Monday, June 14, 2021

News: 14 June 2021

I started this blog in February of 2019, then took a break from December 2019 to May 2020. I've worked at it from then until now. In this 2020 - 2021 period, I've focused on MSLN, a natural theology that mirrors a particular system of Biblical doctrines. I find myself now having looked a bit at epistemology, and something in me says to take a break. Perhaps it is that my interests are turning toward the Bible and Christianity (more so than in the past), and I feel like I want to get oriented in that space before trying to write blog posts. I spent from the fall of 2018 to the middle of 2020 working on the notes that underpinned MSLN. So maybe I'm preparing to do something like that, but in a different area.

Here are the projects that I may have intended to pursue over the last year: 1) develop a natural theology that can be held with high enough credence that it can affect policy and technology design, or even culture. Two inputs: all that exists is consciousness (still need to examine plausibility of dualism) and unbearable suffering. (There's more work to be done here, but here we have a rough draft.) 2) develop a solution to the problem of evil. (I don't know how much more detail someone would want, but I think I have an adequate basic idea.) 3) articulate New Wine Christianity (Some progress.) 4) develop a response to transhumanism. (Some progress.) 5) develop some kind of epistemology. (A beginning.)

And maybe there are others that don't come to mind right now.

At this point in my project, maybe I want to take a break because I'm tired. I think that if I could have any wish granted, with respect to my intellectual project, it would be for someone who is qualified in areas I am not to take on some of my project, whether by being influenced by it, or even taking parts of it on as their own. At this point, I don't see myself having the skill (or the energy to acquire the skill) to (for instance) learn how to write an academic paper, or come up with an EA Forum-worthy presentation of the EA-relevant parts of my project. What I have currently is not ready to write up, but I don't feel like I can get it ready by myself, and actually doing the write-up is also beyond where I am currently.

It's entirely possible that I will keep having new ideas following on from the blog posts of the last year, and posting them, but I feel like taking a break, and I thought I would mark this as a possible endpoint to one phase of this blog.

Book Review and Postview: Warranted Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga

I will start this review of Warranted Christian Belief, by Alvin Plantinga, by answering my questions from the preview:

I got my copy of Warranted Christian Belief in the mail yesterday. I have read this book, back when I was college, probably in 2008 or 2009. So I have a vague memory of what it says, beyond its basic premise.

Here are some questions I'm interested in answering:

It could be claimed that Reformed epistemology equally justifies Islamic belief, so how can we tell between Christianity and Islam? This is potentially a very important question, because both of them teach hell. If one of them is right and we don't believe it, we may end up not being saved. Does Plantinga have anything to say that closes off the possibility of other religions being just as justified as Christianity via their own properly basic beliefs?

This isn't exactly how Plantinga put it. He was trying to see if the beliefs of others offer a defeater for properly basic Christian belief. I'm not sure I understand him perfectly, but I think his argument boils down to: "I can ought to believe what I perceive myself even though everyone else contradicts me." This is something that similarly convinced Muslims could say.

Do warranted Christian beliefs have anything to do with the fact of the matter whether God exists? If not, then why would we want them? If they do, then don't they furnish some sort of evidence that the Christian God exists? And then, Muslim perceptions of God also should furnish some sort of evidence.

Plantinga gives the example of a man who is mistakenly accused of a crime (p. 450). All the evidence points to his guilt. But the accused knows that he was taking a hike far from the crime scene at the time of the crime. Should he believe his own memory rather than the accusations? Well, it seems like he should. But maybe the reason why is because he has a superior reason to know his own whereabouts than those who accuse him. So then, do Christians have a superior reason to know the "whereabouts" of God than Muslims do? There might be a way to make that case, but it wouldn't be solely on the basis of properly basic belief. I think it would have to come from some kind of reason.

Trying to build off of Plantinga, what's going on when a Muslim and a Christian each talk about God? They each perceive Something. They both say that that Something is God. Maybe each of them perceives a different being who only claims to be God. One view (the occult scene's view, or something like one of their views:) --There are spiritual nations, nations of spiritual beings. The Christian nation, which has no superior claim to legitimacy, wars against the nation that includes the occult (and their fellow travelers). Christian prayers and Christian religious experiences are all part of the spiritual economy that fuels the war. Basically, there is a polytheism, and the Christian god is just one of many.-- From this, it's not so strange for the Muslim god and the Christian god to each appear before their followers. Perhaps also not strange for them to each claim to be "the" God. So which one of them, if any, is telling the truth? Plantinga helps to validate that gods can talk to humans, that when it seems like they do, some god is responsible. But I would say that God is not God because he is powerful and can communicate with individuals in a powerful way, but because he is legitimate. Given all of the warring spiritual armies, which one of them is really good? That's the question we should have, when confronted with the influence of spiritual beings. So then we would ask, is the Christian God plausibly the one telling the truth? Is the Christian God really morally better than the Muslim god?

A second possibility is that the Muslim and the Christian are both perceiving the same God. From a Christian perspective, the Muslim is really praying to and worshiping the Father, Son, and Spirit when he turns himself toward the God who speaks through the sensus divinitatis. He mistakenly thinks that that God is as described in the Quran, rather than the Bible. (The Quran, perhaps, was a product of a spiritual nation at war with the real God.) But he is actually worshiping the same God as the Christian.

