15 3:03 PM
RE: Investigating the implications anatman Mark 12/20/15 3:10 PM
RE: Investigating the implications anatman Chris Marti 12/20/15 3:33 PM
RE: Investigating the implications anatman Mark 12/21/15 2:35 AM
RE: Investigating the implications anatman Chris Marti 12/21/15 3:51 PM
RE: Investigating the implications anatman Mark 12/22/15 2:02 AM
RE: Investigating the implications anatman Chris Marti 12/22/15 4:54 PM
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RE: Investigating the implications anatman Chris Marti 12/23/15 12:06 PM
RE: Investigating the implications anatman Mark 12/23/15 1:11 PM
RE: Investigating the implications anatman Chris Marti 12/23/15 3:13 PM
RE: Investigating the implications anatman Mark 12/24/15 3:23 AM
RE: Investigating the implications anatman Chris Marti 12/24/15 11:31 AM
RE: Investigating the implications anatman Eva Nie 12/24/15 12:30 PM
RE: Investigating the implications anatman Chris Marti 12/25/15 1:07 PM
RE: Investigating the implications anatman Psi 12/24/15 11:14 PM
RE: Investigating the implications anatman Mark 12/25/15 1:10 PM
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RE: Investigating the implications anatman Mark 12/27/15 10:14 AM
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RE: Investigating the implications anatman Chris Marti 12/27/15 6:37 PM
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RE: Investigating the implications anatman Chris Marti 12/27/15 6:53 PM
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RE: Investigating the implications anatman Chris Marti 12/20/15 3:43 PM
RE: Investigating the implications anatman Mark 12/21/15 2:52 AM
RE: Investigating the implications anatman Eva Nie 12/22/15 10:50 AM
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RE: Investigating the implications anatman Mark 12/25/15 11:45 AM
Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/22/15 5:16 PM
Investigating the implications anatman.

I used to believe evolution [natural selection] progresses toward increasing intelligence, with humans at the top of a pyramid. But I think a better undestanding is survivability of genes within a specific environment. For example there are cases of species losing abilities (e.g. sight) because they no longer benefit survivability (e.g. living in the dark). Evolution is not always aligned with the interests of an individual member of a species, for example there are animals that eat their sexual partners.

Humans evolved an ability to capture concepts within a culture. Concepts within culture are competing for survival (like genes to some extent).  In analogy with [natural selection], culture is not always aligned with the interests of individuals. We have ideologies like racism and habits like smoking as obvious demonstrations.

The experience of a self is part of the mechanism by which concepts survive and accumulate. The self seeks survival partly through conformity to cultural norms (maybe sub-cultural norms but these are part of the larger culture). Those cultural norms also help accumulate concepts. So for example "I want to be a good meditator" leads to "I want to write a book about meditating" which may lead to more individuals meditating but the book is in competition with other cultural practices like watching TV.

When this is seen there are some obvious options: Don't change behavior or Do change behavior

The collective suffering of individuals is great and neither evolution nor culture relieves overall suffering - that is not aligned with their mechanisms of reproduction. But we can choose to align culture with some objectives. That objective is arbitrary but I believe it is better to create an objective than accept the random course of history.

Some insight from Vipassana can make the above obvious. It also raises new options. Evolution is being manipulated by culture - we can literally choose which genes survive and I guess we will be creating new genes one day. What could manipulate culture in a similar way ? One idea is a group of individuals that do not act out of individual interest and choose to manipulate concepts, similar to how a group of scientists manipulate genes.

This happens already, for example a group of people suffering discrimination get organized and promote certain concepts, sometimes causing shifts in the larger culture. Typically there is resistance from the dominant cultural patterns - they are literally fighting for survival (expressed by the action of individuals comitted to dominant concepts). 

Perhaps any group that is not founded on an understanding of the nature of cultural conformity will rapidly be absorbed by existing cultural patterns. The tendency of the culture is to resist change but it can subsume threats.

Of the cultural patterns the most dangerous is perhaps the individual's sense of freewill and self importance. This seems to keep individuals from acting as coherent groups. Ironically the mirage of freewill enslaves.

An understanding of no-self anatman can make cultural patterns seem inevitable. The self in service of an ideology is how culture has often changed. Action seems to require beliefs, maybe this is right view. But the impression I have of the Buddha's teaching is a focus on individual freedom. The broader picture might be captured by the concept of Bodhisattva in Mahayana ?

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/20/15 3:03 PM as a reply to Mark.
Hello, Mark.

Evolution is being manipulated by culture - we can literally choose which genes survive and I guess we will be creating new genes one day.

Can you explain this comment further? I'm not sure I agree... in fact, it might be the reverse.

I do agree that evolution does not have a "good" or "bad" or "advancement" vector. It's about fitness and survival in local environments. It does bnot have any other objective.

Thanks

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/20/15 3:10 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Hello, Mark.

Evolution is being manipulated by culture - we can literally choose which genes survive and I guess we will be creating new genes one day.

Can you explain this comment further? I'm not sure I agree... in fact, it might be the reverse.

Hi Chris, 

The reference to evolution is more for the analogy but a good example of what is going on is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CRISPR  "gene editing" which has already been used on human embryos (that were not allowed to mature).

I'm using the term culture in a very broad sense - basically any concept/thing that is shared.

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/20/15 3:33 PM as a reply to Mark.
I think this issue is definitional as I include in my version of evolution any attribute an organism (i.e.; human being) takes on as a result of natural selection. So this is a "broad sense" definition of evolution. I include our abiltiy to manipulate our genetic material. Whatever we are capable of is what evolution has brought us to. That includes CRISPR and any other technology that allows us to manipulate genetic material. I think those technologies are only a difference in degree from the husbandry technologies that we've previously used on canines, equines, and other animals.

Make sense?

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/20/15 3:43 PM as a reply to Mark.
Humans evolved an ability to capture concepts within a culture. Concepts within culture are competing for survival like genes (sometimes concepts are called memes).  In analogy with evolution, culture is not always aligned with the interests of individuals. We have ideologies like racism and habits like smoking as obvious demonstrations.

I think what you're asserting is that memes drive culture like genes drive biology. Do I read you correctly? So a meme "strives" to survive in the melee of large groups of people - in other words, a culture. This analogy makes me uncomfortable.


RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/21/15 2:35 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
I think this issue is definitional as I include in my version of evolution any attribute an organism (i.e.; human being) takes on as a result of natural selection. So this is a "broad sense" definition of evolution. I include our abiltiy to manipulate our genetic material. Whatever we are capable of is what evolution has brought us to. That includes CRISPR and any other technology that allows us to manipulate genetic material. I think those technologies are only a difference in degree from the husbandry technologies that we've previously used on canines, equines, and other animals.

Make sense?
Hi Chris,

I think we should make a distinction regarding natural selection and other processes because they are fundamentally different mechanisms.

Natural selection in humans is based on sexual reproduction and the changes in genetic makeup. The human species has not evolved very much in the last 20,000-40,000 years genetically. One reason for that is that we started manipulating the environment, so for example husbandry is a cultural capacity.

This is not to say that other animals don't have culture, clearly they do. But culture has most impact in humans.

I can see your idea of a broader evolution (beyond genetics) and you could wind that back to include changes prior to life developing. But there is more utility in a narrower definition I think. For our discussion we could replace "evolution" with "natural selection". I'll edit the iniital post.

It is also true that culture and natural selection are inter-related, both influencing each other. But I'm more concerned about the current situation where natural selection is now insignificant in what will change for humans moving forward.

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/21/15 2:52 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Humans evolved an ability to capture concepts within a culture. Concepts within culture are competing for survival like genes (sometimes concepts are called memes).  In analogy with evolution, culture is not always aligned with the interests of individuals. We have ideologies like racism and habits like smoking as obvious demonstrations.

I think what you're asserting is that memes drive culture like genes drive biology. Do I read you correctly? So a meme "strives" to survive in the melee of large groups of people - in other words, a culture. This analogy makes me uncomfortable.

I'm not sure drive or strive is the right idea as it can imply intention. Clearly genes and memes have no intentions. We could say natural selection is the result of how genes function. Likewise culture is a result of how memes function. Survival for a gene is being passed along into the next generation, survival for a meme is to be learnt by the next generation or expanding awareness of that meme in the current generation. 

I'm using a fuzzy definition of meme - it was a long time ago I learnt of that concept. It would probably be better to stick with the term "concept" rather than "meme" I'm not try to build on the theory of memes. There are some interesting analogies between how concepts evolve over time and how species evolve over time but that is somewhat of a distraction to my post. I'll edit out the reference to memes.

I'm hoping the rest of the post will get the same level of scrutiny - thanks!

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/21/15 3:51 PM as a reply to Mark.
It is also true that culture and natural selection are inter-related, both influencing each other. But I'm more concerned about the current situation where natural selection is now insignificant in what will change for humans moving forward.


I'm unable to accept this defintion of evolution/natural selection, Mark. I think it artificially constrains the issues. I don't believe natural selection is insignificant, no matter how culturally or scientifically advanced a species like homo sapiens becomes. Again, what will change for human going forward is the result of ongoing natural selection. We can't abitrarily decide that those forces fade to insignificance because they have been so successful in shaping what we are and what we are capable of. Our science and our culture are adaptations, just like our bodies.

A narrowly defined definition of evolution/natural selection, while commonly accepted, is not supported by facts but rather by belief and supposition.

Can you see my point?

I can see your idea of a broader evolution (beyond genetics) and you could wind that back to include changes prior to life developing. But there is more utility in a narrower definition I think. For our discussion we could replace "evolution" with "natural selection". I'll edit the iniital post.

It's not beyond genetics. Genetics is the engine that gets us to wherever we go. I think genetics optimizes all - biology, behavior, psychology, culture, even consciousness itself.


RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/22/15 2:02 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
It is also true that culture and natural selection are inter-related, both influencing each other. But I'm more concerned about the current situation where natural selection is now insignificant in what will change for humans moving forward.

I'm unable to accept this defintion of evolution/natural selection, Mark. I think it artificially constrains the issues. I don't believe natural selection is insignificant, no matter how culturally or scientifically advanced a species like homo sapiens becomes. Again, what will change for human going forward is the result of ongoing natural selection. We can't abitrarily decide that those forces fade to insignificance because they have been so successful in shaping what we are and what we are capable of. Our science and our culture are adaptations, just like our bodies.


I think you are a little harsh regarding my arbitrariness. I'm not claiming definitive truth but I'm not making pure assumptions either. I think we should focus on the evidence (or lack thereof). As you state you have a belief about natural selection and so do I. I'm not sure how attached you are to your belief, I started the thread stating I'd changed my beliefs about natural selection and I would not be surprised if they change again. However I'm not seeing any evidence to support your position so far.

Natural selection is the theory of Darwin and is concerned with biological evolution. We now know that a major underlying mechanism is genetics. I'm just stating the obvious in case we are still using the same words for different things.

That there is adaptions and evolution outside of genetics is  true, we speak about the "next generation" of Xbox console etc. Clearly there has been a lot of adaptation and evolution in the human species in the last 20,000 years. But if you assume that is all due to natural selection then I think it leaves some insights out of reach.

Perhaps the strongest point I have for my view is that the last 20,000 years has seen very little genetic changes in humans. This is pretty much a fact I think. Are you aware of that ? If you are I don't need to go into details. But you could explain how you see natural selection as the main driver of the last 20,000 years of adaptation when there is virtually no genetic evolution of human abilities during that time.

Obviously natural selection got humans to a point where adaption via other mechanisms than natural selection became possible. But to ignore what these other mechanism are, is in my mind going to lead to fundamental misunderstandings about our situation.

If you would provide evidence or facts to support your beliefs that would be great.




A narrowly defined definition of evolution/natural selection, while commonly accepted, is not supported by facts but rather by belief and supposition.

Can you see my point?



I'm not sure who is relying on supposition the most, clearly there will be supposition in any belief. But I've not heard any facts that I could use to undermine my belief so far.




I can see your idea of a broader evolution (beyond genetics) and you could wind that back to include changes prior to life developing. But there is more utility in a narrower definition I think. For our discussion we could replace "evolution" with "natural selection". I'll edit the iniital post.

It's not beyond genetics. Genetics is the engine that gets us to wherever we go. I think genetics optimizes all - biology, behavior, psychology, culture, even consciousness itself.

I'm not sure how familiar you are with natural selection and genetics. Certainly I'm no expert but I've formed my opinion by listening to people far more knowledgable than I am. The importance of the lack of genetic diversity over the last 20,000 years was highlighted to me by Chomsky and it seems fairly solid as far as facts in science go.

I guess it is worth going into the details here because unless you are open to considering other mechanisms beyond natural selection in the adpatation of humans then the main point of my original post is lost.

The best result for me would be a change of belief so I hope you'll convince me of why I'm misguided!

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/22/15 10:50 AM as a reply to Mark.
Mark:
Investigating the implications anatman.

I used to believe evolution [natural selection] progresses toward increasing intelligence, with humans at the top of a pyramid. But I think a better undestanding is survivability of genes within a specific environment. For example there are cases of species losing abilities (e.g. sight) because they no longer benefit survivability (e.g. living in the dark). Evolution is not always aligned with the interests of an individual member of a species, for example there are animals that eat their sexual partners.
I don't believe evolution via genes is all there is, I've seen lots of weird stuff that goes well beyond what such evolution can explain.  If there are things beyond evolution then IMO they also influence development of humans. 

Humans evolved an ability to capture concepts within a culture. Concepts within culture are competing for survival (like genes to some extent).

Rather anthropomorphised, don't you think?

 In analogy with [natural selection], culture is not always aligned with the interests of individuals. We have ideologies like racism and habits like smoking as obvious demonstrations.

The experience of a self is part of the mechanism by which concepts survive and accumulate. The self seeks survival partly through conformity to cultural norms (maybe sub-cultural norms but these are part of the larger culture). Those cultural norms also help accumulate concepts. So for example "I want to be a good meditator" leads to "I want to write a book about meditating" which may lead to more individuals meditating but the book is in competition with other cultural practices like watching TV.

When this is seen there are some obvious options: Don't change behavior or Do change behavior

The collective suffering of individuals is great and neither evolution nor culture relieves overall suffering -
NOt completely obviously, that is not to say that it doesn't try have any benefit or purpose at all.  I think you are coming from a view that society and culture are like a machine that follows a few known mechanisms only and thus can be manipulated with that knowledge.  I personally do not think it is that simple. 

that is not aligned with their mechanisms of reproduction. But we can choose to align culture with some objectives. That objective is arbitrary but I believe it is better to create an objective than accept the random course of history.

Another assumption, that the course of history is random.

Some insight from Vipassana can make the above obvious.
Vipassana says course of history is random?

It also raises new options. Evolution is being manipulated by culture -
Anthropomorphising.

we can literally choose which genes survive and I guess we will be creating new genes one day. What could manipulate culture in a similar way ? One idea is a group of individuals that do not act out of individual interest and choose to manipulate concepts, similar to how a group of scientists manipulate genes.
Where do you get such poeple that have zero self interest?

This happens already, for example a group of people suffering discrimination get organized and promote certain concepts, sometimes causing shifts in the larger culture.
Such people have the self interest of promoting their own ideas so their lives can be better. They see it will work better as a group but self interest is likely their motivation. 

Typically there is resistance from the dominant cultural patterns - they are literally fighting for survival (expressed by the action of individuals comitted to dominant concepts). 
And sometimes an idea takes off like wildfire with little resistance, strange how that is.

Perhaps any group that is not founded on an understanding of the nature of cultural conformity will rapidly be absorbed by existing cultural patterns. The tendency of the culture is to resist change but it can subsume threats.

Of the cultural patterns the most dangerous is perhaps the individual's sense of freewill and self importance. This seems to keep individuals from acting as coherent groups. Ironically the mirage of freewill enslaves.

Big assumption, Buddha did not promote belief in lack of free will, nor did he promote belief of free will, that there is self, that there is no self, he very carefully said to not cling to either view. 

An understanding of no-self can make cultural patterns seem inevitable. 
I don't see this logic leap either.  Is there a way of thinking that would make one think cultural patterns would disappear?  If there are no cultural patterns, then would we all be identical in thought like ants?

The self in service of an ideology is how culture has often changed.
Very often it also changes due to self in service of self interest.

Action seems to require beliefs, maybe this is right view.
I disagree, Buddha said NOT to cling to views, IMO it's a basic tenant of right view not to cling to views. 


But the impression I have of the Buddha's teaching is a focus on individual freedom. The broader picture might be captured by the concept of Bodhisattva in Mahayana ?
What views does Bodhisattva cling to?

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/22/15 4:54 PM as a reply to Mark.
Obviously natural selection got humans to a point where adaption via other mechanisms than natural selection became possible. But to ignore what these other mechanism are, is in my mind going to lead to fundamental misunderstandings about our situation.

You're misunderstanding my point, Mark. Of course there are other mecahanisms at play but they are all enabled and engendered by evolution. The evidence for this is all around us. We know what we know and we can do what we now can do because we evolved to this point. Those other mechanisms fall within the boundaries of evolution by natural selection. They are all fitness optimizations that help us to survive. Just because we typically assume the science of genetics is outside evolution doesn't mean it actually is.  To ignore this is bound to lead to misunderstandings about our situation.

Other examples of capabilities that have come to us because we have evolved intelligence:

harnessing fire
agriculture
domesticating other animals

These capabilities, and all of science and genetics, are typically called "technologies," but by labeling them as such we tend to assume they're not adaptions enabled by evolution. But that's what they are. This, to me, is an unfortunate mistake. It affects the way we conceive of ourselves and our relationship to the rest of the universe.

