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Thread: Philosophy

  1. #1

    Philosophy

    Dear all

    I know very little about western philosophy. What I do know is based around the philosophy of science which I intuitively grasped through studying science, and by living with a friend who was doing a PhD in political philosophy.

    Western philosophy has also seemed to me to be fundamentally less interested in the kind of things I like to think about than eastern philosophy. However, I thought that it was about time that I bit the bullet and learned a little more so subscribed to a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on the subject delivered by the University of Edinburgh.

    Straight away, some ideas from philosopher David Hume reminded me of Buddhist thinking:

    As a good empiricist philosopher, Hume thought that it was crucial that philosophy stay true to our sensory experience of the world. However, he argued that our experience tells us much less about the world than we usually think. For example:

    • Causation: We never really observe one thing causing another to happen. We might see one billiard ball roll into another, and then see the second billiard ball roll off. But all we really observe are the billiard balls at various times and places.
    o Our experience of one ball causing the other to roll off is something extra, over and above the times and places we see the billiard balls occupying.
    o So, for Hume, causation isn’t something we observe in the world. It’s something extra that our minds add to the events we observe.

    • Ourselves: We never really observe ourselves –we might observe various thoughts, feelings, impressions as they pass through ‘our’ mind, but we never observe the single subject that is supposed to unify, or to have, all these.
    o So, for Hume, the idea of a persisting self, over and above the various thoughts and feelings that pass through ‘our’ minds is something extra that our minds add to what we really observe.
    I like this a lot as it reminds me of Buddhist ideas of separating empirical sensations from the subsequent judgements we make about them and stories we place on top.

    It is also interesting how Hume thinks of the notion of self in a similar way to Buddhism in that it is something fundamentally unfindable.

    I know that philosophical questions can have a tendency to disappear down rabbit holes, and for that reason we often do not encourage them so much at Treeleaf, but I found this to be interesting in comparing aspects of eastern and western thought.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  2. #2
    Member Seikan's Avatar
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    Ah, you're tempting me to dive back into that same rabbit hole my friend...

    I majored in western philosophy in college, yet while working on both my undergrad and graduate degrees, I also had an underlying current of interest in eastern thought. Therefore, I tended to look for east/west parallels in nearly every western philosopher that I studied.

    Hume's "bundle" theory of self was definitely a personal favorite. I was also particularly fond of the Phenomenologists (Heidegger, in particular) and their focus on consciousness as their key topic of study.

    Buddhist (and Taoist, for that matter) parallels can be found in the ideas of western philosophers from the Pre-Socratics (e.g., Heraclitus) all the way to present day philosophers. Of course, present-day academics have much easier access to eastern thought, so it is less surprising that their thinking could potentially be influenced by Buddhism, Taoism, etc. Ultimately though (for me anyway), all of the western philosophies ended up stuck too much in the world of "head" knowledge with little real emphasis on how to best interact with the world and alleviate the "suffering" of the human condition. That said, I do enjoy visiting the rabbit hole every now and again for the mental gymnastics that it offers.

    Perhaps we should dedicate an upcoming tea house to this topic and see what sort of madness ensues.

    Gassho,
    Seikan

    -stlah-

    (apologies for running long here...)
    聖簡 Seikan (Sacred Simplicity)

  3. #3
    Perhaps we should dedicate an upcoming tea house to this topic and see what sort of madness ensues.
    Ha! That might be interesting!

    I don't mind a bit of philosophy but I agree with you that it can quickly seem to get 'heady' for little purpose (although I am sure there are good reasons for philosophical theorists) and I prefer when there is an obvious practical application.

    Good to know you have all of that knowledge hidden away!

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  4. #4
    Perhaps we should dedicate an upcoming tea house to this topic and see what sort of madness ensues.

    I think this could make for some interesting conversation. However, such discussions involving lofty philosophical ideas or anything regarding the relative and absolute may result in one or more persons being muted. (For the record, this is a reoccurring tea house joke. No one has ever been muted for expressing their opinion, I just want to make that clear. Haha)

    Gassho,

    Shade

    ST

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Kokuu View Post
    Dear all

    I know very little about western philosophy. What I do know is based around the philosophy of science which I intuitively grasped through studying science, and by living with a friend who was doing a PhD in political philosophy.

    Western philosophy has also seemed to me to be fundamentally less interested in the kind of things I like to think about than eastern philosophy. However, I thought that it was about time that I bit the bullet and learned a little more so subscribed to a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on the subject delivered by the University of Edinburgh.

    Straight away, some ideas from philosopher David Hume reminded me of Buddhist thinking:



    I like this a lot as it reminds me of Buddhist ideas of separating empirical sensations from the subsequent judgements we make about them and stories we place on top.

