Saturday, 31 December 2016

Greek Philosophical Schools

Carlo Rovelli, Reality Is Not What It Seems (Allen Lane, 2016), 1 "Grains," pp. 3-26.

Thales and his pupil, Anaximander, were natural philosophers.
Hecataeus differentiated history from myth.

Thales: "All is water," i.e., there is a single material substance.

Anaximander: the sky continues beneath the Earth;
rain comes from evaporation;
plants and animals evolve and adapt;
men must have evolved from other animals.

Parmenides and his pupil, Zeno, rejected empiricism in favor of rationalism.

According to tradition, Zeno taught Leucippus.

Leucippus and his pupil, Democritus, continued natural philosophy and founded atomism.

Lucretius poetically expressed the atomism of Epicurus, a pupil of a pupil of Democritus.

Plato and Aristotle rejected causal explanations in favor of teleology.

Centuries Dominated By Monotheism

On the Poul Anderson blog, we have discussed the connection between monotheism and science. See:

The Birth Of Science
Religion And Science
Different Histories

Here is an alternative perspective:

"...centuries dominated by monotheism have not permitted the survival of Democritus' naturalism. The closure of the ancient schools such as those of Athens and Alexandria and the destruction of all the texts not in accordance with Christian ideas were vast and systematic, at the time of the brutal anti-pagan repression following from the edicts of Emperor Theodosius, which, in 390-1 declared that Christianity was to be the only and obligatory religion of the empire. Plato and Aristotle, pagans who believed in the immortality of the soul or in the existence of a Prime Mover, could be tolerated by a triumphant Christianity. Not Democritus."
-Carlo Rovelli, Reality Is Not What It Seems (Allen Lane, 2016), p. 20.

Plato: immortality of the soul;
Aristotle: a Prime Mover but the soul as the form of the body;
both: teleological, not causal, explanations of natural phenomena.

Friday, 30 December 2016

"Time Does Not Exist"

Whereas my son-in-law gave me Jerusalem by Alan Moore, my granddaughter gave me Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey To Quantum Gravity (Allen Lane, 2016) by Carlo Rovelli. Chapter 7 of Rovelli's book is entitled "Time Does Not Exist." Does this agree with Eternalism? I suspect not.

I think that Rovelli means not that reality is static and therefore that change is an illusion but only that commonsense ideas about time are inadequate. This would be unsurprising. Many commonsense ideas are inadequate.

Descartes argued, "I think, therefore I am," i.e., even if all my experience were illusory, I would still exist as the experiencer of the illusion. Similarly, change occurs at least within the illusion. To articulate "Change does not occur" is to change from articulating "Change..." to articulating "...does not occur."

I will carefully read Rovelli's account of the progression from Greek philosophy through classical mechanics and relativity to quantum gravity in order to gain a more accurate understanding of his "Time Does Not Exist." Rovelli will have to be read in conjunction with Jerusalem.

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

"It was still there..."

"He'd see Patsy, and put Georgie Bumble and the day as it had thus far been behind him. But you couldn't, he reflected, could you? No one could put anything behind them, draw a line beneath it and pretend that it had gone away. No deed, no word, no thought. It was still there back down the way, still there forever."
-Alan Moore, Jerusalem (London, 2016), p. 109.

In zazen, "just sitting" meditation, we:

accept that it is all still there although not all of it will return to memory every time;

practice sitting with it - not suppressing, prolonging, judging or thinking about it but just letting it arise and pass through the mind like clouds through the sky.

Not God, Zen.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Preliminary Thoughts On "Eternalism"

Every moment is:

the present moment to any conscious being that is alive and awake at that moment;
real because neither imaginary nor fictional;
either earlier or later than any other moment;
thus, past from some perspectives and future from others;
not simultaneous with any other moment.

Simultaneous events occur at the same time whereas different times are not the same time and therefore are not simultaneous.

See also Space and Time.

I am starting to read Jerusalem by Alan Moore. Its central idea is Eternalism so I expect to comment more.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Doctrinal Disagreements About What Exists

Hindus say, "Soul exists," Buddhists say, "Soul does not exist," and physicists try to find out what exists.

Reality transcends words and concepts.

"Soul" means spirit, an immaterial substance that is the perennial subject of consciousness.

Philosophically, "matter" means just whatever exists independently of consciousness.

Idealist philosophies deny matter in that sense.

"Matter" also means tangible mass as opposed to any other form of energy.

The most fundamental ontological category in Buddhist teaching is "emptiness," a perennial process, not a substance.

Every individual subject or object of consciousness is "empty" because it is a transient interaction, lacking any permanent underlying substance.

The category, "substance," might be denied to particular entities but affirmed of the totality? Interactions might be between substantial particles or other fundamental entities?

However, physicists envisage a vacuum full of energy. See here.

"Energy" implies dynamic potential whereas "substance" implies mere passive existence and inertia.

However, both energy and inertia, or change and resistance to change, are necessary for existence. See here.

Some energy condenses into mass, thus into "substance."

Energy preexisted mass, is invisible and omnipresent and becomes self-conscious through conscious organisms.

Therefore, energy has some of the features anciently attributed to soul or spirit.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Atman And Anatta

If each subject of consciousness is one with the transcendent, then none is a separate self. Therefore, Atman-Brahman entails its apparent opposite, anatta.

The Upanishadic rishis and the Buddha inherited the concept of Atman.
The rishis affirmed Atman whereas the Buddha negated it.
However, the rishis' affirmation of the oneness of Atman negates its separateness and thus agrees with the Buddha.

Thesis: Atman.
Antithesis: anatta.
Synthesis: Brahman-Atman.

Meanings Of A Word

The word "god" was a common noun before it became a name. I discern four main uses of the word:

a god/the gods
God (Semitic)
God (Indian, theistic)
God (Indian, monistic)

These are not unitary meanings. The Semitic tradition includes:

Catholic priests
Muslim imams
Rapture preachers!

Since I believe neither that the gods exist nor that ultimate reality is a person, the monistic meaning is the only one that I can agree with philosophically. Isa Upanishad:

"Behold the universe in the glory of God: and all that lives and moves on earth." -

- is interpreted both theistically and monistically. See here.