New Civilization News - Category: Philosophy    
 Perversion and Abuse of Systemic Concepts17 comments
picture3 Nov 2008 @ 17:39, by jhs. Philosophy
Perversion and Abuse of Systemic Concepts:
From Siddharto's "dukkha" to Hegel's "Dialektik"

Seeing the 'Zeitgeist Addendum' film yesterday [link] , I was once again reminded at the incorrect attribution of the 'Thesis-Antithesis-Synthesis' concept to Hegel and prompted me to rethink my conclusions of nearly forty years ago when I first studied Hegel intensively and later on translated many portions of the Pali Canon, guided by the last monks & nuns of the Altbuddhistische Gemeinde at Utting am Ammersee [link] in Germany, founded by Karl Seidenstuecker [link] and Georg Grimm [link] .

(Note: the Pali Canon is the earliest record of the monks of Gotamo Siddharto (aka the 'Buddha', written in Pali, an Indian dialect, now only spoken in monasteries in Sri Lanka and Burma. See my free on-line course at [link]).

Back then, in the early 70's, I was writing articles for the society's journal 'Yana', and I remember the long conversations that took place whether an article of mine, titled something like 'Schopenhauer's injustice in his critique of Hegel', should be published.

After all, Grimm und Seidenstuecker had been great admirers of Arthur Schopenhauer [link] . It didn't help that I wrote some fine notes on Nietzsche's understanding of Hegel in exchange (the former had also been a very close friend of Paul Deussen, Seidenstuecker's main buddy). Amidst all the politics of personal friendships, historical or current, the impact of Nazi Germany on buddhism, all the false interpretations of Hegel by Marx proponents, there seemed no way that my article would be printed.

And I wanted it badly, black on white, to be honest, mainly to show it off to my buddies in Frankfurt, dreaming to have the small yellow magazine with MY article on Schopenhauer and Hegel in my hands entering the 'Club Voltaire' [link] where the post-Adorno students mixed with radical feminists (yes, those who entered bare-breasted Adorno's last lecture!), all of us still under the impact of the German's Notstandsgesetze [link] , a precursor of America's Patriot Act(s), and then being immersed into the 'Startbahn West' conflict [link] .

Confusing days for me, shortly after being accepted to the studies of Architecture at the University of Darmstadt, hanging out with radical thinkers at the University of Frankfurt, at the same time dreaming of spending some years in Sri Lanka and translating Pali texts. But then again, I was living in a 'real' Kommune (Wikipedia leaves out the definition of this particular one), Henry Miller [link] was my secret idol and a monastery an 'Alptraum' (nightmare). Clearly to spend some Silent Days in Clichy was more interesting than sitting on a mountain top. In the end, it was far easier to drive to Amsterdam to "turn on, tune in, drop out" for some days and feeling like a little Leary [link] .

Those were those days, but what has Hegel to do with the 'Buddha'?...  More >

 A war cry for the change on the banner of a New Age. 18 comments
19 Sep 2008 @ 16:27, by shreepal. Philosophy
The truth, the eternal conscious being, which is perceived by humans variously – depending upon one’s Para psychological propensity as the Supreme father, the Divine Mother, the Ultimate State or whatever kind of thing It appears to that psychology – has always been there allowing Itself or Himself bound by the law of conservation of energy. It or He was there before the birth of great leaders of mankind like Lord Buddha, Lord Jesus Christ etc. and shall always remain there.

The supreme tool of human beings for knowing things, that is, Mind, as of today is not developed enough to resolve the dilemma of the ultimate – the primordial creator or the creation. The choices available to us are either to postpone the resolution of this problem to an indefinite future, to a point of time in future when humans would be evolved enough mentally or otherwise to tackle this supreme question and proceed further on our forward march or to pass our judgments today denouncing things Divine as against Science and vice versa. The wisest choice on our part is the former option.

This timeless truth has been spoken of by credible people and there is no reason for us to doubt their integrity. The truth spoken of by them is timeless but the context and the times in which it was spoken have changed with the passage of time beyond recognition today.

While passing our judgments on their statements we should always remember that a truth has to be clothed in words, context and circumstances to make it understandable to the people of the time and relevant to their problems. Today we speak of this truth in the words of Science. It is but natural. But this process inevitably puts ostensible limitations of time-specific culture and rigid frames of contents on its otherwise limitless substance. This truth is limitless from the weak human measures. Its relevance to times and circumstances includes not the past ages alone but our (modern) age as well.

