Unless I am misunderstanding Nagarjuna, he uses a form of reductionism to show 
how all metaphysical positions are untenable. To illustrate this point in 
further detail, I will provide the rest of my section on his thinking from my 
manuscript on silence:

Following the implications of the middle way, Nagarjuna uses what is called the 
“four-cornered-negation,” whereby he refutes any specific idea by disproving or 
negating all four of its appearances: as being, as nonbeing, as both, and as 
neither.  Belief in any of these four cases is an extreme thesis in his view 
and must be transcended by a higher synthesis. In fact, Nagarjuna’s philosophy 
can be seen as an attempt to “deconstruct” in this way all systems of thought 
which analyze the world in terms of fixed substances and essences. Since 
emptiness is in fact  the negation of each of the four appearances of any idea 
or concept, if it can be shown to be true in all four instances, then the 
original idea, whatever it might be, will have been disproved.  By saying that 
all concepts are false, then, the quality of emptiness is pointed to as their 
essential nature.  Since all concepts are false, emptiness is in all of them. 
(This refers to the being of emptiness.) The truth of emptiness is, however, 
the same as the unreality of all existing elements, which is to say that the 
nonbeing of the phenomenal world is also emptiness.  But Nirvana is also the 
truth, so Nirvana is also the same as emptiness and the same as the 
impermanence of the phenomenal world (referring to both the being and nonbeing 
of emptiness).  Furthermore, the Buddha-nature is the ultimate reality of each 
person, and thus the Buddha-nature – and Buddha himself – is empty. Now we may 
add that since Nirvana is enlightenment, enlightenment is emptiness too.  
Nagarjuna is here taking the logic of Conditioned Arising a step further in 
order to argue that nothing, not even Nirvana, is unconditioned. Hence the goal 
of Buddhist practice in his view is not merely to attain Nirvana but to realize 
emptiness. Thus Nirvana and impermanence are not two separate realities, but 
make up together a field of emptiness which is itself not another superior 
reality but something that is empty of itself. (This last state refers to the 
fourth case of negation, neither  being, nor nonbeing, nor both.)

With all of these positions pushed beyond the limit of their sustainability, 
Nagarjuna cancelled the existing definitions of reality and the whole edifice 
of Early Buddhism was undermined and smashed. In the process of dismantling all 
metaphysical and epistemological positions, one is led to the only viable 
conclusion, which is that all things, concepts, and persons lack a fixed 
essence — because otherwise they would not be capable of change, and only 
change can explain why people live, die, are reborn, suffer, and are capable of 
becoming enlightened in the first place. 

Nagarjuna’s explanation of the meaning of emptiness itself provides further 
clarification. Its two dimensions of meaning include the idea that emptiness is 
“the situation in which conditioned existence arises and dissipates, and thus 
it applies to practical everyday experience,” and secondly it is “the situation 
of freedom from suffering, the highest awareness.” The latter formulation is 
the conclusion of Buddha’s Four Noble Truths. Since both interpretations of 
emptiness are dependent co-originations, both include the theme of both the 
arising and the cessation of pain, which combines Buddha’s first Noble Truth, 
namely that life consists in suffering, with his second Noble Truth, that the 
cause of suffering is found in human desire, along with the third Noble Truth, 
that suffering ends when desire ceases,  which leads finally to the the fourth 
Noble Truth, which is that desire ceases only when the eightfold path is 
cultivated.This eightfold path involves the understanding and practice of the 
following activities: right speech, right action, right livelihood, right 
effort, right mindfulness, right concentration, right attitude, and right view. 
Following this path successfully leads to emptiness.

Once an individual is able by following this path to achieve emptiness and 
detachment from the world, he or she will recognize how silence is the 
appropriate response to all metaphysical problems. In this way, silence becomes 
a conduit to enlightenment. One recognizes that the use of concepts, and the 
use of reason to work with concepts and to help  distinguish between true and 
false views, and the very idea of having views in the first place, are all 
highly problematic in the sense that they are but imperfect manifestations of 
true reality. But on the other hand, they are all necessary steps in a process. 
This perspective, voiced in the 2nd century by Nagarjuna, closely anticipates 
Wittgenstein’s propositions at the close of his Tractatus: 

6.54 My propositions serve as elucidations in the following way: anyone who 
understands me eventually recognizes them as nonsensical, when he has used them 
— as steps — to climb beyond them. (He must, so to speak, throw away the ladder 
after he has climbed up it.)

