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Thread: Seeing-as is not part of perception

  1. #1
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Seeing-as is not part of perception

    I stumbled upon this Witgenstien quote last night: "Seeing-as is not part of perception. And for this reason it is like seeing, and then again not like."

    I wasn't reading Witgy at the time, and I am not familiar with him, so I don't have much context for this other than it speaks to me of the labels we put on things (seeing-as) and heart sutra stuff (not perception), and the whole like and not like is very zen, yes?. Anyway, I throw it out there for perusal by y'all.

  2. #2

    Re: Seeing-as is not part of perception

    Ludwig Wittgenstein (Philosopher):
    “The tendency of all those who ever tried to write or talk Ethics or Religion was to run against the boundaries of language.”
    "Philosophical Investigations" was one of his prominent works.

    Gassho,

  3. #3
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Seeing-as is not part of perception

    Yup, that's about all I know about ol' Witgy. Isn't it interesting how so many non-zen folks say very zen-like stuff? And sometimes I think they say it better than the zen folk do because they use the language in ways we are more used to in the West. Or if they don't say it better they do say it in new ways that ring the bell in our hearts-minds a bit differently. All a good thing, I think, so I throw this rock in the turbulent (forum) pond. Hey, maybe would be a good use for this thread -- zen stuff said by non-zen folk -- or not. Let's see what happens....

  4. #4

    Re: Seeing-as is not part of perception

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    Yup, that's about all I know about ol' Witgy. Isn't it interesting how so many non-zen folks say very zen-like stuff? And sometimes I think they say it better than the zen folk do because they use the language in ways we are more used to in the West. Or if they don't say it better they do say it in new ways that ring the bell in our hearts-minds a bit differently. All a good thing, I think, so I throw this rock in the turbulent (forum) pond. Hey, maybe would be a good use for this thread -- zen stuff said by non-zen folk -- or not. Let's see what happens....
    Wittgenstein ... and several other "language" philosophers ... did make the point (from what I gather from their incrediblty dense use of language) that our world is idea and language created so much more than we realize. Things we take as "things" are more "thinks". Both the more abstract ("the Just" "the Good" "Beauty") and the more concrete (chair, table, house) are not "there" as solid objects as much as mental labels, names, experiences, categories based on shared ideas taught us, images that we hold in the mind and share in common with others in society via the functions they come to perform, etc.

    A jelly like space alien visiting this world, for example, who never had the experience of bending his knees (or any "knees" for that matter) nor experience to "sit down" would probably have difficulty at first to see "a chair" when looking at the pile of molecules we see as a "chair" and assign that name. It might just be a pile of sticks to the alien, if even that. There would be no "chair" there (any more than you could recognize a "x&hdsu9d" on his world, which is an object used for a function I cannot even begin to describe). 8) A tree or flower gets along just fine, thank you ... and is quite beautiful too ... without our higher concepts of "Beauty".

    In any event, I had one very good friend ... not a Zenny, but a long time student of Wittgenstein ... who had a powerful, life changing (and almost life destroying) Kenshowy experience of emptiness when he followed the system to its end ... deconstructing and abandoning thoughts and labels of separate objects, judgments, names and categories, borders and separations, nouns, adjectives and verbs ... until ... until ...

    A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that's unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push.
    Ludwig Wittgenstein

