Welcome, Guest
Username: Password: Remember me

TOPIC: Rebirth

Rebirth 11 Mar 2012 20:19 #4949

As a side note, it occurs to me that there is this intuitive criterion of knowability—rebirth, for instance, is something that presumably or potentially is unknowable from within the human experience, and thus we must treat it as something beyond factual apprehension. But that's an incomplete view of the matter of the hand.

The real statement that one needs to be able to say when considering a metaphysical problem is not 'I can not know this [due, presumably, to the very nature of consciousness or perception],' but 'I will not know this [as I and my lifespan are inescapably bound to a time and place]'. The objective knowability of a given fact is experientially completely the same as the knowability of a given fact within an individual or society's lifetime.

To include particle physics, for instance, within the knowable sphere of a Modern only stands to reason, and if you believe as many materialists do that science is the best tool for all knowable matters of fact, then it is fair to display a strong or exclusive bias towards the scientific account of matters concerning the behavior of atomic particles. But to then include it in the objective sphere of knowability, when it is placed by time and the limitations of cognition to a distance of effectively complete impossibility to someone living in the Middle Ages, is just chauvinism.

A tangential point, perhaps.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 11 Mar 2012 22:02 #4950

So is believing something like in Chris's example of preconceptions based on the sound of someone's voice in a completely different category than believing in something like rebirth?

It seems mostly productive to talk about this stuff on an immediate level, not in the abstract. That is, Crux's example of rebirth has an effect on his practice moment to moment, day to day. My belief in particle physics is utterly irrelevant, as I never think about how atoms behave on a day to day basis. Chris' example of preconceptions about the guy behind him had an immediate effect on his thoughts and might have impacted his behavior (if he had gotten annoyed and told the guy to shut up or something like that).
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 11 Mar 2012 23:15 #4951

All I know is, once you get a belief >as a belief<, you poop in your pants (or something close) and you are never the same. I'm paraphrasing an old teacher of mine.

:D

p.s. I think he actually called it a bung hole puckering experience.

p.p.s. Yes I am drunk on my front porch, after a very hard day of housework.

p.p.p.s. And yes, in a very weird twist of life, I'm listening to the only grateful dead songs I've ever liked (on youtube). (China Cat and Franklin's Tower.)

p.p.p.p.s. Oddly, I edited this post -- not to erase it, but to change wierd to weird.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 11 Mar 2012 23:35 #4952


So is believing something like in Chris's example of preconceptions based on the sound of someone's voice in a completely different category than believing in something like rebirth?

-ona

I'd say so, absolutely. For one there's the knowability criterion; rebirth and the identity of the people behind me are on utterly opposite ends of the spectrum of my ability to confirm that information empirically. Further, on a functional level, they belong to substantially different components of the brain; as I alluded to upstream, I'm arriving to a position on rebirth (whatever the specific method is) roughly analogous to how I'd reach a political principle or maybe as the result of a long chain of abstract reasoning. I can apply abstract logical reasoning to the identity of people if I so choose, but the initial, frankly reflexive work that I really don't have a choice in undertaking, the guessing at the age, health, tribal identity, race, emotional state, threat level, etc. of the people around me belongs arguably to a much more instinctual and less conscious part of the brain, or parts maybe, equal parts survival brain and perception weaving (the part that gives rise to things like Charles Bonnet Syndrome syndrome, for instance). Finally, my emotional stance towards both 'beliefs' and the relationship between them and my sense of self are very, very different. I would argue that both functionally and materially they differ in significant ways.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 11 Mar 2012 23:45 #4953

@shargrol - no more drunk posting! no wonder we rarely get anywhere with our Very Important Conversations! :P
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 11 Mar 2012 23:49 #4954