In either case, why should the Christian think he is more likely to be the one worshiping the correct God, or having the correct understanding of God, any more than the Muslim? Maybe some kind of reason can be given, but I think it has to go beyond Plantinga's theory.

Another objection: If I have what reasonably enough seems to me to be a properly basic belief in God, and then it goes away (and maybe then comes back, and then goes away, and so on), what should I think about whether God really does exist? Should I trust the beliefs in God when they come? Does Plantinga address this at all?

I don't think that Plantinga addresses this at all (although I might have missed it). Maybe he could say something like "Well, when you see God, you perceive God. Suppose you see a city off in the distance. As you journey toward it, the fog obscures it. Now you're not sure you saw a city. Then the fog lifts and you see it again. The memory of seeing the city clearly should dominate the fact that the city disappears in the fog. Probably there's such a thing as object permanence, and the city was there the whole time, just covered with fog. Probably there is something like object permanence with God, and you were just in the fog when you didn't believe." If he were to say that, I would find that reasonably satisfying. God seems like the kind of being who would exist all the time. So if I saw God off in the distance, once, I should assume that he still exists. It might be difficult for me to have faith in my memory (in the phases when I don't believe), but not because that faith would be unjustified if I could have it.

A question: did Abraham have warranted [not exactly "Christian", but maybe we could say "Yahwist"] belief? We have the benefit of billions of fellow Christians to validate our belief. But he was alone at first. If there was someone like him in our day, we would likely think him to be a crazy person who trusted the "voices in his head". How did Abraham know that he was listening to God? Did he not even really know? The Bible presents him as an exemplar of faith. Should we believe like Abraham? I'm wondering if Plantinga addresses this to any extent. (A side question: what is the Bible's epistemology?)

I somewhat expected to see something in Warranted Christian Belief about this, based on a memory that Plantinga talked about it. Again, it's possible I missed it, but I don't think it was in this book. I may have gotten it from Faith and Rationality (by him and some other people), which I also read back in college.

This cuts to a possible criticism of WCB, that once you allow that God can speak his own existence to people directly, he can also command them to do anything. The Holy Spirit could move a person to do anything, and how could anyone object to them? It's like the man who was taking a hike but who seemed to everyone else to be committing a crime. Well, if their evidence overwhelmed his in court, he would have to go to jail or prison. But he would know that he was innocent. Likewise, someone led by God could consider themselves justified in what they did, no matter what the consequences were, as long as it seemed to them like it was God who was talking to them.

What I thought I remembered Plantinga having said before is that there's some kind of "popularity filter" for beliefs that seem to be from God. Christianity is certainly popular enough that its "great truths" are safely attested to. But still, would Abraham's be popular enough?

One could raise the point that if I think I have something from the Spirit, then what if everyone else thinks they have something contradictory from the Spirit? I can't just be sure that I'm right and they're wrong. But then why not ask if maybe the Muslims are right and the Christians are wrong? We're all trying to figure out what God is saying to us. Maybe a kind of libertarianism is called for. The Muslims and the fanatical Christians can pursue their non-mainstream-Christian beliefs, as though they have been spoken to by the Spirit to that effect, and unless they sufficiently harm or hinder each other or mainstream Christians, they let each other be themselves. This seems like a reasonable social or political solution.

On the other hand, maybe it's possible to filter out Muslim beliefs or certain Christian beliefs. We might be able to say, for instance, that some leadings just couldn't come from God, could not be things that the Spirit would say, based on what we know about God. That filter would probably come from some form of reason, other than the reason given by Plantinga. Maybe we would accept the Bible or Quran as authorities, for some reason, and apply what they suggest using reason. Or we might turn to some kind of natural theology.

Here is a question / set of questions that, to be fair, may not need to be answered by Plantinga, for being outside his area of expertise, and that I don't really expect the text to directly address. But maybe after I'm done reading the book, I will have a better idea of what I think the answer is, and I can report it when I do the postview for this book. The question is, to what extent does adopting a Reformed epistemology-based approach to belief incline a person to no longer index themselves to reason, and therefore not feel driven to any of reason's other conclusions, the whole skein of perceptions, intellectual relations, and cause-and-effect in which people live?

Is this an approach to truth that inclines us to weep like Jesus (who was weeping when technically he didn't have to, because of his superior divine knowledge), or more toward a kind of inactivity, or even self-satisfaction? For the portion of the church that has learned that faith is superior to reason in producing belief in God, is there a danger that that attitude produces ineffective, unproductive Christians? Perhaps also Christians who can no longer relate to the people who don't have that faith that's superior to reason. Do we trust reason less when our assurance of salvation no longer comes through it, and thus fail to follow the law of reason which normally forces us to interact with the world?

Can we become intellectually lazy about the nature of God? If belief is something that we can directly access and which suffices for us, do we assume too easily that we understand God, and do not correct our understanding through natural theology or even Scripture study (which are both based in reason)?

