Audio from 5/13

Kim Mosely has kindly put yesterday's talk and discussion on-line:

You can also go to:

and see the uploaded discussions.

One Response to “Audio from 5/13”

  1. Nevitt Reesor Says:

    Some participants in the discussion suggested that recollections of past lives, especially in the case of the Buddha, constitute empirical evidence of rebirth, and therefore the doctrine of rebirth does not rely upon metaphysical speculation. Yet surely a mental experience of something does not constitute irrefutable evidence of its truth; I’m sure we all can think of many examples to the contrary. If I seem to remember a past life, why would I not instead conclude that this was a particularly lucid dream or some other sort of illusory mental phenomenon? Furthermore, to interpret such an experience as a recollection of a past life already presupposes the metaphysical context which makes such an interpretation possible. In other words, simply believing in the possibility of rebirth already assumes the truth of a metaphysical speculation that cannot be supported by any empirical evidence. Finally, one might say that the Buddha’s special status allowed him to see the truth in ways not possible for the rest of us, so we should take his word as authoritative, perhaps by “faith.” Maybe, but I find it very difficult to make myself believe something I don’t actually believe. From my obviously limited vantage point, it is impossible to escape the essential subjectivity of consciousness, even within the context of non-dual awareness, even within the context of enlightenment. I of course must grant that since I am not enlightened, I am unqualified to make such judgments, and what I am capable of believing may have little relation to reality. Nevertheless, it seems to me all claims about the nature of Reality are speculative metaphysical interpretations of a certain kind of mental experience. When a Buddhist says to me, “Based on my own experience I can tell you that ultimate reality is thus and so,” or “The Buddha says that the ultimate reality is thus and so,” my response is, “Thus and so is the way you have interpreted you experience.” Experience itself is as it is, but as soon as one begins to draw conclusions about the meaning of such experience, one begins to speculate, and most of these speculations either are based on metaphysical assumptions or have metaphysical implications. This does not mean we should not engage in metaphysical speculation, though I suspect some Buddhists would say we should not. But I think it means we should be honest when we are relying, sometimes in subtle ways, on metaphysical assumptions. We should not deny that we are doing this because we think we should be purely empirical, pure descriptive phenomenologists. The human mind requires contexts of meaning and must interpret its experience, at least the “normal” dualistic human mind. So, shouldn’t we just admit this and also admit that our interpretations are always speculative and therefore could always be wrong?

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