7. What we cannot speak about we must pass over in silence.

I find Nagarjuna’s reasoning to be reductive because he demonstrates how, 
whether you begin with a belief in the truth of either identity or difference, 
in either case you are led by implication to an untenable position. Since both 
notions are thus "empty of self-essence;”  they can exist only together and not 

Steve Bindeman

On May 2, 2016, at 4:34 AM, Alex Hankey <alexhan...@gmail.com> wrote:

> It is good to note that Reductionism is not appropriate, 
> not in this particular context, maybe not in any context. 
> Most of the oriental philosophers were not aware of any
> reductionist approach, since their teachers were purely
> concerned with integrated and holistic approaches to 
> understanding and solving any problem. 
> Hence their attitudes to understanding experience" 
> the question of reductionism does not enter.
> Thank you. 
> On 30 April 2016 at 22:15, Francesco Rizzo <13francesco.ri...@gmail.com> 
> wrote:
> Search Alex e Stan, Search Tutti,
> I fully share the epistemological philosophical-scientific approach of Alex 
> and logical-mathematical set theory and / or the "hierarchy of subsumption 
> evolving" Stan. However, reductionism does not satisfy neither pays.
> A collective embrace the FIS network.
> Francesco
> 2016-05-01 0:38 GMT+02:00 Alex Hankey <alexhan...@gmail.com>:
> It is good to see the discussion developing into deep considerations of the 
> history (histories?) of the metaphysical understanding of the nature of the 
> self, the soul, and the world(s) of experience, including the material 
> universe in which it finds itself. 
> I do not claim to have any great expertise in understanding Nagarjuna's 
> approach, but we have to realise that both he and the great exponent of 
> Vedanta, Adishankara, also known as Shankaracharya (meaning teacher of 
> liberation), are said to have used almost identical formulations, albeit with 
> a different emphasis. While Nagarjuna used the concept of emptiness as the 
> foundation, Adishankara stayed within the traditional Vedic scheme where 
> 'fullness' or completeness / wholeness is regarded as fundamental. 
> While it is certainly true that to experience the 'self' clearly, all mental 
> content has to allowed to settle down and fade away (one aspect of 'Chitta 
> Vritti Nirodha', a definition of Yoga) the condition for maintaining that 
> stably is that the subtle energy, prana (life-breath), should be enlivened 
> fully, which is why the enlivenment (ayama) of prana i.e. pranaayama (normal 
> spelling pranayama, in which the long 'a' is not explicitly emphasised) is a 
> fundamental Yoga exercise, usually practised before meditation (Dhyana) 
> practices in which the mind moves to its empty state (samadhi). As can be 
> seen, increasing the prana (life-energy) to a state of fullness is thus an 
> integral part of attaining a stable state of pure consciousness (samadhi). 
> It is the fullness of the state of prana that stabilizes the mind from 
> influences that might bring it out of samadhi. In particular, various 
> emotions can block the flows of subtle energies (several websites explain 
> this in detail e.g. Google on acupuncture meridians - emotions). Fullness of 
> prana is thus considered equivalent to emotional stability, which requires 
> balanced positive emotions and feelings. 
> Both Nagarjuna and Adishankara are then concerned with how it is that 
> all-that-exists emerges from the original absolute. Nagarjuna evidently shows 
> that all things including all sentient beings have a 'dependent' existence - 
> they do not exist in and of themselves. Adishankara on the other hand uses 
> Vedic physics and metaphysics to trace how they emerge at various levels of 
> perception. The essence of his argument is to show how the mental sensory 
> apparatus came from the original source / Absolute, and thus how all objects 
> of sensation can be traced back there. 
> In modern terms, all things we have ever experientially encountered are 
> quantum fields, and all quantum fields seem to have emerged from the Big Bang 
> via the process of symmetry breaking at its source - the inflationary 
> process. But symmetry breaking is an instability, and when one inspects the 
> information states that that instability supports, they turn out to have a 
> similar structure to O=======>, the one proposed in the material that was 
> distributed. 
> I feel that the role and significance of instabilities in the physical world, 
> particularly life processes, has not been adequately expounded and that we 
