Monday, May 31, 2021

"Whereof One Cannot Speak" (Without Degrading...)

I found this blog post from another blogger when I was trying to find "whereof one cannot speak..." to use in this post. He makes the point that Wittgenstein (source of the quote) initially was interpreted as saying that since we don't know that God, beauty, etc. exist in as rigorous a way as scientific things, that it was meaningless to try talking about them. But that Wittgenstein's later notes say more that these realities exist, but that talking about them degrades them.

If we find that talking about God or beauty (etc.) degrades them, then we perhaps do not talk about them or act on them, and to the extent that our epistemology, the way we trust so that things are real to us, is practical, we don't trust them as much as if we could have spoken of them and acted on them in some way. Does God want to be taken as an unspeakable mystery? Or would he rather we approached him as according to our concepts as they are, though they make him into a cheap formula to us? I think the way of relationship is somewhere in the middle. A trustworthy, mature spousal relationship (I would guess) is a good model for a good interpersonal relationship. I like what Ursula LeGuin suggests, about how spouses can cross an abyss of difference very casually, when they relate. I would say that they speak words to each other, which mean something different to each of them, and yet basically the same.

I would assume that in any spousal relationship, there is both the relating to what is known and to what is unknown. If we approach each other with respect, we allow each other to be what we are, and this lets us trust each other without fully understanding each other. If we relate to God with respect, we can use the words we know to use about him -- and they are the same words he uses to speak to us about himself or any other conceivable topic, although he understands them in a somewhat, but not fatally, different way than we do.

Witness Epistemology

Witness epistemology: "I know things as a witness, not as a being pretending to omniscience. This is what I see. I do not know if it is anything more than my perception." This admirably humble and limited point of view is unpopular. Why? It just feels wrong? It doesn't lead us to seek the truths we need to survive or to do what needs to be done for others?

Those are possibilities. Another is that it may lend itself to solipsism. Solipsism is not an attractive view to most people, and things that can go down a slippery slope to solipsism may be suspect. If suspect enough, we "know" them to simply be untrue. In this case, "knowing" is a kind of shutting down of the ability to believe, to harden oneself against pathological beliefs. So to say "I know things as a witness" is to say "I know what I experience, and only that". All we need to add to that to get to solipsism is "Somehow the only things that can be are the things that are knowable", which philosophically sounds suspicious, but which we might "know" to be true, or feel a strong bias toward believing as true.

Surely, following something like "whereof one cannot speak, one must be silent", we can only talk about what we know of. Or at least, that sounds like it makes sense on some level. But then we like to make the leap that what we don't talk about, or oughtn't talk about, doesn't exist. We don't have a right to concern ourselves about it, so we should live as though (or pretend that) it doesn't exist. And so if we are fully epistemically modest, we seem to tend to have to be solipsists.

Gating Off Voices, Part 2

After posting Gating Off Voices; Especially Ones That Speak of ECT, I realized that there were some more things to say on the subject.

--

One thing I could have cleared up, had I noticed it, relates to this passage:

If God doesn't exist, then hardening doesn't matter, so if hardening matters, it matters how we relate to God, and sometimes it is best to deliberately shut out some of the pathological voices in order to hear his better.

I think this is correct, if we take "hardening" in a narrow sense (only as that which is caused when we shut out the voice of God). But in a broader sense, deliberately shutting out a voice can be dangerous, whether God exists, or not. Could it be that by committing to God, or to a particular understanding of God, we are setting ourselves up for a bad outcome, perhaps the worst outcome possible? We might die young and in pain (the worst outcome according to materialism?) or we might go to a hell of annihilation or ECT (the worst outcome according to Christianity and Islam, assuming one of them is true and we are committed to the other). It might seem like the best position is to not commit to anything, but that is a kind of commitment in itself. It matters what we choose, so we should apply critical thinking, which can make various paths appear doubtworthy, and despite that tendency of critical thinking to produce doubt, we may choose a path. Even remaining in a state of "they're all doubtworthy so I won't choose" is doubtworthy.

--

In the previous Gating Off Voices post, I laid out two approaches to bad voices: shut them down, or add other voices so that you have a better connection with the overall truth. Can these two be related?

Here's one account of belief: All we have access to are possibilities. That's what we see. But sometimes, as we add possibilities to our stock of things that we can imagine, simply to imagine a possibility causes other possibilities to seem untrue. It's like how God can't truly understand love and still choose to prefer evil.

So then, to know any truth, including by adding truths, could potentially shut out bad voices. I think that adding truths as a tactic is more trusting, because with it, as you stop trusting truths, you tend to trust more truths at the same time. In fact, it is only by trusting more truths that you can shut out any, on this model.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

First Thoughts About Time

Epistemic status: very provisional.

Definitely see also Second Thoughts on Time.

In our experience, time is a part of consciousness. I don't see how conscious experience can change without time being part of consciousness. If everything that exists is consciousness, then time is part of consciousness.

I don't see a need to claim that God is timeless. Rather, his consciousness has a time to it, which is the "master clock" of the universe. It's possible to perceive the flow of time faster or slower, but if you enter a stretch of time at tG (God's time) = X, and exit at another point, tG = X + Y, what happens in the interval of length Y might get experienced at a different rate than God's experience of time, but you would enter the stretch of time at X and leave it at X + Y. You can imagine it like, if it takes longer than God's rate of experience over the interval length Y, it's like you traveled on a curved path to go from the same starting point to the same end point, where God traveled a straight line. Or, perhaps we travel over paths more quickly than God does, and it's his path that is more curved.

These are some quick, first thoughts about time, what I would like to argue. Maybe later I will think more about time and flesh them out.

Gating Off Voices; Especially Ones That Speak of ECT

Epistemic status: provisional.

31 May 2021: see this addendum.

Gating Off Voices

Not every voice is worth listening to. Sometimes there are voices that tell you you are worthless, a failure, or doomed, or ones that tell you that this life is all that matters, or ones which are other people's misinterpretations of you, or their agendas for you -- there are probably other unworthy voices that are out there.

So it can seem appealing to shut those voices out, to irrevocably invalidate them, so that you can get on with your life.

But what if you're wrong about which voices are unworthy, and one which you shut out might be the voice of God? There is some danger of hardening here.

The state of mind where you put up no resistance to the voices that try to colonize your mind is one in which it is difficult or even impossible to follow God with your whole being. Perhaps your real disposition, underneath all the colonizations, is one of following God with your whole being, if that state of non-resistance to colonization is something you can't help. But if you can help it, it isn't clear to me that preferring non-resistance (such that you don't try rejecting any voices) is a better way to avoid hardening, since that preference roots you in a stable and seemingly undefeatable belief or believing regime, the one in which you can never commit. "I can never commit to God" may be just as hardened as "I reject God".