    Gassho, J

  5. #5

    Re: Seeing-as is not part of perception

    Wittgenstein was a philosopher of language as well as a mystic. However he never mentioned any direct or indirect influence from Buddhism or Zen, his philosophical system has lots of connections with the stuff we comment here everyday.
    The Tractatus Logico-philosophicus -his first published work- is an essay on the limits of language and by the end of the text he compares his system with a ladder, in the sense that once it has helped you to reach some place, some understanding of things, you can throw it away, as it was nonsensical in the first place. This metaphor is strikingly similar to the raft the Buddha mentioned that you can use to cross the river, but once the river is crossed you can throw it away, as it became useless. I always wondered if Wittgenstein knew the Buddhist metaphor or just arrived to the same image by his own.
    His vision of the function of philosophy is also quite zen-like. According to him most of the problems we are worried about are not real problems, but results of the abuse of language. So the function of philosophy is to remain silent untill someone drops some metaphysical conundrum on us, then we have to point out how the conundrum is not a real problem but a mystification created by language.
    His philosophy is heavily based in deep mental experiences he had, experiences that pointed him towards the idea of something that can not be told, but it is needed in order to make sense of all. This thing can not be told, but it can be shown in works of art or in the life of virtuous people.
    He stated, for example, that, one day, during the First World War, in one of those trench wars, besides all empirical evidence stated that he was going to die, he had the strong feeling that nothing bad could happen to him. This lead him to consider the idea of "good" that is not relative, but absolute, and does not depend on human language or knowledge.
    The first book, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus is writen in a very special way: there are seven main propositions, numbered from one to seven, and then the rest of the book are comments to these propositions or comment to comments.
    For example, proposition 1 states "The world is everything that is the case" and then we have proposition 1.1 that states "The world is the totality of facts, not of things." and then you have:
    1.11 The world is determined by the facts, and by these begin all the facts.
    1.12 For the totality of facts determines both what is the case, and also all that is not the case.
    which are comments to 1.1 and so on.
    By the way, the last sentence, number 7 is also quite zenish: 7. Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.
    It is a difficult book to read, and an amazing one as it mixes profound mystic sentences like 5.6 "The limits of my language are the limits of my world" with matemathical logic formulations. If someone would like to read it, I'd reccommend first to get an introduction, othewise it is very difficult to follow as the text is writen in a very oblique way, arguments are only pointed and not fully developed.The introductory books by philosopher David Pears are really good.
    However, if you want to read the Tractatus, there are several free versions on the Internet. I specially enjoy this one, http://www.kfs.org/~jonathan/witt/tlph.html which offers Wittgenstein's book as a Hypertext, which is how Wittgenstein designed it in the first place.
    If you want to read something by Wittgenstein I'd recommend first to get his "conference on ethics" in which he describes his mystical view of ethics, aesthetics and religion. Being a conference is also easier to follow.
    By the end of his life he changed lots of his beliefs on the nature of language and he put them together in a book called "Philosophical Investigations" which is very different to the Tractatus. Easier to read but still quite dififcult. Some parts of the books remind me of koans, as WIttgenstein drops questions towards the reader, inviting her to analyse a paradox in our understanding of what is language.
    Also if you like biographies there is a very good one by Ray Monk. It goes into heavy detail and shows how Wittgenstein could be sometimes a genius, sometimes a wise man sometimes a monster and sometimes and asshole, that is a human being.

    Gassho

  6. #6
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Seeing-as is not part of perception

    It's guys like ol' Witgy, as I like to call him, and the stuff he comes up with (thanks to Da5id for the review) that makes me really think that zen is as close to Truth (note the capital T) as we can get. If non-zen folks see zen-ness, too, then that seems to offer some extra validity to zen. And it doesn't seem to go in the other direction, does it? No matter who seems to be looking, eventually they seem to see "zen." Overstatement, of course, but you get the point.

  7. #7

    Re: Seeing-as is not part of perception

    I agree completely, Al. The fact that a guy such as brilliant as Wittgy arrived to similar conclusions with probably no exposure to buddhism or Zen, makes one think that yeah, this is the right track!

    I always admired W. for his continuous search of truth and for going further into his inquiry when everybody else stopped. In Western philosophy, everybody for two thousand years thought that the fact that language was able to describe the world was "obvious". He was one of the first to ponder that and realise that, on the contrary, there wasn't anything obvious about language.

    There is this story, probably apocrifal tough, about him, which shows this obession of going further when everybody stops:

    " Of course, said the student, you can't blame the medievals. The geocentric model of the solar system makes a kind of sense. After all, it does look, from an Earthly perspective, as if the sun revolves around us.

    To which Wittgenstein supposedly replied: Really? And how would it look if it were the other way round?"

    Gassho

  8. #8
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Seeing-as is not part of perception

    Language is labels, and I find the hardest and last thing to drop in zazen is language labels of things, because it is so ubiquitous. Frankly, dropping likes and dislikes is easy compared to dropping wall in front of me, time sitting so far, pain in body parts, dog barking and all those other really really basic things (labels) we get left with in zazen. Even just sitting is a label, or we make it one when we think about what we are doing in zazen. Labels create separation, because as soon as I label something, especially me as a "self," there is a separation from all that is unlabeled. The Buddha dharma is the unlabeled.