I don't think Plantinga would say that reason doesn't matter at all, since he went to the trouble to write a 500 page book that is based in reason, to try to justify taking faith as properly basic. But I think there's something semi-fideist if not fideist about the idea that "it's rational to just have faith through the belief that you have", more so than something like "it's rational to have faith because of [MSLN or something like it, a chain of reasons, reasons like "there's a high likelihood that all that exists is consciousness"]".

Plantinga did not address any of that, as expected. In theory, a Christian should care about secular reality because it has something to do with the temporal, and even eternal, well-being of people. This would follow from truly warranted Christian belief. An evangelical Christian ("little-e" evangelical) would care as much about secular reality, in principle, as a rationalist Christian. A Reformed, "semi-Reformed", or fideistic Christian would, if they were evangelical. But if they weren't evangelical, they wouldn't. Or they might care, but only coincidentally.

A person (that's all we are, personal beings) is responsible to another spiritual reality, or to none at all. This responsibility is awakening, and produces reality in a person. If we are responsible to God, or to reason, or to the lost, then we care about something, and that includes secular reality. Some people care, and some people don't. Some people respond to responsibility and accept it, while others turn away from responsibility. Some people care but don't want to care, and deep down, they don't. Does it matter what we believe intellectually? I think that Reformed epistemology, by itself, does not incline me to care, not as much as more rationalist takes on belief. So I find it suspicious, dubious, even if its reasoning is valid. Perhaps it causes some people to care who wouldn't have, otherwise. Is fideism an excuse to take things easy? Is that what trust in God really means? I think a fideist who recognizes this danger can run from the temptation, while still being a fideist. A Christian fideist, if truly a Christian, still recognizes reason, for Christian reasons.

--

How can we form or hold beliefs that have some connection to reality outside ourselves? I think this is the real question of epistemology, not "what is justification?" or "what is warrant?". Those questions ought really to be about trying to answer the question "how can we form or hold beliefs that have some connection to reality outside ourselves?"

After reading Plantinga (though not necessarily because of what he said), it seems like "good epistemology is a case of 'you know it when you see it'". You know when you have a good criterion for how to believe when you see it, feel it, understand it. There are certain things that everyone feels to be valid, and some other things that you can hold even when other people don't think they're valid (like if you have a better angle on something). But there are some things that you can't hold if other people don't think they're valid. You just can't. We are all subject to a big "is", which is "what good believing feels like it ought to be". But we take this "is" to be an "ought".

The epistemology I like best (I think) is one of love, or of altruism. So then we should be concerned about the threats to things, and reach out to know things. This leads us into evangelism and altruism, and to reason. I think something like this is probably what God would want us to believe, if he existed.

Also I think about the ought-nature of "ought" (what ought ought to be, and thus is). What we are allowed to know, whatever restriction that says we can't know, is a law imposed on us as personal beings, as is all of reality. So what can make reality valid enough to have a claim on us? I think only one which is made by or is an extension of a legitimacy which is personal and which bears the burdens of its laws to the full extent possible, and this implies God who is Father and Son (in legitimist terms. I think this is something that many people would not accept, but which I think they could if they practiced more simantist-style thinking, which I think is in keeping with what we actually observe, as personal beings.

The world can best be improved if we believe that the ideal is the foundation of reality, even of non-ideal reality. "Ought" enables us to believe as we ought to, not pinned down by "is". (In fact, there could be a characteristically "ought"-style believing, and I think probably we ought to believe that way.) I see "is" thinking in Plantinga, which I suppose is to be expected, since that's the default for knowers. But I want to say that "ought" is the more fundamental reality than "is" -- and somehow we smuggle "ought" in to help us avoid the worst skepticism, even in the middle of our soberly "is"-oriented epistemology.

I've looked more at epistemology over the last two months or so, and that's my tentative conclusion about it: reality is "ought", so believe what is in accordance with "ought". That is how you will be in tune with reality.

MSLN Creation Account

A quick MSLN creation account:

One reading of the MSLN creation story is that the Father started out barely a person at all, with perhaps bare free will, consciousness, the capacity to barely communicate, to trust and be betrayed, and the ability to "birth" another being. The first being he created was the Son, and they communicated with each other. Patterns of communication produce trust, and more elaborate communications produced deeper trust. These became the simantic words. The Father was bearing the burden of the Son's consciousness through omnisubjectivity, and the Son was bearing what he could of the Father's burden. The Father and Son cared about each other's well-being. By creating the simantic words, they were creating what it meant to be a person, creating their own natures. Each choice they made was right, and established some element of well-being. Eventually, they reached a place of completion, where they knew who they were. Now it was time to create more beings, who wouldn't automatically and inherently be in tune with that initial legitimacy.

A somewhat more orthodox view (from a Christian perspective) is that this process of co-creation was somehow always already done, was something done over eternity past.

I tend to want to be skeptical of actual infinites, which makes me skeptical of eternity past. So I favor the first account.

Democracy and Burden-bearing

Democracy can be seen as "the people who bear the burdens of the laws are given the right to make the laws". Governments derive their legitimacy from "the consent of the governed" -- that is, the people, the citizens, as the source of legitimacy (in the political if not metaphysical realm), lend their legitimacy to the government by consenting to it.