In that case, you always take a risk of being hardened, so, fearing and respecting the fact of that risk to the appropriate degree, you might as well choose the path that helps you serve God best as you understand him right now, in hopes that he will keep working with you so that someday your understanding presents no obstacle to loving and trusting him. If God doesn't exist, then hardening doesn't matter, so if hardening matters, it matters how we relate to God, and sometimes it is best to deliberately shut out some of the pathological voices in order to hear his better. God can see you trying to hear him, and knows your true disposition, and wants you to succeed in hearing him.

A mind that shuts out voices is in danger of becoming intolerant and totalizing. It's important that whatever you do psychologically, whether in the realm of perception, emotion, willing, or intellectual believing, you do it as though God exists. Among other things, God is one who wants you and everyone else to be saved, who is the father of you and everyone else, and whom you and everyone else can trust. With God's Spirit, we don't see things through the lens of control and self-preservation. We can believe firmly without mistreating or enslaving people.

Reality must be that which we can think about?

Does all this give a rationale for refusing to listen to voices that say something like "You have a tiny but non-Pascalian chance of going to a hell of eternal conscious torment"? The thought that you could go to hell might cause you to love and trust in God more. Certainly that's how it seems to have worked as a part of evangelism in the past. Probably it is not necessary to believe in eternal conscious torment (ECT) for that purpose. (Annihilation is sufficiently motivating, and sometimes even that is not necessary to motivate people.) But ECT got people to take God seriously, which is part of loving and trusting him.

On the other hand, the thought of hell, or of ECT specifically, can easily not have that effect. So it's fine to ignore it if it takes you away from God.

(I don't believe that MSLN gives reason to believe in ECT and from what I've read from other people as of today (25 May 2021), I'm fairly confident that neither does the Bible, although I should address that question in more detail at some point.)

I think we might have the effective attitude of "whatever our belief structure, we know that ECT doesn't exist". The thought of ECT is so horrible that if we took its possibility seriously, we would go crazy, and going crazy is a priori not an option for thinkers. Well-being trumps truth -- but we could even claim that truth actually always contains well-being. (Maybe this claim makes sense from this perspective -- to think, feel, and intuit in one whole means that the knowing itself is healed of its fragmentation, and healed knowing perhaps inherently creates and requires healthy knowers.) As an epistemological principle, we could claim that what actually is is always in line with truth, and thus not have to deal with ECT. Something like this seems to be what people may already believe implicitly, at least with respect to ECT.

It does seem odd to say that things which are too horrible to think about productively can't actually happen. We see horrible things happen, but maybe they're not horrible enough? Is there some point at which, as things become more horrible to imagine, they cross a line and become impossible?

So it's not that the inherent horribleness of ECT makes it impossible, it's that when we know that it is impossible, we implicitly know that something else is true which for some reason allows horribleness to happen, but not ECT.

What kind of metaphysical reason could back that up? Certainly the God of MSLN could. Materialism could, as well. Probably other beings or realities could. Whatever it is, it has to be able and willing to (or "disposed to", in the case of impersonal reasons) exclude possibilities, and specifically exclude ECT. We might think that we know for certain that ECT-affirming Christianity and Islam aren't true, but that annihilation-affirming versions of them could be true.

The Proportionality of Truth

Another approach could be to say that belief in ECT causes us to disregard the proportionality of truth. Truth is always a thing which has its relationships. If we really took the possibility of ECT seriously, if it has a vanishingly small likelihood, then if it dominates all the rest of our thinking, we no longer see anything else. But that "anything else" is far more likely than the likelihood of ECT. So to know the truth, we have to take into account all the good of all the "anything else"'s, and those possible goods should not be ignored.

I think MSLN is likely -- I'm sure my credence will vary over time, but let's say today it is 90%. In 90% of possible futures, as long as I remain true to God, I will experience infinite (or, more accurately, everlasting) positive utility. What do I think my credence is of non-MSLN outcomes? As I see things now, there's a tight, perhaps 1 to 1 connection between the idea that reality only consists of consciousness, and MSLN. So what is my sense that there could be reality in addition to consciousness? Maybe 10%. Within that 10%, how much room is there for ECT? I don't really know, but I can try to guess, based on reasons why ECT might exist.

Maybe some kind of God or god-like being might ordain it (like the Stringent Invisible Flying Spaghetti Monster). He would use it to motivate people to care about things. Maybe a human society would. But one could also imagine a sadistic god.

Would humans want to torture other humans everlastingly? Maybe a few would, but what are the odds that they would take over the future, and be able to resurrect you to be part of their sadistic world? We have to imagine a world where people would even bother to remember whatever made you up, in order to faithfully reproduce you (to the extent that's possible) and then torture you (or that copy of you?). Are people (personal beings) really that sadistic? Or would they get bored of that instead? Dystopian futures are certainly possible, but are they likely, and likely to affect you, and will they actually attain ECT? "Eternal" is a long time, and hard to guarantee, unless you have something like complete sovereignty over reality.

So something smaller than 10% allows for ECT, perhaps something very small, perhaps as high as 1%. (These numbers are made up, but reflect my subjective sense today.) I feel like 1% is as high as I would go, as an extremely safe assumption that would definitely exceed the real probability, so as to have a "safe" estimate of the risk.

One remaining filter is, if ECT exists, will I ever be subject to it? Or, in other words, what percentage of existing beings will ever be subject to it? This filter reduces the likelihood further. If ECT is meant as a punishment, then what if most beings simply adjust and stop meriting the punishment? If ECT is meant as sadism, how much do sadistic personal beings update their sadistic satisfaction to match large quantities of people tortured? Or are 1,000 tortured as gratifying as 1,000,000, so they don't bother with more than 1,000? To the extent that sadism is basically just a form of hedonism, why don't sadistic hedonists wirehead, or put themselves in experience machines? They could get away with that much more easily than actually torturing people, in the likely case that sadism is not popular.

Maybe some altruists who are not hedonists would be willing to torture people for all time for the tortured people's own good? To bring justice to someone is to take them seriously as a moral agent. These altruists would have to be unaware of the likelihood that MSLN is true. (As would any of these hypothetical people who might cause ECT.) To torture people who don't really deserve it seems like a risky thing to do, given that there might be a God who has to suffer whatever suffering you cause those you are punishing, who alone has the right to judge and punish people, knowing as he does the actual truth of who deserves punishment. If you exact torture with enough gusto or commitment, maybe you have hardened, since torture is not something that God inherently likes.

