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Practice unfolds in the context of all of reality coming forth at this very being-time, which creates a flow of activity not delineated by sharp boundaries of before and after, then and now.— Shinshu Roberts, Being-Time (2018)
The time when continuous practice is manifested is what we call “now.”[next]— Dogen, SBGZ ‘Gyōji’ (Cook 1978, 130)
Dorin replied, ‘Do not do anything evil, do good.’[next]
The statesman said, ‘If so, even a three-year-old child can say this.’
Dorin said, ‘A three-year-old child may be able to say it, but an eighty-year-old man cannot practice it.’— Dogen, ‘Shoaku makusa’ (Cleary 1995, 91)
… life is but a sequence of inferences or a train of thought …The train that can be expressed is not the express train.— Peirce (CP 7.583)
… the whole function of thought is to produce habits of action … what a thing means is simply what habits it involves.If you want to be consciously mindful of the meaning of a sign, you will have to embark upon a quest for its ultimate logical interpretant (assuming that it has one). Such an inquiry, says Peirce,
takes the form of experimentation in the inner world; and the conclusion (if it comes to a definite conclusion) is that under given conditions, the interpreter will have formed the habit of acting in a given way, whenever he may desire a given kind of result. The real and living logical conclusion is that habit; the verbal formulation merely expresses it.Although it is hard to imagine the formation or reformation of a habit without feeling and consciousness being involved in the process, Peirce says ‘that habit is by no means exclusively a mental fact. Empirically, we find that some plants take habits. The stream of water that wears a bed for itself is forming a habit. Every ditcher so thinks of it.… habits in themselves are entirely unconscious, though feelings may be symptoms of them’ (EP2:418). If we ask what's the use of consciousness, Peirce's definition of it offers an answer:I do not deny that a concept, proposition, or argument may be a logical interpretant. I only insist that it cannot be the final logical interpretant, for the reason that it is itself a sign of that very kind that has itself a logical interpretant. The habit alone, though it may be a sign in some other way, is not a sign in that way in which the sign of which it is the logical interpretant is a sign. The habit conjoined with the motive and the conditions has the action for its energetic interpretant; but action cannot be a logical interpretant, because it lacks generality. The concept which is a logical interpretant is only imperfectly so. It somewhat partakes of the nature of a verbal definition, and is as inferior to the habit, and much in the same way, as a verbal definition is inferior to the real definition. The deliberately formed, self-analyzing habit,—self-analyzing because formed by the aid of analysis of the exercises that nourished it,—is the living definition, the veritable and final logical interpretant. Consequently, the most perfect account of a concept that words can convey will consist in a description of the habit which that concept is calculated to produce. But how otherwise can a habit be described than by a description of the kind of action to which it gives rise, with the specification of the conditions and of the motive?EP2:418
To my apprehension, consciousness may be defined as that congeries of non-relative predicates, varying greatly in quality and in intensity, which are symptomatic of the interaction of the outer world,— the world of those causes that are exceedingly compulsive upon the modes of consciousness, with general disturbance sometimes amounting to shock, and are acted upon only slightly, and only by a special kind of effort, muscular effort,— and of the inner world, apparently derived from the outer, and amenable to direct effort of various kinds with feeble reactions, the interaction of these two worlds chiefly consisting of a direct action of the outer world upon the inner and an indirect action of the inner world upon the outer through the operation of habits. If this be a correct account of consciousness, i.e., of the congeries of feelings, it seems to me that it exercises a real function in self-control, since without it, or at least without that of which it is symptomatic, the resolves and exercises of the inner world could not affect the real determinations and habits of the outer world. I say that these belong to the outer world because they are not mere fantasies but are real agencies.This takes us close to the heart of Peircean pragmatism. [next]EP2:418-19
The stiff and unbending is the disciple of death. The gentle and yielding is the disciple of life.— Tao Te Ching 76 (Feng/English)
Life is the art of drawing sufficient conclusions from insufficient premises.— Samuel Butler, Note-Books
Life teaches us who we are.— Salman Rushdie (quoted in Ledoux 2002)
My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.— Ashleigh Brilliant
All the charictures in the drame!— Finnegans Wake, 302
Who knows whether the present speaker is awake or dreaming?— Chuang-tzu 6 (Cleary)
How bootifull and how truetowife of her, when strengly forebidden, to steal our historic presents from the past postpropheticals so as will make us all lordyheirs and ladymaidesses of a pretty nice kettle of fruit. She is livving in our midst of debt and laffing through all plores for us (her birth is uncontrollable!), with a naperon made to mask and her sabboes hikkikking arias (so sair! so solly!) if yous ask me and I saack you. Hou! Hou! Gricks may rise and Troysirs fall (there being two sights for ever a picture) for in the byways of high improvidence that's what makes lifework leaving and the world's a cell for citters to cit in.[next]— The Restored Finnegans Wake, 9-10
We do, doodley do, doodley do, doodley do,[next]
What we must, muddily must, muddily must, muddily must;
Muddily do, muddily do, muddily do, muddily do,
Until we bust, bodily bust, bodily bust, bodily bust.— Vonnegut, Kurt. Cat's Cradle (p. 267). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
A work is never completed except by some accident such as weariness, satisfaction, the need to deliver, or death: for, in relation to who or what is making it, it can only be one stage in a series of inner transformations.[next]— Paul Valéry, “Recollection”, Collected Works, vol. 1 (1972), tr. David Paul
[next]Gods, men, and asuras – all three descendants of Prajapati – lived with him for a time as students.Then the gods said: ‘Teach us, sir!’ In reply Prajapati uttered one syllable: ‘Da.’ Then he said: ‘Have you understood?’ They answered, ‘Yes, we have understood. You said to us, “Damayata – Be self-controlled.”’ ‘Yes,’ agreed Prajapati, ‘you have understood.’Then the men said: ‘Teach us, sir.’ Prajapati uttered the same syllable: ‘Da.’ Then he said: ‘Have you understood?’ They answered, ‘Yes, we have understood. You said to us, “Datta – Be charitable.”’ ‘Yes,’ agreed Prajapati, ‘you have understood.’Then the asuras said: ‘Teach us, sir.’ Prajapati uttered the same syllable: ‘Da.’ Then he said: ‘Have you understood?’ They said, ‘Yes, we have understood. You told us, “Dayadhwam – Be compassionate.”’ ‘Yes,’ agreed Prajapati, ‘you have understood.’The storm cloud thunders: ‘Da! Da! Da! – Be self-controlled! Be charitable! Be compassionate!’— Prabhavananda and Manchester (1947, 182-3),
In Greek, ἔθος (habit) is θεóς (god) turned inside out.
