Inventions versus Discoveries

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Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby anon » Mon Feb 27, 2012 9:23 pm

Given any anti-realist philosophical framework, is the distinction between invention and discovery necessarily blurred, or even obliterated?
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby Moreno » Tue Feb 28, 2012 1:48 am

anon wrote:Given any anti-realist philosophical framework, is the distinction between invention and discovery necessarily blurred, or even obliterated?
I think even determinism blurs the distinction. I think even in realism one can challenge a firm distinction.
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby anon » Tue Feb 28, 2012 1:55 pm

Moreno wrote:
anon wrote:Given any anti-realist philosophical framework, is the distinction between invention and discovery necessarily blurred, or even obliterated?

I think even determinism blurs the distinction. I think even in realism one can challenge a firm distinction.

Say more?

There's a debate on youtube between Daniel Dennett and Dinesh D'Souza - "Is God a man-made Invention?" (I haven't watched it). Given a realist framework, I'd have thought the answer would have to be either yes or no. I assume those two gentlemen are realists and one says yes while the other says no.

But given some anti-realist leanings, I could see answering the question "Yes, it is an invention, but that invention allows the theist to discover things about how reality works that the atheist can't discover." Given a firm anti-realist stance, I could see answering the question like this - "we are incapable of knowing the difference between discovery and invention, so there is no way to assess which is which and further, it doesn't matter which is which. Whether an invention or a discovery, belief in God has certain consequences and disbelief in God has certain consequences. Life is one giant experiment - it doesn't matter whether you believe something is true or you believe something is true for a while just to see where that leads."
Last edited by anon on Tue Feb 28, 2012 9:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries." - Blaise Pascal

"The bombs we plant in each other are ticking away." - Edward Yang

"To a fly that likes the smell of putrid / Meat the fragrance of sandalwood is foul. / Beings who discard Nirvana / Covet coarse Samsara's realm." - Saraha
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby turtle » Tue Feb 28, 2012 2:06 pm

again---how are they defining god....how are you defining god....
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby anon » Tue Feb 28, 2012 2:42 pm

turtle wrote:again---how are they defining god....how are you defining god....

It was just an example. God isn't the topic here.
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby turtle » Tue Feb 28, 2012 3:12 pm

anon-----would you give an example of an invention and a discovery.....
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby anon » Tue Feb 28, 2012 4:19 pm

turtle wrote:anon-----would you give an example of an invention and a discovery.....

A microscope is an invention. DNA is a discovery.
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby phyllo » Tue Feb 28, 2012 4:21 pm

You invent a hammer. You discover a rock.

Invention involves some kind of assembling of parts. Discovery is finding something existing.

The concept become blurred when someone invents a 'process'. In this case, the invention is a sequence of steps which leads to a goal.
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby Moreno » Tue Feb 28, 2012 4:30 pm

anon wrote:Say more?
Well, if our actions and thoughts are utterly determined, we are talking simply about matter inevitably heading in certain directions and not others. Ants have come up with arches. We generally do not think of ants as inventors. Evolution led to certain actions being reinforced, actions that were inevitable. It was discovered by the 'genes' - to be rather sloppy conceptually - that arches were beneficials in home building for this or that species of ant. Is there either a discoverer or an inventor? Why should we, utterly determined organisms just like the ants, be called inventors and discoverers?

There's a debate on youtube between Daniel Dennett and Dinesh D'Souza - "Is God a man-made Invention?" (I haven't watched it). Given a realist framework, I'd have thought the answer would have to be either yes or no. I assume those two gentlement are realists and one says yes while the other says no.

But given some anti-realist leanings, I could see answering the question "Yes, it is an invention, but that invention allows the theist to discover things about how reality works that the atheist can't discover." Given a firm anti-realist stance, I could see answering the question like this - "we are incapable of knowing the difference between discovery and invention, so there is no way to assess which is which and further, it doesn't matter which is which". Whether an invention or a discovery, belief in God has certain consequences and disbelief in God has certain consequences. Life is one giant experiment - it doesn't matter whether you believe something is true or you believe something is true for a while just to see where that leads."
[/quote]I will have to mull this over. I am in favor of the issues you raise and how you are raising them, but I am not quite sure what stand I want to take in relation to these. My gut reaction is that using God as an example, at this stage in the discussion, complicates things too much. Though I think it is an excellent example for further down the line.
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby Moreno » Tue Feb 28, 2012 4:32 pm

anon wrote:
turtle wrote:anon-----would you give an example of an invention and a discovery.....

