• What creates suffering if god created the world ?

    I think you have it exactly right, my phrasing might have been incautious. God is beyond the analysis offered of on terms of "God as omni-x." My point was merely that these traditions embrace paraconsistent descriptions as better, if still flawed ways of conceiving of that which is beyond all description.

    It's an anachronism to say they were actually paraconsistent, since multivalued logics, etc. are fairly recent. These are just modern terms that I think better fit the spirit of what they lay out. I do wonder what these guys would have thought of such systems, because they had brilliant minds and a knack for illustrating profound truths with contradictions. Hegel too.

    I am not aware of theologians doing much with these, although I haven't looked very hard. Thomism still seems very strong in Catholic philosophy programs.
  • What creates suffering if god created the world ?

    The logic of theology that I'm aware of tends to be dialetheistic, allowing for "true contradictions," and denying proof by contradiction in some cases. I think this is where a lot of philosophy of religion goes off the rails. It tries to apply systems of inquiry that violate core conceptions of the traditions they want to explore.

    To be sure, there is a religious tradition, starting more with the Enlightenment, that tries to use a more classical sort of system to analyze God. You see this with folks like Alvin Plantinga, who would be a great person to read on for a classical, bivalent logic based analysis of this sort of thing. But such logic and methodology seems totally alien to the religious thinking of Saint Denis, Saint Bonaventure, Eckhart, Boheme, Merton, etc.

    There, you often see paradoxes set atop each other as a mode of description of the divine essence, or even the argument that all description and analysis ultimately causes us to lose sight of God. I don't think the traditions are necessarily commensurate and more religious people seem to read and agree with Merton or Eckhart, or their spiritual descendents, then your Plantingas.
  • What is freedom?

    Thanks. Perhaps we just have different definitions of the word "duty." We can have more concrete duties that we choose to take on. For example, to be a good doctor entails having certain duties to one's patients.

    But with knowledge and freedom I am thinking more abstractly. A duty is simply "what do I need to pursue in order to be able to bring about good states of affairs and prevent evil ones" (as the subject sees good and evil). Well, they need to know what their actions entail (knowledge) and be free to make the actions they want (freedom). Our attempts to "do good," get frustrated when we lack either of these.

    Because in the abstract sense, a "duty" seems to be just "what am I obligated to do if I want to fulfill x role." Of course, not everyone fulfills their duties or even recognized them. Many parents don't seem to much internalize a "duty" to be a good parent (I think of the Ike Turner biopic).

    I think you're intuitions are right, lower and higher might be bad terms because of the connotations of those words. We could think of either side of the spectrum as lower or higher in this case. Really, we're talking about "more or less abstract."

    I don't think what I've laid out in any ways precludes arguments in favor of pragmatism and pluralism, thus leading to idealism or absolutism.

    Moral pluralism is how history develops our conceptions of rights. E.g., liberal democracies now have universal education, rights to unionize, laws against child labor, etc. because of the conflict between liberalism and socialism, which resulted in liberal democracy sublating socialism and making many of its policies a core aspect of liberalism. Here, pluralism begat a synthesis that improved the provision of rights.

    If anything, I think the point of investigating freedom in the abstract is to help us in the messy business of moral decision-making and policymaking, where there is always nuance, complexity, and disagreement, by allowing us to ground our thinking in general principles that either flow rationally from bare concepts or can be found empirically "out in the world," (e.g., the concept of biological harm).

    My background is working in government for a while, first with FEMA, later as a deputy city manager. The real world is full of nuances. I didn't always agree with my boss, the mayor's policies, but I had a complex set of duties to advocate for the administration's policies and implement them to the best of my ability if my feedback was overruled, to answer city councilors honestly to the best of my ability even when they were in "political attack mode" (thankfully no one watches public access TV so no one saw me getting yelled at) and to generally work for outcomes that were fair for the citizens and my employees.

    In that world, the abstract idea of freedom and duty is easy to lose and can seem to have negligible practical value. What can it tell us about if it is worth giving some developer a tax break to get some abandoned factory cleaned up and turned into apartments? Nothing much. But what it can do is support guiding principles so that we don't become total cynics, completely disheartened, as this seems to be what causes people to make truly bad choices (and earn their all expenses paid vacations to Fort Leavenworth lol. You see this with Senator Mendez, who had similar problems when I worked in NJ...). The abstract view also helps us understand the historical progression of rights through history, which gives us a lens through which to understand current events as well.
  • What creates suffering if god created the world ?

    By virtue of what are natural disasters bad? The storms of Jupiter, the ongoing nuclear explosions of the Sun, we don't see as disasters. If they were to occur in Earth, they would be disasters.

    It seems that in an important way, there is a "semiotic cut," that starts with life. Things can be good or bad for a lifeform, it can experience harm. But it doesn't make sense to say the fusion of hydrogen atoms into helium is good or bad in relevance to the atoms themselves.

    "Good and bad," emerge from the process of cosmic evolution with lifeforms. Before intentionality, nothing could experience good or bad and nothing could "do evil." If the universe has a purpose, there is an absolute unity of purpose before life forms. As life develops, that unity dissolves. So, if you assume a divine unity, such a progression always results in a falling away from unity, as intentional beings by definition have their own purposes.

    And I don't see how it could be metaphysically possible for it to be otherwise. If there is multiple subjects, there is necessarily the possibility of disunity in judgement. They might be causally constrained from disunity, but such constraint would entail that they aren't free. If there is freedom, it seems disunity is bound to follow. There is only one way for all subjects to agree on the good; there are many ways for them to disagree. In a world where there are "free beings," and "yet it is only ever possible for them to have goals and feelings that harmonize," how are they free?

    But I think the framing of God in terms of "omni " superlatives is itself contradictory. An omnipotent being can never act lest it limit itself, but then it is not free to act, etc.
  • What is freedom?

    I think you articulate it well. I would, however, push back on the idea that it cannot be our business to tell others what is moral. No man is an island onto themselves, and through our actions we implicitly show others what we think is appropriate. You see this in the ways norms shape behavior, or more explicitly in political settings. If we ever feel we should protest injustice, we explicitly express sentiments about other's actions by doing so.

    Plus, people often ask us, implicitly or explicitly about our moral judgements. In the context of raising children, its inevitable that you have to explain why stealing things is wrong, etc.

    But I agree that in this way we act as a constraint on others. However, we face the problem were silence is its own sort of action. If a child is never taught any moral reasoning, that itself seems like a constraint on their ability to achieve social freedom, just as forcing a child to read is both a constraint and an enhancement of their freedom in other ways.

    At the limit, the constant is harsh. If someone thinks they are entitled to take others' property as they please, or to violate others' bodies for their pleasure, then it seems society has a moral obligation to stop this behavior, to attempt to force a lesson on thieves and rapists, and to do what it can to restore justice after it is violated. But to jail a rapist is inevitably to tell them something about how they should see the moral order.

    You bring up a good, underappreciated concern though, which is that, when we only focus on behavior modification, we are stealing responsibility from the individual, treating them like a dog that must be trained.
  • What creates suffering if god created the world ?

    I think the "evil as absence" theory works if your starting point is Neoplatonic emanation because the lower hypostases, of which the physical world is the lowest, have no causal powers. But I agree that it is unsatisfying in the more compelling metaphysical contexts we have access to day. That is, I think Augustine's explanation is interesting because it is consistent, but it isn't compelling.

    Personally, I tend try to think of it in terms of emergence. God, or if you are an atheist, some event sets forth the "rules" through which the universe evolves (such rules need not be causal players, just descriptions of how nature evolved). God, or the event, determined the initial conditions for evolution. But then, at some point, intentionality emerges because, well, here we are. Good and evil don't seem like coherent concepts unless intentionality and subjectivity exist, so they emerge within intentionality.

    We can always tie everything back to ultimate causes, and in this way we can say "God authors evil," or "the universe fundementally produces evil." But it's in the immanent unfolding that everything interesting happens and that the very intentionality that defines evil exists.

    :up: ...but fairly terrifying in Scott's hands lol.

    I suppose it's a gradation though. We already accomplish some of this when we grab a coffee to improve our focus. If we ever get very specific functioning apps, I imagine we will look back at the application of system-wide medicines, with their huge side effects, to deal with mental illness on par with using leeches and bleeding people back in medieval medicine.
  • What is freedom?

    Nietzsche refers to the ego as a "congress of souls," early in Beyond Good and Evil. It's an apt metaphor. I've always found research on split-brained individuals quite interesting, the ways in which each hemisphere of the brain can seem to act as a separate mind when the connections between the two are severed. What is often missed though, and is as amazing to me, is how they harmonize when linked.

    Personally, my intuition is that part of the mystery of conciousness stems from this back and forth, the way in which parts of the mind are other to some parts. In ways, the mind acts like a computer, but computation itself involves communications, semiosis.

    But as I mentioned before, I don't like the "higher/lower" ordering, although I think it does have some pragmatic uses. I tend to think of it in terms of discord and disharmony. When my executive function wants one thing, my drives and desires another, I am divided. If we are like a congress or society, then we are most free when all desires become harmonized. I think this is partly where "authenticity," enters the picture re self-control.

    Like, , this

    well as in restricting and denying freedoms. There is always a contract in society. Sometimes that contract is grossly lopsided; sometimes it balances quite well over the whole interactive network of human activities and aspirations.

    ... can apply to the self in ways. Think about how the executive can tamp down on sexuality, when social pressures tell people they must express their sexuality in inauthentic ways. This is sort of an oppression of the self, as opposed to a harmonization. Discipline is part of harmonization, but tyranny is not.
  • What is freedom?

    It might be freedom, but where would completely arbitrary action come from? We - I include all sentient beings - don't act without motivation and there is always a cause and purpose to our actions.

    Excellent point. , this is what I refer to when I talk of the involvement of "thought" in freedom. Of course, thought its self has causes, and so this is only a proximate explanation for our actions.

    Now I understand that you, (Unenlightened), take freedom to be something more abstract, something that must come before or above thought. I don't disagree with you there (see my thoughts above on "pure freedom").

    However, from an empirical standpoint, it's also hard to see any evidence that such acausal freedom exists, nor how it could exist. And yet some of our actions appear to me to be "more or less free." It seems to me that most people generally understand coercion versus empowerment in terms of their own lived experience, culpability versus accidents in terms of moral behavior, and experience volition as a sensation.

