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Discussion in 'Philosophy and Religion' started by tovlo, Jul 18, 2019.

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  1. tovlo

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    I was reading this article on Buddhism and Marxism today and I was captivated by the metaphor of Indra's Net...

    The whole article called to mind my seemingly neverending spiritual search and quest to understand my value/worth. I recalled a previous thread of mine here and the reply by @Headstorm there. (Where is he?!)

    https://www.infjs.com/threads/intrinsic-vs-instrumental-value.35975/

    I recalled being struck at the time by trying to grasp his take that value is based in interdependence. At the time it lit my brain because it had felt intuitively solid, and utterly unfamiliar. I had summarized my very novice understanding as:

    Which relates to this from the article:

    So if I, and every other conceptual illusion that is considered a thing, are actually no-things, then my only definition, my only worth, is as a relationship within the net? I am the sum total of what I reflect? I contain everything and everything contains me? My drive to be connected is illusory because all I am is connection? Striving to find a comparative worth or value is nonsensical because the inherent worth is the net, of which everything is? In terms of societal worth, anything I privately worry I am less than, or secretly pridefully think I am better than, I am?

    Whew. Again, this feels so intuitively solid, and so culturally and experientially foriegn.

    Then, practically, does recognition of no-self lead to true equality?

    From the article:

    We manifest what we are in our relations...in our reflections, as reflections.

    So, my question is how?

    Such calls to action - work on our inner Tyrannosaurus...become less selfish.

    Yes, lovely, wonderful, we should do that.

    Yet, evil, hatred, competition is part of the net, which we are.

    Can we really just, ...not be that?

    Is it actually that simple?

    Does the one who says, I am free of that, actually betray themselves, just by thinking that they are? By thinking they've accomplished what others haven't, by placing themselves in a hierarchy and separating themselves within that hierarchy?

    Evil, hatred, competition exist. Therefore, I am not free of them. I am what I am in relationship with...all things. Right?

    So, can we be rid of these things? Really?

    How?
     
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  2. Wyote

    Wyote Con Risa Absoluta
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    Everything would have to change
     
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  3. OP
    tovlo

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    Exactly.
     
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  4. Daustus

    Daustus Community Member

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    Interesting post. Does accepting that we cannot escape the biological limitations that being a biological creature entail, free you from worrying about eliminating them? I can recognize the impact of biology on what I perceive as myself. Specifically at this moment hunger. I might have mangled my understanding of your post due to hunger.
     
  5. OP
    tovlo

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    Ha!!! Eat! Eat!!
     
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  6. Hostarius

    Hostarius Level 10 Cynical Optimist

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    Fantastic. You're coming to a great insight about reality. I'll reply more fully in a bit, but in philosophical terms what you're grasping is the nature of Hegel's Geist as it pertains to the self of Cartesian Cogito ('I think therefore I am' as a foundational basis of reality). I'll attach an article that explains it, but I'll be back, too.
     

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  7. Hostarius

    Hostarius Level 10 Cynical Optimist

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    OK... essentially I think you've approached a hard problem of consciousness here - the way that your consciousness interacts with a concept of 'self', and it might be at least a little bit enlightening to approach this through the lens of a debate in philosophy.

    I'm sure you've heard of Descarte's principle of cogito ergo sum - 'I think therefore I am'. This refers to the only sure fact of 'existence' according to him. I think, at least, therefore I know that I am real. This is known for short as the Cogito.

    This leads to a position of 'methodological solipsism' in epistemology whereby you must ultimately refer all knowledge in some way to the 'self' - all knowledge must be intelligible by the Cogito - it's almost literally the centre of the universe. Kant expanded on this with his concept of the I Think (or the 'transcendental ego'), which made the distinction between this thinking 'thing' that is the Cogito/I Think and what we might call 'individual persons'.

    In other words, the I Think is not the same thing as the 'self', the 'individual subject' or 'an individual person'.

    The I Think - what you're doing now: 'being conscious' - has almost no relation to your empirical reality as a person, which we might call a 'body'. You are real as an I Think, as the perceiving core of the universe. Nothing can be known to be real, except you. Not 'you', as in your history, your relationships or even your personality, but the 'you' that is the active perception of the universe right in this moment; i.e. the I Think.

    This means that the I Think - you - are nothing. You are formless, shapeless and without identity. This is Hegel's transformation according to Solomon encapsulated in his concept of Geist (literally 'ghost', but let's define it as 'universal mind'). Since the Cogito/I Think has nothing to do with the individual person/your body, and cannot be individuated, we might as well regard it as universal, as Geist.

    In this moment, as you perceive the universe, you are the expression of Geist; of the 'universal consciousness'. 'You' are nothing else. That is an altogether different thing than what people see when they look at the 'empirical you', your body.

    This is the Western equivalent of that Buddhist 'no-self' and it captures the formlessness of consciousness which you describe.

