Thursday, March 13, 2014

513: Indian Materialism

There always comes a moment that some people grow tired of all the stories, mythology, gods and supernatural beliefs. They want to see hard facts.

It happened in Western philosophy, when in the 5th century BCE philosophers like Leucippus (440 BCE) and his pupil, Democritus formulated their ideas on atomism.

The theory of Democritus and Leucippus held that everything is composed of "atoms", which are physically, but not geometrically, indivisible; 

that between atoms, there lies empty space; that atoms are indestructible; have always been, and always will be, in motion; that there are an infinite number of atoms, and kinds of atoms, which differ in shape, and size.

It is always an exciting observation in philosophy…yes…philosophy can be exciting…. that similar ideas have developed elsewhere too. Not a few years ago but thousands of years ago, even earlier than in Ancient Greece.

In India the Jain,  Ajivika and Carvaka schools of atomism may date back to the 6th century BCE.  I’ll focus here on the Carvaka school. It emerged as an alternative to the orthodox Hindu pro-Vedic schools.

I’ll elaborate on this Carvaka school of philosophy, because it is a true materialist or naturalist philosophy. As a philosophical theory, naturalism aligns philosophy with science and the natural world—rejecting the supernatural.

Naturalists view human beings with their different endowments as mere ‘objects’—parts of nature—to be described, analyzed and causally explained. 

The claim is that it is possible to have an absolute and pure objective view of human beings and their behavior. As you can imagine, not a really popular approach among believers in supernatural things, like gods.

In a Indian text from the 5th century BCE we read: “O, the highly wise! Arrive at a conclusion, therefore, that there is nothing beyond this Universe. Give precedence to that which meets the eye and turn your back on what is beyond our knowledge.”

It is interesting to see, that there have always been philosophers, who opposed to metaphysical theories and claims of the existence of supernatural beings.

Also interesting is to observe that such schools in philosophy have been often attacked vigorously by religious parties. As for Carvaka philosophy, there is no continuity after the 12th century, probably eclipsed by Hinduism.

Our understanding of Cārvāka philosophy is fragmentary, based largely on criticism of its ideas by other schools. The following quote is therefore typical of the situation:

"Though materialism in some form or other has always been present in India, and occasional references are found in the Vedas, the Buddhistic literature, the Epics, as well as in the later philosophical works

 we do not find any systematic work on materialism, nor any organized school of followers as the other philosophical schools possess. 

But almost every work of the other schools states, for refutation, the materialistic views. Our knowledge of Indian materialism is chiefly based on these."

A main issue of Carvaka was, that all metaphysical ideas were only deductions from inferences, not from sensory experience.

Therefore, Cārvāka philosophy denied metaphysical concepts like reincarnation, extracorporeal soul, efficacy of religious rites, 

other worlds, like heaven and hell, fate and accumulation of merit or demerit through the performance of certain actions.

Cārvāka   philosophy also rejected the use of supernatural causes to describe natural phenomena. To them all natural phenomena was produced spontaneously from the inherent nature of things.

These are thoughts from thousands of years ago. They were not popular then. Compare this with the fact that we now live in a world dominated by science….

