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May 29, 2010

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'The Dog Whisperer' on DSTV is a great teacher of love, work and play. The whisperer helps some catholic priests to, within a day, alter their Alsatian's behaviour from aggressive- neurotic to calm and pleasant. He points out to the priests that praying is not going to help change the dog's behaviour, they have to instead, get involved and rather, understand the dog in an earthly manner.

In the past, I was a little aloof and then life happened and forced me to join in and I thank it for the cohersion.

Love, work, and play - a very sensible philosophy. What also seems to work is when conscious control is avoided, the work, love and play unfolds in an infinitely more satisfying and balanced way, unfettered by the limiting parameters of imagination.

I actually think Brian from Colorado's synopsis of the accepted atheistic scientific viewpoint is not far off at all.

The question is it all there is, because certainly it agrees with scientific evidence. everything in the universe is just stardust and one of the prevailing theories as to the creation of stars and planets and even lifeforms is that a conglormeration of particles joined up together. Also, our very DNA, the instructions for the development of life itself do appear to be auto-programmed.

So i certainly dont discount this viewpoint of life at all, since this is what the evidence points too.

However, the existentialist conundrum which faces all of us, and seems to be ramped up the more self=aware species become, is what is our purpose or meaning?

From a scientific perspecticve there appears to be no higher meaning, rather simply to poke and pass on our DNA in a genetic arms race.

We however struggle to reconcile this supposedly cold hard bleak outlook with many of the emotions we experience such as love and empathy and art, etc - the things that we experience most intimately and mean the most to human beings.


http://www.johnkaminski.info/

Some of Blogger Brian's steady readers might find the first essay at this website thought-provoking. I think it ties in with the current thread in a way.

George, I agree that Brian from Colorado had some facts correct: we are made of the same stuff as the universe (indeed, stardust, since heavy elements are produced by exploding stars), and evolution has brought us to be the way we humans are.

But facts are different from meanings. My namesake seemed to assume that meaning needs to come from outside of the human brain, that it should be an objective reality like gravity or electromagnetism. And further, that meaning should reside outside of the universe, in a divine metaphysical realm.

Why? And of course, how? We can make assumptions about the way the universe should be, but it seems wiser to me to focus on how the universe really is.

In the book I cited, Paul Thagard talks about psychological, sociological, and neuroscience research regarding the meaning people ascribe to life. He has pretty good reasons for saying that love, work, and play encompass the central meaning areas.

We don't expect that art, music, poetry, literature, architecture, or the other myriad creations of the human mind to be already present in the universe. We have no problem accepting that these are made by people in natural ways.

Yet for some reason the meaning of life often is regarded as needing to come from outside of the human mind/brain. I don't understand this. Doesn't make sense to me, though in my religious days I was attracted to the notion that God/the cosmos had some special plan for me.

I find much satisfying awe, mystery, and wonder in the realities that science reveals. There is plenty of meaning in scientific knowledge; it just needs to be created by us, not given to us.

Hi Blogger B - Your response, as always, is both measured and temperate. Still, I can't help feeling that there's something a bit dodgy going on about what's happening behind the scenes. Fundamentally (unless I have it wrong again!), you're saying that there are no higher truths, that meaning is something arbitrary, something manufactured by each individual as they fancy. That is, meaning generated as an act of will.

But if so, I think there's a profoundly dark side to this view. Nietzsche, that pioneering prophet of atheism, told us long ago which way things inevitably went once God is dead. "This world is the will to power - and nothing besides. And you yourselves are also this will to power - and nothing besides". This seems to me to be the summation of the ego meat machine, untethered and alone in the void.

Your sentiments about love, work and play are, in many regards fine, noble and worthy. But if you are mistaken, and rather, we are fundamentally spiritual beings with an ineffable longing for transcendence, then great harm is being done. In a brilliant (in my estimation, at least) but little-noticed book called The Nature of Evil, professor of ethics Daryl Koehn provides a model for evil as mis-identification of who and what we are. People sense there's more, but decoupled from the chain of being, seek to fill the emptiness with all manner of god-substitutes.

Hence, told unceasingly that he is a sports uber-god and idolized as such, but still dissatisfied and sensing that there must be a great deal more, Tiger Woods attempts to lose himself by wallowing in sexual excess. And increasingly, we see things such as this on a regular basis: http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/years/2010/0524101sorority1.html

Finally, I'd respond to your most recent comment by saying that I think that there is nothing among the myriad creations of the human mind that is not already eternally present in the the cosmos. Obviously, we're extremely unlikely to resolve these disagreements, but I still wish you the best in the realms of love, work and play!