    So 'you', as the Geist, are the universal perceiver of the universe - it's absolute centre - and so everything that can be said to exist must, by definition, be reflected into you; be perceived by you; by 'mind'.

    This means that the 'you' that is the Geist/Cogito/I Think cannot escape being connected with every horror that you perceive. In fundamental ways, you are those horrors, because you perceive and understand them literally as the universe perceives them.

    However, there is a 'body' vaguely connected to, and under the control of this universal mind, and that we can call a 'self'. It's perfectly possible to animate this self with your will by choosing those facets you wish it to exhibit, but this can only be done moment to moment, when presented with choices.

    You are nothing but the memory of choices you think you have made, and so in that sense all you are is relational, yes. If you think about this too hard, it is very easy to dissolve your entire sense of self/body into nothingness because ultimately the experience of Geist - of the universal consciousness - is incapable of being individuated, it just 'is'.

    You 'is', but that's as far as we can safely say.
     
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  8. OP
    tovlo

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    Thanks for this @Hostarius! I'm off thinking and processing. If there is an I, and that I can think...

    ...I will be back...I think?

    I do think I like Hegel. Still reading...
     
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  9. Hostarius

    Hostarius Level 10 Cynical Optimist

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    :tearsofjoy:

    Just some food for thought. Not necessarily the answers you were looking for as much as fuel for your fire.
     
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  10. Disguised

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    I actually wrote something, somewhat like this based on "worth" on the virtues of life leaflet thingy. I think that your worth has nothing to do with what things look like so to speak. The value comes then from the outside sources. Thinking that all energy and matter are connected someway in a quantum level, is something else. The problem is with consciousness most often. The more virtues, values and good things you try to bring up, it also strengthens the dark side.

    "According to Jung, the shadow, in being instinctive and irrational, is prone to psychological projection, in which a perceived personal inferiority is recognized as a perceived moral deficiency in someone else. Jung writes that if these projections remain hidden, "The projection-making factor (the Shadow archetype) then has a free hand and can realize its object—if it has one—or bring about some other situation characteristic of its power."[6] These projections insulate and harm individuals by acting as a constantly thickening veil of illusion between the ego and the real world."

    It is what we see in ourselves that give the projection of us to others. If we think that we're better, we're actually rubbish. If we think we're really really good at something, again that makes us arrogant. If we think we have way too much money, we come off as capitalists. See? People who don't care about these things are to me way more virtuous than others. It's a fine line to walk through, consciousness that is. Love springs up hate, joy brings room for angst. It's almost impossible to remain in a status quo state, that's inhuman.
     
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  11. MINFJToothFairy

    MINFJToothFairy Community Member

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    First, thank you for the reference. Also, I have several questions following your very good explanation of the cogito. Say we account the collective, as in the entirety of the world, can we say that the world is a sum of a collective "i thinks" belonging to different and all species? In this sense, could @tovlo 's description of Indra's net then apply? Basically, I'm wondering where you might position the "we" alongside the weave of the geist and the cogito. Plural forms.

    I don't know if I'm eloquent enough... But yeah.
     
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  12. Impact Character

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    @tovlo Very interesting thought and article. Interesting how this is often more talked about in terms of relationship roles like social glue and harmonizers and such, but it's worth mentioning (and seeking) the even deeper level of it.

    @MINFJToothFairy I think it's good that you pointed that out. :)

    The reflecting diamonds in the net, the thought inbetween a net of synapses. The diamonds are not only canvas and mirror of transmitted light, also individual parts of the whole.

    In media design theory* we've talked alot about feedback and the self which ranges from interacting with liveless to living things. The reflected light that reaches your eye and makes you see the world and yourself, another person holding your hand etc. Awareness of self and awareness of the space/environment around you not making much of a difference, as finding yourself in nature (mysticism). Reaction/Response turning into some kind of proof of your existence, meaning feedbacking your existence as long as you are in some kind of interactive relation to something else. (There is a difference in reacting and responding tho.)

    *virtual worlds/"Scheinwelten"/illusion worlds
     
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    #12 Impact Character, Jul 21, 2019
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  13. Hostarius

    Hostarius Level 10 Cynical Optimist

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    Well technically the 'we' cannot be justified under methodological solipsism (the idea of the Cogito/I Think that all we can know for sure is that we ourselves are real because we think).

    I think therefore I am, but you might be a figment of my imagination (cogito ergo sum, sed imaginarium es). The step from that to Geist is that this same I Think cannot be individuated into what we think of as 'individual persons', and therefore it is a recognition of universal consciousness. However this is not a we, because that would require individuation.

    Now, Hegel took Geist to build a metaphysics of history whereby it stood for the 'spirit of humanity', if you like - like a universal, common will, but that is philosophically discredited, having collapsed in the 19th century. For example, Weltgeist referred to the 'world spirit' which moved history in a particular direction.

    The bottom line, though, is that you can't get from the Cogito/I Think to any form of 'we' that is definitely real - there's no way I can know for certain that you are a Cogito just like I am.

