Logic and its limitations

Discussion in 'Buddhism' started by CobblersApprentice, Jul 24, 2019.

  1. This is a spin off from another thread, one where it was asserted:-

    "If religious knowledge did not depend on logic, theological conclusions would be worthless"

    This assertion was for me a "slow burner." Eventually I responded by saying that in a strange sense (not intended) the assertion suggested........

    Recognising that "Western" and "Eastern" logic are at loggerheads, and the possibility that "theological conclusions" are worthless!

    Thomas Merton writes:-

    For Zen, from the moment fact is transferred to a statement it is falsified. One ceases to grasp the naked reality of experience and one grasps a form of words instead. The verification that Zen seeks is not to be found in a dialectical transaction involving the reduction of fact to logical statement and the reflective verification of statement by fact.


    On his Asian pilgrimage, Merton read from "The Central Philosophy of Buddhism" (i.e Madhyamika) by T R V Murti, and noted in his Journal:-

    Murti on Madhyamika: “Its dialectic is of crucial importance. This dialectic is the consciousness of the total and interminable conflict in reason and the consequent attempt to resolve the conflict by rising to a higher standpoint.”

    Merton concluded his musings with:-

    It was Buddha’s aim not to give a “final” speculative answer but to be free from all theories and to know, by experience, “the nature of form and how form arises and how form perishes.” He wanted “not a third position lying between two extremes but a no-position that supersedes them both.” This is the Middle Way.


    D T Suzuki, contrasts "western" logic, associated with Aristotle, of A cannot be A and not A at the same time, with an "eastern" logic “the logic of simultaneous identification and differentiation,” where, in effect, A is A because it is not A. Those familiar with the the texts of Mahayana Buddhism will have some familiarity with statements made with such "logic" as base.

    Suzuki, writing of Pure Land Buddhism, says:-

    The self-power is logical and therefore intelligible, appealing to ordinary minds, but the other-power is altogether irrational, and the fact is that this irrationality makes up human life.

    So there we have it - or not! Our human life is one of paradox, as lived not following the paths of strict "western" logic. And given that we are (according to the Abrahamic Faiths) made in the image of God, why should God be "logical", or indeed His ways towards us? If Reality is not "logical" (in the "western" sense) the problem becomes one of communication.

    So, back to the beginning:- If religious knowledge did not depend on logic, theological conclusions would be worthless"

    (Or, possibly, severely limited in scope)

    If others just think this is all nonsensical, just ignore it. As I have said before, my strong point has never been logic!

    But if anyone wishes to make a comment, or even clarify, please do so.
     
  2. Comparing "east" and "west" further.......

    Most Japanese philosophers have historically favored the understanding of relations as being internal instead of external. That is, if I say “a and b are related,”the paradigm of external relations assumes that a and b can exist independently, but insofar as there is a relation between them, a third factor R is required to connect the two. By contrast, the paradigm of internal relations assumes that if I say “a and b are related,”I mean that a and b are intrinsically interlinked or overlapping, and that the R is the shared part of a and b. If our modern western philosophical tradition tends to make external relations the default, most Japanese philosophers throughout history are inclined towards thinking in terms of internal relations. Although both modes of thought are to be found in both traditions, awareness of this difference in fundamental orientation can help postpone hasty judgments and help direct attention to suitable cognates.

    Further.....

    Take, for example, the relation between knower and known. If that relation is external, the philosopher will assume that the subject (the knower) and the object (the known) exist independently and that they become connected through the creation of a third item, the relation called “knowledge.”Various theories will arise to explain what makes the knowledge “true.”When we think in terms of internal relations, however, knowledge represents not what connects the independently existing knower and known, but rather the overlap, the interdependence between knower and known.

    Further.....

    The inclination to pursue internal relations affects more than epistemology. It reaches across a range of philosophical questions because of its association with another guiding assumption of Japanese philosophy: the unity of whole and parts. On a model of external relations, we would say that the whole consists of its parts and the relations connecting them to each other. We see this assumption at work in the atomistic view that to understand something, we break it down into its smallest parts, analyze the nature of those parts, and then explain how those discrete parts are linked in external relationships with each other. Alternatively, a “holographic” approach sees a “whole inscribed” in each of its parts as, for example, the dna of every cell contains the genetic blueprint for the whole body of which the cell is a part. Not only are the parts in the whole, but the whole is in each of its parts. This is only possible if the parts are related internally rather than externally. Holographic thinking, though not entirely absent in the western philosophical tradition, is very much the default mode of thinking in the Japanese.

    All this can lead on to the so called "Argument by Relegation"...

