Wednesday, March 14, 2012

On the Absence of Everything


Regular readers will have noticed that every time I try to analyse something recently, I end up discovering that it doesn’t exist outside ourselves. I shall soon become convinced that I am a product of my own imagination and that I am in fact projecting myself into being from a rarely-used area of the mind of some small green creature from Alpha Centauri who is experiencing a particularly dull Sunday afternoon. All of this is achieved without the use of mind-altering substances. Perhaps philosophical enquiry in itself alters the mind in unpredictable ways. Perhaps I should just watch the football. It would be much easier, I stand a better chance of understanding it and, unlike philosophical enquiry, you can drink beer while you do it without changing the result.

2 comments:

Vincent said...

I wonder to what extent this spasm of solipsism is influenced by Sanskrit texts. The Upanishads in particular might induce such a conclusion, with their notions of a plenum-void and the congruence of Atman and Brahman.

I like the jewel-like Koan at the end. When I become a Zen Master, I shall ask my renunciate novice, whose greatest self-indulgence is brown rice and naturally chilled well-water, "Can you drink beer whilst watching a football match without affecting the final score?"

Or perhaps, "Why can you drink ..."

For me, the mystery which endlessly fascinates is how I, universally acknowledged to be a free-standing human being, an individual, am totally immersed in this apparently other being, called World, or perhaps Environment, or perhaps Circumstance.

At moments like the one in which I write this, I see clearly that my idea of separateness is an illusion; but in so far as I live in that illusion, it's clear that the membrane which separates us permits constant osmosis in both directions. I affect the world and am affected by it.

But then, I am talking about the physical. The things you are conscious of analysing are in effect abstractions, so it's easy to understand why you come to the conclusion that they don't exist outside ourselves. For of course, abstractions are hatched in the brain by human imagination, as ways to navigate the mysteries of being ourselves influencing and influenced by the world.

Perhaps the reason I drink beer is to loosen the hold of those abstractions!

CIngram said...

My interest in Sanskrit was originally in the language itself,and then I was captivated by the depth and beauty of the poetry, the extraordinary breadth and complexity of the narrative. I have not been specifically drawn The philosophy of living that is behind it, although I believe I have learnt something from certain aspects of it, particularly the value of aescetic practice and the constant search for inner peace and happiness in all things.

By which I mean that the introspection may or may not come from there, or it might just be a product of the brain's constant casting about for things to keep the synapses zinging.

In the case of cricket it's a well-known fact that you can't go to the bathroom when your side is batting without causing a wicket to fall. On the other hand, with football consciencious experiment leads me to believe that drinking beer is harmless. I should like to here the words of a Zen master on teh subject (I originally read your words as 'when I BECAME a Zen master, which surprised me a bit).

Your final paragraph is probably the explanation I was looking for. As abstractions, both they and the tools we use to understand them are produced entirely within our own minds. There is no reason they should exist outside ourselves. On the other hand, many things ARE real, and can at least in theory contain things in themselves which are outside us but perceptible and comprehensible to us. Which of those abstractions are our way of internalizing something outside us, and which are rationalizations of the gaps between things, when we think those gaps shouldn't exist?