Is it likely that altruism will evolve into something that seeks to exact eternal conscious torment in the secular timeline? That sounds somewhat far-fetched, especially given the possibility of thinking of MSLN. But there is some possibility of it. Maybe a particularly worldly-minded religious movement could do it. But for every worldly-minded religious movement that might do it, there would be others that wouldn't.

To return to the subject of gods: Could a god (a superpowerful being) know that MSLN wasn't true? God can know that MSLN is true (if it is), simply by knowing that everything exists, fundamentally, by his will (evil follows from the wills of beings other than him, whose freedom he wills). But other superpowerful beings, no matter how much they could find out, would probably be vulnerable to doubts that the God of MSLN might exist. This would lower such a god's confidence that it could torture us with impunity.

I think, again trying to make an extremely safe assumption, that at most 1% of all beings in an ECT-affected reality actually experience ECT. This assumes that ECT-infliction is not done throughout history, it is (exceedingly?) unlikely that anyone could bring back past people to be tortured in a future present, and when ECT-infliction is done, it generally doesn't affect the whole population, and the likelihood of it happening at all is somewhat low.

So if there's a 90% chance that as long as I am true to God (something which shouldn't be impossible as long as I keep caring about it) I will experience an everlastingly good outcome, and there is a 0.01% (1% of 1%) chance, at most, that I will experience ECT, then the approach of truth is to say I must take the 90% chance of good life forever as a substantial plenitude of potential well-being, which is overwhelmingly real to me, sustaining and building-up to think about, and the 0.01% chance of ECT, while real, does nothing to diminish the 90% of good that is promised. If the 90% can't diminish the 0.01%, the 0.01% can't diminish the 90%.

(Does this mean that God can bear what we consider unbearable forever if he has enough counterweighing good experience? And thus he could bear the pain of ECT for all eternity without relieving it? Here's a reason why not.)

If you can see things that way, I think thoughts of ECT aren't overwhelming. This is proceeding according to an epistemology of this kind of truth, of seeing what is dark but also seeing what is light, and seeing it as a whole. This can be contrasted with a kind of survival epistemology, which sees the avoidance of death and suffering as the criterion when processing reality (instead of looking at reality as a whole for its own sake), which thus focuses (or hyper-focuses) on threat.

This approach does not shut out voices, but adds them, still to accomplish a similar goal.

This may be the answer to the question "Does ECT dominate reason?". ECT does not dominate reason, because as long as we have a significantly more likely "eternal conscious rest" to contrast with it, we will take ECR more seriously than ECT, proportional to ECR's likelihood, no longer "mugged" by threat.

Bad voices close you off to reality

At the beginning of this post, I mentioned voices that say "you are worthless, a failure, or doomed, or ones that tell you that this life is all that matters, or ones which are other people's misinterpretations of you, or their agendas for you". What's interesting about all these voices is that they close off access to other voices. If you're worthless, then you no longer access God's voice, the God who feels your pain and puts up with your sin -- real costs to him indicating real value. Likewise, how can you know that you are a failure, or doomed? Only if you close off your mind to possibilities, including the possibility (the likelihood) of God. When people misinterpret you, they tend to want to limit you, and when they have agendas for you, they want to commit you to some kind of commitment. All of these things try to get you to see just one part of reality.

What is Unbearable to Legitimacy

Epistemic status: provisional.

In my notes for my review of Sharon Rawlette's Feeling of Value, I noted that it is possible to feel pain which is unbearable, but which neither ought to be, nor ought not to be.

The unbearability causes (in the realm of "is") a person to react against the pain, but that does not mean that the pain really should (in the realm of "ought") be acted against, nor that they believe that it should be acted against.

But what would it mean for legitimacy itself (God himself) to find something unbearable? It would mean that it ought not to be. Legitimacy itself would be unable to accept it -- this sounds exactly like it really should not be.

Greatness of God

Anselm of Canterbury said that God was a being than which no greater being can be conceived". We somehow think that God by definition must be the greatest being.

Perhaps this is the correct way of going about things. However, we must be careful to understand what greatness really is. If we don't, then we will believe in images of God which are "the greatest which can be conceived according to the tastes of humans like ourselves". Those tastes may, or may not, be aligned with God's tastes.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Can God Understand Love and yet be Evil?

What can we know about God by examining the simantic words?

Can an evil being truly understand love and remain evil? How about the opposite? Can God truly understand sadism (or whatever other lovelessness) and remain good?

Do sadists truly understand sadism? Then they would understand the consequences of their sadism. They never do, never feel the affliction of those they torture as the afflicted one feels their affliction. Someone who understands sadism fully who also understands love fully will prefer love over sadism.

Can Good Experiences Balance Out Eternal Conscious Torment?

If you were in hell, God would feel it, just as you did. He would experience your firsthand experience, which would be of hell and nothing but hell. But God is aware of other experiences, some which are not hellish. So would God be able to bear eternal conscious torment, that which came from really knowing what it was like to be you-in-hell, simply by also experiencing all the non-hell experiences firsthand?

We might think about the analogy of a body. Maybe you have a severe chronic pain that affects one part of your body. But you are also undergoing a pleasurable experience in another part of your body. If the pleasurable experience is strong enough, and chronic, could it allow you to experience your pain forever? I think it could, but only by taking your awareness away from the pain. And in that respect, you wouldn't really be feeling the pain anymore, although in some sense it would still be there.

God would be aware of our pain, as fully aware of it as we would be. So if God really knows what it's like for us to undergo ECT, he does so without being able to rest, even if on some level he knows that there is much that is good.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Book Review and Postview: Omnisubjectivity by Linda Zagzebski

I read Omnisubjectivity, by Linda Zagzebski. This book is short (43 pages of actual material), and I wouldn't recommend buying it, for the price. But if you find it at a library, I might recommend reading it, if you are interested in the concept of God directly experiencing the experiences of his creation, from the perspective of a Catholic philosopher. Zagzebski's approach might be a little more to the taste of someone from a traditional Christian background than my own writing is.

It might be good to know that she wrote an essay on omnisubjectivity titled "Omnisubjectivity" in Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion, volume 1, ed. by Jonathan Kvanvig. This also looks like something I would prefer checking out of a library to buying.

In this review, I focus on how Zagzebski's project interfaces with my own, or gives me reason to connect with some of her "news" (she brings up issues that come from the world of classical theism).

I don't think that Zagzebski would have reason to object to my philosophy, at least in my basic project where it might overlap with hers, because we both affirm that omnisubjectivity is something that does not involve God being identical to the consciousnesses of creatures, of which he has subjective knowledge.