Bearing Burdens is Necessary if not Sufficient

When I talk about legitimacy, I say that absolute ought can't be argued with, and that this requires that the laws of reality are instituted by a being which is disposed to take on the full burden possible, of what the law exacts. I think it may seem that I mean that that is both necessary and sufficient for legitimacy. So this note is just to clarify that there may well be more to legitimacy than just burden-bearing. But burden-bearing is a necessary condition.

Currently, the Father and Son (and I suppose the Spirit) of the Bible fit the bill for "burden-bearers". If there were additional conditions for legitimacy, maybe they would not live up to those. The Bible would still be a useful document in giving us some idea of what legitimacy prefers, although not as strongly as if there were no conflicting additional conditions. Christianity (at least of the major religions) is the most legitimate, and we have some reason to think that the Father, Son, and Spirit may be "hazy" views of the truly legitimate God, and that the Bible is a similarly "hazy", but useful source of the true God's preferences.

But for now, at least, I think the God of Christianity is the only one of the major religions (and possibly of all religions?) that fits the bill of legitimate, and this recommends the Bible to us.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Is-believing vs. Ought-believing

Epistemic status: provisional. I haven't fully tested this idea.

I read through some old notes from 2016 and 2017, and I'm struck by how much I lived in the world of "is" back then. There was a lot about how we don't really know anything, we just trust; how there isn't any ought, things just are; and there was quite a lot of me talking about whatever psychological state I was in, under the assumption that truth can be found by looking to the "is" of psychology and diaristic lived experience, rather than the "ought" of philosophy or religion.

I find myself now more on the side of "ought". This blog, while still somewhat "formulaless", still aspires, at least overall, to talk about truth the way truth ought to be, according to topics, building up a knowledge-base.

I am aware that according to "is", there is no such thing as knowledge. There's always a way, imaginable or not, that we could be wrong. There is even a way, imaginable or not, that what is likely to be true is false, despite the unlikeliness of the alternative view. There is infinite possibility and only the bare given, and any concepts we apply to the given, we have no proof of having anything to do with its real nature. We generally ignore all that and believe things as though there is knowledge, and we all more or less approve of each other doing that. So we don't question all the way down.

But is reality something that fundamentally is, or is it something that fundamentally ought to be? It seems like some "ought" creeps into most people's thinking, to avoid the profundities of "is"'s nihilistic agnosticism. That things are as they should be allows us to interpret them, to take them as meaningful, to be able to process them with our minds in an intelligible way. And while I could argue that this is merely a "practical epistemology", that is, we bring in "ought" for practical purposes, I think we are often not aware of that potential motive, and didn't decide to think that way for that purpose. What I have called "descriptive epistemology" concerns itself with things that, with effort, a person could still disbelieve, out of a diehard commitment to "is". But we know them nonetheless. The foundations of knowledge have to include some "ought", and maybe this is just the way knowledge is, and unbridled "is" is not the fundamental principle of reality.

(After writing this and coming back to it, I see that a reader might still not grasp what I mean when I say "is" and "ought". Maybe it is helpful to think of "is" as "that which just is" and "ought" as "what ought to be". In our materialism bias world, we think that "ought" is "patterns that humans impose on reality, or wish to find in reality". But in a "less-traditional modern society" (not as materialism-biased), we could say "ought itself has its own being and its own deserving (the ought equivalent of is's "being"), which ultimately derives from a non-human source".)

If "ought" is part of reality, then can we "ought-believe"? Or are we stuck in "is-believing"? "Is-believing" is when you are in your natural state, using the flesh of your brain, going with your gut, using the rational faculties that are given by evolution or (fallen?) created biology. "Ought-believing" is when you see that something is justified but the difficulty in considering it to be knowledge ("justified true belief") comes in the "believing" part. If something makes sense but feels unnatural to believe, we find ourselves sketched out, edging away from the belief, simply forgetting the issue and going on with natural believing. But ought-believing is a disciplined believing. Is-believing is the way of being pulled this way and that by moods and spirits, which sprout in our natures, while ought-believing is the way of freedom from all that.

What is "faith"? Faith may be is-believing, where the "is" is provided by God. Or faith may be ought-believing, where we grip onto a piece of wood to save ourselves, rather than hoping in the ocean liner of "is".

Aside from faith, I can think of three examples where I find I can believe according to ought-believing, but less so or not at all according to is-believing: 1. The notion that there is no such thing as knowledge because we can never know anything -- there is always a possibility of us being wrong for reasons we can't imagine. I can't is-believe this. In this case, ought-believing is needed to fully apply "is". 2. Most of Berkeley (at least, his basic immaterialist project), I find is-believable, but his insistence that an idea is inert and its being is to be perceived, and a mind is just that which perceives and acts on ideas, and anything else is inconceivable (or, the way I could put it a little differently, nothing beside consciousness can contact us metaphysically) I find possibly ought-believable, but less so is-believable. (A similar formulation that I definitely find ought-believable, and strangely only equally is-believable, though it is a weaker claim, is "All we know exist are minds and ideas. Everything else is doubtful.") 3. To some extent, I can find the following statement is-believable, but to some extent, only ought-believable: "That which is must ought to be, and ought to be absolutely; absolute ought comes from incontrovertible legitimacy; only a person (or set of persons) who was disposed to experience the full burdens of reality could ought to have founded all of what absolutely is and ought to be; such a person (or set of persons) exists and is legitimacy". I feel most comfortable affirming this statement, of the three, according to justification and according to a basic sense of trustworthiness. But if I remain in "is"-believing, I can't believe it fully.