Let the rigid religious moulds formed around it by lay followers of different leaders of mankind over the ages pursue their respective old-beaten tracks, take their own course and complete their natural run. And in the meantime, let these rigid, divisive and narrow moulds thus extract out of this eternal source their due life-sustaining nectar for their remaining period of life, for the period till humans pierce these moulds and get to the bottom, to the centre, to the essence. It is for them to follow this track of outlived utility and realize its diminished utility and not for us to dissuade them from that path.

We on our part should go to this centre of eternal truth and tap its benign flood-light to expose the rampant habitations of human miseries and misfortunes on earth and to heal them by its curative energy. The sweep of the truth of which the great human leaders have spoken is not confined to individual charity and good conduct on the part of an individual; it takes within its sweeps the charity and good conduct of the organized human society.

This truth is not permissive in the face of evil times; it is revolutionary to the core. It is more revolutionary in character than any of the ordinary revolutionary human thoughts. If revolution is understood a radical change, then this eternal truth is concerned with nothing but bringing a radical change in the individual and collective human living. Let this eternal light be inscribed by us as a war cry on the revolutionary banner of the New Age.

Further reading links:

A prediction about Earth
Freedom  More >

18 Sep 2008 @ 14:11, by beto. Philosophy
In September, 21th, 1908, exactly one century ago, science entered a kind of railroad switch that has taken its development to the point we are now. Today we see how different everything could be if the option were another, in that crucial point of the scientific evolution.  More >

 Contexts of Understanding
11 Aug 2008 @ 12:11, by anandavala. Philosophy

Before joining the conversation, please read and accept this Invitation to a Conversation.

Contexts of Understanding

In relation to any 'reality' there are always two apparent contexts. A few examples are that one cannot have a story without a book being read, or a movie without a movie reel in a projector, or a virtual reality without a computational process. In each of these examples the first is an empirical context (objects, places and events) and the second is a transcendent context (that which creates and sustains the empirical context).

There is also a unified context, which is the context that contains both apparent contexts. For example, a room containing both a book and a reader with an imagination is the context in which the reading of the book operates (transcendent) and the imaginative experience of the story manifests (empirical). These are all just simple worldly examples to illustrate some aspects of the situation. In the case of our own reality and world-experience things are more subtle but still manifesting an apparent empirical and transcendent as well as a unified context. The two apparent contexts are just different perspectives on the one unified context, hence they are not actually separate contexts, but only appear to be separate.

Although there is one unified context and two apparent contexts, when contemplating the nature of our reality most people are unaware of the unified context and fixate on only one of the apparent contexts and assume that it is the only context. Some are grounded in one apparent context and deny the other, thereby only understanding half of the situation, and some attempt to mix both apparent contexts into one and thereby get very confused.

Below is a simplified map of the contexts and a brief commentary using the VR analogy.  More >

 Why is Dialectic Important8 comments
4 Aug 2008 @ 09:07, by johnjoseph. Philosophy

Why is Dialectic Important

In an article a while ago I contrasted the Taoist approach to solving problems with the Confucianist one. Taoism tries to grasp the essence of anything it analyses or any problem it is trying to solve. Confucianism, on the other hand, seems content with looking at and considering secondary, superficial, irrelevant and numerous inessential aspects of a subject or thing. Occasionally this leads to a solution, but usually this is arrived at only after years of piecemeal efforts by different people. The Taoist approach often yields a quick answer to the solitary enquirer.

The Confucianist way is analytical but reductionist, it splits things into a myriad of incoherent aspects that seem to lack a connecting thread. This is the method of traditional science. It is also very anxious to eradicate qualitative aspects of the matter in favour of purely quantitative ones. As part of this it gets rid of any analysis of the problem into complementary opposites or dialectical categories.

One can say that there is almost a phobia, as yet unnamed, which people have when dealing with qualitative and dialectical angles of the problem or idea. And I will tell you why. This fear, almost pathological, of qualities and opposites is very similar to the fear of intimacy which you find in a neurotic person, usually men. Because dialectical analysis, literally, is a way into the heart or Essence of a thing. And just as many people shun intimacy, likewise many people feel very uncomfortable with the essence of anything, preferring instead all sorts of distractions, secondary aspects and irrelevancies.

