Tuesday, February 01, 2005

dependent co-arising:
consciousness and apodictic truth

In Buddhism, something is dependently co-arisen if it exhibits one or both of the following properties:

1. being-in-process (and, by implication, impermanence and interdependence)
2. relationality

If consciousness is always consciousness of, then consciousness can never be sui generis, because consciousness is always conscious of the reality outside it-- i.e., the objects of consciousness. External reality isn't merely impinging on consciousness, as if consciousness could ever be object-free. Imagine the mind as mirror. Can a mirror ever reflect nothing?* This means that consciousness, however we construe it in its particulars, is relational. And because the objects of consciousness are in process, this means consciousness itself is in process. Relationality and process: consciousness, then, is dependently co-arisen.

Apodictic truths are also dependently co-arisen. Consider 2+2=4. What is 2 without its next-door neighbors, 1 and 3? Does 2 have any meaning without the context of the number line? Can it? 2 is nothing without its neighbors, nothing without the number line. 2's relationality makes it dependently co-arisen. The same then applies to all numbers on the number line, and by extension to all apodictic truths.

What, then, is not dependently co-arisen? What does not have the character of emptiness?

[Cross-posted at Andi's place.]

*The smartass in the back of the classroom says, "Yes, it can: when you turn out the lights, it's not reflecting anything!" But what, in reality, would be analogous to turning out all the lights? Only the total absence of a reality to be apprehended! I'm not sure that "turning out the lights" is a meaningful rebuttal of the analogy, since the action has no equivalent in the real world.


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