The Discussion

[13:35] herman Bergson: Thank you..^_^
[13:36] Nectanebus: nice stuff :)
[13:36] CONNIE Eichel: :)
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: indeed
[13:37] herman Bergson winks at CONNIE
[13:37] CONNIE Eichel winks back
[13:37] herman Bergson: What fascinates me is this materialism....
[13:37] herman Bergson: especially when you compare it to our present situation
[13:37] Nectanebus: Nice that you touch on Carvaka and Ajivika. Those two don't often see the light of day. Obviously I'm one for Ajivika more so heh
[13:38] CONNIE Eichel: :)
[13:38] herman Bergson: Ajvika isnt a 100% materialist philosophy....
[13:38] Ciska Riverstone: it makes one wonder why both sides must deny the other instead of concentrating on their views and developing that
[13:38] oola Neruda: good point, Ciska
[13:39] herman Bergson: I think there is a legitimate reason for that Ciska :-)
[13:39] herman Bergson: The point is....
[13:39] Nectanebus: People tend to "other" at the drop of a hate ;)
[13:39] Ciska Riverstone: it often seems sooo useless... to put so much energy in something you can't really know
[13:39] herman Bergson: when you hold certain views, you derive certain claims from it....
[13:39] herman Bergson: for instance....
[13:40] herman Bergson: all kinds of religions have certain claims regarding how the world should look like based on their private knowledge based on private revelations
[13:41] herman Bergson: IIt is justified to question such claims and question the sources of knowledge on which they are based
[13:41] Ciska Riverstone: well for materialism thats the same isn't it?
[13:41] Nectanebus: I'd say it's valid to question everything constantly.
[13:42] vladimir Hoxley: Has materialism/naturalism always been a minority view?
[13:42] Ciska Riverstone: yepp
[13:42] oola Neruda: i suppose when they insist that everyone adheres to their "rules"
[13:42] herman Bergson: is....
[13:42] herman Bergson: and a materialist points at results from science....scientific knowledge...
[13:42] herman Bergson: which can be tested with public methods
[13:43] Nectanebus: I think determinism vs free will is about as back and forth as materialism vs liminalism (sic)
[13:43] Ciska Riverstone: in materialism we do have constant change and new views as well which alter and add to our views from materialism up to now.
[13:43] Ciska Riverstone: yes - but their knowledge is a temporary as well herman
[13:43] herman Bergson: I agree Ciska...
[13:43] herman Bergson: except that there is one constant....
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: ok
[13:44] herman Bergson: the rejection of unprovable supernatural entities for instance
[13:44] Ciska Riverstone: well
[13:45] Ciska Riverstone: for a scientist its an unproven supernatural entity until it has a name and he can put it in his / her science language
[13:45] vladimir Hoxley: I think it is important to distinguish between materialism and naturalism
[13:45] Nectanebus: inb4scientist that turn christian
[13:45] Ciska Riverstone: good point vladimir
[13:46] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:46] Nectanebus: Also, I'm not a fan of the church of Dawkins nor the "god of the gaps" theory. I think "science" and "religion" need to stop bickering.
[13:46] herman Bergson: I took them here as synonymous Vladimir....
[13:46] bombadail: materialists are okay with accepting the world as a puzzle ...the other side with supernatural things that are by definition beyond our reach...that is kind of a comforting shift in responsibility to a device like a this way when you have a god you are no longer fully responsible and that is a relief to many
[13:46] Nectanebus: Neither have all the answers yet.
[13:46] Ciska Riverstone: same here nectanebus
[13:47] vladimir Hoxley: The reason I think they aren't is that you could have a naturalist theory of mind that wasnt materialist
[13:47] Ciska Riverstone: mh i do not think thats true Bombadail - when it is "natural law" thats when i do not have any responsibilities
[13:48] vladimir Hoxley: you can be a dualist and still a naturalist
[13:48] Ciska Riverstone: a lot of gods have a lot of demand on humans to act responsible without definingt it exactly
[13:48] bombadail: natural laws are not set in stone ciska that's just an expression's always just a theory that works in the moment
[13:48] herman Bergson: I know Vladimir, but that leads to a too complex discussion, I am afraid...
[13:48] Nectanebus: Also, science has a problem with any small amount of allegory in any religious text. Don't get me started on lotus feet...
[13:48] Ciska Riverstone: yes - well religions too ;)
[13:49] bombadail: demands by god still transfer responsibility to the gods that know
[13:49] vladimir Hoxley: ok herman
[13:50] Bejiita Imako: science vs religion is a tricky subject
[13:50] herman Bergson: May point still is that people dirive authority to act, and see it as justified to do so based on these references to supernatural beings...
[13:50] bombadail: but of course it's not the gods that made the rules but other people that recognized most people prefer not to be responsible or could be taught to not believe in their own ability to discern things
