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Tufted Titmouse
Tufted Titmouse

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03 Nov 2022, 10:59 pm

Please find a brief summary and link to the full document here:

Constructive feedback is welcome.

Mona Pereth

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04 Nov 2022, 3:54 am

Philosofer123 wrote:
Please find a brief summary and link to the full document here:

Constructive feedback is welcome.

Perhaps you could quote some especially important parts of it here, to get some conversation going on key points?

I doubt that the average reader of this forum is likely to plow through your entire document without first seeing some introductory conversation about it.

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04 Nov 2022, 12:19 pm

Yes it's rather long and at first glance seems to cover a lot of topics, so it'd take a long time to deal with the whole document.

Hmm.....there's a summary though - you nail your colours to the mast as follows:
Afterlife nihilism
Ultimate responsibility impossibilism
Moral nihilism
Thanatophobic irrationalism
Negative hedonism

I pretty much agree with most of those views. I suppose the nearest I can get to summing the whole thing up in a nutshell is that there's no such thing as spiritual. No deities, no afterlife, no absolute morality. My family didn't do God, so I wasn't strongly indoctrinated with any supernatural beliefs. I don't bother defending my position much these days, as nobody seems to challenge it with any sound, clear reasoning, but there was a time when I was very interested in the arguments. Nowadays I'm more interested in the origins of theism, in how the human race managed to get so wrapped up in it.

That doesn't cover all your main points, but it's some kind of a start. For the rest:

Ultimate responsibility impossibilism: I certainly doubt the existence of free will, though in practice that doesn't mean that I won't carry on acting as if I had choices, I won't down tools and sit about waiting for something else to drive me all the time, and I won't use it to excuse any harm I might happen to do. So I suppose I'm something of an "ultimate responsibility agnostic." I like the Zen thing, i.e. "when for example you pay attention to your breathing, are you doing it or is it happening to you?"

Thanatophobic irrationalism: The fear of death might be irrational, but I haven't been able to let go of it, probably because I'm programmed with a survival instinct. I can't prop myself up with a belief in an afterlife. I think that's one of the reasons why religion is still so popular (though I think it's declining) - the prospect of ceasing to exist frightens most people, and religion offers them a way to deny its inevitability via faith in an afterlife. Doesn't work on me because I don't believe it, because I don't see any evidence for it. For me, faith is pretending you know something you don't know, and once I know I'm pretending, I can't pretend it to myself any more.

Negative hedonism: I haven't thought of it as pursuing peace of mind before, though I suppose I do that. Mostly I try to ease my pain and maximise my happiness, which may amount to much the same thing. I see a paradox here - I think happiness tends to come to me as an unexpected by-product rather than as a result of my direct pursuit of happiness. So it may look as if the answer is to stop chasing happiness, but I'm one of those life-forms that's programmed to pursue happiness, so that's what I'll probably continue to do. Maybe it only becomes futile and self-defeating when it's taken to extremes. I think by nature I'm a "fair-weather hedonist," which is like a fair-weather friend who makes for the exit door the moment their friend ceases to please them, only I don't usually do that with people, I sometimes find myself doing it with the pursuit of happiness.

For example, I collected tons of music recordings in the hope of giving myself a bit of pleasure, and found that I didn't like most of them, so I put them all into a computer program that allowed me to audition every song in turn and select the ones I liked as a shortlist, a concentrated list of the "best" music. But as I had so many recordings and was impatient for a result, I took to rejecting anything that hadn't really pleased me after I'd heard the first few bars, or it would have taken forever.

I got my shortlist of "great" tracks eventually, but it didn't work out very well, because after hearing it a few times the music lost its charm, and I realised that a lot of the music I'd rejected might have pleased me more if I'd given it more time. So although my program was of some use, I found it rather limited, and had to concede that the idea of pursuing the best music with "maximum efficiency" like that didn't really work as well as I'd hoped. I think the pursuit of happiness in general is much the same - I can, and probably should, directly pursue it, but I'll come unstuck if I expect it all to come to order, and to a degree I have to accept that the whole game is out of my control.


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04 Nov 2022, 1:20 pm

I generally find the theism/atheism debate awkward because mine's a minority position (albeit growing) and offering it tends not to be appreciated by either side other than very geeky/niche conversation. I have strongly suggested to people in such debates in the past that most of people's passion on the topic is really political and about political ramifications, though again it's like talking to Democrats or Republicans about transcending party - they don't like it.

There are some things on this list that I'd agree with, particularly:

ultimate responsibility impossibilism - around 2009 I ended up coming to a hyperdeterminist viewpoint, although admittedly for what we are as living organisms with homeostasis and certain biological achievements as goals it's very difficult to do a whole lot that's useful with this other than taming an excessively external locus of control if you're suffering from that (which at the time I was).

negative hedonism - to an extent the script your running in your head either has to be congruent with reality or at least be achievable. Breaking big dreams into smaller pieces is fine but they're best left as that unless the smaller pieces really start launching you.

