Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Discussion of the nature of Ultimate Reality and the path to Enlightenment.

Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby maestro » Wed Nov 07, 2007 12:27 pm

Compare Kevin:
Kevin:The beliefs of science are not much different to our so-called religions "Whatever works is valid". It is of course rubbish of the most despicable kind.


To Buddha:
To a follower who insisted on knowing, "Is there a God?", Shakyamuni replied with the parable of the poison arrow. "if you were shot by a poison arrow, and a doctor was summoned to extract it, what would you do? Would you ask such questions as who shot the arrow, from which tribe did he come, who made the arrow, who made the poison, etc., or would you have the doctor immediately pull out the arrow?"
"Of course," replied the man, "I would have the arrow pulled out as quickly as possible." The Buddha concluded, "That is wise O disciple, for the task before us is the solving of life's problems; when that is done, you may still ask the questions you put before me, if you so desire."

It seems that Buddha is advocating whatever works to end suffering and achieve enlightenment, rather than building a ironclad, absolute logical philosophy as people here seem to be so hung up about. In that he is similar to the sciences who advocate using whatever works first, and then pursuing theoretical matters later.
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby Dave Toast » Thu Nov 08, 2007 9:28 am

That's not what the second quote is about at all. It's about distractions and earnestness.
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby Kevin Solway » Thu Nov 08, 2007 12:24 pm

That's right, the second quote is about getting your priorities right and not delaying things unnecessarily.

For example, if you know that removing the poisoned arrow is the most important thing then you should do that first of all, before you concern yourself with all the other matters.

That's what Jesus meant when he said, "First, the Kingdom of God".

A lot of it comes down to what we mean by "what works".

Many people want to leave the poison arrow in there for as long as possible, while gossiping on the phone, because that's "what works" for them. That is, it might bring them a painful death, but at least they'll have a good gossip on the way down.

"Father" Peter might be going to hell for directly disobeying Jesus's instruction to never to call anyone on earth "Father", but at least he's made a sustainable career out of it - so that's "what works" for him.
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby maestro » Thu Nov 08, 2007 12:57 pm

Dave Toast wrote:That's not what the second quote is about at all. It's about distractions and earnestness.

Kevin Solway wrote:That's right, the second quote is about getting your priorities right and not delaying things unnecessarily.

That maybe one interpretation, but this parable is oft cited to illustrate the Buddha's disinclination to indulge in metaphysics and abstract philosophy. He rather urged seekers to uncover the nature of self by mindfulness, which means to observe the mind dispassionately and uncover its mechanism. This way of mindfulness is an empirical technique which again is reminiscent of the method of science as opposed to metaphysics, which indulges in speculation and logical deduction from imaginary premises, and resembles maths.

A lot of western philosophy is based on imaginary premises (which seem indubitable to the philosopher) and logical deductions thereof, which often means that it has no contact with reality.
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby Kevin Solway » Thu Nov 08, 2007 1:29 pm

maestro wrote:He rather urged seekers to uncover the nature of self by mindfulness

Keep in mind that the Buddha arrived at the idea that one should "uncover the nature of the self by mindfulness" through logical deduction or "metaphysics" (which literally means, "that which is beyond the physical").

A lot of western philosophy is based on imaginary premises (which seem indubitable to the philosopher)

To the Western academic philosopher, yes.

Although I'm not convinced that Western academic philosophers think enough to think that anything is indubitable.
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby Unidian » Thu Nov 08, 2007 1:38 pm

Keep in mind that the Buddha arrived at the idea that one should "uncover the nature of the self by mindfulness" through logical deduction or "metaphysics" (which literally means, "that which is beyond the physical").

Where do you get this interpretation of "mindfulness?"
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby maestro » Thu Nov 08, 2007 1:42 pm

Kevin Solway wrote:Keep in mind that the Buddha arrived at the idea that one should "uncover the nature of the self by mindfulness" through logical deduction or "metaphysics"

Why metaphysics? He came to this idea through mindfulness, upon gathering enough information about the mind (with mindfulness) he deduced that the hypothesis which best explained his observations is the following: ego is a fiction and the nature of the mind is the same as that of the world i.e. cause and effect. His truth is empirical and not a logical statement derived from axioms.