Is ought-believing trustworthy? We could ask "Is is-believing trustworthy?" Is ought-believing affirmed by is-believing? Is is-believing affirmed by ought-believing? Ought-believing (or the mindset and truthset that go with ought-believing) would find is-believing incomplete or insufficient. Is-believing would not affirm ought-believing, but should we care what is-believing thinks? I can see that ought could be a substantial realm of reality. So why should I limit myself to "is"? (It is as though to fully explore "the way things ought to be", I must leave the areas where "is" and "ought" overlap, and ought-believing is the way to do this.)

Someone who can see (and isn't colorblind) can know from experience that flowers are colorful, and needn't be worried when a blind person objects that according to touch, there is no such thing as color. Certainly many of us have been disappointed before, and of course we all have the biological slavery to survival, and I can see how that could inhibit belief, but why not believe not according to the "is" of your own pain and fear, and instead according to the "ought" of "seeing whatever is out there just to see it"? Certainly "is" is understandable, but if we are seeking truth, then "ought" is better-justified. Ought-believing goes along with ought-thinking, which is a more disciplined (and thus in some ways saner) way to think.

I think ought-believing can turn into is-believing. I've experienced this. If you try on a thought enough, you start to see the world that way. So if you try on thoughts that you ought to, with ought-believing, you may eventually be able to believe according to is-believing.

I would contrast ought-believing with the "beauty" of Destruction and Beauty in that (speaking as the author, privileged to know what I meant when I wrote it), the "beauty" in it is something which, like much beauty, is very "is", is a powerful pull on natural tastes. Otherwise, you could find a degree of analogy between "beauty-believing" and "ought-believing".

Axiology ("Axizeiology"?)

When thinking about ought, what makes ought ought? When we ask what makes being be what it is, we are talking about "ontology". And I think that ought must have an ontology, or be connected to that somehow. I have tended to think that it must be "made of" consciousness, or be conscious, according to the consciousness monism that makes the most sense to me.

However, what really makes ought ought is its deservingness. That a law is valid is not just that it has ontological status (it's "on the books"), but that in some way it is worthy. The worthiness of the law is according to "axiology", from the Greek for "worthy".

Which comes first, ontology or axiology? Probably they have to go together and in a sense are one and the same thing. A dimension of being is deservingness, and deservingness is. What is deserves to be, according to its axiology.

--

The meaning of "axiology" that I first encountered (and I think is more common) is "a ranking of things according to worth" not "that which makes something worthy". So maybe it would be good to have a separate term for "that which makes something worthy", the analog to "ontology". Maybe the word could be "axizeiology", from the modern Greek for "deservingess". Generally I don't think want to coin new words, but I can see how this might be helpful.

Dimensionality of God's Point of View

How does God experience other people's exact consciousnesses at the same time as his own, and all other people's?

Humans experience in three dimensions (plus time). So it's hard for us to experience another three-dimensional experience at the same time as our own. However, we do experience two-(spatial)-dimensional experiences other than our own, when we watch movies. I could watch 10 movies at once if I wanted to, by arranging 10 screens in such a way that I could see them all. It's not particularly hard to imagine watching an arbitrary number of 2-dimensional movies -- there are physical limitations to how many screens I could view at one time, but it's not too hard to imagine how a sufficiently "large" being could, simply by scaling up human capacities without making a qualitative change, manage to perceive as many screens as desired.

By analogy, then, if God's consciousness is in at least four spatial dimensions, then it should not be too hard for him to perceive an arbitrary number of 3-dimensional consciousnesses.

Second Thoughts on Time

Some time after writing some first thoughts on time, I now have some more thoughts.

Before, I thought that time was something that could genuinely be experienced at different rates. So a kindergartener would find recess lasting longer than the (adult) playground attendant would, even though the clock said it was 15 minutes for both of them. The kindergartener moving constantly, and the playground attendant standing there. The kindergartener would literally experience, say, 30 minutes of recess, and the attendant only 7.5 minutes. The quantity of life lived, of existing, would be greater for the kindergartener than for the attendant. They could interact because they would be reconciled to a "master clock". Traditionally, this master clock would be physical time, and subjective time would be in some sense prone to illusion and not the bedrock reality.

In my system, I wanted to say that the master clock was God's experience of time. But then I had a hard time understanding how God could experience a 30 minute kindergartener recess with a 7.5 minute playground attendant recess at the same time, and really experience them in such a way that an event caused by a kindergartener could affect the playground attendant in a sensible way. For instance, at minute 20 of the kindergartener's recess, the attendant would already be done. So would God wait until minute 20 to convey the kindergartener's misdirected ball into the attendant's reality? This didn't sound good to me.