    The preference for internal relations and an interdependence of wholes and parts is also reflected in the logic of argumentation by relegation. Here opposing positions are treated not by refuting them, but by accepting them as true, but only true as a part of the full picture.


    Well, enough for now.

    (All quotations drawn from "Japanese Philosophy: A Sourcebook")
     
  3. Bhaktajan II

    Bhaktajan II Active Member

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    I have heard this said:

    How does one know who their real father is? Ask your mother.

    This maxim refers to how knowledge is obtained and transmitted.


    By extension imow, if your mother is un-reliable ... thus are the sundry hurdles to overcome.
     
  4. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea An ordinary cup of tea

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    So there is a lot to take in here, I will need some time with it.
    But I disagree with your method on splitting theological logics into two distinct categories. I would definitely argue that any number of different logical systems are made to understand or justify theological statements.

    One of the things that I learned on this site is the nature of the human mind to create circular or lineal logic constructs to understand their reality. I have argued and picked on constructs created by the hosts of prophets and enlightened masters that come to this site. Although I would reject theirs for their over simplifications I find that theology that transmit valuable discourse on the human condition ("proper religions") work in similar fashions. Systems within systems.

    And though I agree that the east and the west hold some very distinct notions, there are also great similarities. And more importantly, great variation within them both. My brain isn't really up for this sort of thing really, but I would like to throw some stuff on the wall with you and see what sticks.
     
  5. Well, as I have said, my quoting does not necessarily mean I agree or that it is a "method" of mine. My own "method" is more "no-calculation."
    I put Western and Eastern in inverted commas to emphasise that this is more a distinction often made by others (and that both types are to be found in both is acknowledged above somewhere)

    Yes, far more than two anyway!

    Again, I started this hoping for a few bits of stuff to be thrown at it! Please feel free.

    PS. My "method" is often via biographies. People in the flesh. Rather than their text-books, which are beyond me. Wittgenstein, Sartre, Camus, Jung, Derrida. Their ideas and philosophy are always intertwined with their life experiences.
     
  6. I agree. Systems within systems. One common assertion on Christian v Buddhist debates is this from the Christian:- "the Buddha did not rise from the dead like Jesus, he died like all of us." The reality is, that had the Buddha "risen from death" he would in doing so have repudiated his entire teaching.

    The ideal solution is to fully understand the entire system before trying to compare, before claiming one is superior to another. Even such ubiquitous things as The Golden Rule is each time embedded in different systems that actually change its significance in various ways. My own trust/faith is that each great Tradition/Faith meets at the centre, when those who live their chosen Faith meet. Obviously, that is purely my own faith (hope!)
     
  7. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea An ordinary cup of tea

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    I very much agree, superficial understanding of certain concepts or phrases taken out of context don't do any justice to the immense complexity that the great religions contain. I'm not proficient in any Tradition and only have a basic understanding of a few, but that I hold as true.
     
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  8. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    I'm not sure what I should make of the "no view" idea. I'll post two Buddhist texts I think are related to it.

    The Pasura Sutta says:

    And a translation of the Cula-viyuha Sutta says:

     
  9. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    Those are Theravada Texts. Very conservative, very against innovation.

    The "no view" thing is a much later development in Buddhist thought.
     
  10. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    My understanding is that these suttas, which come from the Aṭṭhakavagga, represent an early form of Buddhism. It is found in a larger collection of texts called the Sutta Nipāta that is itself situated in an even larger collection called the Khuddaka Nikāya. These are Theravada texts. However, this doesn't mean the Aṭṭhakavagga is exclusively a Theravada text. Other early Buddhist schools refer to the Aṭṭhakavagga too. According to my source, the Sarvāstivāda, the Mūlasarvāstivāda, and the Dharmaguptaka all mention it. Some Indian Mahayana texts also mention it. Since they do so without referring to the Sutta Nipata, some scholars think the Aṭṭhakavagga is an independent work. I'm inclined to believe the "no view" thing is quite early. I'm not sure if there is only one view of "no view" throughout all of these Buddhist schools. :D

    Wikipedia says the following about the Aṭṭhakavagga's dating:

     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2019
  11. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    That's my understanding, too.

    The later schools have additional texts, which then get more emphasis.

    Christian bibles also contain the books of Moses and the prophets and psalms. But the theology and customs put more emphasis on the gospels and epistles.
     
  12. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Aren't you assuming the work originated with Theravada?
     
  13. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    No, I'm saying that Theravada did not participate in later developments like madhyamaka.

    In Theravada, there is "right view" and "wrong view", which are defined in terms of seeing things according to the four noble truths. That's it, that's how far "view" as a category goes in Theravada.

