seeking the path
of view they are unsatisfactory as a guide to my intention, and if they are seen from my own point of view at the time of the intention they are an integral part of that intention—or rather, from my point of view, there are no circumstances to be seen. So long as my intention remains the same I cannot possibly say that circumstances have altered, because I see nothing independent of my intention (if my intention is to be putting sugar in my tea, then what I am putting in my tea is necessarily sugar); and this is true even though, from the external point of view (which I myself can adopt at a later time, that is to say when my intention is to be ‘examining the circumstances under which I was “putting sugar in my tea”’ and no longer to be ‘putting sugar in my tea’), the circumstances are observed to be quite different—the ‘sugar’ is arsenic and the ‘tea’ is soup. The use of the word circumstances, as we now see, is either misleading or redundant, and if we are to escape the physiological trap we must abandon it as an explanation of my behaviour. My nature is now no longer what governs my behaviour ‘in any given circumstances’: it is indistinguishable from my behaviour, it is what I am intending. And my behaviour is habitual, not when ‘it is always the same under similar circumstances’, but simply when my intention does not change. If my intention to be putting sugar in my tea is observed by me as being to some extent stable, then my behaviour is habitual. But the important thing is that I do observe this; my behaviour is habitual; it is a perpetual feature of my observed experience that each particular intention does persist unchanged for some period of time, long or short. Our nature, then, is the name we give to a certain element of stability in our experience: a habit, as anybody who has ever tried to give one up can testify, has a tendency to stick; and some (such as eating and breathing) are so stable that they normally stay with us, once we have acquired them, for the rest of our life. This stability, it will be noticed, is stability in time: time passes but our nature remains unchanged. But this is not to say that our nature does not in time change; it does, as Pascal observed; but it does not change simply because a certain amount of time has passed: we do not expect our long-established habits to change sooner than our later ones just because we have had them longer, but rather the contrary—the age of our habits is an indication of their stability. When does our nature change? In Pascal’s experience (not our usual sense of the word in this essay) it changes when a fresh nature destroys it. And when is this? Evidently when it ceases to be satisfactory. It is my nature (or habit) to be taking sugar in my tea. But suppose (for any reason that a physiologist may care to assume) I begin to find that each time I sugar my tea I am afflicted with nausea, though if I take it unsweetened nothing unpleasant
Published on Jun 26, 2013
Part B includes two early essays (Nibbana and Anatta and Sketch for a Proof of Rebirth) as well as notes from a Commonplace Book and Margina...