In her understanding, God makes a constant renewal (my words) of his awareness of other beings, like we do when we practice human-scale empathy. He experiences what he's experiencing, rather than what we are experiencing, but his experiences are (perfectly) faithfully copied from our own.

In my understanding, God experiences the exact experiences of his creatures, but is different from them by experiencing more than those exact experiences, including some which are private to him. God is able to be himself by being more than our consciousnesses -- a certain kind of distance made possible by being even more conscious, rather than less.

Zagzebski defends her theory from the idea that God is made a sinner by being subjective to our sinful conscious states. I would defend my theory by saying that a person is sinful based on their disposition or heart, not based on their experiences. If a demon overtakes a person and causes them to be angry, it's not necessarily because the person really wants to be angry, and that shouldn't count as sin -- it doesn't in God's eyes, although humans may still be suspicious.

Zagzebski brings up counterfactual subjectivity. Is it possible to experience the experiences of people in possible worlds? I hadn't thought of that possibility. Is it necessary for an omniscient God to experience the experiences of every counterfactual consciousness? For today, I will say that I favor saying that possible worlds only exist as imaginations, and therefore have no reality of their own. God need not experience what only exists as an imagination if such imaginations have not been imagined. It might be useful, somewhat like Zagzebski says, to think counterfactually for the purpose of doing the right thing better. If imagining someone's thought process in a human, empathic way is useful, then why not use omnisubjectivity to actually know, rather than guess at, the way someone would feel in a given situation?

However, I do not think that people can be perfectly predicted, because their free will has not acted yet. So God could only guess, and would consider multiple possibilities.

Because the book mentions them, I'll briefly mention the divine attributes of timelessness, immutability, and impassibility. I don't see a reason to think that God is impassible (can't feel emotions). (Zagzebski doesn't think impassibility and omnisubjectivity are compatible, and I agree. She does think immutability and timelessness are compatible with omnisubjectivity.) I can see that following immutability, one might arrive at impassibility. But I would say, yes, there is some element of God which is immutable, and another which is not, and figuring out the difference is important. I don't see a reason, at this time, to think that God is timeless.

Perhaps most salient for me right now is the question of Eternal Conscious Torment. Does God experience the torment of hell for all eternity? Zagzebski does not address this issue in this book, although she mentions that God may be able to timelessly apprehend a timely reality in one moment. I don't think this is really the same experience though. I think a timely experience is one which is experienced in time, and so omniscience requires being in time, such that ECT lasts forever for any omniscient God (if ECT exists).

Book Review Preview: Omnisubjectivity by Linda Zagzebski

Omnisubjectivity, by Linda Zagzebski, looks like it might be an academic philosophy defense of what I would call "solidarity", the aspect of the metaphysical organism whereby it inherently experiences the exact experiences of the beings with which it has metaphysical contact. I would assume that Zagzebski might not be approaching things from a basically Berkeleian perspective as I do, so there might be some friction there. It might be good to see how far omnisubjectivity can be defended from a more traditional Christian perspective, if that's the perspective she takes.

Axioms of Trusting; Trustworthy and Anti-Trustworthy Places

Epistemic status: provisional.

Trusting is when you connect to a reality outside yourself on a deep level -- staking your being or some element of your being on it. It is a real connection between you and and what is not-you.

What reality do you connect to? You connect to the thing that you directly trust, but also other things. A definition for "trust" is "receptivity to enhancement". You affirm that there is such a thing as enhancement, and the possibility of not being enhanced. So you connect to meaning and ought. You also connect to trustworthiness itself.

When you trust, there is a letting-go. You enter a new reality when you believe something rather than continuing to try to apply the strictest doubt to it. If you believe (thus, trust) something that could possibly be wrong, there is some chance that you fail to believe what would save you. To exist is to accept that you might be wrong, or rather to live in the reality in which you are not wrong and will not die, which is trust. If you succeeded in not trusting anything, you would be dead.

This reality of not being wrong and not dying is a kind of taste of heaven which we can visit in this life, but not forever. (Often enough, we are betrayed.) Having gone to that place, we know it exists. We may not know the full nature of the place, of trustworthiness. We don't know that everything will turn out right for us, just because trustworthiness exists. But somehow that place exists.

Compare trustworthiness to the fantasy world in a book (Arrakis, Middle-Earth, etc.). Why not believe that Arrakis exists as a real place? You can go there in your imagination. I would say that the difference between Arrakis and trustworthiness is that you can enter trustworthiness with your whole being, but not Arrakis.

Or perhaps you can enter Arrakis with your whole being, and can go to live there. I don't expect to be able to. But trustworthiness is a basic thing. It's not culturally-dependent like Arrakis, and it is woven through one's entire life. Trustworthiness is clothed with the five senses, and the noetic sense as well, and if Arrakis is trusted, it's included as a subcomponent of trustworthiness, in the imagination. So trustworthiness can encompass all of reality, in a way that it seems Arrakis cannot. Arrakis is not a necessary component of personal existing, whereas trustworthiness / trusting is.

What about other psychological states that come over us? Perhaps anger or sadness can take us out of trustworthiness. Does a place of ultimate and unending anger exist? That sounds like hell to me. Maybe it does. Does hell have to exist as a place forever as it seems to promise? Hell is not bound to tell the truth about itself the way trustworthiness is. We always trust, but anger can overtake us. Similarly joy may exist as a place, but it seems like it's just one of the expressions or modes of trustworthiness. So there are fundamentally two places, perhaps, trustworthiness and hell, the anti-trustworthy place.

We are jarred out of trustworthiness, but only for a time, before we someday return to it. And there is a partial access to trustworthiness which is even in our lives as we return, at all times.

Can we trust that of which we have no conscious access, neither with the senses nor noetically? I don't think so. So can we have direct personal connection, whether to trust and remain in trustworthiness or be betrayed, with that of which we have no conscious access? I don't think so, either. So then how can we have personal connection with what cannot affect either us or our experiences? If a mind can mediate between us and some unconscious reality, then that mind would have to trust it, so as to be affected by it, and it would have to be a mind or experience. So that leaves experiences. Can experiences exist outside of minds, or have causal power of themselves? This is doubtful. So trust gives us reason to doubt the efficacy of unconscious beings, which are neither minds nor experiences. Even the bullet that kills completely unexpectedly probably must be mediated by a mind, and thus would be an experience.

But what about when we trust things in an unconscious way? Are there such trustings? It's possible to enter a state of trusting, consciously, and then remain in it, unconsciously. The past self consciously trusted, but the present self remains in the state of receptivity to enhancement toward the trusted reality. In the case that we trust that the infinite possible evils will not affect us, those which we haven't imagined, then those evils may not exist in any sense, having not been imagined, and what we really trust is trustworthiness itself, which says "you will live forever". Similarly, if we trust the unimagined goods that may come, we are trusting trustworthiness itself. We have a noetic sense of trustworthiness, at all times.