    Madhyamaka (attributed to Nagarjuna) has all these interesting arguments about how to deconstruct views skillfully, and then goes on to enrich the concept of the middle way with these ideas.

    But the madhyamaka texts are not found in Theravada.

    (Edited to add) To draw the Bible parallel again: You can find passages in the Hebrew bible that may refer to figures like Jesus or Mohammed, if interpreted in a certain way. And you can read e.g. parts of the atthaka vagga as a foreshadowing of madhyamaka. But you wouldn't be able to deduce Jesus' teachings from the prophesies, you'd go to the Gospels for that. And you won't find anything beyond hints of madhyamaka in the Pali canon of Theravada, you'd go to Nagarjuna for that.

    That's what I meant by, "those are Theravada texts" (even if they are included in other schools' canonical corpuses)
     
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2019
  14. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    Okay. The Aṭṭhakavagga's mention of no view in the above suttas seem to go beyond that . . .

    As an additional note, the Aṭṭhakavagga does not mention the four noble truths . . .

    So it seems Nagarjuna's concept of "no view" is complex. Any good quotes from Nagarjuna to illustrate for us his thoughts about the middle way? Wikipedia includes a brief summary of Nagarjuna and "no view". It also goes on to discuss emptiness:

     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019
  15. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    Like I said, you can shoehorn later teachings onto these texts. I don't see the point, since those teachings are fully presented in later texts, except as a fascinating speculation about the development of these ideas.

    Wikipedia is immensely useful, but I would not count on it to give an intelligible view (!) of ideological battlefields such as religious doctrines.

    As with many classical authors, it is not always clear that a text attributed to Nagarjuna was also authored by him.

    The thing about "no view" (in my view) is, that it is less of a position than a strategy to deconstruct positions. I'm not a philosopher, maybe it is possible to discern such a position, but at face value, his most famous text could be summarized as "exterminate all rational thought". I think this is a very effective mystical practice, but not a logical position.

    Link to a translation of the Karika:

    https://www2.hf.uio.no/polyglotta/index.php?page=record&vid=27&mid=119509
     
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2019
  16. Ahanu

    Ahanu Well-Known Member

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    I apologize for the late reply. I've been busy.

    Because I would like to start from my own prior knowledge. Anyway, I didn't know about Nagarjuna's development of the concept. Thanks for sharing. I'll be looking into it.

    I wouldn't say I was "counting on it". More like using it as a starting point for note-taking.

    So what do we know he wrote without a doubt?

    So if it is a strategy and not a position, what are we hoping for our interlocutor to see once all rational thought has been strategically exterminated? Peace of mind? As the text attributed to Nagarjuna notes above,

    "By taking any standpoint whatsoever, you will be snatched by the cunning snakes of the afflictions. Those whose minds have no standpoint, will not be caught."

    Okay. That can make sense.

    But I'm not sure how he views this in a practical way. It seems extreme . . . as if he is advocating I cannot have peace of mind while simultaneously holding a view about global warming, a view that leads me to skip the plastic bags at the grocery store, for example. How does one take action in the world while simultaneously deconstructing every view of the world? Maybe I'm misunderstanding the idea.
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2019
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  17. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic)

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    With classical authors, there is always room for doubt about the authorship. The Karika, which is quite firmly attributed to Nagarjuna, seems to have been orally transmitted initially.

    As to the goal: in (Theravada) Buddhism, it is Enlightenment, Nirvana, the "unexcelled freedom of the yoke", the quenching of the thirst of desire, the release from suffering, the end of birth, aging, death, despair etc, (i.e the third noble truth). And Nagarjuna's philosophy of the middle way is a practical means to realize that. (fourth noble truth)Other schools introduced the less full-on ascetic intermediate goal of the Bodhisattva path, the vow to attain Nirvana in a future existence and to help others on their path in the meantime. Nagarjuna's philosophy works fine in this context as well.

    Your practical question is spot on, and this is where the Buddhist "two truths" teaching comes in. In terms of ultimate truth, plastic bags exhibit the same fundamental principles of suffering, impermanence, and emptiness as everything else, and Nagarjuna can help with realizing that. In terms of mundane, relative truths, it makes a lot of sense to not dump them into the sea.

    Another traditional way to sort out the Buddist teachings is the threefold division of the noble eightfold path into the training disciplines of ethics, meditation, and ultimate insight. Since all eight path factors need to be developed and present for enlightenment to occur, one cannot discount the ethical dimension of plastic bags just because one has understood them well in terms of ultimate emptiness. (plus they can serve as a visual focus in meditation ;):rolleyes:)
     
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2019
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