    Hence, the typology of freedom I began with, which you may or may not find useful, is an attempt to elucidate what we mean by "freedom" in these imperfect contexts. It is to help explain the senses in which we use the term "freedom" vis-a-vis our world. I personally, like to think of these different "modes" of freedom in terms of dialectical "refinement" through sublation, but I think you could also think of them in strictly pragmatic terms, as how we operationalize the imperfect freedom we see in the world. We might also consider the different meanings of "freedom," or "free action" in the context of metaphysics versus, say philosophy of law and justice, political philosophy, or the philosophy of history.

    Maybe you don't need to think about these things, but if you were in restraints and not free to ease a spasm or scratch an itch, you would certainly think about them.

    Indeed, a good example of how there is cause prior to conscious thought. What you bring up is interesting because here it is our very limits that serve to bring a facet of reality to our attention, which is counter-intuitive, but I would say it is so in a deep way.

    Addiction is a whole kettle of fish by itself. If traced to its origins, it may well have been caused by external constraints and imposed limitations, or an unsuccessful struggle against internalized constraints (such as religious or ideological dogma or negative self-image).

    :up: Your words remind me also of the concepts of internalized sexism and internalized racism as well. I'd argue that society is indeed necessary for all freedom, at the limit the infant dies if abandoned, but at the same time society is also corrosive on freedom in these ways. I think this sort of internalized limit on freedom also ties into the concept of authenticity that many authors have developed.

    I don't think that's an entirely accurate description of all humans living in nature for 100,000 or so years. There was a great variety in social organizations, cultures and mores, as well as physical circumstances. In fact, more variety than there has been in historical civilizations.

    Right, I should be more careful in phrasing that point. There is a great deal of disagreement as to levels of violence in human society and the likely impact of humanities' major periods of biological "self-domestication," prior to the emergence of behaviorally modern humans.

    Unfortunately, questions of early anthropology are very political, and one can read books describing the lost Eden of the "noble savage," published right along side documentaries on the "vicious state of nature," that man once lived in.

    I don't want to get side tracked on that because it is an open question. How violent man was is sort of ancillary. Obviously, evil acts have always existed that people wished they could overcome. And whatever the reality of man's early societies, almost all hunter gatherers were conquered and displaced by expanding state level societies that could wage war more effectively. The role of technology in warfare is one of the places where knowledge intersects with freedom, since deterrence and self-defense sometimes play a role in safeguarding freedoms. We are where we are in terms of looking at how to perfect freedom at the social level, for better or worse.


    Of course, knowledge is power. But there are many ways to learn about human aspects of life.
    Even if I were to accept the 'we must' pre-requisites for freedom, it takes freedom to access certain types of knowledge. This and the capacity to study academic subjects are only available to those already free of obstacles.

    Exactly. How will we read if no one has taught us? What do we read if we have no access to books?

    So, to answer your question about why I rank the freedoms as "higher and lower," it is because some serve as prerequisites for others, but moreover because some are more abstract than others.

    Let's take the first part first. Pragmatically, one needs some level of negative freedom to have any other sort of freedom. If you are being choked, you can't engage in development, etc. Likewise, to be part of society requires some degree of self-control, as does authenticity.

    Now consider abstraction. Negative freedom as "pure freedom," freedom from all constraints, I put first because it is completely abstract. Any definiteness constrains, limiting negative freedom. By contrast, reflexive freedom presupposes the existence of the self and the will. Authenticity presupposes this self-control, and considers if it is invoked in a way that is true to the self. Social freedom already presupposes the existence of a society, a collection of selves. Moral freedom, in the context of both the individual and institutions doing what they think is good, presupposes both the individual and society, as well as concrete actions in the world.

    So, "higher versus lower" is not a moral or aesthetic ordering, but rather an ordering in terms of how the types of freedom emerge from considering "pure, abstract freedom." Of course, one could conceptualize the order differently perhaps, but I find this sort of dialectical unfolding to be useful in considering the ways in which contradiction defines the nuances in the concept of freedom.

    Hopefully this explains the other parts you quoted. I haven't articulated myself the best clearly, but I don't think the ordering comes from "higher and lower" parts of the self, re Aristotle, because I think the self is a composite unity and we become freer, in many ways, but harmonizing aspects of the self, not setting them against one another.

    Why would 'we' need to, far less, feel obliged to study psychology, the great works of art, etc. - when there are other ways to learn about self, life, humans; intra and inter-relationships?

    The presentation here of freedom is that from a superior and elitist view. Dogmatic.

    I didn't intend the list to be exhaustive. I think you may be reading things into this that aren't there; the word "study" being a poor choice on my part perhaps. For instance, I mean "psychology" in the broad sense, simply "the discourse of the soul," not in terms of the narrowly defined academic discipline. The point I was trying to make was merely this: "knowledge is power, including self-knowledge- self-knowledge both at the individual level and at the social level." When I wrote "great" works I had two different meanings in mind.

    1. Those works that move us. These empower us because they bring us to understand ourselves or others better.
    2. Those works that have shaped our society. These help us better understand the flow of history and why we have the problems we have.

    Plays, books, shows, etc. can be great in both of these ways or just one or the other, and to varying degrees for different people. Obviously, the social context varies less between individuals. For example, I really do not like Ayn Rand's philosophy in many respects, but I suffered through Atlas Shrugged because it is a work that seems to have had a profound effect on the society I live in (many US politicians love it).

    Knowledge is a duty because how shall we try to bring about states of affairs that we think are good if we don't know how to predict the consequences of our actions? That's all that is meant by duty.

    Freedom is a duty because how can we do the good if we aren't free to do so? The idea is just that these seem to me to be broad prerequisites for moral action, even if we can never perfect either. I have certainly done things I no longer think were good because I lacked understanding, or because I was giving in to social pressure. That's the sort of thing I mean here.

    With regards to 'moral freedom' acting as a constraint and a tickbox for what we must or ought to do - Who gets to decide? God or any equivalent deity?

    I will save this for another thread when I have time, but I think we have to look to ground morality in principles at work in nature. Deontological morality that is born of pure abstraction fails to connect to the world, while relativism seems to ignore objective ways in which "harm" can be defined about as well as anything in the life sciences.

    The other questions would probably be better answered when I have more time.

    Briefly, moral freedom is the "climax," because it is the most definite, least abstract, since it ties to individual acts. There is a sense in which we are unfree when we do what we think is bad, unjust, evil, etc. The perfection of moral freedom in terms of the preceding levels of freedom would be a "climax" because such a perfection would entail that society as a whole, a society full of developed, self-actualized individuals, looks at itself and says "yes, this is good, I would not have it any other way." Could such a thing ever happen!? It seems impossible, but if it was achieved, it seems worthy of the name "climax." It would be the peak you cannot move off of without descending, the summit.

    I guess my question is, do you think your definition of freedom collapses into contradiction. If not, why? In what ways does definiteness not result in constraint?

    I say thought is mechanical because it is binary (true or false) operates with opposites

    I don't agree with this. I lean towards dialatheism, the belief that one can have "true contradictions." Bivalance and the excluded middle are useful heuristics for simplifying logics. But we can also think through paraconsistent logics, and indeed most of the mystics I enjoy reading make their case through unfolding paradoxes. I would argue that thought operates with opposites because one idea, say "good" is incoherent without an opposite, the possibility of "ungood." But I see this as the emergence of higher levels of nuance from contradiction and harmonization, rather than a preexisting set of antipodes.

    and the nearest it can come to freedom is 'choice'. But choice is just an unresolved conflict. whereas freedom is beyond thought, it is the new.

    I agree, you phrase it well. Our difference might be partly in word choice. I continue to use the word "freedom" to describe more constrained modes of freedom that exist for us in our lived experience and in human history, e.g. "social freedom." But negative freedom, in its purest form, is the most basic conception of the idea, and thought does limit that sort of freedom.
  • What is freedom?

    Do you think that anything that is not thought is arbitrary? I would say rather that thought is mechanical, and not free at all

    No. An act not being entirely arbitrary is a precondition of its being freely chosen. However, this does not entail that anything that is not arbitrary is free or that only thought is not arbitrary.

    Freedom is when we do what we want to do. When our actions sync up with our desires. It is a state.

    Modifying Lynn Rudder Baker's definition, an act is free when:

    We want to do x and we actually do x.
    We want to want to do x.
    We do x because we want to do it (it is not a coincidence, our wanting is causally involved in the process)
    We would still want to do x even if we understood the full provenance of why we want to will x (i.e., there is not some fact we might discover that would make us no longer want to do x)

    These conditions, particularly the last, are difficult to meet entirely. This is no issue, an act can be more or less free; freedom is not bivalent.

    I'm not sure what you mean by "mechanical." Thought is mechanical to the degree that nature as a whole is "mechanical." But mechanism as a metaphysical model also has fallen out of favor because our concept of the mechanical has only a crude overlap with the way the law-like aspects of nature manifest themselves. In any event, the ways in which nature is mechanical do not seem to prohibit some level of intentionality, since we exist.

    If thought was causally sui generis, unconnected to the world, then it would seem to preclude our being free. First, because our intent could never be causally efficacious, since it doesn't interact with the rest of the causal world, and second because we could never learn anything about the world, and thus know how to enact our desires. Thought has to connected to cause for there to be freedom, but also to avoid other philosophical problems such as solipsism.

    You see I suggested that desire controlled us and you replaced it with fear. and now it is thought. It seems to me that freedom is what you want rid of, what you want to control and fix.

    I don't know what you mean here; where did I suggest that fear controls us?

    And I'm not totally sure what you mean by "thought" here. Do you mean, "mental life?" Obviously, mental life involves a great deal our actions, but not all of them. We're often not aware of our own heartbeat and we're not free to start and stop it at will like we are with our breath (granted we can do so via other means). We fall asleep without intending to, etc., and so it's clear that thought, in this sense, doesn't dictate all our behavior, and so "control" us at all times.

    But I don't see how we can be free in actions that don't enter subjective experience in the slightest.

    Anyhow, the type of pre-thought freedom you seem to be invoking seems to be "the flight from all definiteness," no? As soon as we will anything we have constrained ourselves with thought. My point above is that this sort of freedom, aside from having no relevance to practical life, also collapses into a contradiction. Any act constrains. To act means you have given up not acting. To do A and not B entails not doing B and not A. So the only way to be absolutely free is to never act. But then, you are not free to act without becoming unfree, a contradiction.
  • What is freedom?