Now, I think that perhaps a better way to look at it is that subjective time is not a direct experience of the passage of time. We only exist in the moment, in which we have beliefs and perceptions about the past. Our ordinaristic experience is that we have a past and that time passes a certain way, but that very experience (that set of beliefs and perceptions about the time which has passed and how quickly it is passing) changes over time, and the new moments arise at a rate which is constant, fits some kind of master clock that all of us adhere to. Like with the anti-realism about matter that is necessary for consciousness monism, there must also be an anti-realism about perception of time. Our ordinaristic experience is that we experience matter, and time that varies in rate of experiencing. Material objects are perceptual objects, and subjective time is something like a perceptual object. We perceive our pasts, which are simantic words. The bedrock reality is still consciousness proceeding at a steady rate, and I would still say there is a "master clock", which is God speaking experience to all experiencing beings.

Human Nature Bias

Rationality is founded on what we find believable. Likewise, fideism is founded on what we find believable. What do we find believable? Where does that come from?

One answer is biology. Our brains are the way they are, so that is why we find certain things believable, and other things not believable. I don't think human nature is inherently biological, but it does seem that by altering the brain, we can alter even that non-biological reality (there's a tight correlation between brain and consciousness).

To the extent that the brain can be altered by people, we could alter what is believable. (If there's some aspect of human nature that does not respond to brain manipulation and that does respond to some other manipulation, then that too can be altered.) This would be a form of "overcoming bias", overcoming "human nature bias". But if we could overcome bias to an arbitrary degree, what should be believable? For whatever answer to that last question, how do we know that?

Maybe we could say that we should find believable that which promotes survival. If we didn't survive, we wouldn't exist. So, why should human existence be a criterion for what's believable? We have a strong survival bias. But why not overcome that bias? We also have a strong anti-pain bias. I can see that we probably would always choose to have that one. But should we? Do beliefs that follow anti-pain bias actually connect us with reality and thus tell us which beliefs should be believable? It might fit us for reproduction and to fit into our environments (or to bend in favor of whatever is using pain to control us), but why do we think that connects us to reality? Where does our concept of reality (i.e., the definition of the word) even come from?

But somehow we know that things matter and thus that there is such a thing as the truth / that which ought to be found believable. This is something we know as persons, even starting out from the Cartesian starting point. It's how we start out from that position.

It's somewhat like how we know that there is such a thing as morality, even if we tend to struggle to ground morality rationally. Maybe there is a set of valid believabilities, just like there could be a set of valid moral duties. In both cases, we would have to ground their validity in something that was not rooted in human nature. It would have to be rooted in "should" of some kind. What kind of ought can transcend human nature, and lay claim to being ultimate? Can we know anything about this ought, which would help us to know what we ought to find believable? Does this ought give us a reason to trust our existing believabilities, and to what extent?

If this ought is conscious, and a person, who values us, who is the seat of trustworthiness, who to a great extent understands simantic words the way we do, then we can know and trust this ought-person to speak reality to us in a basically trustworthy way, and there is a reason for our believabilities to be valid, and even for our alterations of our believabilities to be potentially valid, as long as they are compatible with belief in that ought.

But maybe there is some other explanation. Could ought be something impersonal? How much can we know about an impersonal ought, one which does not reduce to human nature? Can we know enough to validate any of our natural believabilities, and guide us as we gain the ability to change human nature?

Bias; Materialism Bias

This post contains both a working definition of bias and an example of a bias.

Bias is when what is not-strictly-rational is programmed into how we think or intuit.

Materialism is the belief that matter is real and its own substance just because it feels real, or the further belief that all that exists is matter. So materialism bias is when this belief goes beyond what is strictly rational. To some extent (to a large extent), we see things the way the others in our culture do, so a bias can be a societal thing, not just an individual thing. Materialism has been the underlying belief of atheists and practical atheists for the last few centuries.

It's possible that when we perceive matter to be real ordinaristically, that should count in favor of matter really being real. But I find it easy to think that the perception of matter being real may really be a perception. This informs how I look at material objects, ordinaristically. I see them as simultaneously material objects and perceptions -- as perceptual objects, perhaps. Whatever lingering sense I have that matter has to be its own thing to the exclusion of an immaterialist view is, in my view, a materialism bias.

I don't know exactly how to tell the difference between "this intuition is valid noetic perception" and "this is a bias". But I think it's possible for there to be biases, and for there to be such a thing as materialism bias. Perhaps simply by asking the question, people can sometimes introspect and see that they have been biased, instead of that they have perceived something noetically.

The arguments for immaterialism (the attractiveness of monism and the inescapability of the reality of consciousness) may provide enough reason to think materialism false, and that lingering intuitions to the contrary are probably bias.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Anger, Anxiety, Complacency, Passion in Intellectual Believing

Epistemic status: provisional, practical implications somewhat tested.

Alec Ryrie, in Unbelievers: An Emotional History of Doubt, traces two kinds of ways unbelief emerged in early modern Europe, two emotional regimes that produced it: anger and anxiety.

To simplify what he says: Angry unbelievers are angry at Christians and take it out on God by denying him. Anxious unbelievers are those who wish they could believe, but are afraid that they can't, and as their anxiety keeps them from trusting God, find that they can't.