As Heraclitus put it, ἠθος ἀνθρώπῳ δαίμων. A person's ethos (character, habits, ..... ) is his fate (guiding spirit, ‘luck,’ ..... ). How you habitually behave is the most essential factor determining where life will take you. [next]
When you make your mind one-pointed through regular practice of meditation, you will find the supreme glory of the Lord.How do you make your mind one-pointed through meditation? Religious and spiritual disciplines answer this pragmatic question in as many ways as there are disciplines. Some of them amount to a kind of self-hypnosis for the purpose of attaining some projected state of mind or belief. Others practice for the sake of the practice itself.— Bhagavad Gita (Easwaran 126)
The practice of zazen, for instance, ‘must not – indeed, properly speaking, cannot – be “defiled” by any intention to grasp the practice and put it to use as a means to an end’ (Bielefeldt 1988, 139).
In his study of ‘the psychology of optimal experience’ (Flow), Csikszentmihalyi found that the optimal experience is autotelic – ‘an end in itself. Even if initially undertaken for other reasons, the activity that consumes us becomes intrinsically rewarding.’
Teaching children in order to turn them into good citizens is not autotelic, whereas teaching them because one enjoys interacting with children is. What transpires in the two situations is ostensibly identical; what differs is that when the experience is autotelic, the person is paying attention to the activity for its own sake; when it is not, the attention is focused on its consequences.
Work done in that spirit feels more like play to the one engaged in it, because she is focused neither on herself nor on her purpose, but on the practice. The same is true of the optimal experience of art, according to Gadamer (1960, 102):
the work of art is not an object that stands over against a subject for itself. Instead the work of art has its true being in the fact that it becomes an experience that changes the person who experiences it. The ‘subject’ of the experience of art, that which remains and endures, is not the subjectivity of the person who experiences it but the work itself. This is the point at which the mode of being of play becomes significant. For play has its own essence, independent of the consciousness of those who play.
In his 1908 essay on ‘A Neglected Argument for the Reality of God’, Peirce described a meditative practice which is similarly autotelic and playful.
There is a certain agreeable occupation of mind which, from its having no distinctive name, I infer is not as commonly practiced as it deserves to be; for indulged in moderately,—say through some five to six per cent of one's waking time, perhaps during a stroll,—it is refreshing enough more than to repay the expenditure. Because it involves no purpose save that of casting aside all serious purpose, I have sometimes been half-inclined to call it reverie with some qualification; but for a frame of mind so antipodal to vacancy and dreaminess such a designation would be too excruciating a misfit. In fact, it is Pure Play. Now, Play, we all know, is a lively exercise of one's powers. Pure Play has no rules, except this very law of liberty. It bloweth where it listeth. It has no purpose, unless recreation. The particular occupation I mean,—a petite bouchée with the Universes,—may take either the form of aesthetic contemplation, or that of distant castle-building (whether in Spain or within one's own moral training), or that of considering some wonder in one of the Universes, or some connection between two of the three, with speculation concerning its cause. It is this last kind,—I will call it “Musement” on the whole,—that I particularly recommend, because it will in time flower into the N.A.The N.A. or ‘Neglected Argument’ which Peirce refers to here is an unusual one because it doesn't try to prove anything, not even to oneself.
One who sits down with the purpose of becoming convinced of the truth of religion is plainly not inquiring in scientific singleness of heart, and must aways suspect himself of reasoning unfairly. So he can never attain the entirety even of a physicist's belief in electrons, although this is avowedly but provisional. But let religious meditation be allowed to grow up spontaneously out of Pure Play without any breach of continuity, and the Muser will retain the perfect candour proper to Musement.[next]— Peirce, EP2:436 (the entire essay is online here)
Thoreau's Journal, 10 January 1851:
I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of taking walks daily,—not [to] exercise the legs or body merely, nor barely to recruit the spirits, but positively to exercise both body and spirit, and to succeed to the highest and worthiest ends by the abandonment of all specific ends,—who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering. And this word “saunter,” by the way, is happily derived “from idle people who roved about the country [in the Middle Ages] and asked charity under pretence of going à la Sainte-Terrer,” to the Holy Land, till, perchance, the children exclaimed, “There goes a Sainte-Terrer,” a Holy-Lander. They who never go to the Holy Land in their walks, as they pretend, are indeed mere idlers and vagabonds.According to OED, the origin of the word saunter remains obscure. But the point of Thoreau's reference to “the Holy Land” is further developed in his essay ‘Walking,’ (first published a month after he died), which picks up the trail of thought where the Journal entry left off:
… but they who do go there are saunterers in the good sense, such as I mean. Some, however, would derive the word from sans terre, without land or a home, which, therefore, in the good sense, will mean, having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere. For this is the secret of successful sauntering. He who sits still in a house all the time may be the greatest vagrant of all; but the saunterer, in the good sense, is no more vagrant than the meandering river, which is all the while sedulously seeking the shortest course to the sea. But I prefer the first, which, indeed, is the most probable derivation. For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this Holy Land from the hands of the Infidels.Thoreau's “Holy Land” bears a striking resemblance to the metaphysical “Pole” in Annie Dillard's striking essay on ‘An Expedition to the Pole’:
The Pole of Relative Inaccessibility is “that imaginary point on the Arctic Ocean farthest from land in any direction.” It is a navigator’s paper point, contrived to console Arctic explorers who, after Peary and Henson reached the North Pole in 1909, had nowhere special to go. There is a Pole of Relative Inaccessibility on the Antarctic continent, also; it is that point of land farthest from salt water in any direction. The Absolute is the Pole of Relative Inaccessibility located in metaphysics. After all, one of the few things we know about the Absolute is that it is relatively inaccessible. It is that point of spirit farthest from every accessible point of spirit in all directions. Like the others, it is a Pole of the Most Trouble. It is also—I take this as given—the Pole of great price.[next]— Dillard (2009, 22)