    We do think it, and we are ruled by that thinking. But what of freedom?

    How are we free unless our actions are ruled by our thoughts, unless we act for a reason? Surely, completely arbitrary action isn't freedom, right? I am not ruled by my thoughts when I have a muscle spasm or when I unconsciously scratch an itch, but these don't seem like freer actions because of this.

    Likewise, an alcoholic isn't more free when they feel a twinge of anxiety and unthinkingly pour themselves some scotch versus when they decide to throw out all their liquor one night after reflecting on the negative effects of their drinking.

    My suggestion is that freedom is the starting place, and we immediately make rules about it.

    I agree, but the "rules" are, counterintuitively, necessary to becoming free. Freedom, pure freedom if you will, is the starting place, but it's a starting place that collapses into contradiction.

    Imagine a blank plane, endless white in all directions. Now draw a shape. Whatever you choose, your choice will constrain you. Drawing a triangle means your shape couldn't have been a square, etc. You can't have drawn "just points A, B, C" and still have also have drawn points Y or Z.

    To be absolutely free, you must never have to choose between anything. But this means our choices are never effective, and we are in the exact same place no matter what we chose. If we are absolutely free, our choices become irrelevant to us, choosing anything and having no choice become identical, a contradiction.

    The five types of freedom I mentioned also each contradict one another. Self-control is itself a form of constraint. Social freedom helps construct authenticity, because people often get their sense of identify from the social institutions they belong to. However, when institutions work to shift individuals’ preferences such that they harmonize, this at times requires a coercion that runs contrary to authenticity.

    Moral freedom always acts as a constraint on our actions, at both the individual and social levels. It is a check on the types of things individuals and institutions ought to do. In this way, it constrains all the lower types of freedom.

    The fact that each mode of freedom contradicts prior modes is what leads to the necessary emergence the other, higher levels. These harmonize the existing contradictions, while introducing new ones. We could map these out via Hegel’s dialectical, but I’ll spare you of that! (Note: my philosophy is not entirely Hegel’s and he had no explicit typology of freedom, I think some of his core intuitions here are correct).
  • Ukraine Crisis

    Precisely to clarify that Kiev may succeed in preventing encirclement, break the siege and rout the Russians with a surprise counter offensive, or even just be sieged for a long time.

    This plus having people on the inside to facilitate their rapid takeover. What we know now is that part of Russia's strategy hinged heavily on the fact that government and defense officials would move to support their ousting of the current regime, either through direct support or through failing to mount a proper defense.

    Russia's intelligence services had done a lot of work to "pave the way," for the invasion through bribes and persuasion campaigns. At least part of the reason they went in with such a small force relative to the population of Ukraine, and from so many different lines of attack, was because they were expecting for their advance to be facilitated in key areas. Then, the large number of axes of attack and their rapid progress would hopefully cause Ukrainians to see that the cause was hopeless.

    But in many cases people took the bribes proffered to them and then reported the incidents to the Ukrainian intelligence services. Or they took the bribes and just didn't support the Russians when the time came.

    It's just like Prigozhin's coup attempts. If he had picked up more military defectors, then more people would have likely joined him. People don't want to be on the losing side. Because Ukrainian resistance was effective in some areas, people who might have flipped didn't. Kherson is an area where they had significant "inside help."

    And of course this has consequences for Russia. While Ukraine couldn't defend on a every front at once, neither could Russia effectively support it's large number of axes, resulting in very high equipment losses from infantry ambushes on supply lines and the TB2 becoming an absolute horror for the Russians until they regrouped and began focusing on having proper air defenses for advances.

    IMO, one of the biggest problems for Russia's initial plan was the failure to properly suppress enemy air defenses. This not only messed up their air assault heavy campaign strategy, but was a massive propaganda and moral victory for Ukraine, the elite VDV being shot out of the sky in engagement after engagement without having any effect.
  • What is freedom?

    IMO, this is where moral freedom, the freedom to pursue what we think is good, comes in. To be sure, we could come to agree with all natural circumstances, overcoming instinct and desire. But we might think some circumstances we find in something approaching a "state of nature," for mankind are not good: widespread food insecurity, constant band level warfare, thralldom and slavery for the vanquished, male relatives exerting undue control over their female relatives' romantic relationships, infanticide etc.

    In moral freedom, freedom becomes a moral imperative in that, to do the good, we must be free to do so. So, if there are ways of enhancing freedom, we should enact them.

    But this really ties into the idea of progress in history, Eusebius, Hegel, etc., which I think is worth its own thread.
  • What is freedom?

    I think we're talking about the same thing. All I mean is, "part of freedom is being able to do what you desire." What is a common desire of man? "To have enough food." Well, here noticing ways in which nature works allows us to do that. E.g., if we put seeds here, the plants will grow, animals are "like father, like son," and so "if we breed the gentle sheep they will be easier to shepherd," etc.

    Obviously we are part of nature, so the distinction is artificial. But freedom is, in part, using our knowledge of cause and effect to bring about states of affairs we prefer. A person with no understanding of cause and effect (hard to envisage) has no grounds for thinking any action will bring about their will better than any other (or non-action). The more we know, the more we are able to shape states of affairs such that circumstances we desire obtain. "I would like to get from NYC to LA in a day," for example, is currently only possible through understanding lift, metallurgy, etc., all the things that make airplanes possible.
  • What is freedom?

    Right! A lot of musts for freedom. That's the paradox of freedom within the context of human society and world history. It turns out that being free requires much of us.

    Let me explain how I think this makes sense, without being contradictory.

    Obviously, at the individual level we are free to learn very little about the world and how it works, and free to not spend time in self-reflection.

    Just as obviously though, this has some effect on our freedom "to do things," because our ability to bring states of affairs about that we prefer is totally grounded in what we think the causal impact of our actions will be. E.g., if you don't have any idea how a car works, you aren't free to fix your mom's car for her no matter how much you want to unless you learn how to do it. Thus, the mustof knowledge. You aren't fully free to improve your health if you have scant understanding of diet and exercise, and indeed people fall for unhealthy fad diets all the time and don't get the results they want for lack of knowledge.

    With YouTube and free books it's hard to remember that guilds and other groups often fought hard to hide knowledge from the public. The fact that we can get so much information easily enhances our freedom in this way, so there is a social "must" as well.

    I was actually thinking about a more global "we," in those cases, of which the individual is one part. "We" as a society must cultivate knowledge about the world, how to irrigate crops, how to create fertilizer, etc. to be free from the contingencies of nature. For a great deal of human existence, humanity was at the mercy of weather patterns. Humans died in droves when weather patterns shifted too much outside the norm.

    Moreover, societies with more advanced military technology have had a consistent habit of conquering all those peoples without them. So, the collective we has a hard time being free to return to the primordial forests, even if an individual can. The flow of history shows that better organized states and more advanced ones tend to extend their influence over those that are weaker, damaging their freedom.

    So, the "must" of knowledge is related to both the individuals causal powers and society's. But also to the fact that societies where basic needs are met, largely through advances in knowledge, have haltingly progressed at providing more development to their citizens and more negative freedom.

    When mass starvation starts, man taking away the freedom of man follows. You're not particularly free if you're murdered, and mankind's natural homicide rate is estimated at around 2,000 per 100,000, about par for similar mammals, but the equivalent of 6.6 million homicides a year in the US, 10 times the nation's death toll in WWII in a single year.
  • What is freedom?

    This is less in topic, so I didn't post any of that in the response, and I don't want to derail the thread by getting into that in depth, although I can send a PM if you're curious. Maybe I should have put the links at the bottom in case people were curious.

    Very short explanation is it is a theological reference to the concept of the Church as the immanent body of Christ. The church is created by humans, physically, in a way that parallels pregnancy, thus the "Marian mode." In a Christian context, the Church is obviously supposed to be an immanent force for good (something it has failed at often) and thus plays a role in advancing freedom. But you could say similar things about the state (e.g. Hegel) from a secular standpoint, and the role of the citizen in terms of social freedoms, but the Church and state obviously have different domains they interact in vis-á-vis the individual.
  • "Why I don't believe in God" —Greta Christina

    You might be right, I haven't read The Myth of Sisyphus in a while and might be conflating it with the rest of the genre. I'll maintain that it rings true to me for Man Against Darkness though, which I've read recently. Also a bit for very late Nietzsche, but I've always figured his illness played a role in the self-aggrandizement in Ecce Homo.

    You know, he starts with Hamlet being nauseous because choice is absurd in The Birth of Tragedy and ends at "I am dynamite," always felt like he was getting high on his own supply.
  • What is freedom?

    It is a collection of short things I wrote for someone, so perhaps it needs a bit more context. See:

    We have a moral duty to be free then, so that we can choose the good. This is why criminals have a right to be punished. We do not punish merely to deter crime. To do this is to treat another human being like an animal to be domesticated.

    If we don't do what is good, it seems like we will very likely trample other's freedom. But when we make ourselves lords over others, we become unfree ourselves. First, because we now must fear them rising up, taking vengeance, etc. Second, because we aren't free to treat them like equals and get recognition from them as equals. Think, the king who can never know if his poetry is good because everyone has to blow smoke up his ass.

    But establishing broad based equality requires moral action, since obviously we often desire to do immoral things that harm others, and their freedom.

    Punishment has a deterrent aspect, a training aspect, but that can't be all there is. We want people punished to come to understand justice so that they will freely be just, not just trained to be just. If all we do is train them, then as soon as the lash is out of our hand they rise up to inflict punishment on us. We also want to restore justice. If our punishment leaves the criminal still better off, say they do a year in minimum security but make off with $20 million, then our society has clearly not restored justice.
  • What is freedom?

    May I assume that we all distinguish positive and negative freedom - freedom to do something and freedom from restraint by another ?

    I have settled on a modified version of Axel Honneth's typology of freedom in Freedom's Right, based on Hegel's Elements of the Philosophy of Right.. I think Isiah Berlin's positive/negative distinction is a bit too vague, and leaves an important element, social freedom, off the menu as a main type.

    My five types would be:

    Negative Freedom as defined by an agent's freedom relative to the external world. It is freedom from external barriers that restrict one’s ability to act, e.g., the government or thieves seizing your tools so that you cannot work.

