[Buddha-l] Laughing at enlightenment

Michel Clasquin clasqm at mweb.co.za
Fri May 6 04:56:30 MDT 2005

As always, a very thought-provoking post from The One True 
Richard P Hayes. Let me play around with it a little and see 
where it leads. Good mental exercise on a Friday morning.

> If truth for the highest good DID falsify conventional truth, then
> conventional truth would not be truth, would it? It would be 
> delusion.

It would not be Truth, perhaps. but it could still be truth. But I see 
don't use that convention, OK, neither will I

> And yet there is no good reason for anyone to believe that it is
> delusion. At best, there may be reason to think that the goodness we 
> get
> from daily transactions is of a lesser value than the goodness we get
> from attaining non-attachment, but it in no way follows that what is
> worth less is altogether worthless.

Agreed. Nice wordplay, BTW
> Anyone who has ever given the two-truth dogma any thought at all has
> surely wondered whether the doctrine of two truths is a conventional
> truth or a truth for the highest good. 

yes, a classical meta-question to pose to any philosophical theory: can 
it explain itself? What observation would falsify Poppers 
falsificationism? Can Skinner's behaviourism explain Skinner's 
discovery of behaviourism? Is the 2-truths doctrine itself absolute or 
relative truth?

But has any theory ever passed this test? The closest I am aware of is 
Russel's development of a purely formal logical system that gets by 
with no more than 3 axioms (this is from memory, sorry, it could have 
been two).  Even he could not manage to get his own system to explain 
those same axioms. It does not seem as if humans are able to formulate 
any truth that is completely self-referential. (and if we could, one 
has to wonder how relevant it would be to the world we actually live 

Of course, I haven't been keeping up, and I welcome corrections on this 

> It could, of course be both,

It could also be neither, in which case we have either just created a 
third truth 
(which means the 2 truths doctrine is invalidated) or we arrive at a 
position of 
no-truth (which also means the 2 truths doctrine is invalidated). 
Either way, the
2-truth doctrine is screwed. Funeral arrangements to be announced.

> provided that we don't believe that the latter sort of truth 
> falsifies
> the former. If we believed that parama-artha falsified sa.mv.rti, on 
> the
> other hand, then we would have to take a stand. We would either have 
> to
> say that the two-truth theory is a conventional truth that is 
> falsified
> by the truth for the highest good, in which case the truth would be 
> that
> there is only one truth after all, or we would have to say that the 
> two-
> truth theory is a truth for the highest good. 
>But if we also hold that
> truth for the higher good is obscured by everyday truth, we should 
> also
> have to admit that the two-truth doctrine is unknowable to anyone who 
> is
> still operating at the level of everyday truth. 

In which case, how are we able to converse about it at all? 
is already a self-contradictory term. If I say "X is unknowable", then 
already demonstrate that I know something about it.

> Now what would it entail to hold the view that the doctrine of two
> truths is BOTH a conventional truth and a truth for the highest good? 
> I
> think it amounts to saying that this doctrine, in contrast to most 
> other
> doctrines, just happens to be good currency in both the realm of
> everyday transactions and the realm of enlightenment. To hold this 
> would
> require some explanation for what makes this one doctrine an 
> exception
> to the general rule that what is true at one level is not true at the
> other. 
> Now it could well be that the doctrine of two truths is really a 
> false
> doctrine. If this were so, then there would be only one level of 
> truth,

hmmm, scratch the philosopher and find the platonist underneath <g>.
I don't think that follows, necessarily. Have you considered the 
that there may be no truth?

I don't mean that there are no verifiable true statements. I am sitting 
in front of my computer replying to your mail. That is the truth. But 
it is a
small, objectively verifiable truth that exists only while it is being 
By the time you read this, it will no longer be the truth.

>From there on, I can go on to posit the existence of one (or two) great 
principles of trueness. Or I can not so posit. I can question the 
of the entire project. I can accept millions of miniscule little truths 
feeling the need for such a grand narrative of trueness.

Yes, as you remarked in a reply to another post, I am the kind of 
that drives your countrymen to jihad.

> in which case everyday transactions would not be in any way different
> from enlightenment. It's only a matter of personal taste, I admit, 
> but
> this way of looking at things appeals to me very much. Let me try to
> explain why.

Personal taste, aesthetic sense, gut feeling ... we can never really 
away from that, can we?
> Nietzsche, in the Gay Science, made this interesting observation: 
> "All
> preachers of morality, as also all theologians, have a bad habit in
> common: all of them try to persuade man that he is very ill, and that 
> a
> severe, final, radical cure is necessary." 
> But what if one were to say to the preachers (and buddhas) "I choose 
> not
> to see my condition as an illness. I choose not to see the human
> condition as a disease requiring your, or anyone else's, cure. I 
> choose
> not to see what I believe as a delusion." 

An analogy (non-medical, just for variety): I can say to my accountant 
"I choose not to see my financial condition as a problem requiring 
your, or anyone else's solution". I have that freedom.

I'm still going to jail, though

>If one were to say all that,
> then one would be free of attachment to the fantasy that things can 
> be
> other than they are. 

Would you? Have you not perhaps exchanged it for a different fantasy, a 
fantasy of freedom of choice? That perhaps things cannot be different 
than they are, but you can? That you are somehow qualitatively 
different from all those other "things"?

> And being free of such a fantasy, one would also be
> free of the suffering that would naturally arise from seeing one's
> present condition as somehow inferior to the condition imagined in 
> one's
> fantasy.

But subject to the new sufferings imposed by the new fantasy, of the 
conditions that might have been, or the person you might have been, if 
you had chosen differently?
> But then what do I know? I'm just an ordinary guy with no aspirations 
> to
> be much of anything else.

False modesty is the worst expression of pride!


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