Saturday, November 21, 2020

Different Ways of Valuing

Recently I watched the following video, which gave me some thoughts about how to value things:

Rayla Noel's album Isa, featuring her paintings.

One way to value things is hedonically. How much pleasure does it give us? I can say that this album does work on that level for me sometimes.

Another way is to value things preferentially. How much does this satisfy my preferences? Perhaps I was in the mood for the album, therefore it is good.

Another way to value things is fiducially. How much does this increase my receptivity to enhancement? I would say that this album does so more than a lot of things that are better at being hedonistic.

Yet another is to ask if it increases my agency? I'm not sure... maybe not too obviously. Maybe it encourages me somewhat, and that helps.

What about receptivity to reality? There are at least two ways to go with this. One is "reality is really just persons". In that case, does a song or album get you in the mode of consuming experience, or of connecting with people? I find that less-professional music helps me connect more with people. And also, a piece of music can help me connect with another person directly. I found this piece of music online by myself, but if someone had recommended it to me directly, I might have connected more with that person. To some small degree, I connect with the artist through this. This connection is valuable apart from any pleasure, pain, or preference satisfaction. The connection is not about my experience of the person, but about the person herself.

Another way to go with receptivity to reality is to say that each being has its own distinct nature and identity. Because something is different, it is valuable. If it is really bad, it is different, and therefore valuable. Perhaps we can't bear all bad things, but to bear bad things when we can is a good thing. Maybe things that are very much themselves are valuable, whether they are uncommon or not. They bring their reality to the world faithfully, allowing others to be receptive to their reality.

Friday, November 20, 2020

God Knows the Thing-in-itself

Epistemic status: provisional.

I can see phenomena -- qualia, concepts, etc. Are these things real? I have reason to think that when I see something in my environment, for instance, a trash can, it is certainly real. It could be that a trash can is simply the conjunction of qualia and concepts -- the thing just is its appearance.

It's not so easy to say that another personal being just is the experiencing of it. I could say "I only see a distinct personal being, but in reality what is there is just a bundle of qualia and concepts." But what I really experience is a person, who presumably has thoughts and feelings unrelated to me, who goes off somewhere else and forgets about me, and whom I can misrepresent to myself from lack of information about them, or due to various biases. Arguably, the trash can mentioned above is simply part of my experience body, but people themselves are or have experience bodies distinct from my own.

It's a real practical concern to know the person-in-themself. Can we relate to a real person, or are we always cursed to relate to the phenomena of people? While knowledge of other people is always imperfect, and subject to being broken by human formulalessness, can we at least somehow relate to the real person behind the phenomena, and if so, how?

The MSLN view is that God is the one from whose opinion all things derive, is the one through whom all things are metaphysically connected, and is the one who causes concepts to refer to what they refer to, by serving phenomena that correspond with simantic words. Therefore every thing-in-itself is connected to God, and he knows it, and through him the phenomena come that give us our acquaintance with it. So through him, we can really relate to things, even if in some strange sense, we have no idea what they are in themselves, apart from the phenomena we have seen. And so it is possible to relate to people as people, rather than as experiences.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Do People Exist Apart From Their Phenomena in the Moment?

Epistemic status: provisional.

Do people exist apart from their phenomena in the moment? If everything is consciousness, it might seem not -- in other words, that people are identical with their experience bodies. One seeming counterpoint is sleep, another comas. If it's possible for there to be true unconsciousness, followed by a return to being more or less the same person, then does our new self each morning or after a coma pop into existence out of nothing, strangely similar to or even almost the same as before we lost consciousness? I know that I exist as a person, this is the root of my knowledge. That person is not contingent on whether I slept or underwent a coma. But of course that person changes over time, and the philosophy of personal identity raises questions about the ability to say that there is one subject per life-story. And yet my root knowledge is that one subject exists, that is me. That one subject is the one to whom I relate as myself. There are aspects of who I am that are not accessible to me in my experience body, in the moment. Yet I know that I exist, that I have depth. My past choices are real and sometimes really part of me even if I have forgotten them.

The MSLN approach to this is to say that through God, all the phenomena in my own or another's experience body is known by God, and God has his own opinions of who we are. In a sense, we are each simantic words, and the words take their definition from God's understanding of them. We are people with depth because God speaks our experience bodies in a way consistent with who we are as simantic words. Over time, we shape that simantic word, through our choices in the present moment, as subjects.