Maybe we'll just have to agree to disagree on the defintion of natural selection.

EDIT: Let me add that in each case, over time, (harnessing fire, agriculture, CRISPR, etc.) the fitness landscape has been changed by these adaptions. This leads to the possibility of further adaptations that might not otherwise be available. For example, we might not have writing unless we had been able to evolve an agrarian existence. Thus having the time to create writing enabled other technologies, which again changed the fitness landscape, which again led to further adaptations. We evolve with our technology, and it with us. All of these adaptations are the products of evolution. We like to think we're different because we have technology, and that our technology puts us outside the envelope of evolution. That's flattering and self-congratulatoty, but just isn't so.







RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/22/15 4:42 PM as a reply to Eva Nie.
Eva M Nie:

I don't believe evolution via genes is all there is, I've seen lots of weird stuff that goes well beyond what such evolution can explain.  If there are things beyond evolution then IMO they also influence development of humans. 


Do you have references in mind disproving natural selection ? What aspects of biology can't be explained by natural selection ?



Humans evolved an ability to capture concepts within a culture. Concepts within culture are competing for survival (like genes to some extent).

Rather anthropomorphised, don't you think?


Yes, in reference to human culture by a human I don't see how it can't be anthropocentric.




 In analogy with [natural selection], culture is not always aligned with the interests of individuals. We have ideologies like racism and habits like smoking as obvious demonstrations.

The experience of a self is part of the mechanism by which concepts survive and accumulate. The self seeks survival partly through conformity to cultural norms (maybe sub-cultural norms but these are part of the larger culture). Those cultural norms also help accumulate concepts. So for example "I want to be a good meditator" leads to "I want to write a book about meditating" which may lead to more individuals meditating but the book is in competition with other cultural practices like watching TV.

When this is seen there are some obvious options: Don't change behavior or Do change behavior

The collective suffering of individuals is great and neither evolution nor culture relieves overall suffering -
NOt completely obviously, that is not to say that it doesn't try have any benefit or purpose at all.  I think you are coming from a view that society and culture are like a machine that follows a few known mechanisms only and thus can be manipulated with that knowledge. 



It is not that simple.


I personally do not think it is that simple. 


that is not aligned with their mechanisms of reproduction. But we can choose to align culture with some objectives. That objective is arbitrary but I believe it is better to create an objective than accept the random course of history.

Another assumption, that the course of history is random.



That is a turn of phrase, not meant to be taken literally. It is confusing.




Some insight from Vipassana can make the above obvious.
Vipassana says course of history is random?


No.




It also raises new options. Evolution is being manipulated by culture -
Anthropomorphising.



I'm not sure what you are pointing to. It is not always a bad thing, it is a view that can be useful.




we can literally choose which genes survive and I guess we will be creating new genes one day. What could manipulate culture in a similar way ? One idea is a group of individuals that do not act out of individual interest and choose to manipulate concepts, similar to how a group of scientists manipulate genes.
Where do you get such poeple that have zero self interest?


Not sure. Certainly seems unlikely that self-interest would be zero all the time. But I'm pretty sure people can have moments where they do not act out of self interest (and probably more of those moments in certain ggroups dynamics). Some buddhist practices seem to help with this too.



This happens already, for example a group of people suffering discrimination get organized and promote certain concepts, sometimes causing shifts in the larger culture.
Such people have the self interest of promoting their own ideas so their lives can be better. They see it will work better as a group but self interest is likely their motivation. 


In some cases yes and I think no in other cases. There are many people who have died for causes (an extreme example).




Typically there is resistance from the dominant cultural patterns - they are literally fighting for survival (expressed by the action of individuals comitted to dominant concepts). 
And sometimes an idea takes off like wildfire with little resistance, strange how that is.



Did you have examples in mind ? I think you'll find a long chain of causality behind most "wildfires".



Perhaps any group that is not founded on an understanding of the nature of cultural conformity will rapidly be absorbed by existing cultural patterns. The tendency of the culture is to resist change but it can subsume threats.

Of the cultural patterns the most dangerous is perhaps the individual's sense of freewill and self importance. This seems to keep individuals from acting as coherent groups. Ironically the mirage of freewill enslaves.

Big assumption, Buddha did not promote belief in lack of free will, nor did he promote belief of free will, that there is self, that there is no self, he very carefully said to not cling to either view. 


Yes, this is using one of those views, not clinging to it.





An understanding of no-self can make cultural patterns seem inevitable. 
I don't see this logic leap either.  Is there a way of thinking that would make one think cultural patterns would disappear? 



Not that I'm aware of (maybe you misunderstood "inevitable")


If there are no cultural patterns, then would we all be identical in thought like ants?


The self in service of an ideology is how culture has often changed.
Very often it also changes due to self in service of self interest.


It can appear that way but I'm pointing toward another way of looking at it - that self interest is a mechanism of cultural control.



Action seems to require beliefs, maybe this is right view.
I disagree, Buddha said NOT to cling to views, IMO it's a basic tenant of right view not to cling to views. 


What is with the forceful disagreeing and capitals. Hopefully you see the contradiction there emoticon I think there is in general a confusion over having views and beliefs and clinging to them. It is not because one has beliefs and views that one must cling to them. I should have used anatman (as per the subject) as no-self is confusing. I think the Buddha was very clear about anatman - that we can disprove beyond reasonable doubt the notion of a soul and god. In my interpretation he is pretty hardcore on that point. You probably have your own take on what the "self" is or isn't and without agreeing on the terms I doubt we can make a "right" or "wrong" decision without some discussion.




But the impression I have of the Buddha's teaching is a focus on individual freedom. The broader picture might be captured by the concept of Bodhisattva in Mahayana ?
What views does Bodhisattva cling to?



I'm not sure. Perhaps your confusing clinging and having beliefs/views. I would assume that Bodhisattva have plenty of beliefs and views.

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/23/15 2:57 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Obviously natural selection got humans to a point where adaption via other mechanisms than natural selection became possible. But to ignore what these other mechanism are, is in my mind going to lead to fundamental misunderstandings about our situation.

You're misunderstanding my point, Mark. Of course there are other mecahanisms at play but they are all enabled and engnendered by evolution. The evidence for this is all around us. We know what we know and we can do what we now can do because we evolved to this point. Those other mechanisms fall within the boundaries of evolution by natural selection. They are all fitness optimizations that help us to survive. Just because we typically assume the science of genetics is outside evolution doesn't mean it actually is.  To ignore this is bound to lead to misunderstandings about our situation.

Other examples of capabilities that have come to us because we have evolved intelligence:

harnessing fire
agriculture
domesticating other animals

These calabilities, and all of science and genetics, are typically called "technologies," but by lableing them as such we tend to assume thay're not adaptions enabled by evolution. But that's what they are. This, to me, is an unfortunate mistake. It affects the way we conceive of ourselves and our relationship to the rest of the universe.

Maybe we'll just have to agree to disagree on the defintion of natural selection.







Hi Chris,

I'm using the term "natural selection" as one of the factors in human evolution, other factors include how culture evolves (and it does not evolve through natural selection). I've asked you some pretty specific questions and you've not answered them.

If you think that things like cultural evolution are directly related to survivability that seems clearly wrong to me. Cultures do all sorts of things (like creating climate change) that are not in the interests if survivability.

We could take a similar attitude and claim that it is all a result of physical cosmology, because we would not have human evolution without that. So we should not separate out something like human evolution. Sure it is a position that can be taken for the sake of argument but I think it adds little value.

Whose definition of natural selection are you using ? As I wrote I'm using the term as per Darwin's theory and subsequent developments.

I'm confused by why you want to focus on this particular point. You seem to be implying that it is unreasonable to consider cultural evolution as a different mechanism than genetic evolution (natural selection). I'm wondering why the push back on exploring the details. 

I would encourage you to try taking on a different view just to see where it leads. The "agree to disagree" can be a wise conclusion but it can also be a way to avoid exploring alternatives. 

I don't think many will claim that science and other technologies are not enabled by natural selection. Where do you see people making that claim ? You seem to be claiming that those technologies are "all fitness optimizations that help us to survive." and that is clearly not true, for example atomic weapons and climate change. Culture also evolves in many ways that have nothing to do with survivability e.g. the next trend in pop music will not be related to survivability.

[Edit: Something that I'm assuming and you may not be is the concept of "emergence". This still allows for causality but it highlights the utility of analysing various properties in their own terms because of emergent properties.]

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/22/15 8:05 PM as a reply to Mark.
Mark:
Eva M Nie:

I don't believe evolution via genes is all there is, I've seen lots of weird stuff that goes well beyond what such evolution can explain.  If there are things beyond evolution then IMO they also influence development of humans. 


Do you have references in mind disproving natural selection ? What aspects of biology can't be explained by natural selection ?
Please note that I said very specifically that I suspect there might be other influences in addition (also influence) to natural selection.  I did not say I planned to disprove natural selection.  But any spiritual influence, god, astral travel, psychic powers any such, if it exists, could also also influence development.  And from a more scientifically favored viewpoint, epigenetics is the new thorn in the side of natural selection. 













It also raises new options. Evolution is being manipulated by culture -
Anthropomorphising.



I'm not sure what you are pointing to. It is not always a bad thing, it is a view that can be useful.
You are speaking of culture as if it is a human with emotions and manipulates things which I find confusing is all, to speak of it that way IMO does not really make sense.  Anthropomorphism=ascribing human form or attributes to a being or thing not human. 



we can literally choose which genes survive and I guess we will be creating new genes one day. What could manipulate culture in a similar way ? One idea is a group of individuals that do not act out of individual interest and choose to manipulate concepts, similar to how a group of scientists manipulate genes.
Where do you get such poeple that have zero self interest?


Not sure. Certainly seems unlikely that self-interest would be zero all the time. But I'm pretty sure people can have moments where they do not act out of self interest (and probably more of those moments in certain ggroups dynamics). Some buddhist practices seem to help with this too.
Might be nice to have such creatures but I don't think we have them so it's kind of a moot point IMO to start any project or idea with the plans to obtain such creatures.  ;-P


This happens already, for example a group of people suffering discrimination get organized and promote certain concepts, sometimes causing shifts in the larger culture.
Such people have the self interest of promoting their own ideas so their lives can be better. They see it will work better as a group but self interest is likely their motivation. 


In some cases yes and I think no in other cases. There are many people who have died for causes (an extreme example).
Human emotions are complicated, may not be safe to say those who volunteer to die have zero self interest.  Some may no longer want to live in the current environment, some may want to think their memory will live on as a martyr, some might think they will get 7 virgins waiting for them right after death or a seat next to God, and be in a hurry to get there, etc. 



Typically there is resistance from the dominant cultural patterns - they are literally fighting for survival (expressed by the action of individuals comitted to dominant concepts). 
And sometimes an idea takes off like wildfire with little resistance, strange how that is.



Did you have examples in mind ? I think you'll find a long chain of causality behind most "wildfires".
Well one could argue there is causality behind anything you ever see, but chain of causality is not IMO the same thing as nor proof of 'fighting for survival' Lots of memes just take hold like wildfire, even the whole Buddhist trend these days, ideas come and go like clouds, some easier than others.  I always wondered how that guy in the 70s convinced people to actually pay money for 'pet rocks' LOL!



Perhaps any group that is not founded on an understanding of the nature of cultural conformity will rapidly be absorbed by existing cultural patterns. The tendency of the culture is to resist change but it can subsume threats.

Of the cultural patterns the most dangerous is perhaps the individual's sense of freewill and self importance. This seems to keep individuals from acting as coherent groups. Ironically the mirage of freewill enslaves.

Big assumption, Buddha did not promote belief in lack of free will, nor did he promote belief of free will, that there is self, that there is no self, he very carefully said to not cling to either view. 


Yes, this is using one of those views, not clinging to it.
You are buidling a whole premise as if the view was fact, that is more than just adopting somethning for a bit to see if it will work.  You are speaking as if you know it is a fact that free will is a mirage.  How do you know it is a mirage? 




An understanding of no-self can make cultural patterns seem inevitable. 
I don't see this logic leap either.  Is there a way of thinking that would make one think cultural patterns would disappear? 



Not that I'm aware of (maybe you misunderstood "inevitable")


If there are no cultural patterns, then would we all be identical in thought like ants?


The self in service of an ideology is how culture has often changed.
Very often it also changes due to self in service of self interest.


It can appear that way but I'm pointing toward another way of looking at it - that self interest is a mechanism of cultural control.
Culture is just a byproduct of humans.  If you say that culture tries to control, the souce of that is humans.  Do humans use self interest to try to influence other humans?  Certainly.  Are you thinking that if you remove self interest, then the prob will go away?  The prob is that humans have to voluntarily decide to go that route and those with a lot of self interest will probably not choose to do so.  You can try to use culture to demonize self interest (oh wait, I think that is already happening), but I think you will find that the self interest will just get hidden better (like you see in most of politics).


Action seems to require beliefs, maybe this is right view.
I disagree, Buddha said NOT to cling to views, IMO it's a basic tenant of right view not to cling to views. 


What is with the forceful disagreeing and capitals. Hopefully you see the contradiction there emoticon 
It is what buddha said, I don't think there is much room for argument that he said it.  Capitals serve to emphasize.  (and IMO is capitalized because of standard English useage).  Now if you want to agree that what Buddha said is the best way or not is another point.  But if we are on a Buddhist board, if you choose to go against what Buddha said, you might expect to get challenged on it and it might also be a good idea if you were aware when you were doing it.  Buddha gave his method as the most efficient way he could see to relieve suffering, I personally don't know if it is THE most efficient way possible, but so far, I haven't seen much better so I tend to go with it overall.  Anyway, even if I am guilty of clinging to views, I doubt Buddha would give you a pass for doing it too.  Pointing a finger at me is  not the way to answer a question as to what you are doing.  ;-P

I think there is in general a confusion over having views and beliefs and clinging to them. It is not because one has beliefs and views that one must cling to them.
My opinion only but if you have a view and you are sure it is right and operate as such and plan your life as such, that is clinging to that view.  From what I can see, Buddha suggested this was a bad plan until the point of enlightenment at least, and at that point your mind would operate differently and you would no longer need such rules.  From my perspective, what I see is people get these views on things that we just don't have much evidence for either way like self is delusion, self in not delusion, how can you know?  Do you know every last thing about self that there is to know? What if the one you picked is wrong or incomplete?  I don't know about Buddha but seem sto me it's a bad idea to cling to ideas that you can't even know the answer to for sure in the first place.   

I should have used anatman (as per the subject) as no-self is confusing.
No self is different than not self.  Buddha said said various things are not self but he did not say one should believe categorically in no self at all. 

I think the Buddha was very clear about anatman - that we can disprove beyond reasonable doubt the notion of a soul and god.
I don't know of the words that said such. Where did Buddha disprove God and soul?  I'd certainly be curious how such could be done.  I could certainly agree that to find evidence for them is equally not possible, that standard conceptions of God have had a downside, and that such beliefs may be counterproductive.  But that is not the same is disproving God exists for sure, I'd like to see someone achieve such a thing LOL!  Seems like Buddha was mostly interested in what worked to end suffering and he did not seem to think common beliefs of God were conducive.  However, he did say,
"“If we examine the origin of anything in
all the universe, we find that it is but a manifestation of some primal
essence. Even the tiny leaves of herbs, knots of threads, everything, if
we examine them carefully we find that there is some essence in its
originality. Even open space is not nothingness. How can it be then that
the wonderful, pure, tranquil and enlightened Mind, which is the source
of all conceptions of manifested phenomena, should have no essence of
itself?” (2)
 

In my interpretation he is pretty hardcore on that point. You probably have your own take on what the "self" is or isn't and without agreeing on the terms I doubt we can make a "right" or "wrong" decision without some discussion.
I don't know what the self and sense of self is or comes from or is not or what limits it has.  It's a weird thing but I suspect it is not a simple thing from the perspective of Earth consciousness. I also suspect that many questions can't be correctly answered because the questions themselves come with incorrect assumptions built it. 
-Eva




But the impression I have of the Buddha's teaching is a focus on individual freedom. The broader picture might be captured by the concept of Bodhisattva in Mahayana ?
What views does Bodhisattva cling to?



I'm not sure. Perhaps your confusing clinging and having beliefs/views. I would assume that Bodhisattva have plenty of beliefs and views.

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/23/15 4:30 AM as a reply to Eva Nie.
Eva M Nie:

Please note that I said very specifically that I suspect there might be other influences in addition (also influence) to natural selection. 


The original posit is saying the same thing while drawing particular attention to culture as one of the influences.


You are speaking of culture as if it is a human with emotions and manipulates things which I find confusing is all, to speak of it that way IMO does not really make sense.  Anthropomorphism=ascribing human form or attributes to a being or thing not human. 


Ok I see your point but that is not what I'm trying to communicate. Clearly culture is not something with intentions. I'm using a shortcut when talking about what culture "wants" etc. This is one of the reasons I drew the analogy with natural selection - "culture" and "natural selection" are processes. The process does not have intentions etc but it does have emergent properties which show up as patterns. So for example natural selection results in adaptability but that is an emergent property not to be confused with a human who might design something with adaptability in mind.

We can use more pedantic terms to avoid what can be perceived as anthropomorphism or we can agree to take these short cuts. 