Re: beliefs, I am reminded of a nifty practice exercise a friend taught me once. It was an exercise she used in meditation classes she taught. The exercise was to walk through a stretch of forest and pretend you were an alien who had suddenly been incarnated in human form. You had never seen anything before. You had never had human eyes before. You had never felt what it was like to walk, have legs, arms, skin, to feel air on your skin, to swallow saliva, to see light, trees, shadows, animals, stones, etc. The idea was to try to be hyper aware of all the senses in a completely fresh way, without any preconceptions. It highlights how much story telling is layered onto experience at every moment, if one isn't paying close attention, at least.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 12 Mar 2012 00:58 #4955

@ona

"Not knowing is most intimate"

This practice exercise is a perfect description of the practice of disembeded careful awareness required in vipasssana and zen. Or, choiceless awareness taught by Krishnamurti. Yes like in the example the challenge is to learn how to arrive at each moment fresh and new.
  • Dharma Comarade
  • Dharma Comarade's Avatar
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 12 Mar 2012 10:22 #4956

The other pointer I like is "This moment has never been experienced before." plus "You cannot know what the next moment will bring." Same general idea.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 12 Mar 2012 12:11 #4957

It seems to me from meditative, practice and in-the-world experience that beliefs are beliefs, large or small, stated or unstated. The small ones tend to grow up and become big ones, or worse, they allow the big ones to become "reliable."

Beliefs are almost always unexamined until we make the conscious attempt to examine them, and then it generally surprises us just how much of our experience is built on them. They form a sort of foundation that allows us to feel comfortable and safe in the world (a world that is really very chaotic and not predictable or reliable). So the way I see it now (as opposed to a dozen years ago or so) is that I need to really pay attention (be mindful) as much as possible to make sure I'm not buying into the false sense of security that beliefs generate and that ego loves.

For me this is what is meant by freedom in a practice sense. Freedom from the assumptions, both large and small, that cause me to react, not according to experienced circumstances without the belief foundation, but according to that supporting belief system. Reacting from my own belief system, whatever that is, is not freedom. I think in Buddhism it's called samsara.

"The idea was to try to be hyper aware of all the senses in a completely fresh way, without any preconceptions. It highlights how much story telling is layered onto experience at every moment, if one isn't paying close attention, at least." -- Ona

This gets the proverbial "Ding, ding, ding, ding!" Exactly.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 12 Mar 2012 12:53 #4958

I love a good "ding". :P

I don't remember where I heard the first phrase in that pointer, but the second was from Alan, to give proper credit. :)
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 12 Mar 2012 15:11 #4959

This thread really took off, didn't it?

First, I think speaking of a belief as not being real, simply because it cannot be found as a thing, is not a very functional way of understanding it. Both thoughts and rocks are dependently co-arisen, so neither are "things" in an objective way. That's square one.

Next, belief in a functional context is much easier to understand. When I brush my teeth in the morning, I believe the paste I put on the brush isn't poisonous. If it was (and given the assumption I don't want to die today), I wouldn't put it on the brush, and into my mouth. Therefore, belief is a demonstrated by the way we relate to things. All knowledge is relational in nature.

Then it gets much more complex. Not only can we relate physical things with verbal/mental relations (toothpaste is safe to put in my mouth; bleach is not), but we can also relate mental objects with other mental objects (compassion is good; hatred is bad).

The function of belief in the latter form of relations tends to be what gets us in the most trouble. This is because these things are untestable outside of the realm of thought. We can test whether or not my toothpaste is toxic based on the result. We can't test whether or not behavior contrary to biblical principles actually gets noticed by a personal god. We can't test whether someone goes to heaven or hell, or is reborn, after they die (the latter is MORE testable, but not enough for conclusions to be all that strong).

And this is why such belief tend to be more rigid. It takes a different kind of exposure to untangle this kind of thinking. One has to be willing to really engage different kinds of thinking, and to allow accommodation to occur (rather than merely assimilating all new information into existing schemas).

If anything, a belief is a mental event; an act-in-context. Context includes both immediate contingencies and one's learning history, which is recalled by memory (broadly defined, inclusive of automatic and conscious recollection, as well as reflexive and operant responding).

Complex, indeed. Regardless, denying belief as a functional event doesn't get us anywhere, IMHO.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 12 Mar 2012 15:19 #4960

... denying belief as a functional event doesn't get us anywhere..."


