Mutual Causality in Buddihism and General Systems Theory: The Dharma of Natural Systems (Suny Series, Buddhist Studies) (Buddhist Studies Series) (英語) ペーパーバック – 1991/7/3
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Joanna R. Macy is Adjunct Professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco and Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley. She is the author of Despair and Personal Power in the Nuclear Age; Dharma and Development; Thinking Like a Mountain: Toward a Council of All Beings (with John Seed, Pat Fleming, and Arne Naess); and World as Lover, World as Self.
|星5つ 54% (54%)||54%|
|星4つ 22% (22%)||22%|
|星3つ 10% (10%)||10%|
|星2つ 15% (15%)||15%|
|星1つ 0% (0%)||0%|
But the reason I give this book 3 stars is because Dr. Macy does not understand the dharma, nor science, nor logic well enough to purport to teach them, in my opinion. (If you can't be bothered to read the whole review, skip to the end as I will give a summary/concluding statement.)
There are many small problems:
At one point she even misstates the second law of thermodynamics, saying that energy is "lost." (The second law merely states that entropy [disorder, useless energy] in the universe as a whole, closed system, will always increase, never decrease.)
Starting on p. 70, she states that science has moved away from determinism toward a theory of random action, which I assume was a reference to quantum physics and the standard model of it, which is probabilistic. But probabilistic is not the same as random, and the standard model is just one model that happens to have the math worked out well enough to be useful in practical applications. Other models exist that are not probabilistic, such as the recently bolstered Pilot-wave theory, but the math for that needs more research.
On p. 96, Dr. Macy seems to implicitly support the idea that anti-entropic forces of negative and positive feedback correlate to agape or universal love, which to me seems a very new-age, non-Buddhist, non-scientific hypothesis with absolutely no explanation given.
Also, the book is highly repetitive--I estimate about 50 to 100 pages could be removed by a good editor.
But the big problems are what I will discuss below:
1. Dr. Macy presents a false dichotomy between determinism and systems theory. Although this dichotomy is sometimes presented weakly and sometimes strongly, overall, and especially in the beginning and at the end of the book, it is presented so strongly that she even states clearly on page 195, that "the human cognitive system, possess[es] free will." And on page 174 she quotes systems theorist Laszlo (with implicit agreement) as saying, "When a man acts on the basis of his empirical and meta-level reflective cognitions he could always have acted otherwise than he did, for his constructions and cognitions of his environment are not dictated by his environment, but by his present cognitive (=cortical) organization."
This is faulty logic. Dr. Macy and the systems theorists she quotes are making an unfounded conclusion that greater complexity of the cognitive apparatus somehow allows decisions to be made outside of the realm of causality. If causality is maintained as a law of nature (which it must be unless we posit random actions), all decisions are automatically made due to conditions and can never be made otherwise given the same set of conditions. Chaos theory, complexity theory, and systems theory do not offer any alternative to this position. They merely state that it is nearly impossible to predict outcomes from conditions due to the recursive nature of the calculations (in other words it would take a quantum computer the size of the universe to predict the life of the universe, some say).
Indeed, Dr. Macy equates determinism with the *practical* (vs. theoretical) ability to predict outcomes from conditions. That is absolutely not the definition of determinism. Determinism simply means that everything happens due to conditions and cannot happen any other way.
Then, drawing on the Pali canon, Dr. Macy quotes the Buddha in support of her attack on deterministic philosophy. But the Buddha did not attack determinism--just the opposite. What he attacked was the philosophical position that present actions are unimportant since everything is caused by past actions. In fact, the Buddha was trying to teach determinism, not rail against it. Logically, if everything is determined by conditions, then present actions, although they are happening due to past actions, are of critical importance to future conditions. On the ultimate level, since everything is already perfectly predetermined, there is actually nobody here, and thus Nibbana (or the Great Natural Perfection as Tibetans say) is that which is always already the case (please see the Bahiya sutta--thankfully quoted in Dr. Macy's book). But at the relative level, we must remember that it takes practice (8-fold path) to penetrate the ultimate understanding deeply.
Further evidence in the suttas is available to support what I am saying, but Dr. Macy ignores it. For example, in DN 26, the Buddha predicts the 5,000 year span of time after which the teachings will be forgotten, the coming of Metteyya (the next Buddha) at a time when humans have a lifespan of 80,000 years, and there are a great many other suttas in which the Buddha gives his assurances about what will happen in the future, including a map of how many lifetimes one may expect to have at maximum based upon their level of realization (referenced in many suttas including: AN 3.89, SN 55.21, SN 13.1). (Caveat: I have not yet researched whether any predictions come from the oldest textual stream, so in that I am no better than Dr. Macy.)
