Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The aporia of gain: A footnote to yesterday's class

Good class! Hard questions coming from all over. One would like to be as smart to answer all questions satisfactorily at the snap of one's fingers. But as a French rapper would say: N'est pas possible, sommes faillibles.

1- We didn't have time to address meditation and what is good for. We'll catch up.

2- To Emily's great question: What is "gain" good for? There is good and bad gain. Then, there's epiphenomenal gain. Madoff's is bad gain. Why? It cashes in by objectifying people (that was his intention all along). Now, how do we play "gain"? Better yet, when do we "gain"? Let's problematize: Gain, in itself, is empty (for it to be gain it has to be "in relation to" and "for someone").

Do I always gain when -I think- I gain? Certainly not. I can gain in the economic exchange and loose in the long run. Example: Wall Street's idea of financial capitalism, which seemed to destroy the very idea of what a good investment is in Classical Economy (i.e., bankers playing against the solvency of their own banks).

So, when do I "really" gain?

It's here that yajna comes in as sovereignty (which points to just a different exchange; only a virtuous one). The best gain is to give it up. This is when studying for a test and yet failing comes in (or meaning well with an action and yet, being misunderstood). Failing is loosing (a form of un-gain), but only if we see it from the POV of exchange economy. Studying for the test is what one should do to responsibly pass it. Now the duty is fulfilled. Yet, there is no gain = 0. According to Janinism the fulfillment of duty and un-gain are incompatible. One must go behind avidya (illusions).

3- To Facundo's questionable "friend." Parfois, for the sake of time and energy you have to call a spade a spade. I'll approach it from ahimsa's perspective. There is right and wrong: It's axiomatic. You bet that causing unnecessary suffering is wrong. Why? The best you can muster is that it violates ahimsa, which can be seen as symmetry (Golden Rule)

4- A bit on Realism and Anti realism, Materialism, etc.

(a) Realism: There are entities independent of our minds.
(b)Anti realism denies (a).
(c) Irrealism: Entities exist but not as in (a) but as ways to describe the world. This view is also known as conceptualism.
(d) Materialism: There is only matter (even consciousness is matter, i.e, neurons). There is close kin to materialism:
Metaphysical Naturalism (e) There is nothing but natural things, forces, and causes of the kind studied by the natural sciences. So, there are no supernatural thing, force or cause, such as they are described in various religions, as well as any form of teleology (purpose).

5- I wanted to stress the three most important philosophical schools within the Vedanta tradition. Advaita, Dvaita and Vishishtadvaita.

(a) Advaita Vedanta: Teaches that the manifest creation, the soul and God are identical, which is form of monism. This is how Shankara presents it: Just as particles in physics consists of continually moving fields of energy, so the sages of Vedanta recognized energy in the form of consciousness. We perceive the universe by means of gross senses, because of our limited ego-limited body. What is really real and unchanging is the ever-changing manifest world of names and shapes. Shankara's best example is the piece of rope that in the dark is taken for a snake: Anxiety, repugnance are induced by the snake that exists only in one's mind. Once the rope is recognized as a rope it cannot be turned back into a snake. The initial error involves not only ignorance  but superimposition (vikshepa) of a notion that has nothing to do with "what is." That is, we live with this idea of the snake (manifest world) on the rope (Brahman). Shankara puts it this way: "May this one sentence proclaim the essence of a thousand books: Brahman alone is real. The world is appearance, the Self is nothing but Brahman."   

(b) Dvaita: (in Sanskrit it means duality). The human body is separate from the creator god.  Although Madhva's Dualism acknowledges two principles, it holds that the sentient is rigorously and eternally dependent on the other (Vishnu/God). Interesting that for Madhva there is a hell

(c) Vishistadvaita: Defended by Ramanuja: A non-dualistic ontology (things appear "distinct" but are not really separate). Therefore, Brahman alone exists, but is characterised by multiplicity.