    It is also interesting how Hume thinks of the notion of self in a similar way to Buddhism in that it is something fundamentally unfindable.

    I know that philosophical questions can have a tendency to disappear down rabbit holes, and for that reason we often do not encourage them so much at Treeleaf, but I found this to be interesting in comparing aspects of eastern and western thought.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
    Hi there,

    this article might be helpful

    https://www.philosophylives.com/publ...cret-buddhist/


    it clarified for me what I recall as fundamental differences between Hume's approach/conclusions to the question of 'self' and a Buddhist take (though I wasn't
    studying Buddhism at the time). I always felt the Empiricists wanted to ditch metaphysics and if you follow their line of reasoning there's no place to go if you're interested in a spiritual level of human existence. I have only a vague memory of reading Hume now but I think I got bored contemplating the whole billiard balls analogy!

    No more words else I'll be going down the rabbit hole - have had to extricate myself so many times

    Gassho

    Jinyo
    Last edited by Jinyo; 06-26-2021 at 08:23 AM.

  6. #6
    Wonderful! Thank you, Jinyo!

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  7. #7
    Ooh interesting topic. I've been thinking about this lately too, comparisons between Buddhism and philosophies of science, because I've been involved with these too recently while doing a PhD. I have mostly aligned with 'critical realism' or 'scientific realism' for my thesis. In critical realism, it understood that we humans understand the world through our mental conceptions, and as such we can never fully grasp the true complexity of reality, but we can understand it better if we consider multiple angles and different contexts. While studying this, I too noted many parallels with Buddhism.

    However, something interesting has recently occurred to me, surprisingly while I was on the cushion in Zazen (oops, yes this was a thought that I latched onto for a little bit...)

    Buddhism, perhaps Zen especially, makes a very important point about epistemology (valid ways we can know reality) that I think is missing from other philosophies that I know of - but please tell me if you know otherwise.

    While several philosophies may say something similar to Buddhism about how reality is complex or interdependent or ever changing and not fixed (ontology, statements about what the nature of reality is), and about how our conceptions of reality are inaccurate or approximate (epistemology again, how we can know reality), Buddhism I think goes further in epistemology and says something special...

    Buddhism says we can know reality directly, beyond our conceptual mind, through meditation.

    Do any Western philosophies share this feature that is fundamental to Zen?

    ,
    Charity
    sat/lah

  8. #8
    Hume’s “Treatise of Human Nature”, has been fun to read so far, though I got it just before deciding that I should read more Buddhist literature. It is split into a large number of small chapters on all sorts of topics, some only a couple of pages long in the version I have, which has unusually small print. I highly recommend Popper’s “Conjectures and Refutations” - he discusses Hume’s epistemology in some depth.

    Gassho,
    Gareth

    Sat today, Lah

  9. #9
    It is, of course, the role of the Zen fellow to drop in and say ... whatever the sometime parallels and common ground between Zen ways and western philosophy now and then ...

    ... one sits, dropping all ideas and analysis. leaving the armchair and library for the Zafu. Perhaps later, one can pick up one's copy of A Treatise of Human Nature again! But in the meantime, burn the treatise and sit on its ashes!

    So, a little Hume can't hurt ... but Hume misses the mark. Time to put down the mental gymnastics and Just Sit!

    Thank you for Hume-ering me.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-27-2021 at 12:30 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  10. #10
    Member Seikan's Avatar
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    Jundo to the rescue!


    Gassho,
    Seikan

    -stlah-


    Sent from my Pixel 4a (5G) using Tapatalk
    聖簡 Seikan (Sacred Simplicity)

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by coriander View Post
    Ooh interesting topic. I've been thinking about this lately too, comparisons between Buddhism and philosophies of science, because I've been involved with these too recently while doing a PhD. I have mostly aligned with 'critical realism' or 'scientific realism' for my thesis. In critical realism, it understood that we humans understand the world through our mental conceptions, and as such we can never fully grasp the true complexity of reality, but we can understand it better if we consider multiple angles and different contexts. While studying this, I too noted many parallels with Buddhism.

    However, something interesting has recently occurred to me, surprisingly while I was on the cushion in Zazen (oops, yes this was a thought that I latched onto for a little bit...)

    Buddhism, perhaps Zen especially, makes a very important point about epistemology (valid ways we can know reality) that I think is missing from other philosophies that I know of - but please tell me if you know otherwise.