The analysis of anything in terms of its opposites and contradictions is a time-honoured method of getting to the heart or essence of it, and has been part of the Perennial Philosophy for thousands of years.

Some people think that the Taoist way of solving problems always involves an incredible “Eureka” moment, akin to a moment of mystical Enlightenment, which relies on the complete grasping in one stroke, of something’s essence. It does sometimes happen like that, but often it involves the hard work of thoroughly analysing and understanding the opposites and contradictions in the thing and their mutual connections.

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 Dualistic Monism and Economic Value0 comments
31 May 2008 @ 03:10, by athos. Philosophy
The essay is based on the philosophy of the I Ching and is in two parts:

The first regards the positive definition of economic value. It shows that in every considered period of time the price of the gross product’s represents the whole time of labor of the system, independently from the function of commodities - i.e. the distinction between means of production and consumer goods - and independently from how they are distributed - i.e. how prices can vary accordingly.

The second part shows how the idea of value as incorporated labor, with the consequent concept of the transfer of means of production’s value into the produced commodities - implying a coincidence between the totality of labor of the system whit the only net product’s value instead of the gross product’s - conceals the relationship between prices and quantities of labor, and the real, or absolute value of the various currencies remains unknown.

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 Taoism and Confucianism : Part II7 comments
3 Mar 2008 @ 12:50, by johnjoseph. Philosophy

Problem 3: How to bring fresh water from a nearby river to a small Chinese town.
This example is given by Joseph Needham in his book Science and Civilization in China as illustrating the main differences between Confucianist and Taoist approaches to doing things. The problem is how to provide fresh water to a small town from a nearby river. The Confucianist approach would be to divert water from the river at a convenient point well below the town and then use much man-power, mechanical devices and expense to lift it up again to the level of the town and so distribute it. This will solve the problem while generating employment, circulating money, aiding the invention and perfection of mechanical devices and generally keeping everybody busy. The Taoist approach would be to divert the water at a convenient point above the level of the town and using the natural tendency of water to find its own level, that is to run downwards, create an aqueduct to lead the water to the village or town and so distribute it. This method uses nature’s properties to move the water rather than human effort, creates much less employment (a one-off aqueduct rather than constant lifting of water), circulates less money and does not need inventions or mechanical devices.

This example clearly reveals that Confucianism is a social philosophy, and its solutions to problems are designed to benefit society in creating wealth, employment and invention. The Taoist method is one which is based on the individual, addresses the essence of the problem rather than appearances, and is in tune with nature. Instead of expending effort in lifting water upwards after we have allowed it to run downwards, we just divert it at the right point to run by its own momentum (with gravity’s help) into the town.

Clearly, there are simple, easy ways to solve problems and there are difficult, tedious ways. It seems very much the case that civilized society, with its obsession with externals, appearances and irrelevant details prefers the difficult way to do things. This is in keeping with its greatly over-yang nature. Over-Yang means giant, mechanical, crude, external, superficial and so on but most importantly, over-masculine. There is a clear link between the problems in our society and problems in our psyches concerning sexuality and gender. The solution must be to redress the balance and level-off with an equal emphasis on Yang and Yin values. Yin, after all, represents the small, the inner, the subtle, the essence and naturally, the feminine. If we are in harmony then society is in harmony.

It is my belief that every problem, whether it is Fermat’s Last Theorem, or CERN’s accelerator, or getting cheap energy through FUSION, has a simple solution as well as a difficult, complicated one. But our society’s obsession with doing things the Confucianist way, in order to create wealth and employment and inventions, means that people have forgotten, to a large extent, the ancient Taoist (and universal) approach that seeks simple, easy and cost-effective solutions to difficult problems. People just don’t believe that there are simple solutions to many of these problems. If the experts can’t solve them then they must be impossible, they think. But maybe the experts are looking in the wrong place, and the wrong way, and from the wrong perspective.

I am not asking people to abandon completely the Confucianist approach, which is so engrained in all of us, particularly men, by our upbringing and education. All I ask is for the imbalance to be less completely one-sided and total.