Because God knows us and remembers who we are, he can recreate us whenever we become conscious. He is conscious of us when we are unconscious.

There is a certain extent to which our past selves really are our present selves, and also an extent to which they are not. When we have really grown past the past, it is allowed to no longer bear on the present. (For instance, God "remembers our sins no more".) So it is possible for us to no longer be the people we were in the past, even though our history will always be ours. Painful past memories can be looked at with neither the shame of being the victim nor of being the perpetrator, when we are no longer the same people.


Epistemic status: provisional and speculative.

What is sleep? Is it a period of unconsciousness, punctuated with dreams which only happen when we experience them? Or are we conscious the whole time, and we generally only remember some dreams, but experience many more than we think we do? Do we really know that consciousness accompanies brain activity that appears to be conscious experience? We might ask if the being that is conscious of an unremembered dream is the same consciousness as our waking self.

These questions are empirical, to some extent. Here's one article from 2016 pointing to some of the unknowns in the field. I may update this post later (or not, depending on if I think of it). For now, I would say that I lean toward thinking sleep is a time that you or I do not experience, except for our dreams. I lean toward thinking that when we talk in our sleep, or sleepwalk, we are possessed by some other spirit. (I think possession is not too rare and shouldn't be seen as any more stigmatizing than mental illness -- a dark reality at times, but more medical than horror film.) When we have dreams that we don't remember, it may be that we ourselves never have them, and that when we have ones that we do, we may be experiencing the exact same experiences as the spirit that possesses us when we sleep, which has all our dreams.

Why do we sleep? We seem to need to or else we go insane. The materialist view would be that something in our brains needs sleep. The "spiritualist" view would be that there is some kind of spirit that sometimes breaks into our consciousness when we are mentally ill, and this spirit is affected by whether we sleep. It could be that God runs two different realities out of the same lives. Both our sleeping self (which may be identical with our "unconscious" self -- a consciousness that shares our experience body to some extent and has its own personhood and will) and our waking rational self. Each of us gets the chance to take the lead, the conscious self during the waking period, and the "unconscious" during sleep. Dreams are where we get a taste of the other self's reality, and perhaps it is able to see what we see with our eyes and experience with our other senses at times, or all the time. It may experience our lives as dreams, or as we do, which may be something as relatively incomprehensible to it as its normal experiential fare -- dreams -- are to us. If this unconscious self doesn't get the chance to be itself, it breaks into our consciousness, perhaps out of a desire to be heard, or simply with the violence of unhappiness.

Why would God arrange things like this? I'm not really sure. The dream world seems to some to be an independent reality. Certainly it can be seen as being made of consciousness and connected by God, subject to his opinion. But it is a different kind of consciousness. Maybe that consciousness is an integral part of God's consciousness, and he wants it to be expressed in some of his creatures.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Position and Rate of Change

Students of calculus or physics know about position and velocity. Velocity is the rate of change of position.

If you have wealth, then where are you going? If you lack, then you move, there is velocity to you. But if you are perfectly satisfied, you don't move. You have no velocity, and so you lack lacking.

If you are perfectly wealthy, you are not attracted to anything or anyone. You are alone on a deeper level.

It matters that you are attracted to something or someone, and it matters to what or to whom you are attracted. Desire is a lack, and part of love is desire, so in order to love, you must be somewhat poor.

Are you poor, or is poverty ruling over you? If you don't eat for 10 hours, is it you who become hungry, or just your stomach? But it is possible for you, the real you, to be oriented toward something, to be attracted, to lack.

Experience Bodies

Epistemic status: provisional.

What is a body? A person has a body -- perhaps a person is a body in the sense that what is truly and always your body is you.

A person can be affected by external things through their body. I can be affected in a powerful way by something striking my body. Also my body responds to my will. As I type, my fingers are mostly faithful to my personal intentions. If my fingers use the "backspace" key, they are more faithful in the end. I can move many parts of my body if I want to. But not all. I can't consciously cause peristalsis, or a heartbeat, for instance.

Loosely, roughly, then, a body is that which is a way for external beings to affect me, and through which I can affect myself, or external beings.