    @Ren might be able to add more.
     
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  14. Ren

    Ren Pin's android and co-founder of Stoic Café

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    Did I hear the words cogito ergo sum?

    :m179:

    Sure thing! This conversation seems cool. I've spent the whole morning reading philosophy though so my brain is knocked out right now. Maybe after a good meal and a good swim. :)
     
  15. Ren

    Ren Pin's android and co-founder of Stoic Café

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    Hi @tovlo, may I ask what is the url of your article? I'm just curious. I have some preliminary disagreements with it.

    I think this is already somewhat problematic, because a relation already presupposes that there are entities to be "plugged" into the relation: xRy, xRyRz... even xRx. So this seems to leave unanswered the question about what x, y, z, etc... stand for. If they are not substantial, what are they? Now, it is possible to see the relation itself as primitive, in which case sure, we may end up with something like monistic conceptualism or solipsism. But...

    What exactly makes humanity evil in this relational framework? If being is defined as primitively relational, then it is hard to see how human beings as such can be free agents, and so by extension, how they can be the perpetrators of evil. The article also says that humans are "inherently tyrannical beings" with a "proclivity to evil". But how can anything be "inherent" to human being if this being is defined relationally? If the ontological independence of a human being is a conceptual illusion, then anything that is ascribed to human being as if it were independent — evil or otherwise — must be an illusion as well.

    I think this points towards figuring out whether the article proposes to define what the author means by "evil". If not defined, I doubt that they mean evil in the Hegelian conception of the term.

    @Hostarius I'll dig into your references to Hegel and the Cartesian cogito later. Granny needs me again :innocent:
     
    #15 Ren, Jul 21, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2019
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  16. Ren

    Ren Pin's android and co-founder of Stoic Café

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    This is interesting. I’m wondering if there might not be a distinction, though, between something that is grasped as a pure relation/web of relations, and on the other hand, something that is in such a way that it has relations. The cogito is intentional, but as such it is also the ‘point of departure’ of all relations, and in this sense it is substantial (res cogitans). So I wouldn’t say that from a Cartesian viewpoint, the self is hovering above nothingness — the thinking substance is eternal and infinite and always lies “under” the individuated self, in a way. If I’m correct, the metaphysics of Hegel is also a metaphysics of substance.

    By contrast, I get from the metaphor of Indra’s net that in the metaphysics that it exemplifies, nothing is substantial in this sense. There is no eternal and unchanging substance that has relations (of thought), and so together with it, a certain power of entering into such relations, but rather everything is in itself a relation and nothing endures. It’s a much more immanent ontology, basically. Personally, I don’t see much room for the will in this metaphysics, which is ultimately why I can’t embrace it, and why I also don’t think that it can accommodate the concept of evil.
     
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  17. MINFJToothFairy

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    Maybe there is no evil. It's just the "I" and the relations. What about the entire net is the "I" in itself and all of us are compositions of a bigger "I"?
     
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  18. OP
    tovlo

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  19. Ren

    Ren Pin's android and co-founder of Stoic Café

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    That's certainly a possible metaphysical view and I do think that it is likely to neuter the meaning of evil. That being said, I am not sure that it would match the metaphysics implied by the metaphor of Indra's net (not that it has to). Because the conception of a "pure I" and its relations is indicative of a metaphysics of substance. The concept of substance originates from Aristotle and is a quite difficult one to unravel, but it's important to note that it's not synonymous with corporeality or even concreteness. In the roughest possible definition of it, substance is something that is and endures, that has attributes, and whose being is implied by its essence (i.e. its being is not "caused" by anything else than simply itself). For example, in the metaphysics of Descartes, thought itself is substance: it endures, its being is implied by its essence, and it has, among its attributes, that of not being extended. In Spinoza, God himself is substance, which leads to a pantheistic view of reality.

    What I get so far from the article is that the metaphysics it refers to is insubstantial, and thus that this metaphysics does not feature something like an I, even taken as the entire net. If you like, the net itself is not unified. There is only whatever exists immanently in the world, conceived as a web of relations without a 'central hub' (like an I). And it is precisely because this system features no substance that it can refer to nothingness or the void, I think. An interesting question to ask — perhaps it is mentioned in the article — would be: what is the ontological status of those relations that individuate us? Usually a relation is conceived as an abstract object, i.e. something that endures, that has attributes...i.e. something substantial. But there are most likely ways around it. Perhaps those "relations" are only referred to in a manner of speaking that is not ontologically committing. Either way, this metaphysical worldview seems bad news for the political ideal of human emancipation against oppression.
     
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  20. Ren

    Ren Pin's android and co-founder of Stoic Café

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    Cool, thanks for sharing the article! I'll have a look at it later today :)

    Yes the article on Hegel's concept of Geist is also one that I've been meaning to read for ages... I actually really should do that because I'm realizing my Hegel is getting a bit rusty :D
     
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