[13:50] herman Bergson: Like muslims kill in the name of their Allah....and call themselves martyr when they die in the process
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:51] Nectanebus: But belief in science is about as stable as religious belief. I mean, genetics and metaphysics alone shift on a decade-ly basis, and medicine? Might as well snort tiger bones...
[13:51] herman Bergson: So we HAVE to question these Carvaka philosophy already did thousands of years ago
[13:51] vladimir Hoxley: That's not just a property of religion Herman
[13:51] Bejiita Imako: just creating more violence and justify it with religion
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: blowing p the entire planet
[13:52] Bejiita Imako: up
[13:52] bombadail: it's pretty clear that gods are an artifice used by people that want to make the rules...or think they know better and use gods as a device to control others
[13:52] herman Bergson: No Vladimir....a property of any ideology...I know...
[13:52] Nectanebus: ITT: "stop talking, I'm right"- everyone. Good thread!
[13:53] herman Bergson: What do you mean Nectanebus?
[13:53] Ciska Riverstone: bombadail - you can use science the same way ... its really a matter of doing it
[13:53] Nectanebus: People seem to be rather forthright in their opines today heheh
[13:53] herman Bergson: Of course this is a debate as old as mankind :-))
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: but science is true facts
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: no supernatural stuff
[13:53] Bejiita Imako: here you really prove things
[13:54] Bejiita Imako: that they are real
[13:54] WAINSCOT reports: Beertje Beaumont is on your land now!
[13:54] bombadail: ciska you can't at all use science the same way...there are no secret special communications to god that are not available to all in science...
[13:54] oola Neruda: there are people who really do believe in gods and other unseen things
[13:55] vladimir Hoxley: What I find astonishing is people could hold materialist views so long ago, must have been very hard to do based on what they saw as the evidence around them to the contrary
[13:55] herman Bergson: It was by inference Vladimir.....
[13:55] herman Bergson: They managed to reason and conclude to atomism....
[13:56] herman Bergson: amazing....
[13:56] Nectanebus: Also, as far as "no lines to god" goes, it depends on your system. Modern tantric process is looking at interesting developments in science. I'll let you google-fu it :)
[13:56] .: Beertje :.: Goodevening
[13:56] Nectanebus: weyhey erryone's late
[13:56] herman Bergson: the Indian philosophers did...the Greek did..and we did in physics
[13:56] Corronach: :)
[13:57] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:57] herman Bergson: For some reason we have the belief that reality canbe reduced to the smallest particles....
[13:57] vladimir Hoxley: but almost all of our early physicists were still theists I think. Amazing how radical they could be so long ago
[13:58] bombadail: is materialism reductionist?
[13:58] Nectanebus: Einstein was christian IIRC, lots of scientists are. Science still hasn't disproven half the stuff the papers pretend it has.
[13:58] Nectanebus: and yeah, reductio ad absurdum (occam's razor)
[13:58] bombadail: combine E=MC^2 with materialism and add in Quantum theory...
[13:59] herman Bergson: Neither has proven the other party anything else Nectanebus :-))
[13:59] bombadail: Energy and matter are two forms of the same thing
[13:59] Aarrabella: Einstein a christian? lol rly?
[13:59] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:59] Aarrabella: he was a self declared agnostic
[13:59] vladimir Hoxley: He certainly wasnt - he stated his god was like spinozas
[14:00] Nectanebus: I can't remember off hand, it was one of the biggies
[14:00] herman Bergson: Ahh Spinoza....interesting subject indeed!
[14:00] Nectanebus: I'll look it up heh
[14:00] bombadail: so a true materialist understands that the atom idea was a crude best first guess....
[14:00] herman Bergson: Einstein could have chosen him indeed
[14:01] herman Bergson: maybe yes, Bombadail....yet funny how we guessed right :-))
[14:01] bombadail: guessed what right ...lost train of thought
[14:01] vladimir Hoxley: got to go, glad I came by again
[14:01] Bejiita Imako: bye vlad
[14:01] herman Bergson: guessed that the atom was the ultimate thing :-)
[14:02] Ciska Riverstone: bye vladimir
[14:02] Nectanebus: bye vlad
[14:02] herman Bergson: thnx for your participation Vladimir
[14:02] Bejiita Imako: atom mean undividuable but with nuclear reactors and particle accelerators that term is not true anymore
[14:02] bombadail: since energy and matter are no longer search for some fundemental already knows this
[14:02] Bejiita Imako: cause they showed that you CAN split atoms
[14:03] Nectanebus: got to go, soup. see you all next time
[14:03] Bejiita Imako: and now we chase smaller and smaller stuff
[14:03] Bejiita Imako: in the LHC and similar
[14:03] Bejiita Imako: to get to the core of it all
[14:03] herman Bergson: Well...we'll leave that to the physicists :-))
[14:03] Bejiita Imako: how do the world REALLY work
[14:04] Aarrabella: that's the problem with philosophy, it is directly dependent on science, otherwise it is just gibberish