If the Buddha can reliably predict the future, then reality must be perfectly deterministic with no room for free will. On the other hand, this is fertile ground for understanding mutual causality as well (which Dr. Macy misses), because here we see the future influencing the past/present, which in turn influences the future--admittedly a rare occurrence since most of the time we cannot know the future except through estimation.
One might argue that at the level of experience or psychology, mutual causality is not deterministic. For example, what comes first, the knower or the known? Dr. Macy explains that these opposite poles arise mutually, not one causing the other to arise. On the other hand, meditative experience and Mahayana teachings show that it is possible to let go of the reification of a knower without yet letting go of the reification of the known, and vice versa (for example, Advaita Vedanta subsumes all of the known into the subjective pole as the knower/Self, whereas Theravadins often focus on the dissolution of the knower, but not of the known, since two-fold emptiness is a Mahayana focus--but if you have to choose which pole to dissolve first, I (and Buddha) say go for dissolution of the knower, as that is enough to liberate one from samsara).
If you want an example of a prominent Buddhist teacher who mentions about no free will, I would advise you to read "Mindfulness, Bliss, and Beyond," by Ajahn Brahm. His videos are also all over youtube.
2. Dr. Macy explains that each level of organization of any given system (defined as a "holon") is irreducible to its component systems. In other words, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Thus, emotions cannot be understood in terms of neural network functioning. This is only true in terms of experience--in other words, if experience is at the level of the neural networks rather than at the level of the brain as a whole, emotions will not be what we are used to thinking of them as. But on the level of causality, there is absolutely no reason to imagine that emotions are not sufficiently determined by the functioning of the neural networks, and ultimately the physical laws of atoms, etc.
Indeed, Buddha was keen on describing the human experience based upon the 5 khandas or aggregates that compose the mind and body. There is nowhere that he claims that our experience can be greater than that given by the 5 khandas. And these 5 khandas can also be broken down, according to him, into further aggregates or systems. Dr. Macy quotes the Buddha as denying that the "soul and body are the same or different" (p.146), which she interprets to mean that he does not believe that the person can be reduced entirely to the khandas. If we look at the sutta in question, however, (SN 2.12.35) the Buddha was not at all implying irreducibility of person to khandas; he was pointing out that the notion of soul and the notion of body and how they relate to one another is an intellectual and soteriological dead-end. Instead, he pointed to the 12 links of dependent origination as the way to understand existence in samsara (conditioned by ignorance is craving, etc.), and ultimately the way to the "divine life" (nibbana).
In some places, Dr. Macy seems to indicate that structure and function (brain and mind) are simply different ways of seeing the same reality. This I would agree with. But in other places she seems to indicate that the mind is more than the brain, as it is a higher holon or level of integration.
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TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read) / Conclusion
Dr. Macy's assumption that human beings have free choice is illogical and not what Buddha taught. While Dr. Macy believes that only humans have the capacity to choose, and this is why only humans are said to have the opportunity for breaking out of samsara, the truth is actually that only humans have the logical reasoning abilities needed to realize that their choices are pre-determined. That insight is the one which ultimately liberates one from identification with one section of reality (body/mind), which in turn liberates one from the cycle of birth and death.
This is indeed a clockwork universe in which all atoms (gears) function perfectly according to the laws of nature. But whether you see one gear turning the next and so on, or all the gears turning together mutually dependent on each other, is a matter of perspective.
What proved to be particularly helpful is the question, whenever meeting some phenomenon to think about: "Is it a stone, or is it a flame?" A stone listens to Newtonian mechanics and, more philosophically, can be said to have a "substance". A flame is something different, something that can only exist by exchanging fuel and oxygen with the environment it burns in. We humans are rather like flames then like stones.
My interest in Systems Theory derives from René Girard's mimetic theory, which is about religion and violence. Also violence is like a flame.
Joanna Macy is a very lucid and well-organized writer, able to explain with little words what are the issues at stake. Her knowledge of Buddhism is large and I really experienced reading about this as an enrichment.
What I do regret however, is the ideological turn Macy takes - when comparing one type of logic to another. This ideology is also present in systems theory itself. The question is not what kind of logic metaphysically controls the world, but the question is is which type of logic to apply when perceiving or undergoing experiences. A billiard ball is better to be treated like stone. Certainly human being more resemble a flame. But - as Girard showed - many people desire to escape this logic and try define themselves as a steady, unchangeable object. This desire is clearly present in the work of Jean-Paul Sartre.
“Perception” says Macy, “is a highly interpretive process. We create our worlds, but we do not do so unilaterally, for consciousness is colored by that on which it feeds; subject and object are interdependent. The Buddha denied neither the "there-ness" of the sense objects nor the projected tendencies of the mind, he simply saw the process as a two-way street. The conditioning is mutual.”