    While several philosophies may say something similar to Buddhism about how reality is complex or interdependent or ever changing and not fixed (ontology, statements about what the nature of reality is), and about how our conceptions of reality are inaccurate or approximate (epistemology again, how we can know reality), Buddhism I think goes further in epistemology and says something special...

    Buddhism says we can know reality directly, beyond our conceptual mind, through meditation.

    Do any Western philosophies share this feature that is fundamental to Zen?

    ,
    Charity
    sat/lah
    Hi, the whole of Western philosophy seems replete with the urge to understand what kind of knowledge (epistemology) our spiritual/religious/ beliefs and practices rest upon and the method by which that knowledge is acquired or actualized. There is a quest to discover whether we can actualize an untrammelled experience of 'reality' . I did think reading Husserl that he got close with his method of transcendental phenomenology (through a stage he called the 'transcendental reduction)to the actualization of dropping of body/mind as in eastern forms of meditation. Despite the seemingly Asian roots of Husserl's method he was adamant that he was seeking a rigorous science -possibly because he was putting forward a method - which is comparable to what we would term our 'practice'. If Husserl was around in our time I think he might have become a practicing Buddhist but I don't think any of his contemporaries followed through on his methodology. I'm not sure how this goes currently- must have a look.

    Gassho

    Jinyo

    Sat today

  12. #12
    A book makes a splendid little table to rest a Zoomzenkai laptop on. _()_

    gassho
    d shonin sat/lah this morning
    Visiting unsui, take w/salt.

  13. #13
    Member Hoseki's Avatar
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    St. John's Newfoundland, Canada.
    Hi folks,


    It's been a long time since I've read any of the empiricists but if anyone is familiar with Bishop Berkley it might be a fun comparison (if I remember some of his work correctly.) I would also add that sometimes this type of thinking can help you let go of over conceptualizing. I spent some time with Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations and after that I found I didn't really think to much about this stuff. It kind of oriented me to think of language as primarily about utility my encounter with J. L. Austin.

    Wittgenstein has a famous line at the end of "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus" (which I'm pretty sure I only really understood the first line.) "What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence".

    Any who just some thoughts.

    Gassho
    Hoseki
    sattoday

  14. #14
    Wittgenstein has a famous line at the end of "Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus" (which I'm pretty sure I only really understood the first line.) "What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence".
    I like that quote a lot, Hoseki.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  15. #15
    My own interest/curiosity is not so much in the connection between Western philosophy and Buddhist literature, but in what the individual philosophers would have thought about Zen - e.g. could Marcus Aurelius have been nudged from Stoicism to Zen, or would he have had objections?

    Popper argued against the idea that truth is manifest...but how would he view a letter from emptiness?

    Sorry, that is all from me for now though

    Gassho,
    Gareth

    Sat today

  16. #16
    Having just begun week two of the philosophy course, I can only say that quite a lot of them might have benefitted from sitting more and writing less. They make Dogen look like he had writer's block!

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
    Last edited by Kokuu; 06-28-2021 at 07:23 PM.
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  17. #17
    Hume, a Neo-Platonist, idealized form and support for discourse. I taught writing with directions to use details from senses to write essays from notes, brainstorming and to support a thesis deduced from senses. James Moffett, and James Britton in research of thousands of first year college essays showed expressive writing leads to form and content not unlike poetry or Plato's ideal at the center of expression. Hume's experience through senses showed an idealized approach to reality. As well, students could find a thesis from support as in Hume's approach, and Buddhist realization of only senses. Unlike Buddhism, however, student writing is based in logic; just a few ideas from one who studied content.
    Gassho
    sat/ lah
    Tai Shi
    Last edited by Tai Shi; 07-11-2021 at 07:39 PM. Reason: complete ideas, concisiom
    ...Thought and action/ your life would never experience, (even before you were born), But he also being the Devine Cannot, He etched every moment of your existence, With His own hand... Haifiz

  18. #18
    That bit about causality is interesting because of how it's supported by what we know from neuroscience about the brain being a "reasoning machine" that will invent reasons for why things are the way they are. This leads to "magical thinking" and that can escalate into full-blown "pseudoscience". There's a YouTube series called "Mind Field" and in one of the episodes, the phenomenon of "magical thinking" is looked at and it's been interesting to observe that behavior in myself. No one is immune to the "reasoning engine"! We all do it!

    Being able to have the experience of just sitting and allowing things to be, sometimes I catch glimpses of t̶h̶i̶n̶g̶s̶ happenings but without any cause or result. Yet it all carries on perfectly.