Did I forget something? Say it if you want.


FacundoRaganato said...

Thank you Professor! :) the golden rule and that weblink was certainty a mouthful of philosophy, as I digest it let me say that my "friend" might not believe in right and wrong :) he might say that the spiritual reflection of the world (advaita vendanta, dvaita, vishistadvaita- I'll go through them in a second) are beyond our mental perception of the world; that's why even what I might think it's right, might or might not be, what he might think it's wrong, and viceversa; the answer lies beyond what we believe to be the truth(differently or similarly).
"I know that I know nothing" - Socrates

Let me make up a crazy metaphor:
2 = 2
Such absolute and completed equation does not leave space for any speculation of 'what if' We understand it so we leave it alone.
2 = 3
In the very soul its 'problematicing' philosophy; in a way it’s exploring our subconscious or that which we don't know and contemplating through our conscience. We will question it, until our reason justifies it.
What about this?

* = ~

Why not?
If I remember correctly Dr. Hettich once said "Poetry is describing the shadow of the object and all its imperfections to reflect the essence of the light."
So if my friend finds pleasure in killing birds (what a drastic example :P) and uses the Right knowledge, the Right faith and the Right conduct to what he Believes that he's right, he might reflect things that we don't know, and if that is the purpose 'in the end' (because he Knows it, in his Brahman) isn't worth the sacrifice?
Believe me when I say that I'm not capable of doing such evil practices, only hypothetically. :) Could the 60's and 70's 'peace and love revolution', new age thought and spiritual awareness movement have happened if the holocaust never happened?
and I mean no offense :)

In Advaita Vedanta, we perceive the unmanifested through "vikshepa" (Illusion) where the soul and God are identical, how is that different from Dvaita when I'm influencing my soul/God itself in the rope that made me think to be a snake. By experiencing the thought of a snake (or a rope) I'm reflecting who I am independent to God, and also dependent to him because I don't know:

* = ~

(This is the snake, now let's contemplate to see how it becomes a rope or however we call it, still it will be another snake for something else)
Then we'll progress and evolve to think that
(* = ~) = (2 = 2) in a perfect equation where they cancel each other and there are no more questions. Why do we question the answer when we are searching for an answer?
Personally, maybe is that how our modern world has led us to question everything to a point of an age of uncertainty? The twirling and cycling whirlwinds of reason?

A.T. said...

Believe me when I say that I'm not capable of doing such evil practices, only hypothetically. :) Could the 60's and 70's 'peace and love revolution', new age thought and spiritual awareness movement have happened if the holocaust never happened?
and I mean no offense :)

I follow you, Facundo. No need to qualify your arguments. It's all. for grabs. I have a problem justifying the future with an evil past. Here is why: it cashes on the dead's suffering. The "gain" obliterates the dead's -forever unheard- horror.

Here is a poem by Paul Celan entitled "Nachtlich geschürzt." Celan hears the dead as bound to language. "A corpse," the word has been emptied and exhausted of meaning; brittle, decaying, uninhabited, the animating force is gone:

Sie stehen getrennt in der Welt,
ein jeglicher bei seiner Nacht,
ein jeglicher bei seinem Tode, unwirsch, barhaupt, bereift
von Nahem und Fernem.

Sie tragen die Schuld ab, die ihren Ursprung beseelte,
sie tragen sie ab an ein Wort,
das zu Unrecht besteht, wie der Sommer.

Ein Wort –du weiβt:
eine Leiche.
Laβ uns sie waschen,
laβ uns sie kämmen,
laβ uns ihr Aug,
himmelwärts wenden.


They stand apart in the world,
each one close up to his night,
each one close up to his death,
surly, bare-headed, hoar-frosted
with all that is near, all that's far.

They discharge the guilt that adhered to their origin,
they discharge it upon a word
that wrongly subsists, like summer.
A word -you know:
a corpse.

