Friday, 10 September 2010

Cosmological argument

There has existed from eternity someone unchangeable and independent being. 

Cosmological argument consists in that everything must have a cause.
But then we have a problem -
of infinite regress (circular logic).

The argument begins with the premise that everything has a cause, but this is then contradicted by the claim that God does not have a cause. If we must posit a God as the cause of the universe, then it seems we must also posit a second God as the cause of the first, and a third God as the cause of the second and so on ad infinitum. So we shall have to accept that there are an infinite number of Gods. Either that or we must stop with a cause that itself has no independent cause. But if we must stop somewhere, why not stop with the Big Bang itself? What reason is there to introduce even one God? Of course, some might be willing to accept an infinite chain of Gods. But such a chain still wouldn't remove the mystery with which we began. For then the question would arise: Why is there such an infinite chain of Gods, rather than no chain?

Either there has always existed one unchangeable and independent Being, from which all other beings that are or ever were in the universe, have received their original; or else there has been an infinite succession of changeable and dependent beings, produced one from another in an endless progression, without any original cause at all. 

The whole series of beings can have no cause from without, of its existence, because in it are supposed to be included all things that are or ever were in the universe, and this plan can have no reason within itself, of its existence; because no one being in this infinite succession is supposed to be self-existent or necessary (which is the only ground of reason of existence of anything, that can be imagined within the thing itself, as will presently more fully appear).

So there is a Prime Mover - uncaused cause.
The question why God has no cause is unanswerable.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

The Buddhist attitude towards life is pessimistic

To live means to suffer. All life involves suffering. Suffering is caused by the clinging of the mind. 
Life as a whole is imperfect and incomplete, because our world is subject to impermanence. 

The Four Noble Truths

1. Life means suffering.
2. The origin of suffering is attachment.
3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.
4. The path to the cessation of suffering.

Ignorance is the lack of understanding of how our mind is attached to impermanent things. The reasons for suffering is raving and clinging. Suffering can be ended by attaining dispassion. 

Attaining and perfecting dispassion is a process of many levels that ultimately results in the state of Nirvana. Nirvana means freedom from all worries, troubles, complexes, fabrications and ideas. Nirvana is not comprehensible for those who have not attained it.

Buddhism teaches us how to get rid of this unhappiness. Buddhism offers every human being the hope of attaining his salvation one day. 

Buddhism encourages us to be realistic: we must learn to see things as they truly are. It is a realistic religion, it is just diversified, like everything in a human being.

Nibbana is an unattainable goal for most Buddhists

Buddha says: "If I stood still, I sank; if I struggled, I was carried away. Thus by neither standing still nor struggling, I crossed the flood."

The flood refers to the painful stream of birth and death. This is Nirvana, the "blowing out" of the passions and frustrations of existence. The Buddha asserted that to speculate about the frame of mind of one thus awakened and liberated is to invite confusion and madness.

It is irrational to cling even to the profitable states of mind created by morality and meditation, still less to unprofitable states of mind. One should neither look forward to coming experiences, nor clutch at present ones, but let them all slip easily through one's fingers.

What happens to an enlightened person at death is one of the questions, like that of the beginning and end of the world, which the Buddha said cannot be answered. Nirvana is a state beyond human thought, beyond life and death and reincarnation.

We don't have to worry whether it is unattainable or not, because the journey is the goal.

"Climb Mont Fuji, holy snail, but slowly, slowly!"

Meditation is the essential basis of the Buddhist way of life

Meditation in Buddhism involves the body and the mind as a single entity. It takes control of the mind so that becomes peaceful and focused. The aim of meditation is to still the mind.