Brian, it's possible that we are spiritual beings with an innate longing for transcendence. Anything is possible. The question is, how probable is this compared to another possibility?

Which is, that natural human needs/goals plainly evident (if not completely understood) by both science and everyday experience constitute the meanings that make life satisfying.

You speak of "great harm being done" if we actually are spiritual beings longing for transcendence. But the opposite warning is even more likely: that we are natural beings longing for what Thagard calls the meaning of "love, work, and play," and that hypothesized metaphysical realms/meanings throw us off track.

In other words, during our one and only life, we fail to live it in a genuinely satisfying way, because we have posited an idea that doesn't exist, and so is impossible to achieve.

It's like saying that life is meaningless because we aren't immortal. But immortality is a human concept, while live and death are natural realities. Meaning, in my view, is best pursued within the province of reality, not imagination -- no matter how enticing a notion like immortality might be.

well said Blogger Brian. i totally agree. it is a terrible waste of one's life to predicate meaning on mere hope of an afterlife or a divinity.


yes Brian, thats well put and there are many parts of your article which are well made and i agree with, however i wonder just how objectively we really do follow the evidence if that is our test for reality.

For example, you say: "We can make assumptions about the way the universe should be, but it seems wiser to me to focus on how the universe really is."

Yet you yourself appear to entertain various assumptions, which are not necessarily totally evidence-based, such as nondualism and your interesting in the philosophical aspects of Taoism, which I do too but if your evidence-based reasoning is applied then we must do it concistently. Is it indeed the only way of viewing reality, and if not, why do we discount religious explanations so quickly?

Its not clear to me at all from the scientific evidence whether the universe is random or ordered or a combination of these or what might determine the balance of such a combination or even if it should be balanced.

I guess what i;m saying is that evidence can often be interpreted in different ways, but its true what i like about science is that its theories seem to have some support that can be looked over for oneself.

The problem with science to humans is that it draws quite startling conclusions, and with this knowledge, we come to realise just how insignificant our existences are, or appear to be, whereas we all like to think of ourselves as potentially quite special.

I would hazard a guess this feeling of an untapped potential is what drew you and many others to mysticism and RS in the first place.

And I am not sure you yourself are totally evidence-based in forming your own assumptions about the universe, where you have embraced metaphysical concepts like nondualism and taoism, which are not evidence-based and yet they appeal as somehow offering a richer account of reality.

Its like enjoying a great work of art or playing sport; we can try dissect the minituare of the exercise and even appreciate the technical skill involved - and tho we can recognize and even explain individual notes, such a description can never quite describe the symphony itself.

I love to delve into the mysteries of life, that which lies hidden beneath the surface. Don't know whether this makes my life more meaningful, but it certainly makes it very interesting.

George, one of the things I'm learning from reading Paul Thagard's book is the value of thinking about "meaning of life" in terms of goals.

For example, a philosophy is made real by actions taken in an effort to accomplish goals. We can be led astray by abstract philosophical notions that don't reflect how people actually view a "meaning of life" approach or philosophy.

You cited Taoism and nondualism as being metaphysical. However, I don't see Taoism as anything but eminently natural, and I'm pretty sure many, if not most, nondualists see that philosophy the same way.

To check this, ask someone who is attracted to Taoism or nondualism what their goals are in regard to the philosophy. For me, there is nothing metaphysical involved. Zero. I don't expect that Taoist principles and practices will lead me to any sort of other worldly realm or experience.

I simply view Taoism as an interesting approach to understanding how to live life flowingly, pleasingly, and harmoniously. On the other hand, ask a Christian what their goals are in regard to that religion, and almost surely you will hear talk about an afterlife, heaven, and so on.

I certainly don't feel that all of human experience needs to be evidence-based. Our subjective experiences are just that -- subjective. They don't need any justification or evidence to support them. As I often say, people are free to believe whatever they want. It's only when people make claims about objective reality that they are open to challenge.

Thagard does consider that our approach to formulating "meaning of life" goals should be as evidence-based as possible, because it is senseless to pursue a goal that can't be achieved. (If you're uncoordinated and five feet tall, almost certainly you aren't going to become a basketball star.)

However, claims about reality are different from claims about what makes life meaningful. I've got no problem with someone who finds that his or her religion gives them satisfaction. Again, it's only when they say that his or her religion is true that I'll ask for evidence.

