Re: RELIGION: The meaning of Life

Gregory Houston (
Thu, 13 Feb 1997 16:33:46 -0600

Max More wrote:

> I will try not to get drawn back into this discussion, since I'm supposed
> to be working on my book. But it is an important issue to me, so perhaps I
> won't be able to resist!
> Onward!

I will attempt a summation then. Thank you for taking the time to delve
into this issue with me. As is so often the case, one of our
difficulties in this discussion has been a discrepancy in our
definitions of common words, the word "truth" in particular. I was
thinking of truth as an absolute in a purely dichotomous sense while you
treating it as a something contextual, something that could be achieved
in degrees.

What you have called truth in the contextual sense, I call for lack of
better words, functional. I do this in order to distinguish the absolute
from that which can be attained by degree. What you would call true I
would call functional or useful. I believe this is a subtle
philosophical shift. It attentuates the epistemological priority of
knowledge while enhancing the axiological priority of emotion qua
need/desire. This shift occurs because knowledge is concerned with truth
[and thus purely cognitive], while need and desire are more concerned
with functionality [and thus gratification].Perhaps this is an
irrelevant or irrational distinction. So far I can only offer intuitive
reasons for this differentiation and correlating priority shift.

Reasons for shift:

1. Increase our sensitivity to our emotions qua need and desire, thus
enabling us to become more aware or more "knowlegeable" of our needs and
desires. By this I mean, that most of our desires are formed
subconsciously. Desires which are formed subconsciously cannot be
checked rationally, and the more that is determined subconsciously the
less freedom we have by degree. So in attempting to make conscious what
has hitherto been subconscious, we can learn to take responsibility for
it. We cannot take responsibility [at least not yet] for something that
is determined subconsciously. We have no control over it.

2. Increase our maturity, our rational control over our emotions, so
that we can effectively deal with the enormous amount "knowledge" we are
collecting via our intensive cognitive educations. For this I propose an
equally intensive emotive education in our public and private schools.
This would begin in the first grade. Most schools do not even teach
psychology until high school, some that I know of only allow the juniors
and seniors to enroll in these courses. No school that I am aware of
teaches a true emotive education. Its difficult to conceive of at first.
How do you *test* a student's ability to delve into the subconscious?
How do you test their ability to make conscious what is subconscious.
How do you objectively test something so seemingly subjective? There are
methods however, and those methods will continue to develop.
I believe violence in general, and specifically science for the purpose
of violence would be greatly reduced if we included emotive education in
our schools.

3. Enhance our ability to direct science. Science is a tool first and
foremost. Perhaps the meta or general purpose [desire] for the tool of
science is to achieve truth. Regardless, in particular, we seek specific
things we wish to enable via science, e.g. immortality. If we become
more "knowledgeable" and aware of our emotions, and what is going on
subconsciously, then we will have more control over the direction that
science moves in. Right now, science is in much part directed by
subconcsious forces [desires] that we are not in touch with. Thus the
direction that science is moving in is more determined than it need be.
Perhaps I might call this a desire for scientific freedom. There are
many arguments stating that we are wholly determined, but those
arguments only stand as long as their is a clear distinction between
freedom and determinism, and just as you pointed out the degrees of
truth, there are certainly degrees of freedom.

4. Enhance ectstasy. For me, ecstasy qua self-epiphany is the climax of
being. It is what makes life worth living. An emotive education would
aid people in fostering ecstasy ... it would help attentuate social
taboos of self-gratification. Ecstasy can be achieved through pure
emotion, intuition [eureka!], and even cognition, but a sensibility of
the emotions is a must if one wishes to attain ecstasy on a regular
basis rather than at few random times in life.

5. Better control over our modalities of consciousness. Our emotions
effect our centreal nervous system (CNS) and vice versa. If we learn to
control our emotions as connoisseurs of consciousness, then we can
sustain modes of consciousness such as rationality and ecstasty for
extended periods of time. Just as conflicting emotions often combine to
create new emotions, perhaps we will discover new modes of rationality
when such modes dynamically clash in the same moment with some form of

6. With a much better first hand understanding of our emotions and
endogenous realities I believe that we will have a much greater chance
at creating a truely profound AI.

7. Greater maturity for the coming dissolving of governement. It might
not be the best word to use, anarchy, but I believe that it is in a
sense where Libertarianism is leading us ... just in a sense perhaps,
but in any fashion, Libertarianism requires that we take responsibility
from the governement and claim those responsibilities for ourselves. In
a psuedo-anarchic system we will need to have learned a great deal more
about our emotions and how to effectively employ them before we can
imagine such a system to remain orderly. I know this is open to
argument, and thats not what I am seeking here, but I think you might be
able to entertain my perspective for a moment.

8. Fostering genius in our youth. Genius is something much more than
cognitive skill. Genius requires an enhanced emotive and intuitive
sensibility. We do not foster genious in our schools because we do not
foster these latter sensibilities. We shove knowledge down the throats
of our youth without teaching them how to teach themselves. Intelligence
is much more than being able to recite facts. Intelligence requires the
ability to think in new and novel ways, which requires a sensibility to
emotion and intuition.

9. Lastly, it is perhaps possible that a new assimilation of reason and
emotion might be the very thing necessary to begin something
transcendental of science and to thus set off the hypothetical

> >Max More wrote:

> BUT, reason is needed to structure and test the ideas
> generated. Good science is not done while in an unclear, undirected state
> of mind.

I agree entirely. I was not attempting to claim that the emotions should
be employed without reason. I believe I was quite clear in stating that
I wished to see the two used together, which you have now clarified to
me that you have no problem with.

I'm not sure if I have convinced you of the importance of including
emotive concepts in a system such as extropy or not, and I'm not sure if
this is the time for you to reflect on it, but I would humbly suggest
such in the future. 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 believe I point this out in a similar fashion as "Mark Miller
expressed his view that "epistemological issues are the great missing
piece in Extropian philosophy right now."" I am expressing a view that
emotive issues are now "the great missing piece in Extropian

I know you do not wish to debate this further, and I do not intend to
... its just food for thought.

Good luck on the book Max,

Gregory Houston