engaged in tracing out the consequences of understanding the term “natural” or “real class” to mean a class the existence of whose members is due to a common and peculiar final cause. It is, as I was saying, a widespread error to think that a “final cause” is necessarily a purpose. A purpose is merely that form of final cause which is most familiar to our experience. The signification of the phrase “final cause” must be determined by its use in the statement of Aristotle [Metaphysics 44 b1 and 70 b26] that all causation divides into two grand branches, the efficient, or forceful; and the ideal, or final. If we are to conserve the truth of that statement, we must understand by final causation that mode of bringing facts about according to which a general description of result is made to come about, quite irrespective of any compulsion for it to come about in this or that particular way; although the means may be adapted to the end. The general result may be brought about at one time in one way, and at another time in another way. Final causation does not determine in what particular way it is to be brought about, but only that the result shall have a certain general character. Efficient causation, on the other hand, is a compulsion determined by the particular condition of things, and is a compulsion acting to make that situation begin to change in a perfectly determinate way; and what the general character of the result may be in no way concerns the efficient causation. For example, I shoot at an eagle on the wing; and since my purpose,—a special sort of final, or ideal, cause,—is to hit the bird, I do not shoot directly at it, but a little ahead of it, making allowance for the change of place by the time the bullet gets to that distance. So far, it is an affair of final causation. But after the bullet leaves the rifle, the affair is turned over to the stupid efficient causation, and should the eagle make a swoop in another direction, the bullet does not swerve in the least, efficient causation having no regard whatsoever for results, but simply obeying orders blindly.Why is obedience blind? Because it doesn't allow for learning from experience. When orders can't be questioned, the meaning cycle at the heart of the guidance system is short-circuited. Of course there are situations where obedience is more ethically appropriate than learning, but one has to learn to recognize situations in order to choose the ethical response to them. Absolute certainty or trust in authority is likewise blind. Knowledge that can't be tested can't be trusted. A model that can't be modified is not reliable.
Any practice undertaken consciously must have a telos, a final cause, but the practitioner's attention has to be on the momentary current of actual events in order to flow with them and carry them forward in real time. The immediate sense of forward, of directedness (and not conscious awareness of a goal set in the projected future) is the feeling of flow, of living the time. So the ideal practice is not atelic but autotelic; it is alive to both final and efficient causes. Peirce explains how these complement each other:
Efficient causation is that kind of causation whereby the parts compose the whole; final causation is that kind of causation whereby the whole calls out its parts. Final causation without efficient causation is helpless; mere calling for parts is what a Hotspur, or any man, may do; but they will not come without efficient causation. Efficient causation without final causation, however, is worse than helpless, by far; it is mere chaos; and chaos is not even so much as chaos, without final causation; it is blank nothing.The concept of final causation is closely related to that of degeneracy as Edelman and other biologists use the term (which differs from Peirce's use of the term degenerate). But many biologists seem to be suspicious of the term ‘final cause,’ as to them it suggests a purpose behind evolution, even a theological “teleology.” [next]— EP2:124
In building a model we seem to build from the bottom up, but as I will keep pointing out, we can in fact begin only from our human process.— Gendlin (1998, note 4)
Referring to theoretical model-making as “construction” is just one more of the feats and faults of imagination. The same metaphor that can mislead us can also bring home important truths. The construction metaphor is useful to emphasize that embodiment in practice consolidates meaning and saves it from vanishing unrealized.
Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Every one who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep, and laid the foundation upon rock; and when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house, and could not shake it, because it had been well built.[next]— Luke 6:46-48
As each action is discovered in real time, it uses components that have a dynamic history. Similarly, as the action is performed, it becomes part of the dynamic history of the organism and contributes to the morphology of future actions.Peirce's pragmaticism anticipates this aspect of dynamic systems theory in its logical (semiotic) form:— Thelen and Smith (1994, 74)
The rational meaning of every proposition lies in the future. How so? The meaning of a proposition is itself a proposition. Indeed, it is no other than the very proposition of which it is the meaning: it is a translation of it. But of the myriads of forms into which a proposition may be translated, what is that one which is to be called its very meaning? It is, according to the pragmaticist, that form in which the proposition becomes applicable to human conduct, not in these or those special circumstances, nor when one entertains this or that special design, but that form which is most directly applicable to self-control under every situation, and to every purpose. This is why he locates the meaning in future time; for future conduct is the only conduct that is subject to self-control. But in order that that form of the proposition which is to be taken as its meaning should be applicable to every situation and to every purpose upon which the proposition has any bearing, it must be simply the general description of all the experimental phenomena which the assertion of the proposition virtually predicts. For an experimental phenomenon is the fact asserted by the proposition that action of a certain description will have a certain kind of experimental result; and experimental results are the only results that can affect human conduct. No doubt, some unchanging idea may come to influence a man more than it had done; but only because some experience equivalent to an experiment has brought its truth home to him more intimately than before. Whenever a man acts purposively, he acts under a belief in some experimental phenomenon. Consequently, the sum of the experimental phenomena that a proposition implies makes up its entire bearing upon human conduct.— Peirce (EP2:340, CP 5.427, 1906)
When all habits (embodied in all systems) express themselves in practice without obstructing each other, indeed by providing context for each other, then Truth is embodied. [next]
You can't grasp (apprehend) one thing without letting go of another. But you can't really let go of an idea that you haven't pragmatically grasped.
