Brownian thought space

Cognitive science, mostly, but more a sometimes structured random walk about things.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Revision time

In a previous post, I proposed buddhism:0, science:1 because, I felt, science offered a better understanding of the world around us. In that and a second post, I thought that what justified this was technology: unless you can truly understand, you cannot truly manipulate. It's revision time! So, let's ask the harder question: Does technology really justify the scientific way of understanding the world? Well, yes and no. Yes in the sense of the previous post. But why "no"? For the moment, let's make the generalization that mathematics is the core of the structures through which we understand the world and create technology. (I would love to hear counter-arguments; remember, the claim is not just understanding the world, it's understanding the world and technology). As Thuan points out (still stuck in the Quantum & the Lotus ;), just the mathematical part of structures that support understanding-and-technology can predate the entire structure. That is, the maths (e.g. tensors and Riemannian geometry) can come before the physics (in this case, general relativity and gravity bending space). Matthieu responds:
...There's nothing odd about the fact that what we conceive corresponds to what we perceive. The way we explore the world, then sort out our perceptions of it, necessarily agrees with our mathematical concepts, because both perception and conception are products of the mind [italics his].
In short, the basic structure of the mind generates concepts either in 'mathematical space' or in 'physical space'. So, it's hardly a coincidence that the two mesh. Remember, here the 'mind' does not refer to the fundamental, luminous quality of pure consciousness, but rather refers to the relative-truth notion of consciousness (see previous post). So, technology does not justify an ultimate truth of the world, even if it does justify the current (relative-truth) model of how things work. In a sense, we conceive of the world around us. This can either be a conception originating in our sensory receptors or a conception arising purely from consciousness. In all cases, these are abstractions at some level or another, and the idea is that they all share a common source. Therefore, inasfar as some subset of these conceptions share common grounds with how we conceive of the world, technology will happen. But then, here's the other question again: Why is there no technology coming out of Buddhist thought? In a previous post, I hypothesized that "...technology might not be expected to advance when it is not felt that having a thin-screen tv trumps the handpainted wall hanging of Tara." In the chapter The Grammar of the Universe, Thuan says something similar. The monk responds:
M(atthieu):This lack of development of the methods of modern science may have less to do with an inability to analyze phenomena than with a different scale of priorities as regards the various fields of knowledge. Which is more important - to know the mass and charge of an electron and to study the details of the world around us, or to concentrate on developing the art of living, to deepen our knowledge of vital questions such as ethics, happiness, death ... and to analyze the ultimate nature of reality?[pg. 208]
And yet, as Matthieu says shortly later, this does not mean that Buddhist thought cannot and does not include all the stuff from what they call our 'illusory' world, with the current 'scientific' style of rationalization. That is, Buddhism is interested in the conventional truth, since this is where most of the suffering happens, and, as the Dalai Lama tells it, is the place that seems best suited to get up to seeing the absolute nature of things. But to them, the conventional truth has no independent justification. This revision is scratching off Technology as a justification :)

2 Comments:

Blogger Wendy Haylett said...

Awesome, Mohinish!

My "pen" is indeed Chandrakirti's "chariot".

May I post the link to your blog on the White Lotus web forum?

I haven't read the Revision Time entry yet - but it looks good!

Thanks!

Wendy

March 26, 2008 2:30 AM  
Blogger Fra Gola said...

Ciao Mo,
I like your argument, but I do not agree completely...
I think that the real human experience of the world could pass neither through technology nor Buddhism,
I am more stuck on what we really do in the world.
I like the Gibson point of view and the O'Regan and Noe's one: we go into the world and acting we know it. As Far as i know, nether technology or Buddhism allows you to do this, and also both required a huge amount of knowledge to be pursuit.
Human beings have only one short life (even they have more than one, please do not tell me that they can remind the previous), as well as the efficacy of the tec and bud knowledge could be achieve only after lots of work and afford...
What I am proposing is that we should use our body to feel and to live; to know the world just starting from the sensation the world is giving to us. Most of the time is sufficient to slow down the rhythm of the brief. ok, i know that it could not be so simple, given the fact that we are boxed in what we know and in the personal history we bring with us, but with the help of some expert (someone that has already known the matter) is possible. Ciao, mo, lots of hugs!!!!

April 22, 2008 10:51 AM  

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