2009.08.31 - Not-Yet-Known versus Quite-Different

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    Here is the text of a dialogue held by Piet Hut (in SL: Pema Pera) and Steven Tainer (in SL: Stim Morane), in Second Life on August 31, 2009.

     

    P: is there anything you'd like to bring up or continue from a
       previous conversation?
    S: Have you been in some PaB sessions since the retreat?
    P: yes, three of them so far
    P: sorry that I can't be there with you this afternoon
    P: since I'll be in mid flight
    S: Yes
    S: So how did those go?
    P: they went well, I think various participants managed to get their
       impressions across
    S: Good
    S: Last time we discussed your growing sense of using wu-wei, like at
       the retreat.
    S: Do you see the same things in PaB?
    P: you mean in SL?
    S: Yes
    P: yes, I do
    P: certainly for myself, but I think also for others
    P: though of course we always have new people coming in too
    S: that is sort of interesting, considering the difference in the situation.
    P: I think that without the SL preparation, we wouldn't have had such
       a seemlessly harmonious experience in our RL retreat
    P: I think the SL contacts formed the base for that
    S: sure
    S: But I mean, it's very different manifesting wu-wei in rl than in
       sl, given the reduced set of cues people can get about your own
       presence
    P: yes, and yet a lot of it still carries over to SL
    P: as does a lot of other stuff, re: discussions you had with Storm and Corvi
    P: during the retreat
    S: well I had that in mind
    S: But this is an extreme case, a greater challenge, in some ways
    S: wu-wei is by its very nature quite subtle
    P: this could bring us to our old topic of "what contains what" . . .
    S: I suppose many things lead back to that
    S: What did you have in mind?
    P: Clearly, Being is a notion that doesn't have a place within current
       scientific thinking
    P: and many aspects of what you are teaching in your meditation
       classes don't have either
    S: they shouldn't have a place in current scientific thinking.
    P: but some of those at least could be expected to be studied by
       science at some point -- like the chi aspects, at least the more
       ordinary side of those
    S: that is a special case in some ways
    P: Let me put forward a way of thinking that may not be accurate at
       all, but at least as a straw man kind of thing
    P: Here it is: there is our ordinary world, as we ordinarily see it,
       and within that world there are things we have discovered and things
       we haven't; and in addition there is a way to look beyond that world,
       seeing in a totally different way.
    P: So in that case, there are things that don't fall within the
       currently known categories that are still relatively ordinary but not
       yet found and then there are much more extraordinary aspects of reality.
    P: Personally, I don't like such a division, it seems too much like a
       "two island" kind of picture
    P: but it is of course useful in a limited way, in many variants:
    P: for example, you can ask "given a world view based on X, Y, Z, then
       what part of your teaching could be embedded to some extent at least
       in that world view, and what part would lie completely outside"
    P: the answer would be different for each set of "X, Y, Z"
    P: would you agree?
    S: a clarification: are you asking what part could be placed in the
       known, vs the not-yet-known, vs the "quite different"?
    P: yes
    P: where the division between the first two and the third is drawing
       based on a world view based on "X, Y, Z"
    S: OK, but there are a great many different directions the "quite
       different" could unfold.
    P: and different for different sets of "X, Y, Z"
    S: i.e., there are many types of "quite different".
    S: I think some would naturally be expected to become of interest to
       science at some point.
    S: Others may not be of that kind.
    P: I would be happy to spend a number of sessions on this question,
       starting with building up a simple vocabulary
    P: and also to discuss then the notion of "naturalization" that has
       been used in philosophy recently; I think to try to draw the
       "quite different" back into the "not-yet-known"
    S: I have always been interested in various "science vs spirituality"
       issues, but the question of the future development of science is not
       one I think one can second-guess very well.
    P: well, I can simply state my intuitions :-)
    S: yes, that's true.
    S: :)
    P: and if nothing else we can treat that as one hypothesis
    P: and I'm happy to also play the devil's advocate and defend another
       hypothesis, namely that science does have limits
    S: that doesn't sound like a Piet idea to me.
    S: :)
    P: no, but for the sake of argument -- but it would be much more fun
       if you would play that role, of course :)
    S: As I say, I'm more interested in considering the near-term future,
       not so much the limit cases of scientific development, because i think
       the latter is unknowable and not clearly relevant to actual practice.
    S: But I'm interested in your intuitions, of course.
    P: even when limiting ourselves to the near term future, when you talk
       about your insights, the first reaction of many people will be: how
       does this fit into a modern world view, informed by science
    S: yes, that part I am interested in
    P: so you have to answer then "it does, it doesn't yet, it can't" --
       one of those three, right?
    S: I would tend to treat the subject in more concrete or specific
       ways, concerning actual areas of conflict or complementary overlap.
    S: the most general formulation is less decideable, I suspect.
    S: suppose you take the position that science will be everything, eventually.
    S: Since we don't know what that would mean, or how it would happen,
       i'm not sure what we can conclude from it.
    P: how about taking the notion of "subtle kind of wu-wei" as we
       witnessed during the RL retreat, as concrete example?
    S: Yes?
    P: we can see to what extent that notion is likely to be discussable
       within the context of current and near-future science, or whether
       you think it is totally beyond, totally other.
    S: What I have said and written in the past is that science will
       always be able to study any stated aspect of spirituality.
    S: But the point there is that the word "study" means just that.
    S: Science will always have, at any point, many different ways of
       "studying" something of interest to spiritual traditions.
    S: And each angle will yield a certain perspective, based on the field
       of science involved, etc.
    S: this is not the same as actually BEING wu-wei, as understood by
       someone manifesting it.
    S: I'm all in favor of scientific study and perspectives. But we
       shouldn't think they = contemplation, for instance.
    P: let's continue this tomorrow.
    S: yes, have a good trip!
    P: It's a very interesting topic
    P: thank you
    P: Have a nice day in Berkeley!

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