‘Intentions (or real-time goals) prepare for actions, and actions dissipate intentions’ (Lewis and Granic 2000, 49). Marc Lewis suggests that moods are established, and may become entrenched as personality traits, when intentional states persist ‘because no action can be taken to resolve them.’
The way to reverse that entrenchment, then, would be the intentional practice of dropping (letting go of) intentions which have become habitual.
Expect poison from the standing water.[next]— Blake, ‘Proverbs of Hell’
(1) Jesus said, “This heaven will pass away, and the one above it will pass away. (2) The dead are not alive, and the living will not die. (3) During the days when you ate what is dead, you made it alive. When you are in the light, what will you do? (4) On the day when you were one, you became two. But when you become two, what will you do?”What will you do? That's the generic ethical-pragmatic question. As usual in the Gospel of Thomas, we're not given much context for it here, so let's try constructing one that will bring out its pragmatic implications.— Thomas 11 (NHS)
In the synoptic gospels (Matthew 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 21: 33), Jesus says ‘Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words (λόγοι) will not pass away.’ The first sentence of Thomas 11, on the other hand, offers a hierarchy of heavens that will pass away, but no eternal logos. If we put a semiotic spin on this, it could be saying that living semiosis (like the evolution of life) continues into the indefinite future, as every sign falls behind, passing the torch of meaning to its interpretant. The passing away of determinate signs, or of ‘heavens’ as inhabited meaning spaces, is the pressing on of theoretical inquiry toward an ideal Truth, or in practice, living the time toward the yet-undetermined future. All signs will pass away, but there is no life without semiosis.
In her explanation of part 3 of this logion, DeConick (2007a, 79) quotes from Hippolytus a variant saying which ‘may, in fact, represent an earlier version of L. 11.3 than the Coptic translation’: ‘If you ate dead things and made them living, what will you do if you eat living things?’
When you consume what is dead as food, you incorporate it into a living system, and thus ‘make it alive.’ What would it mean, pragmatically, to consume what is alive? You do this, in a sense, when you “consume” living signs to inform the system which guides your practice. What you do next is the energetic interpretant of those signs, and you live ‘in the light’ (or in the ‘heaven’) of this interpretant – until it in turn determines another interpretant, ‘the one above it’ in the semiosic process, which will pass away in its turn, ad infinitum (as Peirce would say). In terms specific to early Christian practice, the signs would be the sacraments of baptism, anointing, and especially the eucharist, ‘eating the living body of Jesus’ (DeConick 79), which act as a purifying ‘light.’
The contrast between eating the dead and eating the living is further developed in the Gospel of Philip, which follows Thomas in Codex II of the Nag Hammadi Library. Here it is Truth which Jesus brought to this world as lifegiving food, replacing the tree of knowledge (‘the law’) which brought death with a new tree of knowledge which ‘has brought people back to life.’
This world eats corpses, and everything eaten in this world also dies. Truth eats life, and no one nourished by [truth] will die. Jesus came from that realm and brought food from there, and he gave [life] to all who wanted it, that they might not die. [God planted] a garden, and humans [lived in the] garden. There are some [who dwell] with… God…. This garden [is where] it will be said to me, “…[ eat] this and do not eat that, [as you] wish.” This is where I shall eat everything, where the tree of knowledge is. That tree killed Adam, but here the tree of knowledge has brought people back to life. That tree was the law. It can give knowledge of good and evil, but it neither freed Adam from evil nor made him good, and it brought death to those who ate of it. For when it was said, “Eat this and do not eat that,” death began.— Gospel of Philip 73, 19 – 74, 12 (NHS)
As for Part 4 of Thomas 11, ‘becoming two’ when you were originally one can surely be taken as a reference to the Fall (from unity into division). Many commentators associate this with the division of the sexes in the Garden of Eden, and DeConick argues that a ‘return to the prelapsarian condition of singleness’ is enacted through celibacy. (This is a classic example of polyversity, since other texts of the time take marriage, or the consummation of marriage, as a primary symbol of reunion!) A pragmatistic interpretation (less symbolic but more general) could take ‘becoming two’ as “being of two minds” about what to do in some situation, i.e. having to make some practical choice. What will you do? You will have to decide, and then your practice becomes a conscious practice. This adds another layer, another dimension (another ‘heaven’?) to living semiosis.
In this part of Thomas, at least, Jesus seems to value questions over answers. The answer killeth, but the question giveth life. The tone here bears a certain resemblance to that of Dogen's dharma talks, and so does the emphasis on impermanence, on becoming, on being-time (Dogen's ‘uji’).
When one phrase or one verse permeates your body and mind, it becomes a seed for illumination for limitless kalpas, and this brings you to unsurpassable enlightenment. When one dharma or one wholesome action permeates your body and mind, it is also like this. Moment by moment a thought appears and disappears without abiding. Moment by moment a body appears and disappears without abiding. Yet the power of practice always matures.[next]— Dogen (Tanahashi 2000, 83)
His disciples said to him: ‘Who are you to say this to us?’This saying may reflect the conflicts within early Christianity over its relations with the Jewish community (or parts of it), but mainly it seems to be a variation on the theme of ‘know them by their fruits’ (Matthew 7:16-20 and 12:35, Luke 6:43-45) – which Peirce identified as the core idea of pragmatism.
