Is God a valid foundational belief?

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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Sun Nov 15, 2015 2:16 pm

sayak wrote:
Essentially religious belief is a belief that there is something that has a non-dependent status, in the case of Christianity or theism generally this is God. All other associated beliefs are secondary to this belief about God's non-dependent status. A belief of this type is unavoidable in the sense that everyone must hold this type of belief about something whether that is something within the cosmos or something distinct from it.


Buddhism, famously, denies this premise completely. This is why, if one truly understands Buddhism, one sees that Buddhist philosophy negates the very possibility of God and hence is the ultimate form of atheism. Buddhists state there is nothing anywhere that has this vaunted non-dependent status, and further says that the world as we see it would be impossible if there were such a thing. There is no essence, only relational processes.

Given this, I am not going to grant Moonwood his premise. Sorry.

If there are only relational processes then by definition those relational processes would be non-dependent since there would be nothing else they could depend on. This would simply be an assertion that everything is divine. I don't think that is really all Buddhists are saying though one would need to look a little more closely at different schools of Buddhism as you do in later posts.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby sayak » Sun Nov 15, 2015 10:18 pm

That is a misunderstanding. But if you are interested, take a look at philosophy of Nagarjuna to get a better sense. :)
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Mon Nov 16, 2015 1:37 am

sayak wrote:That is a misunderstanding. But if you are interested, take a look at philosophy of Nagarjuna to get a better sense. :)

Well I'm glad you mentioned Nargajuna who Barnie often referred to. As I understand it he laid more emphasis on the idea of emptiness and the void than most other schools of Buddhism. He said that even the dharmas were empty of reality. So it could be taken he was saying there is no reality at all. However he appears not to have nihilistically rejected all reality but rather said that individual things have no essentialnature of their own and are this impermanen, that they arrive and vanish in the world in the way you have described in earlier posts. This does not defeat the claim that the common factor of all religions is a divinity belief since the divined need not be conceived of as some kind of static essence in order for this claim concerning the commonalities to hold. Rather the existence of some kind of divinity is implicit in Narajuna's teaching. The divine is in fact a neccessary assumption of the contrasts he drew. If the world of everyday experience is unreal because it is impermanent, changeable and dependent then this implies that there is something, a genuine reality,that is permanent, unchanging and non-dependent. In other words I doubt that Nargajuna is some kind of John Lennon mysteriously declaring that nothing is real even if he might have agreed there is nothing to get hung about. Am I getting this wrong.

The idea that the ultimate reality is in flux is not unknown in the West. Th pre-Socratic philosophers when asking about the origin of the cosmos ask, as pagans, what is the divine element within the cosmos. They tend to opt for one of the 4 elements such as air or water. Heraclitus a contemporary of Buddha opts for fire. But is clear that for him fire is a symbol of changingness; hence the basic reality is change or flux and this applies to people and things. Hence we do not step into the same river twice, it is not the same river and we are not the same person. To say that ultimate reality is in a sate of changingness is not to deny its self existence.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Mon Nov 16, 2015 6:21 am

sayak wrote:Buddhists deny the ontological reality of wholes that contain parts within it. Wholes are merely conventional designators for a certain collection of causally co-dependent simples and is a mere fiction constructed for either utilitarian reasons or due to limitations of our cognitive perceptions. So while the simple partless "atoms" of phenomena lack intrinsic and independent essence as they are causally co-dependent on each other for their arising, characteristics and demise; the complex wholes (things like the table, the universe, the self, the causal network etc.) are not only dependent on its various internal parts for its existence and characteristics, they are also dependent on the conventional and utilitarian paradigms of observers and hence are actually convenient fictions existing only in and totally dependent upon the minds of the person (or animal) in whom that concept of that particular whole is conceived. Thus such wholes also cannot function as the independent ground of reality/being that a theist might be looking for.

A Buddhist would believe that math and logic are also useful fictions and are at best conventionally true. (http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/fictionalism-mathematics/).

