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seeking the path

224 A thing’s existence is its integral with respect to itself. 225 If a scientist has before him two nervous systems and he wants to make a strictly objective description of them (as he is bound to do as a scientist), the two descriptions will be, except for accidentals, indistinguishable. To make his descriptions he will use whatever instruments (microscope, electroencephalograph, clock, ruler) are necessary, and his descriptions will be in terms of pointer readings on these instruments. These readings can be checked by another scientist, thus ensuring that the descriptions are truly objective. The scientist’s function is limited to setting up the apparatus, noting the readings, and arranging the results to form a coherent picture. Now it may happen that whenever an identical stimulus is applied in turn to the two nervous systems (say A and B) the scientist notices a pain as the stimulus is applied to A, but not as it is applied to B. Since, however, the pointer readings on the instruments are essentially the same as the stimulus is applied to A as it is applied to B, the scientist cannot admit the pain as distinguishing stimulus of A from stimulus of B; for he is limited to the data provided by his instruments. He is bound to conclude that ‘pain’ does not enter into the scientific description of nervous systems. For example, there is no way of telling whether the pain was ‘caused’ by stimulus of A or by the scientist’s leaning on a drawing pin every time he stimulated A but not when he stimulated B. It might be, however, that he would wish to account for the occurence of pain together with stimulus of A and its non-occurence together with stimulus of B. He cannot (as noted above) say that pain distinguishes stimulus of A from stimulus of B, but he might perhaps say, ‘A is my nervous system; B is somebody else’s nervous system’; therefore stimulus of A causes pain in me, and stimulus of B causes pain in somebody else; there is pain in both cases, which is why the pointer readings are the same.’ But how does the scientist know that A is his nervous system and B not, seeing that the instruments make no distinction? If another scientist is collaborating with the first, both will observe the same pointer readings, as noted above. But this second scientist may come to the conclusion, ‘B is my nervous system, A is somebody else’s.’ Which is the objective scientific truth—’A is my nervous system’ or ‘B is my nervous system’?


Early Writings (Seeking the Path - Ñāṇavīra Thera)  

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...

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