Since he saw that this method worked so well for him, he then told his followers to do the same.
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby maestro » Thu Nov 08, 2007 1:53 pm

Kevin Solway wrote:To the Western academic philosopher, yes.

Why academic only consider these luminaries, who built a whole philosophical structure around ideas pulled out of thin air.
Schopenhauer: The idea of a will to life in everything which is always frustrated in its attempts.
Nietzsche: Modified Schopenhauer's will to life to will to power.
Freud: Libido as the driving force in everything.
Plato: Idea of a platonic perfect world with this world being a copy of that world.
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby Kevin Solway » Thu Nov 08, 2007 2:16 pm

maestro wrote:
Kevin Solway wrote:Keep in mind that the Buddha arrived at the idea that one should "uncover the nature of the self by mindfulness" through logical deduction or "metaphysics"

Why metaphysics?

Logical deduction is metaphysics, and the Buddha used logical deduction.

he deduced that the hypothesis which best explained his observations is the following: ego is a fiction and the nature of the mind is the same as that of the world i.e. cause and effect. His truth is empirical and not a logical statement derived from axioms.

You're talking about the Buddha as though he were some kind of scientist. A scientific hypothesis is one that is able to be proven wrong - it must be "falsifiable". But the Buddha's philosophy has no way in which it could be proven wrong, so it's not a scientific hypothesis.
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby Philosophaster » Thu Nov 08, 2007 2:18 pm

Kevin Solway wrote:Logical deduction is metaphysics, and the Buddha used logical deduction.

Logical deduction is using rules that preserve truth to move from premises to a conclusion.

That may or may not involve metaphysics.
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby maestro » Thu Nov 08, 2007 2:41 pm

Kevin Solway wrote:You're talking about the Buddha as though he were some kind of scientist. A scientific hypothesis is one that is able to be proven wrong - it must be "falsifiable". But the Buddha's philosophy has no way in which it could be proven wrong, so it's not a scientific hypothesis.

Why not? If the practice of mindfulness yields observations which contradict his hypothesis his hypothesis is false. Hence it is falsifiable.
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby Kevin Solway » Thu Nov 08, 2007 3:03 pm

maestro wrote:If the practice of mindfulness yields observations which contradict his hypothesis his hypothesis is false. Hence it is falsifiable.

Buddhist philosophy is about the nature of empirical observations themselves, so no matter what you observed empirically it couldn't challenge Buddhist philosophy in any way.

It depends what you mean by "mindfulness" and "observations".

If Buddhist philosophy was logically flawed then you could disprove it purely logically - and logical reasoning is part of mindfulness. And the results of logical reasoning can be called "observations" even though they are not empirical observations.
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby Unidian » Thu Nov 08, 2007 3:05 pm

You're talking about the Buddha as though he were some kind of scientist.

He was, insofar as psychology is considered a science. Buddha was above all a psychologist.

My primary interest in Buddhism lies in the fact that I consider Buddha a better psychologist than most of those I might find in the Yellow Pages.
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby Jamesh » Thu Nov 08, 2007 3:21 pm

"Of course," replied the man, "I would have the arrow pulled out as quickly as possible." The Buddha concluded, "That is wise O disciple, for the task before us is the solving of life's problems; when that is done, you may still ask the questions you put before me, if you so desire."


That plagiarist Maslow, copying the buddha :)
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby Unidian » Thu Nov 08, 2007 3:43 pm

Yeah, pretty much.
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby maestro » Fri Nov 09, 2007 12:28 am

Kevin Solway wrote:Buddhist philosophy is about the nature of empirical observations themselves, so no matter what you observed empirically it couldn't challenge Buddhist philosophy in any way.