I agree, Jackson. No one that I can see here, however, is suggesting we deny belief. I'm suggesting we know what is belief and what is something else. That's what it's all about, IMHO. Belief and judgment are built into this human being's mind/brain complex. I cannot get rid of them even if I want to.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 12 Mar 2012 15:30 #4961

I guess I was responding to Crux's repeated assertion that he simply cannot operationally define what belief is, which renders him unable to wrap his head around how belief could be "held" in some way, the way one could hold a stone or a child. (At least that's how I understood it, which may be incorrect).

Believing is an activity of consciousness, whether explicit or implicit in nature. In this way, I think nearly all responsive organisms act via belief in some ways, though not nearly as complex as what is possible by language-able organisms like human beings. If one is able to somehow store a relation between things, they tend to act on that relation when not other options are available. Combine that with the ability to relate non-material objects/events, as well as relating-relations, and it's easy to see how humans can get themselves all twisted up in belief, in ways that are especially pathological.

I was listening to Philosophy Talk on NPR during my drive home from class last week, and the guest on the show said something that stuck with me. He said something like, "Philosophy is the study of the pathologies of language." Brilliant! I think that's what we're dealing with, here.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 12 Mar 2012 15:40 #4962

Ah, okay. This is the second time in two days that I've misread something here, Sorry, Jackson.

I'll let Crux reply before I shoot my mouth off again ;-)
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 12 Mar 2012 16:34 #4963

It's good for us that we can't get rid of beliefs even if we wanted to - as Chris points out. To practice awareness with a fresh new and open mind can seem frightening at first or at least difficult because we aren't sure we will "know what to do" if we are that open.

However, there is nothing to worry about since our beliefs are always right there waiting in the background ready and willing to assist us. And if we stay aware at that point insights into the real nature of our beliefs are possible as well as insight into something new and original. Something that is not to be believed.
  • Dharma Comarade
  • Dharma Comarade's Avatar
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 12 Mar 2012 19:00 #4964

" When I brush my teeth in the morning, I believe the paste I put on the brush isn't poisonous." - Jackson

Anyone else alive during the "someone's poisoning the grocery items" scare? 1980s maybe? Before that stuff didn't come with all the little foil seals and extra plastic wrap. ;)
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 12 Mar 2012 21:00 #4965

That is a misreading of my view.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 12 Mar 2012 21:26 #4966

How is a "view" different than a "belief"? @crux because he just used the word, but in general this is a word people like to throw around in dharma circles, so I'd like to hear any/all thoughts on the subject.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 12 Mar 2012 21:29 #4967

Crux, I had a feeling my understanding may not be correct. I'm open to your clarification, if you'd like to share.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 13 Mar 2012 02:32 #4968

The notion that was I demanding that one be able to 'hold' belief in the way that one would hold a stone is honestly a little insulting. I was obviously using the word 'hold' in the sense of 'hold to be true'. I very explicitly took the folk conception of belief to be, potentially, either statist or behavioral, and I find both conceptions problematic. Further, I did offer the beginnings of a definition of belief that took it to be neither a state nor a behavior. The point is attempting to deconstruct the structures or processes assumed behind discussion of belief. I didn't deny that belief has a common-sense meaning; I questioned whether the model underlying the folk usage of the verb 'to believe' and the noun 'belief' actually obtain in a functional depiction of the mind. This, I would argue, is a terribly pertinent question, given the rigorous phenomenalism at the heart of Buddhism.

I go back to my original question: before we start asserting how dangerous beliefs are, I would like an elaboration on their nature. Describing a belief as a subject-predicate relation in the mind—'bleach = unsafe'—makes linguistic sense, but is actually as non-functional as you can get; it's a completely abstracted view, obtaining only in the realm of concepts and mental objects, unless one believes that the mind is like a big database, with a bunch of physical locations that hold individual mental objects and connections that string between them.

