Friday, July 10, 2015

Redefining the Self: Further Exploration into Empathy

I feel that in any discussion of the self, the definitions of what we mean by "the self" can always become muddled as we are still only in the frontiers of discovery regarding consciousness, what it is, or what it means to have consciousness, or be conscious. Therefore, as this essay deals heavily with ideas of the self, or the lack thereof, please be patient if definitions waver and employ some level of suspension of belief in order to better appreciate the overall ideas discussed. 

The Buddha describes the self as the essence of a person. It is the part of a person that is non-changing, though the individual does change. The self is enduring and strives to continually endure, regardless of change in the individual, including that of death. However, the Buddha denies that there is such a self. In his book, Buddhism As Philosophy, Mark Siderits defines the Buddhist view of the self as, “the essence of a person—the one part whose continued existence is required for that person to continue to exist” (32). However, there is no one part of a person that seems to fall into this category. Take something like the human brain. While much research has been done in neuroscience, it is evident that the brain is continually changing (Pascual-Leone et al 383). Siderits goes on to say that it is likely that there is no part of an individual that must continually exist in order for that person to continue in existence (34). There is constant change. The Buddha tells us, however, that in order for there to be a self it must endure, or be eternal. However, there is no definition of what the self is, or can be—only what it cannot be through the idea of enduring. It then follows that something that can fit into the different skandha's that the Buddha lay's out—that of body, perception, ones volition, and conscious awareness—that that thing could be considered the self. This definition of the self then can be seen as the solver of Suffering, enlightenment. It can then be understood that what the Buddha discovered is correct, but his definitions were not. We can see the self through observing nature—or the universe—and its ability to allow things, essences, to endure. There are many ways the physical universe allows for this, through a scientific understanding of connections that can be made within existence.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Body is . . .

On December fifth, 1914 Ernest Shackleton headed out on an expedition to the North Pole, with hopes of being the first to reach its center. He and his crew sailed south from England and over a month and a half later, were stuck in the thick ice. For some time Shackleton and his men worked hard to break the ship free from the ice, moving at an alarmingly slow pace until, on February 24th the ship was abandoned of any routine and converted to a winter station as the boat drifted northward with the ice it had been lodged in. The crew remained on the converted ship for months, eating the sparse rations they had brought for the voyage, hoping for a spring thaw to release them from the ice, however, in October (Antarctica's spring) the hull could no longer take the pressure and water began pouring in, forcing the men to abandon the ship towards the end of November--almost a full year after leaving England.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Mowing the Lawn, Heroically

In W. H. Auden's poem, The Quest, he describes a man who undertakes a heroes journey. While the object of the man's quest is not laid our plainly before us we are able to get a sense of the struggles that not only this man faces (internal and external), but we are able to relate each even to ourselves, finding truth in our own 'mini-quests', or even on grandeur scales as may be. Within the poem we find several different sections underlining different attributes and events of the hero and his journey, as well as other's perspectives of the hero. One in particular brings to mind an interesting discussion of the heroes awareness of his own greatness, or heroism, as it were. In the section, "The Average" W. H. Auden writes:
The pressure of their fond ambition made
Their Shy and country-loving cild afraid
No sensible career was good enough,
Only a hero could deserve such love.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

The Brilliance of Spinoza

You see a man walking down the road in seventeenth century Denmark, on his way to the marked when a rock, from seemingly nowhere falls from the sky and onto his head. The man crumbles to the ground as you run over to him. He is breathing, but is obviously hurt but in a matter of minutes he sits up and rests along the wall of the building at the edge of the street. One man near by is heard saying, "where did that rock come from? Did you see it?" and soon a conversation is started.

"It must have fallen from the building," another says, joining in.
"But what caused it's fall?"
"Perhaps it was the wind that blew it?"
"Likely," you say, nodding your head. "But what caused the wind to blow such?"
"Ah, the waves, just beyond the city brought them."

Friday, July 3, 2015

Why Nephi Killed Laban: Part 4

It seems that ultimately we cannot know for sure why Nephi killed Laban. Unfortunately, we do not have enough of the right details to come to a solid conclusion. We cannot prove Nephi's (or Lehi's) upbringing, their knowledge, and adherence to Jewish law,  Laban's actual actions (what the actual threat level was), the secular traditions and treatment of death at the time were, and we cannot know Nephi's state of mind at the time of the killing. Ultimately, the question becomes unanswerable. All we can do is understand the conditions at the time and make guesses as to what may have caused Nephi to kill Laban. 

Furthermore, we cannot know the type of interaction Nephi actually had with the spirit, what outside influences may have helped, or if he really, truly felt that he and his brothers (as well as the nations they would start) would be unsafe if Laban lived. 

So what can we learn?

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Why Nephi Killed Laban: Part 3

So far, we have briefly discussed what other prominent scholars have said regarding the reasons Nephi killed Laban, and have also shown the typical beliefs of the time in order to show the type of understanding and upbringing Nephi would have had at the time of his life. So now, after understanding a bit more where Nephi may have been coming from we can look at the actual events to explore our main question further.

In my previous post I first discussed Laban's actions against Laman directly, as well as the other brothers. Upon receiving the treasures from Lehi's son's, he sent his men after the brothers that they may "slay" them (1 Ne. 25-26). This action alone, according to Jewish law can be viewed as actions worthy of a death sentence. Here we must again speculate as to Nephi's views of these laws. It is reasonable that he would see these malicious actions as worthy of some sort of retribution. The extent of that retribution, of if Nephi felt it was necessary or plausible is mostly up to speculation. This may, however, shed some light onto Nephi's actions and willingness to kill Laban.