Ideally we should use both techniques to solve difficult problems, both the Yin and the Yang, both the ‘left brain’ and the ‘right brain’, both Taoist and Confucianist.  More >

 "Shadows in the Dark" or "Enlightenment - virtue or crime, blessing or curse"?44 comments
picture13 Sep 2007 @ 20:48, by jhs. Philosophy
I had a dream.

Imagine a movie theater filled to the last seat. The lights are off with the exception of the screen, of course. Only the little signs pointing to the emergency exits are glimming forgotten in some obscure corners of the great hall. The volume of the theater's surround sound system is turned to the max. It is nearly impossible to hear the noise of the trucks passing by the theater on the outside.

Much time has passed already, everybody seems captured by the drama unfolding on the screen. Everybody?

There, amongst the crowd, is sitting a lonely person, thinking for himself: what...  More >

 Our world as a simulation29 comments
picture 15 Aug 2007 @ 17:17, by ming. Philosophy
NY Times article about researcher/philosopher Nick Bostrom, who has concluded that there's a high mathematical probablity that we're all living inside a computer simulation, created by technologically advanced descendents of ours in the future. Although his gut feeling tells him that it is only 20% likely that we actually are living inside a simulation.

I always find that kind of conversation stimulating. We very well might live within The Matrix. It might be a computer simulation. Or this might be a universe created by some advanced race from a previous universe. Or the quantum soup universe might just basically work as if it is a simulation, where the reality we experience is the result of our laser beam of consciousness hitting the neutral stemcell type of quantum particiles, which happily will be whatever you want them to be.

But there are things that bother me. Huge fallacies that tend to appear in such a discussion.

There's the very widespread AI superstition that if you make a computer program that is sufficiently complex, it will be conscious and have its own thoughts and feelings. And that this simply is what consciousness is. So that if we make a simulation of your brain, it will think that it is you. That's a load of hogwash, in my opinion, and nobody has succeeded in demonstrating anything remotely like that. The corrolary of the idea is that if you're a sufficiently good simulation, you wouldn't know. Which is a very upside down way of looking at things, and if you believe it, you ought to be worried as well about your soul being stolen when somebody takes a picture of you.

And then there's the God thing. People who have this kind of discussion, of intelligent simulations in artificial realities, are usually atheists, and will usually take time out of their schedule to explain to you why you're a complete moron if you think the universe somehow is intelligently designed, or there possibly could be any intelligence guiding its evolution. And in the next breath we're having a discussion about exactly the same thing, the possibility of you just existing as a simulation in the computer of some advanced alien, who might or might not be benevolent, who might turn you off when he feels like it, if he doesn't like what you do. Uhm, sounds a lot like that God in the sky with the grey beard. So do you believe in it or not?

I don't. But I do believe in the primordial existence of consciousness, and I do believe I exist. The world responds as if me being in it makes a difference, and I can obviously guide my own path to a considerable extent. But I haven't seen any sign of outside influence, of anybody arbitrarily breaking in and changing things. Doesn't mean it couldn't happen, and the whole thing shuts down tomorrow with a "Memory Full" message. But I think it is very unlikely.

I'm sure we in the future will become able to simulate whole universes. But we won't be succeeding in developing artificial intelligence before we have addressed it from a totally different angle. And once we actually figure it out, it doesn't really matter if we're in somebody's simulation or not, and there'll be no need to worry about whether robots will become smarter than us.  More >

 Eureka!16 comments
1 May 2007 @ 16:35, by vaxen. Philosophy
Eureka! (as the ancients put it)

When a medieval scribe 'recycled' ancient manuscripts to make a prayer book, his pious work obscured significant texts. Now yet another jewel has been revealed, reports Andy McSmith
Published: 30 April 2007

If you must write a book, and have no access to a computer, you really should start on a blank sheet of paper. But paper, or papyrus, was in short supply when a scribe named John Myronas, was compiling a prayer book, 778 years ago. So he took some old books that nobody seemed to need any more, scrubbed off the text, and recycled the pages.

His prayer book, or Euchologion, is moderately interesting to students of ancient manuscripts. But with all due respect to Myronas, it is nowhere near as significant as the old texts that he wiped out, whose traces are just about legible in the parchment. Those hidden works have now turned his book into one of the most valuable and extraordinary literary properties in the world.

To the astonishment of experts, the old Greek prayer book has thrown up yet another unique buried treasure.  More >

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