Buddhist philosophy is not about the nature of empirical observations, but more about the functioning of the mind. In that it is not really a philosophy but a description of the mental processes etc.

Anyhow the philosophy is not the interesting bit about Buddhism, it is the emphasis on the practice of mental observations to uncover the secret of the mind for yourself, and not to rely on third-hand information from some philosopher. You can keep in mind Buddha's hypothesis and reject or accept depending on your inquiry.


I wonder if you have ever engaged in meditation (in the sense of observing the mind in action, and not chanting or sitting cross-legged with the eyes closed). Since the eastern philosophies emphasize this more than anything else, the rest of their descriptions are what people observed and deduced using meditation, and you are welcome and even encouraged to reject them. Anyhow the descriptions are often metaphorical and unless you are on the same page as these guys you will misunderstand what they are talking about.
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby The Duke of Khal » Fri Nov 09, 2007 6:47 am

To a follower who insisted on knowing, "Is there a God?", Shakyamuni replied with the parable of the poison arrow. "if you were shot by a poison arrow, and a doctor was summoned to extract it, what would you do? Would you ask such questions as who shot the arrow, from which tribe did he come, who made the arrow, who made the poison, etc., or would you have the doctor immediately pull out the arrow?"
"Of course," replied the man, "I would have the arrow pulled out as quickly as possible." The Buddha concluded, "That is wise O disciple, for the task before us is the solving of life's problems; when that is done, you may still ask the questions you put before me, if you so desire."


This quote is about telling people that they are animals and should follow their animal natures above all, including preserving their lives at all costs.

You've heard of animals chewing off a leg to escape a trap? That's an animal kind of trick. A human would remain in the trap, endure the pain, feigning death that he might kill the trapper and remove a threat to his kind. We Bene Gesserit sift people to find the humans.
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Buddhism is a philosophy of cognitive suicide, a slave religion, interested in expediency rather than principle. Life's core problem is cognitive development, is explaining the universe. Focussing on the immediate is ahistorical nihilism. That's why Buddhism clings to its reincarnation doctrine--to stop people from simply solving their problems by shooting themselves in their heads.

Let the poison arrow do its work...no more problems!

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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby Dave Toast » Fri Nov 09, 2007 10:39 am

To a follower who insisted on knowing, "Is there a God?", Shakyamuni replied with the parable of the poison arrow. "if you were shot by a poison arrow, and a doctor was summoned to extract it, what would you do? Would you ask such questions as who shot the arrow, from which tribe did he come, who made the arrow, who made the poison, etc., or would you have the doctor immediately pull out the arrow?"
"Of course," replied the man, "I would have the arrow pulled out as quickly as possible." The Buddha concluded, "That is wise O disciple, for the task before us is the solving of life's problems; when that is done, you may still ask the questions you put before me, if you so desire."


maestro: It seems that Buddha is advocating whatever works to end suffering and achieve enlightenment, rather than building a ironclad, absolute logical philosophy as people here seem to be so hung up about. In that he is similar to the sciences who advocate using whatever works first, and then pursuing theoretical matters later.

DT: That's not what the second quote is about at all. It's about distractions and earnestness.

maestro: That maybe one interpretation, but this parable is oft cited to illustrate the Buddha's disinclination to indulge in metaphysics and abstract philosophy. He rather urged seekers to uncover the nature of self by mindfulness, which means to observe the mind dispassionately and uncover its mechanism. This way of mindfulness is an empirical technique which again is reminiscent of the method of science as opposed to metaphysics, which indulges in speculation and logical deduction from imaginary premises, and resembles maths.

I think it's a misguided and mundane interpretation.

If by 'metaphysics', one means nebulous philosophy and considering questions such as "Is there a God?"; then is it not redundant to cite this passage as evidence of disinclination to indulge in such, when so much is obviously evidenced by its complete absence throughout the entirity of the buddha's words?

On the other hand, if by 'metaphysics' one means the study of existence and being, then it is somewhat bizarre to suggest that the buddah was disinclined to indulge in such. The suggestion that the buddah engaged in some kind of scientifically empirical methodology as opposed to the above 'metaphysics' is doubly so.


