Thursday, 18 August 2011

Pratyekas supervene on Boddhisatvas?

A Pratyeka Buddha is a 'hidden' Buddha who, however, does not start up a proper Sangha, or monastic community,  for which salvation consists of waxing fat on a lazy doctrine while putting the squeeze on the laity for donations and forcing dalits to do the dirty work under conditions of more wretched yet social opprobium.

A Bodhisattva is not less than a Pratyeka Buddha- he has attained the prize- which is a phenomenal state- but he has a different intentional state- viz. he wishes to save other sentient beings by getting them to understand that the Jains and the Ajivikas and all other Sraman denominations- not to mention the Carvaka materialists- are totally fucked in the head and could everybody kindly be very very shitty to 'low caste' people- coz they don't got 'right livelihood-' and like immediately become a monk or hand us monks loads of money already?

Clearly, Pratyeka Buddhahood supervenes on Boddhisatvahood- in the sense that every Boddhisatva is indistinguishable from the stand-point of any Pratyeka specific measure- but the reverse is not the case. Two instances of Pratyeka Buddhahood can always be distinguished from the Boddhisatva perspective as approaching closer or standing in some relation to itself. (Either that, or Pratyekas are 'zombie' Buddhas and can't have 'real' intentionality.)  But, why should this be?

One answer is that the Times weren't right for the Prayeka to set up a Sangha. In this case, there is some phenomenal state that supervenes- is multiply realizable across both Pratyekas and Boddhisatvas- but some 'cetana' or intentional state which does not similarly supervene. Why? Is it because sentient beings capable of Entanglement, as in the Avatamsaka or Vimalakirti 'Buddha field', do not exist? If so, something is added to the concept of Intentionality and something taken away from the scope of Phenomenology.

But Phenomenology does not disappear. The intention to be a Boddhisatva does not make you a Boddhisatva. You have to first instantiate in your phenomenal series that supervenient Pratyekadom otherwise you're just a wannabe.
Since, the Bodhhisatva 'cetana' or intentional state has supervenience- i.e. is multiply realizable- only if the ground for an entangled Buddhafield is ready at hand, an Occassionalist doctrine suggests itself as an (non) explanation for why the Pratyeka phenomenal state does not reduce to Bodhisattvadom.

In other words, Phenomenology and its dual Occassionalism re-appear in Buddhism as the two sides of the coin of 'Nothingness' which it cashes out as. Indeed, only the name of the coin changes, nothing sensible ever gets uttered, in this as in every other variety of peripatetic fraud or soteriological chicanery whose pious cultivation ensures we will always have more monks than reason.


  1. Your claim makes no sense. A is supervenient on B if there can be no difference in A properties without a difference in B properties. Pratyeka Buddhahood is a set of properties, call it P. Bodhisattvahood is a set of properties, call it B.
    P supervenes on B, if and only if, there is no difference in P without a difference in B.But, by definition P, contains ab element- viz. the willingness to accept immediate Liberation- which B does not have or could give rise to.
    In fact, no supervenience type relationship exists here. P and B are words within the same semantic system with different meanings. One is not more fundamental than the other. One doe not say, 'conservatism supervenes on neo-conservatism' or 'Judaism supervenes on Christianity'. Why, then, say Pratyekas supervene on Boddhisatvas or, equivalently, Hinayana supervenes on Mahayana?

  2. @Anon- I mean metaphysical supervenience.It makes perfect sense to say the Jewish Messiah supervenes on Christology- otherwise what has 2000 years of Xtian apologetics been about?
    Ordinary language claims- where words belonging to discourses differing in 'depth' or rigor might appear to have a merely semantic difference without that actually being the case- are not relevant in this context.
    The point about Buddhism is that it makes a claim about a certain Phenomenal state it is possible for sentient beings to have and, also an intentional state. One is tempted to say the intentional state- viz. the intention to postpone salvation that characterizes the Boddhisattva- supervenes on the phenomenal state. This fits with the naive intuition that intentionality is a sort of emergent, adding a degree of freedom, upon a mental state. But, I am making the opposite claim. That's why this is an interesting use of language- in my view.
    I'm not saying supervenience, or indeed the analytical theory of mind, is something we should be using more and more. But, in this case, it has a sort of illocutionary question begging force.