You seem to be saying that in this view the wholes have no reality compared to their components which does imply that the components are real so while the wholes cannot function as a ground of being it is not at all clear why the components can't.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Mon Nov 16, 2015 6:23 am

sayak wrote:
The Buddhist claim that there is no reality of wholes seems to kill itself, for as soon as the idea is conceived it has nothing to apply to, for if there are no wholes there is nothing distinct therefore there is no way A can operate on B because A is B and B is A, therefore there is no way a line of reasoning can be used against another thing, there is no other thing, the line of reasoning is the thing and vice versa.


Why is this the case? Consider the universe made of simple partless elementary "atoms" of particulate phenomena that are causally interacting with each other, being dependent on each other for their continuous creation and destruction. Buddhists claim that the complex wholes are merely conventionally binned populations of such simple particulates of phenomena and therefore dependent on these particulates for their existence and dependent on the mind that is conceiving that bin as a whole in the first place. Simple particulates are conceived to have distinctions in which simple property/phenomena/quality they possess, but crucially their individuating distinctiveness is also based on the previous simple particulates which caused it to exist in the first place.

Suppose we have two simple particulates A and B. They interact at instant of time t1. This cause the destruction of both these particulates and the creation of two new simples A* and B* with new individuating characteristics that are dependent on the previous individuating properties A and B had. This is conceived to be the relational mechanism behind all phenomena.

This seems to me to imply that this relational mechanism has a divine status, is non-depently self-existent.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby sayak » Mon Nov 16, 2015 8:23 am

Moonwood the Hare wrote:
sayak wrote:That is a misunderstanding. But if you are interested, take a look at philosophy of Nagarjuna to get a better sense. :)

Well I'm glad you mentioned Nargajuna who Barnie often referred to. As I understand it he laid more emphasis on the idea of emptiness and the void than most other schools of Buddhism. He said that even the dharmas were empty of reality. So it could be taken he was saying there is no reality at all. However he appears not to have nihilistically rejected all reality but rather said that individual things have no essentialnature of their own and are this impermanen, that they arrive and vanish in the world in the way you have described in earlier posts. This does not defeat the claim that the common factor of all religions is a divinity belief since the divined need not be conceived of as some kind of static essence in order for this claim concerning the commonalities to hold. Rather the existence of some kind of divinity is implicit in Narajuna's teaching. The divine is in fact a neccessary assumption of the contrasts he drew. If the world of everyday experience is unreal because it is impermanent, changeable and dependent then this implies that there is something, a genuine reality,that is permanent, unchanging and non-dependent. In other words I doubt that Nargajuna is some kind of John Lennon mysteriously declaring that nothing is real even if he might have agreed there is nothing to get hung about. Am I getting this wrong.

The idea that the ultimate reality is in flux is not unknown in the West. Th pre-Socratic philosophers when asking about the origin of the cosmos ask, as pagans, what is the divine element within the cosmos. They tend to opt for one of the 4 elements such as air or water. Heraclitus a contemporary of Buddha opts for fire. But is clear that for him fire is a symbol of changingness; hence the basic reality is change or flux and this applies to people and things. Hence we do not step into the same river twice, it is not the same river and we are not the same person. To say that ultimate reality is in a sate of changingness is not to deny its self existence.


Nagarjuna was claiming that the ordinary world is made of discrete momentary phenomena whose nature, arising, persistence and decay are dependent other such phenomena in the past or in its neighborhood. And that is all there is to reality, there is no permanent, unchanging and non-dependent essence in or beyond this. Why would this be divine? Its a statement Nagarjuna made supposedly via observations and arguments.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby sayak » Mon Nov 16, 2015 8:31 am

Moonwood the Hare wrote:
sayak wrote:
The Buddhist claim that there is no reality of wholes seems to kill itself, for as soon as the idea is conceived it has nothing to apply to, for if there are no wholes there is nothing distinct therefore there is no way A can operate on B because A is B and B is A, therefore there is no way a line of reasoning can be used against another thing, there is no other thing, the line of reasoning is the thing and vice versa.