"I simply view Taoism as an interesting approach to understanding how to live life flowingly, pleasingly, and harmoniously."

that is what taoism has always been for me. it was never anything remotely metaphysical.

and in my view, the concept of nonduality isn't something that i associate with metaphysical. its really just an odd word which doesn't hold much, if any significance to me. for me, its devoid of any metaphysical implications. i really never even think about it until someone mentions it. and even then, it represents no particular significance for me. and certainly not anything metaphysical.


yes Brian i would suggest Taoism makes an assumption in a natural underlying rhythm or harmony of nature.

This also appeals to me, but i take it for what it is, a personal assumption, not to be confused with scientific evidence. There do appear to be some patterns and 'laws' of nature, but equally there also appear to be chaotic, paradoxical and random phenomena, which instead suggest an underlying chaos to nature.

Brian from Colorado raised a number of atheistic or scientific theories which are based on a chaotic random universe.

So we dont really know if nature has a rhythmical flow and is one, or if it is random and plural, or if it is a combination of these or what amount of order and disorder (or unity and diversity) actually exist in the universe.

By choosing to align oneself with Taoist or nondual philosophies, we are each in effect making assumptions that favour a particular belief, in this case, that there is a natural order or rhythmical flow to the universe.

Without seeking to antagonize, I'm also getting frustrated at why you guys try so hard to seperate taoism and advaita nonduality (or your chosen version of these) as supposedly not being metaphysics.

This is totally incorrect.

Plotinus whom you wrote a book on is one of the great metaphysicians. As you know Plotinus held that reason, intellect or the rational human mind (science) is only a reflection of a more universal and perfect reality beyond our limited human reason. He termed this ordering power in the universe "God."

It is this neoplatonic worldview, which is shared by all the mystical traditions and philosophies, including Taoism - i.e. to provide a metaphysical insight into reality that transcends the limitations of the intellect and science (which is only a model or digitized representation of a richer analogue reality).

Now you might do tai-chi or kim-fuk-me, but these disciplines as properly understood, are based on an underlying tradition that is metaphysical in nature.

George, it isn't correct to equate Neoplatonism (or Western metaphysics in general) with Taoism. We've discussed this subject before -- how Taoism isn't really "metaphysical." One of my favorite books about philosophical Taoism is "Dao De Jing: a philosophical translation."
http://www.amazon.com/Dao-Jing-Philosophical-Translation-Mandarin/dp/0345444191/

I may have shared some of these quotes with you before. If so, here they are again. They show how philosophical Taoism (as contrasted with religious Taoism) doesn't posit anything outside of the natural world, and sees the universe as composed of processes rather than objects. ("Tao" is much more a verb than a noun.)
----------------------
Quotes from the book:

The Daoist correlative cosmology begins from the assumption that the endless stream of always novel yet still continuous situations we encounter are real, and hence, there is ontological parity among the things and events that constitute our lives. As a parody on Parmenides, who claimed that "only Being is," we might say that for the Daoist, "only beings are," or taking one step further in underscoring the reality of the process of change itself, "only becomings are."

That is, the Daoist does not posit the existence of some permanent reality behind appearances, some unchanging substratum, some essential defining aspect behind the accidents of change. Rather, there is just the ceaseless and usually cadenced flow of experience.

--------------------
A third assumption in the Daoist "cosmology" is that life broadly construed is entertained through and only through these same phenomena that constitute our experience. The field of experience is always construed from one perspective or another. There is no view from nowhere, no external perspective, no decontextualized vantage point. We are all in the soup.

--------------------
A fourth presupposition of Daoist cosmology is that we are not passive participants in our experience. The energy of transformation lies within the world itself as an integral characteristic of the events that constitute it. There is no appeal to some external efficient cause: no Creator God or primordial determinative principle.

In the absence of any preordained design associated with such an external cause, this energy of transformation is evidenced in the mutual accommodation and co-creativity that is expressed in the relations that obtain among things.
----------------------

Using Western epistemological terms, the thoughts about the world expressed in both the Zhuangzi and the Daodejing represent what we might call a realist perspective. Beyond the mediating confusions introduced by language, and by layers of our own distorted perceptions and tendentious categorizations, there is nevertheless, with properly Daoist qualifications, an "objectively" real world. Our task is to experience that world as "objectively" as possible.

From the Daoist perspective, the problem begins when we insist that the "objective world" is a world made up of objects -- namely, concrete unchangeable things that we encounter as over against and independent of us; things which announce themselves to us by asserting "I object!"

For the Daoist, the objective world cannot be objective in this sense because it is a constantly transforming flow of events or processes that belie the sorts of discriminations that would permit a final inventory of the furniture of the world.