The axioms of the act of trusting are 1) consciousness exists, 2) you exist, 3) what is not-you exists, 4) you can directly contact what is not-you in a deeply personal way, through trust, 5) trustworthiness exists, 6) enhancement exists, 6a) meaning exists, 6b) legitimacy exists 7) trust is most likely (or is certainly?) only of minds, experiences or beings reducible to minds or experiences.

What can we derive from these axioms? Overall, it looks like God exists. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 7 support the metaphysical organism argument. Those points and 6a support simantism, those points and 6b support legitimism.

5 seems like something that points to the existence of heaven. If trustworthiness promises that there is such a place as trustworthiness, but there is no such place, it itself is not trustworthy. That's a little like the qualia of redness itself not being red. Or the qualia of goodness not being itself good, something which Sharon Rawlette argues against. I wanted to argue against her, but had to admit it was hard to conceive of the qualia of goodness as not being good (although more than that could be good). Perhaps the qualia of goodness just are the qualia of trustworthiness, and are valuable as a promise, if not the complete reality, of what ought to be.

If there is a place where a person can be not-wrong and live forever, it seems like the kind of place that God could arrange, by bringing us into tune with reality, and by keeping us alive. For having suffered so much to raise us, God is the kind of being who is truly motivated to keep us alive forever, something which we can't necessarily even say of ourselves.

--

Trustworthiness is not just a property of where we are, but of who we are. We might suppose that, though humans are made to some extent of how they are arranged, they are also made of their material. So there must exist some source of personality that is truly trustworthy.

People in a trustworthy place need to be trustworthy, themselves. When we trust, we are trustworthy, in that trustworthy place, although we break out of it due to the untrustworthiness of ourselves, or of the things in our lives, which break us out of the place, into betrayal. When you are fully absorbed in returning a serve while playing tennis, it is like you are in heaven and are free from sin (and in a sense, you really are there and are that), but when your anger returns on the way home after being cut off on the freeway, both life and you have (if not sooner) proven your untrustworthiness.

The source of the material of trustworthy personality is a truly trustworthy person. For all that we arrange ourselves to be trustworthy, we must receive the spirit of this person in order to be trustworthy ourselves and thus part of unbreaking trustworthiness.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Guidance Rather Than Knowledge

Epistemic status: provisional -- maybe the definition of "guidance" could use more detail.

18 May 2021: made minor changes.

It's possible that when we seek to know things, we are missing the point of knowledge unless we go beyond "knowledge is justified true belief" or something like that to "guidance is knowledge that is not misleading in practice".

For instance, if I am a racist, learning the 100% true-in-itself fact of someone's skin color may mislead me, because of other beliefs and values that I have. Guidance requires a right connection to both "is" and "ought". Or I may fill my soul with knowledge to the point of satiation, and from that for some reason (sort of understandable, sort of not) think or trust that I need seek no more truth. So all the truths that I acquired mislead me, if there's something I still need to learn.

Guidance is connected to importance, the importance of a fact, so guidance requires a proper relationship to both "is" and "ought". To have a "justified true judgment-of-right-guidance" requires that we have morality which is real and sufficiently knowable, and that we believe in whatever axiologies other than morality might exist which relate to guidance -- for instance, the values contained in and supporting rationality, (assuming that you can split axiology into parts, given the interrelatedness of values) -- and that we can access knowledge of those axiologies (or the one axiology), and the pragmatics needed to seek them (or it), sufficiently. Thus, there really is such a thing as a place worth being guided to, and it is possible for guidance to take us there if we listen to it.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Epistemology of Seeking Overall Truth

If you are seeking to only have true beliefs, then the closer you keep to descriptive epistemology, the better. You would favor a conservative epistemology, in which you avoid believing beliefs unless you have to, or unless they pass the strictest tests. But if you are seeking to know the overall truth better, the way that all the truths work together, it might be better to believe more apparent truths, at the risk of believing some false individual truths, because to understand the bigger picture requires more data. One might ask, what good are high quality individual truths if you don't know the bigger picture in which they fit? They could be deceptive truths, for not being placed in the right context.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Deceptive Truths

A deceptive truth is one which is 100% true in itself but because of some other truth, leads to the person coming to know it to believe something false, potentially to the extent that they are in a worse state epistemically or fiducially for having known it. This might be because there was some kind of misleading lawyerly case which the deceptive truth is taken to be part of once believed. Or it could be because the believer feels a certain way after knowing it (anger, self-satisfaction, optimism, despair, etc.) which causes them to fail to see some other truth. Or it could be because knowledge, even if partial, creates the illusion of being knowledgeable, which reduces a person's interest in learning. (Or there could be other reasons a true belief could cause you to not relate properly.)

Relating to My Reality

Let's say I'm having a day where I tend to feel bad. I am prone to bad moods. Being in a bad mood is something that hides itself. Instead, I see things in a bad light. But the things themselves aren't the real issue. It's the mood that's the problem.

By identifying that the mood is the problem, I can stop seeing things in a bad light. When I do that, my mood improves. We might also think that by realizing that my mood is my problem, I am accepting it, instead of resisting it, and this makes me feel better.

However, we can take this basic situation a couple of different directions, besides the above. One is to say that the mood is a thing other than me. When it is other than me, I can be myself. I am no longer it, and although it is still something I feel, I exist apart from it and can relate to it. Becoming myself (for the nth time) is something that enables me to see the truth and God -- I was myself all along, and God always existed, but I lost sight of that truth. All truth is known by a person relating to what is not-them. (This is a kind of simantist approach.)

Another way to go is to say that we live on different levels. There is the level of feeling in the moment, and the social reality, the one we can easily talk about. Then there is the spiritual reality. With those who have spiritual eyes, it's possible to see a mood as something profound, as a spiritual reality (a certain kind of life reality and simantic word). There is something deep about life, and understanding the depth of a situation can bring peace -- at least on some levels. To see that, spiritually, "here I am", stuck as I am inside the giant fishbowl of a mood, that fishbowl is a profound thing and I am deep in it, and oddly, this can bring peace through depth. (This is somewhat analogous to Hassel's levels of consciousness.)

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Book Review Preview: Warranted Christian Belief by Alvin Plantinga

See also the review and postview.

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?

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?

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?)

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"]".

ECT in Islam and Classical Theist Christianity

I don't know a lot about Islam (I read the Quran, a Western "overview of Islam" book, and three Sufi-related books last spring), but I remember the God of Islam being omniscient. (This page, among others, confirms).

