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Friday, 23 November 2012

Culture, Knowledge, Relativism and Bududahama – II

Before answering the questions raised by Prof. N. A. de S. Amaratunga it would be beneficial to at least some of the readers if the objective existence is discussed without referring to any texts in Bududahama or western science or any other tradition. It is clear that the objective existence is something that has no “objective” validity. There is nobody who can establish, prove, show, ascertain etc., objectively that objects (including sathva) exist independent of the mind. Objective existence implies that objects exist irrespective of any observer, and if there are observers then the objects are independent of the observers. In other words an object should be the same for all observers. Thus a ball is a ball to any observer and different observers using different languages would mean the same thing whether they call a ball, a ball, panduva, bolaya or whatever. Different observers may have different views of a statue but a statue exists independent of the observers and whether it is observed from the front sides or from any other angle. These observations are different views of a statue existing independently of the observers from different angles. Or else there may be close ups, zooms etc. of the same statue as captured by cameras placed at different positions.

Now how do we know that irrespective and independent of the observers the statue exists. It is nothing but knowledge and no knowledge is independent of the mind. Whether Prof. de S. Amaratunga would reply or not I cannot resist asking him a question. How does he know that an object exists, say the statue exists, if he does not have a mind? It has to be emphasised that the mind exists relative to the mind and has no objective existence in “Nirmanathmaka Sapekshathavadaya” as described in “Mage Lokaya” and other works published by me. If Prof. de S. Amaratunga calls it Mahayana it is immaterial to me as my views are in agreement with Buddha Desana. Could Prof. de S. Amaratunga explain objective existence without appealing to the mind that also has no existence independent of the mind?

Objective existence is also a concept, and all concepts are created by the mind. There is no concept as far as observers are concerned that is independent of the mind. Thus objective existence is also a concept created by the mind and hence objective existence is also subjective. Has Prof. de S. Amaratunga pondered on how an animal other than a human being grasps what the humans observe as a ball? This question is not clearly formulated as it could mean that it is asked to “describe” how a ball is grasped by an elephant for example. It is not the case as an elephant could “sense” much more or less than what a human being grasps as a ball. Our knowledge is relative to our senses and a fish who (that, if necessary for some readers) could sense what is known as an electromagnetic field may see the sea differently from what the human divers see.

A well known Sinhala novelist has told a newspaper that the cup before him existed therefore the cup has an objective existence. For him it is as simple as that! However, what he does not realise is that the cup, exists are his concepts created by his mind and relative to his culture. Any concept is created by an observer relative to his mind, sense organs and culture. If the cup was shown to a member of the Vedda Community say hundred years ago, would he have come out with the response “koppa pojja” or something to that effect? I have described this phenomenon using the example of an “udakkiaya” type “chairs” in “Mage Lokaya”. Perhaps Prof. de S. Amaratunga could write a critique of “Mage Lokaya”.

Of course it does not mean that each and every observer creates all the concepts he uses. Most of the concepts are introduced to an observer by his culture through parents, relatives, teachers, media people etc., and it may be that he adds his own flavour to the concept that he had been introduced by the culture. In any event no observer without a mind can have the concept of objective existence neither can he express objective existence without using concepts created by the mind. The objective existence is nothing but a concept created by the mind through induction which is a process “exercised” by the mind. We as observers are introduced to concepts such as cups, trees, flowers, animals etc., and since almost all human beings experience the same cups now a days, and trees we tend to think that all observers have the same experience. This is an abstract generalization of the mind which comes to the conclusion that cups, at least trees exist independent of the mind and the observer. A tree is a tree for all observers independent of the observer is a generalization and an abstraction extracted through the process of induction and the tree has been elevated to an objective tree in the process. The fact that all human beings have the “same sense organs” and “similar minds” enables the mind to make this abstraction and generalisation and hence at least some human beings believe in objective existence.

This is only a fraction of ideas I have expressed on objective existence and it is very unlikely that Prof. de S. Amaratunga, the Sinhala novelist would have missed all that I have written in Sinhala over the years. I wonder why he has taken upon himself the task of objecting to relative existence in English at this juncture. Of course, there are half baked relativists in the west but that does not imply that I am imitating them in rejecting objective existence. Even in the theories of Relativity both Special and General, Einstein was interested in expressing objective existence and not relativities. It is true he considered different observers and how they observe (measure) phenomena, but his theories more than anything else express the invariants that are independent of the observers.

In Newtonian or Galilean Relativity, the velocities of objects relative to different observers may be relative. However, Newtonian Mechanics and in general Newtonian Physics depend on the invariance of distances between objects as measured by different observers. In other words the distance between any two objects is the same for all observers irrespective of the velocities of the objects relative to the observers. In Galilean or Newtonian Relativity the so called objectivity is regarding the distances between objects. However, in Einsteinian Relativity the distance between two objects do not remain the same for all observers neither the time interval between two events as measured by different observers.

What is observed to be the same between two events is what is known as the space –time interval between two events. This invariance of the space – time interval between two events is a corner stone of both the Special Theory of Relativity and General Theory of Relativity and the invariance of the space - time interval is a so called objective fact independent of the observers in both theories. The various disciplines of western science including Theories of Relativity are based on this objectivity though objectivity has no objective existence. What is said here is that there is no way of proving, establishing, showing etc., of objective existence or objectivity in an “objective” manner.
(To be continued)

Copyright Prof. Nalin De Silva