Tuesday, June 30, 2020


This post replaces a previous one on the same topic.

11 Sep 2020: minor edits.

See also this post.

One way to look at reality is that it is basically just matter. We are conscious of it, but that's a footnote. Mainly, everything is matter.

If that's the case, then whatever is psychological is just "in our heads". We think it's true or valid, but it isn't. What's real is what's out in the open for everyone to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste.

Another way to look at reality is that it is all consciousness. We have perceptions of matter, but matter doesn't exist in itself. Consciousness just is its contents. This consciousness could be some kind of meaningless goo, like a film of static projected on a wall.

A third way to look at reality is that it is personal. We are most certain that we exist, persons exist. We are conscious, but also personal. So then consciousness always has a personal dimension and can't be "meaningless goo".

A fourth way to look at reality is that it is conceptual. For instance, the set of all objects is a real thing. If it were to no longer refer to a particular object, the object would cease to exist.

Is it possible to reconcile all these views of reality? We could say that concepts are conscious persons, or that persons are concepts, or perhaps that some concepts are dependent on larger concepts for existence, that is, on "large-enough" persons.

What about "oughts"? What are "oughts"? If there ought to be a lawnmower on the lawn, what is that "ought to be"? If I do something useful that needed to be done, what is the "ought" implied by "useful" and "needed to be done"?

Oughts correlate tightly with ises. If we consider a lawnmower on the lawn, if it in no way ought to exist, it doesn't. Oughts themselves must be.

Which is more powerful, ought or is? Under the "all is matter" point of view, is is taken to be supreme, and ought is subordinate. But under the other three views, ought could have independent validity, as a conscious being, a person, or a concept with its own inherent power.

Does is precede ought? Then in the (logical) instant before it justifies itself just by being, was it valid? And if it was invalid, could it exist? Does ought precede is? Then how could any ought exist, in order to bring about is?

So there can be a problem if we split ought and is. One approach to solve it is to fuse is and ought. Again, all oughts are, and all that is in any capacity is a kind of ought. That a rose is is that it ought to be. Horrible things can both ought to be and not at the same time. Free will can be legitimate and lead to behaviors which are allowable as following from free will but which themselves are illegitimate. The juxtaposition of this legitimacy with this illegitimacy is a horror.

If an ought is, what is it? One solution is to say that an ought is an opinion. Opinions are conscious, parts of persons. They are concepts or something like concepts, the concept of "such ought to be so". You could say an opinion just is a person, relating in a certain way at a certain moment to what is/should be according to their preferences. (Or you could say that each person is an overall opinion, a relation to what is/should be, and that that opinion has sub-parts.)

Not all opinions are fully valid. But being is something that is unquestionable. Where does such absolutely valid opinion come from? A fully valid opinion is one given by a person who knows what they are talking about and is worthy of respect. A valid opinion about reality as a whole comes from someone who knows reality as a whole. So for reality as a whole to exist, there must be a person who knows reality as a whole.

And this person must be respect-worthy. One way to think about "respect-worthy" is, are you a real person? In the sense of "So and so is real". There's a kind of everyday meaning to that. Such a person really cares -- they are reliable and serious, do not pretend to be your friend when they are not, things of that nature. This might be considered a personal way to look at it. An impersonal, or less personal, way to look at it would be to say, what are persons made out of, and then how can we maximize that quantity? If persons are conscious experience, then what is personal consciousness "made out of"? It seems like all experiences are a form of trust (trust as "receptivity to enhancement"). I trust my eyes to show me horrible things. I trust my doubts which turn me from trusting propositions. I'm open to existing because on some level, perhaps in some small way, I am open to in some sense being made better by my openness. My disposition to trust means that I seek to trust all kinds of experiences, as much as is appropriate and possible.

Another more personal way to look at respect-worthiness is to consider an important subset of ought, which is morality. If someone is setting up morality, they are laying burdens on the people under their law. Is the law-giver willing to experience this burden?

A real person, a trust-maximizing person, and a good leader, would all submit to the law they were making others stand up under.

So then, if we are interested in knowing what kind of being, what kind of opinion, what kind of ought, were the fundamental authority over reality, then we should look for one who suffered what it made others suffer.

We can see this source of legitimacy in a God who suffers, who suffers both all of what we do in an unlimited capacity, and who knows limitation and death, as we do. A God capable of experiencing these things would be disposed to do so, if he was valid enough to found reality.

Therefore, if this all is true, any ought that is is grounded in God, and if we think we are making a valid judgment, we ought to do so keeping in mind God's ultimate authority and what aspects of God's nature raise his respect-worthiness to the point of having that authority. And we, who claim to be on God's side if we make a moral judgment, are therefore promised a trustworthy future, putting God first, so we should not make our judgments out of anxiety or self-righteousness, because we are not "gods in a godforsaken world".

The Euthyphro dilemma says that if God is supposed to be good, is it due to his fiat, or due to him being aligned with a higher good? According to the drift of this article, the higher good itself would have the power/legitimacy to authorize God's very existence, and would be the real God.

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