Thursday, November 27, 2014

Reconciling Buddhism and Wittgenstein: Inherent Non-existence

Not-self (Pāli: anatta; Sanskrit: anātman) is the third mark of existence. Upon careful examination, one finds that no phenomenon is really "I" or "mine"; these concepts are in fact constructed by the mind. In the Nikayas anatta is not meant as a metaphysical assertion, but as an approach for gaining release from suffering. In fact, the Buddha rejected both of the metaphysical assertions "I have a Self" and "I have no Self" as ontological views that bind one to suffering.[77] When asked if the self was identical with the body, the Buddha refused to answer. By analyzing the constantly changing physical and mental constituents (skandhas) of a person or object, the practitioner comes to the conclusion that neither the respective parts nor the person as a whole comprise a self.

Ludwig Wittgenstein:   Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

3.144 States of affairs can be described but not named.
(Names resemble points; propositions resemble arrows, they
have sense.)

3.203 The name means the object. The object is its meaning. (“A” is
the same sign as “A”.)

3.22 In the proposition the name represents the object.

3.221 Objects I can only name. Signs represent them. I can only speak
of them. I cannot assert them. A proposition can only say how
a thing is, not what it is.

3.26 The name cannot be analysed further by any definition. It is a
primitive sign.

3.3 Only the proposition has sense; only in the context of a propo-
sition has a name meaning.

My analysis:

A name has no meaning in and of itself. (Let me underline this: it does not have any existence without the object it points to) It is a point it represents an object.  It is the object in a proposition, and the proposition is an element of a logical picture.

A Logical picture is used to depict something in the world (2.19)

2.22 The picture represents what it represents, independently of its
truth or falsehood, through the form of representation.

So a name is a way to describe something (as a placeholder in a proposition) but it holds no other properties than the proposition which may be true or false.  E.G.  Dave is a Dad.  Dave points to an object, Dad points to another object, you can verify the truth and therefore whether or not that logical picture is true or false as a proposition. It either agrees with reality or not. Dave is a person and a father. Both names are true and therefore by Wittgenstein the proposition is true, the object in the world is true, and so on. 

That is the same thing as a Buddhist name for an object, it is an illusion or a primitive sign that points to an object, but does not take the place of the object.  It exists only in logical space not in real space. I don't exist.  You don't exist.  I and you point to us as objects but never take the place of I or You.  If I can't find an I or You that is completely true in the world exactly for all propositions that encapsulate these respective objects, then each proposition is false (errata: typed true but meant false.). The opposite is also true, the named object may exist but the proposition is false.  The name only matters in the statement and picture regarding whether or not these propositions are true.

OK now here is the tie-in to inherent non-existence: By Wittgenstein all propositions within a logical picture must be true for the entire logical picture to represent an object in the world.  Therefore any name must represent that object truthfully for the proposition to be true. Any moment you declare an object as containing such and such elements, the next moment that named object changes, that logical picture becomes false.  See Impermanence below.  There is no moment in time that object is not undergoing changes.  Therefore, the named object is always false. It is always a false proposition. The named object never lives up to the elements that make up the logical picture.   It has inherent non-existence.

Impermanence (Pāli: anicca) expresses the Buddhist notion that all compounded or conditioned phenomena (all things and experiences) are inconstant, unsteady, and impermanent. Everything we can experience through our senses is made up of parts, and its existence is dependent on external conditions. Everything is in constant flux, and so conditions and the thing itself are constantly changing. Things are constantly coming into being, and ceasing to be. Since nothing lasts, there is no inherent or fixed nature to any object or experience. According to the doctrine of impermanence, life embodies this flux in the aging process, the cycle of rebirth (saṃsāra), and in any experience of loss. The doctrine asserts that because things are impermanent, attachment to them is futile and leads to suffering (dukkha).