I agree it was worth clarifying this, as there is a real risk of ascribing intentions and other properties we associate with sentient beings to concepts and processes. I am not doing that I'm trying to highlight that culture does not have any inherent interests. 


...But I'm pretty sure people can have moments where they do not act out of self interest (and probably more of those moments in certain groups dynamics). 
Might be nice to have such creatures but I don't think we have them so it's kind of a moot point IMO to start any project or idea with the plans to obtain such creatures.  ;-P


You have a belief which is not a problem in itself but I'm not sure that belief is founded on facts. If you believe that humans can only act with self interest at heart then I'd encourage you to challenge that assumption. This does not have to be black and white. It seems perfectly reasonable to me that it is more likely shades of grey. The objective is not to somehow obtain "perfect" individuals that never act out of self interest.

It is clear to me that acting selflessly is possible but I'm not going to be able to easily prove it to you if you are holding onto another belief. I draw that conclusion from reflection on dependent origination.


Did you have examples in mind ? I think you'll find a long chain of causality behind most "wildfires".
Well one could argue there is causality behind anything you ever see, but chain of causality is not IMO the same thing as nor proof of 'fighting for survival' Lots of memes just take hold like wildfire, even the whole Buddhist trend these days, ideas come and go like clouds, some easier than others.  I always wondered how that guy in the 70s convinced people to actually pay money for 'pet rocks' LOL!


"Fighting for survival" is just another turn of phrase, it implies that the process of culture leads to concepts competing for influence. So for example pet rocks took awareness away form many other concepts. The idea that concepts are "competing" is again a shortcut - obviously concepts don't have intentions. I hope you will take these turns of phrase less literally or I'm going to need to be too pedantic in my writing.

I think that if you investigated the dynamics around pet rocks there would be plenty of reasons that would make what appears to be "just take hold like wildfire" in fact understandable through causality. From a distance is can appear "magical". This is not to say that there is a simple or stable formula - it is complex. But it is much easier to see the causes after the fact.


You are buidling a whole premise as if the view was fact, that is more than just adopting somethning for a bit to see if it will work.  You are speaking as if you know it is a fact that free will is a mirage.  How do you know it is a mirage? 


I think you are projecting a lot into what I'm writing. This is an exploration I'm not claiming some absolute truth. It is quite reasonable to build on views as if they are facts, we are all doing this all the time. The problem is when we get attached to a view.

Regarding the detail of freewill, we should agree on the meaning first. The traditional western concept of freewill is related to a soul - that there is some essence not of this world that is not constrained by the causality of this world.

As I pointed to earlier I believe the Buddha was very clear about the non existence of a soul. We can get evidence for this by exploring dependent origination, so I do treat not having a "soul" as a fact. Obviously I could be wrong but I have confidence in that concept for now based on explorations of dependent origination.

There are other definitions of freewill, personally I have a different definition in mind when I think about freewill now (because the traditional concept has been seen through). To me it is more related to seeing culture and self as co-constructed.


It can appear that way but I'm pointing toward another way of looking at it - that self interest is a mechanism of cultural control.
Culture is just a byproduct of humans. 


That is the traditional assumption but I'm trying to challenge that and offer another view. The self is a social construction - that is the key point. There is a feedback whereby individuals impact culture. It is the culturally constructed nature of self that is of interest to me in this thread.



If you say that culture tries to control, the souce of that is humans. 


It is not obvious to see and this thread is proving to me that it is even more difficult to explain. I think you are using a shortcut with "tries" and we are discussing culture as a process. Individuals are a part of that process. The self is formed by that process and this results in individuals participating in certain ways within the process.


Do humans use self interest to try to influence other humans?  Certainly.  Are you thinking that if you remove self interest, then the prob will go away? 


No. I think you are over-simplifying what I'm presenting. The idea is not to create some sort of perfect individual with no self interest. Partly the idea is to see the formation of self as a cultural phenomena. At the same time to see that culture is a process like natural selection. We have learnt to influence natural selection to serve human interests. Likewise we can learn to influence culture to serve human interests. I think part of going about that is realising the cultural construction of self and then deconstructing that to align individual behaviour with cultural objectives. That does not mean the individual looses all notion of self and self interest. But it may allow the individual to make some decisions that are in a much broader context and relevant to cultural objectives (beyond self interest).

Action seems to require beliefs, maybe this is right view.
I disagree, Buddha said NOT to cling to views, IMO it's a basic tenant of right view not to cling to views. 

It is what buddha said, I don't think there is much room for argument that he said it.

Again it is just a belief/view. You don't know what the Buddha said. Even more problematic you may be interpreting what was written down incorrectly. I think you are assuming that a belief requires clinging to a view, this is not true. For example I believe my toothbrush is in the left cupboard, if it is not there and I find it on the shelf then I'm not going to suffer. I simply note that my belief was wrong and get on with brushing my teeth.


I think there is in general a confusion over having views and beliefs and clinging to them. It is not because one has beliefs and views that one must cling to them.
My opinion only but if you have a view and you are sure it is right and operate as such and plan your life as such, that is clinging to that view. 

I'd disagree, the easy way to know if you are clinging is to see if there is suffering. If you can use a view as if it is fact but then change view and not suffer you were not clinging to it. So for example I'm raising a view in this thread with the hope that I will either deepen my understanding of that view or change it. I don't expect to suffer in either case.
 I don't know about Buddha but seem sto me it's a bad idea to cling to ideas that you can't even know the answer to for sure in the first place.


You are projecting the clinging to ideas. But independent of that you are clinging to a belief in regards to what can and can't be answered. If I have views that are different from yours it might be that you've made invalid assumptions. If however you believe that there is no value then you will not see any value.





I should have used anatman (as per the subject) as no-self is confusing.
No self is different than not self.  Buddha said said various things are not self but he did not say one should believe categorically in no self at all. 



I hope it is clearer that I'm not making a case for "one should believe categorically in no self at all."


I think the Buddha was very clear about anatman - that we can disprove beyond reasonable doubt the notion of a soul and god.
I don't know of the words that said such. Where did Buddha disprove God and soul?  

Reflection on dependent origination and the nature of experience leads to a strong belief in this. It is a proof for the person who does the work I think.

One of the messages of the Buddha was that Advaita was wrong - he pushed the concept of Anatman. He also gave us the techniques to prove this to oursleves, I think you'll reach a similar conclusion. I'd encourage you to investigate what beliefs and views the Buddha did have, he clearly had many. For example he wrote a bunch of rules etc. You seem to have taken the idea of not clinging to views into some weird direction where it means not having beliefs. I think this is fundamental misunderstanding of Buddhism - sorry if this is too blunt.

To be clear there are topics that the Buddha did not take a clear stance on (and advised against investigating). But he also took a clear stance on a great many topics. One of the most important ones (in my opinion) is anatman. 

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/23/15 12:06 PM as a reply to Mark.
I don't think many will claim that science and other technologies are not enabled by natural selection. Where do you see people making that claim ? You seem to be claiming that those technologies are "all fitness optimizations that help us to survive." and that is clearly not true, for example atomic weapons and climate change. Culture also evolves in many ways that have nothing to do with survivability e.g. the next trend in pop music will not be related to survivability.

Mark, I'm clearly not getting my point across very well. The process of evolution, as I'm sure you know, manages to produce all sorts of dead ends and "bad" results. Atomic weapons, trends in pop songs, poorly engineered mammalian eyes, moving from four legs to two, losing legs altogether and returning to the ocean. It's all about survivability - and the fit adaptations move us along the curve while the unfit adaptations don't. I'm not making the claim that all adaptations are "good" adaptations. 

If you think that things like cultural evolution are directly related to survivability that seems clearly wrong to me. Cultures do all sorts of things (like creating climate change) that are not in the interests if survivability.

Yes, cultures and technologies do all sorts of things. See above. All adapations are not necessarily "positive." Maybe even many are not. But it's a process, iterative, algorithmic.

I'm confused by why you want to focus on this particular point. You seem to be implying that it is unreasonable to consider cultural evolution as a different mechanism than genetic evolution (natural selection). I'm wondering why the push back on exploring the details. 

I'm stuck on this because I perceive it to be a critical understanding when talking about anything to do with natural selection - biological, technical, cultural, and so on. You seem to me to be artifically focusing on one particular part of the process when in fact it's all one process, not separable into pieces that act in isolation.

I would encourage you to try taking on a different view just to see where it leads. The "agree to disagree" can be a wise conclusion but it can also be a way to avoid exploring alternatives. 

Mark, this comes across as condescending. I'm hoping you didn't mean it that way. I think agreeing to disagree is actually a wise conclusion in this case. We're not convincing each other, so it's best to move on.

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/23/15 1:11 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:

It's all about survivability - and the fit adaptations move us along the curve while the unfit adaptations don't.


The idea of a curve which we move along resonates with the opening of the original post. As I now see it there is no moving along a curve, there is no curve. Evolution in the larger sense is just not working out that way. The sun will destroy the earth in the distant future.


If you think that things like cultural evolution are directly related to survivability that seems clearly wrong to me. Cultures do all sorts of things (like creating climate change) that are not in the interests if survivability.

Yes, cultures and technologies do all sorts of things. See above. All adapations are not necessarily "positive." Maybe even many are not. But it's a process, iterative, algorithmic.


That is is a process we agree on. Why you believe everything comes down to survivability I can't follow. You seem to be confusing natural selection (sexual reproduction) with other aspects, for example this solar system evolved prior to life being able to appear within it.

If you have to consider the larger system of evolution - basically everything that is changing - then survivability just does not seem a valid criteria. What does survivability mean for an atom or a sun. Survivability is clearly anthropocentric and I assume you don't think that humans are at the center of the universe ?

I'm confused by why you want to focus on this particular point. You seem to be implying that it is unreasonable to consider cultural evolution as a different mechanism than genetic evolution (natural selection). I'm wondering why the push back on exploring the details. 

I'm stuck on this because I perceive it to be a critical understanding when talking about anything to do with natural selection - biological, technical, cultural, and so on. You seem to me to be artifically focusing on one particular part of the process when in fact it's all one process, not separable into pieces that act in isolation.


I agree that there is interaction between various systems and there are larger systems beyond the comprehension of humans. For example the sun is evolving and that is critical to the current environment on this planet. The evolution of cars would not the happening without the earlier evolution of humans and culture etc. But it is quite reasonable to try and understand how a car works without laying out the details of the relationship between the car and sun. Learning about how a car works is not a denial of the interconnected nature of the world we live in. We should be able to look at the details as well as the bigger picture. Maybe you were assuming that I don't think things are interconnected.

We're not convincing each other, so it's best to move on.

I'd be happy to be convinced but I don't see you providing much help in understanding your point of view.

From what I understand you are saying that the study of human culture (and I infer therefore the study of anything) that does not consider the entire evolutionary process in it's whole is a waste of time. There is no point understanding the mechanisms of natural selection through sexual reproduction because that is just one aspect of a larger evolution. There is no point understanding mechanisms within human culture because that is only a part of the larger system.

I hope I'm really misunderstanding you. But I did not start the thread claiming to be providing some definitive answer to the evolution of the universe. I'm still struggling with the basics emoticon

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/23/15 3:13 PM as a reply to Mark.
From what I understand you are saying that the study of human culture (and I infer therefore the study of anything) that does not consider the entire evolutionary process in it's whole is a waste of time. There is no point understanding the mechanisms of natural selection through sexual reproduction because that is just one aspect of a larger evolution. There is no point understanding mechanisms within human culture because that is only a part of the larger system.

Your exaggeration of my comments is helping me understand where you're coming from.

Yes, we have to consider the inter-relationships. We can't isolate the parts without being aware of the entire process. There's nothing wrong (i.e.; it's not a waste of time) to study how the genome is passed along and how mutuations in the genome lead to changes in the organism. But that's just a part of the story. Where do the mutations come from? How is the fitness landcape changes by chnegs in the organism, or the new capasbilities that it has evolved? 




RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/24/15 2:24 AM as a reply to Mark.
Mark:

You are speaking of culture as if it is a human with emotions and manipulates things which I find confusing is all, to speak of it that way IMO does not really make sense.  Anthropomorphism=ascribing human form or attributes to a being or thing not human. 


Ok I see your point but that is not what I'm trying to communicate. Clearly culture is not something with intentions. I'm using a shortcut when talking about what culture "wants" etc. This is one of the reasons I drew the analogy with natural selection - "culture" and "natural selection" are processes. The process does not have intentions etc but it does have emergent properties which show up as patterns. So for example natural selection results in adaptability but that is an emergent property not to be confused with a human who might design something with adaptability in mind.
I was good until the last sentence, natural selection results in adaptability as an emergent property.  Are you just saying culture is able to change when influences change? 

We can use more pedantic terms to avoid what can be perceived as anthropomorphism or we can agree to take these short cuts. 
I found your ''short cut' to be just confusing. I wasn't trying to nitpick, just got confused when you repeated in several places the method of talking as if culture had it's own conscious desires.  I suspect your method of verbal processing is very differenet than mine.  

I agree it was worth clarifying this, as there is a real risk of ascribing intentions and other properties we associate with sentient beings to concepts and processes. I am not doing that I'm trying to highlight that culture does not have any inherent interests. 
Ok so I think I see your point is that you are thinking culture is similar to natural selection in that it is a process that you believe might be subject to logical methods of manipulation.? 



You have a belief which is not a problem in itself but I'm not sure that belief is founded on facts. If you believe that humans can only act with self interest at heart then I'd encourage you to challenge that assumption.
I am not sure why many of my statements are getting interpreted as all or nothing, that's not the way my mind typically workds.  Not saying t can't ever act with self interest, just that often there is most of the time at least some self interest involved.  And that IMO,  you would be hard pressed to find a source of those who don't have ANY self interest at all for any length of time.  IMO, those who are said to be altuistic are mostly those who have less self interest than average or only have small amounts of self interest. 

This does not have to be black and white. It seems perfectly reasonable to me that it is more likely shades of grey. The objective is not to somehow obtain "perfect" individuals that never act out of self interest.

It is clear to me that acting selflessly is possible but I'm not going to be able to easily prove it to you if you are holding onto another belief. I draw that conclusion from reflection on dependent origination.
Most people are not aware of all the things that drive them. 


Did you have examples in mind ? I think you'll find a long chain of causality behind most "wildfires".
Well one could argue there is causality behind anything you ever see, but chain of causality is not IMO the same thing as nor proof of 'fighting for survival' Lots of memes just take hold like wildfire, even the whole Buddhist trend these days, ideas come and go like clouds, some easier than others.  I always wondered how that guy in the 70s convinced people to actually pay money for 'pet rocks' LOL!


"Fighting for survival" is just another turn of phrase, it implies that the process of culture leads to concepts competing for influence.
Another example of the anthropomorphising, it got confusing. 

So for example pet rocks took awareness away form many other concepts. The idea that concepts are "competing" is again a shortcut - obviously concepts don't have intentions. I hope you will take these turns of phrase less literally or I'm going to need to be too pedantic in my writing.
Was that first sentence above really considered to be 'too pedantic?

I think that if you investigated the dynamics around pet rocks there would be plenty of reasons that would make what appears to be "just take hold like wildfire" in fact understandable through causality. From a distance is can appear "magical". This is not to say that there is a simple or stable formula - it is complex. But it is much easier to see the causes after the fact.
My point was if you say that something is due to causality and Buddhist belief is that everthing visible is due to causality, you are basically not saying anything special about anything.  It's like if I said, "yeah but that stuff is made of stuff." As if it were an argument or evidence of some kind. I don't see what point you are tyring ot make about culture by saying culture is due to causality if everything is due to causality anyway.  

You are buidling a whole premise as if the view was fact, that is more than just adopting somethning for a bit to see if it will work.  You are speaking as if you know it is a fact that free will is a mirage.  How do you know it is a mirage? 


I think you are projecting a lot into what I'm writing. This is an exploration I'm not claiming some absolute truth. It is quite reasonable to build on views as if they are facts, we are all doing this all the time. The problem is when we get attached to a view.
So your view is a fact so you are not clinging to a view cuz it's not a view (because it is a fact)?  If it's a fact then where is the proof?  No proof, IMO it's a view, even if a useful one.  And no I don't buy that cuz you personally expeirence it as true, means it is a fact.  Experiences and perceptoin are also conditioned.  Your experiences are still just epxeriences that had to get funneled through your filters before you coudl become aware of them .  Maybe you saw it because you expected to see it.  ;-P  Or it could be bascially true, certainly.  But its still a view. 

Regarding the detail of freewill, we should agree on the meaning first. The traditional western concept of freewill is related to a soul - that there is some essence not of this world that is not constrained by the causality of this world.
That is not my personal definition of free will.  You know, Buddha said that nibbana is unconditioned (not subject to causality) and that some other dhammas also were  unconditioned, "of all dhammas, conditioned or unconditioned, the most excellent dhamma, the supreme dhamma is, Nibbana"  DOes free will exist in or as part of  any of the unconditioned realities?  Heck if I know. 