A microscope is an invention. DNA is a discovery.
I would say that a microscope is a bunch of discoveries put together. Also I think the issue is better focused on the discoverer/inventor. What is the difference and is the boundary clear and absolute?
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby anon » Wed Feb 29, 2012 2:45 pm

Moreno - Now I see what you mean.
"Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries." - Blaise Pascal

"The bombs we plant in each other are ticking away." - Edward Yang

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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby anon » Wed Feb 29, 2012 2:47 pm

Numbers are another example. The realist must decide whether or not numbers are real. But isn't the question itself possibly unnecessary?
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"The bombs we plant in each other are ticking away." - Edward Yang

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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby anon » Wed Feb 29, 2012 2:57 pm

Moreno wrote:We generally do not think of ants as inventors.

Maybe we have a slightly different way of conceptualizing these things, because I definitely do think of ants as inventors of ant arches. It's not a question of whether arches are natural or ant-made - it's a question of whether the ant, supposing for now that it can conceptualize in this manner, believes the arches it makes to exist independently of ants or not.

I think most atheists believe that belief in God is natural. What they take issue with is the veracity of that belief.

I agree that there are many discoveries required in order to invent the microscope. But nobody believes that the microscope was discovered - that it existed prior to its discovery by scientists. The relevant question, then, is whether the microscope in a sense had to be invented (I guess you're right about determinism!). If it was inevitable that the microscope be invented, then "microscope" almost has a kind of Platonic form-ish quality. It always existed, just waiting to be discovered.
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby Moreno » Wed Feb 29, 2012 3:06 pm

anon wrote:
Moreno wrote:We generally do not think of ants as inventors.

Maybe we have a slightly different way of conceptualizing these things, because I definitely do think of ants as inventors of ant arches. It's not a question of whether arches are natural or ant-made - it's a question of whether the ant, supposing for now that it can conceptualize in this manner, believes the arches it makes to exist independently of ants or not.
I doubt ants conceptualize anything like that at all - the whole this is me, that is something else. The arches are built communally, not by a single ant. I doubt the ants are imaging the final product anymore than they imagine their mandibles clutching something.
I think most atheists believe that belief in God is natural. What they take issue with is the veracity of that belief.
Actually I think a lot of atheists think that the belief is cultural and not natural. Of course one can argue that culture is natural, but I see atheists specifically saying that children are atheists and this is the natural state in many of their arguments. So even if one can argue that culture is nature, it seems to me that many atheists stress that the belief is not natural.

I agree that there are many discoveries required in order to invent the microscope. But nobody believes that the microscope was discovered - that it existed prior to its discovery by scientists.
Sure, but I am arguing that the process of invention is really just a bunch of discovery moments. I know how the word is used, but I am arguing that this is misleading. Also, given the determined nature of all actions, the nuances of agency in the word 'invention' are misleading.

The relevant question, then, is whether the microscope in a sense had to be invented (I guess you're right about determinism!). If it was inevitable that the microscope be invented, then "microscope" almost has a kind of Platonic form-ish quality. It always existed, just waiting to be discovered.
It was always there in the future, yes. In a saense it is like saying that I invented a poop that was shaped like a corn on the cob. Well, not really, I just excreted it. It was an inevitable result of my digestion. I may have had the qualia of 'agency' and 'intention' but these are just side effects of consciousness.

Once the position is that an entire universe, with specific pasts therein having incredible organization and action, is NOT the result of design, for example, then why use this word - design or invention - at all, espcecialy if one beliefs in determinism. We simply have an inevitable unfolding of forms, a very complicated set of dominoes inevitably falling.

Bringing in the Platonic Form concept was a nice addition! did we discover numbers or invent them? I don't think we can really argue that we invented them, since they seem tied into the fabric of the universe.
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby anon » Wed Feb 29, 2012 5:27 pm

Moreno wrote:
anon wrote:Maybe we have a slightly different way of conceptualizing these things, because I definitely do think of ants as inventors of ant arches. It's not a question of whether arches are natural or ant-made - it's a question of whether the ant, supposing for now that it can conceptualize in this manner, believes the arches it makes to exist independently of ants or not.

I doubt ants conceptualize anything like that at all - the whole this is me, that is something else. The arches are built communally, not by a single ant. I doubt the ants are imaging the final product anymore than they imagine their mandibles clutching something.

