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Intention as cause?
August 27th, 2015
illustration

illustration (attribution, if any possible, is at the end of the article)

Intention as cause?

   Yes, intentions do affect behaviours, which do affect physical manifestation, which do affect what arises in the world the next moment… Intentions might play a role in some causal chains…
   but we have to be careful of one logical fallacy most humans easily fall into: if you wish something and it turns up true later, it is ignorant ("spurious correlation") to assume that your intention 'caused' its manifestation. Certainly not automatically, or the way you imagine it. The cartoon attached says it all! Sorry for the believers in "the Secret" and other "Law of attraction" theories.

   One of the key teachings of Buddhism relates to causality, and the Buddha indeed denounced the logical fallacy that "wishful thinking" might be the actual  cause of something. His rejection was notably explained in relation to the myth of creation of the world:
«
   after the lapse of a long period, there comes a time when this world begins to expand once again. While the world is expanding, an empty palace of Brahmā appears. Then a certain being, due to the exhaustion of his life-span or the exhaustion of his merit, passes away from the Ābhassara plane and re-arises in the empty palace of Brahmā. There he dwells, mind made, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, moving through the air, abiding in glory. And he continues thus for a long, long period of time.
   Then, as a result of dwelling there all alone for so long a time, there arises in him dissatisfaction and agitation, (and he yearns): "Oh, that other beings might come to this place!"  Just at that moment, due to the exhaustion of their life-span or the exhaustion of their merit, certain other beings pass away from the Ābhassara plane and re-arise in the palace of Brahmā, in companionship with him. There they dwell, mind-made, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, moving through the air, abiding in glory. And they continue thus for a long, long period of time.
   Thereupon the being who re-arose there first thinks to himself: "I am Brahmā, the Great Brahmā, the Vanquisher, the Unvanquished, the Universal Seer, the Wielder of Power, the Lord, the Maker and Creator, the Supreme Being, the Ordainer, the Almighty, the Father of all that are and are to be. And these beings have been created by me. What is the reason? Because first I made the wish: 'Oh, that other beings might come to this place!' And after I made this resolution, now these beings have come."
   And the beings who re-arose there after him also think: "This must be Brahmā, the Great Brahmā, the Vanquisher, the Unvanquished, the Universal Seer, the Wielder of Power, the Lord, the Maker and Creator, the Supreme Being, the Ordainer, the Almighty, the Father of all that are and are to be. And we have been created by him. What is the reason? Because we see that he was here first, and we appeared here after him."
»
— Brahmajāla Sutta (DN 1)
   The Buddha clearly states that the causes for the beings to arise in the world were not the mere wish of the first being who arose… and warns us against the naïve appropriation of narratives.

   Whether it's by Tim Minchin (gplus.wallez.name/VQUsw7ZiJLc), cartoonists, the Buddha or scientists, we are repeatedly warned against the fallacy that "the occurrence of a phenomenon after we wished for it suggests the wish was a cause."

   Spurious correlation (and most notably "one-off"s, aka "statistics with 1 data point") doesn't even indicate actual correlation (which wouldn't necessarily indicate causation anyway! Unless we have other supporting manipulations or assumptions, gplus.wallez.name/jRwNgkYr1Rw).


#causality  
h/t +Allyson Whipple highlighting the feminist angle of the cartoon, as women are often told to smile (for what? just because they're expected to?).
by Chris Hallbeck:
A new comic about smiling.