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A deeper knowing that is non-conceptual then arises out of that state. 1 Pragmatic Ontology: the “as if” approach. Pragmatism 1. way of thinking about results: a straightforward practical way of thinking about things or dealing with problems, concerned with results rather than with theories and principles Ontology 1. study of existence: the most general branch of metaphysics, concerned with the nature of being 2 When asked about the existence of the gods, Confucius is reported to have replied that it was best to act as if the gods existed. This is how I handle my approach to Ontology. I may talk a good story about “This” and “That”, but I can only yap about it as it seems to me. I‟m more than willing to admit that I may be mistaken about all this, but one does need a starting point in order to discuss how things seem to be. One of the biggest problems we face in our discussions in all matters is the we treat our statements as if they were concrete statements. We take the attitude “This is what is” as if that were actuality. At one time the what is of atoms was they were the smallest bits of matter. We know now that is not the case. It used to be the what is of stars is they had fixed positions. We now know this not to be the case. At one time, it was taken as gospel truth the what is of the geometry of the universe was that it was flat. Again we now know this is not the case. What has certainty given us in the long run? For many years, whites were certain they were superior, but all that did was lead to much strife in the area of racial unrest. This idea of different „races‟ within the human species is a consequence of how humans have a tendency to look at an issue from the surface and declare that mere surface view to be “The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth©”. All humans are the same for the overwhelming part; the difference between each of us is extremely minor. Yes, a „black‟ human is different than a „white‟ human, but the difference is as trivial as that
between a black and a white horse, or between a red delicious and a pippin apple. For most of our existence we were certain that Earth was the center of the universe, look at all the trouble that came about when scientists started talking about the Earth as the body moving while the Sun was stationary. Now we realize there is no one stationary object in the entire universe. The history of Western science showed the fallacy of certitude when quantum mechanics butted heads with Newtonian mechanics; what had been assumed to be a predictable machine turned out to be semi-rational, semi-chaotic, and full of surprises. The one conclusion we should have drawn from looking back at the history of any field of study is that there is always more to learn. x>What you are saying, then, (Scientism is just as Incomplete as Religionism, only it is Incomplete from another direction.) is that we cannot have complete knowledge in any field of study. It sounds dismal and skeptical to me. Far from dismal, my efriend, but a sheer delight. Think about it for a while, do you not find learning to be exciting? Maybe I am a bit strange (MAYBE???), but I find learning to be a blast. I have been working through Temp agencies for over 20 years and although the pay is not great and the benefits are little, if any, I have had a blast learning many new things. Among the things I have learned is being a machinist working with tolerances of .0001”, assembly of medical devices, Shipping and Receiving in various warehouse style companies, ISO 9000 level inspection of tubing to be used in the Nuclear Industry, tree trimming, working in the kitchen at an airport, and working in a lettershop. I read an essay by Lewis Thomas, about how the Introduction to Science classes should be titled “The Things We Do Not Know”. Along that train of thought, I would add that one of the textbooks should be “The Wisdom of Insecurity”, by Alan Watts. In all the various assignments I have had as a temp, the one thing I have noticed is that if a person is burned out on the job, it is because they know all about it and have nothing new to learn. I‟m skeptical of the idea that we can completely know anyth ing. What can be more dismal than having complete knowledge? Can you imagine how boring that must be after a while? If there is any image of Hell that scares me, it is one of an eternity of knowing everything and every event beforehand. Sure, one can
have a safer life if one knows what is coming, but, how long could one remain tied to apron strings before one wanted a taste of adventure? I would prefer to walk around a corner to see either a beautiful sunset or a charging dragon without foreknowledge, thank you. This does not mean that I am against knowledge, as much as it may sound to some people - it is nice to know the chances of meeting a dragon are less than seeing a sunset. >>I may talk a good story about “This” and “That”, but I can only yap about it as it seems to me. I‟m more than willing to admit that I may be mistaken about all this, but one does need a starting point in order to discuss how things seem to be. >It sounds like you are either unwilling or you are unable to verify anything. It isn‟t either of those choices. I have no doubt as to the existence of that which I call -O- but I feel that there is no way to accurately define -O-. The most I will say about -O- is that -O- is, the what -O- is cannot be defined as one cannot put a finite image to that which is infinite. On the same token, I have no doubt about physicality, my doubt is that one can accurately describe physicality without leaving something out of the equation. The thing is, once one claims certainty, further knowledge becomes unavailable. One becomes closed minded and there is no possibility that one can find new evidence. As history has shown us time and time again, the more we learn, the more there is to learn. The agnostic attitude, in my opinion, keeps reality vibrant and new. Agnostic 2. somebody denying something is knowable: somebody who doubts that a question has one correct answer or that something can be completely understood
People like to talk up the amount of knowledge we humans have gained since we dropped out of the trees. Yes, we have learned much since that point in history. My point is, in my opinion, we are focused in the wrong direction. What we have yet to learn is more important; what we do not know keeps things interesting.