    Reflexive Freedom is defined by subject’s freedom relative to themselves. To quote Hegel, “individuals are free if their actions are solely guided by their own intentions.” Thus, “man is a free being [when he] is in a position not to let himself be determined by natural drives.” i.e., when his actions are not subject to contingency.

    Note that self-control is not enough here. We need self-control to get what we desire, but we also sometimes desire things we do not want to desire. Someone who shows tremendous self control covering up an adulterous relationship they don't want to have begun is not free. Frankfurt's "second order volition" concept is helpful here. We need to be able to desire what it is that we want to desire. Then we also need to the willpower to make our desire to desire X (as opposed to Y) effective.

    Authenticity - we can have self-control and allow our selves to want what it is we want, but this is not freedom if we are not true to ourselves. Imagine a person raised in a cult, drilled in exercises of self-control. They may be able to engineer their desires, stop drive and instinct from being effective, and yet if they have not had space to discover their authentic selves they cannot be free. This sort of freedom has been described as bildung, development (Hegel), self-actualization (Maslow), and individuation (Jung).

    Social Freedom is required because reflexive freedom only looks inward; it does not tie individual choices to any objective moral code. This being the case, an individual possessing such freedom may still choose to deprive others of their freedom. (This the contradiction inherent in globalizing Nietzsche’s “revaluation of all values”).

    Since individuals will invariably have conflicting goals, there is no guarantee than anyone will be able to achieve such a self-directed way of life. Negative freedom is also contradictory because “the rational [reflexive] can come on the scene only as a restriction on [negative] freedom.” E.g., being free to become a doctor means being free to choose restrictions on one’s actions because that role entails certain duties. Positive freedom necessarily constrains negative freedom. We must identify with and desire duties that constrain negative freedom to be free.

    Social Freedom then is the collective resolution of these contradictions through the creation of social institutions (the family, professional associations/guilds, markets, the state, etc.). Ideally, institutions objectify morality in such a way that individuals’ goals align, allowing people to freely choose actions that promote each other’s freedom and wellbeing. The free market does this (imperfectly obviously) by making the general health of the economy a matter of concern to all. Institutions achieve this by shaping the identities of their members, such that they derive their “feeling of selfhood” from, and recognize “[their] own essence” in, membership.

    In the language of contemporary economics, we would say that institutions change members’ tastes, shifting their social welfare function such that they increasingly weigh the welfare of others when ranking “social states.” In doing so, institutions help resolve collective action problems. They allow citizens to transition into preferencing social welfare over maximal individual advantage.

    Moral Freedom is the freedom to do what we think is good. It requires all the prior types to be perfected.

    Is it possible for anyone to have total freedom?

    No. We can't fly or turn back time, right? Absolute freedom requires a flight from any determinateness, as all determinations are constraints. For example, you can’t make a shape that is a triangle and also have it have 4 sides. Definiteness implies its own constraints.

    Absolute freedom is a contradiction. If our choices never effect our other choices, if we can save our cake and eat it, move up while moving down, then we effectively choose nothing. Freedom collapses into the absolute lack of freedom. This is a classical Hegelian dialectical collapse. Freedom must sublate this lack of freedom, resulting in a modified conception where we "choose between" things, such that our freedom to choose necessarily constrains us from doing the things we do not choose.

    Freedom also only exists in the context of change (becoming). You can only be free in the becoming present, in the moment of “now.” The past is already fixed, it must be so for it to give us a ground for determining our actions. The future cannot yet have been decided, else where is freedom? So, where is freedom except in the becoming present? Thus, freedom itself requires the ongoing passage of any “decisions” into “the already decided.” Freedom exists only in the mysterious twilight between “already has,” and “not yet.”

    What kinds of freedom can subgroups have within a greater society?

    I would just note on this point that the privileged class, the nobility, etc. are often made unfree by their special freedoms. The dictator can do many things the billionaire cannot, punish enemies more directly, drag women off the street, etc. But he cannot treat all his people as equals lest they use that freedom to remove him and he becomes the one with the boot on his throat. Minority rule makes the ruling minority unfree in this way; they cannot pick any path because they must always fear falling out of that elite group. You see this in the widespread status anxiety of economic elites today.

    Second, the lord is unable to get recognition, thymos, from the bondsman. They have made the inferior person an "other" who cannot give them the recognition they crave. You see this best in "Manosphere blogs" and with "Pick Up Artist" communities. I have never read one of these where the author seems happy. They continually chase and manipulate women to get validation from them, but then that validation is never enough because they have othered them. Simone de Beavoir is great on this.

    Hegel covers this phenomena in the Phenomenology with the Lord-Bondsman dialectical and Saint Augustine covers it in the City of God when he explains why Rome is not a "common wealth."

    Are there natural, insurmountable limits to individual freedom?
    Sadly. Still waiting on those Star Trek transporters. But determinism itself is a prerequisite of freedom. Leibniz originally formulated the Principle of Sufficient Reason to explain, not preclude freedom. For us to be free, our actions must be based on reasons. Arbitrariness is not freedom. If you play a video game, and every time you press a button something different happens, then you have not been given choices, just the sensation of action.

    Freedom is contradictory in this way. Our actions must be determined by the world to be free. But as Bohr said, "the opposite of a truth is a falsehood, but the opposite of a profound truth is often another profound truth."

    Are socially imposed limits necessary?

    See above, re social freedom

    Can and should all people have the same amount of personal freedom?
    No. Because freedom requires development and development sometimes means doing things we don't desire. Would I have learned to read and analyze texts if no one made me? Probably. Would I have learned much mathematics? Nope. But knowing mathematics has made me more free.

    Children are a prime example, but in the US we also have Casey's Law, such that relatives can force their drug addicted relatives to go to rehab.

    How do we distinguish a freedom from a right?

    Tough question. I would tend to think of the rights as the general principles that help promote freedom. But since society is a complex system, such rights aren't absolute, but rather guiding tendencies that should be brought towards perfection over the course of civilization's and individuals' development. Thus, early civilizations ensured few rights, and children have few rights, but as we progress more emerge (granted backsliding happens, it is a chaotic system).


    Anyhow, I think there is a moral element to freedom too. We aren't free if we are doing what we think is wrong, since obviously in an ideal world we would tend to want to do the right thing, right?

    But morality is a limit on our reflexive and negative freedom, telling us what our desires should be and constraining action.To do good and to be free requires understanding the world, understanding the consequences of our choices.

    We have a moral duty to be free then, so that we can choose the good. This is why criminals have a right to be punished. We do not punish merely to deter crime. To do this is to treat another human being like an animal to be domesticated.

    Freedom requires knowledge of nature, and so we must study the sciences. We are natural creatures and must understand nature to understand ourselves. Likewise, we must master nature, “subdue it and have dominion over it,” in order to enact our will.

    Freedom requires knowledge of the Logos, and so we must study philosophy, logic, and mathematics.

    Freedom requires knowledge of the self, and so we must study psychology, the great works of art, etc.

    For the individual, I think the path to freedom climaxes in moral freedom, in a paradox. To paraphrase Luther, "A free man is lord of all, subject to none. And yet he is servant to all, lording over none."

    Apologies if this is a bit long. I have thought a lot on this and have some articles to draw on:
  • "Why I don't believe in God" —Greta Christina

    What is it about these brain states that leads to different experiences (or no experiences)?

    Right, that's proven a very difficult question. If I knew the answer I'd be collecting my Nobel Prize. My point is simply that process allows for strong emergence, totally new properties. Conciousness seems to fit the bill here. Thus, it's a strong incentive to move away from a metaphysics that denies the possibility of strong emergence. But note above that there are very many other findings in the sciences that suggest this shift as well. It's an abductive move I believe.

    Also, are you claiming it's impossible to create a mechanical analogue of a working brain + body + quantum effects? If we did, how would we know it's conscious? What if we simulated a working brain and body and quantum effects? Would the simulation be conscious?

    By no means. I'm saying that the "substrate independence," of the processes that give rise to conciousness violate our intuitions because they are generally framed in terms of gross simplifications of the processes that give rise to conciousness.

    "If you made a model of all the neurons in the brain from steam pipes, it would have the same experiences as the brain being modeled," sounds ridiculous, and I'd argue that it this intuition probably holds for two reasons.

    1. Conciousness probably doesn't just arise from neurons.

    2. More importantly, if there is only one substance/thing underlying all of reality, then process is fundemental in explaining all things. If this is true, then you simply cannot make a brain out of steam pipes or any other materials and have it actually be the same process. Different materials = different process, by definition, because "materials" emerge from lower level processes.

    This is tricky because we are used to the substance view, but recall that the atoms that the brain is made of is not eternal. These emerge from process, the line between matter and energy is not absolute. Atoms are long term energy well stabilities in process, but at they are still processes with beginnings and ends. So a brain "made from steam pipes," cannot be the exact same process as an organic brain, period. By making the thing out of different materials you are necessarily forming a different process, and in process more is different and different is different. Example: atoms are formed from a process that can be decomposed into field values for charge, etc., but adding more values doesn't give you more of the same basic output, instead you might get Chlorine instead of Helium.

    "Information is substrate independent," is actually a misnomer in process metaphysics because substrate itself IS process. So, in pancomputationalism, the organic brain and the steam pipe brain are obviously not the same "computation," all the way down. They are instead isomorphic down to some arbitrary course grained level.

    But I think it IS entirely possible that conciousness could arise from different types of materials. It's an open question. The question we have, reformated is: "at what level can we course grain the underlying process such that it doesn't effect the emergence of conciousness?"

    However, I don't think MOST materials can be used to recreate a brain. A brain made of q tips and rubber bands might be simply unable to replicate the process at work in brains, particularly quantum processes.

    What trips us up is that the same information can be encoded, and the same computation can be instantiated, in a variety of materials. But the different substrates do indeed make the systems different at some scale. There are simply isomorphisms between them, such that we can say they are the same at the right, arbitrary level of scale. With conciousness, the question becomes, "which isomorphisms are essential?" It's possible that almost all of the process is, in which case artificial life may need to be "grown" from cell-like structures. Hard to say since so little is known about it.
  • "Why I don't believe in God" —Greta Christina


    I had forgotten how much I dislike Camus. De Beauvoir and Richard Wright (when he moved to France) were definitely the stars of that set for me.