  9. #9

    Re: Seeing-as is not part of perception

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    Language is labels, and I find the hardest and last thing to drop in zazen is language labels of things, because it is so ubiquitous. Frankly, dropping likes and dislikes is easy compared to dropping wall in front of me, time sitting so far, pain in body parts, dog barking and all those other really really basic things (labels) we get left with in zazen. Even just sitting is a label, or we make it one when we think about what we are doing in zazen. Labels create separation, because as soon as I label something, especially me as a "self," there is a separation from all that is unlabeled. The Buddha dharma is the unlabeled.
    Hi Alan,

    Since you recently read The Zen Teaching of Huang Po translated by John Blofeld, I am going to strongly recommend to you a book by Dale Wright (one of the best Dogen and Buddhism scholars out there) that is a series of reflections on the Blofield text from perspectives including language philosophy:

    "Philosophical Meditations on Zen Buddhism" by Dale S. Wright

    http://www.amazon.com/Philosophical-Med ... 690&sr=8-1

    Dosho Port recommends it as ...

    If you'd like to have your ideas about Zen shattered, you might start with four recent books [including]:

    * Dale S. Wright's Philosophical Meditations on Zen Buddhism
    And I agree.

    In large part, Dale is critical of the romantic, hyped up, idealistic, ill informed interpretations of Zen, its history and enlightenment itself by some writers such as John Blofield during the West's early romance with Zen in the 50's and 60's. Dr. Wright turns again and again to modern understandings of history, culture and language. The result, however ... far from tearing down ... builds us up into a richer, more poignant and vibrant understanding of the value and meanings of Zen practice.

    Here is a sample where Dr. Wright looks at the Blofield book from the perspective of current views on language and culture Read a few pages from the middle of p. 68 to the end of p. 72 here (from 'Secondly, therefore ...') ...

    http://books.google.com/books?id=sM6si5 ... re&f=false

    Generally clear and easy to read, although the kind of book you might wish to take in small doses to let sit and sit with. I would not recommend, or would recommend it with caution, for folks very new to Zen practice, as one really needs a grounding in the subject to appreciate where Wright and Blofield both were coming from in order to understand the nature of the critique here.

    Gassho, J

  10. #10
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Seeing-as is not part of perception

    Jundo, you're knowledge of my reading list is lacking, but that's ok, as I have ordered both books and will slot them in accordingly down the line. I'm all for illusions being shattered. Heaven forbid I ever get comfortable with anything, even zen. Maybe especially zen, hmm. So thanks in advance for breaking my bell.

    But even before reading these texts, this concept of seeing-as really rings true. Ever since my "one wall spot" post I notice that whenever I see a thing/person/view/etc. I see it as something. Judgements get attached and so forth that are beyond the actual perception of what I see, but I'm so much more aware of that whole process now, and that's why ol' Witgy's quote struck me so. it was sort of a gosh, I wish I'd said that sort of thing, lol.

  11. #11

    Re: Seeing-as is not part of perception

    For those interested, Amazon also has Tractatus Logico-philosophicus available for the Kindle or Kindle Software, for free.
    http://www.amazon.com/Tractatus-Logi...1820128&sr=8-4


    Rob.

  12. #12

    Re: Seeing-as is not part of perception

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    Jundo, you're knowledge of my reading list is lacking, but that's ok, as I have ordered both books and will slot them in accordingly down the line. I'm all for illusions being shattered. Heaven forbid I ever get comfortable with anything, even zen. Maybe especially zen, hmm. So thanks in advance for breaking my bell..
    Yes, sorry ... it was Bassui "Mud and Water" which you read.

    viewtopic.php?p=31252#p31252

    Actually. "Mud and Water" is very close in style, focus and feel to the Huang-po collection ... even though written 5 centuries and 2 countries apart. There's some reason to that, as both were seeking to express the One Truth of One Mind in the common language and rhetorical style of Zen teachers (plus, it was the norm for students of a deceased teacher to put together such "best of" compilations in a particular, rather rigid classic style). So, much of the Wright book would apply just as well.

    Gassho, J

  13. #13

    Re: Seeing-as is not part of perception

    wright's book sounds really, really interesting. thank you, Jundo.
    I hope it is in electronic format for the Kindle. Books take a month from Amazon to Spain...

    Gassho

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