Why is this the case? Consider the universe made of simple partless elementary "atoms" of particulate phenomena that are causally interacting with each other, being dependent on each other for their continuous creation and destruction. Buddhists claim that the complex wholes are merely conventionally binned populations of such simple particulates of phenomena and therefore dependent on these particulates for their existence and dependent on the mind that is conceiving that bin as a whole in the first place. Simple particulates are conceived to have distinctions in which simple property/phenomena/quality they possess, but crucially their individuating distinctiveness is also based on the previous simple particulates which caused it to exist in the first place.

Suppose we have two simple particulates A and B. They interact at instant of time t1. This cause the destruction of both these particulates and the creation of two new simples A* and B* with new individuating characteristics that are dependent on the previous individuating properties A and B had. This is conceived to be the relational mechanism behind all phenomena.

This seems to me to imply that this relational mechanism has a divine status, is non-depently self-existent.


What arises when A and B interacts at t1 depends on the nature of A and B and the instant of space and time t1, x1 in which it rises...and the nature of A and B and the point of their arising depends on the nature of particulates that arose before it (or particulates that arose in its neighborhood). Thus the existants and the relational arisal and decay of the existants are also dependent on each other, and all attempts to abstract away to either "substances" or "processes mechanisms" are at best conceptual conveniences, as each particulate is unique in terms of how, where, when it arose, what nature it had in relation to all others around it, and how where and when it decayed. The same can be said for all the relational correlations between particulates over time or space.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Mon Nov 16, 2015 11:04 am

sayak wrote:
Moonwood the Hare wrote:
sayak wrote:That is a misunderstanding. But if you are interested, take a look at philosophy of Nagarjuna to get a better sense. :)

Well I'm glad you mentioned Nargajuna who Barnie often referred to. As I understand it he laid more emphasis on the idea of emptiness and the void than most other schools of Buddhism. He said that even the dharmas were empty of reality. So it could be taken he was saying there is no reality at all. However he appears not to have nihilistically rejected all reality but rather said that individual things have no essentialnature of their own and are this impermanen, that they arrive and vanish in the world in the way you have described in earlier posts. This does not defeat the claim that the common factor of all religions is a divinity belief since the divined need not be conceived of as some kind of static essence in order for this claim concerning the commonalities to hold. Rather the existence of some kind of divinity is implicit in Narajuna's teaching. The divine is in fact a neccessary assumption of the contrasts he drew. If the world of everyday experience is unreal because it is impermanent, changeable and dependent then this implies that there is something, a genuine reality,that is permanent, unchanging and non-dependent. In other words I doubt that Nargajuna is some kind of John Lennon mysteriously declaring that nothing is real even if he might have agreed there is nothing to get hung about. Am I getting this wrong.

The idea that the ultimate reality is in flux is not unknown in the West. Th pre-Socratic philosophers when asking about the origin of the cosmos ask, as pagans, what is the divine element within the cosmos. They tend to opt for one of the 4 elements such as air or water. Heraclitus a contemporary of Buddha opts for fire. But is clear that for him fire is a symbol of changingness; hence the basic reality is change or flux and this applies to people and things. Hence we do not step into the same river twice, it is not the same river and we are not the same person. To say that ultimate reality is in a sate of changingness is not to deny its self existence.


Nagarjuna was claiming that the ordinary world is made of discrete momentary phenomena whose nature, arising, persistence and decay are dependent other such phenomena in the past or in its neighborhood. And that is all there is to reality, there is no permanent, unchanging and non-dependent essence in or beyond this. Why would this be divine? Its a statement Nagarjuna made supposedly via observations and arguments.