I meant hypothetically. We're discussing the veracity and/or usefulness of statements. But there's no need to take the ants' point of view. The question is whether ant-arches exist independently of ants or not.

I think most atheists believe that belief in God is natural. What they take issue with is the veracity of that belief.

Actually I think a lot of atheists think that the belief is cultural and not natural. Of course one can argue that culture is natural, but I see atheists specifically saying that children are atheists and this is the natural state in many of their arguments. So even if one can argue that culture is nature, it seems to me that many atheists stress that the belief is not natural.

Ok. That's not my experience. Atheists in my experience believe that delusion is perfectly natural, and may even contribute to survival (for instance, with respect to associating agency with certain phenomena).

I agree that there are many discoveries required in order to invent the microscope. But nobody believes that the microscope was discovered - that it existed prior to its discovery by scientists.

Sure, but I am arguing that the process of invention is really just a bunch of discovery moments. I know how the word is used, but I am arguing that this is misleading. Also, given the determined nature of all actions, the nuances of agency in the word 'invention' are misleading.

All good points.

The relevant question, then, is whether the microscope in a sense had to be invented (I guess you're right about determinism!). If it was inevitable that the microscope be invented, then "microscope" almost has a kind of Platonic form-ish quality. It always existed, just waiting to be discovered.

It was always there in the future, yes. In a saense it is like saying that I invented a poop that was shaped like a corn on the cob. Well, not really, I just excreted it. It was an inevitable result of my digestion. I may have had the qualia of 'agency' and 'intention' but these are just side effects of consciousness.

Once the position is that an entire universe, with specific pasts therein having incredible organization and action, is NOT the result of design, for example, then why use this word - design or invention - at all, espcecialy if one beliefs in determinism. We simply have an inevitable unfolding of forms, a very complicated set of dominoes inevitably falling.

Bringing in the Platonic Form concept was a nice addition! did we discover numbers or invent them? I don't think we can really argue that we invented them, since they seem tied into the fabric of the universe.

Again, good points.
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby tentative » Wed Feb 29, 2012 8:24 pm

anon,

You're talking about the evolution of ideas. Only humans are capable of taking an idea and through innovation, adapt that idea in almost infinite ways. There are few truly creative ideas, and many more innovations - variations on a theme. Inventions and discoveries? Why not both? A few minds create, then thousands copy and embellish those invention/discoveries. Whether invention or discovery is to drift off into metaphysical la la land. One could never prove one or the other. IMO, I'd say both are at work, but with a caveat: We aren't but a tiny bit as creative as we think we are. We may be clever innovators, but there are damned few creators of new ideas.
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby Moreno » Thu Mar 01, 2012 2:09 pm

anon wrote:I meant hypothetically. We're discussing the veracity and/or usefulness of statements. But there's no need to take the ants' point of view. The question is whether ant-arches exist independently of ants or not.
I think this is like asking dosthe ant's poop exist independently of the ant.

Ok. That's not my experience. Atheists in my experience believe that delusion is perfectly natural, and may even contribute to survival (for instance, with respect to associating agency with certain phenomena).
Delusions, sure, but religion/theism, no. I see it repeatedly referred to as an artificial addition to the mental furniture of children.
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby anon » Thu Mar 01, 2012 3:37 pm

tentative wrote:Whether invention or discovery is to drift off into metaphysical la la land.

I guess that's what I'm saying, though with some more or less obvious caveats. One is that visiting metaphysical la la land (conjecture, imagination, bat-shit crazy ideas of any and all kinds...) is a highly valuable tool, as it modifies our experience of the here and now. We can afford to be playful. Some of the most amazing man-made structures in the world were made to "defy gravity". The great astronomer Sir William Herschel strongly believed in complex, intelligent, organized life on the moon. I think fear of metaphysics can lead to degradation of this world. People have believed in Platonic forms, God, heaven, multiple universes, the existence of ideas, disembodied minds, ghosts, spirits, zombies, etc. etc. etc. It's not the la la land aspect of all this that I have a problem with. It's the idea that the truth of the matter matters. It's the idea that there is a separate reality that we, for some unknown reason, must figure out and conform to. There are different nuances to the word "metaphysics", which I am sorting through here a bit. A prominent architect, Louis Kahn, famously asked "what does a brick want to be"?...

“To express is to drive.
And when you want to give something presence,
you have to consult nature.
And there is where design comes in.