    Gassho
    Kyōsen
    Sat|LAH
    橋川
    kyō (bridge) | sen (river)

  19. #19
    Oh I don't know. I have bipolar disorder type 1. and over the past six years in Treeleaf Zendo, I've been in and out of the hospital. I swing between depression and mania. These days I do not write poetry about mental illness. In my MFA much my poetry 35 years ago was either about mental illness or alcoholism. However the alcoholism as of July 22nd is 34 years sober. Mental illness is a year from my last hospitalization, depression, kicking prescription Oxycodone. I walked out from under a high dose. A short time my poetry was about Oxycodone. Not anymore. I'm off topic, and Jundo doesn't like my long rambling entries. I will say it's documented that people with bipolar are more likely to be more creative than others, the way the brain leaps through logic.
    Gassho
    sat/ lah
    Tai Shi
    Last edited by Tai Shi; 07-12-2021 at 11:24 PM.
    ...Thought and action/ your life would never experience, (even before you were born), But he also being the Devine Cannot, He etched every moment of your existence, With His own hand... Haifiz

  20. #20
    Alison Gopnik (a professor of psychology and philosophy) wrote an article suggesting that Hume might have actually been familiar with Buddhist philosophy. I have known about this article for ages and still haven't read it myself yet. But anyway, here's a link:

    http://alisongopnik.com/Papers_Aliso...es_withTOC.pdf

    There's also another book sitting on my shelf unread called Greek Buddha: Pyrrho's Encounter with Early Buddhism in Central Asia by Christopher Beckwith that namechecks Hume in accompanying online blurb for it:

    'Pyrrho of Elis went with Alexander the Great to Central Asia and India during the Greek invasion and conquest of the Persian Empire in 334-324 BC. There he met with early Buddhist masters. Greek Buddha shows how their Early Buddhism shaped the philosophy of Pyrrho, the famous founder of Pyrrhonian scepticism in ancient Greece.

    Christopher I. Beckwith traces the origins of a major tradition in Western philosophy to Gandhara, a country in Central Asia and northwestern India. He systematically examines the teachings and practices of Pyrrho and of Early Buddhism, including those preserved in testimonies by and about Pyrrho, in the report on Indian philosophy two decades later by the Seleucid ambassador Megasthenes, in the first-person edicts by the Indian king Devanampriya Priyadarsi referring to a popular variety of the Dharma in the early third century BC, and in Taoist echoes of Gautama's Dharma in Warring States China. Beckwith demonstrates how the teachings of Pyrrho agree closely with those of the Buddha Sakyamuni, "the Scythian Sage." In the process, he identifies eight distinct philosophical schools in ancient northwestern India and Central Asia, including Early Zoroastrianism, Early Brahmanism, and several forms of Early Buddhism. He then shows the influence that Pyrrho's brand of scepticism had on the evolution of Western thought, first in Antiquity, and later, during the Enlightenment, on the great philosopher and self-proclaimed Pyrrhonian, David Hume.

    Greek Buddha demonstrates that through Pyrrho, Early Buddhist thought had a major impact on Western philosophy.'


    For anyone with an interest in Western Philosophy, my favourite book on the subject is Bryan Magee's Confessions of a Philosopher: A Journey Through Western Philosophy.

    Magee is wonderful writer. Just read the first chapter ('Scenes from Childhood') and I would be surprised if you don't get hooked.

    https://www.amazon.com/Confessions-P...s=books&sr=1-2

    Gassho,

    Martin
    Sat today
    Last edited by ZenHalfTimeCrock; 07-13-2021 at 01:43 PM.

  21. #21
    I did dig around Heraclitus ( great western insight into impermanence ), Hegel, the Stoics and later Spinoza for self help. I am just an amateur but I think Spinoza's pretty close to eastern philosophies in general, where one connects to a bigger mind / universe ( God = all there is ) via developing intuition. However just like the Stoics he seems to want to get there through reason ( although his concept of Reason is different and complex ). The first few times I sat in meditation I realized that what I called "reason" is conditioned, subjective and rising just like any other thought. Sorry I took so many sentences here.

    Gassho,

    Silviu

    SatTday
    May all beings be happy,
    Silviu

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Kokuu View Post
    Dear all

    I know very little about western philosophy. What I do know is based around the philosophy of science which I intuitively grasped through studying science, and by living with a friend who was doing a PhD in political philosophy.

    Western philosophy has also seemed to me to be fundamentally less interested in the kind of things I like to think about than eastern philosophy. However, I thought that it was about time that I bit the bullet and learned a little more so subscribed to a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) on the subject delivered by the University of Edinburgh.

    Straight away, some ideas from philosopher David Hume reminded me of Buddhist thinking:



    I like this a lot as it reminds me of Buddhist ideas of separating empirical sensations from the subsequent judgements we make about them and stories we place on top.