    "Everyone who disagrees with how I see the world commits a form of mental suicide. They are looking for myths to make themselves feel better. We Overmen, on the other hand, we are clear-eyed and hard. We stare into the Void and laugh, such is our great strength."

    "BTW, this conception of ourselves as Overmen is totally not the sort of self-aggrandizing fantasy myth of purpose that we are critiquing. No it's totally different."

    Stace, Camus, etc. crack me up. I think they did a real number on the sociology of religion too, since the idea of "religion as escapist fantasy," remains incredibly popular. This seems to require a profound lack of experience with world religions though. Most aren't comforting. The Egyptian slave remains a slave in the same unchanging order forever; how is this not absurd? The Sumerian is at the mercy of recalcitrant gods and faces a dismal afterlife. What is more absurd than being raped by a swan and having that define one's identity?

    The God of Calvinism is almost demonic in his desire to punish and human life is every bit as absurd as in existentialist atheism. Man is absolutely depraved and has no part in saving himself. He can do nothing and, on average, exists only to be tormented with no meaning attached to that existence save as his being an atomic instantiation of the process of divine justice — a process he cannot even fathom if he is not among the elect.

    IMHO Nagel's comic stance is far more endearing and he asks better questions about what could make life not absurd.

    If living for 40,000 years and being the ruler of a galaxy spanning empire is still absurd due to cosmic scales, what could not be? The existences of God(s) in no way seems to overcome absurdity, although this is often taken as axiomatic for some reason.. So which God, if any, overcomes absurdity? If Marxism is absurd because any progress in human history is absurd due to cosmic scales, in what sort of universe is progress not absurd? If only Earth existed would Marxism be not absurd?

    It seems like there is something psychologically and philosophically deeper to the concept of absurdity and meaning here than meets the eye.

    It seems to me like an atheist or theist face the same basic set of problems re absurdity; that all choice becomes meaningless from the viewpoint of absolute freedom.
  • "Why I don't believe in God" —Greta Christina

    Pragmatically, recognizing that there are abstract levels of stuff supervening on other stuff is how humanity has been able to achieve the scientific advancements we have. The instrumentation physicists use to test theories is designed with such understanding in mind. People having an understanding of supervenience seems to play a rather critical role in us having the basis we have, for thinking about nature with the degree of accuracy that we do.

    Sure, from that we get atomic theory, cell theory, etc. However, note my examples above. Superveniance has also led science astray, particularly, it seems, at the more fundemental levels of inquiry (physics). The idea was that there must be a substance that supervened on phenomena to explain them. This is an intuition based in metaphysics, a philosophical position driving theory. It has turned out to be very wrong in key areas, e.g., heat, fire, life, and arguably the entire concept of "fundemental particles."

    Many basic phenomena have been thought of in terms of sui generis substances and turned out to be process. I am at a loss for an example where something appeared to be a process and is better explained as substance.

    If this forum is any indication some philosophers seem to get obsessed with defining supervenience in a rigorous way. (Or tearing down attempts to do so.) It seems to me, that a person who recognizes supervenience has no need, or even use, for a rigorous definition. I see understanding things in terms of supervenience as an epistemic tool that it is important to know how to use. It's a matter of being able to zoom one's limited cognitive faculties in and out to look at things at different levels of abstraction. It's a matter of cognitive skill or talent.

    I don't deny that such a view is useful. Even in a process metaphysics, it makes sense to think of long term stabilities in process as substances in some cases. Superveniance being a practical explanatory expedient is not what I am arguing against. It is the metaphysical claim that phenomena such as consciousness must be explained primarily in terms of superveniance because substances are essential. If our grand ambition to unify the fundemental forces is ever successful, we will have reached a point where such substance no longer does any explaining because there is only one base substance. All higher level varieties of substance will then be emergent from lower processes.

    Is this related to my question, "What basis do you have to think that it is possible for a mind to exist, sans an information processing substrate for the mind to supervene upon?"

    Yes, directly. The view that consciousness must be explained in terms of "information processing," itself suggests that it is essentially process. Information is best thought of as a process, and "processing," is obviously a process. One of the key findings in the study of information is that it is "substrate [substance] independent." This is why conceptions of physics in which information is ontologically basic are best thought of in terms of process metaphysics. Digital physics, where "bits" are individual objects face insurmountable problems. Paul Davies covers this in "Immaterialism to Materialism and Back Again."

    What exactly is going to supervene on conciousness? Throw a brain onto a table and it produces no conciousness, it requires a body, and indeed feedback from the body, input from the nervous system, the work of the endocrine system, metabolism, are all essential to explaining conciousness. Put a body in a void and you get no conciousness.

    In fact, bodies can only produce conciousness in an extremely narrow range of environments. Change the composition of the surrounding atmosphere and conciousness comes to an abrupt end. Subject a body to all but a narrow range of temperatures and conciousness ceases.

    How is this best explained? I would argue in the context of life being a far from thermodynamic equilibrium dynamical system. Many processes must be allowed to take place, based on a narrow set of conditions, for the process to continue.

    This is the insight of embodied conciousness. It is a mistake to think "brains generate minds," because they demonstrably cannot, not alone. Minds disappear even if the structure of brains remains largely intact because it is the process that is essential. And this jives completely with computational and information theoretic theories of consciousness, because such process is substrate independent.

    But then the question of superveniance is the wrong question. It reduced to "some nested processes must be in place for the process of conciousness to exist." Which is true, but trivial. Obviously if you remove some sub processes from a process it is no longer the same process.

    I think the theories that involve mind emerging from a substrate are unconvincing-bordering-on-absurd. Do you think that if you wire a bunch of electric switches together and turn them off and on in some way the pain of stubbing a toe will emerge? Or the taste of of orange? Or the experience of seeing red?

    Wouldn't these be theories of mind as emerging from a process? In your examples the substance/substrate is irrelevant.

    I think the intuition that abacus beads can't form a mind is correct. However, the problem it targets merely comes from a mistaken reductive tendency to try to study conciousness as merely "what neurons do." But metabolism and feedback throughout the body are essential to conciousness. There are whole books on how the endocrine system effects conciousness that can make it seem like it is the main driver, the neurons ancillary dependants. This is obviously wrong too, the system is complex and there is a circular causality at work. "The Other Brain," is a great book on the massive amount of "work" that glial cells do in the brain. The neurons only take center stage, alone, because we have placed them there in our abstractions.

    We have looked at action potentials firing because they are easy to measure and easy to model. But it's worth noting that neural networks based solely on Hebbian "fire together wire together," actually act nothing like real brains unless we force an amazing number of unnatural constraints on them. Neurotransmitters don't work through depolarization alone, they modify neuronal metabolism short to long term, change the shapes of binding sites for ligands, etc.

    Then consider the evidence for quantum effects in the brain that's come out. Particle spin causing disparate psychological and physiological effects for inhaled gas, etc. Quantum activity in the brain has been argued against largely because it has become intertwined in philosophical issues over free will and goofy mysticism, and because specialists on conciousness tend to still operate under the received wisdom that there is a hard divide between a classical and quantum world, with quantum effects only occuring in very specific environments. We now know this classical/quantum hard divide to be absolutely false, but the door on criticizing this divide didn't really open up in physics until the 1990s, and so the legacy of the divide is strong.

    Since quantum effects show up in photosynthesis and undergird all chemical reactions, it would be shocking if conciousness didn't involve quantum effects in some ways. I think people just conflate this with all sorts of woo that gets tagged on to anything quantum.

    Why bring this up? Because it means that models based on neurons alone are likely gross simplifications. The idea that we could make brains out of water pipes rests on the assumption that if you model neuronal action potentials you model the CNS. This is very likely false in quite meaningful ways. If it is, then our intuition that abacus beads and pipes can't model conciousness might be easily vindicated. These substrates can't model brains because they are incapable of instantiating the same processes. A set of pipes replicating neuronal action potentials won't generate a mind because it isn't instantiating the same process at all, it is rather isomorphic to just a small, course grained part of the process that generates conciousness.

    I personally think it's a mistake to think you could remove all the glial cells of a brain and still have conciousness, etc. This seems like a combination of looking for the keys where they light is because action potentials are easier to study and the problems of smallism, since global effects likely matter too.
  • "Why I don't believe in God" —Greta Christina

    If I recall correctly, Kastrup allows that there was a period in the universe where there were no dissociated minds. He claims that only life produces minds, although I remember thinking that this is the weak point in his whole system because he doesn't really explain why this is the case; he just points to the fact that only living things appear to have these disassociated minds. Thus, we can have a universe that exists, with no life in it, but it still exists because the universe itself is a mind and all the objects we see are "made of mentation."

    universal phenomenal consciousness is all there ultimately is, everything else in nature being reducible to patterns of excitation of this consciousness.

    Mind is coextensive with the universe and preceding life and existing after it.

    My point though is that differentiation between "universe as mentation" versus "universe as physical stuff" seems somewhat pointless in a process view because they're empirically, and arguably conceptually identical. Kastrup agrees with the methods of science, agrees with using empirical techniques to discover the processes at work that give rise to phenomena. Physicalists, by in large agree on these points too. The disagreement centers around whether the phenomena of empirical inquiry are essentially "what there is," because mentation is all there is, or if phenomena are representations of a lower level physical reality that is causally responsible for the phenomenal.

    But if we think of being as something like a cellular automata running on a lattice, what is the difference? In Kastrup's view there is some sort of process that occurs, consistent with the theory of evolution and animal development, such that processes in the "universal mental field" give rise to the "dissociated consciousness" of living things. So it's the causal process that creates us and unique minds within the mental field, and all cause can be traced back to processes within that field. Likewise, process physicalism says the same sort of thing. There is a universal field and processes occur such that minds emerge from them. The process is doing all the heavy lifting explaining consciousness and causation as a whole here. What exactly does the adjective "mental" or "physical" field add? In both there is just one kind of "stuff" and processes in it do all the explanation.

    It's like your object of study were arithmetic and being hung up on if 6 * 3 was written in pencil or pen.

    Likewise, there is some speculation I recall in his book about the mental field having its own self-awareness/sentience, objects are essentially the thoughts of this field, but I don't recall it being central, more speculative. But even this speculation fails to differentiate it. A physical universe defined by process can have a self-aware universe, or a universe that becomes sentient over its development; it just depends on what type of process generates consciousness and if the universe is one of them.
  • "Why I don't believe in God" —Greta Christina

    How does superveniance substance metaphysics require any less speculative ifs? Superveniance became dominant at a time when physics looked completely different than it does now and has stuck around in philosophy, I'd argue, largely through inertia and the fact that no one replacement has become a rallying point for opposition.

