Re: virus: Prisoners my Derrida!

Fri, 19 Mar 1999 23:36:10 -0800

David McFadzean wrote:
> At 11:05 AM 3/19/99 -0800, KMO wrote:

> I thought he was saying that he is not wedded to *any* particular
> assertion that has worked its way into the Buddhist cannon. See
> the difference? If my interpretation is correct, I don't see
> where the Dali Lama has faith. If not, where did I err?

The heart of Buddhist faith, the four noble truths and the eightfold noble path are do not seem to me to be the kinds of things that could be proven false.

The 4 Noble Truths

The Eightfold Noble Path

That's the pith of Buddhism, but alot of other baggage has attached itself along the way, stories of miricles performed by the Buddha and other saints, stories about the gods (primarily Indra) working behind the scenes making sure that all of the conditions would be right for Siddhartha to acheive enlightenment, systems of numerology, astrology, belief that certain holy relics are actually pieces of Siddhartha's body. The pith just doesn't strike me as the kind of thing about which science has much to say, but the second group does. I imagine that the DL would accept scientific arguments with regard to carbon dating on a supposed relic, but I find it difficult to accept that he thinks scientific inquiry is going to weigh in on the idea that life is suffering.

I don't have any more context on his remark than I provided in my previous post, so I could well be wrong. Still I can certainly see accepting the Buddhist POV as described by the 4 noble truths and the eightfold path as a basic mode of perception, not a set of factual claims about the world that are subject to refutation, while remaining open to scientific scrutiny of the other mythical and supernatural elements that have attached themselves to the pith.

> >The word "dogma" is so heavily laden with negative associations that
> >asking someone on this list "Why do insist on being dogmatic?" is about
> >as likely to prompt someone to undertake a project of serious
> >self-evaluation as asking "Why do you insist on being such an asshole?"
> Sorry, I thought "dogmatic" was equivalent to "not on the table for
> examination". My mistake. I have no idea what you mean by "dogmatic".

Take these four statements:

  1. Consciousness is of the highest value.
  2. Life is suffering.
  3. The universe is approximately 6 thousand years old.
  4. Jesus of Nazerath was born of a woman who was litterally a virgin at the time of his birth, and this was thousands of years before artificial insemination or any other means of producing a pregnancy without sexual intercourse.

I see two different kinds of statements here. I would call not being willing to subject 3 and 4 to possible refutation "dogmatic" in the way that you say constitutes a Virion sin. Claims 1 and 2 seem to be a very different sort of affair.

> >Do I strike you as someone who is dogmatic in his thinking? Does the
> >fact that I'm not interested in re-evaluating my fundamental moral
> >principles make me into an unthinking meme-bot?
> When I asked the question I considered qualifying it with all kinds
> of disclaimers to prevent this sort of overreaction. But I thought,
> no, KMO of all people will give it a charitable reading. My mistake
> again.

I get the feeling that you took my post in a far different spirit than the one in which I wrote it. Perhaps it was my use of the word "asshole." In any event, I'm genuinely sorry if I appeared to be snapping at you. I wasn't exasperated or angry when I wrote it, and I regret that it came accross that way.

Your question was, "I share your belief but I don't hold it dogmatically. What are the advantages of making it sacred?"

My answer was:

  1. I didn't accept the axiom as an article of faith because I decided that there was an advantage in doing so. It's not even something that I DECIDED to accept.
  2. I don't know if this is the kind of statement the holding of which without evidence constitutes "dogmatism."

If you think that these answers spring from an uncharitable reading of the question, I will be happy to give it another go. If you would like me to answer the question again, please give me a little guidance as to the kind of answer you had in mind. I'm not asking you to tell me how to tell you what you want to hear. I'm asking you how I can approach the question in such a way that my answer will speak to your concerns.

I ask again, do I seem like the kind of person you would call "dogmatic?" When you defined dogmatism as a CoV sin, was the dogmatic behavior you had in mind as something to be avoided; something which hobbles one's thinking, the kind of behavior or style of thinking that you observe in me?

> >Someone can present me with a iron-clad logical argument to the that
> >working counter to the expansion of consciousness will get me more
> >money, pussy, fame, power, rhetorical finesse, and health, but that
> >would, for me, be no argument in favor abandoning my axiom. Valuing
> >consciousness, for me, is not a means to an end. There's no point in
> >evaluating whether it's the best way to get me where I want to go. It's
> >not where I'm going; it's who I am.
> So would it be safe to say that losing that meme would change your
> fundamental identity? [disclaimer: I am not implying any sort of
> value judgement by this question, I am just curious and trying to
> understand what you're saying]

Yes, I think that I would be a different person were my core values to undergo a dramatic change.