But who says metaphysics is concerned with things other than nature?
And what constitutes the natural?

Metaphysics is concerned with reality, but the aspect of reality which cannot be measured or observed. It encompasses the themes speculated about on this site: the nature of reality, mind, being, existence, space/time, etc.

Taoism, is not emperically-based. As you say, its not concerned with 'things' to be measured. Rather, like all metaphysics, it assumes that ultimate reality (the Tao) is beyond measurement or description as a 'thing' by our intellect (science), only directly experienced (subjectively when the intellect is transcended) as a flow (or process).

Plotinus, the neoplatonists, the mystical traditions - ALL metaphysics.

Thank you for the book suggestion, but your last few extracts merely serve to confirm taoism as metaphysics as is advaita nondualism.

George writes:

"By choosing to align oneself with Taoist or nondual philosophies, we are each in effect making assumptions that favour a particular belief"

my response: fyi, i don't "align" my self with either of those, neither taoism nor nondualism, as beliefs. i don't favor any particular belief.

"getting frustrated at why you guys try so hard to seperate taoism and advaita nonduality (or your chosen version of these) as supposedly not being metaphysics."

my response: tao is not metaphysical. tao is simply the way of nature. and there is nothing 'metaphysical' about nature. tao is not other than nature.

and advaita/nonduality is merely an all-inclusive concept that relates to the totality - the total actual universe. its not other-worldly. so there nothing 'metaphysical' about nondualism either.

"It is this neoplatonic worldview, which is shared by all the mystical traditions and philosophies, including Taoism - i.e. to provide a metaphysical insight into reality that transcends the limitations of the intellect and science"

my response: incorrect. tao is not a "metaphysical insight". tao simply refers to the way of nature. tao is not about any attempt to "transcend limitations" of intellect or science. tao is only the natural, not the supernatural. tao has absolutely nothing to do with the supernatural or metaphysical.

[note: i'm referring to the tao of philosophical taoism, rather than the domain of relgious taoism. religious taoism does have various supernatural and metaphysical elements to it]


George, you are confusing "metaphysics" with "unobservable" or "nonmeasureable." Do you really believe that the particle theory of physics, with all its talk about quarks and such that can't be observed, is metaphysical?

Or that someone's artistic/musical sensibilities are metaphysical? Or that subjectively felt emotions such as love, anger, and fear are metaphysical? Or that the big bang and the origin of life on earth are metaphysical because they can't be directly observed or measured?

Concepts aren't metaphysical. A natural philosophy isn't metaphysical. Scientific theories aren't metaphysical. Yes, they aren't things that can be touched, seen, or felt, but they are real (and realistic) descriptions of the way reality is.

I might share some further thoughts on "knowledge beyond perception" (a section in Paul Thagard's book about the brain and neuroscience) in today's blog post. It offers up some interesting ideas about how sensory experience isn't the end all and be all of science, or of human knowledge about the universe.

George writes:

"who says metaphysics is concerned with things other than nature?"

-- metaphysics pertains to beyond the physical world, beyond nature. metaphysics is not about nature.

"what constitutes the natural?"

-- the world of nature, and the material universe.

"Metaphysics is concerned with reality"

-- no. metaphysics is concerned with a supposed supernatural realm. reality is nature and the physical world. metaphysics is all about the supernatural.

"It encompasses the themes speculated about on this site: the nature of reality, mind, being, existence, space/time"

-- those are not metaphysical. "reality" is the material world. "mind" is the awareness or consciousness of the brain. "being" is "existence" and vice versa. "space/time" pertains to the material universe. none of those are "metaphysical" or supernatural.

"Taoism, is not emperically-based."

-- yes, RELIGIOUS taoism is not emperically based. but the tao is simply the way of the natural world, the real world... and not anything supernatural or metaphysical.

"like all metaphysics, it assumes that ultimate reality (the Tao)..."

-- no, the tao is not "ultimate reality". the tao is simply the way of the natural world.

"...is beyond measurement or description as a 'thing' by our intellect (science), only directly experienced (subjectively when the intellect is transcended) as a flow (or process)."

-- that is not the tao at all. the tao is not an experience, or a transcending of the intellect. the tao is just nature.

"Plotinus, the neoplatonists, the mystical traditions - ALL metaphysics."

-- yes that is more or less correct.

[to Brian:] "your last few extracts merely serve to confirm taoism as metaphysics as is advaita nondualism."