As I pointed to earlier I believe the Buddha was very clear about the non existence of a soul.
But he was not clear at all, interpretation is not nearly so simple, in fact he refused to answer either way saying clinging to either view was detrimental to enlightenment.  His words:
know-and-see what ideas are fit and unfit for attention. This being so,
one does not attend to ideas fit for attention and instead attends to
ideas unfit for attention... One reflects in an unbeneficial
way by asking such questions as: "Was I in the past (in a former life)?
Was I not in the past (arising out of chance and meaningless
circumstance)? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having
been what, what was I in the past? Shall I be in the future? Shall I not
be in the future? What shall I be in the future? How shall I be in the
future? Having been what, what shall I be in the future?" Or one is inwardly perplexed about the present: "Am I? Am I not? What am I? How am I? Where have I come from? Where am I going?"Pondering in this way, one of six kinds of VIEW arises:
  1. "The view I have a self arises as true and established,
  2. or the view I have no self...
  3. or the view, 'It is precisely by means of self that I perceive self...'
  4. or the view, 'It is precisely by means of self that I perceive not-self...'
  5. or the view, 'It is precisely by means of not-self that I perceive self arises as true and established,'
  6. or else one has a view like this: 'This very self of mine -- the knower [witness, experiencer,
    who like Descartes concludes, "I think therefore I am"] that is
    sensitive here and there to the ripening of skillful and unskillful
    actions (karma) -- is the self of mine that is constant, everlasting,
    eternal, not subject to change, and will endure past death as long as
    eternity."
This is called a thicket of views, a wilderness of views, a contortion of views, a writhing of views, a fetter of views. Bound
by a fetter of views, the uninstructed ordinary person is not freed
from birth, aging, or death, from sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress,
or despair. One is not freed, I declare, from suffering (dukkha).The
well-instructed disciple of the noble ones... knows-and-sees what ideas
are fit and unfit for attention. This being so, one does not attend to

We can get evidence for this by exploring dependent origination, so I do treat not having a "soul" as a fact.
You came to that conclusion using your route but it's not what Buddha said.  He said belief that there is no self ( or any of hte other options) are wrong view.  But you are saying self is delusion is fact.  Quite a difference from what Buddha said!  Personally I suspect, if you believe something strongly (or that it is fact), then you tend to only experience things that support that view.  Hence IMO the dangers of clinging to views is that you limit your experiences and understsandings to only those things that fit that view.  ;-P  From waht I've read, Buddha just said clinging to views is not the route to nibbana.  


Obviously I could be wrong but I have confidence in that concept for now based on explorations of dependent origination.
Well actual words of Buddha do not support your assumption. (of course neither do they quite not support it either.)  Only thing clear IMO is Buddha said clinging to belief in self and clinging to belief in no self are both wrong view in his opinion.  My personal suspicion is that such questions are too simple and too loaded with assumptions and pitfalls and that none of those are very accurate of the real truth, for which you may need nibbana to understand better and for which there may not be the right words in language to express it well.  So better to just try to avoid that trap until later when your mind is more capable.   


It can appear that way but I'm pointing toward another way of looking at it - that self interest is a mechanism of cultural control.
Culture is just a byproduct of humans. 


That is the traditional assumption but I'm trying to challenge that and offer another view. The self is a social construction - that is the key point. There is a feedback whereby individuals impact culture. It is the culturally constructed nature of self that is of interest to me in this thread.
Ok, I thnk I get the gist.  Certainly culture has a strong influence on devleopment of self and also it flows the other way, it's a feedback loop, but something had to start the ball rolling.  They did not both create eachother. 




Do humans use self interest to try to influence other humans?  Certainly.  Are you thinking that if you remove self interest, then the prob will go away? 


No. I think you are over-simplifying what I'm presenting. The idea is not to create some sort of perfect individual with no self interest. Partly the idea is to see the formation of self as a cultural phenomena. At the same time to see that culture is a process like natural selection.
If you had just said that off the bat, might have saved some time.  I was trying to guess your point but it was not obvious to me.  I do agree culture strongly influences development of self, not convinced it's the only influence though.  I can see yoru viewpoint on why you would think culture is like natural selection, I am kind of a fence sitter on that one though.  I often ponder culture and what influences it, but have not come to any storng conclusions I don't think.   It kind of fascinates me the way certain ideas that were long there suddenly get more trendy, like mustaches, zombies, etc.  

We have learnt to influence natural selection to serve human interests. Likewise we can learn to influence culture to serve human interests.
May be much harder, components of culture are not as mathematically clear cut, and we still are only just beginning to understand how genes work in natural selection too.  For instance, what makes eye color is not even understood, genes are only a  part of it, scientists cannot be sure of eye color just by looking at genes.  For instance, I have hazel eyes but they change color over time with less or more brown areas and less or more intensity of green (such change is not due to lighting and is fairly common with hazel eye'd people although nonhazel eyed scientists don't like to admit it)  Anyway, point is, even 'scientific' processes are not very accurately understood at this point. 

I think part of going about that is realising the cultural construction of self and then deconstructing that to align individual behaviour with cultural objectives.
Ah but if culture constructs self, then how to deconstruct self without use of culture?  The chicken and the egg are intertwined.  Science has learne dto change egg to be diff than the chicken would have naturally layed but do you have a plan for doing the same with selves? (if the plan relies on a group of people working without self interest, it might b ea tough one since culture has not produced many of those) 

That does not mean the individual looses all notion of self and self interest. But it may allow the individual to make some decisions that are in a much broader context and relevant to cultural objectives (beyond self interest).
Ok but if you want to use culture to change indviduals and individuals to change culture, how do you start hte process?  One of them will first need to be changed without the use of the other in order to get it started. (seems to me at least according to your paradigm)

Action seems to require beliefs, maybe this is right view.
I disagree, Buddha said NOT to cling to views, IMO it's a basic tenant of right view not to cling to views. 

It is what buddha said, I don't think there is much room for argument that he said it.

Again it is just a belief/view. You don't know what the Buddha said.
Well it is written in the pali canon.  Beyond that, if not believing in word sof pali cannon, who coudl evne say for sure if Buddha existed and if Buddhism is based on bs or whatever.  But one might assume you are basing your authority that causality and dependent origination are 'fact' on authority of Buddhist tenant. If you throw out other pali cannon statements, then on what do you base your you IMo also lose the authority of dependent origination as being obviously true.  ANother quote of Buddha: "By & large, Kaccāyana, this world is supported by [takes as its object] a polarity, that of existence & non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'non-existence' with reference to the world doesn't occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, 'existence' with reference to the world doesn't occur to one."

According to Buddha, this is right view, neither attachment to idea of self nor attachment ot idea of not self. IMo, this quote insinuates that an assumptoin of polarity betwen the two is already inaccurate.  Of course, no one says you have to believe words in an old text. but IMO, looks fishy if you use buddhist doctrine as authority for idea of no self withtout being able to quote a direct source but then refuse to accept Buddhist doctrine for statements that are directly and clearly quoted from pali canon. 

Even more problematic you may be interpreting what was written down incorrectly. I think you are assuming that a belief requires clinging to a view, this is not true. For example I believe my toothbrush is in the left cupboard, if it is not there and I find it on the shelf then I'm not going to suffer. I simply note that my belief was wrong and get on with brushing my teeth.
Perhaps my assumption of your clinging is becuase it is written that Buddha specifically said not to hold the view or ponder that there is not self and that such is wrong view.  The quotes are quite clear.  Yet you continue to just sort of deny that for some reason.  It's the actions of one that does not want to know. You could  have bene curious, asked me for quotes, looked up quotes yourself, etc.  Instead you just kind of denied Buddha said it. FYI there are lots of things I do that Buddha suggested not to do,it's not like I am some Buddha worhsipper, but I do at least admit it to myself and others that I am doing those things and that Buddha said not to and that maybe he could have been right. I am not in denial is the thing (at least I am not in denial of some of the things, there may be other things that I am denial on and becasue I am in denial, do not realize I am in denial, ie it's hard to see the areas where one is currently blind..) .  

I think there is in general a confusion over having views and beliefs and clinging to them. It is not because one has beliefs and views that one must cling to them.
My opinion only but if you have a view and you are sure it is right and operate as such and plan your life as such, that is clinging to that view. 

I'd disagree, the easy way to know if you are clinging is to see if there is suffering. If you can use a view as if it is fact but then change view and not suffer you were not clinging to it. So for example I'm raising a view in this thread with the hope that I will either deepen my understanding of that view or change it. I don't expect to suffer in either case.

Buddha said not to ponder, believe or cling to idea of no self (or self).  He did not say beliefs are OK if you don't THINK there is any suffering apaprently.   I think it's clear you are at least pondering and believing in it even if you are going to try to argue you are not clinging.  It's also clear he said to believe it DOES lead to suffering at least in comparison to nibbana.   By suffering I suspect he mean not being in nibbana.   Unless you claim nibbana, I think by default, that means you have suffering.  Anyway, if you do not want ot see it that way, I certainly do not have th e power to convince you.  We will just have to agree to disagree at some point.  But I think Buddha's word sare very very clear and straightforward on this point that even pondering no self is wrong view.   
 I don't know about Buddha but seem sto me it's a bad idea to cling to ideas that you can't even know the answer to for sure in the first place.


You are projecting the clinging to ideas. But independent of that you are clinging to a belief in regards to what can and can't be answered. If I have views that are different from yours it might be that you've made invalid assumptions.
What beliefs have I said I held in regards to self and no self?  I have only said Buddha said not to cling to (or ponder or view) either.   

If however you believe that there is no value then you will not see any value.
I am not sure if hter eis value, I am only saying according to words of Buddha, belief in no self is wrong view.  And i have now backed up my assertion with direct quotes.




I should have used anatman (as per the subject) as no-self is confusing.
No self is different than not self.  Buddha said said various things are not self but he did not say one should believe categorically in no self at all. 



I hope it is clearer that I'm not making a case for "one should believe categorically in no self at all."
Nope, not clear, what is diff between that and the case you wish to make?


I think the Buddha was very clear about anatman - that we can disprove beyond reasonable doubt the notion of a soul and god.
I don't know of the words that said such. Where did Buddha disprove God and soul?  

Reflection on dependent origination and the nature of experience leads to a strong belief in this. It is a proof for the person who does the work I think.
You asserted that Buddha said it, then when challenged, you said that reflection on dependent origination causes it.  Well maybe for YOU where you are right now, but not for everyone IMO.  and Buddha did not say any such as far as i can find, and inplied the opposite, one of the above quotes seems to indicate a simple view like that is incorrect.  IMO, bad policy to say Buddha said something if he in fact did not say any such at all.  Beliefs you have accumulated through your own system are not evidence of what Buddha said, only what Buddha said is evidence of what buddha said.  Kinda cheeky to assume and assert they are identical without even bothering to check! 

One of the messages of the Buddha was that Advaita was wrong
Where did he say that? And did he say the whole thing was wrong or just parts?   I got the impression he only said there was suffering and certain ways of thinking lead to cessation of suffering and was not making any claims about the rest of it. 
- he pushed the concept of Anatman.
Where did he say that?  Quotes I found said that he pushed neither belief in self nor belief in not self.  Both are wrong view.
He also gave us the techniques to prove this to oursleves, I think you'll reach a similar conclusion.
I did not .

I'd encourage you to investigate what beliefs and views the Buddha did have, he clearly had many.
I have been, it woudl be easier for me to research your assertions if you had evidence and sources for them. 

For example he wrote a bunch of rules etc. You seem to have taken the idea of not clinging to views into some weird direction where it means not having beliefs. I think this is fundamental misunderstanding of Buddhism - sorry if this is too blunt.
Your are welcome ot such beliefs but without any evidence, they will not be very convincing.  For your consideration, the wiki on Buddhist take on attachment to views: Sutta Nipata,
the Buddha states that he himself has no viewpoint. According to Steven
Collins, these poems distill the style of teaching that was concerned
less with the content of views and theories than with the psychological
state of those who hold them.[8] 

Those who wish to experience nirvana must free themselves from everything binding them to the world, including philosophical and religious doctrines.[9]Right view
as the first part of the Noble Eightfold Path leads ultimately not to
the holding of correct views, but to a detached form of cognition
(source= https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/View_%28Buddhism%29 . )

On attachment to views:
pleasures, attachment to views, attachment to rites and rituals,
attachment to the belief in the existence of self.{24} With the arising of craving{25}
there is the arising of attachment. With the cessation of craving,
there is the cessation of attachment. The way leading to the cessation
of attachment is just this eightfold noble path, that is right view,
right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right
effort, right awareness, right concentration.
(source = http://www.buddha-vacana.org/sutta/majjhima/mn009.html)

And a whole bunch of views Buddha said not to attach to, pro advaita views, antiadvaita views, do not attach to any of them: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an10/an10.093.than.html

To be clear there are topics that the Buddha did not take a clear stance on (and advised against investigating). But he also took a clear stance on a great many topics. One of the most important ones (in my opinion) is anatman.
Sources please?  I think my quotes say clearly the opposite, he said not to attach to such a view.
-Eva

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/24/15 3:23 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:

Yes, we have to consider the inter-relationships. We can't isolate the parts without being aware of the entire process. There's nothing wrong (i.e.; it's not a waste of time) to study how the genome is passed along and how mutuations in the genome lead to changes in the organism. But that's just a part of the story. Where do the mutations come from? How is the fitness landcape changes by chnegs in the organism, or the new capasbilities that it has evolved? 




Hi Chris,

Trying to describe how I see the many systems fit together I like the concept of holons (basically wholes contained within wholes) so for example the cell is a whole that is itself a part of a bacteria that is a whole that is part of a gut that is whole that is part of a human etc.

But that concept of holons needs to be complimented with a something like a notion of sets, so two holons can "overlap". So for example there is an overlap between a gut and a liver, that is captured to some extent by the holon of a body but without understanding the entire body there are probably many critical relationships betwen the gut and liver and knowledge of that can be very useful.

This leads to a notion of time and space. I see this like a branching tree. For example if we go back far enough the atoms that make up earth were probably mixed together with atoms from the other planets of our solar system. Clearly there is an interdependence because of that shared history but when those atoms start forming different planets the interdependence is radically reduced. Reduced to a point where we no longer need to consider that interdependence for many current systems/holons here on earth. There is a point in time whereby the interaction between those atoms can for most purposes be ignored. 

More generally there is a reductive form of knowledge - which I think is historically favored by Buddhism and science. Basically isolating, decomposing, analysing etc. Clearly this is vey effective for many purposes. Consider natural selection - we know about it because people focused on very tiny aspects of an overall system. The studies that led to the theory of natural selection were of specific species. Natural selection did not require knowledge of genes. Likewise genetics is a rich and valuable field, it would have been clear even to the early researchers that it is unlikely genes explain everything about natural selection. However it was worth pushing that angle of inquiry to find the limits of what genetics can explain. Science is very effective at accumulating knowledge in this way. Buddhism seems to be similar in an ability to accumulate knowledge about our experience.

That those reductive forms of knowledge are not enough is clear. As you state. Science also agrees htere is a tendency to try and recombine fields of study, so for example we get cognitive science which combines disciplines rather than deepening a particular discipline. I'm not sure Buddhism has undergone the same process, at least I don't see it.

When looking at the more complex interactions between "sub-systems/holons" it is overly ambitious to demand that everything must be understood within a single overarching coherent theory. Humans just aren't (and in my opinion won't be) able to do that (Ken Wilber makes a good attempt I think). We should try and find the boundaries of that approach. I'm trying in this thread to explore the relationship between psychology and culture. I'm not trying to also integrate natural selection into that and I'm making some "sets" out of things that have a lot of overlap. This is not a denial of there being interdependencies and it is not a claim that some of those interdependencies won't be critical. Knowledge accumulates slowly we don't jump from ignorance to expert.

If you rest in a position of "if you can't integrate the entire system and discuss it as a whole then you are wasting my time" you are making the same error (in my opinion) of the reductionist who states "if you can't explain the details behind something all the way down to the basic laws of physics then you are wasting my time". In my opinon both positions also miss the importance of emergence, that there are properties specific to holons that are best analysed in their terms.

While this thread may addressing a small part of the overall picture I think there is value in exploring it. Like for example buddhist practises which are certainly limited and don't try to answer all the questions  - there is still a lot of value there. I would encourage a "middle out" rather than "top down" or "bottom-up" approach. I don't think humans have the knowledge (or ability) to do justice to a pure top down or pure bottom up explanation anyway. 

I accept our knowledge can only every be partial but that should not be an excuse to turn a blind eye to relationships that do exist and have perhaps not been seen/seen through. So I hope you'll be able to read the orignal post with this in mind and catch a glimpse of what I'm pointing to. I think there is something there really worth your time.








 

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/24/15 4:32 AM as a reply to Eva Nie.
Eva M Nie:
I was good until the last sentence, natural selection results in adaptability as an emergent property.  Are you just saying culture is able to change when influences change? 



I'm not sure to follow you here. I was saying that adaptability is a property that emerges from the process of natural selection. But there is no intention behind that i.e. there is not a conscious desire for adaptability.

Regarding culture I' implying it is just another process. It is using different mechanisms and has different emergent properties. Of course some emergent properties are similar too e.g. adaptability is a property of culture too.

Ok so I think I see your point is that you are thinking culture is similar to natural selection in that it is a process that you believe might be subject to logical methods of manipulation.? 


I think that is a leap, there may be some truth to it. But the idea of "logical manipulations" implies some sort of formula you can apply, which implies some sort of complete understanding. I don't think that is possible. But for example we can manipulate natural selection toward certain goals. However sometimes that leads to unexpected results, for example we introduce an animal into a different environment and it becomes a pest. It leads to hubris to imagine that we can predict everything in a causal/logical fashion. That does not mean we should avoid trying - it highlights the need for caution.

