Friday, September 10, 2010

Buddhism vs pragmatic work

Today we're going to examine why Buddhism, though attractive as a personal philosophy, is ultimately nothing more than an overly complicated self-help guide, and therefore irrelevant to creating a better world. We'll also examine why Buddhism is self-contradicting in its simultaneous promotion of critical thinking and outright belief in made-up nonsense, such as karma. Remember: if a philosophy sounds nice, or is coincidentally something that placates your otherwise desirous psychology, it's more than likely unrealistic and impractical. Reality does not care about us.

Why pragmatism is superior to Buddhism

1. Suicide is probably a superior alternative to meditation for overcoming one's desires, if one's own desires and "enlightenment" are the focal points of one's philosophy.

2. No amount of meditation is going to make a drowning polar bear appreciate or accept its current state of experience. Not even humans who've spent years meditating could probably overcome such an experience.

3. The universe is currently performing work, which generates various kinds of energy; we, as intelligent beings, have the capacity to influence and steer the direction of this work toward a configuration which is beneficial to sentience. We must, therefore, be pragmatic in our lives, and consequently maintain a supra-personal philosophy which promotes making practical, infrastructural, and memetic changes to reality rather than smaller, less fundamental changes, like when improving technology, or fixing our own individual psychologies (in this case, through meditation). Technology, of course, can serve as a means to these ends, but if our ends have been corrupted or otherwise compromised, then any progress made to the means will only result in more mess and inefficiency.

4. Some Buddhists may be going against the Buddha's original teachings when they state that "external objects cannot bring one true happiness." I say this because I do not believe that the Buddha was at all concerned with happiness; instead, he seemed to be concerned with enlightenment and mindfulness. That having been said, what about the mind makes it any more "internal" than the rest of reality, all of which is interconnected through an immense network of relational sets of data? If our external desires are finite, and therefore can never lead us to immutable well-being, is the mind not similar? Will the mind not also cease to exist eventually?

Conceding this, it necessarily follows that we must be concerned moreso with performing productive work to the end of alleviating, mitigating, or otherwise eliminating suffering and negative sensation in a practical manner; happiness is merely a distraction, even if it isn't necessarily a terrible thing to experience. While there's nothing wrong with feeling happy in your everyday life; meditating in order to overcome personal psychological pitfalls; or detaching yourself from your various desires and commitments, these improvements to your own life as a single individual are irrelevant to the gross quantity of suffering in the universe, just as the above mentioned technological improvements ultimately are, so long as we fail to apply a context to them.

Education and dissemination of the fundaments of our values system take precedence over finite attempts at fixing problems. Analogously, if there is a leak in a dam wall, we'd do better to plug the leak than to clean up any finite quantity of water spilled from the leak.

Why Buddhism is self-contradicting

The following all contradict the notion that Buddhism is about detachment from ideas, or questioning reality as new data becomes available.

1. There is no evidence for the existence of karma.

2. There is no quantity of understanding or suffering that gets transferred metaphysically from one organism to another during the death and birth, or "rebirth" in Buddhism, parts of the life cycle.

3. The life cycle itself appears to have no basis in reality.

4. Individual enlightenment has no bearing on some form of metaphysical "progress" by which organisms born in the future come to be more prepped to understand their existence or mitigate suffering than in previous generations. Ecosystems are balanced not based on who desires what, but on the whims of the environment in which the organisms live (meaning no empathy from anything toward any particular species), and there is nothing either linear or cyclical about this process; instead, it is parsimonious and deterministic.

5. If Buddhism preaches that the self does not exist, and that all finite objects are merely configurations of smaller finite objects, how can reincarnation even be possible?

Of course, all static worldviews which promote belief of some kind are dangerous, for they all make blanket assumptions about reality in some form. Only unassuming thought/meme systems utilizing the scientific method as part of a greater methodology should ever be taken seriously, for they are not self-limiting, anti-progress, or finite.

With that said, I thought it'd be fun to out Buddhism in particular, because we've already covered many of the fundamentals in earlier posts, and New Agers seem to be taking over the planet. Someone has to say something.

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