If we consider the world of material objects, the body is that which has arms, legs, hands, and feet, and so on. But if we consider the world of consciousnesses, then everything that I can see can affect me, and I can affect many things in my experience. Thinking simantically, everything that I perceive, I alter (in some sense; to some extent) so that it has the meaning that I see in it. By looking attentively at something, I can make it mean something to me, though what it means is spoken to me in accordance with who I am, by another. So then everything that I, personally, am consciously aware of is part of my body. The physical body has parts that are more, or less, in subjection to my preferences, and so it is with my experiences.

My experience body, then, is the body of all of my experience in a moment. I have it, and it is me, in analogy to how from a materialist point of view, I have a physical body, and am a physical body.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Defend Against Feelings

Some people are stronger than others in who they are. Those people should mourn, on purpose, because they will not be ruled over by their mourning. They will remain themselves even in the presence of negative feelings.

But other people are not as strong in who they are, and feelings can overwhelm them. It might be best for such people to become stronger in who they are, so that they can mourn, can see the honor in the loss of something, can faithfully register that some good is gone, or foregone.

You can feel sad in such a way that it is the sadness that is happening, and you are not really the one being sad. But in that case the sadness rules you and punishes you. So then you try not to open yourself to mourning, for fear of letting the sadness in. In the long run, you might seek some way to become a stronger person, become more personal. In a sense, to become more strong-willed, without even your own will ruling over you. But in the short term, it may be best to defend against sad feelings. Or any other feelings that possess and usurp.

Friday, November 13, 2020

Leading God's Perception

The true understanding of a simantic word is to understand it the way God does. Then your attribution of "good" to it or of any other meaning will be compatible with God's understanding of it, in line the most with how he speaks it to other people.

So we have a reason to be led by God's perception, into how we perceive things ourselves.

However, when we are creative, it is possible that we bring into existence, out of our own preferences, wills, and inner intentions, something which did not exist at all before. Then, God is led by us in his perceptions, taking into account what we have created as a new member of what is real. His opinion of this new thing may differ from ours -- it becomes his as soon as we make it. But we did lead him to some extent.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Approach With Courage, Believe in the Existence of Yourself

Who are you, really? What are you responsible for, in any situation? Some people are unable to voluntarily move, except for their eyelids, by which they can communicate -- or some, not even that. What are they responsible for? Who are they? The connection there is "who you are is what you choose". Maybe that's an overly simplistic view of human nature, but I think it at least captures something important, and I tend to want to favor it.

We face limitations due to aging -- we may all face that, either now, or, if we survive, in our future. There are other limitations besides that, which occur with less universality. Are we defined by our limitations? It depends on what we mean by "we". I would say that the paralyzed person is not defined by their paralysis. If they were put in a different body somehow, they would physically act out their personality. The body is accidental, not essential. I can't hold a paralyzed person responsible for not moving -- maybe partially so if they knowingly chose to paralyze themself (a rare occurrence), but even then, they would no longer be able to change their minds after the fact, and would have to live with the decision of their past self, who increasingly would be becoming to them a separate person. Likewise, I can't hold myself 100% responsible for the body or life that I'm stuck with. To an extent, it's not me. Essentially, it's something stuck to me, and to a large extent, other things than my choices are responsible for it.

However, it is more true that the way that I approach life emotionally, with my inner eye, and with my inner will, and the way I choose to think, does express who I am. If I were completely paralyzed, but still myself and still conscious, how I thought about life, and paralysis, would be me, would be an exercise and expression of me being myself. The state of my heart in the present moment is a root responsibility that I am always capable of disposing of properly.

So in this space of minimal limitation, in the world of what I choose to think and how I choose to see, I can express and exercise my heart (the true preferences and intentions within me) by having courage. To approach whatever there is, and whatever limits me, without flippancy, arrogance, impatience, or despair, but rather with courage.


Forces like depression and anxiety can seem to be me, and I can feel, in despair, that they are more powerful than me, that I must bow to them. In a sense, perhaps I must. If I must bow to them, how can there be a God? My mind can shut down to the spiritual and intellectual world if I identify so totally with my limitations. I can live in a narrow world, made up of practical concerns and the desire for the luck or therapy for me to not be beset by my psychological problems. If I am so limited, in a world where the only relevant thing is my narrow well-being, and God is not admitted as a person who can address that narrow well-being, of course for me God does not exist. I might say that he exists, or halfway believe it, but on the level of trusting, I do not believe that he exists.