If God (Allah) is omniscient, wouldn't he experience the torment of any ECT he was causing, exactly as those undergoing it? Otherwise he wouldn't know everything. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable in Islam than I am can follow up on this and see if this leads us to thinking Allah wouldn't cause ECT, just like the God of MSLN.

Incidentally, the classical theist Christian God, held to by some (or most?) conservative, ECT-affirming Christians, would also have to be omniscient enough to suffer whatever hell he caused. Would the God of classical theist Christianity want to suffer hell for all eternity? I'm also not versed enough in classical theists' thoughts, to know what they would make of it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Apologetics to Identify God

Normally apologetics tries to say "God exists, a particular god does." We assert an image and then try to show that that image is rooted in reality.

Another, rarer use (unprecedented?) is to evaluate a superpowerful being that claims to be God. We have something that seems like it could be God, but is it? Or is it just a very powerful being, perhaps some kind of alien, AI, or the voice or avatar of some finite being that is running our simulation (if it's possible to live in a simulation)?

This may come into play at the end of the world, if something similar-enough to the events in Revelation occur.

What is God? What makes God God? The MSLN answer is that power ultimately comes from authority, and authority comes from legitimacy, which comes from knowing everything there is to know, and being disposed to undergo the effects of one's will to the greatest extent possible. So plausible candidates for "God on earth" would have to conform to that pattern, if MSLN is to be believed.

Concept of God Affects Personal Experience of God

How do we know God through personal experience? Generally, we have some concept of God, and we find that some of our experience fits that concept, and we call that the voice of God.

This God known through personal experience is usually on our side, and approaching God through personal experience has the virtue of allowing us to always be right about him. A person who's seeing what appears to be a yellow rose shouldn't believe anyone who tells them they are not seeing what appears to be a yellow rose, and no one has a truth-based right to contradict the yellow-rose-seer. So if we see God as we experience him, we definitely see God as we experience him.

The danger is that our concepts of God, the ones that form our concept of what "God" can mean and thus which of our experiences are from God, may not be in line with the God who actually exists. We may fail to have receptors for sides of his character that we don't believe in, and thus fail to find those to be of him through personal experience. We know that God is love, but we think of love in human terms. So, though it threatens to be wearying and confusing (but it isn't always), we need to either study the "outside view" to our experiences of God for ourselves (find the truth of God found in the holistic relationship of truths, including revelation), or somehow figure out which teachers of the truth we can listen to -- but a good teacher should make it so that we see the truth for ourselves. In this way we will not be misled by a version of God that fits what is convenient or culturally acceptable but which is actually risky and untrue to God.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Is Holiness the End of Childhood?

The loss of childhood has a touch of tragedy to it. You may live forever, but will your past selves? I'm significantly different from who I was as an eight-year-old, to the point that if I met him in a different eight-year-old's body (so that I couldn't see a physical resemblance to me), I might not realize he was me. Will that eight-year-old be resurrected on the last day? I think I've written about this somewhere in my notes and wonder, but do not remember, what I had to say then. But my sense, from what I've read is, no? Probably not?

Some people, who love their childhoods, try to prolong them into adulthood. Maybe the real phenomenon is to prolong an adolescence that values childhood. They might do this for years, presumably to keep alive the old ways.

Is holiness the end of childhood? For "holiness", you could substitute "spiritual development", "spiritual maturity", "being in tune with God", "becoming truly wise", "overcoming sin" or even "coming to fully love and trust God". In my mind, all of these are one thing, which has all of those facets. They can seem to involve giving up some aspect of yourself, possibly your childhood. So someone who values childhood might resist them, and in the process, cause harm or even risk hardening.

We generally always have to give something up for holiness or pay more for it than we were initially willing to pay. And that may be the case with holiness and childhood. However, I think there are people who can retain their childlikeness as well as developing their spiritual maturity without holding back. They are open to the process of development as much as it calls for, and do not resist it for the sake of keeping their childhood. And the process of development does not call them to lose their childlikeness, so they keep it. By contrast, holding onto childishness is something that the process of development (God working in us) will not want to keep, though we may want to.

Childlikeness is a positive thing in itself, but there may be something better. God shapes us to be instruments (a utilitarian metaphor) or inhabitants of niches (an ecological one). Our purpose may involve us losing aspects of who we are which are good in themselves.

So holiness is necessarily the end of one part of childhood, and may be, but is not necessarily, the end of another part.

--

Could there be a recovery of childlikeness as we mature? I don't see why that can't be.

Being attached to childhood too much can be like any other attachment that is too much, something which competes with God in our hearts. When we are mature, we may not have our old tastes and desires, and probably won't long to be any particular way, other than connected to God.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Process: Eternal Conscious Torment Dominates Reason?

I had intended to find an answer (at least enough of an answer) to the question in the post title and write it in this article. But I find that I can't answer it in a timely fashion, and think it is interesting to post some of my process as I seek an answer. So this post ends with different research directions I could go, rather than answering the questions developed in the body of it.

It's rational to take into consideration the greatest threats to human well-being and then try to avoid them, even if they are relatively unlikely. Annihilation is a threat worth avoiding, but even more so is eternal conscious torment (ECT). If this is the case, then if there is some proposed worldview that contains ECT, we should have to adjust our behaviors to fit it, (almost) no matter how unlikely it is -- unless we can come up with a defeater for that practical belief. ("Practical belief" being something that is believed in by action, whether or not we are fully sure of it epistemically.)

There are a large, potentially infinite, number of worldviews that propose ECT, but if their likelihood is all Pascalian, then we can't practically worry about them, because they cancel each other out. But suppose there is some religion X that proposes ECT (let's say, an analog to the Invisible Flying Spaghetti Monster that gives those who do not eat the dishes it approves of horrendous food poisoning for all eternity). Let's say we have some small amount of rational evidence for its truth, which pushes its credence above the Pascalian, into the non-Pascalian. So now, are we practically obliged to observe the list of approved foods (which is heavy on pasta)? Is its food poisoning a strong enough consideration to swamp whatever good comes from committing to the God of MSLN? Sure, MSLN's God promises eternal life. But how can the promised reward of eternal life compare with the promised threat of eternal food poisoning? (And of course, the Stringent Invisible Flying Spaghetti Monster (SIFSM) offers a paradise of delicious pasta dishes and also transcendent high-qualia-of-ought-to-be-ness-inducing salads, for all eternity, a reward which easily equals any similarly hedonic heaven that God could offer.)

