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Brian Joseph

Joined: 23 Jan 2014
Posts: 11
Location: West London, UK

PostPosted: Tue May 13, 2014 3:16 pm    Post subject: ILLUSION AND REALITY Reply with quote


When you see something or I hear something, it may seem to be outside you and it certainly seems to be other than you. This is an illusion. Advaita says so and much of Modern Western Philosophy also says so.
Their ways of expressing it are slightly different. Advaita says it is all an illusion because, there is only one and so there can be, in truth, no other.
Renée Descartes, who is usually regarded as the beginning of Modern Western Philosophy, thought that the only way to discover the Truth was, firstly, to doubt the truth of all that he experienced whether through the senses or through thought and visualization.
He realised that all his experience was, necessarily, within his own mind and he did not really understand how it got there but he knew that he had not put it there and so it might be the work of some nefarious force who was deluding him.
Looked at in this way, he found he could doubt everything that could be known except his own existence. He concluded that he could not doubt that because it was clear that he was thinking about it. Therefore he concluded that he was ‘a thing which thinks.’ Cogito ergo sum’ (I think, therefore I am) . This conclusion formed the basis of what came to be known as rationalism .It was greatly advanced in the next century by thinkers such as Leibniz and Spinoza.
Other philosophers, and especially Immanuel Kant, proposed that the mind itself contained what he termed intuitions such as space and time and, consequently, everything that could be experienced was conditioned according to these qualities
The ‘noumenon’ or ‘thing in itself’, could never be the ‘phenomenon’, or object of experience.
Shri Shantananda Saraswati said that there is, indeed, a world out there but it is called illusion, because we think it to be other than ourselves. According to Advaita, ‘Wherever a wise man looks, he sees nothing but himself.’
The questions I should like to ask are:
1/ I s there such a ‘thing’ as the ‘thing in itself?’
2/ To what extent is Shri Shantananda Saraswati saying the same as Kant?
3/ If this is a dilemma, how could it be resolved and the argument moved forward?
It would be really good to hear from some of you, who are interested, what you feel about these questions.
Brian J.
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Brian Hodgkinson

Joined: 27 Jan 2014
Posts: 7
Location: Oxfordshire, UK

PostPosted: Wed Jun 11, 2014 9:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In reply to Brian J.'s first question, the answer must at least be that the thing in itself certainly cannot be known empirically, i.e. by sense perception or introspectively, since in that case it would be phenomenal and not transcendental. How else could it be known? Not according to Kant by intuition, as this has only space and time as its objects. What then of inference? Kant himself uses this by arguing that if all our experience of objects, both outwardly in space and inwardly within ourselves, is of appearances only, then there must be something of which these are appearances. In other words, appearances cannot stand alone as independent objects of experience.
Shantananda Saraswati uses a very similar argument. Illusions, such as a mirage, exist, even if only as illusions. Therefore existence itself stands as their substratum i.e. as what really exists. Thus there are two kinds of existence, the real and the illusory. Hence both Kant and Shantananda agree that there is something corresponding to a thing in itself, and perhaps agreeing moreover on our inability to actually know what this is.

Brian J.'s second question, however, requires a closer look at what each are saying. Kant seems to postulate a plurality of things in themselves, as though each object in the phenomenal world is matched by a particular thing in itself. Schopenhauer was critical of this, arguing that to import plurality into the transcendental was to apply a concept invalidly beyond the limited field where concepts can be used i.e. the phenomenal. In this regard Schopenhauer is surely closer to Advaita, since this allows only for the unity of Brahman, or the universal Spirit. Brahman must therefore be identified with the existence (or sat) which Shantananda says is beyond illusion.

Another major difference between the latter and Kant, however, is that Shantananda declares that the consciousness present in humanity is ultimately the same as the consciousness of Brahman, so that by recognising this one can realise identity with Brahman and be liberated from the world of phenomenon. There is hardly a hint of this radical conclusion in what Kant writes. For him the transcendental seems to be absolutely closed to mankind, except as a possibility that has a bearing on one's conduct through awareness of the moral law.
Brian J.'s third question invites a short answer; namely to seize one horn of the dilemma. One the one hand is Kant's critical philosophy; on the other is Advaita. And yet the parallel's are close enough to choose one, without ignoring the insights of the other.

Brian Hodgkinson
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