The state of “not knowing”, mentioned in the opening quote, is not “knowing nothing” as it seems to imply. In this state of mind, this and that still exist. They are viewed as correlative in the context of without that, this could not exist and the ultimate truth exists somewhere between the two extremes. We can say „this is mind‟ and „this is body‟ but we cannot say either „A is true and Z is false or „A is false and Z is true‟, for each statement is both true and false at the same time. We can say „this is true‟ and be partially correct. We can say „this is false‟ and be partially correct. We can say „both this and that are true‟ and be partially correct. We can say „neither this nor that is true‟ and be partially correct. >> They are viewed as correlative in the context of without that, this could not exist and the ultimate truth exists somewhere between the two extremes. >This sounds a lot like the Zen koan about „If a tree falls in the woods and there is nobody there, does it make a sound?‟ How could there be sound if there was no observer that had a sense of hearing? The tree falling causes vibrations in the air that are transformed into mechanical vibrations by the middle ear which are then transformed into nerve impulses that are then transformed into a pattern of synaptic impulses in a brain which is interpreted as sound. Where in all this is the entity „sound‟? We cannot say the vibrations in the air is the sound as an observer who is deaf would only feel the vibrations. We cannot say the sound is the movement of the bones in the middle ear, we cannot say it is the nerve impulses, and we cannot say it is the synaptic activity. The „sound‟ is a continuum starting with the tree falling to the observer interpreting all the events as „the sound of a tree falling‟. We do not know „things‟ as they are; all we really know is how „things‟ appear. The universe of a millionth of a second ago is different than the universe of two millionths of a second ago. As we look at the sky, we do not see the universe as it is Right Now. When we take a picture of our sun, we cannot say with absolute certainty “This is what the sun is right now.” The picture is what the sun was like approximately 8 minutes before the picture was taken. Looking at a distant star, what we are seeing is the light emitted by it a million years ago (To use an arbitrary number). If that star were to have exploded in the interval between the time it emitted the light you are looking at and the actual time you are looking at it, how would you know the star is still
active? If this star were to cease to exist Right Now, we wouldn‟t know it for a million years, unless we develop faster than light travel. A million years ago, the star was X distance from us, but what distance is it from us at the present moment? Sure, we can use what we have learned about celestial motion to give us an answer to the where the star is, but this answer can only be stated as a rough approximation. We do not know absolutely that the star is at X location. The further the star is away from us, the greater the approximation. >>We do not know „things‟ as they are, all we really know is how „things‟ appear .>You once made a koan type of statement - “A red sunset is neither.” I have witnessed many red sunsets in my life, which makes the statement patently false. I wouldn‟t be so quick to make the assertion my statement is “patently false”. Can we state beyond a shadow of a doubt that „red‟ exists as an entity? The color red is a part of the visible spectrum of electromagnetic radiation and is only „red‟ because we have agreed to call it that color. To a person who cannot see that particular wavelength, no sunset is red, just as there is no such thing in her experience as a red apple. Likewise, can we state beyond a shadow of a doubt there is an entity „sunset‟? To a person hovering in space, the Sun does not set. The phenomenon we call „sunset‟ is nothing more than an artifact related to the Earth spinning on its‟ axis, if our planet did not spin, the sun would appear stationary in the sky. „Sunset‟ has no ontological significance beyond linguistics. >>We can say „...‟ and be partially correct. >I‟m not sure what you mean by „partially correct‟. To continue talking about the phrase „red sunset‟; unless we come across a situation where a star orbits a planet, a sun „setting‟ is not found in nature. The phrase „red sunset‟ is not concrete, it is pragmatic. It appears „red‟ due to atmospheric conditions and that we can perceive the part of the visible spectrum we have labeled „red‟, making it appear as if it were „red‟ on