Our subjective experience is real to all of us, but when you try to find an experiencer during meditation, you find there is no basis to the sense of “I”. There is a process, but nothing like a solid, permanent “thing” except as we continually create and reinforce it. In Buddhist parlance, there is no “self”.
Compounded objects have no “inherent self-nature”. Take a car apart, and all you have is a pile of bits and some oil. Put it back together, and it's a ho-hum collection of bits. The lack of inherent self-nature is also called “emptiness”. It's really only a “car” while it's driving, which, of course, requires roads, lane markers, traffic lights, traffic police, weather forecasts, rubber trees, steel mills, street lights, electricity – pretty much most of the infrastructure of the developed world. This process is known as “interdependent co-arising”.
So we go from the absence of a solid, permanent “self” to the emptiness of phenomena and their interdependent co-arising. The self is a process, just as the world we inhabit.
Next, there are two common ways of looking at the world: objective realism and subjective idealism. The first says that there is a real world that exists 'out there', and we absorb information about that world through our senses, perhaps via special detection equipment, and understand reality more-or-less accurately as a result.
Subjective idealism, and just about everything from Plato to psychotherapy, sees the world in terms of how we create our reality out of thoughts, ideas, images, desires and subconscious content. This view frequently enlists the support of the Copenhagen Interpretation for all kinds of metaphysical speculation.
There's another option, “mutual conditionality”, described by Shakyamuni Buddha, and it seems to have been a crucial part of Buddha's experience of enlightenment. The conditions by which things happen all have to be present. Everything that happens is interdependent and co-arising, including consciousness. It's a world-view that includes the perceiver without being solipsistic. Consciousness and phenomena co-arise, reciprocally and simultaneously.
As for quantum theory, it would be more in line with the de Broglie-Bohm pilot-wave interpretation than the intrinsic indeterminism of the Copenhagen interpretation: deterministic, but in a radically more holistic way.
I believe this is what Macy is saying, and it's a view obviously more in line with systems theory. It's certainly a book to read and digest at your leisure, following these implications for yourself, and just for that it's a mental exercise well worth the effort. Very valuable for Buddhist practitioners.
The author seems to feel that the dependent origination paradigm is rare example of non-linear thinking in the Western world and that folks like Sir Isaac Newton were fettered by conceptual linearity (pages 13 & 15). Nothing could be farther from the truth. Newton invented the calculus, after all, as a mathematical tool to manage complex non-linear systems that constrained giants as Kepler and Galileo who evaluated them using the tools available at the time. Newton even conceived the interaction of multiple bodies moving in space (Principia,1687: a dynamical systems model) now generally known as the "n-body problem" solutions for which are used by astronomers when describing celestial mechanics. It is true that we now have more mathematical tools like chaos theory and fractals. But the idea that people like Newton were linear thinkers is way off the mark. Indeed, they set the stage for the modeling of dynamical systems as done today. The author, whose background is in religious studies, may have been somewhat constrained by a lack of familiarity with basic mathematical and structural concepts necessary for describing systems of this sort.
Furthermore, the author defines the idea of "causality" as paticcasamuppada, saying that "... the Buddha put forth the doctrine of causality called paticca samuppada or dependent co-arising" (page 25, emphasis added). Actually, the Buddha defined causality thusly,
When this exists, that comes to be; with the arising of this, that arises. When this
does not exist, that does not come to be, with the cessation of this, that ceases.
Such prior understanding was required to conceive paticcasamuppada but it is not paticcasamuppada per se. This cause and effect principle is the cornerstone of both the dependent origination idea and modern scientific thought.
The 12 elements of the dependent origination paradigm are listed on page 37 of the book. The Buddha deduced them in reverse order thusly,
Then, monks, it occurred to me, 'When what exists does aging-and-death come to be? By what is aging-and-death conditioned?' Then, monks, through careful attention, there took place in me a breakthrough by wisdom: 'When there is birth, aging-and-death comes to be; aging-and-death has birth as its condition. (SN 12:4)
The logic seems irrefutable. There can be no aging and death without a prior birth. And so he proceeded thusly in reverse order through the elements to Becoming (or existence) through Feeling and Craving then Consciousness and finally to Ignorance.
Finding (what I consider to be) foundational flaws, it was difficult to focus deeply on the text. The rest of the book seemed overly broad, loosely organized, and often presented in arcane ways. The presentation seemed to miss the whole point of the Buddha's purpose - to solve the problem of suffering and to devise a way to escape from an endless wandering through future rounds of existence that all include dukkha - a process called samsara. I seem to recall its brief mention but cannot find it in the book's index - odd given its importance to the Buddha's thought.