I would add two more kinds of emotional regimes that can found unbelief: complacency, and passion. (There may be even more, but these are the two to add for this post.) Complacency might have been missed by Ryrie because he was studying how unbelief could arise in an overwhelmingly theistic society -- how theistic society could break its own theism. But complacency can motivate unbelief when unbelief is taken as an easy, available option. Passion, on the other hand, is neither complacency nor anxiety nor anger. One might disbelieve because it was apparently the right thing to do. A person could have a genuine passion for the truth and come out an atheist.

I'm not sure how to define passion, exactly. (What follows may need to be revised later.) Maybe it's like having a passionate hobby, or a passionate life pursuit. The truth can be something you pursue for its own sake, with more than just your thoughts. You can pursue truth in a fiducial way, in how you trust. You trust that path, but not in a way where you are primarily concerned with your own survival, comfort, or gain. Buber says that good is done with the whole soul. Maybe that is the best way to put it. Passionate truth-seekers pursue truth with their whole souls. Passion is trust, pursuit, and other-orientation.

At the same time, believers can believe out of anger, anxiety, complacency, and/or passion.

This post is concerned with epistemic or intellectual emotional regimes (epistemic or intellectual anger, anxiety, etc.). Anger, anxiety, complacency, and passion play out in other areas of life as well.

Which of these emotional regimes is most truth-conducive? One can easily see how anger and anxiety might not be. If you've ever been around someone when they are very angry or very anxious, you probably did not find their angry or anxious beliefs to necessarily have a faithful connection to reality. Complacency as well is something which disconnects people from reality. When you stop looking, or take an easy answer, then you're probably not in line with truth.

While passionate people can be wrong about things, their regime is that which is most plausibly aimed at, and capable of reaching, the truth. You aren't as much obligated to believe any thought or intellectual path in you that arises from anger, anxiety, or complacency -- perhaps each of the characteristically angry, anxious, or complacent mental movements are self-defeating. If you believe that there is no God, or that there is, for passionate reasons, then perhaps you are right. But the same belief, held for anxious or angry or complacent reasons, is not to be trusted, until you have left the state of anxiety, anger, or complacency.

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If you want to be passionate in truth-seeking, you may find yourself wandering into anxiety. You want to know what really is? You have found your answer? Are you sure? That last question can trigger or express anxiety. Somehow passion can have high standards for the truth, without being anxious.

Perhaps we could look for cases in which beliefs mostly only seem to be held by anxious people, by contrast with passionate people, and those which are more characteristic of anxious people are not to be trusted as readily. And again, if you see a belief forming or recurring in you when you are anxious, especially one which is connected in some plausible way with your anxiety, then don't put too much weight on it, see if it makes as much sense when you are passionate again.

Can you passionately, as opposed to anxiously, think that you are in some danger of hardening? I think that if you are passionate, you are not hardened yet, and are not the closest to being hardened. Complacency and anger are much more dangerous. A hardness of heart and mind do not correlate with passion.

You may still be in some danger of hardening in the future, but as a passionate person, you would view such risks with awakeness (or something like it) rather than anxiety.

(Anxiety is less dangerous, with respect to hardening, than complacency and anger, but more dangerous than passion. You aren't convinced you're right, as you would be in complacency or anger, but if you are anxious, you find it difficult to trust God, and to the extent that you choose to be stuck in anxiety, you may be avoiding trust in God -- that disposition of avoiding being a risk factor for hardening.)

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Incidentally, one could ask, which form of love is best, that which is founded in anger, anxiety, complacency, or passion?

If you want to be like Jesus, should you spend more time in anger, anxiety, complacency, or passion?

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Legitimism Without Atonement

Here is another angle on legitimism. (You may want to read that post to make sense of this, if you haven't already.)

Legitimism requires that if legitimacy is capable of bearing the burdens it lays on those whom it creates, it must. If God is infinite (very big, very fast, even if not truly infinite -- or even infinite, if infinity can be actual?), then he can experience all the experiences that any beings experience. And in fact, he should, simply in order to have metaphysical contact with all beings. (And in order to be able to speak the simantic word of "all things" to us.) So it is easy to see how he could literally bear the burden of each thing that occurs to any and all of his creatures. However, he could not experience what it was like to experience all these things and not simultaneously experience everything else that exists.

I don't want to take away from God's firsthand experience of what each person experiences. It is literally as intense as whatever each person experiences. It would have to be. God would have to experience the tunnel vision each of us experiences, where we only know what we know. That's what it means to experience literally the same experiences we experience. And yet he would experience the rest of his experiences as well.

By knowing the bigger picture, though he really would experience exactly what his creatures experienced, he would know more, and on some level that would enable him to have distance from their experiences that they don't have. He would really know enough of what was going on to be justified in making the laws of the universe (in the sense of knowing how everything relates to every other existing thing), and he would also be justified by having the disposition to bear our burdens to as great an extent as he could, but one could say that there is a missed opportunity, which he can't take, to be a creature and nothing but a creature.

If it is possible for God to share the formation of the laws of the universe with a finite being, then that being can live an ordinary human life, without the distance that comes from greater awareness, and that finite being could then play a part in upholding legitimacy. It would be by his will as well as God's that the laws of the universe were formed. The two would authoritatively assent to the laws, and thus give them their legitimacy, and thus they would both be God (in the legitimist sense, of the highest being, most worthy, most authoritative, deciders of the way things are, the single source of legitimacy, made up as it seems it must by more than one person). If it were possible for God to co-create with a finite being, he should, in order to enable there to be a member of legitimacy who could experience the finite element of creaturely life. Since he can, and should, he did.