occasions. During these events, it is not the sun that turns „red‟, the sky is what takes on a „reddish‟ hue. It is „sunset‟ only due to the planet spinning, which makes it appear as if the sun „sets‟ or „rises‟. When we combine the word „sun‟ with the word „set‟, the phrase becomes a contradiction in terms. >>I‟m more than willing to admit that I may be mistaken about all this, but one does need a starting point in order to discuss how things seem to be. >If there is a „starting point‟ based on „how things seem to be‟, is there an „ending point‟ based on „how things are‟? I certainly hope not. What we do not know is what keeps reality vibrant, as I‟ve said many times. This attitude is what is called beginner‟s mind - no matter how far you are along a path of study, you should always keep in mind that you are a beginner. (“You” in the generic sense, I‟m speaking to everyone.) By keeping a beginner‟s mind, one has room in their mind to learn something new. A university professor went to visit a famous Zen master. While the master quietly served tea, the professor talked about Zen. The master poured the visitor's cup to the brim, and then kept pouring. The professor watched the overflowing cup until he could no longer restrain himself. “It‟s overfull! No more will go in!” the professor blurted. “You are like this cup,” the master replied, “How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?” If we think of the mind as a cup, the professor had a full cup of his idea of the what is concerning Zen. How could the professor think he could contain more information without emptying his cup beforehand? The best example of how we have full cups is in our approach to metaphysics, best exemplified in our debates over the dualistic appearance of reality. >You think you have learned Immanence but Transcendence is beyond your grasp, as you are confused about metaphysical principles and the theory of emanations descending from the noumenal to the phenomenal world.
„Noumenal‟ and „phenomenal‟ are not separate realities in anything other than a linguistic context. Your statement is an indication that you are caught up in the false dichotomy of dualism. At the preconceptual level, the noumenal and the phenomenal are an undifferentiated unity; the so-called dualism does not arise until one attempts to explain the situation. Noumenal and phenomenal are separate in the same manner as the head and tail side of a coin are separate. Noumenal and heads, phenomenal and tails are but partial understandings of a reality that includes both. While it is true that „phenomenal‟ and „noumenal‟ are different, I submit it is a mistake to assume the separation is anything more than a function of logic. It is true the heads side of a coin is different than the tails side but it is not true they are inseparable. A coin without one or the other is not a coin, in other words. If you lay a coin on a table, heads is „above‟ and tails „below‟, or the other way around. If you stand that coin on edge, the terms „left‟ and „right‟ can be viewed the same way. The connotation of transcend is that of going above or beyond, whereas I‟m advocating diving under the surface of the appearances. This is still transcending only it is going below or within. Let me use the taiji as a model of what I‟m trying to get across.
In this example, let us refer to the noumenal as Yin and the phenomenal as Yang. Monism is how we experience, dualism is how we explain, reality. As I see it, more attention has been paid to which side of the supposed duality is the whole truth than to what is the truth of the whole. The whole is not the noumenal and the whole is not the phenomenal for they only exist in linguistic relationship. The noumenal is in one logical class and the phenomenal is in another and these classes are nothing more than commonly agreed to conventions for the sake of communication. Neither Yin nor Yang are intrinsically separate entities that exist in and of themselves. Without Yin, Yang would not exist, and without Yang, Yin would not exist - without Tao, neither would exist.
