From memoirs of his escape from Chinese-occupied Tibet to insightful discussions of psychology, mind, and meditation; from original verse and calligraphy to the esoteric lore of tantric Buddhism—the impressive range of Trungpa's vision, talents, and teachings is showcased in this landmark series.
While it includes material in which Trungpa Rinpoche shares his knowledge of the symbolism and iconography of traditional Buddhist arts in Visual Dharma , this richly varied volume primarily focuses on his own, often radical creative expressions.
Creative map design
Acts are transactional: we act with and on things, in contexts, amidst conditions. Acts are fundamental to understanding behavior because they are selective. By directing movement and organizing situations, they manifest interest. This combination—of selectivity and interest—make activities meaningful. For example, our ancestors acted selectively regarding how to satisfy instinctive hunger; such selectivity created the conditions for a more elaborate interest in the taste of food, and, much later, in dining customs and cuisine. Habit helps explain various dimensions of human experience biological, ethical, political, and aesthetic as manifested in complex and social behaviors—walking, talking, cooking, conversing.
Acts unfold in time, beginning with instinct borne of need and muddling toward reintegration and satisfaction. To become a habit, an act-series must possess gradual and cumulative change; such change concresces as one act leads to the next. While habits may become routines, Dewey argued against the assumption that they were therefore automatic or insulated from conscious intervention. They cannot be automatic, because new situations vary, and the same exact acts never repeat. Thus, unlike machine routines, organic habits remain plastic, changeable. My habitual eating of sweets is subject to contingency a sharp toothache and modification restraint, substitution ; frequently, conscious reflection on an existing habit is the first stage of habit revision.
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Habits were also envisioned as dormant powers, waiting to be invoked. Dewey inveighed against the notion that habits are like individual possessions. Habits enter into the constitution of the situation; they are in and of it, not, so far as it is concerned, something outside of it. Because the situation is cultural as well as bio-physical, habits are ineliminably social.
This means that effecting a change of habits does not require a magical act of sheer willpower, but rather intelligent inquiry into relevant conditions psychological, sociological, economic, etc. Darwin argued that internal emotional states cause organic expressions which, depending on their survival value, may be subject to natural selection; for example, my feeling and expression of emotion may earn sympathy that aids survival of like-feeling offspring.
James, in contrast, sought to decrease the distance between emotion and accompanying bodily expression. If I encounter a strange dog and I am perplexed as to how to react, there is an inhibition of habit, and this excites emotion. As I entertain a range of incompatible responses Run? Call out? Slink away?
He decried traditional systems which, in their pursuit of rational access to truth and reality, create an invidious distinction by casting emotion as confused thought, distraction, or bodily interference which needs to be suppressed, controlled, or bracketed. Emotion is intertwined, psychologically, both in the individual in reasoning and acting , and in the wider culture with social forms of meaning creation. Attempts to balkanize emotion are motivated in part, he argued, by the desire to segregate leisure from labor, men from women; on this reading, the traditional rationalistic bent is, in effect, a power-play that deserves intellectual and moral critique.
As with other psychic phenomena, sentience emerges through the transactions of organisms in natural environments. Methods successful in the past, pre-organized responses, sometimes fail. In such cases, we become ambivalent—divided against ourselves about what to do next. In other words, inhibition creates ambivalence, and ambivalence makes possible new ways of considering alternatives; crude, physical situations take on qualitatively new complexities of meaning.
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Thus, Dewey wrote, sentiency or feeling. EN , LW1: At this stage, the new relationships are not yet known ; they do, however, provide the conditions for knowing. Symbolization, language, is the next step in liberating these noticed relationships using intellectual tools including abstraction, memory, and imagination EN , LW1: Dewey rejected both traditional accounts of mind-as-substance or container and more contemporary schemes reducing mind to brain states EN , LW1: — Rather, mind is activity, a range of dynamic processes of interaction between organism and world.
Consider the range connoted by mind: as memory I am re mind ed of X ; attention I keep her in mind , I mind my manners ; purpose I have an aim in mind ; care or solicitude I mind the child ; paying heed I mind the traffic stop. It is. It never denotes anything self-contained, isolated from the world of persons and things, but is always used with respect to situations, events, objects, persons and groups.
AE , LW — As Wittgenstein entry on Wittgenstein, section on rule-following and private language pointed out 30 years later, no private language see entry on private language is possible given this account of meaning. While meanings might be privately entertained, they are not privately invented; meanings are social and emerge from symbol systems arising through collective communication and action EN , LW1: Active, complex animals are sentient due to the variety of distinctive connections they have with their environment.
With language, creatures can identify and differentiate feelings as feelings, objects as objects, etc. Without language, the qualities of organic action that are feelings are pains, pleasures, odors, colors, noises, tones, only potentially and proleptically.
