RELIGION: The meaning of Life

Reilly Jones (Reilly@compuserve.com)
Sat, 15 Feb 1997 00:34:38 -0500


Gregory Houston wrote 2/14/97: <Our theoris progress, shouldn't our
terminology also?>

Our theories progress towards what? Where are they going?

<Perhaps the term truth is not yet archaic or obsolete, but I imagine it
will one day be so. It merely requires that enough people find it
neccessary for more *useful* terminology.>

Omega posted cogently a bit ago about willy-nilly redefinitions coming out
of the incoherent, passť, compost-modern stance that truth is either
relative or doesn't matter: "[H]aving an agreed upon meaning for words is
already a difficult enough problem in our society without people going
around redefining words on the fly. ...[T]his kind of redefinition
[raises] the signal to noise ratio within our society's communication....
[T]he redefinition you espouse is being hyped by one very well defined and
fairly narrow segment of our culture to the detriment of the general
ability of our culture to communicate within itself."

<Your argument is that if I deny truth then I am embracing what is false.
This is not the case. This is the same sort of thinking that says if I
deny God, then I embrace satan.>

No, this is not the same thinking. Truth is not relative, no matter how
hard many individuals today try to pretend it is in order to lie with
impunity. Totally contradictory events do not occur simultaneously in the
exactly the same place; only one thing happens at a time, what actually
happens is true. Only one thing at a time happened at each instant in the
past, each actually occurring instant is true. Things that didn't happen,
or that aren't happening right now, are false. The concepts of true and
false do not apply to future events; prediction, conjecture, promises and
the like do. If you are going to embrace the idea that utterly
contradictory things occur in exactly the same place at exactly the same
time, down there at the microcausal or Planck moment level, then you can
say nothing logical at all. You can only spout fluff, aka lies. You can
speak to your relationship with Satan better than I can, so I'll leave that
to you.

<When I deny one pole of a dichotomy, I do not embrace its opposite. I deny
the dichotomy entirely.>

Whoop-de-do. If you are not telling "the truth, the whole truth, and
nothing but the truth" about what has actually happened or what is actually
happening, you are lying. Saying that utility is preferable to truth is an
open invitation to barbaric behavior. It is quite frequently useful to
lie, does that alone make it right to lie? With your cavalier disregard
for truth, I wouldn't like you in my jury box, on my witness stand, or
doing business with me.

<I can be honest without ever having to refer to the concept of truth...>

Honest? How do I know you're telling me the truth?

<This is honesty qua usefulness rather than honesty qua truth. It still
works.>

I have seen quite clearly on the barbaric streets of many urban centers
that it most emphatically does not work.

<No one can be absolutely honest, but by degree, the person focused on
usefulness, will be more honest, more free, more in control of
self--emotively and thus cognitively--than the person focused on truth.>

I have been proud to know many individuals to be absolutely honest in many
situations. Whatever sense you are using "absolutely" above, is useless to
me. A focus on utility rather than on truth leads quickly to nihilistic
barbarism which produces only the illusion of self-control and freedom.
The chaotic world outside that such a focus produces, severely limits the
courses of action open to you in favor of an over-concentration in your
time-energy budget on personal defense; and undercuts any incentive for
self-control to develop, in favor of attempting to appropriate whatever
appears to be useful to you at the moment. The truth will set you free.
Utility alone will enslave you; often without your recognition of the bars
surrounding you due to the self-delusion fostered by the turn away from
truth.

<If I am bored and useless its my own fault.>

Let's say you've been involved in an accident through no fault of your own,
or you've gotten very old and sick through no fault of your own, and you're
confined to a hospital bed, on life support, totally paralyzed but still
mentally functioning. If you were bored and useless, it would not be your
fault. This idea that your mental states or levels of functionality are
all your own fault is New Age religious claptrap, pure nonsense.

<Confusion has to do with knowledge, but what I am speaking about in this
example is about subconscious emotions that *we* are unaware of. Did you
deny that you have a subconscious? Are you completely aware of all that
motivates you?>

Confusion could have to do with knowledge, but more usefully, it has to do
with holding conflicting purposes in your consciousness. Not conflicting
emotions, but the purposes that produced the emotions in conjunction with
the on-going actual events both inside and outside your head. Emotions
don't conflict in the absence of purposes which, if achieved, would produce
conflicting actual events. As far as I am aware, I am completely aware of
all that motivates me. I deny that I have a subconscious that cannot be
made conscious by directing my attention appropriately. This is just a
"spectrum of focus" issue, see David Gelernter's "Muse in the Machine"
(1993) on this idea. Also, see John Searle's "The Rediscovery of the Mind"
(1993) for a conclusive refutation of the possibility of the existence of a
subconscious not accessible to the conscious mind. Forget Freud, and all
his fellow-traveler crudballs.

<I am intrested in a MUCH BROADER spectrum of consciousness which includes
emotions. I will call this broader spectrum "information". I do not feel
the term information limits me to the purely cognitive that epistemology
does.>

You can call it "information" if you "feel" like it, but without
consciousness, who is the knower in conjunction with the known, that
actually makes it information? Absent the conscious, subjective self,
please make a rational argument that information has any meaning at all.

<When you are focused on truth and knowledge alone, you deny the greater
portion of your consciousness. Its like looking through a little peep hole
on
reality without ever feeling its presence.>

You don't deny it, you just aren't using it at the moment. Certainly there
other aspects of reality we can focus on that also use our consciousness,
we just are constrained by our attention mechanism from doing everything
possible at once. None of us can ever look at more than a little peep hole
on reality no matter what we do, so what?

<Much of my confusion regarding your stand on emotive "intelligence" could
have been reduced if there were some extropian documents which made an
honest effort to deal with this issue.>

I touch quite a bit on emotive intelligence in my essay on "Consciousness",
Part I in "Extropy" #14 and Part II in "Extropy" #15. Also, in my history
paper on the extropy web site under "Extro^2 Proceedings" you will find
quite a bit on it, even to the point of inextricably linking the concept of
progress to emotional meaning. Also, see the "Extropian Art Manifesto" of
Natasha More's. She writes: "We are achieving refined emotions through
forward thinking and analytical techniques." To which I replied: "...A
lifting up - ascension - above the coarse fabric of today's orthodox
media-driven pop culture. A simultaneous challenge to our maximum
emotional capacities coupled with an anchor in the aesthetic criteria of
what went before - we stand on shoulders of artistic genius, and we
simultaneously look upward and forward into new vistas; and downward and
backward with gratitude and a sense of measuring up to those whose vision
and sacrifice brought us to the present. A rich and heady mix of emotions,
difficult to maintain, the 'liquid realm'."

<I am expressing a view that emotive issues are now "the great missing
piece in Extropian philosophy.">

Well, do your homework first before you express views like this. Of
course, if you have no desire to attain truth, I guess you can express just
about any view you want to, but do they mean anything?

<Reality changes, there is no absolute reality, so how could there be an
absolute truth. How can we seek absolute truth, something that is suppose
to accord with reality, when reality itself is not absolute and
unchanging.>

What your confusion boils down to, is that your metaphysical presupposition
expressed above, your religious belief, if you will, or even worse, your
absolute truth, is unintelligible and incoherent. This Heraclitean
idealism quickly falls off the cliff into the nihilistic abyss. If you do
not begin with an aim to realism, your whole worldview stays vaporous,
unanchored to anything at all.

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Reilly Jones | Philosophy of Technology:
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| between 'How we create' and 'Why we create'