    If anything, the raison d'etre for substance metaphysics seems to be dying. The original goal was that different types of substances, Embedoclean elements for example, would explain why things have the properties do, why we see stabilities in the world (i.e. the different types of substance are ontologically basic) and change (different types of substance interacting).

    The march of scientific progress has given us a long list of "substances" that turned out to be better defined as processes. Heat as average movement versus as a substance, caloric. Fire as a process reaction versus the substance phlogiston. How can particles supervene on a flame when different particles are involved in each moment?

    We previously had life as composed of a sort of vital substance, elan vital, versus the now dominant view of life as process. Atoms turn out not be be basic substances. Fundemental particles have beginnings and ends and are not ontologically basic either. When we clear out space by slamming two gold nuclei into each other at 99% of the speed of light, quarks spontaneously form from the instability of the void.

    Matter turned out to be able to be defined in terms of energy. Fundemental particles appear to be necessarily described in terms of fields (granted there are some work arounds to save the particle as the fundemental unit). Space-time seems like the best candidate for a remaining "substance," but that view is under critique from diverse areas, for Wilzek with space-time as a "metric field," to pancomputationalism.

    Even within energy itself, we've seen the unification of the electromagnetic and weak force and the hope is to unify all the forces.

    But if we unify our understanding of gravity, space-time as a metric field, and all the other fields into one thing, one substance, then substance does absolutely no explanatory lifting at all. It turns out there isn't multiple substances responsible for the way the world is, there is one type of "stuff" and the changes, process, in it account for all entities.

    A world of process also fits with a reality where the being of the present is continually flowing into the non-being of the past, re local becoming. On that front though, the widespread sway of eternalism is probably the biggest barrier to any sort of shift. If you take it that all events exist at once, its more intuitive to think of the universe as an object, and thus as anything within it being "parts." I personally think eternalism has deep problems with coherence though. Events don't exist without beginning or end or "at all times," they seem to exist at just those times that they occur.
  • "Why I don't believe in God" —Greta Christina

    Right, but all the "stuff" is just mentation, mental stuff. We're all part of one disassociated cosmic mind for him, right? So, of course if all minds disappear there is nothing, because there is nothing but mind. Saying "all minds cease to exist," is equivalent with saying "the universe ceases to exist."

    But if the undergirding framework is a process, then the process explains how it is that we, as "disassociated minds," emerge from the universe, and all the traits the universe has from our perspective. The "substance" of the world that emerges from the process being mental instead of physical doesn't seem to make much of a difference.

    To be sure, if the entire universe is mental, we might be tempted to say "then the universe is conscious, or could be /become conscious." But he denies panpsychism if I recall. In any event, with strong emergence nothing precludes a physical universe from becoming conscious either. The mental/physical substance issue seems irrelevant to global psychism (as opposed to panpsychism).

    The universes' being conscious or not in a process view simply becomes an empirical question. Knowing what we know about the processes at work in the universe, should/could it produce an umbrella awareness?

    The other neat thing about the process view is that it explains how multiple minds can be nested, how split brained individuals can seem to have "two minds in one," multiple personality disorder, the ant hive as a whole and the individual ants both being thought of as minds, states/organizations as mind-like entities with their own goals and desired distinct from their member, etc. The problem of group minds presents no metaphysical problems, unlike in superveniance views.

    This is good since there is good psychological evidence for group mind-like properties within our minds and for group minds in human social institutions. These have normally been rejected for metaphysical reasons based on superveniance, despite being empirically predictive in models. However, in the process view there is no reason to say multiple "functions" can't be nested so as to generate novel functions. So multiple functions that generate consciousnesses can be nested so as to create a larger consciousness.
  • "Why I don't believe in God" —Greta Christina

    What basis do you have to think that it is possible for a mind to exist, sans an information processing substrate for the mind to supervene upon?"

    It seems it'd be possible to deny this is the right question though, or even a meaningful one. If information is primarily process (good arguments for this exist) and if the pancomputationalist physicists are correct and information is our core ontological primitive, then superveniance itself is a mistaken concept.

    Information does not require an "information processing substrate," in this case. The appearance of substance is simply the result of stabilities in process. Substance (substrates) emerge from the underlying process, not the other way around. Flux is

    And I'm inclined towards this view because:
    -Consciousness and other natural phenomena appear to require strong emergence.
    - Jaegeon Kim's argument that strong emergence cannot exist given a substance metaphysics is convincing.
    - Paul Davies' proof that the entire information carrying capacity of the visible universe is not enough to compute even basic lifeforms' causal history is less convincing (maybe I don't understand it) but still tips the scales towards strong emergence existing.

    Thus, if it seems like we need strong emergence. Since substance superveniance rules this out, then it seems like superveniance isn't the right concept. Plus it has other unresolved problems.

    So then the question becomes: what process causes consciousness to emerge?

    But this doesn't really support the idea of consciousness as some sort of sui generis special thing that can't be explained by science either. If anything, I'd think it gives us less of an incentive to look for dualist explanations because it we no longer have the problem of explaining consciousness without strong emergence.

    I also think the process view makes the physicalism/objective idealism divide sort of irrelevant. If substance emerges from process, what would claims like Katsrupt's that the world is made up of "mental substance," even mean vis-á-vis competing claims that is is "physical substance." I think the issue sort of dissolves and becomes a red herring.
  • is the following argument valid (but maybe not sound)?

    Well yeah, that's the whole point of the reductio, but it's generally considered a valid way to form proofs (exceptions like intuitionist mathematics exist of course). I was just showing different ways you could show the same thing, syllogism, containment, or via and proof by contradiction using sets.

    It's valid because "action is mediated" is not our argument. Our argument shows that "action is mediated is a contradiction," and then follows "x is a contradiction, contradictions are not true, thus not x."

    Although, I am aware that mathematicians generally prefer direct proofs over the reductio, because a reductio lacks fecundity, it cannot be used to set up new proofs as easily.

    IMO, the containment relation is the simplist of these and is underappreciated. You can teach proofs like that to a kindergartner, and re the thread on Spencer Brown's Laws of Form, you can do a lot with distinction and containment.
  • The Insignificance of Moral Realism

    Maybe I phrased it poorly. I think your posts explain why we should act a certain way in principle, but there remains the subjectivity involved in which acts actually best reduce harm in practice. The ol' Aristotelian/Marxist "theory versus praxis."

    For example, the doctor who faces a patient with a good deal of pain who must decide if pain medicine reduces harm in the short term, versus if it increases the risk of greater harm in the long term if the person might become addicted to opiates; that sort of thing.

    My point was just that, even if we face these sorts of objections on praxis, it is clear that greater knowledge of the world, ourselves, and each other, helps us with praxis. So, even if we cannot say, "we know for sure that this course of action is the one that best reduces harm," we can say things about concrete goals that must be achieved to help us answer those sorts of questions. In this way, I can see an argument that other goods, namely freedom and the expansion of knowledge, can also be justified through the need to reduce harm as best we are able.

    What is happening in the situation can. E.g. drug dealing is immoral, but the situation of drug dealing is a fact. It cannot be considered immoral. See, morality has to do with acts, activity action. A situation is not itself an activity. It is a context, a frame of reference, concerning activities that happen in it. I don't know if this makes sense to you.

    It makes sense. I don't think it's necessarily inconsistent to say that only acts have moral implications, but neither do I think that this is the only plausible way to look at it. Saying situations can't be more or less moral simply because they are not acts is sort of begging the question, no? The claim of moral realist consequentialists is that some states of affairs simply are more moral than others.

    Isn't drug dealing bad in virtue of the states of affairs it brings about? A pharmacist sells drugs and we don't see that as evil.

    You are talking too about acts, that can be good or bad and that bring about sates of affairs.

    Right, but aren't acts good or bad in virtue of the states of affairs they bring about? If our acts had no effect on how the world was, how could we say they were good or bad? We don't tend to think of immoral acts in video games as immoral for this reason. The question is: how do you define good and bad acts without reference to the states of affairs we think they are likely to produce?

    So, I guess the question is, why is consequentialism wrong? Don't acts gain their good or evil character because of the states of affairs we expect them to produce? The act of pushing a button isn't, in itself, evil. But we might say pushing a button that fires a rocket at a mix of militants and civilians is immoral. Why is the act immoral in this case? It seems to me like it is immoral because we have good reason to expect that it results in a state of affairs where innocent people are harmed.

    And this is how we generally address pragmatism in ethics and trade-offs. Firing the rocket at a crowd that includes civilians may generally be an evil act, but if said militants are close to breaching a nuclear weapons facility and intend to kick off a massive nuclear war by firing off a warhead at India- or is it Bharat? - we might decide the act is moral. Why are looser rules of engagement sometimes warranted and sometimes not? If it isn't states of affairs that determine the morality of acts, how is pragmatism justified?

    It can't be simply the biological acts, which in modern warfare often just involve clicking a mouse and some buttons. The morality seems to come in light of the causal chain those acts kick off and what sort of states of affairs we either promote or prohibit based on our actions. The normally immoral drone strike becomes moral in the face of failing to attack likely resulting in the state of affairs where a nuclear war is begun, etc.
  • What creates suffering if god created the world ?

    Or alternatively again, there could have been a possible world where people could change the degree of hardship and change it back so that they had the opportunity for less optimal conditions to "overcome" something, but if this was too much, they could switch back, etc. If this is preposterous, it is because yeah, it doesn't exist. It's a "utopia".

    R. Scott Bakker has a good short story he published in some philosophy journal about accomplishing this in the near future through neural implants. The idea is that you can just tweak your pleasure, mirth, contentment, aggression, etc. upwards, on demand using a neurally controlled app.

    The rub is in how one's ability to control how they feel, almost regardless of circumstances interacts with how they promote, or destroy other's freedom. There is the distinction between "learning to desire that which is good," and the second order volition aspect of "being able to desire what you want to desire." But these two only become mutually reinforcing in a social context of we "desire to want the good," and can make those desires effective.

    The creation is still the output of a creator. See my problems above again.