Other folk psychology terms for mental behavior are not so problematic, in my view, to describe: vision, for instance. One can establish a relatively coherent functional picture of vision, where light receptors in the eyes provide individual snapshots and snippets of the field of vision, which are passed on to the vision center of the brain, which constructively integrates them into a unified, coherent image; at this point the spatial function of the brain establishes a 3d representation of the space being perceived and the pattern-recognition function of the brain begins to map individually recognized objects to memory and context. And so on. Vision, it can be said with some confidence, is a real thing. I can perform no such feat when it comes to belief; especially—and I'll note I already made this delineation upthread—with the sort of belief linguistically entailed by 'I believe in rebirth' or 'I believe America is the greatest country on Earth.' I am not aware, for instance, of a 'belief center' in the brain. And if belief is actually an emergent phenomenon, on the level of sense of self or the increased desirability of a desired object under the influence of the hormones cortisol and adrenaline, then I'd have good reason for making the outrageous claim that I am not terribly convinced that people can truly be said to have beliefs, unproductive as that might be.

I am not, by the way, particularly whacked out or obtuse in my position. There are quite a few so-called eliminativist philosophers of mind, of many varieties, and they've noticed, as a field, that the common-sense conception of belief can be a little thin for some time now.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 13 Mar 2012 12:04 #4969

"I go back to my original question: before we start asserting how dangerous beliefs are, I would like an elaboration on their nature. Describing a belief as a subject-predicate relation in the mind—'bleach = unsafe'—makes linguistic sense, but is actually as non-functional as you can get; it's a completely abstracted view, obtaining only in the realm of concepts and mental objects, unless one believes that the mind is like a big database, with a bunch of physical locations that hold individual mental objects and connections that string between them." -- cruxdestruct

I'd love to propose an elaboration on what beliefs are (and will do so), but I'd like also to know more about this paragraph. Can you explain this comment more, Crux?

Second, beliefs are not "dangerous" in and of themselves. I's say it's dangerous to react based on belief when the belief is not aligned with one's immediate experience. Beliefs are in our nature. They are how our minds work, thankfully, because without beliefs we'd be unable to function effectively.

So, right off the top of my head (This is not your father's definition of belief but it is my practice related definition):

Belief (n) -- a supposition, projection, assumption, generalization, description or model that is based not at all or only in part on immediate sensory input. A belief can be an idea (all men are assholes) or a model (there is a town called Rolling Meadows where I work), a projection (there are four people talking about me outside my office), or a religious/political philosophical concept (utilitarianism, socialism, free market capitalism, catholicism, buddhism).


Please pick at it! [/b]


Wikipedia versions:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belief_(disambiguation)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belief
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 13 Mar 2012 12:54 #4970

I tend to use belief in two ways:



1) As a standing "model" for the world, one that rarely changes despite new experiences. It tends to force the interpretation of events into a particular conclusion consistent with the pre-existing model. This is closer to your "philosophical concept" category.



2) More subtly, ANY interpretation of experience. This really is the tricky usage, because it seems impossible for me to draw the line where something experienced isn't, in some way, an intepretation. This aspect is what leads you to "don't know" mind, because intepretation isn't certain and everything seems to be an interpretation.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 13 Mar 2012 13:01 #4971

In regard to your number 2, shargrol, that's a Big 10-4.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 13 Mar 2012 13:55 #4972


"I go back to my original question: before we start asserting how dangerous beliefs are, I would like an elaboration on their nature. Describing a belief as a subject-predicate relation in the mind—'bleach = unsafe'—makes linguistic sense, but is actually as non-functional as you can get; it's a completely abstracted view, obtaining only in the realm of concepts and mental objects, unless one believes that the mind is like a big database, with a bunch of physical locations that hold individual mental objects and connections that string between them." -- cruxdestructI'd love to propose an elaboration on what beliefs are (and will do so), but I'd like also to know more about this paragraph. Can you explain this comment more, Crux?