We cannot describe Humanity by talking only about males. Likewise, we cannot describe Humanity by talking only about females. Without „self‟ there would be no „other‟ and without „cold‟, it would be senseless to talk about „hot‟. If it was always „light‟, could we have ever come up with the concept of „dark‟? The „knower‟ exists only in linguistic contradistinction to the „known‟. As Alan Watts commented at least once “Even a short piece of wood is 2” long.” (Emphasis mine) >>The solution to the question of dualism is realizing that the dualism is a logical paradox rather than an existential state of affairs. >Is this what the mystics mean when they call reality an illusion? Yes, but I have a minor quibble with the term „Illusion‟ for the reason that most people take the term in the context of „Fakery‟ as in „False‟. The problem is that reality is not the Illusion, our images of reality are Illusory. We have this mental image of noumenal and phenomenal as two separate and distinct entities when they are, in actuality, an unbroken wholeness. For this reason, I prefer the term „allusion‟ - a pointing at a deeper truth. In our discussions of „this is This and that is That‟, we have become so blinded by our dictionaries that we fail to recognize „this‟ and „that‟ are two aspects of the same whatever it is. For the moment let us call „Spiritual‟ Yin and „Material‟ Yang. There is a certain amount of truth in the argument for Yin just as there is a certain amount of truth in the defense of Yang. However, neither Yin nor Yang, by themselves, can be called True, for The Truth is a reality that exhibits Yin and Yang characteristics - Yin and Yang are how we talk about Tao, they are not Tao. Without „This‟ there is no „That‟ - we do not find minds without bodies and bodies without minds (On the average). „This‟ is not a fundamentally separate entity, „That‟ is not a fundamentally separate entity. Think of a coin - we do not have an entity called „heads‟ and another entity called „tails‟. „Heads‟ and „tails‟, in actuality, are two surfaces of a unified thingie called „coin‟, which is not a third entity; it is a unified wholeness that runs from one surface to the other, with an undifferentiated center. I submit there is great confusion over the concept of one. There is the mathematical understanding of „one‟ as singular or exclusive and there is the metaphysical understanding of „one‟ as manifold or inclusive. Mathematical
oneness comes from the language of the mind and metaphysical oneness comes from the language of the heart. This confusion is apparent when we talk about the „oneness‟ of -O- (My spelling of the word “God”.) as we assume a mathematical „one‟ that is separate while we are discussing a metaphysical „one‟ that is unity. It is true that -O- is „one‟ in the mathematical sense of the term, but it is also true that -O- is „one‟ in the metaphysical sense of the term. -O- is singular in that there is nothing but -O- and at the same time -O- is unity for the same reason. -O- is not a separate one nor separate manys for the one contains the many while the many contain the one. One of the biggest problems with using the mathematical concept when discussing Metaphysical issues is the idea of separate entities. -O- is separate from Nature. Man is separate from Nature. -O- is separate from Man. These separations are true only in a logical sense for one cannot separate one from the other in an existential sense. Some people like to tell us “Words have meaning.” They do, but they also have context. -O- cannot be „proven‟ by the Language of the Mind, but that is beside the point, for -O- cannot be „disproven‟ either. Like in the example of „one, context modifies meaning „one‟ is singular in Mathematics and manifold in Metaphysics. Our main problem is that we have come to believe that what we say about the world actually represents the world. The world seems to be dualistic; we have material and we have mental. It is the assumption of „and‟ as real that leads to problems. The validity of „and‟ only applies in the logical sense for material and mental are, in actuality, two aspects of the same unity. We need the „and‟ to explain the world but it is unnecessary for our experience of the world. The Way has no boundaries; words do not have constant meanings. But because people want to say, „this is...‟, boundaries were created ... The wise person does not deny these boundaries, but pays no attention to them.