    IDK, that's like, if roads are good, saying that the road pavers not-build roads all the places there aren't roads and that this is a bad act. Or if numbers are good, and God only emanates the natural numbers, then God is somehow acting by not emanating the reals.

    Granted, this makes more sense in a Neoplatonic vision of emanation cosmology. Plantinga has a pretty good proof on the idea that if there is an infinite number of possible worlds, such that for any world there will always be an infinite number of worlds that are worse and better than that world, it doesn't follow that any creation is act of creation is thus a contradiction of goodness. I personally have never found that sort of religious philosophy particularly interesting, so I forget the details, but I recall it being convincing.
  • The Insignificance of Moral Realism

    A fact cannot be moral or immoral. Not for the reasons you are stating but by definition.
    A fact is something known to exist or having occured. It may come from something that has been committed, but this is irrelevant; it does not define it. Facts can be also regarded as information, knowledge. We cannot say that an information or knowledge is moral or immoral, can we?

    I was addressing this. Sure, if you take it as axiomatic that facts cannot be moral, then you can't have moral facts. But like I said, the term facts, or "facts of the matter" often refer to states of affairs which can be assigned a moral ranking. If that's the case, then you absolutely can say "X is better than Y," or "Z is more morally preferable than Q." I could see an argument that acts are only good or bad in virtue of the fact that we expect said acts to bring about states of affairs that are more or less just/good (and indeed I think this is a fairly common view in moral philosophy, consequentialism and all). In which case, the morality of the facts is the key player here, the morality of acts is derivative of that.
  • What creates suffering if god created the world ?
    Perfection is a unity. It lacks nothing.

    Creation is not a unity. All created things lack something. Creation is continuous, a process of becoming. We might ask: "if one creates a perfect thing, but it is not perfected until the process of creation is finished, is the thing thus imperfect?" "Is perfecting necessarily imperfect?"

    Wouldn't it be better still if the perfect became perfect instantaneously? But perhaps the process of the imperfect being brought to perfection is itself better than such a timeless perfection?

    Jacob Boheme's insight was that such a unity cannot achieve certain things that divided being can. Self-knowledge is impossible for a unity because there is no differentiation between it and anything else. Just one thing existing becomes the same as nothing existing, it's like the information held in an infinite series of just 1s or just 0s.

    Eckhart says something to the effect of "the Father was born when I was born," which in context is the argument that God becomes what God is through creation. The Father is only the Father when he begets the Son. Such a creation requires differentiation, which in turn requires the lack of perfection implied by separateness.

    Saint Augustine saw evil simply as a lack of good, an absence rather than its own substance. A thing is better, more perfect, when it more fully embodies its essence. But even for him, there are different gradations of perfection between essences. Thus, a perfect flower is still less perfect than God. I think it is this second type of perfection we need to think about here. Creation itself implies "not God," which implies "less perfect." But in this view, it is still true that God is not the source of any evil, but rather "not-God," lack of God.

    Towards this view, in the Biblical narrative creation itself seems to rebel from the very beginning. God calls on the Earth to "grass grass," and instead it "puts forth grass," causing the ancient Rabbis to note that the Earth was first in rebellion. The deeper meaning here might be that the speaking of existence into being through God's Word is necessarily a division of things that implies gradations of perfection.

    In any event, I don't think evil, unpleasant, bad, and painful are necessarily synonyms. People can find good in things that are "unpleasant," and we see this is ascetics all the time. So there is an argument to be made that "evil" only stems from the emergence of self-reflective freedom. Bad emerges relevant to some sort of subjectivity. If everything is good, without the possibility of bad, then good becomes contentless. It is a label applied equally to all things. Thus, the creation of good implies the bad.

    It's worth noting that while God deems some things good as he creates them, only the holistic unity is deemed "very good," or "absolutely good."

    IMO, the idea of an omnipotent, omnipresent, omnibenificent, omniscient God begets paradoxes. But as Niels Bohr once said "the opposite of a truth is a falsity, but the opposite of a profound truth is often another profound truth."
  • There is no meaning of life

    I said in my heart with regard to the sons of men that God is testing them to show them that they are but beasts. For the fate of the sons of men and the fate of beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts; for all is vanity. All go to one place; all are from the dust, and all turn to dust again...

    All is vanity.
    What does man gain by all the toil
    at which he toils under the sun?
    A generation goes, and a generation comes,
    but the earth remains for ever.
    The sun rises and the sun goes down,
    and hastens to the place where it rises.
    The wind blows to the south,
    and goes round to the north;
    round and round goes the wind,
    and on its circuits the wind returns.
    All streams run to the sea,
    but the sea is not full;
    to the place where the streams flow,
    there they flow again.
    All things are full of weariness;
    a man cannot utter it;
    the eye is not satisfied with seeing,
    nor the ear filled with hearing.
    What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done;
    and there is nothing new under the sun.
    Is there a thing of which it is said,
    “See, this is new”?
    It has been already,
    in the ages before us.
    There is no remembrance of former things,
    nor will there be any remembrance
    of later things yet to happen
    among those who come after.

    I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to the sons of men to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun; and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.

    What is crooked cannot be made straight,
    and what is lacking cannot be numbered.

    I said to myself, “I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.” And I applied my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a striving after wind.

    For in much wisdom is much vexation,
    and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
  • "Why I don't believe in God" —Greta Christina

    How does that work? Worship of God is idolatry because people are actually worshiping their conception of God (a created thing)?

    I think this is partly the idea behind apophatic theology at least. All conception is limiting, and thus insufficient, only the "cloud of unknowing," "divine darkness," at which point even worship has ceased, represents the ultimate goal that cataphatic theology aspires to.
  • The Insignificance of Moral Realism

    This is very good. I can see the immediate rebuttal being that people often disagree about how to define harm. Is a parent dragging their child to confession harming them or reducing harm, etc.?

    This isn't a problem for the metaphysical existence of objective morality. After all, mankind has frequently disagreed about facts about other parts of the natural world, and gotten things wrong, but this doesn't mean that the Earth orbiting around the Sun is subjective.

    But there is the epistemic challenge of "how do we come to know the good?" "Are there general principles we can discover that can inform us on this matter?" Biology alone seems unable to answer the question, because we have examples like euthanasia, where we might agree that it is moral to try to end someone's suffering, but be unable to justify this in terms of homeostasis etc. So, psychology plays a role too.

    I haven't thought it through all the way, but I think second order volitions (ala Frankfurt) might play a key role here. Frequently, people desire what harms them. There is a sort of reflexive freedom that is required such that people have control over their wants- that they "desire what they want to desire," as well as the attainment of "authenticity" or "self-actualization," before psychological desire begins to align well with harm. Lynn Rudder-Baker had four criteria on when a desire is free, but they escape me right now.

    So, it seems like we reach a point where furthering our epistemic ability to properly distinguish harm itself becomes itself a moral imperative. Acting justly requires knowledge, and knowledge consolidation is a social activity, requiring institutions. In this way, I think we can recognize objective moral goals, the prerequisites for achieving a perfected morality, even when the moral facts of the matter re some specific even appear hazy and subjective. And such goals aren't easy to attain and efforts to do so face trade offs, which seems to open a role for the sort of pragmatic thinking that moral realism often seems to squeeze out.
  • The Insignificance of Moral Realism

    Maybe I'm not following, but this seems fairly circular. Moral realism is irrelevant because there are no objective facts about morality. But isn't that the very question at hand? It seems like begging the question to claim that we cannot obtain objective facts about "the good."

    In many conceptions of moral realism, as I will discuss further below, facts about good and evil are facts in the same sense the fact of who won the 1986 World Series is a fact. Actually, for some, like the early Proclus and Plotinus-inspired Saint Augustine, such facts are more objective, more sure, because they are facts about the higher hypostasis of Nous, Universal Mind, and can be known through contemplation and the application of logic alone, rather than through our demonstrably unreliable senses. What we today term empirical facts would be of a lesser factual quality, being statements about accidents rather than essence.

    But I'll quote another poster as a good segue into this:

    A fact cannot be moral or immoral. Not for the reasons you are stating but by definition.
    A fact is something known to exist or having occured. It may come from something that has been committed, but this is irrelevant; it does not define it. Facts can be also regarded as information, knowledge. We cannot say that an information or knowledge is moral or immoral, can we?

    What can be moral or immoral is an act, a decision, speech, behavior, etc., i.e. things humans do. (Sometimes, lack of action (omissions) can be considered as immoral, i.e. when we should do something but we don't.)

    Based on the above, and since "facts" are a central element in your description, I'm afraid I can't go any further, since it makes not sense to me. Sorry about that. :sad:

    It might be useful to differentiate here between propositions, statements about the world that are true or false, and states of affairs, descriptions of reality that either obtain or fail to obtain. We use the term "fact" to describe both these abstractions, but contemporary metaphysics breaks them out because this causes confusion.

    A proposition cannot be good or evil. Its values are true or false (and maybe neither). If we are a moral realist though, a state of affairs can be good or evil.

    How this works depends on your definition of good and evil. I will just throw out two forms of moral realism that I think are compatible with moral "facts," as defined as: "there exists state of affairs that we can say are more or less good or evil relative to some other state of affairs based on criteria that are every bit as objective as anything in the empirical sciences."

    180Proof's definition above would seem to truck with this concept. However, I will describe some simpler forms of moral realism because it's easier to see how subjectivity is tamed as well as it ever can be in these.

    First, the classic "God is the arbiter of what is good and evil." Here, we have a creator of the universe. We can ignore the Euthyphro question about whether God loves what is good because God is good or if what is good is good because it is beloved by the God(s) (Plato's polytheistic context made this question a bit more tricky, because the Gods sometimes disagreed with each other.)

    In any event, God is a metaphysical ground for morality. The good or evil of an act can be judged via God's eternal response to it. An act's morality has consequences as well, objective ones. E.g., you either experience the New Earth in a perfected body or are thrown into the Abyss depending on your actions. In this way, we can envision operationalizing morality in terms of future outcomes in the very same way we would do in the sciences, granted that such theorizing would need to wait until the Judgement Day to allow for collection of airtight data. But that's a different question about our knowledge of good and evil. The point here is that facts about good and evil are metaphysically possible and causally efficacious; thus, they make a difference.