‘Do you not realize from what I say to you who I am? But you have become like the Jews! They love the tree, (but) they hate its fruit. Or they love the fruit, (but) they hate the tree.’— Thomas 43 (5G)
Jesus says: ‘Grapes are not harvested from thorns, nor are figs picked from thistles, for they do not produce fruit. A good person brings forth good from his treasure. A bad person brings (forth) evil from the bad treasure that is in his heart, and (in fact) he speaks evil. For out of the abundance of the heart he brings forth evil.’This is a variation on the pragmatistic theme, where ‘fruit’ stands for practice. For the ‘sons of humanity,’ including Jesus, talk is part of the walk which is an index of the ‘heart.’ Indeed, his sayings are the fruit by means of which his disciples should realize who he is. What Jesus means to you depends on what his sayings mean to you, not on the status assigned to him by convention. [next]— Thomas 45 (5G)
The meaning of a question is the method of answering it: then what is the meaning of ‘Do two men really mean the same by the word “white”?’Suppose we want to know what's meant by the term pragmatism. How would we investigate that?Tell me how you are searching, and I will tell you what you are searching for.— Wittgenstein (1930, III.27)
Peirce himself regarded the ‘pragmatism’ as a much deeper and older idea than the new term for it might suggest: ‘Any philosophical doctrine that should be completely new could hardly fail to prove completely false; but the rivulets at the head of the river of pragmatism are easily traced back to almost any desired antiquity’ (EP2:398-99).
What the true definition of Pragmatism may be, I find it very hard to say; but in my nature it is a sort of instinctive attraction for living facts.What makes these facts living is that they can surprise us, and this can happen because we are modellers whose models are made of our own substance. As a theory of meaning, pragmatism is well grounded in biological reality, as a living system like yourself ‘emulates its own behavioral space’ (Metzinger 2003, 264). In other words, its Innenwelt models its possibilities of interaction with its Umwelt.— Peirce, CP 5.64, EP2:158
William James, in Lecture VI of his Pragmatism, defines truth in terms of its functionality in a guidance system:
When a moment in our experience, of any kind whatever, inspires us with a thought that is true, that means that sooner or later we dip by that thought's guidance into the particulars of experience again and make advantageous connexion with them.— James (1907, 575)
To 'agree' in the widest sense with a reality, can only mean to be guided either straight up to it or into its surroundings, or to be put into such working touch with it as to handle either it or something connected with it better than if we disagreed. Better either intellectually or practically! And often agreement will only mean the negative fact that nothing contradictory from the quarter of that reality comes to interfere with the way in which our ideas guide us elsewhere. To copy a reality is, indeed, one very important way of agreeing with it, but it is far from being essential. The essential thing is the process of being guided. Any idea that helps us to deal, whether practically or intellectually, with either the reality or its belongings, that doesn't entangle our progress in frustrations, that fits, in fact, and adapts our life to the reality's whole setting, will agree sufficiently to meet the requirement. It will hold true of that reality.As an alternative to his ‘classic’ statement of the ‘pragmatic maxim,’ Peirce offered this alternative in the first of his Harvard lectures:— James (1907, 579)
Pragmatism is the principle that every theoretical judgment expressible in a sentence in the indicative mood is a confused form of thought whose only meaning, if it has any, lies in its tendency to enforce a corresponding practical maxim expressible as a conditional sentence having its apodosis in the imperative mood.According to this principle, then, the ‘practical maxim’ corresponding to a ‘theoretical judgment’ would say “If the situation is thus, do this.”— EP2:134-5
For the pragmatist there is no point in a belief but to organize a life, to guide its actions. Peirce (more than James) emphasized the point that the meaning of a genuine belief is in futuro and can never be exhausted by any number of applications to past or present situations. Whatever really guides your conduct is real, whether or not the actual occasion ever arises where it would determine specific actions. [next]
As an example of an argument over labels, we might cite a sidebar in Maturana and Varela (1992, 69) on ‘the notion of genetic information,’ where the authors criticize the idea ‘that DNA contains what is necessary to specify a living being.’ Their point here is that the context (the whole ‘autopoietic network’) is necessary to constitute an organism, so no component (such as DNA) is sufficient to do the job. But ‘the notion of genetic information’ is no barrier to understanding this point. Consider this explanation by John Maynard Smith and Eörs Szathmáry:
… the development of complex organisms depends on the existence of genetic information, which can be copied by template reproduction. Evolution depends on random changes in that genetic information, and the natural selection of those sets of instructions that specify the most successful organisms. But for this to work, the instructions must be interpreted.— Maynard Smith and Szathmáry (1999, 3)
The first replicating molecules, whether nucleic acids or something simpler, could not have specified anything, and so could not be said to carry information. They are best thought of simply as replicating structures. Only after the evolution of the translating machinery, and hence of specific proteins coded for by genes, is it sensible to talk of genes carrying information. Information theorists use the phrase ‘information is data plus meaning.’ In biology, the base sequence of nucleic acids provides the data, and the meaning is the structure and function of proteins.— Maynard Smith and Szathmáry (1999, 11)
It should be clear that the authors here are using ‘information’ in a sense to which Maturana and Varela's objection does not apply. We find a similar objection to the concept of ‘information’ in an earlier essay by Maturana, this time in connection with perception:
When an observer sees an organism interacting in its medium, he observes that its conduct appears to be adequate to compensate for the perturbations that the environment exerts on it in each interaction. The observer describes this adequacy of conduct as if it were the result of the acquisition by the organism of some feature of the environment, such as information, on which it computes the adequate changes of state that permit it to remain in autopoiesis, and calls such a process perception. Since instructive interactions do not take place, this description is both operationally inappropriate and metaphorically misleading.An ‘instructive interaction’ would be an event whereby the external ‘medium’ imposed or manipulated the internal structure of the organism. According to the autopoiesis model, such changes can be determined only from the inside, as it were, though they can be triggered by (what the observer sees as) an external ‘perturbation.’ But as the ‘acquisition’ metaphor shows, Maturana objects to ‘information’ here because he regards it as a ‘feature of the environment.’ This objection disappears if we define information in a more functional Peircean way (see Chapter 10) or in a Batesonian way as a difference that makes a difference. ‘Making a difference’ translates easily into Maturana's terms as ‘triggering a structural change.’ Now the interaction is not ‘instructive’; rather it is what Maturana calls ‘structural coupling,’ a process in which structural changes in the medium are coupled to structural changes in the organism in such a way as to sustain the organism and the interaction.— Maturana (1978a)
In autopoiesis theory, a structural change or internal ‘difference’ does not represent the structure of the external world or any feature thereof; it is triggered by the interaction (and triggers more interaction in its turn). This could be grounds for objecting to the term ‘representation,’ which is widely used in cognitive science for what i call an internal model. Pragmatism can help us to avoid falling into a terminological quibble over this point. Ray Jackendoff, who relies on ‘representation’ as much as anyone in his account of mentality, was taking a pragmatic approach when he defused some potential objections to it as follows: ‘A representation is not necessarily about anything; if you like, it does not strictly speaking represent anything’ (Jackendoff 1992, 160).