I am not sure why many of my statements are getting interpreted as all or nothing, that's not the way my mind typically workds.  Not saying t can't ever act with self interest, just that often there is most of the time at least some self interest involved.  And that IMO,  you would be hard pressed to find a source of those who don't have ANY self interest at all for any length of time.  IMO, those who are said to be altuistic are mostly those who have less self interest than average or only have small amounts of self interest. 


I think I'm interpreting you that way because that is how you are interpreting parts of my original post. For example above you write "don't have ANY self interest at all for any length of time" If the level of self interest is very low that is good enough for me, I'm not sure why you want to push this to some extreme where it has to be 0%. If someone is making a decision with 10% self interest and 90% interest for others then I don't really see the point of focusing on the 10%. I'm trying to be pragmatic so I'm not interested in proving some extremes but I guess in the interests of keeping the post short I'm making broader claims because I'm trying to point in a large general direction - not argue over details (although that makes sense if there is interestin in the general direction).



Most people are not aware of all the things that drive them. 


Certainly that is true. But there are varying levels of understanding of the self, how that functions. Again the point it not to prove some absolute extreme. For all practical purposes, in my opinion, people can make selfless decisions. Now that may be rare but it is not impossible and there is more to lose by assuming it is impossible than can be gained by assuming it is possible.



So for example pet rocks took awareness away form many other concepts. The idea that concepts are "competing" is again a shortcut - obviously concepts don't have intentions. I hope you will take these turns of phrase less literally or I'm going to need to be too pedantic in my writing.
Was that first sentence above really considered to be 'too pedantic?


No, it is the opposite, the second sentence is pedantic because you could read anthropomorphism into the "rocks took awareness". I think we can move forward assuming neither of us is blind to anthropomorphism and we are using shortcuts rather than assumptions.

My point was if you say that something is due to causality and Buddhist belief is that everthing visible is due to causality, you are basically not saying anything special about anything.  It's like if I said, "yeah but that stuff is made of stuff." As if it were an argument or evidence of some kind. I don't see what point you are tyring ot make about culture by saying culture is due to causality if everything is due to causality anyway.  


The point is that it removes the idea that things "just happen" that when things "just happen" it is an indication of a lack of understanding and an incitation to look deeper. If ther is an assumption that things "just happen" then it can lead to magical thinking. So for example some aspects of culture may be understandable when an assumption of "things just happen" would preclude investigation.


So your view is a fact so you are not clinging to a view cuz it's not a view (because it is a fact)?  



I never claimed it to be a fact. You interpreted my position to be claiming things "as if they are facts". That is not the case. I have some beliefs of course. I'm deriving a position based on beliefs and I am aware that there could be facts that change/challenge those beliefs.

As I pointed to earlier I believe the Buddha was very clear about the non existence of a soul.
But he was not clear at all, interpretation is not nearly so simple.


You might note that interpretation is simple when you make a claim and "not nearly so simple" when I make a claim. Anyway, I do think this is simple, the thicket of views you refer to does not include the question of anatman. You are confusing self and atman. If the thicket of views included references to the soul then your example would have been relevant.

You came to that conclusion using your route but it's not what Buddha said.  He said belief that there is no self ( or any of hte other options) are wrong view.  But you are saying self is delusion is fact. 

Again you are confusing atman and self. I am referring to "soul" not "self" these are different concepts.
Ok, I thnk I get the gist.  Certainly culture has a strong influence on devleopment of self and also it flows the other way, it's a feedback loop, but something had to start the ball rolling.  They did not both create eachother. 



Great. This is the point that interests me in this thread. I'm not concerned about the chicken and egg aspect of the question. I think there are answers to that but it is not the priority.

A key part of the point is that we can consider experience to be composed of two aspects:

1) content
2) perspective

Content is everything that can be experienced. Perspective is the nature of experience. So for example there is a non-dual experience and a dual experience, you seem familiar with OBE etc.

Most people would agree that much of the content is culturally constructed. So for example I have a thought in english - english is a cultural construction. There is a strong argument for all content being culturally constructed. Even things like colors and snow have been demonstrated to be culturally conditioned.

Where I think it gets really interesting is to realise that perspective is to some extent (and more than we probably want to admit) culturally constructed. This opens up a whole new way of seeing causality. This starts getting to the crux of the question regarding the cultural construction of self (particularly ego) and I'd like the thread to go in that direction.




We have learnt to influence natural selection to serve human interests. Likewise we can learn to influence culture to serve human interests.
May be much harder, components of culture are not as mathematically clear cut, and we still are only just beginning to understand how genes work in natural selection too. 


Natural selection is a good example, as you say we don;t understand it very well. But for thousands of years we've been able to exploit it toward human interests. I think you may be assuming that we need complete understanding to exploit something, the history of humanity is very different, we are basically always exploiting very partial knowledge but in some cases we can get huge benefits e.g. penicillin with a very partial/poor understanding.


Ah but if culture constructs self, then how to deconstruct self without use of culture?  The chicken and the egg are intertwined.  Science has learne dto change egg to be diff than the chicken would have naturally layed but do you have a plan for doing the same with selves? (if the plan relies on a group of people working without self interest, it might b ea tough one since culture has not produced many of those) 



Part of the process I'm guessing is to see that interdependence - but to see it more clearly. I'm not saying this has to be done in a particular way or it demands zero self interest. There are likely lots of different ways.

I think Buddhism provides some tools for deconstructing self but that is done within a Buddhist doctrine. So as you mentioned it is chicken and egg - you will get out certain results because of the doctrine. I'm excited by the idea of taking techniques form buddhism and applying them in a different doctrine which would lead to different results (perhaps neither better nor worse).




That does not mean the individual looses all notion of self and self interest. But it may allow the individual to make some decisions that are in a much broader context and relevant to cultural objectives (beyond self interest).
Ok but if you want to use culture to change indviduals and individuals to change culture, how do you start hte process?  One of them will first need to be changed without the use of the other in order to get it started. (seems to me at least according to your paradigm)



I think it can be simpler. Consider animal husbandry, without understanding the genetics we were doing this for thousands of years. We created new species through the process (I'm not making a claim this was a good thing). Basically you don't need to assume a black/white process whereby you can't get started. Think of an interactive, endless spiral process - each loop offers more liberation. 


To be clear there are topics that the Buddha did not take a clear stance on (and advised against investigating). But he also took a clear stance on a great many topics. One of the most important ones (in my opinion) is anatman.
Sources please?  I think my quotes say clearly the opposite, he said not to attach to such a view.
-Eva



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatta

"The ancient Indian word for self or essence is attā (Pāli) or ātman (Sanskrit), and is often thought to be an eternal substance that persists despite death.... Anatta is used in the early Buddhist texts as a strategy to view the perception of self as conditioned processes (or even an action) instead of seeing it as an entity or an essence."

"The pre-Buddhist upanishads of Hinduism link atman to the feeling "I am."The Chandogya Upanishad, for example does, and it sees Self as underlying the whole world, being "below," "above," and in the four directions. In contrast, the arhat says, "Above, below, everywhere set free, not considering 'this I am.'

I'm referring to Anatta with Anatman.

The concept of self in western terms can imply atman but it also implies lots of other things. You seem to be too hung up on one particular view of it. This is why I'm using the word soul in relation to atman - it hopefully makes things clearer.

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/24/15 11:31 AM as a reply to Mark.
I accept our knowledge can only every be partial but that should not be an excuse to turn a blind eye to relationships that do exist and have perhaps not been seen/seen through. So I hope you'll be able to read the orignal post with this in mind and catch a glimpse of what I'm pointing to. I think there is something there really worth your time.


Mark, it would be really nice if you would state what it is you're getting at the original post. It's not clear to me after reading it, and re-reading it, mutliple times. It appears that you are on a track you've been on before - the limitiations of buddhism as relates to culture, or maybe what you at one point referred to as social dependent origination.


Thanks.

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/24/15 12:22 PM as a reply to Mark.
Mark:

The point is that it removes the idea that things "just happen" that when things "just happen" it is an indication of a lack of understanding and an incitation to look deeper. If ther is an assumption that things "just happen" then it can lead to magical thinking. So for example some aspects of culture may be understandable when an assumption of "things just happen" would preclude investigation.
Who is arguing that things just happen?

As I pointed to earlier I believe the Buddha was very clear about the non existence of a soul.
But he was not clear at all, interpretation is not nearly so simple.


You might note that interpretation is simple when you make a claim and "not nearly so simple" when I make a claim.
I am making claims about what Buddha said backed with many quotes from Buddha.  Your claims might look better if you could give any kind of evidence at all but  youve got nothing.  My interpretation is based on the words of Buddha, you siad yours is result of personal exploration, but the thing is, it does not correspond to words of Buddha. 
Anyway, I do think this is simple, the thicket of views you refer to does not include the question of anatman. You are confusing self and atman. If the thicket of views included references to the soul then your example would have been relevant.

Definiition of anatman is 'no self' are you using a diff definition?  Buddha very specifically says belief in no self is also a thicket of views :"As he attends inappropriately in this way, one of six kinds of view arises in him: The view I have a self arises in him as true & established, or the view I have no self... or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive self... or the view It is precisely by means of self that I perceive not-self... or the view It is precisely by means of not-self that I perceive selfarises in him as true & established, or else he has a view like this: This
very self of mine — the knower that is sensitive here & there to
the ripening of good & bad actions — is the self of mine that is
constant, everlasting, eternal, not subject to change, and will endure
as long as eternity.
This is called a thicket of views,"

As for use of a word that translates to 'soul'  I do not believe any such word exists in pali canon, they are using the words 'self' and 'not self' and what happens after death and where you are after death, etc, all ideas of which are to be not clinged to in the words of Buddha. If you demand that a quote contain the word 'soul' for you to listen, then it's a good way to set yoruself up to never have to listen.

Natural selection is a good example, as you say we don;t understand it very well. But for thousands of years we've been able to exploit it toward human interests. I think you may be assuming that we need complete understanding to exploit something, the history of humanity is very different, we are basically always exploiting very partial knowledge but in some cases we can get huge benefits e.g. penicillin with a very partial/poor understanding.
Here on a board of stuff that is not well understood, I don't see it as a common problem that people demand all things must be understood fully be be valid. 



To be clear there are topics that the Buddha did not take a clear stance on (and advised against investigating). But he also took a clear stance on a great many topics. One of the most important ones (in my opinion) is anatman.
Sources please?  I think my quotes say clearly the opposite, he said not to attach to such a view.
-Eva



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anatta

"The ancient Indian word for self or essence is attā (Pāli) or ātman (Sanskrit), and is often thought to be an eternal substance that persists despite death.... Anatta is used in the early Buddhist texts as a strategy to view the perception of self as conditioned processes (or even an action) instead of seeing it as an entity or an essence."

"The pre-Buddhist upanishads of Hinduism link atman to the feeling "I am."The Chandogya Upanishad, for example does, and it sees Self as underlying the whole world, being "below," "above," and in the four directions. In contrast, the arhat says, "Above, below, everywhere set free, not considering 'this I am.'

I'm referring to Anatta with Anatman.

The concept of self in western terms can imply atman but it also implies lots of other things. You seem to be too hung up on one particular view of it. This is why I'm using the word soul in relation to atman - it hopefully makes things clearer.
I agree Buddha said do not cling to idea of self, he ALSO said in nearly the same breath, do not cling to idea of no self.  How is it you can see the first one so easily but your brain shuts off for the second one? 

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/24/15 12:30 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
I accept our knowledge can only every be partial but that should not be an excuse to turn a blind eye to relationships that do exist and have perhaps not been seen/seen through. So I hope you'll be able to read the orignal post with this in mind and catch a glimpse of what I'm pointing to. I think there is something there really worth your time.


Mark, it would be really nice if you would state what it is you're getting at the original post. It's not clear to me after reading it, and re-reading it, mutliple times. It appears that you are on a track you've been on before - the limitiations of buddhism as relates to culture, or maybe what you at one point referred to as social dependent origination.


Thanks.
Yeah same  here, seems  like you are saying one thing but then whatever I guess what you are trying to say, you deny it.    If it's just that all things don't need to be fully understood to be used in ways that work, you probably wont get much argument.  If it's that elements of apparent reality are members of differnet systems and that the systems they are in sometimes change, again, probably not much argument.  if it's that people create culture and culture strongly influences personality development, not much argument.    

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/25/15 1:07 PM as a reply to Eva Nie.
Let me be so bold as to try something new here - I'm going to try to restate Mark's original post but with one sentence per paragraph. Mark, please weigh in with comments and corrections as you see fit:

1. This about anatman - not self, which has some implications to be expored further
2. Evolution doesn't work by having each individual organism survive - it's about the mechanism that causes the changes - genes
3. Culture can be said th be analogous to the individual organism in #2, and memes can be said to be analogous to genes in #2
4. Self, or groups of selves in a society, are the vehicle through which memes are created, further distributed and then evolve
5. Observed thus, we have the choice to change behavior, or not (pursuing this choice being analogous to using genetic engineering)
6. We can choose to create a vector, an objective, for our culture - cultural change does not have to be random or chaotic
7. We can manipulate genes intentionally so maybe we can manipulate culture intentionally (refer back to #3)
8. An example of this: interest groups who pursue their desired changes in society, who resist the more random arc of cultural change in favor of intentional, purposeful change
9. This may not work if the process is not understood because cultures resist non-conformity (we need to understand in this context what the buddha understood in the individual context?)
10. Our innate sense of individual free will and self-importance may actually inhibit intentional, purposeful cultural change because we quickly revert to individual objectives, thus destroying coherent action by groups
11. The Buddha focused on the individual, not on society and culture, so maybe there is another mechanism that will enable intentional, purposeful cultural change (I'm not sure about last sentence's reference to Bodhisatvas and Mahayana buddhism, except that maybe it is being proposed as a way to enable social aspects of the elimination of suffering?)

So, in my words. Mark seems to be saying this: buddhism, by focusing on the individual self/not-self spectrum (anatman) misses another aspect of human existence altogether - the action of human beings in groups, in society, within human cultures. We can be as ignorant of cultural issues as we can be of individual issues. Cultures can be ignorant. There is a "cure" of sorts for individual ignorance that is called buddhism. What is the cure for cultural ignorance?

So maybe Mark is trying to figure out how to deal with the ignorance of a culture in a way that might be similar to how he perceives buddhism deals with ignorance on the part of individuals. This, I think, requires us to accept his analogies (genes equal memes and individuals are in some way analogous to cultures They both possess ignorance and the potential to relieve ignorance).

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/24/15 11:14 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:


So maybe Mark is trying to figure out how to deal with the ignorance of a culture in a way that might be similar to how he perceives buddhism deals with ignorance on the part of individuals. This, I think, requires us to accept his analogies (genes equal memes and individuals are in some way analogous to cultures They both possess ignorance and the potential to relieve ignorance).
If the above analysis is on target, then,

I think all of ths has been figured out very well indeed, and used for great profit of the few, at the expense of the many.  Minds are like little profit farms, and easily manipulated.  There are a great many out there that do not want to have the masses to become enlightened, it would ruin profits, and dismantle power structures that have been in place for many , many , years.  


See, Chomsky here, 

http://theinternationalcoalition.blogspot.com/2011/07/noam-chomsky-top-10-media-manipulation_08.html

Edward Bernays here, 

http://www.voltairenet.org/IMG/pdf/Bernays_Propaganda_in_english_.pdf


Memes, and Memes info. link

http://www.memecentral.com/



War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.George Orwell


Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/g/georgeorwe141783.html#2slO8251hcHlOVVG.99



emoticon

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/25/15 11:45 AM as a reply to Eva Nie.
I agree Buddha said do not cling to idea of self, he ALSO said in nearly the same breath, do not cling to idea of no self.  How is it you can see the first one so easily but your brain shuts off for the second one? 


Hi Eva,

I'm going to switch my attention to the other branch of this thread (you've posted there too). We have different understandings of atman. I'm not making claims regarding no-self in the way you are assuming. 

Best wishes.

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/25/15 1:10 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Let me be so bold as to try something new here - I'm going to try to restate Mark's original post but with one sentence per paragraph. Mark, please weigh in with comments and corrections as you see fit:


Hi Chris, thanks for taking that on. I don't consider these to be "my ideas" but I'm happy to take responsibility for them in the interests of advancing a discussion. It is very much a co-construction in my opinion  - but I'll take the blame for the mistakes!


1. This about anatman - not self, which has some implications to be expored further

This is a continuation of the exploration of "hardcore anatman" - where do we end up if we push that concept. There are implications for what I'd call the self but that term needs to be defined. It is a very loaded term as we see in so many DhO threads.

2. Evolution doesn't work by having each individual organism survive - it's about the mecahnism that causes the changes - genes

I mentioned natural selection to provide an analogy for how culture evolves, it was not meant to be the focus of the original post. That the process of natural selection does not always align with the interests of individuals is of particular interest in the analogy with culture.


3. Culture can be said th be analogous to the individual organism in #2, and memes can be said to be analogous to genes in #2


Close, I'm pointing out that the process of culture is analogous to process of natural selection (in some ways). Concepts within culture are analogous to genes within natural selection.


4. Self, or groups of selves in a society, are the vehicle through which menes are created, further distributed and then evolve


Yes, but I'd rather use the term concept because "meme" is associated with a specific theory and I'm not so concerned about the details of that theory.


5. Observed thus, we have the choice to change behavior, or not (pursuing this choice being analogous to using genetic engineering)


Stretching the analogy I'd say we are closer to the early days of humans domesticating animals in regards to manipulating culture. After thousands of years of animal husbandry we have genetic engineering. I'm not thinking we can jump to a similar sophistication in how culture is oriented toward human interests.


