“The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. (One is unable to notice something - because it is always before one's eyes.) The real foundations of his enquiry do not strike a man at all. Unless that fact has at some time struck him. - And this means: we fail to be struck by what, once seen, is most striking and most powerful.”Nagarjuna, is greatly interested in the philosophical faceoff of Free Will v Determinism.
~Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, 1953, No. 125
He greatly believes that the Determinist [or, termed in the manner he sees it all: Inevitablist] side has the better argument, his logic being that whatever we decide is the determined result of a chain of outcomes, without there being any evidence of an agent [a homulculus, e.g.] intervening.
Mark Johnson in his 2007 book The Meaning of the Body comes down on Nagarjuna’s side in this essential philosophical debate, it seems, but he raises a novel issue: that of novelty. If the universe is determined wholly by chains of causes and effects, how does something new arise?
Our ability to make new meaning, to enlarge our concepts, and to arrive at new ways of making sense of things must be explained without reference to miracles, irrational leaps of thought, or blind impulse. We have to explain how our experience can grow and how the new can emerge from the old, yet without merely replicating what has gone before.I raise this topic in this Buddhism blog because of Buddha’s Enlightenment and insight into the essential problems of the human condition. Buddha’s Awakening was “new” -- for him, at least, if we posit that former buddhas Awoke in ages past.
As it turns out, this may be one of the most difficult problems in all of philosophy, psychology, and science: how is novelty possible? As far as I can see, nobody has yet been able to explain how new experience emerges. The problem is that if we try to give a causal explanation of novel experience or novel thought, these come out looking causally determined, rather than creative and imaginative. An embodied theory1 of meaning will suggest only that new meaning is not a miracle but rather arises from, and remains connected to, preexisting patterns, qualities, and feelings.
Most people believe that human will possesses absolute freedom, which is why we think we can hold people responsible for their actions. But if there is no transcendent self, no disembodied ego, to serve as the agent of free choice, then what sense can we make of real choice, or of moral responsibility for our actions? This problem has plagued all naturalistic accounts of mind, from David Hume to William James to Antonio Damasio. We need a view of choice that is consistent with cognitive neuroscience and its insistence on the embodiment of mind and yet which doesn’t make a shambles of our notions of moral responsibility.
Thanissaro Bikkhu writes in an essay online, “The Meaning of the Buddha's Awakening":
… Buddha says at one point in describing his Awakening, "Ignorance was destroyed; knowledge arose; darkness was destroyed; light arose — as happens in one who is heedful, ardent, and resolute." In other words, he gained liberating knowledge through qualities that we can all develop: heedfulness, ardency, resolution. If we are willing to face the implications of this fact, we realize that the Buddha's Awakening is a challenge to our entire set of values. The fact that the Unconditioned can be attained forces us to re-evaluate any other goals we may set for ourselves, whatever worlds we want to create, in our lives.“The Unconditioned can be attained”!! Something new coming from nowhere? But coming to us only if we are heedful, ardent and resolute?
In a paper called “The Unconditioned: In Buddhism, Zen and Our Own Lives",” Jeff Shore explains the path and implications of the reality of losing ourself.
What is Buddhism? Simply put, it could be called a practical way of emancipation or liberation. Liberation from what? From everything. From all conditions. …------------------
You might think that we somehow transcend the conditions. Buddhism, however, affirms no such transcendental, supernatural reality. …
Buddhism uses terms like ignorance, craving, and attachment to describe the relative cause of our dis-ease. This may not satisfy someone seeking a simple, either-or answer. If we look under the surface, however, we can see that these causes are, indeed, intertwined and pointing to different dimensions of the problem. Ignorant of who we really are, we crave fulfillment in something else. We can never come to rest that way, so we go on, blindly entangled in craving and attachment.
Attached to something, we become possessive and afraid to lose it. Rather than finding fulfillment, our dis-ease only seems to increase. Why do we crave? Because we don't know who we really are. If we truly knew ourselves, we would not crave to be or to have something. And that craving in turn keeps us from seeing who we really are, thus perpetuating the vicious, painful cycle of ignorance-craving-attachment.
Practically speaking, here is the core of the problem: this tiny, literally insubstantial — yet damned tenacious — knot of deluded self-attachment. It's really nothing at all, but through conditions entwining, a tight knot of "I-ness" emerges. And we all know how painful this can be. That's what impels us to begin religious or spiritual practice. That's what drives us to sit zazen.
… zazen is freedom from all conditions, without eliminating any of them. More than that, genuine zazen is the fulfillment of all conditions … First, by actually giving ourselves up to concentrated zazen and sitting through to the end of ourselves, the tangled knot of deluded selfness naturally comes undone. There is nothing holding it together. In a sense, it is only our delusive craving to be a certain way — even to be "enlightened" — that holds the painful snarl together.
1 the nature of the human mind is largely determined by the form of the human body. They argue that all aspects of cognition, such as ideas, thoughts, concepts and categories are shaped by aspects of the body. These aspects include the perceptual system, the intuitions that underlie the ability to move, activities and interactions with our environment and the native understanding of the world that is built into the body and the brain.
The embodied mind thesis is opposed to other theories of cognition such as cognitivism, computationalism and Cartesian dualism. The idea has roots in Kant and 20th century continental philosophy (such as Merleau-Ponty). The modern version depends on insights drawn from recent research in in linguistics, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, robotics and neurobiology.