Let us wash it,
let us comb it
let us turn its eye
towards heaven.

DGSA said...

Thank you very much professor. Looking forward to talking about meditation tomorrow!

Facu, interesting post! so "he might not believe in right and wrong" so what does he believes in? Your "friend" is being relative about his actions. This made me think about the difference between moral relativism ("According to moral relativism, there is no goodness or badness in the abstract; there is only goodness or badness within a specified context. An act may thus be good for one person but bad for another, or good in one cultural setting but bad in another, but cannot be either good or bad full stop.") and moral absolutism ("The ethical view that certain actions are absolutely right or wrong, regardless of other contexts such as their consequences or the intentions behind them. Thus stealing, for instance, might be considered to be always immoral, even if done to promote some other good")

Also, bringing the holocaust to the picture was indeed the only drastic example you've brought. I do get your point though.

"I have a problem justifying the future with an evil past. Here is why: it cashes on the dead's suffering. The "gain" obliterates the dead's -forever unheard- horror."

We can go on and on trying to make justifications for certain evil actions in order to feel better about them since it could be what we thought was "right" at the time, but when there is such high deepness to it, I truly can't.

By the way, great poem.

Danney Salvatierra

FacundoRaganato said...

Uhhhh Amazing poem! I'd let some philosophy to digest and sleep on it. I'm also looking forward to dwell on meditation :D

"Moon is all about visions and illusions, madness, genius and poetry..."

Ian said...

Great points everyone!!! I'd like to address the math metaphor Facundo brought up but for the sake of not having a complex equation I'm gonna change it up a bit.

Such absolute equation does not leave space for any speculation of 'what if' We understand it so we leave it alone.

This equation is wrong, but if we leave the realm or reality which can only be done in ones mind we can make sense of such an equation.
For example when I read the equation it says "one equals two"
Now when in order to make sense of this I ask myself what 2 things make up 1.
so mind starts doing what it does......and BOOOM!!!! Enlightenment!
2(1/2)= 1.
Now someone may say but the (1/2) wasn't there to begin with.

Was it not? Maybe you just didn't see it ? Maybe since now I've reached enlightenment I can see and understand things you can't ?

"To each his own"

FacundoRaganato said...

I finally have the epiphany of how connected Philosophy and Food are :P it has to be savored and digested to truly get its flavor; it’s like reading poems by Pablo Neruda, they have so many ingredients in such a small serving that they have to be appreciated each one with its time. I really liked Paul Celan’s poem (thanks so much for reading it in class, professor) :D
Could the 60's and 70's 'peace and love revolution', new age thought and spiritual awareness movement have happened if the holocaust never happened?
I too have a problem justifying the future with an evil past, but wouldn’t that be implying that I don’t believe in cause/effect? I mean, sure “Speculation is the mother of all evil and destruction” but if my friend experiences that every time he kills a bird the person experiencing it with him gets the knowledge of how horrendous killing a bird is, he will keep killing them until all the world gets the idea of how bad killing a bird is. He’s sacrificing himself for the world by doing wrong for the right cause. How crazy is it to sacrifice our pleasure for the other’s pleasure?
How about:
“Do more for others than what you would do for yourself.”
(In a way he’s not really sacrificing pleasure because he gets pleasure when the world gets it)
DGSA: My evil friend does not believe in right and wrong, he only believes in himself; he’s not discharging it upon the corpse but on himself; because he knows he’s doing right by doing wrong, and he’s willing to suffer the process and the consequences (in an Hinduism point of view; he could go throughout his whole life in duhkha to finally be Moksha)
Imagine if each and everyone of us thinks for the other’s well being first, instead of thinking for himself first. There would be no wars, no one would starve, no one would be killed, not even birds.

Ian great comment man, I don't if we reach enlightenment by solving an equation (perhaps when we "solve" all of them) but I agree with the idea. Indeed "To each its own" as long as we share our equations :)