6. We can choose to create a vector, an objective, for our culture - cultural change does not have to be random or chaotic


As you pointed out, it is not random. But it is not naturally aligned with humane goals. This is similar to the process of natural selection not being inherently aligned with morality.


7. We can manipulate genes intentionally so maybe we can manipulate culture intentionally (refer back to #3)

Broadly yes. But genetics is very sophisticated. We were able to manipulate natural selection well before having knowledge of genes. Likewise we manipulate culture without profound understanding.

8. An example of this: interest groups who pursue their desired changes in society, who resist the more random arc of cultural change in favor of intentional, purposeful change
9. This may not work if the process is not understood because cultures resist non-conformity (we need to understand in this context what the buddha understood in the individual context?)
10. Our innate sense of individual free will and self-importance may actually inhibit intentional, purposeful cultural change because we quickly revert to individual objectives, thus destroying coherent action by groups


An underlying concept is that our sense of freewill is largely a cultural construction. It is through that experience of an isolated individual that many cultural patterns are reproduced.


11. The Buddha focused on the individual, not on society and culture, so maybe there is another mechanism that will enable intentional, purposeful cultural change (I'm not sure about last sentence's reference to Bodhisatvas and Mahayana buddhism, except that maybe it is being proposed as a way to enable social aspects of the elimination of suffering?)


I think the reference to Bodhisatvas was an attempt at not being too harsh on Buddhism - it is not to say that Buddhism ignores our collective suffering. But I think there are valuable insights that Buddhist practises within a Buddhist doctrine do not typically highlight.


So, in my words. Mark seems to be saying this: buddhism, by focusing on the individual self/not-self spectrum (anatman) misses another aspect of human existence altogether - the action of human beings in groups, in society, within human cultures.


Yes I think I am assuming that. This is not to say the Buddha did not see this. It is not to say that all Buddhists can't see this. I think it is by exploring anatman in the extreme that we can see these things. It seems that Buddhist doctrines put the focus on other aspects. There is a temptation to sneak atman back in - and it often happens e.g. Buddha nature or wishy/washy views regarding the existence of a soul.

I think it is clear that the experience of self is real. But that does not mean that there is a soul or some aspect of self that is beyond the experiences that make up the process of self. These things seem to become clear upon exploring dependent origination. I think you and I have agreed on this to some extent in the past.

We have a knowledge of biological evolution that the Buddha did not. This leads to a question - why is the process of self present in humans ? We can assume that it evolved like all other traits of humans.

I see the process of self as being critical from the earliest life forms. There is a major advantage for an organism to know which things it can control and which things it can't. So a distinction between body and environment is present even in very simple organisms e.g. move toward light. As the animal becomes increasingly complex the model of self becomes increasingly complex. At some point the notion of an explicit model of the self becomes useful - this is what we could call being conscious or self-aware. It seems probable that many animals have this to some extent. Humans have developed the ability to model other beings - we understand that other animals/humans are conscious. This is something that other animal don't seem to have, so for example we can teach a monkey sign language but the monkey never asks us questions - one explanation is that the monkey does not have a mental model of us as conscious beings. We gain massive advantages from this ability because it allows us to have much more sophisticated communication and to learn from each other (beyond copying each other). That leads to the emergence of sophisticated culture.

There is a period prior to life on earth where physical cosmology is the most important theory for understanding what happened on planet earth. When life takes hold it is through natural selection that we have perhaps the most important theory for understanding what happened leading up to humans. Since the evolution of human culture it is through an understanding of culture that we have a critical theory for understanding earth systems. We are at a point where culture is changing the climate, could destroy the human species though nuclear war etc.

Culture and the self co-evolved. Consider the ego as a way for cultural patterns to be reproduced. It is an amazingly efficient mechanism! If cultural patterns require individuals to have certain behaviours then co-evolving a big ego/self is a great approach. It is often mutually beneficial. For example knowledge accumulates in the culture and nowadays it can take 20 odd years to learn enough about the culture to be able to "survive on your own" i.e. leave the nest. An ego is a great mechanism by which to motivate someone to learn the patterns and become habituated into the patterns of the culture. I "want" to consume, I "want" to be rich etc. The individual is carrying along many concepts in the service of culture in a similar way to how we carry along genes in the service of natural selection.

Most parents understand how strong the instincts are in pushing toward sexual reproduction. Even if you don't have a family you are probably very aware of how strong the sexual urges can be. Culture is very similar - it has massive levers to pull to get certain behaviours happening - perhaps the biggest lever is the notion of "my self" i.e. that I'm making a decision (like buying that energy inefficient new house with a massive mortgage). Whereas most of our decisions are simply patterns that are learnt/contructed by the culture(s) we grew up in.


We can be as ignorant of cultural issues as we can be of individual issues. Cultures can be ignorant. There is a "cure" of sorts for individual ignorance that is called buddhism. What is the cure for cultural ignorance?


Cultures can't be ignorant but they can produce patterns that are both good and bad for humanity. e.g. nuclear weapons are a bad aspect, health care is a good aspect.

Buddhism gives us the tools to see the self as a process. It deconstructs self by breaking it up into the various aspects - noting is a great example. This is like reductionist science that gives us great understanding about many aspects of the world. However reductionist science has also helped us reach a near catastrophic impact in the environment. Sciences like climatology and cognitive studies go in the other direction - looking to identify and study larger systems and interactions.

I'm proposing to view the self as culturally constructed. Not because that is the "best" way to do it but because taking on that perspective can teach us things that other perspectives can't. Some of those lessons might be very valuable.



So maybe Mark is trying to figure out how to deal with the ignorance of a culture in a way that might be similar to how he perceives buddhism deals with ignorance on the part of individuals. This, I think, requires us to accept his analogies (genes equal memes and individuals are in some way analogous to cultures They both possess ignorance and the potential to relieve ignorance).

genes <-> memes
natural selection <-> culture

Thanks for taking the time to go back through my originalist post Chris!

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/26/15 11:15 AM as a reply to Mark.
I'm proposing to view the self as culturally constructed. 

Mark, can you provide the "how" to this? What can we do in a practical way to see self as culturally constructed? Is this because there is a facet of self that we just don't perceive? Are the cultural influences so deep that we have a very hard time isolating them? Or is this simpler, like taking on a view? There's a lot of scientific literature and study going on in regard to human culture and its influences on human behavior, and even its influence on natural selection. (Example:  http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/rev/98/2/224/)

This is not the first time you've brought this to the forum. It comes up as questions more than answers. Are you asking for help, curious about what others are thinking, or...?

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/26/15 11:29 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
One more thought on all of this:  

I suspect we don't need an entirely new way to use meditiation to discover those parts of self/not-self that stem from social contructs and culture. I suspect all we need to do is take on that view and work with it over a long period of time. This is akin to a lot of what we experience in a deepening meditation practice - the things that are really affecting us are deeply held and pretty well hidden from conscious view. Practice/meditation can draw those things out. We typically look for the more obvious, grosser level parts of not-self, impermanence and suffering. The deeper stuff only shows up after we have the experience and the patience to find it and work with it. The cultural influences on self, its arising and its effects on our behavior are for the most part unexamined. So... maybe we can examine them more openly  if we look through a social/cultural lens.

Maybe. YMMV

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/26/15 1:57 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:

Mark, can you provide the "how" to this? What can we do in a practical way to see self as culturally constructed?


I'm a bit hesitant to start making broad suggestions. Maybe there are specific points in the previous message that raise doubts for you ? I'd be interested in your feedback based on the reformatted original post that both of us have created.


There's a lot of scientific literature and study going on in regard to human culture and its influences on human behavior and even its influence on natural selection. (Example:  http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/rev/98/2/224/)


I see plenty of relevancy there. There is an intellectual knowledge of cultural norms and there is the experience of living in a different culture. For me that was a real eye opener - in particular learning and living in a new language as an adult. Maybe you've been immersed in a new culture as an adult ?

This is not the first time you've brought this to the forum. It comes up as questions more than answers. Are you asking for help, curious about what others are thinking, or...?

We had a thread discussing an article about "full strength anatman" by Tom Pepper. There was a later thread I started about the difference between holding and identifying with a view. Those discussions were pointing in this direction and I remember some frustration for both of us concerning the pragmatic implications. This post hopefully makes some headway in that direction. Beyond hopefully gaining some clarity I think the analogy of the amoral nature of natural selection and culture points toward an answer regarding action - bring morality to culture.

I guess I'm posting for a range of reasons. Trying to communicate these concepts is a good exercise for me to get more familiar with them myself. I'd like to know if there are people who are familiar with this territory, maybe I could leverage their experience. Maybe someone has criticism that can steer me in a more productive direction. I'm interested in pushing these ideas further and I think that is easier via co-construction rather than risk spinning my wheels alone.
Chris Marti:
One more thought on all of this:  

I suspect we don't need an entirely new way to use meditiation to discover those parts of self/not-self that stem from social contructs and culture.


I agree, I don't think I've been doing anything particular - I'm still mainly using Shinzen Young's techniques for noting in daily meditation.



I suspect all we need to do is take on that view and work with it over a long period of time. This is akin to a lot of what we experience in a deepening meditation practice - the things that are really affecting us are deeply held and pretty well hidden from conscious view. Practice/meditation can draw those things out. We typically look for the more obvious, grosser level parts of not-self, impermanence and suffering. The deeper stuff only shows up after we have the experience and the patience to find it and work with it. The cultural influences on self, its arising and its effects on our behavior are for the most part unexamined. So... maybe we can examine them more openly  if we look through a social/cultural lens.

Maybe. YMMV

I believe meditation can change the nature of experience and the nature of that change is related to the doctrine/ideology that is assumed by the practitioner. I hope that meditation within a doctrine that places more emphasis on the cultural aspect of our experience can lead more relevant action in the world while addressing suffering.

For example, maybe some people, like Martin Luther King, are experiencing the world in a different way to the majority of people. This may have enabled them to act in ways that seem extreme from a more traditional perspective.

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/26/15 4:27 PM as a reply to Mark.
One of the biggest changes in perspective I've had due to my practice is in regard to empathy and compassion. It's not that I lacked empathy and compassion before. It's that I understand them far more deeply now, can place myself in a position to feel in sympathy with other beings for longer periods and, most importantly, do so in real time - which is when it typically matters more. I'd argue that this enables a deeper and more comprehensive view on society and culture, and an opportunity to better understand the influences that social norms and cultural influences have on my unique view of self and how that then plays out through beliefs, habits and actions. This has been beneficial in my social relationships with others - family, work, community, politics, and so on.

In other words, it's not a stretch at all to expect our meditation practice to inform us about social and cultural influences.

I don't really know about Dr. King and folks like Ghandi other than I suspect they have a naturally deep, well grounded sense of empathy and compassion. Or, maybe they developed it like we all are trying to do. Intentionally. Deliberately. Via insight.

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/27/15 6:22 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
One of the biggest changes in perspective I've had due to my practice is in regard to empathy and compassion. It's not that I lacked empathy and compassion before. It's that I understand them far more deeply now, can place myself in a position to feel in sympathy with other beings for longer periods and, most importantly, do so in real time - which is when it typically matters more. I'd argue that this enables a deeper and more comprehensive view on society and culture, and an opportunity to better understand the influences that social norms and cultural influences have on my unique view of self and how that then plays out through beliefs, habits and actions. This has been beneficial in my social relationships with others - family, work, community, politics, and so on.

In other words, it's not a stretch at all to expect our meditation practice to inform us about social and cultural influences.

I don't really know about Dr. King and folks like Ghandi other than I suspect they have a naturally deep, well grounded sense of empathy and compassion. Or, maybe they developed it like we all are trying to do. Intentionally. Deliberately. Via insight.
Hi Chris,

That is a great result from your practise. I see compassion as a fundamental aspect of human nature, our ability to project conscious agency onto other beings includes our ability to relate to the expereince of other beings. That ability seems to strengthen with practise, personally I see people as far less intentional in their behavior than I used to, this makes it easier to empathise. Seeing how interconnected things are and expanding the sense of compassion through habits like meta makes good sense.

On this level meditation does inform us about social and cultural influences. But I'd like to highlight there is a pradigm/perspective that can be seen through.

For example, typically meta practise puts the individual at the center and then expands feelings of compassion to other sentient beings. This is not a bad thing but it also reinforces the idea of self being central, there being a hierarchy of compassion associated with distance, a central concern with sentience.

Consider an analogy of understanding the self through dependent origination compared with popular psychology. Dependent origination takes another view and sees process where popular psychology sees an essence. Regarding culture you mention "cultural influences" this is a bit like the essence of a self and a process centric view of culture sees you as culture not influenced by it. This is fundamentally different, which is not to say one view is better than the other. Compassion and empathy are great motivators but can also distract from seeing some dynamics at play.

We have a process of self embedded in a process of culture embedded within a process of natural selection embedded within a process of physical cosmology. All those processes are interconnected - a systems theory view captures this.

The view of culture as process and a cultural construction of self has implications for agency. I am the culture and I am the morality of that culture. There is only an artificial separation between me and culture - it is not that I'm being influenced by culture. 

The traditional view of something like King or Ghandi is like you mentioned "a naturally deep, well grounded sense of empathy and compassion" But I'll challenge that view. Both King and Ghandi were compassionate but I think they both inherently saw they were dealing with a process/system of culture. Both of them "neglected" relationships in their immediate circle, we could say they brought compassion into an otherwise amoral cultural process. 

As far as I know the Buddha did not have access to knowledge of culture as process, nor natural selection nor physcial cosmology. I think these aspects should inform our modern view.

Does that make sense ?

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/27/15 9:17 AM as a reply to Mark.
Mark, can you please expand on the amoral nature of culture. What does that mean to you?


Both King and Ghandi were compassionate but I think they both inherently saw they were dealing with a process/system of culture.


This seems kind of obvious to me.... why is it not to you, Mark? I must be missing something in your comments.

I knew you'd push back on my comments about empathy and compassion. Otherwise there'd be no topic here  emoticon

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/27/15 10:14 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Mark, can you please expand on the amoral nature of culture. What does that mean to you?


Just that culture is nether moral nor immoral.




Both King and Ghandi were compassionate but I think they both inherently saw they were dealing with a process/system of culture.


This seems kind of obvious to me.... why is it not to you, Mark? I must be missing something in your comments.


Yes I think so. But I don't have much to go on regarding what you are and aren't following.

I did not mean to imply that it is not obvious that King and Ghandi knew they were dealing with a system. I was trying to point out their experience was perhaps not the typical experience. So for example you interpret their exceptional impact to a naturally deep sense of empathy and compassion. There is an assumption that their compassion and your compassion are the same thing but they had a lot more of it. I'm suggesting maybe they experienced compassion fundamentally differently as to how you experience compassion. So for example you may actually be more compassionate, in the way you understand compassion, than either of them. Please bear in mind I'm not claiming to know if this is the truth - I'm using this as a thought experiment.

I knew you'd push back on my comments about empathy and compassion. Otherwise there'd be no topic here  emoticon
Yeah we have been close to here in the past. The way I see part of this is that you have a doctrine/ideology largely influenced by western buddhism. That is not a criticism and not a negative thing. But to see what I'm pointing at I think you'd need to be willing to see problems with aspects of the buddhist doctrine (I mean the one you personally have). That is perhaps not a place you're keen on going as you are probably quite comfortable with your current ideology (that is a compliment). Buddhism is very good at placing a subject in a view that appears coherent because it can shift the goal posts continuously (for example the definition of terms like dharma are very slippery). Consider this exchange, you focus on the part of the post that appears obvious to you and imagine it is not obvious to me, implying that what I'm pointing toward is already within the ideology you hold and I am struggling to grasp it. That is quite a big guess on my behalf and may be well off. These sorts of things are much easier to see in real time communication.

I suspect that many of the intellectual conclusions regarding morality are the same independent of the ideology/doctrine. So for example whether a Christian, a Buddhist, a Humanist or Nice guy probably results in similar opinions on many topics - there is plenty to agree on e.g. be compassionate, don't kill/steal/lie etc. However the doctrine can lead to different actions in the world because of how compromises will be made. So for example King or Ghandi probably made compromises that seem nearly impossible for most people but were quite possible for them - this is partly what leads me to consider the nature of their experience.

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/27/15 1:20 PM as a reply to Mark.
Mark we do seem to be circling back to a familiar place. You have consistently told me that I am influenced by western buddhism. Well, yes, I am. That's not all I'm influenced by, however. Like all human beings, I'm a very complicated mixture of influences.

In regard to folks like Dr. King and Ghandi, I think they were very attuned to the injustive inherent in the social, political and cultural systems in which they lived. That sense of injustice and a powerful distaste of the results of those systems for a specific constituency that was close to them and that they personally experienced is what I suspect drove them to act as they did (this my my working theory). I wasn't comparing myself to either of these people. I'm not even close to being worthy of that. I was simply explaining what I see as a result of my own long term practice and how it has changed my personal perceptions of others. I have a similar reaction to what I see going an around me, like the police shootings in my own backyard Chicago. It's clearly, as I see it, unjust and a product of a culture of ignorance, a devaluation of or disrespect for the lives of certain kinds of people and a complacency and unwillingness to deal with those clear problems directly by those with the political and legal authority to do do. Am I actively doing something about it? No, I'm not. I'm stymied by a mutlitide of factors, some self-inflicted, some external, and I'm sitting here on my ass not lifting a finger. I'm not personally affected by the problem. I have a suspicion that if my identification or association with the problem were to get stronger my inclination to act might, too (again, just my current working theory).