[14:04] herman Bergson: I do not agree Aarabella.....
[14:04] bombadail: but we already know there is no reduction of material to some fundamental stuff...the way I understand modern science
[14:04] herman Bergson: science is the result of philosophy....not visa versa
[14:05] Aarrabella: I do not believe so, curiosity starts both, science is the proper explanation whilst philosophy tries to get those conclusions and work a system around them
[14:06] herman Bergson: In the beginning philosophers were the astronomers trying to explain the universe.....
[14:06] herman Bergson: till we found definite answers to certain questions....
[14:06] herman Bergson: such questions then became the core of science
[14:07] herman Bergson: and such was the case in all fields of human knowledge
[14:07] Bejiita Imako: ah
[14:07] Aarrabella: they were scientists without knowing maybe:) but maybe it is philosophy that established the rigorosity of its method
[14:07] Bejiita Imako: seems logical
[14:07] Bejiita Imako: all start with philosophy and then we research about it
[14:07] Bejiita Imako: sort of
[14:08] herman Bergson: the esoteric alchemists were predecessors of chemistry as a science....
[14:08] Aarrabella: like the chicken and the egg :)
[14:08] herman Bergson: not at all
[14:08] Bejiita Imako: a classic one
[14:08] Dag: well I think that with the developments in the quantum physics , science and philosophy should get closer to each other
[14:08] Aarrabella: philosophy and science have always been close to each other, otherwise it would have been called religion ^^
[14:09] herman Bergson: yes Daggash, as has happened in neuroscience already
[14:09] herman Bergson: The mind body problem isn’t solved .....
[14:09] herman Bergson: But a lot of smaller issues are in neuroscience
[14:10] bombadail: science is just a label as is philosophy....don't get too attached...what you actually do and discover is what matters...but theses day it seems philosophy would be those that think about what has been discovered and those thoughts might spurn an experimental scientist to investigate's a feedback loop
[14:10] Aarrabella: well from the little I know from my philosophy classes is that philosophy doesnt answer questions, it just teaches us how to ask questions correctly
[14:10] Aarrabella: philosophy* geez, my typing
[14:11] Aarrabella: so it doesn’t solve problems either, maths does :)
[14:11] herman Bergson: A lot of questions belonged to the realm of philosophy before they were answered and moved into the realm of science because of that
[14:11] Aarrabella: it just put the problem in an educated manner :)
[14:11] oola Neruda: they are close... Truth, Beauty... etc... smiles
[14:11] Aarrabella: well lets not dwell on the past when our knowledge was poor
[14:11] Aarrabella: we know better now :)
[14:12] herman Bergson: For Pythagoras math was philosophy...not how we use it now
[14:12] Bejiita Imako: ah
[14:13] herman Bergson: Well....a lot of issues to think about, I would say....
[14:13] Bejiita Imako: yes i guess so
[14:13] Bejiita Imako: its interesting for sure
[14:13] herman Bergson: So…thank you all for your brilliant participation today....:-)
[14:13] Dag: thanks again herman
[14:13] Ciska Riverstone: thank you herman
[14:13] Aarrabella: yeah, sorry I arrived late, will try to come in time next time :)
[14:13] herman Bergson: Class dismissed...^_^
[14:13] Corronach: thanks herman
[14:13] Dag: bye all
[14:14] Aarrabella: was a pleasure
[14:14] oola Neruda: baiee all
[14:14] Ciska Riverstone: have a great day /night everyone
[14:14] herman Bergson: Keep an eye on the clock...Europe and the US are not in sync anymore!!!
[14:14] CONNIE Eichel: lovely time :)
[14:14] CONNIE Eichel: yes, its a mess :)
[14:14] CONNIE Eichel: bye bye all, kisses :)
[14:14] .: Beertje :.: sorry for being late..I didn't know that
[14:14] herman Bergson: As usual each year CONNIE ^_^
[14:15] CONNIE Eichel: yes, hehe
[14:15] CONNIE Eichel: bye bye :)
[14:15] herman Bergson: But this is more or less the first time we yet got a group together
[14:15] Aarrabella: may I add you to my FL , Herman?
[14:15] herman Bergson: Sure Aarabella ^_^
[14:15] Aarrabella: ty :)
[14:16] .: Beertje :.: have a goodnight everyone
[14:16] Bejiita Imako: cu soon
[14:16] herman Bergson: Always handy to have a philosopher in your phonebook :-))
[14:16] Bejiita Imako: bye¨
[14:16] Bejiita Imako: i guess so
[14:16] Aarrabella: I am interested in a class on Daniel Dennett sometime :)
[14:17] Aarrabella: phil of mind would be a great topic
[14:17] herman Bergson: Interesting idea Aarabella
[14:17] herman Bergson: Has been a great topic here in 114 lectures already
[14:17] Aarrabella: ah great, shame I never attended, still new in SL :)
[14:18] Bejiita Imako: always great this
[14:18] herman Bergson: First lecture  of this class was September 2007
[14:18] Aarrabella: nice
[14:18] herman Bergson: Past 500 now :-))
[14:18] Aarrabella: well done, that's quite an accomplishment
[14:19] Bejiita Imako: many lessons it have been
[14:19] herman Bergson: took me more than 5 years indeed ^_^
[14:19] Bejiita Imako:

[14:19] Aarrabella: :)

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