Combining Philosophers

All the ideas for Simone de Beauvoir, Churchland / Churchland and Ashvaghosha

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11 ideas

1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 2. Invocation to Philosophy
Pursue truth with the urgency of someone whose clothes are on fire [Ashvaghosha]
     Full Idea: As though your turban or your clothes were on fire, so with a sense of urgency should you apply your intellect to the comprehension of the truths.
     From: Ashvaghosha (Saundaranandakavya [c.50], XVI)
     A reaction: The best philosophers need no such urging. I retain a romantic view that we should be 'natural' in these things. See Plato's views in Idea 2153 and 1638. However, maybe I should be confronted with this quotation every morning when I awake.
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 3. Privacy
A full neural account of qualia will give new epistemic access to them, beyond private experience [Churchlands]
     Full Idea: When the hidden neurophysiological structure of qualia (if there is any) gets revealed by unfolding research, then we will automatically gain a new epistemic access to qualia, beyond each person's native and exclusive capacity for internal discrimination.
     From: Churchland / Churchland (Recent Work on Consciousness [1997])
     A reaction: Carefully phrased and hard to deny, but something is impenetrable. What experience does an insect have when it encounters ultra-violet light? Nothing remotely interesting about their qualia is likely to emerge from the study of insect brains.
15. Nature of Minds / B. Features of Minds / 5. Qualia / c. Explaining qualia
It is question-begging to assume that qualia are totally simple, hence irreducible [Churchlands]
     Full Idea: One of the crucial premises of the antireductionists - concerning the intrinsic, nonrelational, metaphysical simplicity of our sensory qualia - is a question-begging and unsupported assumption.
     From: Churchland / Churchland (Recent Work on Consciousness [1997])
     A reaction: This is a key point for reductionists, with emphasis on the sheer numbers of connections involved in a simple quale (I estimate a billion involved in one small patch of red).
The qualia Hard Problem is easy, in comparison with the co-ordination of mental states [Churchlands]
     Full Idea: The so-called Hard Problem (of qualia) appears to be one of the easiest, in comparison with the problems of short-term memory, fluid and directable attention, the awake state vs sleep, and the unity of consciousness.
     From: Churchland / Churchland (Recent Work on Consciousness [1997])
     A reaction: Most of their version of the Hard Problems centre on personal identity, and the centralised co-ordination of mental events. I am inclined to agree with them. Worriers about qualia should think more about the complexity of systems of neurons.
16. Persons / E. Rejecting the Self / 4. Denial of the Self
When the Buddha reached the highest level of insight, he could detect no self in the world [Ashvaghosha]
     Full Idea: The great Buddha passed through the eight stages of Transic insight, and quickly reached their highest point. From the summit of the world downwards he could detect no self anywhere.
     From: Ashvaghosha (Buddhacarita [c.50], XIV)
     A reaction: In the manner of Nietzsche, I am inclined to say that they find what they want to find, because that is their value. They want to get rid of the self, and dream of a mode in which existence continues without it. Is Buddhism opposed to human life?
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 3. Angst
If existence is absurd it can never have a meaning [Beauvoir]
     Full Idea: To declare that existence is absurd is to deny that it can ever be given a meaning; to say that it is ambiguous is to assert that its meaning is never fixed.
     From: Simone de Beauvoir (Ethics of Ambiguity [1948], p.129), quoted by Kevin Aho - Existentialism: an introduction 6 'Bad'
     A reaction: Absurdity precludes meaning, but being meaningless doesn't entail absurdity. Asteroids are meaningless. Presumably if existence is meaningless now (as in a depression), but it might possibly become meaningful, then it can't qualify as 'absurd'.
24. Political Theory / D. Ideologies / 12. Feminism
One is not born, but rather becomes a woman [Beauvoir]
     Full Idea: One is not born, but rather becomes a woman.
     From: Simone de Beauvoir (The Second Sex [1952], p.301 (or 267)), quoted by Kevin Aho - Existentialism: an introduction 2 'Phenomenology'
     A reaction: This has become the principle idea in modern discussions of gender. It divides gender from sex, rather as Locke divided person from human being. It is an abstraction. It is part of the Hegelian-Marxist idea that persons are moulded by culture.
29. Religion / C. Spiritual Disciplines / 3. Buddhism
The first stage of trance is calm amidst applied and discursive thinking [Ashvaghosha]
     Full Idea: The first stage of trance is calm amidst applied and discursive thinking.
     From: Ashvaghosha (Buddhacarita [c.50], V.11)
     A reaction: Personally I am not sure that I would want to go any further that the first stage, since the elimination of discursive thinking seems to me to be approaching death. To pursue intense thinking very calmly I take to be the ideal of all western philosophers.
The Buddha sought ultimate reality and the final goal of existence in his meditations [Ashvaghosha]
     Full Idea: Next the Boddhisatva, possessed of great skill in Transic meditation, put himself into a trance, intent on discerning both the ultimate reality of things and the final goal of existence.
     From: Ashvaghosha (Buddhacarita [c.50], XIV.2)
     A reaction: The ontological and teleological goals of the Buddha were identical to the goals of the ancient Greek philosophers, and even we have teleological aims in our study of evolution. I would expect better results from the western approach.
The Eightfold Path concerns morality, wisdom, and tranquillity [Ashvaghosha]
     Full Idea: The Eightfold Path has three steps concerning morality - right speech, right bodily action, and right livelihood; three of wisdom - right views, right intentions, and right effort; and two of tranquillity - right mindfulness and right concentration.
     From: Ashvaghosha (Saundaranandakavya [c.50], XVI)
     A reaction: Most of this translates quite comfortably into the aspirations of western philosophy. For example, 'right effort' sounds like Kant's claim that only a good will is truly good (Idea 3710). The Buddhist division is interesting for action theory.
29. Religion / D. Religious Issues / 2. Immortality / d. Heaven
At the end of a saint, he is not located in space, but just ceases to be disturbed [Ashvaghosha]
     Full Idea: When an accomplished saint comes to the end, he does not go anywhere down in the earth or up in the sky, nor into any of the directions of space, but because his defilements have become extinct he simply ceases to be disturbed.
     From: Ashvaghosha (Saundaranandakavya [c.50], XVI)
     A reaction: To 'cease to be disturbed' is the most attractive account of heaven I have encountered. It all sounds a bit dull though. I wonder, as usual, how they know all this stuff.