I do also think there are people who have a larger heart, a deeper sense of social injustice and a more powerful will to act when confronted with social ills. These are folks who become activists, community oganizers, political and religoius leaders, and so on. I'm not sure there's a lot more to it than that. but you seem to think so, so I continue to entertain the possibility that some folks have something else going on that I've never considered. Since that "thing" is probably invisible to me I'll need it to be pointed to.

Buddhism is very good at placing a subject in a view that appears coherent because it can shift the goal posts continuously (for example the definition of terms like dharma are very slippery). Consider this exchange, you focus on the part of the post that appears obvious to you and imagine it is not obvious to me, implying that what I'm pointing toward is already within the ideology you hold and I am struggling to grasp it. That is quite a big guess on my behalf and may be well off. These sorts of things are much easier to see in real time communication.

No, what I'm suggesting is that I think you may see something I don't see, not that you don't see something I see. The question I posed ("why is it not to you...") is what was confusing, I think, but it was meant to illuminate the thing you're aiming at. Bad choice of words on my part. You are, I think, struggling to communicate whatever that thing I don't see is, although it's clear to me that you think my inability to see it is at least in part a result of my being a practitioner of buddism and, I suspect, its focus on personal development related to its concept of self/not-self.

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/27/15 2:22 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
I'd like to add another thought as this topic relates to buddhism -- I think the suffering of individuals and of societies is bound up in beliefs. I think we underestimate buddhism if we take it as just another ideology or belief system. It can be that, of course, and is for many, many people, but it is also uniquely a set of tools, of process, that can be used to help us actually see the construction of ideology and religion - of society and everything else, really. If we use the tools as they are intended to be used they can actually prevent us from forgetting the constructed nature of our existence and maybe thereby from adopting, or accepting as truths, beliefs. This applies to all constructions, not just personal but social, political, religious, and cultural.

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/27/15 3:23 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
I'd like to add another thought as this topic relates to buddhism -- I think the suffering of individuals and of societies is bound up in beliefs. I think we underestimate buddhism if we take it as just another ideology or belief system. It can be that, of course, and is for many, many people, but it is also uniquely a set of tools, of process, that can be used to help us actually see the construction of ideology and religion - of society and everything else, really. If we use the tools as they are intended to be used they can actually prevent us from forgetting the constructed nature of our existence and maybe thereby from adopting, or accepting as truths, beliefs. This applies to all constructions, not just personal but social, political, religious, and cultural.
Hi Chris, and all,  I agree, in that what is taught in Buddhism is neither a Religion, a Belief System, a Culture, nor a Philosophy.  When what is actully being pointed to in Buddhism is taken to be any of the above, that is where misunderstandings creep in.  I am not saying anyone either is or is not doing this. 

But, to add, yes one can use Insight, Investigation, Clear Comprehension, and all that to help one understand Cultural Sankaras, both internally and externally.  And, by understanding Cultural Sanskaras, one does indeed affect Cultural Sanskaras, both internally and externally.

By your own example, by not adding passion and fire to the phenomenon of shootings, and being a calm presence in the midst of such activites, does affect the Social outcome, even if it is just a little.

I do not buy into an idea that Western Buddhism or any form of Buddhism has brainwashed anyone to a particular view.  In fact I would say, that if practiced correctly it would free the mind from Cultural Views and Social Belief Systems.

To be of Society, yet not always with Society.

So, further, the implications of Anatman are here whether society belives in it, rejects it, uses it or not.  Anatman is a Characteristic.  Just like Anicca.  We do not discuss the Philosophy of Anicca and its implications to society, because we all understand that things are impermanent, it is a characteristic.

 I am saying Anatman is a characteristic, something that can be observed,  not something that is believed.

But, due to the Characteristic of Anatman, Cultural Sanskaras are passed along from one mind to the next, from one generation to the next, in an impersonal manner, each mind and each group of minds pick up , cling to, and pass along Cultural Sanskaras.

 Just as the wind waves through the fields of grain, so too pass along Cultural Sanskaras through time.

It only stops when the mind remains still , and remains unmoved by the winds of Society.  

Perhaps, new and improved Cultural Sankaras could be passed along , ones that promote Peace and Wisdom, Contentment.  From what I can tell, the majority of Cultural Memes are not leaning in that direction, though there are some good and wholesome ones out there seeding, forming, growing.  Instincts run deep.


Psi

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/27/15 4:28 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
That's not all I'm influenced by, however. Like all human beings, I'm a very complicated mixture of influences.

Absolutely and I don't want you to think I see you as some sort of caricature - that is not at all the case.


In regard to folks like Dr. King and Ghandi, I think they were very attuned to the injustive inherent in the social, political and cultural systems in which they lived. That sense of injustice and a powerful distaste of the results of those systems for a specific constituency that was close to them and that they personally experienced is what I suspect drove them to act as they did (this my my working theory).

I don't have a deep knowledge of either. But for example King was not focused on racial issues by the time he was assassinated. Most people don't realise this and it shows King to be connected into something much deeper. He was largely ostracized within the black activist community just prior to his death. I think a large part of that was because he was concerned about social issues like the war in Vietnam, workers rights, he was also involved with Palestinian efforts - fascinating character.

I agree that he must have been strongly motivated in the anti-racism movement by his own personal experience. But typically the circle of compassion extends from the self, so we rarely see peolpe risking death, causing suffering in their family etc. 

I have a suspicion that if my identification or association with the problem were to get stronger my inclination to act might, too (again, just my current working theory).

I can't hold myself up as an example either, sadly. Perhaps the traditional model of compassion - extending out from ourselves is part of the problem. Another way to look at the situation is to consider where in the culture the most positive moral impact can be made and contributing there. Rather than looking at it in terms of issues consider the potential for change. It is the right time to look at racism in the USA, it seems.


I do also think there are people who have a larger heart, a deeper sense of social injustice and a more powerful will to act when confronted with social ills. These are folks who become activists, community oganizers, political and religoius leaders, and so on. I'm not sure there's a lot more to it than that. but you seem to think so, so I continue to entertain the possibility that some folks have something else going on that I've never considered. Since that "thing" is probably invisible to me I'll need it to be pointed to.


I'm not certain but likewise I think it is worth entertaining the idea. Consider awakening, this is something that can take enormous time an effort but it is also something that can happen spontaneously.

I agree that there are variations in personality and circumstance that are huge factors. But I suspect that like awakening there are many aspects to social activism that are within reach of many more people.

 You are, I think, struggling to communicate whatever that thing I don't see is, although it's clear to me that you think my inability to see it is at least in part a result of my being a practitioner of buddism and, I suspect, its focus on personal development related to its concept of self/not-self.

Yes I am, these are new ideas for me. I think buddhism can help in many ways but it can also hinder. There is a focus on personal development in western buddhism, I guess we are both drawn to those aspects. But I'm not implying it it that simple or that you have an unbalanced approach to buddhist practise.

Chris Marti:
I'd like to add another thought as this topic relates to buddhism -- I think the suffering of individuals and of societies is bound up in beliefs. I think we underestimate buddhism if we take it as just another ideology or belief system. It can be that, of course, and is for many, many people, but it is also uniquely a set of tools, of process, that can be used to help us actually see the construction of ideology and religion - of society and everything else, really.


I believe there is always an ideology/doctrine at work, there is no morality without that. This is perhaps the one thing that non-buddhism makes quite clear. We are always a subject, there is no getting away from that. I do believe some buddhist doctrines point to this but they are not the mainstream in western buddhism. If you consider the diverse range of experiences reported from different buddhist doctrines this can raise questions.

It is a really central point, if you believe you can act in the world without being a subject of ideology then you've missed one of the central tenets of what it means for the self to be culturally constructed. As an example consider Psi's reply to you.


If we use the tools as they are intended to be used they can actually prevent us from forgetting the constructed nature of our existence and maybe thereby from adopting, or accepting as truths, beliefs.


This is a great line. It resonates for me and we are not that far away if you agree we are always subject to ideology/doctrine.

As I see it we need beliefs and views but these become problematic when we treat them as truths or identify with them. This still leaves the inevitable "unknown unknowns" and is another argument for why enlightenment is not an end point but yet another ongoing process.

A thought that crossed my mind while reflecting on this is how fundamental the discoveries of science have been in the last 500 odd years. Buddhism seems to have pretty much taken all this in it's stride. Whether it is quantum physics, natural selection, physcial cosmology, sociology etc. These fundamental insights don't seem to have impacted buddhist ideology. It reminds me of Christianity.

I find it hard to believe that the Buddha would not have leveraged this knolwedge to refine his practise and teachings. But buddhist ideology does not seem to have been able to evolve, instead we look back to the earliest texts hoping that all knowledge gained since the time of the Buddha is a waste of time and a diversion. It just does not sit well with me.



This applies to all constructions, not just personal but social, political, religious, and cultural.

Maybe worth clarifying that I'm using a very broad definition of culture - so it includes social, political, religious, technology etc. Hopefully I'm being clear that I'm presenting a view not some fundamental truth.

I wonder if you see the distinction between self and culture as just another belief ? That the process of culture inherently includes the process of every self.

The beauty of the individual is the ability to see part of this - that is something culture can't do. It means that we have the opportunity to seek moral objectives for that process. This seems to be a common point that can connect so many diverse movements from ecology to the 99% to anti-racism etc then list goes on and on. In the past I used to see these different issues as less interconnected - like you wrote earlier I assumed I needed to be impacted by the issue, I'm finding that position harder to justify.

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/27/15 6:37 PM as a reply to Mark.
A thought that crossed my mind while reflecting on this is how fundamental the discoveries of science have been in the last 500 odd years. Buddhism seems to have pretty much taken all this in it's stride. Whether it is quantum physics, natural selection, physcial cosmology, sociology etc. These fundamental insights don't seem to have impacted buddhist ideology. It reminds me of Christianity.

I find it hard to believe that the Buddha would not have leveraged this knolwedge to refine his practise and teachings. But buddhist ideology does not seem to have been able to evolve, instead we look back to the earliest texts hoping that all knowledge gained since the time of the Buddha is a waste of time and a diversion. It just does not sit well with me.

Mark, what I see is a lot of people trying to merge the developments of the last 2,500 years and the worthwhile tools that the buddha and his successors discovered, or re-discovered. Now, keep in mind that my time as a buddhist has been spent primarily in the pragmatic realm, where there has generally been a fairly concerted effort not to ignore progress. I'm referring to folks like Daniel Ingram, Kenneth Folk and Vincent Horn, among others.

That said, I do get disheartened when some modern buddhists can't seem to reconcile the iron age morality that existed at the time of the Buddha and the nature of the society we now face as a species. In that vein I would recommend David Loy's writings:

http://www.wisdompubs.org/book/new-buddhist-path

Loy is someone who you might find amenable to your thoughts on these things. I've found them to be so myself.

Also, the Dalai Lama has been accused of ignoring ancient doctrine in favor of acknowledging, accommodating and working with, not against, the world we now live in. I think he's doing what he believes right, and I think it's his deep understanding of buddhism and his proper use of buddhist tools that leads him to the actions he's taking. I place in evidence of this an article I recently read in the New York Times magazine section:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/06/magazine/the-last-dalai-lama.html?_r=0


RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/27/15 6:53 PM as a reply to Mark.
 believe there is always an ideology/doctrine at work, there is no morality without that. This is perhaps the one thing that non-buddhism makes quite clear. We are always a subject, there is no getting away from that. I do believe some buddhist doctrines point to this but they are not the mainstream in western buddhism. If you consider the diverse range of experiences reported from different buddhist doctrines this can raise questions.

It is a really central point, if you believe you can act in the world without being a subject of ideology then you've missed one of the central tenets of what it means for the self to be culturally constructed. As an example consider Psi's reply to you.

Mark, we can't escape ideology or concepts of any kind. Well, unless we're dead or unconscious. A mistake I see many buddhists make is to focus on a piece of their experience - usually the absolute - and reify it, assuming that the absolute is all that matters. That we can, they might say, put down our concepts, politics, and ideologies once and for all and get on with utopia. This is a wrong-headed, incomplete and incorrect view. We can see through all of this, all of constructed experience, but we cannot avoid it. All we can hope for is to use the tools of buddhism to gain the wisdom that will allow us to act appropriately in this world. Those tools are not well used when they justify denying the obvious. 

And we really do need to act at some point. As buddhists we need to engage. To ignore the obvious ills we see and not do anything is not a wise course of action. And there actually is a strong strain of engaged buddhism in the world today, as evidenced by folks like Thich Nhat Hanh, Bernie Glassman, and many others.



RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/27/15 10:13 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
[quote=Chris Marti

]
Mark, we can't escape ideology or concepts of any kind. Well, unless we're dead or unconscious.

There are states of conscious where this does not occur, both meditatively and actively, but it is not an escape anymore than dwelling within the realm of ideology and concepts could be considered an escape from reality. I would call not being able to still and quieten concepts and ideologies a form of Intellectual Bypassing, if I may coin a term.   Which , btw, dwelling within ideology and concepts may indeed be the escape from reality...  emoticon  Intellectual Bypassing may be as detrimental to progress as is Spiritual Bypassing.  Both avoiding reality.  See, concept and reality.


http://www.seeingthroughthenet.net/files/eng/books/other/concept_and_reality.pdf


A mistake I see many buddhists make is to focus on a piece of their experience - usually the absolute - and reify it, assuming that the absolute is all that matters.
re·i·fyˈrēəˌfī/verbformal
  1. make (something abstract) more concrete or real.
Making concepts and ideology seem concrete and real is a form of reification.  Perhaps even a delusion, on an absolute level , of course.

That we can, they might say, put down our concepts, politics, and ideologies once and for all and get on with utopia.
Do not forget Dukkha, it gets to come along too... 

This is a wrong-headed, incomplete and incorrect view. We can see through all of this, all of constructed experience, but we cannot avoid it. All we can hope for is to use the tools of buddhism to gain the wisdom that will allow us to act appropriately in this world. Those tools are not well used when they justify denying the obvious. 

Are you saying there is no way out of the thicket of views?  Have you been able to put down concepts, ideologies, and politics?  If so, what was it like?  If you have not, then how do you know it to be wrong?  Is there a difference , perhaps, between wholesome and unwholesome concepts, politics, and views?


And we really do need to act at some point. As buddhists we need to engage. To ignore the obvious ills we see and not do anything is not a wise course of action. And there actually is a strong strain of engaged buddhism in the world today, as evidenced by folks like Thich Nhat Hanh, Bernie Glassman, and many others.


Of course !   Everyone should engage .

Psi

Hi Chris, with respect, you also made reference to Iron Age Morality, whatever that is exactly.  That is relative to the current timeframe,  Due to Anicca, all that will change again, and , perhaps, some 2500 years hence, another Chris will make reference to the Fiber Optic Age Morality of today....  Possibly...

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/28/15 1:44 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:

Mark, what I see is a lot of people trying to merge the developments of the last 2,500 years and the worthwhile tools that the buddha and his successors discovered, or re-discovered.

Perhaps we have different ideas of what "a lot of people" is. My impression is closer to very few.



Now, keep in mind that my time as a buddhist has been spent primarily in the pragmatic realm, where there has generally been a fairly concerted effort not to ignore progress. I'm referring to folks like Daniel Ingram, Kenneth Folk and Vincent Horn, among others.


I think the only time I've seen censorship on DhO is in discussions regarding science. That was Daniel and it is his forum, I'm not complaining.

I don't see MCTB as integrating much recent knowledge. The pragmatic dharma movement seems much closer to a stripping down of Buddhism, so for example Vincent is close to the mindfulness movement.

There is a bunch of effort to secularise buddhism. That is very different from incorporating new knowledge. For example what does natural selection imply in regards to reincarnation, what does quantum theory imply in regards to causality, how about sociology etc. But this would be taking us off topic.



http://www.wisdompubs.org/book/new-buddhist-path


Thanks for the reference.

Chris Marti:
To ignore the obvious ills we see and not do anything is not a wise course of action. And there actually is a strong strain of engaged buddhism in the world today, as evidenced by folks like Thich Nhat Hanh, Bernie Glassman, and many others.

Again I'd only disagree on the adjective - I don't see a "strong strain of engaged buddhism" this is a fringe movement IMHO.

Thanks for providing some more background on your perpsective, it should make it easier to communicate.

I'll try to steer the conversation toward building a bridge. From my previous post "I wonder if you see the distinction between self and culture as just another belief ? That the process of culture inherently includes the process of every self." could you answer that ?

"In the past I used to see these different issues as less interconnected - like you wrote earlier I assumed I needed to be impacted by the issue, I'm finding that position harder to justify." could you share your thoughts on that - does it raise any questions for your current view ?

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/28/15 11:15 AM as a reply to Mark.
Perhaps we have different ideas of what "a lot of people" is. My impression is closer to very few.

Mark, I attempted to explain my experience and persepective earlier. I have a personal connection to the people I mentioned.  There's no one that I know, as one example, that is more interested in the intersection of buddhism and modern technology, and in integrating those two things, than Vincent Horn. As for Daniel Ingram, you cannot judge him solely from reading MCTB or his relationship to these message boards. He's a physician and my experience with him tells me he's also interested in bringing buddhism into the 21st century.