The Buddha did describe an exit path from samsara (see the Upanisa Sutta, SN 12:23), a Transcendental process. It is initiated by Suffering (dukkha) and starts with Faith proceeding by an 11-component process through Understanding to Liberation and destruction of the Taints (cankers or asavas) that bind us to samsara. They include:  desire for Sensual Experience consisting of greed, or desire for pleasant experience, and hate or aversion to unpleasant experience,  desire for continued Existence of a unique self or soul, and  Ignorance. They are said to have been eliminated during the Buddha's own awakening (MN 4:31-33). I find no mention of the them - certainly not the Index. That too is odd given their central role in the Buddha's teaching.
The Buddha defined suffering by his First Noble Truth, concluding during his very first sermon that,
... in short, suffering is the five aggregates of clinging. (SN 56:11)
Those Aggregates, called khandas in the Pali language, are never enumerated except in parentheses without discussion, even though they are described repeatedly in the Buddhist Cannon. They represent a system that is the human "personality" enabling our interaction with the environment including other people. The aggregate system arises at birth and disintegrates at death during a current life. It guides our actions, ethical and otherwise, and thus interacts with dependent origination system so important to becoming in some future realm of existence - according to the Buddha.
So, we see at least three major dynamical systems that interact and contribute to experience in this and possibly future existences;  paticcasamuppada per se,  the Transcendental system, and  the Aggregates system. I find little evidence for such an overview even though it can easily be deduced from the Cannon. Instead we find a complicated smattering of bits and pieces that are never drawn together even under the rubric of a General Systems Theory.
From a General Systems Theory point of view, paticcasamuppada appears as a "circular system" without a discernable beginning or end, starting at a point and returning to that point (here Ignorance) as a wheel rolls on from minute to minute and lifetime (or existence) to lifetime. It is an uncontrolled abstract, or analytical, system - not a real physical system that involves matter and energy because its elements consist of concepts, signs and ideas. A real system exchanges information; an abstract system is information. It is an open system because it has no beginning and no end. Nibbana could be regarded as an end - liberation and an end to samsara. But that is really a function of the Transcendental system.
An artistic image of paticcasamuppada can be seen in the Tibetan Wheel of Life, a well-known Mandela showing the unwholesome roots of human behavior (greed, hate, and delusion - also called poisons) at the hub. A middle layer illustrats realms of future existence (6 of them commonly). An outer layer shows the 12 elements of paticca-samuppada each represented by an appropriate icon. The whole system is held in place by Yama, the Lord of Death, with the five aggregates represented by skulls in his crown.
The Transcendental system can be viewed a "spiral system" that has a discernable beginning (Faith) and a discernable end (liberation and destruction of the Taints). It proceeds over time with ever increasing intensity from the first traces of faith through its components to final liberation. Indeed, a former Buddhist monk who disrobed to form his own Buddhist order describes the Transcendental system to his order members as "the Spiral System".
The Aggregates system is a bit more difficult to describe because several causal patterns are likely involved. A rough overview suggests a linear mechanism; form (that includes contact between an external object and a sense base, e.g. the eye) >> feeling >> perception >> mental objects particularly volitional formations (processes) >> consciousness. The combined sequence determines our actions of body, speech and/or mind. When examined more closely, however, a mutuality relationship appears between feeling and perception because they cannot be easily separated, they are so tightly bound (see for example MN 43:9); a lightning fast mental proliferation process (papanca) occurs with contact that confounds feeling and perception (see MN 18:16);
but it is feeling that drives sense desire, craving, in the dependent origination system.
The relationship between feeling<>perception and the volitional formations may be relational because given feeling<>perception, beliefs, habits and images combine to inform our conscious response and our overt action. The compounding of emotional intensity that often occurs from dwelling on a perception may well have a spiral quality because it starts with the perception and ends with an action often after increasing emotion.
The point is that each of these and other of the Buddha's systems require their own dynamical descriptions in order to properly understand them and how they interact with each other - how they coalesce into a meaningful whole. I had hoped to find those clues in these pages but unfortunately I did not.
I must admit that the above is pretty critical. However, the author does recognize the possibility of a well organized structure to the Buddha's thought and that is to her credit. Those who are less inclined to a rigorous treatment of such matters, preferring instead an introduction to Buddhist concepts like impermanence, the lack of a unique self and so forth, may well find this book appealing. That appeal is enhanced by related thoughts from the west and non-Buddhist east found in the texts. But if one is looking for a rigorous treatment of the Buddha's system in terms of structured systems theory, well ...
**Notations like MN 115:11 refer to citations from the Buddhist Pali Cannon where MN refers to the Middle Length Discourses and SN refers to the Connected Discourses. The numbers refer to Sutta (Discourse) and section respectively. For example this citation refers to section #11 in the 115th Sutta of the Middle Length Discourses,.