sketch for a proof of rebir th
happens. When I now drink sweet tea my former idea (or field—appendix iii refers) combining the qualities or characteristics of sweet tea and those of bodily comfort is replaced by another idea combining the qualities of sweet tea and those of nausea; whereupon I give up sweet tea. And this change takes place because the former idea is no longer satisfactory—so long as I have it I make myself sick. (By satisfactory we must understand the least unpleasant available. See appendix ii.) In other words my nature becomes not to be taking sugar in my tea but to be drinking it without (perhaps with lemon or something else). My nature, then, has changed; a fresh nature has replaced the old. But the old nature has not merely been replaced (as one might replace a broken cup with a new one after throwing away the pieces); it has been utterly destroyed. How is this? By the simple fact that the new nature is exactly contrary to the old: formerly it was my nature to be sugaring my tea, now my nature is not to be sugaring my tea. But—it may be objected—you are still drinking tea; there is no change at all in that. And this is true: although I have given up drinking sweet tea, I still find tea stimulating and I am drinking as much as before, but unsweetened. There has undeniably been a complete reversal of my nature, but only at a certain level of generality; and that this is always the case in our life we may observe for ourselves—we never change all our habits at once. It may be seen, furthermore, that the whole of our experience is nothing else but a continual reversing of our nature at one level or another, that is to say of some particular intention (though it will be evident that these reversals are normally very particular: breathing in, breathing out, breathing in, breathing out, to choose the simplest example). Every change of my nature is a denial of that nature, but carried out against the background, or in the light, of a more general nature, which at that time remains constant. Note, however, that this is the necessary structure of my change; for, so long as it is possible to compare the earlier nature with the later nature (which is the direct opposite of the earlier)—so long, in other words, as we can say ‘something has changed’ or ‘I have changed’—the two natures will have something in common; and this, precisely, is the more general nature or character that remains unchanged on that occasion. See appendix iii. If I change from ‘taking sugar in my tea’ to ‘not taking sugar in my tea’ there is the general character ‘drinking tea’ that remains constant; but I might instead change from ‘drinking tea’ to ‘drinking coffee (i.e. not drinking tea)’, and here it is the still more general character ‘being a drinker of hot drinks’ that is constant. And there is no upper limit to the possible level of generality. In one way, however, there is, but it is essentially reflexive: our nature is never wholly without some element of self-appraisal. Ultimately we must
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...