We don't have the same set of experiences, Mark. It's not bad or good, it just is. The same applies to people like David Loy, Thich Naht Hanh and others involved in socially engaged budhism. I've seen, read and heard in person quite a few of these people. They're smart, and attentive, and aware of the issues you raise. I don't know where you're getting your information or how you're assessing buddhism's current situation. I think that will depend on the circles of people you know, what you read and what you hear - and frankly, where you choose the get information. 

EDIT: this may, of course, simply nmean that I occupy the fringe. So be it, if that's the case  emoticon

From my previous post "I wonder if you see the distinction between self and culture as just another belief ? That the process of culture inherently includes the process of every self." could you answer that ?

I missed that, sorry. This gets complicated. I see everything as being constructed - another word that can be substituted for belief. That's a view that has become apparent to me though meditiation and contemplation. That said, as human beings we are always subject to the influence of things around us, and culture is one of those things. I don't see a way to separate my image of self from these influences. Any distinction I make would be artificial, the arbitrary drawing of lines. My moment to moment concept of "me" is a view constructed from influences that range from where I am to when I am to who I'm with to things like my place in society, in "my" culture, and so on. Most of these things are not consciously processed, by the way. They are assumed and pretty much invisible to me unless I stop and pay closer attention. So  while I see everything as being a kind of belief (construction), I take most things like culture and "my" place in it very seriously. I think culture is the accumulation of many, many "selves" that are likewise subject to that kind of moment to moment process. Maybe we could say that culture is the sharing of certain of those processes in groups - the where, the when, the historical information about the group and its history and its place in the world, and so on. 

Does that help? I suspect you'll find my answer le ss than satisfying but for me to simplify it and use ytour terms would not be honest.

"In the past I used to see these different issues as less interconnected - like you wrote earlier I assumed I needed to be impacted by the issue, I'm finding that position harder to justify." could you share your thoughts on that - does it raise any questions for your current view ?

I don't understand what you're asking me here - can you please reword the question?

BTW - why is my opinion so interesting to you? Or is it? Or could it be that I just happen to be engaging you here? Just curious.

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/28/15 11:01 AM as a reply to Mark.
There is a bunch of effort to secularise buddhism. That is very different from incorporating new knowledge. For example what does natural selection imply in regards to reincarnation, what does quantum theory imply in regards to causality, how about sociology etc. But this would be taking us off topic.

It would be off topic but it does occur. I've witnessed those kinds of discussions in person, on the web and through publications that focus on those things. Again, I would offer the Dalai Lama as an example of a very prominent buddhist who has gone the extra mile to leaqrn about and incorporate science and technology into his teachings and into his interpretations of buddhism. I subscribe to a number of online and other publications that are either buddhist or managed and edited by buddhists that openly and directly addess the stuff you keep saying isn't happening. I have buddhist friends with similar interests so again we seem to have very different persectives that must be driven by very different sources of information.
  

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/28/15 12:57 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Perhaps we have different ideas of what "a lot of people" is. My impression is closer to very few.

Mark, I attempted to explain my experience and persepective earlier. I have a personal connection to the people I mentioned.  There's no one that I know, as one example, that is more interested in the intersection of buddhism and modern technology, and in integrating those two things, than Vincent Horn.


Neither do I but that was not the question, the question was in regards to changing the ideology/doctrine of buddhism in relation to discoveries over the last 500 years. Using technology is a minor part of that in my opinion.

I would imagine that there are many people more motivated than Vincent in integrating technology into Buddhism - but those people are engaged in that activity full time. I see Vincent doing much more on a level of networking, marketing and publishing (huge contributions). 



As for Daniel Ingram, you cannot judge him solely from reading MCTB or his relationship to these message boards.


Who claimed to judge him ? I gave you an example of a surprising behaviour. That behaviour is not some proof of who Daniel is. But your claiming that it is of absolutely no relevance at all seems a little biased.

You raised these people as examples, I assumed they were not sacred cows. They are all clearly making huge contributions, that does not mean they are making huge contributions to everything all the time.



He's a physician and my experience with him tells me he's also interested in bringing buddhism into the 21st century.


He is clearly doing a lot but being a physician is not some guarantee that he is redefining buddhist ideology. Daniel seems very into the traditional therevadin maps and there is no harm in that. He has often referred to absolute truths, ultimate reality etc. These are things that you mentioned as being far from ideal views. Daniel seems to be precocious in his experiences with buddhism and that probably has upsides and downsides. 


We don't have the same set of experiences, Mark.


I'm not sure why you use my name in that style. If you spoke to me like that I would assume you were speaking down to me. You must be assuming that I think we have identical experiences, but where did I claim or imply that ? This seems to be projection based on something that I'm not seeing.


It's not bad or good, it just is. The same applies to people like David Loy, Thich Naht Hanh and others involved in socially engaged budhism. I've seen, read and heard in person quite a few of these people. They're smart, and attentive, and aware of the issues you raise. I don't know where you're getting your information or how you're assessing buddhism's current situation.


You'd need to look to sources outside of buddhism as well for criticism. The most useful work I've seen in that direction (and it requires a lot of filtering) is non-buddhism. From what I recall Daniel, Vincent and Kenneth were unable to engage in discussion there. That is not to say it is a one way street but it raises some questions regarding ability to deal with criticism of buddhist ideology.

From the little I see, I think they are all great, but that does not mean I consider them to be great reformers of buddhist ideology.


I think that will depend on the circles of people you know, what you read and what you hear - and frankly, where you choose the get information. 


Yes and I'd guess I've done more than most to look into criticism of buddhism - it takes patience in spades to interact with many writing on non-buddhism. Beyond non-buddhism I think Ken Wilber has some solid critique also but that is not easy going eihter unless you understand his philosophy.


EDIT: this may, of course, simply nmean that I occupy the fringe. So be it, if that's the case  emoticon


I would think you do. That is not a criticism either. You seem to assume that you are the middle of the road average western buddhist, so your experience is the mainstream. I'd really challenge you to get some perspective on that. Do you really think that more than 50% of the people involved in western buddhism are further along in their investigation of buddhism ? Consider how dominant the concepts of mindfulness are - that very limited view of buddhist practices would already cover the vast majority in my opinion.

Look at the number of people posting daily on this forum, which is one of the most active buddhist forums. Clearly the vast majority of people are not engaging anywhere near as much as you do. That is not normal, but who cares.

I'm am not saying that there is no discussion of these topics amongst buddhists etc. I'm not saying there is no work going on in the redefining gof buddhist ideology. But I am saying that is happening on the fringe. I'm aware of a fair amount of that activity I think (thanks to Vincent Horn in no small part).

I'd be quite happy to focus our discussion on what follows from here. The above seems close to a distraction from the original post.
From my previous post "I wonder if you see the distinction between self and culture as just another belief ? That the process of culture inherently includes the process of every self." could you answer that ?

I missed that, sorry. This gets complicated.


No problem, one way for us to try and see where the differences are is to dig into your or my opinions and look for the differences. I'm keen to do that if you are up for it.


I see everything as being constructed - another word that can be substituted for belief.


Do you mean that you believe everything is only in your mind ? So for example when you are not conscious the universe ceases to exist ? There is a line of buddhist thought in that direction - it seems pretty untenable to me and I'd be surprised if this is what you think. But I'm reading "everything is a belief"

Maybe you mean everything you experience ? So there is no experience without beliefs - for example a baby can't have any experiences until it can form beliefs ? Or maybe you mean beliefs are something other than the common definition of beliefs (unproven concepts).



That's a view that has become apparent to me though meditiation and contemplation. That said, as human beings we are always subject to the influence of things around us, and culture is one of those things. I don't see a way to separate my image of self from these influences. Any distinction I make would be artificial, the arbitrary drawing of lines. My moment to moment concept of "me" is a view constructed from influences that range from where I am to when I am to who I'm with to things like my place in society, in "my" culture, and so on. Most of these things are not consciously processed, by the way. They are assumed and pretty much invisible to me unless I stop and pay closer attention. So  while I see everything as being a kind of belief (construction), I take most things like culture and "my" place in it very seriously. I think culture is the accumulation of many, many "selves" that are likewise subject to that kind of moment to moment process. Maybe we could say that culture is the sharing of certain of those processes in groups - the where, the when, the historical information about the group and its history and its place in the world, and so on. 

Does that help? I suspect you'll find my answer le ss than satisfying but for me to simplify it and use ytour terms would not be honest.


No, I think you do a fine job of trying to express things that do not map well to words. It will probably take some back and forth but I don't see some fundamental reason why I can't get a reasonable understanding of your perspective.

Perhaps the biggest difference I see is that you are taking a view of individuals laregly as a primary "unit" so for example you speak in regards to culture influencing you and culture being an accumulation of the production of selves. I don't think that view is inherently wrong.

But I'm pointing to another view where the culture is the primary "unit". So in this way we see the selves being constructed by culture. So the selves are embedded within culture - not influenced by it, in fact the selves are the embodiment of culture. For example it is not individuals that lead to natural selection but natural selection that leads to individuals. Likewise it is not selves that leads to culture but culture that leads to selves.

Both views are just different ways of "the arbitrary drawing of lines". But having the two is useful I think. I see the view you present as more conventional - it maps better into the way other dominant ideologies view the world. I see the view I'm presenting as potentially providing some useful answers for a self once you start seeing that the self is "the arbitrary drawing of lines".



"In the past I used to see these different issues as less interconnected - like you wrote earlier I assumed I needed to be impacted by the issue, I'm finding that position harder to justify." could you share your thoughts on that - does it raise any questions for your current view ?

I don't understand what you're asking me here - can you please reword the question?


I'm taking something you wrote in an earlier post regarding motivation to act for social justice and comparing that from the perspective I'm trying to present. Trying to see what the different conclusions might be - so for example instead of social engagement being related to personal circumstance the social engagement could be based on other criteria i.e. some issues that might not be closely related to your self may deserve your attention for those reason.


BTW - why is my opinion so interesting to you? Or is it? Or could it be that I just happen to be engaging you here? Just curious.

I think to get to the "heart" of the discussion we need to see what behaviours come out of different views. Your opinions/behaviors are partly a result of your ideology. So for example we can perhaps see the difference in our views more clearly by considering the actions they could lead to. At the end of the day that is my interest in views - the resulting actions (this is what I think of as pragmatic).

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/28/15 2:03 PM as a reply to Mark.
Mark, I was offering you nothing but a few examples of people who, from my experience, take the idea that buddhism needs to adapt to modern times seriously. I have no idea how representative of all of buddhism those people or I am. Is suspect not all that much. I also suspect it will be a mighly struggle to find real human beings who aren't in some way flawed by contradicting beliefs. BTW - I'm not sure I'd call the mindfulness movement "buddhism." Just a thought.

Do you mean that you believe everything is only in your mind ? So for example when you are not conscious the universe ceases to exist ? There is a line of buddhist thought in that direction - it seems pretty untenable to me and I'd be surprised if this is what you think. But I'm reading "everything is a belief"

OMG  :-)

I said:

"I see everything as being constructed - another word that can be substituted for belief. That's a view that has become apparent to me though meditiation and contemplation. That said, as human beings we are always subject to the influence of things around us, and culture is one of those things. I don't see a way to separate my image of self from these influences. Any distinction I make would be artificial, the arbitrary drawing of lines. My moment to moment concept of "me" is a view constructed from influences that range from where I am to when I am to who I'm with to things like my place in society, in "my" culture, and so on. Most of these things are not consciously processed, by the way. They are assumed and pretty much invisible to me unless I stop and pay closer attention. So while I see everything as being a kind of belief (construction), I take most things like culture and "my" place in it very seriously. I think culture is the accumulation of many, many "selves" that are likewise subject to that kind of moment to moment process. Maybe we could say that culture is the sharing of certain of those processes in groups - the where, the when, the historical information about the group and its history and its place in the world, and so on."

What happens to the meaning you derive from that paragraph if you delete my use of the word "belief?"

Honestly, I feel again (not for the first time when conversing with you) that this is less a two way conversation than it is a sort of experiment for you, Mark. I hope I'm wrong. You are, however, very quick to challenge others aggressively and yet you get quite prickly yourself when challenged. Are you aware of that? 

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/28/15 2:30 PM as a reply to Mark.
I'm taking something you wrote in an earlier post regarding motivation to act for social justice and comparing that from the perspective I'm trying to present.

I have a suggestion, Mark:

Lay out what you're thinking in a post, or two, or five. Wouldn't that be more efficient? It would, from my perspective, be a better use of time. I'd like to be able to actually read what it is you're working toward. So what if it's not well thought out yet? The method you're now using, which I'd characterize as trying to tease stuff out of other people and then criticize them from your un-articulated perspective,  is making me want to end my participation in this conversation. Give something. So far, you're doing a lot more getting.

RE: Investigating the implications anatman
Answer
12/29/15 4:29 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Mark, I was offering you nothing but a few examples of people who, from my experience, take the idea that buddhism needs to adapt to modern times seriously.


OK and I was never claiming nobody is taking the idea that buddhism needs to adapt to modern times seriously. I don't think that work has got ten very far. That is not a critique of those people.

I have the impression that most people interested in buddhism do not show a great interest in the critiques of buddhism. But I believe that can be a very useful part of the practise. The aggressive and stupid reactions to non-buddhism on this forum are a case in point.

Someone I would highlight in regards to making progress is Soryu Forall.


I have no idea how representative of all of buddhism those people or I am. Is suspect not all that much.

I agree.


I also suspect it will be a mighly struggle to find real human beings who aren't in some way flawed by contradicting beliefs. BTW - I'm not sure I'd call the mindfulness movement "buddhism." Just a thought.


Before listening to interviews (the Secular Buddhist podcast and associated Mindfulness podcast has plenty) with people teaching mindfulness I had that view. But mindfulness as it is being practised by many teachers goes well beyond the simple meditation technique that I guess you have in mind.
Honestly, I feel again (not for the first time when conversing with you) that this is less a two way conversation than it is a sort of experiment for you, Mark. I hope I'm wrong.
If I mentioned to you that I find that tone of writing, with the use of my name at the end of the sentence, condescending, why continue multiple times. It is just a lack of respect but not what I expect.

You are, however, very quick to challenge others aggressively and yet you get quite prickly yourself when challenged. Are you aware of that? 


I'm not sure that I'm being aggressive. I think you are reading intentions into what I'm writing that are not there. I am far from perfect but I think I'm showing a lot of patience with you too. I don't like some of the assumptions that are made based on what I wrote, that is no doubt coming across. I could make plenty of progress there.

Chris Mart:

I have a suggestion, Mark:

Lay out what you're thinking in a post, or two, or five. Wouldn't that be more efficient?

If the objective here was to teach you then yes. 

It would, from my perspective, be a better use of time.

Yes it would. It would be great if you could also see the efforts I'm going to. I've already thanked you for your efforts, this is not something you've done, largely you complain about my lack of skill.

I'd like to be able to actually read what it is you're working toward.

Think about the contradiction there. You'd like me to reach a conclusion, premash it into bite size digestable chunks for your amusement. Yes I guess that would be an enjoyable experience. I'm not able to do that sorry.

So what if it's not well thought out yet?

Even the pieces that are relatively well thought out are proving very difficult to get across.


The method you're now using, which I'd characterize as trying to tease stuff out of other people and then criticize them from your un-articulated perspective,  is making me want to end my participation in this conversation. Give something. So far, you're doing a lot more getting.


I wish that were the case. So far I've seen how difficult it is to share a view. I think I've been giving you a lot but you are not focusing on those points. I will try to focus your attention on what, in my mind, is the key point of the previous post, which you seem to have ignored:

Perhaps the biggest difference I see is that you are taking a view of individuals laregly as a primary "unit" so for example you speak in regards to culture influencing you and culture being an accumulation of the production of selves. I don't think that view is inherently wrong.

But I'm pointing to another view where the culture is the primary "unit". So in this way we see the selves being constructed by culture. So the selves are embedded within culture - not influenced by it, in fact the selves are the embodiment of culture. For example it is not individuals that lead to natural selection but natural selection that leads to individuals. Likewise it is not selves that leads to culture but culture that leads to selves.

Both views are just different ways of "the arbitrary drawing of lines". But having the two is useful I think. I see the view you present as more conventional - it maps better into the way other dominant ideologies view the world. I see the view I'm presenting as potentially providing some useful answers for a self once you start seeing that the self is "the arbitrary drawing of lines".


Please focus on this. Either I'm right above or not. I suspect what I wrote above is threatening for you - maybe not consciously. Having someone try and force you to listen is not constructive or effective or agreeable. Your threat to end the conversation and ignoring of the above points to this for me.

I'm not sure I can be any clearer than the above in regards to the central difference I see with the view you have presented and what I was pointing to. Sorry if you perceive that as a waste of time.

There is a general dynamic on DhO. Either there is deference to the poster - oh wow you had/are such an amazing x,y,z please tell me more Mr Guru. Then there is the oh you are so confused, let me show you the errors of your ways replies, often mixed in with nasty tones. From the outset I've said I want to co-construct something - I am not trying to present a teaching. 

[edit: I woke up realizing I'd missed something in your previous post. You wrote "I'd characterize as trying to tease stuff out of other people and then criticize them" This indicates that you are identifying with the view I'm comparing. I am not trying to criticize you, I'm comparing two views. I imagine both views have positives and negatives. I guess you got an impression that I'm trying to attack you - when I read your post again that comes through. That is not at all what I'm trying to do. There was an assumption on my part that neither you nor I are identifiying with our views. I'm happy to stop here - the desire is not at all to criticize you.]