These boundaries are not real, in and of themselves. We operate under the assumption that the map is the territory and the menu is the meal. This is fallacious thinking; a map is a representation of the territory, it is not the territory itself. We do not confuse the chemical definition
of salt for the salt itself and when we dine, we do not eat the menu. We take language beyond its limit when we take for granted it is anything more than a symbolic tool whose validity rests on common agreement as to what the words stand for. A „cat‟ is a „cat‟ because we have agreed to use that word to describe it - we could have chosen to call it „sneezle‟. >>The problem is that reality is not the Illusion, our images of reality are Illusory. >Does that mean we should throw away our images? Gosh no. What we need to do is stop clinging to the images as if they were The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth. As I stated earlier, we need a starting point in order to discuss these things. Reality is infinite and one cannot capture the infinite in an image, for an image is finite. An image is, to use a Buddhist turn of phrase, a finger pointing at the Moon. Let us not confuse the finger for the Moon. Images are helpful, we humans communicate in symbolic language, but past a certain point, images become roadblocks to understanding. If history has shown us anything, it is that our images are incomplete. At one time, we had an image of the Earth as at rest in the center of the universe. We once thought that atoms were the smallest bits of matter. We used to believe the stars had fixed positions in the heavens. There was a time we thought the Earth was flat. At one time, the dogma was that the orbits of the planets were perfect circles. We used to think time flowed at a constant rate for all observers. >>Images are helpful, we humans communicate in symbolic language, but past a certain point, images become roadblocks to understanding. >If I understand what you‟re getting at, you are saying rather than transcend reality, we need to transcend our images of reality. Our mental images describe the surface of a deeper reality. We call metaphysical truths deeper truths, do we not?. The outer appearance of reality is „noumenal‟ and „phenomenal‟ while the inner „workings‟ is a unified wholeness that displays the polarities of noumenal and phenomenal.
I prefer to use the term „polarities‟ rather than „opposites‟ for the reason it implies harmonious interconnection while „opposites‟ implies confrontation. Think of a magnet, it has a north and a south pole - if you cut a magnet in half, each half will have a north and south pole. As Alan Watts wrote on more than one occasion, „the inside goeswith the outside‟, just as the north pole of a magnet goeswith the south pole, „above‟ goeswith „below‟ and „left‟ goeswith „right‟. >>This is fallacious thinking; a map is a representation of the territory, it is not the territory itself. >You allude to the map and the territory in these discussions but I‟m not sure I get what your meaning is. A map is a picture of the territory from a certain perspective; because it is limited to that perspective, it leaves details out. This is not to be understood as saying the maps are wrong, just that there are limitations to the application of the respective maps. While the Newtonian map is adequate at the macroscopic level, it is inadequate at the microscopic level. As we change our level of exploration, we need to change maps. That we have a map that is macroscopic and a map that is microscopic does not mean we are exploring two separate realities. Each map is adequate but neither is a complete map; their use depends on the task at hand. By default, each map leaves out certain features of the topography because a map is nothing more than a type of surface picture. If what we wish to do is point out the relative positions of these cities, the use of the globe is a pragmatic approach. If what we wish is to travel from San Diego, California to Seattle, Washington, the pragmatic approach would be to use the Mercator map. >> Each map is adequate but neither is a complete map; their use depends on the task at hand. >Do you apply this analogy to spiritual paths as well? You have to admit, the analogy does fit. Christians have a map to Salvation as do Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, Taoists, Muslims, and the rest of the faiths. Each map is what is for that particular faith and only for that particular faith. The Christian map is adequate for a Christian, but not for a Jew. The territory