With language they are discriminated and identified. No longer our spark of divinity, as some ancients held, it is also rescued from merely being a ghost in a machine. Mind becomes vital , investigating and addressing problems, and inventing new tools, aims, and ideals.
Like mind, consciousness is also a verb—the brisk transitioning of felt, qualitative events. In the end, however, Dewey did not believe a fully adequate account of consciousness could be captured in words. Dewey, then, did not define consciousness, but evoked it using contrasts and instances. Given the processual, active nature of our psychology, Dewey was forced to depict consciousness with a dynamic, organismic vocabulary. Consciousness is thinking-in-motion, an ever-reconfiguring event series that is qualitatively felt as experience transforms.
Consciousness is drama; mind is the indispensable back story. This back story is not radically subjective; it is social, constituted by communities past and present. Dewey also tried to get at consciousness performatively, so to speak; he provoked the reader to consider the nature of consciousness while reading. Initially, it contributed to his idealism and psychology. Dewey advanced this in the Carus Lectures, revised and expanded in his metaphysical magnum opus, Experience and Nature , revised edition, ; EN , LW1. Keep three influences in mind. Second, recall that Dewey took from James a radically empirical approach to philosophy—the insistence that perspectival experience, including that called personal , emotional , or temperamental , was philosophically relevant and worth factoring into abstract and logical theories.
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Finally, recall that Dewey accepted from Hegel experience as manifested in particular social, historical, and cultural modes. Not only is the self constituted through experiential transactions with the community, but this recognition vitiates the Cartesian model of the simple, atomic self and methods based upon that presumption. Philosophy may start where we start, personally — with complex, symbolic, and cultural forms—and then articulate further emergences from them. More than just another node in a system, experience also amounted to a metaphilosophical method , a way of doing philosophy.
Within this Weltanschauung , philosophy was not a rational bridge to transcend life, but was equipment for living. Thus, clarifying what experience meant assumed the greatest importance, insofar as this was vital to philosophy earning back its status as a wisdom which might aid survival, growth, and flourishing.
Dewey recognized this and commented about it toward the end of his life. It was typical for many philosophers to construe experience narrowly, as the private contents of consciousness. These contents might be perceptions sensing , or reflections calculating, associating, imagining done by the subjective mind. Some, such as Plato and Descartes, denigrated experience as a flux which confused or diverted rational inquiry.
Others, such as Hume and Locke, thought that experience as atomic sensations provided the mind at least some resources for knowing, albeit with reduced ambitions. Both general philosophical approaches agreed that percepts and concepts were different and in tension; they agreed that sensation was perspectival and context-relative; they also agreed that this relativity problematized the assumed mission of philosophy—to know with certainty—and differed only about the degree of the problem.
Dewey disputed the shared empiricist conviction that sensations are categorically separable contents of consciousness. Regarding the phenomenon of mental privacy, Dewey argued that while we have episodes of what might be called mental interiority, it a latter human development.
Regarding sensorial atomicity, discussed previously in the section on psychology , Dewey explained sensation as embedded in a larger sensori-motor circuit, a transaction which should not be quarantined to any single phase—nor to consciousness. Dewey levied similar criticisms against traditional accounts of reflective thought. Mind is neither static nor a substance which stands, somehow, apart from the body—or from history, from culture.
Rather, reasoning is always permeated with both feelings and practical exigencies. First, experience exhibits a fundamentally experimental character. This was impressed upon Dewey in a variety of his educational roles. Dewey calls such experience direct, primary, or had. Known experience abstracts away from had or direct experience in purposeful and selective ways; knowing isolates certain relations or connections.
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Some take place with only a minimum of regulation, with little foresight, preparation and intent. Others occur because, in part, of the prior occurrence of intelligent action. Both kinds are had ; they are undergone, enjoyed or suffered. The first are not known; they are not understood; they are dispensations of fortune or providence. The second have, as they are experienced, meanings that present the funded outcome of operations that substitute definite continuity for experienced discontinuity and for the fragmentary quality due to isolation.
QC , LW4: [ 12 ]. Much in experience is unknown to us without being illusory or merely apparent; we are not trapped in a cave full of illusions with only rational dialectic to yank us upwards. Rather, we engage and cope with a world which is not completely meaningful.
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We strive to make the world more meaningful, but while some of the meanings devised assist in prediction and control of circumstances, others are simply enjoyed—but that does not make them less real. Philosophy, too, is a form of activity—which means that we need to do philosophy differently; we need pay attention to where and how we start; in this sense, experience is a method. If Dewey says that experience happens in both primary felt, had and secondary reflective, known ways, why not start with theory? Is that not experience, too?
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