Thursday, May 27, 2021

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.

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