And if you think of brick, for instance,
and you say to brick,
"What do you want brick?"
And brick says to you
"I like an arch."
And if you say to brick
"Look, arches are expensive,
and I can use a concrete lintel over you.
What do you think of that?"
"Brick?"
Brick says:
"... I like an arch"


...which doesn't mean, of course, that the deconstructivist architect is being mean to bricks.

Was Kahn discovering forms when he designed structures? Was he inventing forms? Does the answer even matter at all? If not, what does that mean for the realist outlook? What do we do with our realist tendencies?

Is this idea that there are true and false correspondences to "reality" really all that important? Is it required at all? Maybe it is. I'm just asking.

EDIT: Changed "concrete lentil" to "concrete lintel". :lol:
Last edited by anon on Thu Mar 01, 2012 7:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby anon » Thu Mar 01, 2012 3:43 pm

Moreno wrote:
anon wrote:I meant hypothetically. We're discussing the veracity and/or usefulness of statements. But there's no need to take the ants' point of view. The question is whether ant-arches exist independently of ants or not.
I think this is like asking dosthe ant's poop exist independently of the ant.

Sure. So does the human God exist independently of humans? Did God create humans, or did humans create God? Or is the answer to this question inconsequential?

Ok. That's not my experience. Atheists in my experience believe that delusion is perfectly natural, and may even contribute to survival (for instance, with respect to associating agency with certain phenomena).

Delusions, sure, but religion/theism, no. I see it repeatedly referred to as an artificial addition to the mental furniture of children.

Yes, I know. I've seen both views expressed. But the view that delusion comes from some separate non-natural realm (it isn't natural), is pretty obviously self-defeating for the atheist.
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby tentative » Thu Mar 01, 2012 4:38 pm

Anon,

I have no problem with playful 'what if'... It can be the basis for all that we call creative. At the same time, we can take imagination to the dark side and cripple and kill ourselves and others. So talking to the brick is perfectly "reasonable" from a creative perspective. But at this very moment, children in Africa are being accused of witchcraft and maimed or killed in the name of superstition - and this is in so-called christian churches. Discovery and Invention can create or destroy, so I'm biased against metaphysical pronouncements of one or the other. Even with both in play, I want to see a more reasoned approach to our wool gathering.

FWIW, as someone who plays with wood, I often ask what it wants to be. It's part of the process. But this is playing with things, not living organisms. Moreover, the asking is based on an almost scientific understanding of the properties of the material and not some conjured pronouncement of good or evil. One must be careful when prying off the lid of our imagination.

Is there a separate reality? That is a trip into the hall of mirrors where truth becomes the victim of the reflections and the progenitor of unsupported faith.
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby anon » Thu Mar 01, 2012 4:58 pm

tentative wrote:Anon,

I have no problem with playful 'what if'... It can be the basis for all that we call creative. At the same time, we can take imagination to the dark side and cripple and kill ourselves and others. So talking to the brick is perfectly "reasonable" from a creative perspective. But at this very moment, children in Africa are being accused of witchcraft and maimed or killed in the name of superstition - and this is in so-called christian churches. Discovery and Invention can create or destroy, so I'm biased against metaphysical pronouncements of one or the other. Even with both in play, I want to see a more reasoned approach to our wool gathering.

FWIW, as someone who plays with wood, I often ask what it wants to be. It's part of the process. But this is playing with things, not living organisms. Moreover, the asking is based on an almost scientific understanding of the properties of the material and not some conjured pronouncement of good or evil. One must be careful when prying off the lid of our imagination.

Is there a separate reality? That is a trip into the hall of mirrors where truth becomes the victim of the reflections and the progenitor of unsupported faith.

But what is the nature of this "dark side"? Is it lack of correspondence with a supposed "reality" that makes it dark? Let's say someone believes in Platonic forms. Does that have a dark side? Or is it somehow wrong or bad or something, just because it doesn't match someone else's idea of what is real and what isn't?

Metaphysical speculation can enhance our lives - especially absent the need to answer the question of whether such speculations correspond to reality or not. In fact, absent that question, isn't this kind of speculation simply creativity? Perhaps the problem with metaphysics isn't with anything other than the question of realness itself.

