Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Death to the transcendent!

Continuing the IPS discussion from this post:

theurj: Returning to DeLanda's notion, in ISVP he notes that the virtual is a "pure becoming" in "a time where nothing ever occurs but where everything is endlessly becoming in both unlimited directions at once...perfectly symmetric" (107). His strict dichotomy of being (actual) and becoming (virtual) here, as differentiated from Bryant's being is becoming and vice-versa, seems akin yet again to the way the absolute and relative are related in the shentong and rangtong views. And again relevant to Prigogine's criticism of such time symmetry in QM.

Balder: Yes, I like Bryant's being is becoming (and prefer it to the strict dichotomy you describe above, and relate it to a pretty rich discussion of such by Roland Faber in Polydoxy), but I'm not sure exactly how he squares that with this statement, which again is suggestive of such a split (this half and that half):  "Objects are split between their virtual half and their actual half or what I refer to as their 'virtual proper being' and their 'local manifestations.'  The virtual proper being of an object consists of that object’s powers are capacities.... These powers or capacities are not fixed once and for all, but rather objects can acquire new capacities and lose capacities they once had.... The local manifestations of an object are the way in which these powers are exercised under determinate circumstances in the form of actions and properties."

theurj: Yes, I read that too. For me though, as we've been discussing in the last several posts above, endo- and exo-relations (although split like the two truths) are mutually entailing rather than mutually opposed. Recall this was a key difference between rangtong and shentong in the Batchelor thread, according to Thakchoe.

Balder: In the essay I mentioned above which started our recent discussion (where Thatamanil was discussing the use of the term 'ground'), Thatamanil similarly argues that the three terms he employs -- ground, contingency, and relation -- must be read perichoretically (to use a Christian term), or as mutually entailing.  This is his means of avoiding ontotheology.  Ground, as being, is not a split-off other, but is mutually entailed in contingency (particularity) and relation, as they also are mutually entailing.  This is why I asked about Bryant's use of "being."

Interestingly, one of Thatamanil's arguments about shentong in that article is curiously similar to your/Bryant's argument about the withdrawn-as-potential: shentong is interested in positing a positive quality to reality in the form of pure potential for ongoing growth, transformation, etc, fearing rangtong-negation could slide toward nihilism.

Thatamanil:  "Against the Gelukpa Madhyamikas stand other Buddhists who want to preserve some account of Buddha-nature as non-reified ground; these Buddhists rightly fear that an account of ultimate reality as emptiness alone might risk a nihilism that denies the very ground of the human capacity for transformation.  To affirm that there is in the real an infinite fund for wisdom and compassion is the reason for insisting that emptiness is not merely a negation of own-being or self-existence."

theurj: Recall I've criticized the rangtongs too for still clinging to some kind of strictly nonconceptual awareness, despite their mutually entailing thesis. Hence I'm a pOOOntongpa, or Derridude, or whatever. Now while there are similarities with which I can agree with Thatamanil, he still languages it as a "pure potential" and "infinite," which might imply something metaphysical despite his qualifications?

Some quotes and commentary from Thatamanil's article:

"Only finite realities can be enumerated; the infinite cannot" (5).

P. 13 introduces the differences between Gelug and Nyingma re: emptiness. 16 makes out the ground as God the creator and source which "gives rise to a world." 17 uses Sankara's Vedantic notion of this ground which is "unchangeble immutability" of an "eternal luminous consciousness", aka atman (18), which some Buddhism has fairly well established as a dualism of absolute v. relative.

I appreciate the discussion of contingency as singularity on p. 20, akin to Bryant's objects in that way. Unlike the latter though God "makes" them.

P. 24 and relation I appreciate his take that for Gelug's "nothing whatsoever exists outside of relation...even God." He notes on 25 that when we see an ultimate God apart from the world, like Vedanta, an "irresolvable dualism arises." And on 26 we get to the crux of the rangtong-shentong distinction, since the rangtong include singularity and relation without ground as defined. He claims that shentong keeps the ground but that it is "non-reified" and avoids the "putative sin of Advaita." Does it? I say no per below.

His solution? As Balder noted, there must be a mutual entailing of the 3 aspects. I guess I define mutual entailing differently (as does Thakchoe). This is akin to the shentong synthesis in positing God-ground as cause (causal) in relation with the contingent just as Wilber does. Whereas for Bryant, who also has all 3 aspects, the ontological ground is redefined as a transcendental immanent through and through, created and dependently arisen, not transcendent at all. Thatamanil would of course, like the shentongs, claim this is unbalanced due to not accepting a causal ground and is nihilistic. I still say hogwash and death to the transcendent!

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