  3. This is confusion worse confounded!
    I said ' by definition P, contains an element- viz. the willingness to accept immediate Liberation- which B does not have or could give rise to.' You have not addressed this objection.

  4. @Anon- within Buddhist nomology, it is a metaphysically necessary truth that the Boddhisatva have a phenomenal state identical to the Pratyeka. This phenomenal state is Liberation. It is the hallmark of Pratyekadom. Because the Pratyeka is 'hidden'- only this phenomenal state distinguishes him. Pratyekadom is indistinguishable across Time, Species, and beings. But it is phenomenal not intentional. The element you say P has 'which B does not have or could give rise to' has to do with intentionality- viz. 'the willingness to accept immediate liberation'- no, such 'willingness' in Buddhist nomology exists.
    Name me one Pratyeka, in the literature, who said 'I'm willing to remain a hidden Buddha blithely indifferent to the Salvation of other suffering sentient beings.'
    If you can't, your argument fails.
    Within their respective nomologies, Pratyeka Buddhahood does supervene on Boddhisattvahood- which is interesting because it shows intentionality is more 'basic' than phenomenality (as indeed we'd expect if consciousness evolved adaptively)and less multiply realizable (which is interesting for hermeneutics and philosophy of language)- while, for Xtians, the Judaic Messiah does supervene on Christology.

  5. I don't think you understand the meaning of the word supervenience. I don't see how anyone at all familiar with the literature could reverse the reductionist arrow such that phenomenal states supervene over intentional states.

  6. Quite easily by the Anthropic principle. Intentionality is more directly under selective pressure thus more elementary than phenomenal states or other such spandrels.

  7. I'm afraid the Anthropic principle is of absolutely no relevance here. Consider the universe at this instant in time. Evolution isn't picking anything. Nothing is 'under selective pressure' over this time-scale. Two brains which are identical in their physical state have the same phenomenal state. This is what is meant when we say the phenomenal state is supervenient over the physical state.
    I should correct myself- I did not mean to say phenomenal states can't supervene over an intentional state- that is a matter of definition. I meant, in the context of your equation between Pratyeka Buddhahood and a phenomenal state vs. Bodhisatvahood and an intentional state, that it is nonsense to say the less 'developed' or 'spiritually evolved' state supervenes over the more developed or higher state. It is a bizarre use of the language.

  8. Change 'consider the universe at this instant in time' to 'consider the multi-verse such that two beings like you and me could exist who think 'consider the universe at this instant in time' to be meaningful' and you have brought in the Anthropic principle and Evolution of every sort suddenly becomes the most important element of every argument.
    In this case the physical universe, itself, is supervenient on something else- whatever 'stuff' it is that can evolve the sort of evolution and stuff upon which evolution can operate such that we exist to ask this question. In this case physics supervenes on biology and biology supervenes on consciousness which in turn supervenes on this question. If we, as a species stop asking this question, we have gone extinct on its fitness landscape. The whole point about evolving multiverses is that, if information is to be conserved, you get reverse mereology. The reductionist arrow gets turned around. The part always exceeds the whole.
    I never said Buddhism couldn't be fun. Nor, for that matter, Analytical philosophy. They just stop being casteist shite, that's all, if they stop being a pack of fucking lies. And if they don't do social exclusion, they don't get paid.
    Don't mean we can't get drunk and try for a spot of 'windwheel samadhi' borrowing their wings. We just don't get tenure for it. Which is cool unless your major mission in life is to be a pompous asshole fucking up young people's chances of getting laid or turning into anything other than major dicks.