The lesson is not about refraining from indulging in metaphysics. Rather it is about staying focussed and the detrimental effect thereon of indulging in anything outside of the object of that focus.

The suggested interpretation is therefore a perfect example of exactly what is advised against in the quote. And if it's often cited amongst Buddhists as you suggest, then that's a deliciously ironic example of religious tendencies.
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby Jehu » Fri Nov 09, 2007 11:32 am

While, the Buddha was a metaphysician of the highest order, and his doctrine of emptiness is one that is completely reasonable, he was also a physician of sorts, intent upon the eradication of distress and despair. Now, if you went to the your doctor, wishing to be cured of some deadly ailment, but insisted upon understanding exactly hold the prescribed medicine worked before taking it, it is likely that you would simply die in the mean time. Just so, the Buddha offered a cure for distress and despair (i.e., the noble eight-fold path), and one need not completely understand the metaphysical principle upon which the cure is based, in order to take advantage of it.
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby maestro » Fri Nov 09, 2007 12:15 pm

Dave Toast wrote:I think it's a misguided and mundane interpretation.
If by 'metaphysics' one means the study of existence and being, then it is somewhat bizarre to suggest that the buddah was disinclined to indulge in such. The suggestion that the buddah engaged in some kind of scientifically empirical methodology as opposed to the above 'metaphysics' is doubly so.

Buddha's theories about the being and mind ultimately derive their validity from the practice of mindfulness. What is so bad about an empirical methodology that you have such an extreme prejudice against it.

Dave Toast wrote:The lesson is not about refraining from indulging in metaphysics. Rather it is about staying focussed and the detrimental effect thereon of indulging in anything outside of the object of that focus.
The suggested interpretation is therefore a perfect example of exactly what is advised against in the quote. And if it's often cited amongst Buddhists as you suggest, then that's a deliciously ironic example of religious tendencies.

It seems the quote is clear enough first find a cure for your suffering as soon as possible, and then inquire about god, soul and the universe. And in fact he subtly hints that such questions are going to disappear of their own accord, when suffering ends.
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby maestro » Fri Nov 09, 2007 12:24 pm

Dave Toast wrote:I think it's a misguided and mundane interpretation.

Let us consider Buddha's words
the task before us is the solving of life's problems

It seems Buddha does not shy away from the mundane. He identifies his task as solving life's problems.

Now consider the following parable, why do you think the Buddha did not reply in this manner.
To a follower who insisted on knowing, "Is there a God?", Shakyamuni replied I define God as the totality of all there is, thus there is a God. Upon hearing which the follower was instantly enlightened
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby Philosophaster » Fri Nov 09, 2007 12:36 pm

maestro wrote:What is so bad about an empirical methodology that you have such an extreme prejudice against it.

Science and empirical methods demand actual results, and that makes people here uncomfortable. They would rather spin out webs of words pregnant with "deep" significance and blather about their supposed superiority to women, Jews, and the "unconscious" masses.

After all, any old joker can do those things, and none of them involves any real possibility of failure.
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby Kevin Solway » Fri Nov 09, 2007 1:05 pm

maestro wrote:What is so bad about an empirical methodology that you have such an extreme prejudice against it.

The empirical method can't tell you anything with certainty. It also doesn't tell you anything whatsoever about empiricism itself.

In Taoism, it is said, "Some people try to peep at the heavens through a tube, or aim at the earth with an awl. These implements are too small for the purpose."

It seems the quote is clear enough first find a cure for your suffering as soon as possible, and then inquire about god

"God" (ie, Reality, or the Infinite) is the cure to your suffering, which is why Jesus taught "First, the Kingdom of God".

The teaching of the Buddha that you mention assumes that the person has enough intelligence to work out what they should do to cure themselves (ie, to remove the arrow, to surrender all to God, to drop all delusions). But very few people have that much intelligence.
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby Dave Toast » Fri Nov 09, 2007 2:20 pm

DT: I think it's a misguided and mundane interpretation.