-cmarti

My point is that the use of one-to-one descriptions of beliefs as things like 'bleach is not safe to put in the mouth', ie, sentences, is only functionally useful within the realm of mental objects—ideas, concepts, images—that is, a layer of existence that is already somewhat abstracted from the physicality and biology of the mind. Linguistic truth, the difference between an idea and a supposition, etc., only exist in the realm of ideas. They do not have any obvious physical relationship with the human brain; not only in the sense of not being physically located in a 'belief center' but also in the sense of not being particularly describable in terms of mental activity.

That is not to say that mental objects as a class do not exist. They obviously exist phenomenologically and conventionally. But it is to say that the level on which they operate is an insufficiently concrete one for defining the nature of belief. Because while they are very real in the parlance of folk psychology, folk psychology is mediated entirely by introspection; we know what ideas are because we know what it feels like to think.

But we have also learned, to go back to my earlier example, that we do not see in the way that it feels like to see. It feels like there's a world out there that gets projected on a big movie screen at the front of our heads. In reality, not only is vision composed from two different eyes and refracted and flipped before it gets to our brain, but in fact the entire visual field is a construction, rendered constantly by the brain, for the brain, out of tiny momentary snippets of actual data. There's large swaths of vision that our brain is filling in for us, for which we have no real data. That is a functional description of seeing more accurate than a purely introspective account.

And thus far, as far as I know, belief has proven far more problematic than vision in managing to sketch out some kind of non-folk account. Indeed, though it's hard to wrap one's head around, it's quite possible, given a brain which has thus far refused to give up any data at all about what ideas might look like to any observation of any kind, that there is no such thing as ideas at all. It's quite possible that ideas exist as much in the observable world as luminiferous ether or the four humours—diagnostic concepts that make perfect sense in the absence of contradictory data and yet have been abandoned because they don't actually obtain in the observable world. It's possible; not something one can be certain of yet, but possible.

So that's the level of function that I'm talking about. My original skepticism that launched this whole boondoggle was actually quite introspective indeed; I honestly couldn't and can't imagine a model of mental function where the beliefs have the sort of existence that we conventionally talk about them as having. That is, we conventionally talk about beliefs as qualities belonging to an individual—he is a Communist, he believes in Communism—and it doesn't wash with my functional model of the brain to imagine His Communist Belief as either a state (that is, some persistent quality, requiring no actualization, like being fuzzy or being transparent) or a behavior (that is, some continual process, some constant and self-regulating behavior that keeps those beliefs 'up', like the sympathetic nervous system or the mental inputs of the senses). I can't imagine myself being in a state of constantly believing all the things I believe. On a purely introspective, phenomenological level, I can't imagine what that would feel like. But the things I always do, mentally, like hear and know whether I'm hungry or not, do not feel the same as my opinions on capital punishment or my supposition about whether there's extraterrestrial life.

Indeed, belief does make more sense as a momentary action; as I mentioned before, maybe as a sort of bias of lesser or greater strength, to weight the process of categorization and judgment in one direction as the other. Even this I can only really describe in the language of mental objects, which is kind of my point. But even this mental-world model, using the language of thought rather than nerves, maps more reasonably to what I know about mental function than the examples earlier in this paragraph. And if the commonsense way that we talk about people having beliefs is really that poor a fit to the way the mind and/or the brain operate, I think that's well worth realizing.

And I must say I have entirely exhausted myself on this topic.
The administrator has disabled public write access.

Rebirth 13 Mar 2012 14:54 #4973

I'm not sure i understand quite yet, crux, but if you're worn out on this subject that's okay, I understand. I will say that my experience on and off the cushion confirms what I've said here in terms of beliefs, in both the larger (politics/religion) and smaller (how the mind functions second by second) sense. Beliefs (mind functioning sense) form the very foundation on which we manage our interaction with the world. In this way it is all of a piece - we cannot separate the beliefs, the maps, the images, the suppositions and the predictions from the rest of experience. All we can do is know them for what they are and act accordingly, if we have the presence to do so.

You do seem to be saying that in your last full paragraph, so maybe we are in full agreement, but in my case without the duality of mental vs physical ;-)
The administrator has disabled public write access.
Time to create page: 0.247 seconds
Powered by Kunena Forum