At the end of Part – 7 we made a reference to the tricks that our mind plays on us.
I think I can safely bet that all of us (unless you are yourself a magician) wonder how a magician or trickster pulls off a trick fooling us right in front of our eyes. Magicians and tricksters take full advantage of the fact that beyond the radar of our ability to consciously detect things, our brain and mind do many things unknown to us. By a sleight of hand or carrying out an elaborate illusion, they hack into our brains with their skill.
Dr. Susana Martinez-Conde and her husband Dr. Stephen Macknik, Neuroscientists at Barrows Institute in USA have been studying the magician’s tricks for the last few years. From their work and the research of many other scientists, we are understanding much better about the way our cognitive mechanisms work in showing us the objective world we “think” we see out there. Continue reading →
At the end of Part – 7, we made a reference to the bag of tricks that the mind had acquired to help in the preservation and the perpetuation of the “form” of the body-organism.
Before we take up that issue for a detailed discussion, we should also make note of an important and closely related point. It is the “power” of the mind. For all practical purposes brain is after all the seat, or at the least the surrogate, of the mind.
All schools of philosophy agree on the power of the mind. The mind can do miracles. You see them all the time but you are so habituated to experiencing the miracles that you tend to overlook their immensity and astounding quality.
The faith oriented schools of philosophies exploit the ‘power of the mind’ in visualizing, securing and realizing, in the interest of the body organism, situations that are congenial to make the life of the body-organism easy, comfortable and reasonably happy. A number of techniques have been developed and refined over time to serve towards such an objective. Continue reading →
The Intelligent Design people and almost all religions speak about ‘Creation’ by a God accepting “The Doctrine of Creation-based perception (sRiShTi-dRiShTi-vAda).” The assumption behind this concept is that I am able to perceive a world out there because I am born into a pre-existing creation.
Biologists talk about ‘Evolution’ accepting Darwin’s Theory. The assumption behind this concept is that there exists an operational mechanism of natural selection and survival of the fittest in their struggle for perpetuation giving raise to a multiplicity of species.
Vedantins (Advaita school) consider the ‘unmanifest and unknowable something that IS or IS-not’ as an apparent cause for the ‘Illusory appearance of a world.’ It is called as the ajAti-vAda, The Doctrine says that ‘Nothing is ever born.’ It holds that an apparent creation happens when perception takes place. Continue reading →
We have been assessing the reliability of our sensory apparatus – the mind plus the five sensory organs – in the last two Posts. We already discovered that they do not show what exactly exists out there. They may show non-existing things to be existing but we slavishly believe in what they show to us. Let us examine this issue one more time so that you will be free of doubt.
Undoubtedly a chocolate tastes sweet and a hammer dropped on our foot hurts. We find things hot or cold, tall or short, light or heavy and so on. But do these qualities rest within the objects seen out there or do our senses project them on to something which lies there? Is there truly an inherent solidity and physicality to the objects we perceive in our awake state? We seldom ever brood over this issue. Let us do a small experiment to know whether the solid looking stuff we see around really exists or not. Continue reading →
At the end of Part – 2, we raised the question “Who am I?” At the end of Part – 3, we introduced the concept of personality in place of “I.”
If I ask you “Who are you?” you may say your name. You may continue, “My parents are … … and I was born on August 15.” You may add, “I am an engineer / a doctor / a carpenter / a driver / an expert / etc.” If you feel patriotic, you may say, “I am an Indian, an American, a Mongolian etc.”
But have you noticed one thing? All the above aspects, which you claim to be “you,” are actually told by somebody else. Your name, parentage or your expertise are all just what you “learnt” and accepted. None of them are known directly by you from your experiencing. Continue reading →
We ended the Part – 2 with the questions, “Who exactly am “I”?; and “Is my “mind” the proper and the most efficient instrument for the job I am putting it to?”
Any good workman first examines the efficiency, sensitivity and efficacy of his tools, before using them, for, as experience shows, there could be an unaccounted “instrumental error” that can creep into the conclusions we draw. In a modern laboratory of scientific investigations, calibration of the error from various sources including the tools used is a standard practice.
So let us first find out what is mind, the only tool we have at our disposal, what is its nature, and what are its characteristics. We should be aware of the errors it may introduce and thereby bias the conclusions. Continue reading →
Towards the end of NBS Part – 1, we had seen that the very presence of another is a cause for fear — that is to say that the presence of an additional creature other than a ‘me’, in general, is a ‘challenge’ to my own existence. We then asked the question: “But suppose the second entity is a Savior, a Protector, a Godhead?”
That is a very comforting thought. It helps to calm the agitated, perturbed, worried mind. It feels soothing. Yes, comforting.
The idea of a Savior, a loving caring Godhead, gives me a confidence that there is someone out there to look after ‘me’, to take care of my interests, and to see that things work forever in ‘my’ favor.
And suppose, in that Savior, I pack all those qualities that I do not have — in order to make good for my shortcomings, my weaknesses, my frailties, my infirmities, then I will have a colossal strength at my back. I can rest without a worry. I can sleep peacefully. So let me think of a Super-human, omniscient, omnipotent, Lord as my Protector. Continue reading →
Mind is the only tool we have as human beings to investigate and inquire into what is, if anything is, beyond the physical world of objects which we know from our direct perception (pratyaksha pramANa) using the five sensory organs. We want to know “That” which supports this solid looking world and the animate and inanimate creatures populating it. The “driver” for such an enquiry could just be an inborn curiosity or a desire to attain unswerving freedom from unhappiness.
As a matter of fact, we are already accustomed to use our ‘mind,’ without being ever even aware of doing so, for ensuring ‘security,’ which we believe gives us happiness. We have been able to detect certain “patterns” in the world. One is that all things are always changing. As a measure of this change, we ‘invented’ time. So time dimension or factor in the world is known to us only through the mind. Continue reading →
When deciding whether an action should be deemed good or bad (as opposed to whether it is something we ourselves want to do), people will sometimes try to calculate whether the result will benefit the majority. This principle was expressed in the 18th Century by Francis Hutcheson: ‘That action is best which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers’. It is effectively the opposite of what Kant was saying. Whereas he insisted that it was the motive alone that determined whether an act should be deemed to be ‘good’ and that we should act from a sense of duty, Hutcheson was claiming that motives were ultimately irrelevant, it was the outcome alone that mattered.
Two philosophers in particular were responsible for developing and propagating these ideas and thereby influencing many people’s attitude towards morality. The first was Jeremy Bentham, who is generally regarded as the originator of so-called ‘Utilitarianism’, which says that conduct is right or wrong according to its tendency to produce favourable or unfavourable consequences for the people who are affected by it. It was given this name because actions are judged on the basis of their ‘utility’ or usefulness in bringing about good, or benefit of some kind as opposed to evil or unhappiness. Continue reading →