-- iall i can say is that you have an incorrct view and understanding of the tao, and also the concept of nonduality. you are apparently still referring to the domain of religious taoism. and advaita/nonduality contains no metaphysical elements at all. absolutely none. it cannot. so therefore, you must have a basicaly mistaken view of a very simple concept - the concept of non-duality. non-duality is the absolute antithesis of metaphysics. non-duality as a philosophical concept, is by its very nature totally devoid of any metaphysical or supernatural aspects or implications.

so all i can say is that you must have an erroneous view of the concept of nonduality. you seem to be attaching all sorts of unrealed baggage to it, that has nothing to do with what non-duality actually means.


And what constitutes the natural? Very interesting question that I cannot refrain to ask every time I read Brian’s stuff. Brian's habitual hand waving and pointing about 'reality' remains very vague as characterization and definition, just like the PARTICULAR philosophical interpretation of Daoism he quoted. The foundational texts of Taoism are tremendously vague and paradoxical—they are many possible and competing ways to interpret them. And most interpretations, even the philosophical ones, are metaphysical in nature ... (see wiki entry and subsections like wu wu wei)

From wiki(metaphysics)
"A central branch of metaphysics is ontology, the investigation into what types of things there are in the world and what relations these things bear to one another. The metaphysician also attempts to clarify the notions by which people understand the world, including existence, objecthood, property, space, time, causality, and possibility."

Just assuming 'processes', or saying something like everything is appearance, or becoming, is adopting a metaphysical stance; realism is a particular metaphyiscal perspective on reality wiht its own set of axiomatic commitments ... Most understand that except a few ...

And what constitutes the natural?
To everyone:
Are the extra dimensions of String and M- theories 'natural'?
Are the (theoretical) physicists working on these explanations, theories and mathematics 'part' of the scientific community? When working on their mathematics or trying to test the falsity of their theory looking at INDIRECT TRACES/EFFECTS from hypothetic and directly unobservable particles are they doing science or not?

I can only imagine a 'Brian alike' 400 years ago defining everything and putting all his chips in very narrow minded takes on the principles of classical physics ... a fool according to many of today’s standards ... Does not seem much different than our Brian fellow of today ...

Science has been a way for man to rebel againsts its own condition of ignorance and weakness facing an encompassing and threatening universe -- taking upon nature to change and adapt it to promote its survival, likes and dislikes ... There is no much 'wu wu wei' in that ... Ask all of those species who have dissapeared under the scientific and technological dominance of mankind what they think (if they could)about some sort of natural 'harmony' ...

Using Western epistemological terms, the thoughts about the world expressed in both the Zhuangzi and the Daodejing represent what we might call a realist perspective. Beyond the mediating confusions introduced by language, and by layers of our own distorted perceptions and tendentious categorizations, there is nevertheless, with properly Daoist qualifications, an "objectively" real world. Our task is to experience that world as "objectively" as possible.
From the Daoist perspective, the problem begins when we insist that the "objective world" is a world made up of objects -- namely, concrete unchangeable things that we encounter as over against and independent of us; things which announce themselves to us by asserting "I object!"
--------
There is something apparently inconsistent in these views:
The only way for us to realize that we deceive ourselves and others through "the mediating confusions introduced by language, and by layers of our own distorted perceptions and tendentious categorizations" is when the world (through a person, a process, an action, etc.) resists our imaginations and tells us ‘I object’ to that crap or bullshit. Otherwise, please let me in peace live my delusions happily ever after …

Like Phillip Dick wrote (here I thank Brian for digging out that superb quote; post 07 September 2006)
From Philip K. Dick’s “How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later” (1978), ninth paragraph:
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
Here’s the entire paragraph:
It was always my hope, in writing novels and stories which asked the question “What is reality?”, to someday get an answer. This was the hope of most of my readers, too. Years passed. I wrote over thirty novels and over a hundred stories, and still I could not figure out what was real. One day a girl college student in Canada asked me to define reality for her, for a paper she was writing for her philosophy class. She wanted a one-sentence answer. I thought about it and finally said, "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." That's all I could come up with. That was back in 1972. Since then I haven't been able to define reality any more lucidly.


"they are real (and realistic) descriptions of the way reality is"

What a bunch of bullshit and oversimplifications. Whatever theories and explanations we have right are just less worse than those we were holding before. Realistic? I am sure Newton believed his views to be quite 'real and realistic' ... poor guy ... poor Brian ...

There is a big inconsistency between quantum physics and relativity ...