If you say of something 'that is all there is' then you imply apart from this there is nothing. If apart from this there is nothing then there is nothing on which this can depend. If this can depend on nothing it is non-dependent and if it is non dependent it is self existent and if it is self existent it is divine according to the original meaning of the word divine which I am using here. The fact that that there are interdependencies within that non-dependent set does not take away its non-dependent status. I am using the word self existent as a limiting idea not a concept; there is no implication that whatever is self existent must be some kind of essence.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Aaron » Mon Nov 16, 2015 11:40 am

sayak wrote:What arises when A and B interacts at t1 depends on the nature of A and B and the instant of space and time t1, x1 in which it rises...and the nature of A and B and the point of their arising depends on the nature of particulates that arose before it (or particulates that arose in its neighborhood). Thus the existants and the relational arisal and decay of the existants are also dependent on each other, and all attempts to abstract away to either "substances" or "processes mechanisms" are at best conceptual conveniences, as each particulate is unique in terms of how, where, when it arose, what nature it had in relation to all others around it, and how where and when it decayed. The same can be said for all the relational correlations between particulates over time or space.

This should mean then that our own very reason depends on the things which happen before, so that any conclusions we reach about reality cannot themselves escape from being at best conceptual conveniences, which also makes me wonder if this would mean no concept is absolutely better (there is no real knowable truth) than another except that one might be preferred by a conceptual bin we call an individual over another.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Mon Nov 16, 2015 12:23 pm

sayak wrote:
Moonwood the Hare wrote:
sayak wrote:Why is this the case? Consider the universe made of simple partless elementary "atoms" of particulate phenomena that are causally interacting with each other, being dependent on each other for their continuous creation and destruction. Buddhists claim that the complex wholes are merely conventionally binned populations of such simple particulates of phenomena and therefore dependent on these particulates for their existence and dependent on the mind that is conceiving that bin as a whole in the first place. Simple particulates are conceived to have distinctions in which simple property/phenomena/quality they possess, but crucially their individuating distinctiveness is also based on the previous simple particulates which caused it to exist in the first place.

Suppose we have two simple particulates A and B. They interact at instant of time t1. This cause the destruction of both these particulates and the creation of two new simples A* and B* with new individuating characteristics that are dependent on the previous individuating properties A and B had. This is conceived to be the relational mechanism behind all phenomena.

This seems to me to imply that this relational mechanism has a divine status, is non-depently self-existent.


What arises when A and B interacts at t1 depends on the nature of A and B and the instant of space and time t1, x1 in which it rises...and the nature of A and B and the point of their arising depends on the nature of particulates that arose before it (or particulates that arose in its neighborhood). Thus the existants and the relational arisal and decay of the existants are also dependent on each other, and all attempts to abstract away to either "substances" or "processes mechanisms" are at best conceptual conveniences, as each particulate is unique in terms of how, where, when it arose, what nature it had in relation to all others around it, and how where and when it decayed. The same can be said for all the relational correlations between particulates over time or space.

Firstly I think you should be cautious when saying Buddhists say this or that because as far as I am aware there are plenty of Buddhists who do see Nirvana as an essence of some kind. I am not sure what distinction you are making in asserting that Nargajuna would say there is a relational mechanism behind all phenomena but no "process mechanisms". Are you saying there is a mechanism but it cannot be conceptualised as something with a known or predictable process? If so this would not detract from it having divine status.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby sayak » Mon Nov 16, 2015 2:10 pm

Moonwood the Hare wrote:
Firstly I think you should be cautious when saying Buddhists say this or that because as far as I am aware there are plenty of Buddhists who do see Nirvana as an essence of some kind. I am not sure what distinction you are making in asserting that Nargajuna would say there is a relational mechanism behind all phenomena but no "process mechanisms". Are you saying there is a mechanism but it cannot be conceptualised as something with a known or predictable process? If so this would not detract from it having divine status.


True enough. There are Buddhists that would say (the Yogacarins) that there is an ultimate atomic ground of conscious perception.

