Saturday, August 13, 2011

The philosophical issue of mind and body

The philosophical issue of mind vs. body should not bother the good practice of a meditator. The generally acceptable principle on meditation is that the body can influence the mind and the mind can influence the body. And the objective of meditation is for the benefits of mind-body as a holistic set.

There are however meditators who want to put one above the other, and usually mind over body, in opposition to materialists who put matter first or materialism behavorists (like BF Skinner) who consider mind rather irrelevant. Some of these meditators argue eagerly for the supremacy of mind using theology, philosophy and metaphysics, oftentimes using high-sounding words and concepts borrowed from books-on-the-fringe, oftentimes with less-than-enough digestions, and going so far as to believe mind can influence physical events (in addition to the body of the practitioner), and to assert such claim can be proved scientifically (i.e. evident-based).

Personally I don't think a dualist (or pluralist, like an additional third-world concept invented by Sir Karl Popper) view is in contradiction with meditative practice. Many unsolvable issues arising out of a debate of mind over body or body over mind is totally irrelevant to good meditation or to sound intellectual pursuit. A pluralist approach seems to be a good choice to end unnecessary debates and for every good thinker to go back to his normal life and meditators back to do their usual mediation, with a clear and clean conscience.

Concerning the issue of unnecessary debates, I find a little debate between Freud and Jung, as exposed in Jung's biography "Memories, Dreams, Reflections" rather interesting. And its unnecessary nature is as shown in many "mind-first intellectuals" triumphantly and continually writing and claiming Jung has won the debate. A way to reaffirm whatever beliefs they hold, without anybody interested to take the other side of the debate.

I put it down here for every reader to read and make their own judgemnt:

Jung's biography:

"It interested me to hear Freud's views on precognition and on parapsychology. When I visited him in Vienna in 1909 I asked him what he thought of these matters. Because of his materialistic prejudice, he rejected this entire complex of questions as nonsensical, and did so in terms of so shallow a positivism that I had difficulty in checking the sharp retort on the tip of my tongue. It was some years before he recognized the seriousness of parapsychology and acknowledged the factuality of "occult" phenomena.

While Freud was going on this way, I had a curious sensation. It was as if my diaphragm were becoming a glowing red-hot - a glowing vault. At that moment there was such a loud report in the bookcase, which stood right next to us, that we both started up in alarm, fearing the thing was going to topple over on us. I said to Freud: “There, that is an example of a so-called catalytic exteriorization phenomenon.”

“Oh come,” he exclaimed. “That is sheer bosh.”

“It is not, I replied. “You are mistaken, Herr Professor. And to prove my point I now predict that in a moment there will be another such loud report.” Sure enough, no sooner had I said the words than the same detonation went off in the bookcase.

To this day I do not know what gave me this certainty. But I knew beyond all doubt that the report would come again. Freud only stared aghast at me."

Freud's letter to Jung (Appendix I of Jung's biography):

"I do not deny that your comments and your experiment made a powerful impression upon me.” He cited other crashes and creaking noises afterwards, adding, “Since then it has happened over and over again, yet never in connection with my thoughts and never when I was considering you or your special problem (Not now, either, I add by way of challenge.) The phenomenon was soon deprived of all significance for me by something else. My credulity, or at least my readiness to believe, vanished along with the spell of your personal presence; once again, for various inner reasons, it seems to me wholly implausible that anything of the sort should occur. The furniture stands before me spiritless and dead, like nature silent and godless before the poet after the passing of the gods of Greece.”

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