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7/20/2018 12:51 am  #1


Vedic Nondualism: characterization and motivations

The "Review of Renewing Philosophy of Religion" thread briefly touched upon the subject of non-dualism and eastern philosophy. I stated the following, which is probably a good a place as any to start.

Dave wrote:

I called Advaita  Vedanta "eliminative classical theism," because there's a striking similarity between theistic non-dualism and eliminative materialism. In both cases, what we have is the assertion of the primacy of one thing (matter, Brahman) and the rejection of everything else (intentionality, finite beings) as illusory. I'm not convinced that non-dualism is pantheism; certainly Brahman would be more at home with Plotinus than with Spinoza. Supposedly, Brahman is supposed to be without attributes, unchanging, and neither corporeal nor incorporeal.  Or, at any rate, that's the impression I've gathered. To the extent that my impression is correct, I don't think that the term "pantheism" is useful, as it generally connotes a simple God-world identity theory, and non-dualists seem to be eliminativists with respect to the world.

To what extent is the above accurate? Is Brahman analogous to the God of Classical Theism as far as considerations of Divine Simplicity and Negative Theology are concerned?

The parallel with eliminativism in the philosophy of mind relies on the assumption that "Maya" is a literal and unproblematic cognate to the English word "illusion." Should that assumption be incorrect (say, if the non-dualist is merely emphasizing how much more real Brahman is than the world), the parallel breaks down.

Another question: Who or what is supposed to be trapped by Maya? Atman/Brahman simpliciter? The composite reality consisting of Atman and the bodies/sheaths that clothe it? (would this option mean that Maya in some sense binds itself, insofar as the bodies/sheaths are supposed to be part of maya?) Something else entirely?

Finally, we reach the most important question of all: what are the arguments for non-dualism? What philosophical considerations motivate it? What problem is it supposed to solve?

This is a vitally important question to ask of any thesis that would require us to radically reevaluate the "manifest image" delivered by common sense and everyday experience.

 

7/20/2018 5:50 am  #2


Re: Vedic Nondualism: characterization and motivations

Are you referring only to Advaita, or to other forms of (arguable) non-dualism (Mahayana, Neoplatonic, Islamic, that of certain Christian thinkers, like Meister Eckhart and Eriugena)?

On the meaning of Maya and it's relationship to Brahman, this was debated within the Vedantin and the Advaita traditions. For example, different Advaita took different positions on whether Brahman could be said to experience illusion or not. Maya is an illusion, but it is also an unveiling, a theophany. This isn't perhaps as emphasised in the Vedantin tradition as it is by certain others (Ibn Arabi and the Sufi, for example), but it is a part of Maya's meaning.

 

7/20/2018 11:13 am  #3


Re: Vedic Nondualism: characterization and motivations

Jeremy Taylor wrote:

Are you referring only to Advaita, or to other forms of (arguable) non-dualist (Mahayana, Neoplatonic, Islamic, that of certain Christian thinkers, like Meister Eckhart and Eriugena)?

Primarily the sorts of non-dualism associated with the Dharmic religions.

That being said, if one can build a bridge from Scholastic theology to Western/Abrahamic non-dualism, and from there to Dharmic non-dualism, discussing other varieties may well be conducive to my goal.

On the meaning of Maya and it's relationship to Brahman, this was debated within the Vedantin and the Advaita traditions. For example, different Advaita took different positions on whether Brahman could be said to experience illusion or not.

Are there any open source/public domain resources on these debates?

Maya is an illusion, but it is also an unveiling, a theophany. This isn't perhaps as emphasised in the Vedantin tradition as it is by certain others (Ibn Arabi and the Sufi, for example), but it is a part of Maya's meaning.

I find the idea that Maya could be illusory and revelatory at the same time in the same respect contradictory. So, in what respect is Maya an illusion, and in what respect is in a revelation? Or am I imposing my personal categories on the text in assuming that "revelation" entails making a thing known, whereas "illusion" entails concealing it?

And do you have anything to say about the arguments for non-dualism?

     Thread Starter
 

7/20/2018 4:32 pm  #4


Re: Vedic Nondualism: characterization and motivations

@Dave,

My impression (I'm no expert) is that while there are Advaitists who present an eliminative picture, there are nondualists who do not. One example of the latter is Kashmir Shaivism. To put it in Buddhist language, it is to identify Nirvana with Samsara. In this vein, I would translate "Maya" not as "illusion" but as "delusion". What we perceive is real, but we are deluded into thinking it exists separately from ourselves.

My argument for non-eliminative nondualism: To start with, follow the Augustinian argumment to establishing that fundamental reality is One, Intellect, and Good, which for convenience can be called God. Next, establish Divine Simplicity, and so God is Intellect is Love is Willing etc. As Intellect, all things are thoughts of God, and exist if and only if God is thinking them. I would argue, then, that this is nondualism. God is Thinking, and there is only Thinking (though it can be differently named, e.g., as Creativity, Love, etc.), and all that exists are always and only thoughts of God. That we think of ourselves and things as separate from God is delusion. It is non-eliminative in that thoughts are real, not illusions.

The difficulty with this is that it cannot be understood within the confines of Aristotelian logic. This is because one can only understand thoughts (i.e., forms), while the power that produces thoughts is not a thought. Yet the power that produces thoughts does not exist independently of its thoughts. And so one needs something like Coleridge's "polar logic" to think about this. I have given my way of thinking about this in a draft essayhere, for those interested.

What nondualism solves. As described above, that is, as a non-eliminative nondualism, it solves the traditional metaphysical dilemmas: one/many, permanence/change, and so forth. These are what I call in my essay "tetralemmic polarities", and instead of being problems, are seen as solutions. God is this polarity, and it is only because of the polarity that there is anything. It is even empirical, because we can infer this polarity at work (albeit in extremely limited form) in our own thinking. Which, by the way, removes the need to think of God in terms of analogies. The difference between God and human is just one of limits and scope -- and delusion. And, dare I mention, in the essay is an argument that God must be a triunity.
 

Last edited by SR (7/20/2018 4:35 pm)

 

7/20/2018 6:24 pm  #5


Re: Vedic Nondualism: characterization and motivations

As SR notes, it is more a matter of how one views Maya. If contingent being is taken for a self-subsisting being, as it is liable to be my many, it the mother of illusions, but it is a reflection of the divine, and, seen in this way, it is a theophany.

I would recommend Karl Potter's Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophy. Most volumes are available online.

The arguments are various. For Advaita specifically, there is the matter of interpretation of the Hindu Scriptures. For all non-dualists, there are considerations like the problem of the one and the many.

 

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