Now I am confused what you mean by divine. Notice the thread began with a quote
My claim is this: religious belief does not depend on argument or evidence.
Then you justified this as:-
I can back it up further by exploring what it is about religious belief that make it more like the kinds of claim for which we do not need argument or evidence than the kinds for which we do.
Then you stated:-
Essentially religious belief is a belief that there is something that has a non-dependent status,

Now Nagarjuna's core claim is that there is no phenomena of that kind whatsoever. Neither causal dependence, nor part-whole dependence, nor concept-reality dependence ends with something that is an irreducible non-dependently existent feature (an ultimate atom, a first cause or fundamental law etc.) If you try to this and say :- these X's are the elementary aspects of reality/causal law/conceptions and all other Y's follow from there...you will always find paradoxes in logic/observation or incompleteness..and this is because the reality is not structured that way. Nagarjuna will also say that humans can only conceive of reality that way, and hence all our descriptions will be approximations that will partly work and partly not work. So all one can do is to find a description that works best for what the current interest is. Nagarjuna will readily admit that his own description also suffers from the same sorts of incompleteness and/or paradoxes, but he will claims it is the best one can do when the interest is to create a description of the general nature of the world. His theory is falsified if you can in fact find a description that works better. So now you tell how can you consider such a demonstrably falsifiable view "divine " in the sense you use? So a essence-realist will create a worldview that when, compared with observations, will have less paradoxes and Nagarjuna's worldview will be falsified.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Particles » Mon Nov 16, 2015 3:18 pm

Moonwood the Hare wrote:
Particles wrote:Moonwood, I have agreed that some beliefs are foundational as you described, but I'm not sold that theism should be one of them. I do agree that it's justified to believe that there is some aspect that is self-existent in or about the cosmos (with the qualification that I'm open to the reality being some very different concept unknown and maybe indescribable by current frameworks), but I don't see how that it follows that this self-existent thing gets you to God in a religion like Christianity. That God has various attributes beyond self-existence, like possessing a mind and personality, and other theological specifics. Would your argument mean that all religious beliefs and religions (monotheistic only?) are equally justified? If given the bare foundational belief of the self-existent, why is Christianity itself justified?

I didn't even know this was here, too busy playing Mornington Crescent, so it will take a while to get through all this.


MC is a taxing intellectual challenge. This game should be easier.

I would say all religious beliefs are justified by experience and the only sense in which a religious belief could be less justified was if it was shown either to be at odds with other things known to be true or to be internally incoherent. Both these charges have been levelled at Christianity and I would agree that if they stick that is a real problem.

There are different kinds of understanding of the relationship between the divine and the cosmos. There are those views of this that regard some part of the cosmos as divine. These views are sometimes called pagan; I prefer the technical term pancosmistic but it is not a widely known term and pagan will do as long as this is not tied to closely with pagan worship and can include non-worshipping forms of paganism like modern materialism

There are theistic views which see the divine and the cosmos as distinct so that the cosmos depends on something external to itself.

And there are a set of views which unlike paganism which locates the divine in the cosmos locate the cosmos within the divine. These views are sometimes misleadingly called pantheistic and they seem to include many forms of Hinduism and Buddhism. Whether this accurately portrays all Hindu and Buddhist views is a matter for debate.

Finally why do Christians experience Christianity as true. That is because we believe God has communicated with us through scripture and tradition and we also believe that in the experience of becoming a Christian the scales are removed from our eyes and we are enabled to form true beliefs about the nature of the divinity.


I don't agree that all those varieties of beliefs should be said to be about the "divine," even if traditionally they once did. Leaving that semantics aside, my main interest is on the question of belief in a personal God such as in Christianity. You seem to agree here then that Christian belief is not a self-evident belief the same way the more generic concept of the divine is. If correct, then would you consider Christianity falsifiable?
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Tue Nov 17, 2015 5:56 am

Particles wrote:I don't agree that all those varieties of beliefs should be said to be about the "divine," even if traditionally they once did. Leaving that semantics aside, my main interest is on the question of belief in a personal God such as in Christianity. You seem to agree here then that Christian belief is not a self-evident belief the same way the more generic concept of the divine is. If correct, then would you consider Christianity falsifiable?

If you take the minimum definition of divinity as self existent then I think they do. I would say the truth of Christianity as revealed in scripture and tradition is self evident to some people.