The threat of ECT is worth considering, no matter how little evidence there is for it, provided there is some. So how can we parse this situation? Do we have to let ECT dominate reason? We might be 99% sure of the truth of MSLN, but only 1% sure of the truth of SIFSM, and strangely enough turn away from and fail to trust the God that is very likely to exist for the one who is very likely to not exist, just because the expected (dis)value of ignoring the unlikely one promises to be so high. This does not seem like an entirely desirable situation to be in, from the standpoint of the intersection of good practice with good believing. Is there some kind of "practico-epistemic" (to coin a word that perhaps doesn't need coining) filter to keep us from having to act as though we believe in just any even-barely-non-Pascalian ECT worldview?

Here's one way to try to get out: Christianity, for better or worse, has had on the books some kind of ECT doctrine for its entire existence. It's debatable whether the Bible really teaches it, but for the purposes of this, just that it is debatable is strong enough. The evidence for Christianity is considerable. Hundreds of millions of people perceive it to be true, and perceive that its God exists. The only competitors to it on that scale are the worldviews of Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and secularism. Certainly some upstart like SIFSM doesn't have that level of witness. This traditional Christianity threatens a hell that is just as bad as the worst conceivable food poisoning, for just as long, all eternity. So it has the same penalty, but is more likely, and therefore dominates SIFSM, practico-epistemically.

However, now we have to set ECT-affirming Christianity and ECT-affirming Islam side by side. So how can we tell what to do? Should we form a saving relationship with Jesus, God who became a man, son of God? Or with Allah, the one who has no equals? Arguably, the penalty and reward for both are both infinite and equal, ECT and paradise. Now how can we tell which one to favor practico-epistemically? Are we reduced to flipping a coin and hoping for the best?

At this point, I would like to bring in MSLN and say, "look, MSLN can give us a lot of evidence in favor of Christianity, so we should favor ECT-affirming Christianity". On some level, this makes sense. In a religious sense, I (as an MSLN Christian) feel more kinship with those ECT-affirming Christians who are really shaped by Jesus' teachings than I do with Muslims. But, is it really "legal" to use MSLN to do that in this case? MSLN rules out ECT. So if the idea is to have a Christian worldview that teaches ECT which logically dominates all the others which teach ECT, so that people can pick one right (hell-safe) worldview, can we support that worldview with auxiliary arguments that deny ECT?

I'll step back for a minute and consider, what's at stake here? If people don't believe Christianity is true, there is some increased risk of them not accepting Jesus in this life and going to a hell of ECT (traditional, ECT-affirming Christianity) or becoming hardened to the voice of Jesus in this life or in the Millennium (New Wine Christianity). If they don't believe SIFSM is true, perhaps they are similarly at risk of ECT. SIFSM seems exceedingly unlikely to me (especially because I haven't found any arguments in favor of it, have only just asserted the image of it -- it only hypothetically has evidence in favor of it). But because it favors ECT, it can seem like a greater threat than the far more likely MSLN. If people did not put their practico-epistemic trust in MSLN, in favor of SIFSM, and they took this to an extreme, completely turning toward SIFSM and away from MSLN, they would probably be annihilated, all to avoid a distantly-likely infinite threat.

One natural way out of this is to say "Okay, I'm pretty sure that MSLN is true, but I'll stay away from those forbidden dishes. Who knows, maybe I can keep from experiencing eternal food poisoning that way". However, when we bring in something like Islam into the picture, we now find ourselves practico-epistemically encouraged to... worship both Allah and Jesus? In the old days, the people of God often tried to do that kind of thing, and God was not happy. Somehow God expects us to be able to figure out that he's the one for us without us betting a little in favor of the saving power of all the others. This exclusivity over against hedging is something that I expect is operative in Islam as well.

One "supernatural" way out ("supernatural" in a Weilian sense, maybe), is to say that ECT and annihilation are red herrings. Hell is a big distraction. True well-being is to love. Even if you get trapped in ECT, if you really love, then you are truly fortunate. So if we're weighing Likelihood against Threat, ask yourself if the threats even matter. Annihilation prevents you from loving, but ECT does not (arguably). Neither of them prevent you from becoming a loving person "NOW", in this life. In the book of your life, you can always make the best choices you can. Perhaps even likelihood can be ignored (at least as an absolute in determining practical epistemology), and all that's left is to say "what is genuinely beautiful, and more important than that, what is genuinely true? If I'm not looking for what is true according to my own fears, desires, etc., but only for truth in itself, what do I see?" Likelihood has some connection to that, but threat does not.

And yet what is love if not (in part) to protect others (or yourself) from threats? Maybe the real threat is to not learn to love "NOW". This is in keeping with MSLN. But hell (historically, the threat of ECT; or in MSLN, the threat of punishment and annihilation) is a useful doctrine (and reality) in helping some of those at greatest risk of hardening to turn toward God. We don't necessarily all value love of God for itself at first.

What this might mean is that for some, hell is and has been convincing in a way that leads them to love God, so it's a good thing. But for those who understand somewhat more, it creates issues such as the possibility of something like the SIFSM. But then those who understand more than that see that Likelihood dominates Threat, when we define the real threat to be not being in line with the truth that is orthogonal to well-being, which turns out to be God.

--

This all has some bearing on how to understand the metaphysical organism argument. Part of that argument says that there is some (I would now say "non-Pascalian") chance that God exists, given the issue of consciousness vs. matter and how there's some reason to think that the Metaphysical Organism's existence could settle it. So we should act like God exists, if it is not costly. But should we act as though the Father, or Allah, or Krishna, or the SIFSM, or...? exist, based only on the metaphysical organism argument? One action that argument recommends is prayer, as well as a "costless" trust. Do we pray to all of them, or trust in all of them? Arguably, to fully trust God, we must go all in on some path of trusting him. But the metaphysical organism argument, by itself, does not warrant us choosing any particular God (so long as that God conforms to the description of the Metaphysical Organism -- currently, of the gods listed above, only the Christian Father as found in MSLN / the New Wine System fits the description). So if we are MO-only believers, we should pray to "the true God, whoever you are". That way, whatever God really exists, we will have been praying to him/her/etc. all along. That God will want us to understand him/her/etc. better and provide ways to do that, when the right time comes.

--

But then, I keep thinking, isn't either a Muslim or Christian ECT possible, and shouldn't we warn people away from it? I am okay with saying that my own eternal well-being is less important than seeking what is true apart from Threat, and learning to love no matter my experiential circumstance. But what about other people's eternal well-being?

So I think there could be more thinking done here.

One possible route is to explore if there are non-MSLN reasons to prefer either ECT-affirming Christianity or ECT-affirming Islam (or some Hindu or Buddhist equivalent?). This sounds like a lot of work, to understand these religions enough to say one is better than another, and is not my first choice to find an answer here.