> may only be beginning to understand them. 
> I hope this helps. 
> Alex
> On 30 April 2016 at 08:18, steven bindeman <bindem...@verizon.net> wrote:
> I hope the following passage I’ve written on Nagarjuna will be of use for 
> this discussion on the nature of self. The passage is from a manuscript I’ve 
> just completed on silence and postmodernism.
> Nagarjuna’s thinking is deeply conversant with silence and with the use of 
> paradox as well. For him, contradictory things are never “either/or,” but are 
> always “both/and.” Refusing to choose between opposing metaphysical problems, 
> he would recommend responding through silence instead. For an example of his 
> reductive reasoning process, consider the following: 
> Whatever is dependently co-arisen
> That is explained to be emptiness.
> That, being a dependent designation,
> Is itself the middle way.
> Something that is not dependently arisen
> Such a thing does not exist.
> Therefore a nonempty thing
> Does not exist.
> Nagarjuna is criticizing the common paradoxical occurrence that when we 
> attribute abstract concepts (“something that does not dependently exist”) 
> like emptiness to the status of “reality” (like we do with the Platonic 
> forms), then they seem to be applicable to everything, while on the other 
> hand when we emphasize instead the individual uniqueness and particularity of 
> any one thing (“whatever is dependently co-arisen”), this emphasis makes it 
> impossible to  categorize its likeness with other things. Nagarjuna’s point 
> is that the abstract concept of emptiness and the concrete nature of any 
> particular empty thing are in fact codependent. He calls this codependency 
> “Conditioned Arising.” His “middle way” resolves the paradox by viewing 
> neither the abstract idea nor the concrete thing as having a separate reality 
> — both instead are characterized as “‘thought constructions’ founded on 
> experience.’ As such, they are not absolutely real or absolutely unreal. 
> …This middle path could thus be adopted in understanding all forms of 
> experience, whether they be linguistic, social, political, moral, or 
> religious.”
> Another way of approaching an understanding of the middle way has to do with 
> recognizing it as constituting a resolution of the identity/difference 
> problem.  According to standard Buddhist doctrine the most dangerous false 
> view possible is the belief in a permanent, independent self (also commonly 
> referred to as the concept of identity). This notion of self is symptomatic 
> of our deepest fears, concerning things like death and the possibility of our 
> personal nonexistence. The concept of difference, which is the other side of 
> the problem, is the belief that nothing is real; it also asserts the absence 
> of all identities. This position would lead to the most mundane things 
> becoming unintelligible. Nagarjuna’s solution to this problem is his 
> assertion that neither identity nor difference is real. Both notions, when 
> seen properly, are “empty” of self-essence. They can exist only together and 
> not separately. Nagarjuna’s way of resolving this problem, by pointing to the 
> interdependency of identity and difference, is remarkably similar to the one 
> proposed by Merleau-Ponty many years later.
> Steve Bindeman
> _______________________________________________
> Fis mailing 
> listFis@listas.unizar.eshttp://listas.unizar.es/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/fis
> -- 
> Alex Hankey M.A. (Cantab.) PhD (M.I.T.)
> Distinguished Professor of Yoga and Physical Science,
> SVYASA, Eknath Bhavan, 19 Gavipuram Circle
> Bangalore 560019, Karnataka, India  
> Mobile (Intn'l): +44 7710 534195 
> Mobile (India) +91 900 800 8789
> ____________________________________________________________
> 2015 JPBMB Special Issue on Integral Biomathics: Life Sciences, Mathematics 
> and Phenomenological Philosophy
> _______________________________________________
> Fis mailing 
> listFis@listas.unizar.eshttp://listas.unizar.es/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/fis
> -- 
> Alex Hankey M.A. (Cantab.) PhD (M.I.T.)
> Distinguished Professor of Yoga and Physical Science,
> SVYASA, Eknath Bhavan, 19 Gavipuram Circle
> Bangalore 560019, Karnataka, India  
> Mobile (Intn'l): +44 7710 534195 
> Mobile (India) +91 900 800 8789
> ____________________________________________________________
> 2015 JPBMB Special Issue on Integral Biomathics: Life Sciences, Mathematics 
> and Phenomenological Philosophy

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