"The two major physics discoveries of the first part of this century, quantum mechanics and Einstein's theory of special relativity present new challenges when treated together. The energy "uncertainty" introduced in quantum theory combines with the mass-energy equivalence of special relativity to allow the creation of particle/anti-particle pairs by quantum fluctuations when the theories are merged. As a result there is no self-consistent theory which generalizes the simple, one-particle Schrödinger equation into a relativistic quantum wave equation.
[http://phys.columbia.edu/~cqft/physics.htm]

As guess they are real (sic) descriptions of reality as it is! Inconsistent ...

I'm pretty sure in two hundred years people will 'laugh' at our 'realistic and real' scientific theories of today as incomplete and far from corresponding to what will be their (better?) understanding of reality ...

With such a loose and vague use of the term 'real' and 'realistic' no wonder there are so much debates and misunderstandings on this blog ...

Tao:
"metaphysics pertains to beyond the physical world, beyond nature. metaphysics is not about nature." ... and later "metaphysics is all about the supernatural."

You are completely wrong. I am not going to insult you, but your philosophical knowledge is clearly way too limited for this discussion with those statements. Also, I would ask for some intellectual honesty on your part for a change, or else just forget it, no hard feelings.

Brian:

Incorrect, concepts per se are purely metaphysical (they cannot be measured), but that again is not my point, rather i'm interested in the type of those concepts used to represent aspects of reality.

For example, some concepts represent theories of reality which are evidence-based (science), while others do not (metaphysics). A metaphysical statement is an idea about the world, which may be reasonable but is ultimately not empirically testable or logically falsifiable. Metaphysics was the precursor to natural philosophy, which became science - since all are concerned with knowledge of reality.

Taoism is concerned with the Tao, a supposed process or flow of nature which is neither emperically testable or logically falsifiable. The same goes for advaita nonduality and the concept of One. Pray tell, what is Plotinus' One, if not a, indeed the, metaphysical concept?

I sometimes wonder if you guys actually read what ppl are saying, cos i personally agonise over trying to make myself as clear as possible, but to no avail it seems since you seem to get it so badly wrong, but then thankfully i see someone like The Elephant who appears to get it loud and clear.

George, I'm mildly familiar with Aristotle's Metaphysics, so the philosophical use of the word isn't foreign to me. The way I use it on this blog, and the way almost everyone else who comments here uses it, is to mean "beyond the physical."

So you and I were using the term in two different ways, each totally appropriate. See:
http://websyte.com/alan/metamul.htm

Meaning 1: "Traditionally, metaphysics refers to the branch of philosophy that attempts to understand the fundamental nature of all reality, whether visible or invisible. It seeks a description so basic, so essentially simple, so all-inclusive that it applies to everything, whether divine or human or anything else. It attempts to tell what anything must be like in order to be at all."

Meaning 2: "A commonly employed, secondary, popular, usage of metaphysics includes a wide range of controversial phenomena believed by many people to exist beyond the physical."

Observation: I've noticed that sometimes you get upset when someone uses a word differently than you do. You seem to expect that there should be, or is, a single meaning to "Taoism," "nonduality," "metaphysics," and such. And if someone uses a word differently than you do, they may be, in your words above, "badly wrong."

I wish truth, and reality, were so simple. But things often aren't. This is why open, honest, and respectful discussions are so important. We ask someone else, "What do you mean? Tell me more. This is the way I see it. Do you agree?"

As noted in another comment, I'll probably have more to say about this in tonight's blog post. It's an interesting subject, how we know reality. And how we share our understanding of reality with others.

Anyway, wanted to assure you that I carefully read your comment. I simply was using "metaphysics" in the popular sense, as I always do on this blog, not in the academic philosophical sense, which I gather you were thinking of.

"You [tAo] are completely wrong. I am not going to insult you, but your philosophical knowledge is clearly way too limited for this discussion"

-- on the contrary... in my opinion, it is YOU who is the one who is rather limited in philosophical knowledge. your statements, which reflect your narrow and incorrect understanding of taoism and advaita, are evidence of that.

"I would ask for some intellectual honesty on your part for a change, or else just forget it"

-- well, what exactly was intellectually 'dishonest' about what i have said? i meant what i said. so how is that not "intellectual honesty"?? what are you referring to specifically?? what exactly have i misrepresented?? what facts have i misrepresented?? i think you are just up to your old tricks again - trying to demean and belittle my knowledge, views, and insight - because you cannot accurately refute them. otherwise you would indicate where i have said something that is incorrect. you haven't done that. you have merely attacked the messenger (me), and you have not disproven the (my) message.

and you can't, because you are on very shakey ground to begin with. that's because the tao is not "metaphysical" in any real sense. and also because advaita is merely a concept signifying the whole, the totality. so regardless of how you try to twist it or deny it, there is absolutely nothing metaphysical about the concept of non-duality. none. like it or not, the concept of nonduality remains as the absolute antithesis of the metaphysical.

so YOU are the one who is limited and lacking philosophically... and you ARE trying to insult me by accusing me of not being intellectually honest, instead of disproving my views.