A second possible route is to consider the possibility that Reformed epistemology is invalid, or not valid enough. Reformed epistemology says that we have noetic perceptions of God, and those beliefs are good enough to make the resulting beliefs in God rational, for some definition of "rational". Presumably Muslims have noetic perceptions of God. Do we have any solid evidence for revelation (the Bible or Quran) apart from "faith" (a belief produced in us supernaturally by God, which is itself a perception of God)? This version of "faith" may turn out to be in a Pascalian situation (there could be as many believable gods as there are people who bother to invent them), and if so, we have no reason to trust either the Bible or the Quran as revelation, just from that "faith" belief. So whatever the books say about ECT isn't something that can threaten us. Then to choose between the two, we would look to some kind of reason, perhaps a natural theology like MSLN, to choose which one to follow.

(One could say that perhaps Christianity and Islam contain within them people who have these arguably-supernatural "faith" beliefs, but that these beliefs do not arise on command for some religion-inventor. But in the future, maybe we will be able to engineer such belief-experiences, which will be taken as the occasions for God (or the IFSM or SIFSM, etc.) to touch our minds. So then we will still be able to invent some kind of reason to believe in whatever beliefs a religion can contain.)

Or is it possibly the case that both Christians and Muslims see God noetically, and are seeing the same being, whose real nature they disagree about, but neither of them noetically see (with the same justification as the "basic belief" in God) that ECT is valid? (ECT in this scenario would have to be something added on, by certain readings of the Bible or Quran, to the basic undifferentiated theistic faith derived by noetic perception.)

If we are in a basically Pascalian situation with respect to ECT, we will need stronger evidence (Likelihood) to get an answer of what to do, practically.

I would think it very strange to think that noetic perception is not at all valid, and that if it is valid, that perceptions of God (or of anything) in a noetic way yield absolutely no evidence that such things are real. But on the other hand, while I found Reformed epistemology (my source for the concept of "noetic perception"; as read about in Plantinga's Warranted Christian Belief) to be helpful when I was younger, I also found it vaguely dissatisfying, and perhaps at this point in my life I would be better able to figure out why. Exactly how far can noetic perception go? Does Reformed epistemology equally justify Islam (or other belief systems)? Re-reading Warranted Christian Belief was already seeming interesting to me, and this is another vote in favor of doing that.

The third route to go is to explore, just what are the "axioms" of ECT? What are all the truths that must be true for us to even have the situation of being threatened by ECT? And then, once we have identified those truths, what else do they imply? In math (if I understand correctly), if you properly understand addition, you have to understand some basic axioms. Then, once you understand those axioms, you can build new things, which are not addition, and which you couldn't directly get from addition. But (I think) the validity of addition implies the validity of the things derived from addition's axioms. This is the most attractive of the three routes (as of today [the day I wrote that draft]), and so I hope to have something to say on the topic in a later post or posts.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Awareness of Sinfulness

Having sin as a category is something that has died out in part of the West. Sinfulness is not real to us.

On the other hand, suffering is real. And suffering due to guilty feelings is real.

It may be the case that just as suffering has displaced sin, awareness of sin can sometimes displace suffering. If we care about something greater than suffering, that is, our own sinfulness, then we come into being as moral agents, and this takes away from our obsession to feel good at all times. The obsession gone, we actually feel better.

Suffering due to guilty feelings is real, but it is not exactly awareness of sinfulness. When I am aware of my sinfulness, I am. It's not forced on me by social pressure, psychological tricks such as the imagery of hell, or the inborn drive of people to look acceptable to themselves or others. All of these things may be gateways to true awareness of sinfulness, but in themselves they are not it. Awareness of sinfulness is when we, as ourselves acknowledge that truth, that we are aware of sinfulness. Not victims of psychological (or demonic) forces that say "You did wrong", but rather people who see the truth, as people.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Idolatry of Moral Anti-realism

I read the following, and it made me think of moral anti-realism and societal best practices:

Isaiah 44

9 Everyone who makes a carved image is vain. The things that they delight in will not profit. Their own witnesses don't see, nor know, that they may be disappointed. 10 Who has fashioned a god, or molds an image that is profitable for nothing? 11 Behold, all his fellows will be disappointed; and the workmen are mere men. Let them all be gathered together. Let them stand up. They will fear. They will be put to shame together.

12 The blacksmith takes an ax, works in the coals, fashions it with hammers, and works it with his strong arm. He is hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water, and is faint. 13 The carpenter stretches out a line. He marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes. He marks it out with compasses, and shapes it like the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to reside in a house. 14 He cuts down cedars for himself, and takes the cypress and the oak, and strengthens for himself one among the trees of the forest. He plants a cypress tree, and the rain nourishes it. 15 Then it will be for a man to burn; and he takes some of it and warms himself. Yes, he burns it and bakes bread. Yes, he makes a god and worships it; he makes it a carved image, and falls down to it. 16 He burns part of it in the fire. With part of it, he eats meat. He roasts a roast and is satisfied. Yes, he warms himself and says, "Aha! I am warm. I have seen the fire." 17 The rest of it he makes into a god, even his engraved image. He bows down to it and worships, and prays to it, and says, "Deliver me, for you are my god!"

18 They don't know, neither do they consider, for he has shut their eyes, that they can't see, and their hearts, that they can't understand. 19 No one thinks, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, "I have burned part of it in the fire. Yes, I have also baked bread on its coals. I have roasted meat and eaten it. Shall I make the rest of it into an abomination? Shall I bow down to a tree trunk?" 20 He feeds on ashes. A deceived heart has turned him aside; and he can't deliver his soul, nor say, "Isn't there a lie in my right hand?"

21 Remember these things, Jacob and Israel, for you are my servant. I have formed you. You are my servant. Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. 22 I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions, and, as a cloud, your sins. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.

To some extent, morality is like a god. It's something to which we "bow down", bind ourselves, regard as highest. Also to some extent, we create morality. Society at large does. Sometimes individuals consciously shape what society considers moral. So we create a thing, and then bow down to it.

To some extent, morality comes from pre-rational instinct. Or perhaps it can come from other sources that are also not conscious human decision. However, as a species, we are getting closer to the time where we have arbitrary control of pre-rational instinct or whatever other non-human-judgment sources of morality there are. Less and less will fall outside the realm of human judgment. So then our capacity to make idols will increase. We may shut out the truth of the real God with the invented world.

Not only is there morality, but also the Best Practices associated that are recommended to execute a given morality. We recommend these Best Practices with a religious fervor, because they are the "saving power" aspect of our god, our semi-invented morality being the "legitimacy" aspect.