[Advaita-l] The nature of spiritual realisation

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Wed Oct 1 16:04:54 CDT 2003

Sorry for the third posting in a single day, but the email by Ravi is
provocative, yet it displays quite an ignorance of philosophy in

--- "M. S. Ravisankar" <ravi at ambaa.org> wrote:
> > >
> > > Is consciousness an essential attribute or an accidental
> attribute of
> > > the body? If it is essential, then even a dead body (with all
> organs
> > > preserved)must be conscious. If it is accidental, then there is
> no
> > > reason why bodies alone must be conscious.
> > >
> >
> > Quite correct, this is a large portion of Shankara's argument. For
> if
> > consciousness were an essential attribute, the body should always
> be
> > conscious. But that would include dead bodies, which is absurd. If
> > consciousness were an accidental attribute, the attribute is not
> > strictly always associated with the body and so can be found
> > independent of the body also.
> >
> When you say the body is dead, something has changed in that body and
> that
> change removed what you perceived as consciousness before. For
> instance, if
> the CPU of my computer or say an android like Data (Star-trek) get
> damaged
> (irreversibly), then it will stop those activities which may be
> perceived as
> conscious act by others. That does not mean either my computer or
> Data has
> consciousness outside of it gross structure. And it has not
> transmigrated
> somewhere. Even if they look intact and fine from outside, there is
> something gone wrong inside. One can argue the same about human
> consciousness. When a computer or Data is dead, may be you can
> replace the
> chip and revive it, or reuse the parts. That may not be possible now
> for
> humans fully. That lack of technology does not disprove anything. Who
> knew
> that we will have technology even to replace heart, even though it is
> not as
> successful now (with so much emphasis placed in our religion to
> left/right
> side of heart etc.), or transplant organs from a dead person. It only
> a
> matter of  time, science takes us to the next level.

There are some fundamental problems studied in philosophy that no
amount of physics/mathematics can even begin to answer, let alone
solve. The philosophical theory that you've expounded above is what can
be called "Naive Mathematical Philosophy", and would be laughed at even
by mathematicians and physicists, let alone philosophers.

Here are some very common objections to the above theory that have been
lying around for some 2000 years with no solution. If you've solved it,
you can bet that you're by far the greatest genius in the history of
mankind, much kudos to you: 

1) You can have the same (EXACTLY THE SAME, NOT JUST SIMILAR)
mathematical equation in two different computer disks. Therefore, to
claim that the equation is something that is specifically associated
with the particular disk makes absolutely no sense, since the
destruction of one disk (or any number of disks) does not mean
destruction of the equation. Therefore, the equation does not exist in
physical space. Does it make any sense to say that the equation changes
with time? Therefore, the mathematical equation lies outside of atoms,
space, time. This in itself disproves the reductionists who argue that
nothing exists outside atoms, space and time.

2) If you claim that consciousness as an entity is something associated
with a PARTICULAR body, you have fallen into the exact same trap as
above. Do you see how? 

OTOH, if you claim that consciousness of a body is "within the body and
is a particular combination of atoms" here's the objection:

It is possible, at least in principle, to conceive of two entirely
identical bodies -- P and Q. Now, according to your theory that the
Self is an attribute of the combination of atoms of the body, the
bodies P and Q have the SAME COMBINATION of atoms and therefore the
SAME SELF! Now, you have the SAME SELF in two entirely different
bodies! No philospher (or a logician or a scientist or a medical
doctor) worth his salt would make such an absurd claim. 

The above paradox of the "same Self in two identical bodies" has been
much studied in Western Philosophy, specifically by the philosopher
Sydney Shoemaker of Cornell University, in the paper:

Shoemaker, Sydney. "Self and Substance," Philosophical Perspectives,
Volume 11: Mind, Causation, and World, 283-304. 1997. 

> If there is purely logical approach to show what is being claimed,
> then it
> is a good canditate for a paper in some leading medical journals or
> say in
> journal like "Nature". Probably, those who believe so should take
> that next
> step.

An important physical theory like Quantum mechanics cannot be published
in the journal "Annals of Mathematics", since the journal takes only
publications primarily concerned with Mathematics. Similarly, no amount
of serious Philosophy can be published in Nature, which involves itself
only with theories concerning the purely Physical world.

But publishing Shankara's theory of the Self in the famous
philosophical journal "Philosophy" of the Royal Institute of Cambridge,
or the "Acta Philosophica" or "Philosophical Review" -- certainly! In
fact, the arguments given by Shankara are in no way unknown to the
West. Rather, it is a common objection that keeps coming up in Western
philosophical circles every single day with no hope of really solving

> I am not being skeptical here. There are many things I have accepted
> as a
> matter of faith. Our religion is based on faith in shruti. Logical
> reasoning
> is limited and constrained around that faith.  I will be delighted
> and very
> happy, if someone can deduce those things purely using logic or
> scientific
> reasoning/experimentation.

Again, Philosophy is neither Mathematics nor Physics. Ask the great
physicist Stephen Hawking if he knows where his theories exist. In his
book 'A Brief history of time', he writes, "We physicists cannot say
where the equations of physics actually exist". This in spite of the
fact that Hawking repeatedly rants against philosophy in the same book
and tries hard to show that physics is more fundamental than

G.H.Hardy, another famous mathematician agrees, "Provide a convincing
theory of mathematical reality, and you solve all problems of

In other words, philosophy will continue to exist so long as scientists
fail to answer the problems considered by and objections raised by

> shriimaatre namaH
> Ravi



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