Monday, 8 April 2013

Kantian Subject vs Nibbana

(after discussing the 'conditioned' world...)

Nibbana, by contrast, is depicted as the allaying of differentiation. For example, while in AN IV. 174 Sariputta spoke of that beyond the six sense-contacts as ‘non-complication’ he says in the previous sutta:
However far the six spheres of contact go, that is how far differentiation goes. However far differentiation goes, that is how far the six spheres of contact go. With the remainderless fading and stopping of the six spheres of contact, there comes to be the stopping, the allaying of differentiation.
(AN IV. 173) 
Insofar  as  it  is  unconditioned  by  qualities  pertaining  to  the  six  spheres  of contact, nibbana seems notably parallel to Kant’s (1787, A404) ‘noumenal subject’, namely, as ‘not a real whole but a simple’. I interpret Kant to mean here that the noumenal subject, as a simple, is undifferentiated by any empirical or conceptual determination. But while Kant believes the deliveries of sense and reason to exhaust the scope of human knowledge and experience (perhaps rendering the noumenal self to be little more than logical abstraction) this does not seem to be true with respect to nibbana. The idea that nibbana, beyond the differentiated sense-realm, can be directly experienced and understood – (and as I have argued, not as a separate object of experience) – sets it apart from Kant’s humanly unknowable noumenal subject:
Therefore  Bhikkhus,  that  base  should  be  understood,  where  the  eye ceases and perception of forms fades away. That base should be understood, where the ear ceases and perception of sounds fades away ... That base  should  be  understood  where  the  mind  ceases  and  perception  of mental phenomena fades away. That base should be understood.
(SN XXXV. 117)

Miri Albahari, Analytical Buddhism: The Two-tiered Illusion of Self 2006, p. 41

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Kant on Virtue (or character)

The human being who is conscious of having character in his way of thinking does not have it by nature; he must always have acquired it. One may also assume that the grounding of character is like a kind of rebirth, a certain solemnity of making a vow to oneself; which makes the resolution and the moment when this transformation took place unforgettable to him/ like the beginning of a new epoch. - Education, examples, and teaching generally cannot bring about this firmness and persistence in principles gradually, but only, as it were, by an explosion which happens one time as a result of weariness at the unstable condition of instinct. Perhaps there are only a few who have attempted this revolution before the age of thirty, and fewer still who have firmly established it before they are forty. - Wanting to become a better human being in a fragmentary way is a futile endeavor, since one impression dies out while one works on another; the grounding of character, however, is absolute unity of the inner principle of conduct as such. - It is also said that poets have no character, for example, they would rather insult their best friends than give up a witty inspiration; or that character is not to be sought at all among courtiers, who must put up with all fashions; 6 and that with clergymen, who court the Lord of Heaven as well as the lords of the earth in one and the same pitch/firmness of character is in a troublesome condition; and, accordingly, it probably is and will remain only a pious wish that they have inner (moral)* character. But perhaps the philosophers are to blame for this, because they have never yet isolated this concept and placed it in a sufficiently bright light, and have sought to present virtue only in fragments but have never tried to present it whole, in its beautiful form, and to make it interesting for all human beings.

from Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View in Anthropology, History, and Education (p.392)

Monday, 25 February 2013

Why Philosophy: From Bertrand Russell

If we are not to fail in our endeavour to determine the value of philosophy, we must first free our minds from the prejudices of what are wrongly called “practical" men. The “practical man, as this word is often used, is one who recognizes only material needs, who realizes that men must have food for the body, but Is oblivious of the necessity of providing food for the mind. If all men were well off, if poverty and disease had been reduced to their lowest possible point, there would still remain much to be done to produce a valuable society; and even in the existing world the goods of the mind are at least as important as the goods of the body. It is exclusively among the goods of the mind that the value of philosophy is to be found; and only those who are not indifferent to these goods can be persuaded that the study of philosophy is not a waste of time. 
. . . Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions, since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true, but rather for the sake of the questions themselves; because these questions enlarge our conception of what is possible, enrich our intellectual imagination and diminish the dogmatic assurance which closes the mind against speculation; but above all because, through the greatness of the universe which philosophy contemplates, the mind also is rendered great, and becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good.

Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1912), selections from Chapters 1, 14, and 15.

Why Philosophy: from The Mansions of Philosophy

The busy reader will ask, is all this philosophy useful? It Is a shameful question: We do not ask it of poetry, which is also an imaginative construction of world incompletely known. If poetry reveals to us the beauty our untaught eyes have missed, and philosophy gives us the wisdom to understand and forgive, it is enough, and more than the world’s wealth. Philosophy will not fatten our purses, nor lift us to dizzy dignities in a democratic state; it may even make us a little careless of these things. For what if we should fatten our purses, or rise to high office, and yet all the while remain ignorantly naive, coarsely unfurnished in the mind, brutal in behavior, unstable in character, chaotic in desire, and blindly miserable?

... Perhaps philosophy will give us, if we are faithful to it, a healing unity of soul. We are so slovenly and self- contradictory in our thinking; it may be that we shall clarify ourselves, and pull ourselves together into  consistency, and be ashamed to harbor contradictory desires or beliefs. And through unity of mind may come  that unity of purpose and character which makes a personality, and lends some order and dignity to our existence. 

Will Durant The Mansions of Philosophy, 1929  p.x

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Sarcasm in the Pali Canon

From DN 3 (pp.122-3 in Walsh):

‘And was the Reverend Gotama such [107] as he is reported
to be, and not otherwise? And is he of such nature, and not
otherwise?’ ‘Sir, he is as he is reported to be. and he is of such
nature and not otherwise. He is possessed of the thirty-two
marks of a Great Man, all complete, with none missing.’
‘But was there any conversation between you and the asce-
tic Gotama?' ‘There was, sir.’
‘And what was this conversation about?’ So Ambattha told
Pokkharasati all that had passed between the Lord and him-

2.15. At this Pokkharasati exclaimed: ‘Well, you're a fine
little scholar, a fine wise man, a fine expert in the Three
Vedas! Anyone going about his business like that ought when
he dies, at the breaking-up of the body, to go to the downfall,
to the evil path, to ruin, to hell! You have heaped insults on
the Reverend Gotama, as a result of which he has brought up
more and more things against us! You’re a fine little scholar
. . .l' He was so angry and enraged that he kicked Ambattha
over, and wanted to start out at once to see the Lord. [108]