    It is also interesting how Hume thinks of the notion of self in a similar way to Buddhism in that it is something fundamentally unfindable.

    I know that philosophical questions can have a tendency to disappear down rabbit holes, and for that reason we often do not encourage them so much at Treeleaf, but I found this to be interesting in comparing aspects of eastern and western thought.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday/lah-
    Thank you for sharing. All to often Western Philosophy is held up as the be all end all of Philosophy, while forgetting Eastern and Buddhist Philosophical traditions.



    Tony,
    The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth in the present moment, to appreciate the peace and beauty that are available now. - Thích Nhất Hạnh

  23. #23
    I majored in Western Philosophy in college too; I've always found philosophy interesting, and I only got a Bachelor's; I'm not an expert or anything. But after I graduated college, a friend pointed me toward Taoism; eventually I got into Zen thought and ended up here. Western philosophy was interesting, but my heart wasn't into it like it is with Eastern thought or Zen. Just a personal preference, but there's something about Eastern thought that speaks to my heart.

    Gassho

    Risho
    -stlah

  24. #24
    Member Hoseki's Avatar
    Join Date
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    St. John's Newfoundland, Canada.
    Hi everyone,

    I just wanted to say that my experience with western philosophy in a lot of ways kind of blended with my practice. I think there can be value there (for our practice) and while some of it will be at odds with much of Buddhist texts there are some things that lend themselves well. In particular, I found myself drawn to a kind of anti-essentialism that can be found in various writers and I think it lines up nicely with Nagarjuna. I spent a lot of time being confused by Wittgenstein, Rorty and Austin (though less though) and I found that ordinary language philosophy and Rorty's pragmatism kind of let me off the hook for puzzling philosophical issues. So language being something like us it arises in some circumstances and then goes away. The relationship between the rest of the world and our concepts is us. So why make such a fuss. What's there to really do except chop wood and fetch water.

    I will also add that there are some practical aspects to studying Philosophy. For example, we may learn how and when to use a concept e.g. freedom but without spelling out what that means or how it "cashes out" into our actual lives rather than abstraction we can often talk right past each other or we can be mislead. A classic example is freedom or liberty. There are things I'm free to do (positive freedom) which often requires resources to actually be possible and there is the ability to do something without external interference (negative freedom.) Occasionally I see people on TV say that the American people are free to buy health insurance. But its a negative freedom no one is going to stop them. But without the resources to do so (money) they aren't free to do so in a positive sense. Basically they can't but it's not the government that stops them. Regardless of how one feels about this issue I think we can all see the sophistry here.



    Anywho, just thought I could chim in. My apologies for the length.

    Gassho
    Hoseki
    Sattoday

  25. #25
    There are many similarities between western and eastern thought, regardless of what thought, like animals evolving the same traits independently.

    Gassho, Tim
    ST
    Last edited by tclark7; 08-26-2021 at 12:36 AM.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nobodyhere View Post
    I did dig around Heraclitus ( great western insight into impermanence ), Hegel, the Stoics and later Spinoza for self help. I am just an amateur but I think Spinoza's pretty close to eastern philosophies in general, where one connects to a bigger mind / universe ( God = all there is ) via developing intuition. However just like the Stoics he seems to want to get there through reason ( although his concept of Reason is different and complex ). The first few times I sat in meditation I realized that what I called "reason" is conditioned, subjective and rising just like any other thought. Sorry I took so many sentences here.

    Gassho,

    Silviu

    SatTday
    I agree with you on Spinoza. My compatriot understood 'reason' as a threefold way from empiricist experiences through the senses to logic and, as a highest form of reason, he understood something he called 'intuition'. This is not intuition as we understand it, like a gut feeling about something. He meant a clear and immediate experience of the 'Truth'. An experience which could not be forced into being and which did not endure but still founded certainty. Part 5 of Ethica, his most important work, the last chapter of the book ends with this: "Everything excellent is as difficult as it is rare.". In Spinoza's thought God and Nature are the same thing which forms the total of al being which he called 'Substance'. He also wrote that this Substance has an infinite number of 'Attributes' from which we only can define two: Mind and Matter. He saw those as two sides of the same coin, the one never occurring without the other. Excuses for my poor English.

    There was a real huge China boom in the seventeenth century on Continental Europe especially on the Netherlands and France. Chinese products where very popular and even Chinese philosophy got a lot of attention. Confucius "Analects" was kind of a bestseller in Latin and Dutch translation. Buddhist thought was criticized as 'a Chinese form of Spinozism'.

    Gassho, HerrieH
    Going to SIT right NOW.

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