In some way, the sense that I am not myself in the face of mental forces connects with my inability to say "God exists". Perhaps because in order for me to believe in the existence of God, I need to believe in the existence of myself. Myself, a free-willed being, who sees things according to his own lights, and thus is able to see the intellectual and spiritual world, things which are true in themselves, apart from what is forced on me, things which I must find unbearable or attractive in the pragmatic, personal, social, psychological world.

In a natural theology like simantism, it is important that I exist, a person, and that I can relate to what is not-me. From this, there is relationality, and I am not alone. From this, and for other reasons, if I am a person, then the universe can be personal. There is a give-and-take between me and what is not-me that suggests that what is not-me is a person. There is an analogy between myself, who is conscious, and what is not-me, which then might ought to be seen as conscious. If I, a consciousness, choose and cause, then what I experience might ought to also be chosen and caused by a conscious person. For these reasons, I might think that I live in relationality to all that is, and that all that is is a person. But if I am not a person, then maybe it is not.

If I exist, on some level, I am awake, in a way that I am not when I somehow think that I don't exist.

Perhaps too, if I slip below the waves into non-existence, I can no longer relate to God, can no longer really be a moral person or an obedient person, for not being able to be myself, choosing. I can still go through the motions of life -- who wouldn't? I can flow away from unbearability and toward what is attractive, automatically and inevitably. But on a deeper level, I can't relate to God, and on a deeper level, what we can't or don't relate to, doesn't exist to us.

But as long as I can recognize facts, I recognize the fact that I exist.


You have real limitations, but if you can remember, you always exist. And then there is always some level on which you can be courageous, given whatever limitations you have.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

God is a Good Utility Monster

In calculating well-being, we might want to know who it is whose experiences matter most. One approach, used here, is to count neurons. The more neurons, the more experience, and the more moral value.

This is a somewhat crude way to do things, but the underlying assumption makes sense on some level. There is some quantity of psychological sensitivity which can be taken to correlate with number of neurons. What we're really interested in is that quantity of psychological sensitivity, which can be aggregated. We can add up quantities of sensitivity within and among beings, and compare those numbers, judging that certain groups or individuals suffer more than others.

This leads us to the subject of utility monsters. A utility monster is very psychologically sensitive, and so the satisfaction of their subjective well-being seems to legitimately call for more of society's resources, taking away from those who are less sensitive. There becomes an incentive for everyone to become more and more sensitive. Perhaps if an AI rules the world, programmed to be compassionate, if you want to game it to get more of the world's resources, then construct a being who wants what you want, but who is extremely psychologically sensitive.

What would the MSLN view of the subject be?

It seems that the metaphysical organism (the "M" in "MSLN") would have the greatest psychological sensitivity of all. Because it is conscious of all other consciousnesses, it is sensitive to all the pain and pleasure or other meaningful states of all other beings. Further, as a person, it can see all the different perspectives that arise from comparing all other psychological states, and all other second-order thoughts about all beings' psychological states.

We can intensify this by bringing in simantism and legitimism ("S" and "L"). The metaphysical organism is also simantism's Speaker, who speaks each simantic word to each person, keeping track of how all the words relate to each other, being prepared beforehand to speak a word to someone whose preferences call for it, having in mind each word. Legitimism adds that this Speaker (God) establishes ought, a specific way that things should be which is absolute, and thus that things can really be absolute violations of this ought. And thus it can be incredibly painful, and elating, to be God, extraordinarily psychologically complex.

This makes it sound like God is the ultimate utility monster. And perhaps that is appropriate. In the Bible, God says "have no other gods before me". There is a parallel between utility monsters and gods. We think we must serve them. But we might mistake which of them are really most deserving. So to avoid idolatry, if we want to be utilitarians, we should identify the true utility monster, and this will be the being that we and our civilization serve.