Part of meditation is allied with morality: the attempt to restrain one's senses from what is immoral and to create good, wholesome, and skillful frames of mind within which to work. The basic skill is concentration, coupled with equanimity, and this meditative control is then the basis of insight meditation. Insight meditation, however, is not practiced only by sitting in quiet solitude. For it demands a general attitude on self-recollection, of clear consciousness, of awareness of one's surroundings, one's experience, and one's actions and their consequences moment by moment, day by day.
A new attitude, a new habit of mind grows out of the equanimity of meditation. One can now stand aloof from experience. One can see the dangers in it and turn away. One can observe, yet not pursue, even fleeting pleasures and aspirations as they flicker before the mind's eye. Perhaps the most compact statement of this sensibility is found in the stock prescription that the monk should "not cling to the here and now, not grasp after situations, relinquish easily".
"The monk neither constructs in his mind, nor wills in order to produce, any state of mind or body, or the destruction of any such state. By not so willing anything in the world, he grasps after nothing; by not grasping, he is not anxious; he is therefore fully calmed within."

The lay community is more important than the monastic community in Buddhism today

The monastic community in Buddhism is getting smaller, as opposed to the lay community which nowadays extends around the world. It is significant to understand how that is taking place. 

Lay persons form the vast majority of the Buddhism culture. In all traditions the lay community is considered essential in that it gives material support to temples and by its daily work provides the economic foundation for the teaching and practice of Buddhism. Lay people also participate in such activities as festivals, ceremonies and pilgrimage.

The core pursuit of the Buddhist monastic community is to preserve and practise the teaching of the Buddha. They can use their learning and wisdom to help society as a whole.

Although the monks and nuns have renounced the worldly life, they still have an essential contribution to make to the welfare of the society. Because of their non-attachment to the worldly conditions such as happiness and pain, gain and loss, they are objective and farsighted in their outlook. 

Although the lay community is getting bigger and it is more meaningful, the monks and nuns are still revered and cannot be replaced, because their wisdom and understanding of the life as a whole is unique. They devote their Atman (individual soul) for Brahmar (world soul). Separateness is just an illusion.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Julia's problem

Chris has learned from Julia how to be a lawyer, under a very generous arrangement whereby he doesn’t need to pay anything for his tuition until and unless he wins his first court case. Rather to Julia's annoyance, however, after giving up hours of her time training Chris, the pupil decides to become a musician and never takes any court cases.

Julia demands that Chris pay her for her trouble and, when the musician refuses, decides to sue him in court. Julia reasons that if Chris loses the case, he, Julia, will have won, in which case she will get her money back, and furthermore, that even if she loses, Chris will then have won a case, despite his protestations about being a musician now, and will therefore still have to pay up.

Chris reasons a little differently however. If I lose, he thinks, then I will have lost my first court case, in which event, the original agreement releases me from having to pay any tuition fees. And, even if he wins, Julia will still have lost the right to enforce the contract, so he will not need to pay anything.

They can’t both be right. So who’s making the mistake?

The paradox arises from the fact that the provisions of the agreement and the court are in every case contrary. The resolution of this situation depends on what is considered to be more important - judgement of the court or a civil contract. Julia and Chris, they both commit the same mistake - an error of inconsistency. Their position can be summarized : "If the sentence of the court is beneficial for me I will respect it, otherwise I will refer to the contract."

Paradox of the Court

A Farmer – let’s call him "Farmer Andy from Germany" is concerned about his prize cow, Julia. He is worried – the good times may be over.
He is so concerned that when his dairyman tells him that Julia is in the field, happily grazing, he says he needs to know for certain. He doesn't want just to have a 99 per cent idea that Julia is safe, he wants to be able to say that he knows Julia is okay.
Farmer Andy goes out to the field and standing by the gate sees in the distance, behind some trees, a white and black shape that he recognises as his favourite cow. He goes back to the dairy and tells his friend that he knows Julia is in the field.

At this point, does Farmer Andy really know it?

The dairyman says he will check too, and goes to the field. There he finds Julia, having a nap in a hollow, behind a bush, well out of sight of the gate. He also spots a large piece of black and white paper that has got caught in a tree.
Julia is in the field, as Farmer Andy thought.

But was he right to say that he knew she was?

In this case the farmer believed the cow was safe. He had an evidence that this was so (his belief was justified) and it was true that his cow was safe.
However, we might still feel that the farmer did not really know it; his justified true belief was actually operating independent of the truth. Herein lies the core of the problem of 'knowledge as justified true belief'.