Desire and consciousness and causality

Question of the Day April 18, 2012 – Rid Oneself Of Desire

The root of ALL suffering is desire. – Buddha
How does one rid oneself of desire?

Must be using a different definition of desire from me.

It does not seem to me that desire necessarily leads to suffering, and certainly, if desire is not accompanied with acceptance of what is, then there will be suffering.

It seems to me that suffering is more correctly rooted in a refusal to accept some aspect of reality being as it is. When one tries to argue with reality, one loses, 100% of the time.
By accepting the reality of what is, options become available to exercise creativity, and create something that was not previously in existence.

It seems to me that desire is a very powerful part of the creative process, as it aids in persistence, which is another important aspect of creativity (“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again”).

Methinks the quote has lost something in translation.

[followed by]

Hi Torch

This seems to be one of those times where our assumption sets, and understandings, and meanings we attach to key words are so different that communication is extremely difficult.

I agree with you in a sense, that we must know ourselves, and understand our desires.

And it seems that the understandings we have are based upon totally different premises.

For me, everything is open to question, to testing.
For me, there is nothing, excepting perhaps the knowledge of my own existence, that is certain 100%.

For me, the most powerful tools of understanding are those delivered by science, and to avoid any shadow of doubt, I doubt that science has got much if anything 100% correct as yet (and what it does have appears to be close enough to be very useful in most circumstances).

Science seems to be a self modifying, self correcting, set of principles, that is always exploring and testing and seeking for simpler and more elegant explanatory frameworks.

So for me, when I explore the sources of desire, it is in the frameworks of psychology, of biochemistry, of genetics, of neurology, and of systems theory, that I do that exploration.

I make no claim to any sort of absolute knowledge, and it does seem that the major themes of desire can be well accounted for within our current well explored frameworks, and there remain (and I suspect always will remain) significant subtleties that are at or beyond the edge of current explanatory frameworks. And it seems logical to me to accept that this is how it must always be, for any finite entity, exploring any infinite possibility space (let alone an infinitude of infinities that we seem to have available to us).

I am certainly capable of attaining states of being where desire is absent, and I see some power in having some mastery in such attainment, and they do not appear to present any sort of end.

Thus, to me, it is acceptance that is the balance to desire.

If one can accept all that is, as it is, then that necessarily implies that in that instant, any desire for anything to be any way other than how it is, is absent (at whatever level of acceptance one has managed to attain).

It seems that there are many levels of desire or impetus (perhaps potentially infinite), within us, from many different sources, which in the broadest sense seem to fall into four general classes – genetic, cultural, choice and systemic.

[followed by]

Hi Torch

Here is where what seems obvious to each of us is so profoundly different.

To you, it seems obvious that I was “created” from something.
To me, it seems obvious, that I simply emerged as a pattern in matter and energy, the result of a set of processes of evolution by natural selection, at many different levels, over vast periods of time.

To you, it seems obvious that ‘”What Is” thought’, yet to me, there is absolutely no requirement for anything to think anything – it is just a matter of pattern and evolution, over time. Chance and probability functions – nothing more is required.

In a sense I can understand why it seems obvious to you and many others, and to me it is about as far from obvious as it is possible to get.
There is no evidence for it. Zero, zip, nada.
It seems that is simply a very old, and very persistent idea.

Matter and energy are not lost, but then you and I are neither matter nor energy. We are more correctly characterised as patterns emergent from patterns at many levels. Ultimately patterns of energy modulated in patterns of matter.
We are neither. Not matter, nor energy, but rather the complex series of relationships between them.

As such, I see no evidence what so ever that we are conserved in any sense.
It seems that we either exist, or not.

Where do we come from – evolution, genetics, mimemics, culture and experience, so many layers and levels of pattern.

When we cease, we cease – that simple – or so it seems.

What point? You choose. That it seems, is up to you. I’ll make my choice. The system as a whole doesn’t seem to have any point, it seems that it simply IS.

I see no shred of evidence for anything remaining that is eternal. Not one single thing. Of the many thousands of things I have investigated, every one has a much simpler explanation in the framework of reality simply being what it is; which seems to be a set of systems following certain basic probabilistic rules.

Everything else seems to be stories created to keep children happy, and make populations politically controllable.
Certainly, a few thousand years ago, in the light of the information then available, it was probably the best explanatory set available.
Today, in the light of the information we have today – no.
That is how it seems to me.
And I can understand, how people with less interest in science, and in questioning everything, can see it otherwise.

[followed by]

Hi Torch Deb et al

In the wider context now provided, there is little to argue with.

And one of my father’s favourite sayings is now one of mine (it is ancient Chinese in origin I believe):
“All things in moderation, particularly moderation.”

I just love recursion (things that fold back upon themselves in infinite loops) !!!

[followed by]


You have a point, in that there is implicit in systems the potential of different classes of output developing. Once the physical constants of the universe settled into a pattern that allowed the possibility of chemistry as we know it, and stellar nucleosynthesis provided the chemicals, then life was a possibility somewhere, some time.

Life appears to be an open system, exploring multidimensional infinities of possibility space.
Once life started, then the possibility that some of those life forms would eventually develop the possibility of desire was there in the possibility space.

The question really comes down to the mechanisms used to explore possibility space.

What are the degrees of freedom available to consciousness?

How much determinism affects free will?

How much is truly random within certain probability boundaries?

When one starts to consider proximal and distal causes (near and far), the explorations can get extremely interesting.

I have no hard and fast answers, and the numbers seem so large, that I doubt anyone ever will have any hard and fast numbers (should we as individuals live for trillions of years – the numbers are that big).

[followed by]

Hi Torch

The level of order available in the sun does not seem able to support any sort of consciousness.
The sun seems to be there by the simplest of possible actions, gravity.

It seems that any sort of consciousness requires many more levels of order and feedback than appear to be present in suns.
The chaos of the enormous amounts of energy involved in suns seems to preclude any sort of long term stability.
It seems to me highly improbable that suns have any sort of awareness.
Bacteria seem to be many orders of magnitude more ordered than suns, and no one I know of is seriously considering bacteria as conscious. Reactive certainly, but conscious, no.

The sort of awareness that we have, that we experience, seems to require complex abstract language, which takes a very flexible and very complex sort of brain to develop in.
It seems to require many levels of organisation before it can emerge.

About Ted Howard NZ

Seems like I might be a cancer survivor. Thinking about the systemic incentives within the world we find ourselves in, and how we might adjust them to provide an environment that supports everyone (no exceptions) - see
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1 Response to Desire and consciousness and causality

  1. “When one tries to argue with reality, one loses, 100% of the time.”

    Love it!


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