Re: virus: Prisoners my Derrida!

Sat, 20 Mar 1999 12:19:00 -0800

David McFadzean wrote:
> At 11:36 PM 3/19/99 -0800, KMO wrote:
> >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.
> Possibly, but given what Robin said I wouldn't be surprised if the DL
> would agree that no-one should be attached to any meme, even the 4 Noble
> Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path. Do you see the same relation I do
> between "attachment" to a meme and "faith"?

We're treading near paradoxical territory here. If attachment causes suffering and you want to allieviate suffering then you should give up all attachments, including your attachments to the idea that attachment causes suffering and your attachment to the goal of allieviating suffering, but if you give up those attachments, then what's your motivation for remaining unattached to them? I'm getting dizzy.

Unless the Dali Lama is a Neo-cheater extraordinaire, pretending to value spiritual concerns and compassionate action simply becuase those are the trappings of his position of power, then I think that his religious sensabilities and convictions are a very significant part of his personal identity. If the only acceptable usage for the word "faith" in this forum is as a synonym for "rigid adherence to a falsifiable claim without evidence or even in spite of evidence to the contrary" then it may well be that the Dali Lama is a faithless man.

If that's the only definition that we can all accomodate, then I take back every word I ever wrote in defense of faith and propose a new word, "phaith." I think Eric provided us with a very useful starting definition for "phaith" as "the internalizing and embodying of a principle, (to which I would add) frequenlty resulting from an experience of boundary dissolution and/or seeming participation in a wider, more pervasive consciousness than is the accepted norm and integrating the principle and/or the effects of the experience into one's actions, perceptions, and decission making."

I would argue that Bertrand Russell was a man of profound phaith.

> >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 would agree that beliefs can be usefully categorized into those that
> are falsifiable and those that are not. Maybe this is an important step
> in resolving the great faith debate, call them type I and type II beliefs.
> (If there are other standard names for these categories, please speak up.)

If there are already names for these catagories of belief, I don't know them. I do suspect that belief type I and type II have been offered many times as lables with which to corral varieties of belief. I would propose "faith" and "phaith," but my attachment to those lables is minimal.

> I think it is possible to hold either type dogmatically in the sense that
> the believer is unwilling or unable to considering changing the belief.

If that's the case, and if all forms of dogmatism are CoV sins, then I'm a sinner and am likely to continue in that role.

> (A potentially interesting tangent: If someone is unwilling to change
> a belief, is it because of another belief, and if so, is the meta-belief
> held dogmatically?)

It's a beautiful sunny Saturday in Seattle, so you'll forgive me if I don't follow that tangent just now. Bring it up again later, as I think it might be an interesting line of inquiry.

> Now, given the two categories, what can we say about dogmatism? Can we
> agree that it is never a good idea to hold a type I belief (falsifiable)
> dogmatically?

Depends on your definition of a good idea. I can imagine circumstances in which it might be to ones short to medium range benefit (in terms of psychological stability, social status, money, or sex) to hold dogmatic faith (type I), but this does seem to introduce a certain level of inflexability which could close off classes of adaptations and lead to disaster at some point.

> If not, why not? What about type II beliefs? Does that
> fact that they are non-falsifiable necessarily imply that they are held
> dogmatically? Is "memes exist" a type II belief?

I'm not sure, and I keep looking at the window at all the pretty young things walking by, and I find myself less able to focus on this line of thought by the minute.

> Actually I was asking about one core value in particular. It isn't a
> particularly strong claim to suggest a person would become different
> person if their core values (all of them) changed. It is much more
> interesting to suggest someone becomes a different person if any one
> core value changes. Would you still agree with the latter statement?
> Here's what I'm thinking: Over the past few weeks of discussion I'm
> getting the impression that a person's identity is defined by some
> core group of memes. If so, it wouldn't be entirely accurate to say
> "you are your memes". Rather, you are a subset of your memes. This
> provides a way of resolving the apparent inconsistency between
> "you are your memes" and "you (can) choose your memes".

Message to KMO: Give these last two paragraphs some thought, or assign a sub-conscious agent to the task and resume this discussion once the sun has gone down.

More later.