However, now we come to the question, how many finite lives must be lived by the finite co-creating member of God (the Son)? Will the Son live every human's life? Or just one? The argument for just one could be that for the sake of justice, the Son could only die once. As a member of legitimacy, the Son does no injustice and does not deserve death, but could die for others' injustices. Having paid for them once, he couldn't die again, since he would be paying for nothing, and thus there would be no redeeming value for the extra injustice of each further death he experienced. This is something that fits into biblical Christianity, and I want to support that option (as I have begun to in this post on the Atonement.)

However, I think it's possible that the story given above, which would limit the number of deaths that the Son could undergo, could possibly not be true. I think if someone "entered the MSLN path" from a secular beginning, they might not see justice and Atonement as necessarily following from the founding principles of MSLN. So legitimism could be seen as having a more, and less, biblical interpretation. The less biblical one might find some other limit to the number of deaths that Jesus would undergo, but I can't think of one right now. So instead I will try to account for how the Son could experience the lives of each person (or animal, assuming as is reasonable that they are "minds" in a Berkeleian sense, or even in some sense "personal beings"), as a finite being with as little extra context beyond what each creature experiences in their life, for as many creatures as possible.

The Son could share subjectivity with the stream of consciousness that is identical to that of a creature, unable to do anything to affect what happens in it. It would be like watching a movie, in total detail (or even more so, entering an experience machine). He would do this for each of the billions of creatures that have ever lived or ever will live. Because the Son is finite, he would experience each one in order, one after another. This process would take a finite amount of time, and might be compressed. So the Son might experience them all in a second of the "master clock", even if it took him billions of years in his subjective time. In this way, he would be able to bear the burden of all beings.

(13 June 2021, update: I think it unlikely now that there could be a real difference in rates of subjective experience. So I would say that it really may take Jesus billions of years to go through all those lives, not compressed into one second. Perhaps all other beings would sleep and not notice the passage of the billions of years, when only the Father and Son would be awake.)

In order for him to still be himself while experiencing this, he would still have to add something to his experience of the creature while he experienced it. There is no substitute for being yourself and nothing more. But he need not be aware of the full range of knowledge normally available to him. When he is experiencing what an atheist experiences, he might be an atheist, or doubt the existence of God to as great a degree as possible for him, due to the perspective of the atheist, which does not trust the appearances of God in life. He might not know anything more than what they know, from birth, besides whatever bare amount is necessary for the Son to be the Son. So he could bear our burdens in a finite though still not identical way, and, given the requirements of legitimacy to have the maximal willingness to bear the burdens of those under its rule, he should and thus does.

But it is possible that you could say that the Son doesn't really die if all he's doing is "watching movies". Perhaps if he lives his own life on earth, and no one else's, then he can be fully immersed in that life and experience death the same way we do. But when he shares a life, he may always find some distance from the shared life, as when we watch even the most immersive movies, the distance which enables him to remain being himself as he "watches".

In that case, if the Atonement only limits his deaths to one, he could still "co-live" multiple lives. He could know the finite lives of each being (and would, for the sake of legitimacy), to the greatest extent possible, and thus would experience all of our lives. This makes fairly literal what Jesus says when he says "what you do to the least of these, you do to me".

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In the case where we assume the Atonement and justice do not obtain such that the Son's deaths are limited to one, then how many times would the Son have to die in order to bear our burdens? He would have to experience his own life and death by himself, to understand that aspect of human experience. There is something unique in human experience of living your own life and no one else's. He would also experience each of our unique ways of living and experiencing death. Would the Son need to keep living lives and dying by himself? He would have already experienced all the uniqueness of our lives and deaths (by having co-lived them as described above). But would he have to experience them for himself, without being separate from our consciousness? Maybe. Perhaps the Son lives and dies lives, by himself, which are similar to every other human life, so as to experience all of them, for and by himself. I think (for now) as long as the number of these lives are finite, I don't see a problem with affirming this.

We could say that each simantic word (of the extraordinary, but finite, number of possible simantic words), which humans experience in their lives, mostly have already been experienced by the Son and the Father as they "coined" them before bringing humans into consciousness. But to whatever extent they attain a new meaning, and to whatever extent they can be experienced as a single human in a limited lifetime, the Son could experience each word as such.

One problem, though, is that if the simantic words have not been modified until after humans live their lives, then the Son would not be able to live them until after those lives were over. But many lives will continue forever, and presumably simantic words will keep evolving or being refined for all eternity. The Son can't bear the burden of all of our existences.

However, one could argue that the burden of legitimacy is different from the freedom of it. The burden will all be lifted when all sin is gone. The way things should be is liberation for those in tune with trustworthiness, who can therefore trust. (Trust and trustworthiness are liberation.) The way things should be is a burden when it demands that we change or that we pay a price, because we are out of tune with trustworthiness.

In any case, if it is impossible for the Son to not bear a burden, then he does not have to. Legitimacy arises (at least, this is a necessary condition) from the disposition, as far as is possible, to bear the burdens you levy on others when you make a law.