On the other hand, if by 'metaphysics' one means the study of existence and being, then it is somewhat bizarre to suggest that the buddah was disinclined to indulge in such. The suggestion that the buddah engaged in some kind of scientifically empirical methodology as opposed to the above 'metaphysics' is doubly so.

maestro: Buddha's theories about the being and mind ultimately derive their validity from the practice of mindfulness. What is so bad about an empirical methodology that you have such an extreme prejudice against it.

Mate, I am a scientist.

Seriously, how on earth did you derive the conclusion that I have an extreme prejudice against science from what I said? There's no basis for it there whatsoever. It's just gross misinterpretation, again.

As I said, the practice of mindfulness is not a scientifically empirical methodology. You are confusing the philosophical discipline of empiricism with the scientifically empirical. Any good scientist would never make that mistake. There is a big difference. What you've basically said is that the buddah observed and theorized about said observations. That is only the beginning of the scientific method. This is to say nothing of the the potential for objectivity (an essential component of the truly scientific method) when considered from a necessarily subjective viewpoint.

And now you're saying that he was a metaphysician, an ontologist, whereas your original claim was that buddah was somehow counselling against what he actually did - metaphysics - and what you refered to as "building a ironclad, absolute logical philosophy as people here seem to be so hung up about", which again is actually exactly what the buddah was doing when he came to his metaphysical conclusions.


You also failed to address my assertion about the weak formulation of metaphysics. This is why I refered to the suggested interpretation as mundane and redundant.

You cut it out when you quoted me for some reason. Here it is again:

If by 'metaphysics', one means nebulous philosophy and considering questions such as "Is there a God?"; then is it not redundant to cite this passage as evidence of disinclination to indulge in such, when so much is obviously evidenced by its complete absence throughout the entirity of the buddha's words?

And this was the definition of metaphysics you were employing originally don't forget.

DT: The lesson is not about refraining from indulging in metaphysics. Rather it is about staying focussed and the detrimental effect thereon of indulging in anything outside of the object of that focus.

The suggested interpretation is therefore a perfect example of exactly what is advised against in the quote. And if it's often cited amongst Buddhists as you suggest, then that's a deliciously ironic example of religious tendencies.

maestro: It seems the quote is clear enough first find a cure for your suffering as soon as possible, and then inquire about god, soul and the universe.

No, the message is concentrate only on finding a cure for your suffering. That's it. No then do this, then do that or then do anything. It is most especially not about "then inquiring about god, soul and the universe" as you say in your very next sentence:

And in fact he subtly hints that such questions are going to disappear of their own accord, when suffering ends.

Exactly. So why would he then be suggesting that the enlightened person would "then inquire about god, soul and the universe"? This is a clear contradiction.
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Re: Parable of the poison arrow and science.

Postby Dave Toast » Fri Nov 09, 2007 2:42 pm

maestro: Let us consider Buddha's words

"the task before us is the solving of life's problems"

It seems Buddha does not shy away from the mundane. He identifies his task as solving life's problems.

First of all, when you say mundane here, you are meaning of or relating to the world. That's not the definition I was employing when I said it was a mundane interpretation. Rather I was meaning it is an ordinary, uninspired, commonplace, trite and hackneyed interpretation.

It's all surface. Just because it's got the words 'life' and 'problems' in it, you transpose this as being somehow about what anyone might think of as the mundane problems of life. What he is refering to is not how to pay the bills but simply eliminating suffering - becoming enlightened.

Now consider the following parable, why do you think the Buddha did not reply in this manner.

"To a follower who insisted on knowing, "Is there a God?", Shakyamuni replied I define God as the totality of all there is, thus there is a God. Upon hearing which the follower was instantly enlightened"

I think that the buddah did not reply in this manner because the point he was making was about distractions and earnestness, as opposed to being about the definition of god or whether a god exists. Pretty simple really.
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