Peter Ochs considers Peirce's ‘pragmatism’ to be a corrective measure for what I call (in Chapter 2) premature precision:
This term will be redefined through the study, but, for now, it will refer to his theory about how to correct inadequate—because overly precise—definitions of imprecise things. For Peirce, the prototypically imprecise things are matters of fact.… pragmatic definition is not a discrete act of judgment or classification, but a performance of correcting other, inadequate definitions of imprecise things.[next]— Ochs (1998, 4; italics in original)
Values are part of the modeling process. Anything we can evaluate – approach or avoid, save or condemn, worship or despise – can only be a feature of a model, valued according to its role as a functional part of that model which is its context. We can only evaluate people's conduct in relation to a common (communal) guidance system. To evaluate someone else's model, then, you would have to reduce it to a feature in your own concept of the universal guidance system. But what if each of us sentient beings is a single bodymind doing one's best to make sense of a unique body of experience? Judge not, lest you be judged. [next]
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.— Luke 6:32-6 (RSV); likewise Thomas 95, etc.
Many Christians, if not most, would say that Jesus was the only son of God. But here, Jesus calls upon all his followers to be sons of the Most High (υἱοὶ ὑψίστου) by practicing his mercy. This compassion is impartial, not based on one's love for, or judgment of, the other.
The oceanic vow of great compassion has no shore or limit, and saves living beings with release from the harbor of suffering.Another Zen text takes this non-judgment even further:— Dogen, EK 4.320
People who really practice the WayThe other side of this coin is detachment from the results of your own actions, as the Bhagavad-Gita teaches:
Do not see the faults of the world;
If you see the errors of others,
Your own error abets them.
If others err but you do not,
Your own error's still faulty.— Hui-neng (Cleary 1998, 23)
The world is in the bonds of action, unless the action is consecration. Let thy actions then be pure, free from the bonds of desire.— Bhagavad-Gita 3:9 (Mascaró)
Actions do not cling to me because I am not attached to their results. Those who understand this and practice it live in freedom.Gandhi, in commenting on the Gita, says ‘If we wish to give up sin, we should give up virtue too. There is possessiveness in clinging even to virtue.’ The practice of detachment comes highly recommended in scriptures ranging from the Vedic to the Bahá'í:— Bhagavad-Gita 4:14 (Easwaran)
Well may he be content to live a hundred years who acts without attachment—who works his work with earnestness, but without desire, not yearning for its fruits—he, and he alone.— Isha Upanishad (Prabhavananda)
Set thy heart upon thy work, but never upon its reward.— Bhagavad-Gita 2:47 (Mascaró)
Make not your deeds as snares wherewith to entrap the object of your aspiration …— Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas ¶36
How do you set your heart upon your work – which, almost by definition, has a purpose – without being attached to its results? It could be compared to a pure scientist (according to the Peircean ideal of scientific inquiry) impartially testing her hypothesis while remaining free of any desire to prove it true. Or you might think of it as ‘controlled folly,’ as Castaneda's Don Juan calls it:
Nothing being more important than anything else, a man of knowledge chooses any act, and acts it out as if it matters to him. His controlled folly makes him say that what he does matters and makes him act as if it did, and yet he knows that it doesn't; so when he fulfills his acts he retreats in peace, and whether his acts were good or bad, or worked or didn't, is in no way part of his concern.Perhaps we can sum it all up with this precept attributed to Zengetsu:— Castaneda 1971
Live with cause and leave results to the great law of the universe.The great law of the universe can also be called the Way of Heaven: ‘The Way of Heaven is impartial’ (Daodejing 79). [next]
One can do one's duty only if one banishes all impatience and anxiety in regard to it.[next]— Gandhi (1926, 73)
If you want your life to have meaning, then, live it like you mean it, full time. Live it as if Omniscience will know exactly what you are doing at every moment, regardless of how hidden it may be from more partial beings like ourselves. For whatever your current practice means to you now, and however hidden from the public eye, it will have its ultimate interpretant in the unfolding of the future.
And what is the hypocrisy (ὑπόκρισις) which is the ‘leaven of the Pharisees’? Literally, the Greek word means under-judgment. At the end of Luke 12 (56-8), Jesus addresses ‘the multitudes’ as hypocrites for their failure to read the time and judge their own actions accordingly:
You hypocrites (ὑποκριταί)! You know how to critically examine (δοκιμάζειν) the face of the earth and sky, and do you not know how to critically read this time (καιρὸν)?The hypocrite, then, is the one who pretends to have good judgment about the world around him, but is not guided by his own fair judgment of the situation in which he acts. [next]
And why do you not judge of yourselves what is right?
As you go with your accuser before the rulers, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you before the judge, and the judge (κριτής) hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you in prison.
To really believe it is to belive it.
In practice-enlightenment (Dogen), the whole mind is physically realized, and the whole body psychically realized. Now realization continues by dropping off mind and body.
Practice so that there is no Zen in the world of Zen, and to be clear that you have no desires within the world of desire. Throughout the entire world, there is no one who understands Buddha Dharma.—Dogen, EK 4.301
Active buddhas alone fully experience the vital process on the path of going beyond buddha.[next]— Dogen, SBGZ ‘Gyobutsu Iigi’ (BT 79)
Consider for instance the mindfulness which is central to Buddhist practice.