Falsifiabilty is a tricky concept. I like to work with a fairly strict definition and then things can be proved false logically or in the case of empirical claims they can be falsified as long as they are either universal (All As are B) or specifiable (there is at least one A that is B at point C). If looked at that way then Christianity is not strictly falsifiable but a particular account of Christianity might be falsifiable if it was formulated in a way that contained a contradiction, or made an empirical claim that was testable such as some versions of the claim that the universe is only 6,000 years old.
Have you read this http://infidels.org/library/modern/antony_flew/theologyandfalsification.html
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby Moonwood the Hare » Tue Nov 17, 2015 11:39 am

sayak wrote:
Moonwood the Hare wrote:
Firstly I think you should be cautious when saying Buddhists say this or that because as far as I am aware there are plenty of Buddhists who do see Nirvana as an essence of some kind. I am not sure what distinction you are making in asserting that Nargajuna would say there is a relational mechanism behind all phenomena but no "process mechanisms". Are you saying there is a mechanism but it cannot be conceptualised as something with a known or predictable process? If so this would not detract from it having divine status.


True enough. There are Buddhists that would say (the Yogacarins) that there is an ultimate atomic ground of conscious perception.

Thanks. You are not the only person to question whether Nargajuna's views will fit this definition of religion. There is a discussion of this in a footnote to Roy Clouser's Knowing With The Heart
Now I am confused what you mean by divine.

essentially non-dependent or self existent.
Now Nagarjuna's core claim is that there is no phenomena of that kind whatsoever. Neither causal dependence, nor part-whole dependence, nor concept-reality dependence ends with something that is an irreducible non-dependently existent feature (an ultimate atom, a first cause or fundamental law etc.)

From what you are saying and other things I have read he says there is no single entity or whole composed of sets of entities that has this status. But he also says that there is nothing ecternal to the total array of non-dependent things. If there is nothing external to that totality then the totality considered as a totality would have to have non-dependent status since there is nothing outside it. I am using the law of excluded middle to make this claim. Everything must be either dependent or not. If there is something, some totality, which has nothing outside it there is nothing it can depend on so it must be non-dependent. I cannot see a way to avoid this conclusion whether Nargajuna want to explicitly state it or not. The parts and wholes and sets can be considered as mutually interdependent and therfore unreal but the totality as a totality would have to be non-dependant and therefore by implication real even if it has no nature or essence as a totality.
If you try to this and say :- these X's are the elementary aspects of reality/causal law/conceptions and all other Y's follow from there...you will always find paradoxes in logic/observation or incompleteness..and this is because the reality is not structured that way. Nagarjuna will also say that humans can only conceive of reality that way, and hence all our descriptions will be approximations that will partly work and partly not work. So all one can do is to find a description that works best for what the current interest is. Nagarjuna will readily admit that his own description also suffers from the same sorts of incompleteness and/or paradoxes, but he will claims it is the best one can do when the interest is to create a description of the general nature of the world. His theory is falsified if you can in fact find a description that works better.

Well from my perspevtive a view that did not contain the whopping contradiction of saying that the totality of entities both is and is not dependent would be better.
So now you tell how can you consider such a demonstrably falsifiable view "divine " in the sense you use? So a essence-realist will create a worldview that when, compared with observations, will have less paradoxes and Nagarjuna's worldview will be falsified.

It is certainly falsified if you accept the laws of non-contradiction etc which Nargajuna I gather does not.
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Re: Is God a valid foundational belief?

Postby sayak » Tue Nov 17, 2015 3:04 pm

I do not get what you are saying.

The idea of "totality" itself is a conceptual construction. You are binning all the things together and calling it the "totality". It is utterly dependent on your conceptual construction and is not mind-dependent at all. You are taking the many and re-conceiving it as a one "whole". How much more dependent can you get?

Dependent on what is this totality:- the abstraction in your mind
Dependent on what are its characteristics:- abstract generalizations from the many many atomic phenomena that constitute its parts as conceived.

So this totality is necessary a dependent reality.
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