Some other items I'd add some thoughts on:

- Atheism - I still need to read John Gray's 'Seven Types of Atheism' but I have heard him do hour plus interviews on the book and I do like his approach, ie. not taking ontological commitments to what any of this is, not even taking reductive materialism particularly serious, but deeply considering that this world and the results of Darwinian evolution, the way entropy works, etc. tends not to suggest that we're being morally tested by an Abrahamic deity (from what I have read by him, Straw Dogs and Soul of the Marionette, he brings up Daoism as the closest behavioral match to how nature operates).

- Afterlife nihilism - This is a 'bring your own evidence' topic and said evidence one way or another is discarded just as glibly (I still can't avoid taking that as group identity and virtue signaling dominating pursuit of truth, not on people's conclusions but how they conduct these conversations in practice as a dunking contest - IMHO indistinguishable from political debate). I'd add to that - I both don't really care what other people believe up or down on this and I haven't been persuaded that people need to worry about their beliefs on this topic impacting an experience afterward if such exists. What I think can work on a functional level for people is that it's better to consider that even if you don't have kids sentient life will go on and you do need to leave a world worth inheriting to either your own or other people's children or grand children. Yes, that idea sits awkwardly with hyperdeterminism but for what it's worth we at least have the illusion of agency, our emotions compel that illusion, and our lives and their coherence are largely built on it. Add that so many aspects of our lives are unavoidably social to the degree that taking a truly sociopathic or even psychopathic view of the rest of humanity doesn't work well for one's own inner structure (and spending a lot of time with Sam Vaknin's breakdown of narcissistic personality disorder it neither sounds fun to have, nor acquire as most of the time it's a result of severe trauma).

- Moral nihilism - I disagree on this from Sam Harris grounds, ie. that conscious experience frames this and his example of a place where existence is perpetual unending agony could be realistically labeled as 'bad' if the word 'bad' has any meaning at all. I don't know if moral hedonism completely frames this, you'd leave cut outs and exception for completely meaningless existence where a person is kept alive sedated unconscious from birth to death as missing partiicipation and value but this is also tricky. One could also say that a life which is only wage slavery and economic consumption is a waste albeit it has to be admitted that for some people there's not a lot else that's in their cognitive reach (which isn't their fault) so that one's more individual. I think the trouble is we're still trying to figure out what consciousness is and does - beyond just externalizing entropy on environment via consumption. I find a lot of John Vervaeke's thoughts on relevance realization interesting as well as the other thinkers / philosophers he tends to discuss these things with.

- Thanatophobic irrationalism - It seems more irrational if you have no one depending on you for their survival or well being. The other part, as equilibrium systems, every moment of life and everything we do that isn't suicide seems to be maintenance of health, staving off entropy, and anything from going to the gym, hiking, sport, taking the right supplements, seeing the doctor periodically for checkups, all the way to having a glass of water or something to eat (or choosing the whole grain cereal over the donuts) all has avoidance of entropy encoded in it. To that degree we seem to be hedging our bets against ill health, and ultimately death, as our constant priority. This is where you have to separate conscious and unconscious activity or concerns, ie. this kind of 'procedural' fear of death is very unconscious and it comes from the fundamental that consciousness wants to, by default, assure it's own well being from moment to moment (there's some hypothetical possibility that this isn't an absolute default but - Darwinian evolution selected for those who were wired that way in the same way as it selects for sex drive). There's also the CO2 Challenge where people breath air with 25% CO2 and reliably have panic attacks as a result, that says a lot about this. To that the word 'irrational' seems to apply to conscious beliefs without evidence, it doesn't seem as applicable to noncognitive processes (you can use it that way but IMHO it comingles categories in ways that cost insight).

- Negative hedonism - I wouldn't say approach this unalloyed. I think Mark Solms nailed something to the wall when he says that emotions are for homeostasis, ie. we're trying to keep healthy dynamic equilibrium within our own systems, ends to emotional states are then processed at the cerebral level for action in the world. Well, there's two things actually - homeostasis for internal governance and then organism goals such as education, successful competition, vocation, children, etc.. You have to take both pleasure and abstaining from it in that context. There is something to be said in favor of voluntary dopamine fasting, fasting in general has been known both from history in the religious context to modern neuroscience as having beneficial metabolic and cognitive effects, but at the same time there are times and places for patching yourself up at the end of a rough week as well and it doesn't have to be hookers and blow (and then there's epicurianism as a view for managing sex and substances as a tool with specific application - which is what I tend toward).

“Love takes off the masks that we fear we cannot live without and know we cannot live within. I use the word "love" here not merely in the personal sense but as a state of being, or a state of grace - not in the infantile American sense of being made happy but in the tough and universal sense of quest and daring and growth.” - James Baldwin