    Second, consider a more sophisticated conception of good and evil. Saint Augustine of Hippo claimed that evil is not a substance. This was his key argument in Against the Manicheas (he was a former member of that faith). Evil is simply the absence of good, an imperfection such that a thing does not live up to its essence. A hole in a shirt is not a thing, it is absence, it is rather a failure of the shirt to fully embody its essence, to live up to its telos, purpose. In such a view, it seems possible to make objective statements as to how well a thing is perfected vis-a-vis its essence. There is a fact of the matter about gradations of perfection. Here, disease is the absence of health, out of equilibrium homeostasis, 180's harm.

    Now of course, there are plenty of critiques of essence as a concept, Neoplatonism, theism, etc. and you could easily reject the above views. That is aside the point though. There are also far more complex forms of moral realism, Hegel's emergence view being my favorite. But the above are two famous examples that are, on the face of it, rational enough and which allow for meaningful moral facts as statements about the relative goodness or badness of states of affairs. From there, it's easy to see that our choices can make some states of affairs obtain, and others fail to obtain. The moral person then, does what they can, based on their limited knowledge, freedom, and resources, to make the good states of affairs more likely and the evil less likely.

    Note that explanations of morality in terms of God or essence are not tautologies. Something isn't good because it is good, but is good because of its relation to a Creator, or an abstract entity.
  • Nobody's talking about the Aliens

    Right, it doesn't fit the bill for Hume. What I never understood though is how he could maintain his view on miracles when his thoughts on the problem of induction would seem to lead us to conclude that miracles are impossible to rule out, and can only be argued against by circular appeals to induction.
  • "Why I don't believe in God" —Greta Christina
    I've been writing an essay on this for awhile. As someone who grew up in a militantly atheist household and also has spent a lot of time a Evangelical churches (which preach conversion and the Great Commission above all else), I think there is a fundemental disconnect with how the Church writ large appeals to people. It is generally concerned with emotional appeals to people who grew up at least culturally Christian, and this is a diminishing share of the population. It doesn't address the two main issues I see, addressed in the OP.

    1. The idea that Christianity or religion in general is incompatible with naturalism, or requires belief in superstitions. I don't believe this is true, but it is a common conviction among both atheists and the faithful alike.

    2. That there is no explanation for religious pluralism within religious traditions themselves. There is only "well they are all wrong/lacked the Holy Spirit, we are right." Actually, the Catechism of the Catholic Church has a suprisingly ecumenical section on other sects, Ill try to find it. But polysemy was very big with the Church Fathers and such pluralism is not surprising if one assumes that God works, unfolds in God's immanent form, through world history.

    The dialectical churn of faith and reason seems to be what is needed to drive humanity towards goals like freedom, contemplation of the Absolute, self-development, etc. And indeed the Bible is an example where God starts off commanding from on high, then teaches laterally through fellow men in the Gospels and Acts, and then moves towards an indwelling, internal mode of self-development with the advent of Pentecost.

    The main barrier re naturalism I feel is that people have a fairly inaccurate view of what science says the world "must be like," the limits on speculation, where empirical fact begins to cull possibilities. While in the upper reaches of the sciences and philosophy it has long been accepted that 19th century corpuscular, reductive materialism has major problems, and I don't think modified versions even remain one of the more popular conceptions, it remains popular writ large. This is by far and away the most popular layman's interpretation of what science says "the world is like." Thus, even more sophisticated presentations of faith for the curious tend to result in people talking past each other, because you need vast detours into other areas to set up the ground work on which such arguments are made.

    Over time, people simplify and crystalize metaphysical views of the world, but this process has stagnated due to the fact that no one paradigm has come to replace that popular 140 years ago or so. Thus, you have a bit of an idiosyncratic grab bag floating out there.
  • Literary writing process

    Right, and it doesn't have a good solution I can think of. That's part of the problem. I tried to lighten it by making the modern plotline about budget disinfo merchants full of levity, a bit absurd, but I don't know if it works. It makes for stuff that is more fun to write at times though.

    Well, if we need inspiration…

    She shuffled some books on her desk, found what she was looking for, a small rectangular package. The label on the front of the package was a gold on orange holographic image. From one angel it showed a muscular, bearded man in a toga, rolling a stone up a steep hill. Depending on how you tilted the package, you could make the stone roll up or down the hill, in endless repetition. But, if you tilted it far enough, a totally new image would appear, the face of a man, eyes comically red. Many customers didn’t know it, but this was the face of the French existentialist, Albert Camus. Above his face popped out the words:

    Absurdly Good Weed(™)”

    Then, below the face:
    “One must imagine Sisyphus stoned.”

    She opened the package and pulled out a joint.

    And what sort of story would a disinfo merchant fall for?

    Hilde looked back down at the books cluttering her desk. Her eyes locked on Plato’s dialogue on the immortality of the soul, the Phaedo.


    Still, Chris wasn’t naive about what most people would say about their work. Purveyors of misinformation.Disinfo merchants. Propagandists. Liars. Trolls.

    Or, as one journalist for the Des Moines Register had put it, Nigel was “a rotund British cancer on the American body politic, not talented enough to metastasize, but hardly benign.”

    “Fucking self indulgent purple prose — who does this asshole think he is writing for?” Nigel had fumed, showing the article to Chris. “Not talented enough? I turn down bigger jobs all the time. I keep a low profile because I’m not a moron like this absolute pleb.”

    This had been during the phase when Nigel was using “pleb,” as his go-to insult. The insult held no classest connotations when wielded by Nigel. He frequently painted billionaires and officials in high office with the label.

    “Pleb,” for Nigel, was short for “plebian of the soul,” a term he had adopted after being turned on to the works of the ultra-conservative, caste-system-advocating, esotericist, Julius Evola. He had come across the facism-adjacent, wizard, or sorcerer, or what-the-fuck-ever people who do “magic” call themselves, via some godforsaken VR community that Nigel had been frequenting back then.

    Evola had convinced Nigel that he was an “aristocrat of the soul.” From that it followed that his enemies were “the plebs,” the low-class mob hoping to drag others down to their level of “spiritual mediocrity.” This was worse than Economic Marxism — worse than Cultural Marxism even — this was… Spiritual Marxism.

    Nigel had been particularly insufferable during this period, frequently accusing Chris of “Spiritual Marxism” and its attendant ills, whenever Chris had pushed back on his increasingly unhinged ideas. For Chris, the turn had been evidence that even his boss, so astute in fathoming the psychology of the masses, was not immune to the lure of intrigue, controversy, and self-flattery.

    It had also been a period of significant “biohacking,” Nigel’s preferred term. Biohacking was “the rational and intentional alteration of one’s own neurochemistry to help maximize productivity, achieve one’s goals, and fully realize one’s potential.” It was, “better living through science,” “the use of entheogens to achieve a fit-to-purpose physicochemistry conducive to the demands of the modern workplace.”

    Biohacking, per Nigel, was a premier example of “the application of Logos to Psyche,” the “triumph of Gnosis over Eros.”

    Chris had secretly thrown out the man’s cocaine stash, a key “biohacking reagent,” after he had, only half-jokingly, referred to it as “Aristocrat’s Powder.”

    In retrospect, this inflation of the man’s eccentricities had foreshadowed his downfall, the end of the first company, and his fourteen month, all expenses paid “vacation” to the Yazoo City Federal Corrections Complex. He had been a bubble ready to pop, destined for the “Zoo.”
  • A question for Christians

    "Peak experience," is sort of an anachronism. It's from Maslow, working in the 1960s. It just means a powerful, intense experience that becomes a foundation for identity, defining, and highly memorable — a lens through which the world is viewed. Many mystics describe only a handful of such ecstasies, Boehme for example.

    Eckhart wasn't excommunicated, but his teachings were suppressed (half-heartedly), so you have a point there. However, he was never even officially condemned, just passages from his work. He did have a trail in Germany that tried to condemn him, but as a Benedictine he wasn't under their jurisdiction so it was a bit of an exercise. Only his university in Paris or the Pope could try him, Paris demured. He appealed to Avignon and a Papal committee reviewed his work. They turned up like 126 suspect statements, then dropped all but 28. Eckhart died mid trial, at 67-68, so not uncommon then.

    Normally, the issue would have been dropped but the Pope was facing multiple mystical challenges, particularly a feud with the Franciscans over if Christ and the Apostles owned property, and decided to release a bull condemning some of Eckhart's statements as "error or heresy." Not necessarily heresy. Eckhart himself never really was forced to recant, his recantation, which he gave readily, just says "I reject anyone who misreads my work as not being catholic teaching and orthodox." Funny stuff.

    Really, he was more someone who got caught up in political feuds and a larger wave of, in some cases obviously unorthodox mysticism.

    He was still buried with the full rights and honors of his position and has since been rehabilitated. That so much of his writing survived and that he influenced Boheme, Hegel, etc. so much shows the condemnation didn't really have much influence in the end, people saw it as the political gesture it was.

    Not that the Church wasn't burning people for heresy then, the same Pope who started the inquest on Eckhart had four Franciscans burnt over the question of Christ's poverty around the same time period. It's just that Eckhart's internal looking mysticism never aroused the same political passions.
  • Literary writing process

    Thanks for the feedback. That's exactly the stuff I like to hear! That's why it's rough, not so much not having been edited for grammar, but I'm thinking I may need to break up the exposition. The main critique I've always heard of Bakker is that there is too much exposition up front. Same for Game of Thrones, I found the whole first book to be a bit sloggy. But I can turn the exposition into dialogue easy enough. I've been rereading the Black Company because I think Cook does a good job at this, even though his story and setting are much less complex.

    It's the second chapter, (really third, since I do interludes between each chapter), because it's a bit more abstract, less "grabby." But it's the one chapter where magic is front and center because the Refuge is the one place in the world where its common. I think I said the entire HRE stand-in has about 8 million people and can muster 1,600 sorcerers of varying ability in an earlier chapter, so fairly uncommon elsewhere, 0.02% or so.

    In any event, I'm sort of paused on this project because I started another one about people living for generations in an infinite house (labyrinth of rooms in every direction), and searching for a way out, interspersed with some modern story lines. It allows for a lot more dialogue and humor, less "genre fiction," and so I figured it likely has the wider appeal.
  • Reading "The Laws of Form", by George Spencer-Brown.

    Interesting. You would think that a process view would tend to collapse the distinction between abstract and physical. Maybe not.

Count Timothy von Icarus

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