The false cause fallacy and the ātmā

The false cause fallacy is a fallacy in which a cause is incorrectly identified. As an example of this, consider the statement:

“Money makes a man happy. “

Money may make some men happy, but it may make others miserable. This is an example of a false cause fallacy.

The ātmā is not a cause of the mind’s desires

The ātmā can also be falsely considered a cause of phenomena. Consider the following type of statement:

A. All embodied beings have a relentless desire for happiness.

B. The ātmā is the cause of a property that is common to all beings.

C. The cause must contain the effect.

–> Therefore, the ātmā must have an inherent, relentless desire for happiness.

Here, the ātmā is falsely considered a cause of the desire for happiness in an embodied person.

Examples of the false cause fallacy

Below, I show a table that lists some examples of the false cause fallacy. The properties in the first column are perceivable in a person by an external observer. The right column lists their real cause. All of the properties in the left column are claimed by many to be inherent in the ātmā. For example, I have seen the fallacious argument that just as a glove fits the hand, the body fits the ātmā (i.e. the ātmā has a form). But none of the properties in the left column are actually inherent in the ātmā.

Properties whose existence in the mind/body is incorrectly assumed to be due to their being inherent in the ātmāReal cause
DesiresSensory input which triggers emotion
KnowledgeRecall of information or sensory input into the mind
Desire to serve othersMental impressions or programs present in the citta
BlissSensory inputs or recall of past memories
Bhakti or premaMental programs or saṁskāras
LoveMental programs or saṁskāras
Emotions, FeelingsTriggering of saṁskāras
FormCollection of parts with form
Desire for happinessThoughts seeking pleasurable experiences (real or imagined)

Categories: jīva-tattva

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5 replies »

  1. Pranams 🙏
    Thank you for making a very clear cut point in your explanation , on the distinction between the atma and the rest of the subtle body .
    I have question from article , the false example of the hand fitting in a glove , isn’t that a Jain conception of the atma ?

    • I think so. The Jain concept also is that the atma has knowledge and bliss inside of it. So you could say that many Caitanya Vaishnavas today hold similar views as the Jains about the nature of the atma.

  2. Jai Sri Radhe🙏🏽
    Can you further explain how Bhakti/ prema are mental sanskar or mental programs since they are not of this world but svarupa shakti?

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