Geez i must admit Brian, I will take that observation on board and give you guys the benefit of the doubt, but you chaps often seem to distort the clear plain meaning of a post to suit your particular argument.

Anyone who has taken a course in metaphysics or philosophy or even dabbled in this area to any degree whatsoever will know exactly what metaphysics means.

Plotinus and the idea of the One is indeed one of the central if not quintessential aspects of metaphysics. The idea of the One is not terribly different from that of the Tao, and I am not talking about religion - instead these are philosophical explanations of reality which have pervaded metaphysical thought throughout the ages.

To get things clear, I never said taoism was supernatural, that is a complete misrepresentation, but crucially its an incorrect definition of metaphysics, and in fact you would need go to very far to arrive at such a defintion, because the literal meaning from a greek translation does not even mean that - so i presume the second meaning you have picked out there in your post above is from a source that is very iffy.

Moreover, there is a certain type of semantic-dissection type of arguementative approach used on here, which in certain cases appears to be so purposefully distortive in its subjective interpretation of terms as to take them completely out of the context in which they were used. So instead of confronting the main point of what is often a clear lucid post, what could have been an interesting discussion is diverted to focus on nit-picking subjective interpretions of meanings which are wholly incorrect.

Its very frustrating and very obvious.

George, I think the confusion on my part arose when you said, "Rather, like all metaphysics, it assumes that ultimate reality (the Tao) is beyond measurement or description as a 'thing' by our intellect (science), only directly experienced (subjectively when the intellect is transcended) as a flow (or process)."

This is true, but as I observed, and gave examples of, many aspects of reality are real yet are beyond measurement or description. Like love, anger, sadness. Consciousness. Musical and art appreciation. And such. Yet in everyday language we don't call these "metaphysical." Emotions, for example, are perfectly natural.

So again, we appeared to be using the same word -- metaphysical -- in different ways. I certainly agree that Taoism emphasizes the ineffability of life and the deepest aspects of the cosmos. I've never claimed it was scientific (though Taoist principles are reflected in modern physics).

Both tAo (the person) and I took you to mean that Taoism and nonduality are metaphysical in the sense of being "beyond the physical." It's good to know that we apparently agree they aren't.

As you're aware, many "edgey" theories of modern science could also be termed metaphysical by your definition, since they involve hypotheses that likely can never be tested empirically. Yet they don't posit anything other than natural matter/energy.

Brian,

I dont know whether taoism and nonduality do actually go beyond the physical or not, i dont know if they are truthful in the sense that they are correct or not - all i know is that they are purported explanations of reality that are neither proveable or falsifiable, as such they fall into the tradition of metaphysics.

Quite correct on the edgier theories of modern science by the proper metaphysical traditon, which is precisely why their was the historical evolution from the classical greek tradition of metaphysics to the medieval natural philosophy and eventually modern science.

Though quantum mechanics is probabilistic, its theories are evidence-based and falsifiable so its a science, but electron uncertainty, wave-particle duality and the obvservefr effect which tie in with several metaphysical theories. This is most interesting tho and where i was hoping the discussion might lead.

"you chaps often seem to distort the clear plain meaning of a post to suit your particular argument."

"Anyone who has taken a course in metaphysics or philosophy or even dabbled in this area to any degree whatsoever will know exactly what metaphysics means."

"Plotinus and the idea of the One is indeed one of the central if not quintessential aspects of metaphysics."

-- Plotinus is whole different matter. fyi,
Plotinus' ideas and nonduality are not at all the same.

"The idea of the One is not terribly different from that of the Tao"

-- i disagree. they are significantly different.

"these are philosophical explanations of reality which have pervaded metaphysical thought throughout the ages."

-- yes, metaphysical thought and philosophy.... but the tao is not metaphysical thought. the 'tao' simply symbolizes the way of nature.

"I never said taoism was supernatural, that is a complete misrepresentation..."

-- no you didn't, i did... but metaphysics is generally concerned with the supernatural. hence they have a very close relationship.

"...but crucially its an incorrect definition of metaphysics"

-- well then we disagee. because metaphysics is definitely closely related to supernaturalism.