God is a good utility monster because he is inherently in solidarity with us. In other words, from the metaphysical organism idea, what we know about God is that he experiences exactly what we experience, and thus finds unbearable exactly what we find unbearable. So God is on the side of our lives going well, at least in the sense of them being bearable. And we also can suppose from the metaphysical organism idea that God values our existence -- otherwise why go through all the unbearable feelings that we occasion? He could cease to experience us (and so we would cease to experience anything coming from him, which is all or nearly all of what we experience.) Enduring the unbearable is hard for any being. So our existences, the fact that we exist as persons who experience, is of high value to God. Therefore whatever he calls for, as the ultimate utility monster, will have to involve the ultimate elimination of all unbearable psychological states, and the prolonging of the existence of all personal beings.

This does not exhaust the subject of what God calls for, but it is a baseline by which we can know him to be trustworthy from our perspective. So, unlike some false ones, God is a good utility monster.

Monday, November 9, 2020

Trusting God, Caring Like God

Should we trust God in everything? Or should we care like God cares? Is it the case that everything turns out according to his will? Or is there an element of tragedy possible in the world?

If our trust in God prevents us from caring like he does, there could be a problem. Likewise if our caring prevents us from trusting in him, there could be a problem. Either way, we could fail to become like him, when we could have had greater kinship. Trusting God enables him to change us into being more like him, and caring like God cares helps us to become like him.

By trusting in God, we can come to care more. By caring, we put ourselves in the position to trust. The more we care, the more we consider something to be valuable. Then, the more valuable it is, the more we can entrust when we put it in God's hands.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Bearing and Valuing

Listening to the hold music -- the same loop, 30 seconds to a minute long. The first time it sound a little nice. Soon it becomes irritating. But you have to bear it in order to get the prize -- a representative. You have to listen -- at any moment the representative could pick up the phone and you need to be ready. You have incentive to bear the hold music.

Do you think the hold music is good? It is pleasant but in its repetition you find its flaws. It was never the greatest music to begin with. You judge it to be mediocre. But as it plays, you judge it to be worse than mediocre, offensive in its repetition. You need to relate to the hold music as it is -- repetitive. You are encouraged to change your value of the hold music. You don't have to. But if you judge it to be good, if you fall in love with it (as in this illustration), you can bear it better.

So the fact that we are forced to experience something biases us toward calling it good. To experience is to bear. We can fight, keep the dissonance arising when we bear the unbearable. Or we can accept, and find the unbearable bearable.

Unbearability and Attractiveness

Pain is wrong, evil, bad, say some. But to me, it is almost always at worst unbearable, in itself. Pleasure is right and good, say some. But to me, it is often at best attractive.

If something is attractive enough, you find it difficult or impossible to resist trusting it, moving toward it, taking it in. If it is unbearable enough, you find it difficult or impossible to resist closing off to it, distrusting it, moving away from it, destroying it, shutting it down.

But is it you that values what is attractive? Or that disvalues what is unbearable? Not necessarily. You can value what is unbearable and disvalue what is attractive. Nor is it clear that what is attractive ought to be valued, or what is unbearable ought not to be valued. It is practical, all things being equal, that your attractions and valuings, and what is unbearable to you and your disvaluings, line up. But it is not necessarily right that they do so, except insofar as what is practical makes it more possible to pursue what is really right.


(Added 2 December 2020)

Things which cannot be borne for all eternity are at least a little bit unbearable. If you can bear it for all eternity, it's fully bearable.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Book Review Preview: X-Risk by Thomas Moynihan

See also the main review.

I got my copy of Thomas Moynihan's X-Risk: How Humanity Discovered Its Own Extinction in the mail today. I may start reading it soon.

Here are a few things I'm interested in from this book: 1) general intellectual history; 2) the history of existential risk; 3) a chance to meditate on history / civilizational development in general; 3) a chance to meditate on existential risk; 4) engage with Moynihan's "seeing existential risk is a sign that we are mature" idea.

I don't think I'll try to read it twice, unless it seems like a good idea once I get through it once. It's a history book and not a philosophy book.

Monday, November 2, 2020

News: 2 November 2020

I've been working on a Tumblr for a while and added a link to it to Mainly it's a place to post quotations and reblog other Tumblr users. Sometimes I post short original posts there. If you're on Tumblr, feel free to follow.

Also, today I released The Future of Beauty, a short story (or an essay, depending on your point of view).