Given the invention/discovery distinction (a bit of realism, since we're all realists more or less anyhow), let's call metaphysical speculation a form of invention, which is connected to the possibility of discovery. Inventions like Platonic forms, gods, God, spirits, etc. lead people to relate to things in a certain way, and in relating to things in such a way, life may be enhanced, as the discovery of something about how life works has been made possible by some metaphysical invention. Nietzsche's eternal return fits this bill perfectly, for instance. You seem to be equating this "la la land" with degraded behavior, but I don't see how this is necessarily so. Inventions are tools. They are morally no different than garden tools, or weapons. They may be designed for good, or for evil (or for either, or both), but ultimately they are morally neutral. How they are used depends on how the user uses them.
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby tentative » Fri Mar 02, 2012 12:27 am

Perhaps the problem with metaphysics isn't with anything other than the question of realness itself.

Bingo. Imagine anything you like, but connect it to on-the-ground reality. The imagination is probably our greatest asset as humans. It is when we get the 'god said so' that metaphysical evil becomes possible. That is the dark side of our imagination. If someone says they have 'discovered' god, where are you supposed to go with that? God says, "Kill all the unbelievers." How would you find 'realness' in that?
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby Moreno » Fri Mar 02, 2012 6:17 am

anon wrote:Sure. So does the human God exist independently of humans? Did God create humans, or did humans create God? Or is the answer to this question inconsequential?
I've been surprised each time the God issue came up in the thread. I thought this was about invention and discovery in general. That said, I am a theist, but my answer is both. I think some people imagine and some people discover - or even 'continue to be aware'. The former often stress faith, a concept I find pretty useless.

Yes, I know. I've seen both views expressed. But the view that delusion comes from some separate non-natural realm (it isn't natural), is pretty obviously self-defeating for the atheist.
Agreed, and few either notice the problem and none would actually assert that it is some supernatural process. Interestingly scientific research seems to indicate that belief in God is natural - iow that children actually have a tendency towards theism, regardless of culture. This doesn't mean the belief is correct, of course.
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby anon » Fri Mar 02, 2012 2:39 pm

tentative wrote:
Perhaps the problem with metaphysics isn't with anything other than the question of realness itself.

Bingo. Imagine anything you like, but connect it to on-the-ground reality.

Tentative, read what I just quoted again. You say "bingo", but you then state that the question of realness is necessary!

Now I did say "perhaps". I'm not firmly taking a side here. But can't you see what I'm getting at?
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Re: Inventions versus Discoveries

Postby anon » Fri Mar 02, 2012 2:57 pm

Moreno wrote:
anon wrote:Sure. So does the human God exist independently of humans? Did God create humans, or did humans create God? Or is the answer to this question inconsequential?

I've been surprised each time the God issue came up in the thread. I thought this was about invention and discovery in general. That said, I am a theist, but my answer is both. I think some people imagine and some people discover - or even 'continue to be aware'. The former often stress faith, a concept I find pretty useless.

I find coming up with thread titles to be difficult. The topic is not God. The topic is realism versus anti-realism. The entry into the topic is the examination of what is an invention versus what is a discovery. But if enough people want to, the thread can go wherever it goes. I don't own it.

I suppose God is a more interesting example to me (and I think to others) than microscopes. I also brought up numbers and mathematics. Nominalism is a related topic. So yes, this is about invention and discovery in general. If you prefer to discuss decorticators or the wheel or the discovery of Pluto, please feel free. Really. I discussed microscopes with you, and it wasn't a waste of my time at all. I thought it was an interesting conversation.

God is an interesting example to me because given a realist framework, and I think most theists and atheists are realists, the distinction between invention and discovery is very important. If it makes sense to say that the invention of God allows for the discovery of something real, then it is important to distinguish between the invention and the discovery. But in my experience not many people seem to take much notice of the distinction. The God invented by people is assumed to be the real God. Their God is a surprisingly conceptual one. And it is this same God that atheists reject as "not real", as if inventions are outlawed by reality.

Does that mean that such people are anti-realists? I don't think so. If asked whether God exists or not, theists and atheists are quite opinionated about the subject. And agnostics, though they don't assert a position on the topic, nonetheless think the question of whether God is real or not is a valid one. But I'm not convinced the question is valid at all.

Again, feel free to move the conversation away from a discussion of God. I'll follow...
"Distraction is the only thing that consoles us for our miseries, and yet it is itself the greatest of our miseries." - Blaise Pascal

"The bombs we plant in each other are ticking away." - Edward Yang

"To a fly that likes the smell of putrid / Meat the fragrance of sandalwood is foul. / Beings who discard Nirvana / Covet coarse Samsara's realm." - Saraha
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