and the destination is the same but the travelers are on another path. It is like the difference between using a globe and using a map drawn on a flat piece of paper. Where trouble arises is that some turn the icon of their particular map into an idol. They do this by insisting their map is the only true map and insisting everyone must follow it. This behavior runs past iconolatry and rests firmly in idolatry. The goal of interfaith dialogue is, in my opinion, the comparison of maps, not to prove that one is better than another, but to celebrate the similarities. I‟m more than willing to compare maps with anyone but I‟m not going to be crass enough to say anything greater than mine works for me. There are enough troubles in the world without adding trivial concerns to the mix. My 2cents on the matter is that as long as we are not running around nailing lifts on the natives‟ feet, our religious differences are as trivial as the differences between a white and a black human being. >> I may talk a good story about “This” and “That”, but I can only yap about it as it seems to me ... We take the attitude “This is what is” as if that were actuality ... Each map is what is for that particular faith and only for that particular faith. >I don‟t know if I could handle not being firmly grounded in certainty. All you have to give up is the idea that your certainty must be shared by all people. The attitude of I’m more than willing to compare maps with anyone but I’m not going to be crass enough to say anything greater than mine works for me. is all that is needed. As long as we are civil about it, It Does Not Matter if we disagree, the willingness to share opinions is where It Does Matter. I am quite dogmatic about my beliefs, as they pertain to me. The thing is that I‟m not so dogmatic about what you should believe. Let us not use our differences as clubs to beat each about over the head and shoulders and we can get along. I can think of no better example of how what is causes problems than in the origins of life debate. “Suppose you and I have had an argument. If you have beaten me instead of my beating you, then are you necessarily right and am I necessarily wrong? If I have beaten you instead of your beating me, then am I necessarily right and are you necessarily wrong? Is one of us right and the other wrong? Are both of us
right or are both of us wrong? If you and I don't know the answer, then other people are bound to be even more in the dark. Whom shall we get to decide what is right? Shall we get someone who agrees with you to decide? But if he already agrees with you, how can he decide fairly? Shall we get someone who agrees with me? But if he already agrees with me, how can he decide? Shall we get someone who disagrees with both of us? But if he already disagrees with both of us, how can he decide? Shall we get someone who agrees with both of us? But if he already agrees with both of us, how can he decide? Obviously, then, neither you nor I nor anyone else can decide for each other. ” 5 First off, let me state the term „argument‟ is used in the sense of arguing a position. (Definition 4, below.) argument 1. disagreement: a disagreement in which different views are expressed, often angrily 2. reason: a reason put forward in support of or in opposition to a point of view 3. stated point of view: the main point of view expressed in a book, report, or speech 4. discussion: debate or discussion about whether something is correct
The people on the creation side state their proposition. Then the people on the evolution side state their counterproposition. Neither side comes to an agreement so each side calls in someone to add to the evidence. An agreement is not reached and each side calls in another someone. Eventually there is a veritable crowd on each side and the issue still isn‟t settled. Not long after this point, the philosophical discussion degenerates into a spitfest of insults that is reminiscent of elementary school kids standing in the sandbox yelling “My Daddy can beat up your Daddy.” (For a related article, please see 7.) The point has been reached where the participants are no longer talking with each other, they are talking at each other and I use „talking‟ in the loosest manner possible. How either side expects to have its‟ message heard at this point is beyond me. Who wants to listen to a bunch of supposedly intelligent and mature
people act childish? Each side has valid points, but the manner in which they present them is invalidated by the manner in which they present them. By using the term „childish‟, I‟m not equating it with „childlike‟, which is entirely different. Look at how wonderful and almost magical the world, and by extension, the entire universe, appears to a child. This is because a child has yet to have her head filled with ideas about How Things Are and she has the ability to have an open mind. The world is chock full of possibilities that education eliminates by convincing us What Is, And What Isn‟t, Important. Everything is fresh, new, and interesting in a way we adults no longer experience. This child-like openness is the main thing most people who know „this is this and that‟ is that is missing in their lives. >>It Does Not Matter ... It Does Matter ... How Things Are ... What Is, And What Isn‟t, Important. >These seem to be very Pooh-like statements. The Winnie the Pooh stories are even more important for adults than they are for children. We can learn much about life through reading these wonderful stories. I highly recommend that everyone read a bit of them at least twice a week. Some people I know can be thought of as Owl; they Know What Is And What Isn‟t. We need more people in the world like Pooh.
© 2010 by Dino Meurs 1 “Stillness Speaks” Eckhart Tolle 2 Encarta ® World English Dictionary © 1998-2005 Microsoft Corporation. (Emphasis mine, where added.) 3 Ibid. 4 The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu, Burton Watson Trans. 5 Ibid. 6 See 4. 7 http://www.scribd.com/doc/31876322/On-the-Lack-of-Civility-in-American-Discourse