Over the years and throughout various cultures, many techniques and systems of Buddhist practice have been developed … but the essence of awakening is always the same: to see clearly and directly the truth of our experience in each moment, to be aware, to be mindful. This practice is a systematic development and opening of awareness called by the Buddha the four foundations of mindfulness: awareness of the body, awareness of feelings, awareness of mental phenomena, and awareness of truths, of the laws of experience.The only truths you can be aware of are general truths, which express themselves in many specific ways. Laws of experience, or of nature, are legisigns (Peirce), and have their being in futuro, since they continue to govern the unfolding of experience as of phenomenal events. Awareness in each moment takes time because each moment takes time, just as time takes mind. You don't get in the way.— Jack Kornfield (Smith 1999, 32)
Right mindfulness accepts everything without judging or reacting. It is inclusive and loving. The Sanskrit word for mindfulness, smriti, means ‘remember.’ Mindfulness is remembering to come back to the present moment. The character the Chinese use for ‘mindfulness’ has two parts: the upper part means ‘now,’ and the lower part means ‘mind’ or ‘heart.’— Thich Nhat Hanh (1998, 64)
Mindfulness is the substance of a Buddha.— Thich Nhat Hanh (1995, 15)
Mindfulness is re-membering what has been dismembered. The Arabic term dhikr, often translated ‘remembrance,’ is an Islamic equivalent to smriti, and a Christian version is the Greek metanoia (often translated ‘repentance’) (Frye 1982, 130). All refer to a kind of resurrection, a coming back to life, a return to presence.
In the ‘kingdom’ the eternal and infinite are not time and space made endless (they are endless already) but are the now and here made real, an actual present and an actual presence. Time vanishes in Jesus' ‘Before Abraham was, I am’ (John 8:58); space vanishes when we are told … that the kingdom is entos hymon (Luke 17:21), which may mean among you or in you, but in either case means here, not there.How could you remember to come back to presence if memory were not already a mode of presence? But then – felix culpa! – how could we return if we had never left? In order to remember we must first forget.— Frye (1982, 130)
The train that can be expressed is not the express train. You cannot be trained to express it. You express it only in your continuous practice.
You can't catch up with time. That's the bad news. The good news is that you don't need to catch up with time, because it's carried you all along, and it doesn't run ahead of living. The impression of lagging behind is caused by your reluctance to let go of permanence in the act of remembrance. [next]
Rumi uses alchemy as an analogy. The theories behind the transmutation of metal as learned from a teacher or a book are like the laws of religion. One needs to know these before one can begin walking down the path, but one only comes to see how the theory applies to real life as one walks the Sufi path. It is in the experience of the spiritual path that we actually apply the chemical agents to the metal, as it were. Only by following the path to the end can we turn the actual copper into gold and attain the truth.
The turning signs here begin as alchemical symbols but end in a transformation of practice. A similar point, perhaps, is made in Matthew 19.16-17:
And, behold, one came up to him, saying, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?’ And he said unto him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.’(RSV)
There is one life that is good, not one deed that buys you eternal life. To make that one life yours takes continuous practice, incorporating many ‘commandments’ at once for the sake of that life itself and not for some future reward. This passage in Matthew subtly diverts the seeker's attention from the “teacher” as representative of eternal life to the seeker's own enactment of it. The Gospel of Thomas is much more emphatic on this point.
A woman from the crowd said to him, ‘Blessed are the womb which bore you and the breasts which nourished you.’ He said to her, ‘Blessed are those who have heard the word of the father and have truly kept it. For there will be days when you will say, “Blessed are the womb which has not conceived and the breasts which have not given milk.”’The first two verses here are almost identical to Luke 11:27-8. What does it mean to keep the word (logos)? Both the English ‘keep’ and the Greek word for ‘those who keep’ (phylassontes) might suggest guarding it, defending it, keeping it safe. But for a pragmatist, the blessed are those who practice the word, not those who treat it like a possession or a “creed.” It is only through practice that the word as precept can be kept alive, because that is its only means of modifying itself to maintain its intimacy with current situations. Those whose first priority is to guard the logos often end up guarding it against any change, i.e. guarding the text against its own meaning.— Thomas 79 (Lambdin)
The final verse in Thomas 79 throws cold water on the worshipful euphoria of the woman from the crowd, as if to say that persistent practice, and not the fleeting feeling that “life is good,” is the presence of real life. [next]
(1) Jesus said, “The Father’s kingdom is like a person who wanted to put someone powerful to death. (2) While at home he drew his sword and thrust it into the wall to find out whether his hand would go in. (3) Then he killed the powerful one.”The ‘person’ here is taking a typical ascetic path: like an athlete, he practices in order to enhance his performance (or perhaps to ‘psych himself up’ for it, as the saying goes). Perhaps the ‘powerful person’ is the ego, the selfish self, which the primal person who embodies the ‘kingdom’ has to become ruthless enough to kill. The connection between the kingdom of heaven and violence is also made in Q; Luke 16:16 says that ‘every one enters it violently’ (RSV). But this parable illustrating the point is unique to Thomas. Perhaps it parallels the Zen saying, ‘If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!’ The point is that anyone who would realize the buddha-nature, or ‘actualize the fundamental point’ as Dogen put it, requires a steely singlemindedness. Valantasis (1997, 179) comments that ‘seekers, fighting the world and its ways to the end, must test their metal’ – or test their mettle, a word meaning (roughly) ‘spirit’ which was ‘originally the same word as metal’ (OED) – a striking case of linguistic divergence from a common root.— Thomas 98 (NHS)
This is not the only saying in Thomas which bears a remarkable resemblance to Zen sayings and stories. Take the immediately preceding one, for instance:
Jesus said, ‘The [father's] kingdom is like a woman who was carrying a [jar] full of meal. While she was walking along [a] distant road, the handle of the jar broke and the meal spilled behind her [along] the road. She did not know it; she had not noticed a problem. When she reached her house, she put the jar down and discovered that it was empty.’The story here resembles that of Mugai Nyodai, who was carrying a bucket of water when the bottom suddenly dropped out of it, whereupon she was enlightened. (She later established the first Buddhist temple for women in Japan.) In her story we have water dropping out suddenly rather than flour leaking out gradually, but in each case the result is a sudden discovery of emptiness. Does enlightenment ‘just come’ to you, or do you have to work toward it? Here the answer is ‘Both’ – although you may not know that you are working, or what you are working toward. And in both cases it's clear that enlightenment is a lightening of the load. You get the point of all your reading at the moment when you let go of all the weighty texts you've been carrying around, when you stop weighting. Nothing can match emptiness for portability.— Thomas 97 (Meyer)
In other ways, however, Saying 98 is far from the spirit of Zen, which is not generally friendly to practice in the sense of ‘rehearsal’ or preparation for some later achievement. Some other sayings in Thomas also seem to recommend anticipating some future crisis – 103, for instance:
Jesus said, ‘Blessings on the person who knows at what point the robbers are going to enter, so that [he] may arise, bring together his estate, and arm himself before they enter.’As in Saying 21.5 (quoted in Chapter 15), the question here is whether the person is preparing himself to resist the robbery or not. We would probably assume that the advice is aimed at prevention, if it weren't for the context in this Gospel and the parallels in other scriptures, where the expected ‘robbery’ is the coming return of the ‘son of man,’ Jesus himself (Matthew 24:43, Luke 12:39, Revelation 3:3 and 16:15, 2 Peter 3:10). In that case, the point is that if you know just where the bubble of cognition is going to be opened up by revelation (see Chapter 6), you will be ready to welcome and assist the opening, and perhaps also to foster the re-closure of the newly expanded bubble.— Thomas 103 (Meyer)
Or maybe the point is polyversity. Who gnows? [next]
He said, ‘There was a good man who owned a vineyard. He leased it to tenant farmers so that they might work it and he might collect the produce from them. He sent his servant so that the tenants might give him the produce of the vineyard. They seized his servant and beat him, all but killing him. The servant went back and told his master. The master said, “Perhaps he did not recognize them.” He sent another servant. The tenants beat this one as well. Then the owner sent his son and said, “Perhaps they will show respect to my son.” Because the tenants knew that it was he who was the heir to the vineyard, they seized him and killed him. Let him who has ears hear.’Perhaps the most startling thing about this story is the abrupt ending, or rather lack of the ending we find in other versions of the same parable: in Mark 12:9, Matthew 21:40-41, and Luke 20:15-16, we are assured that the wicked tenants will receive their just punishment. All three synoptic Gospels place the story in a context which invites a specific reading: the vineyard owner represents God, the tenants represent the religious establishment, and of course Jesus is the son of God, soon to be killed by the powers that be. But such an interpretation is not at home in Thomas, where Jesus is not said to be God's only son. The omission of the ending in Thomas could be written off as accidental or careless, but this seems unlikely, considering that the very next saying in Thomas is the same one that follows up this parable in the other three Gospels:
Jesus said, ‘Show me the stone which the builders have rejected. That one is the cornerstone.’To make sense of Thomas 65, then, we need a different context and reading from what we find in the other Gospels. The problem is that if we think of the vineyard's owner as a human (rather than an inscrutable God), then he appears to be a rather slow learner, not to mention ineffectual (as Davies 2002 points out). But perhaps this fallibility is itself the point of the parable; perhaps we can learn from the owner's error, which was to absent himself from production of the fruits of the vineyard.— Thomas 66 (Lambdin)
Suppose you think of the vineyard as your everyday practice, which should be guided by the meaning of scripture (which Thomas from the beginning challenges you to find). According to Thomas 2, the authentic seeker eventually finds himself ‘king over the All.’ This happens when you realize that this world is your world (Chapter 4) – as Thomas Traherne put it,
You never enjoy the world aright till the sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars; and perceive yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world, and more than so, because men are in it who are every one sole heirs as well as you.Later on, though, you may become complacent or absent-minded, and turn over your guidance system to habits or projects uninformed by actual experience or living semiosis. Then your habits are not really your own any more; they are like tenants of your body, and of course the ego is the worst tenant of them all. In this context, Thomas 65 would be warning you that habits are greedy and addictive, so if you turn your life over to them, you will have a hard time getting it back. These ghosts do not realize that they are ‘heirs of the whole world’ and are therefore jealous of the ‘children of the living Father’ (Thomas 3), who do realize it. So they are grimly (even lethally) determined to hold on to whatever part of your life they can get a grip on. Put your life on automatic pilot, turn it over to your ego-self, and you may lose your wholeness, just as the son in the parable lost his life. Punishing the wicked tenants won't redeem the situation, either; the only solution is to quit acting like an absentee landlord – inhabit the living body, live the time.— (The First Century, 29)
The preceding parable in Thomas, Saying (64) (which also has its parallels in the synoptic Gospels), could be taken as a warning that business – being occupied all the time with buying and selling, profit and loss, or even with social obligations – is no substitute for living the time:
Jesus said, ‘A person was receiving guests. When he had prepared the dinner, he sent his servant to invite the guests.
The servant went to the first and said to that one, “My master invites you.”
That person said, “Some merchants owe me money; they are coming to me tonight. I must go and give them instructions. Please excuse me from dinner.”
The servant went to another and said to that one, “My master has invited you.”
That person said to the servant, “I have just bought a house and I have been called away for a day. I shall have no time.”
The servant went to another and said to that one, “My master invites you.” He said to him, “My friend is to be married and I am to arrange the banquet. I shall not be able to come. Please excuse me from dinner.”
The servant went to another and said to that one, “My master invites you.”
That person said to the servant, “I have bought an estate and I am going to collect the rent. I shall not be able to come. Please excuse me.”
The servant returned and said to his master, “The people whom you invited to dinner have asked to be excused.”
The master said to his servant, “Go out on the streets and bring back whomever you find to have dinner.”
Buyers and merchants [will] not enter the places of my father.’— Thomas 64 (Meyer)
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