[Advaita-l] Advaita and Psychology

michael reidy michael_reidy at eircom.net
Fri Mar 21 18:31:10 CDT 2008

Namaste Learned Members,

When we are looking at Advaita we need to be careful not to mix it up with
various scientific or psychological accounts.  Scientific Realism is one
such theory.  At its core is the idea that what we are aware of is not the
object itself but the power of the object to evoke certain responses in
us.  These are the qualities of the object or the attributes if you like.
It is even said that this is all we know and that the nature of the object
is unknowable.  The object is the bearer of these attributes/qualities but
what we know is merely the effect of the object on us and not the object
as such.

So far so good, this is the standard assumption of psychology or its basic
working hypothesis if you like.  How can that be in conflict with
Advaita?  Basically and this is true of any metaphysical theory, Advaita
asks different questions and they are posed at a more fundamental level.
How must things fundamentally be for things to appear as they do?  Further
and this is particularly true of Shankara's preamble to B.S.B. how is it
possible that there are perceptions or consciousness at all given the
ostensible nature of things?  How does that thing out there which is inert
come to be inside me in some sense as an awareness.  We may now use
psychology to pose the question: how are brain events at one and the same
time conscious events.  How do we see through the brain event to the
object?  Those brain events are in a sense transparent to extend the
metaphor of seeing through.  They do not block our perception but of
course they can add traces to it or taint it.

Superimposition is not a psychological theory of perception.  If we stay
with a psychological theory we are inevitably left with Scientific Realism
or Representationalism and our metaphysics will devolve into a form of
Idealism.  The object will become a Kantian noumenon or unknowable matter
or substantive.

Best Wishes,

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