"there is a certain type of semantic-dissection type of arguementative approach used on here, which in certain cases appears to be so purposefully distortive in its subjective interpretation of terms as to take them completely out of the context in which they were used."

-- there is no such purposeful distortion going on here. franly, thats bullshit. there are only variations and differences in interpretations, definitions, and meanings frpom one individual to another. and of course that includes you and your own interpretations, definitions, and meanings as well.

"So instead of confronting the main point of what is often a clear lucid post, what could have been an interesting discussion is diverted to focus on nit-picking subjective interpretions of meanings which are wholly incorrect."

-- you act as if its all everyone else here who is wrong, and you are the only one who is right. that's a load of crap. get real. and the fact is, that quite a few of your own "interpretions of meanings" etc are definitely "wholly incorrect". as well as you're being a bit closed-minded and oddly unwilling to consider any other valid viewpoints or facts.

"Its very frustrating and very obvious"

-- well that goes both ways.


As I say Tao, forget it, no hard feelings.
Any discussion with you is pointless.
We just don't understand each other.
Its a physical impossibility.

"you chaps often seem to distort the clear plain meaning of a post to suit your particular argument."

-- we are distorting anything. i am not, and i don't see that Brian is either. i have been very straightforward in my comments. and i don't distort other people's comments. thats why i always quote (copy and paste) every comment exactly as it was written before i respond to it. so your intimation that i (or we) are distorting your statements and your meanings is unfounded.

"Anyone who has taken a course in metaphysics or philosophy or even dabbled in this area to any degree whatsoever will know exactly what metaphysics means."

-- i know exactly what metaphysics means. i dare say i have studied far more in this field than you have. i could list literally dozens of very heavy-weight metaphysical books that were written by authors deeply knowledgeable in metaphysics and occultism over the last two centuries, books that i doubt you have ever seen or read. so i do happen to know what metaphysics is all about.

so i would appreciate it if you would not continue to come off as if the rest of us here are nothing but a bunch of uneducated illiterate fools. if you want to discuss these things intelligently, then its necessary to be open to what others may know and have to share.


"As I say Tao,
Any discussion with you is pointless."

-- thats a rather negative, closed-minded, and personally insulting attitude.

"We just don't understand each other."

-- i don't think thats what it is at all. i think its just that you always want to be right, and you are unwilling to see it any other way.

i generally do understand you quite well, but i think you do not want to understand me. i think that you feel that your views and interpretations are right and others' are incorrect, and so you are stubborn and not willing to admit that your views may not always be altogether correct.


[Note: George, I didn't delete any of your comments, though I edited this one a bit. I found a few appropriate comments in the "spam filter" section that I published, but none from you were there. -- Blogger Brian]

i dare say i doubt it.

your dabbling in occultism is not what i am talking of, i'm talking of serious enquiry and knowledge.

it seems my swahili/crap post was deleted by big B to keep the pax brittanica. it was a cracker.

toodles, i dare say, what what!
georgey

ps: hope that one don't tip u over the edge...

lol Brian, i'm just stirring, u can wipe if you want, its gone well past the conversation i wanted, so i thought i;d see how tightly wound mr tao is, he'd about getting ready to explode right now...

night.

George, you said:

"i doubt it. your dabbling in occultism is not what i am talking of, i'm talking of serious enquiry and knowledge."

-- i never indicated that i 'dabbled' in occultism. but i am familiar with and knowledgable about metaphysics.

"hope that one don't tip u over the edge."

-- it appears that you have little if any real understanding of where i am at. and your insinuation refelcts that.

"lol Brian, [...] i thought i;d see how tightly wound mr tao is, he'd about getting ready to explode right now."

-- well this comment of yours just goes to show what you are up to... namely that you are just trying to inflame and irritate and annoy by casting aspersions. however, you have failed. i think you don't have any idea, any clue whatsoever as to my state of mind. and i didn't even read the stuff that Brian has edited out.

your negative personal insination about my state of mind is quite groundless, unwarrented, and rather lame, and it is also not at all conducive to cordial, favorable and fair discussion. and thats probably why some of it was edited out. i don't know why you still can't refrain from that sort of thing. is it that you think its funny or it will make me look bad?? well it doesn't. it just makes you look bad. you failed to refute or disprove my last comment, so you thought you would try to make me look upset and angry. but you failed. people like you don't phase me at all. and you simply have no idea what my state of mind is like.

like i said, i would appreciate it if you would not continue to unnecessarily taunt and ridicule and denigrate me and/or other folks here. i don't treat you that way.


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