Re: Pascal's Wager

Anders Sandberg (
08 Dec 1998 17:59:22 +0100

"Billy Brown" <> writes:

> Anders Sandberg:
> > Is it just me, or doesn't it look like there is ample room for an
> > interesting synthesis of transhumanist thinking with some of the
> > eastern philosophical systems without having to throw important things
> > like critical thinking and empiricism overboard (as you often have to
> > do when trying it with western religions)?
> In my experience, Eastern religions are generally even less rational than
> Western ones. Not only do they carry the "the material world is evil" and
> "obedience to a higher power" memes so common in the West, but they are also
> infected to varying degrees with "there is no objective reality", "the
> highest virtue is to do nothing", "individuals do not matter/do not exist",
> and "perfection = oblivion". I don't see much potential for synthesis here.

[See caveat near the end]

I think this comes from a rather biased view of what they are saying. See Ian Goddards libertarian take on Taoism posted earlier today or yesterday, for example. "do nothing" can also be interpreted in a very positive way. I think Lao Tse would have agreed in many ways with it, even if he might not have bought the whole idea for purely cultural reasons.

The "material world is evil" meme isn't as clear-cut in the east as you make it out to be. At least the Chinese view seems to me be more along the lines that the material world is or could be good - this is the basis for much of the taoist experimentation in alchemy and magic: if you can harmonize everything, you will create a terrestrial paradise.

The idea of no objective reality is also rather tricky. Sure, this is what Buddhism and Hinduism seem to be saying (and I expect many of the followers agree completely). But the Buddhist idea that consciousness is the basic building block of existence, the only thing that truly exists, seems to me rather say that there is a quite objecte reality, it is just based on something rather weird. And after reading a bit of Zen, I'm becoming convinced that the best description of their metaphysics is objectivism - they want to see reality as it is (even if it is through mystical means). The descriptions of higher mental states also do not suggest them to be oblivion, but rather a state of very practical detachment.

Of course, speaking broadly about "the east" is as silly and overgeneralizing as saying things about all western cultures at the same time. It is better to be more specific, like saying "the taoist ideas of spontaneous organization fits in well with extropianism, even if it also promotes an uncritical approach" and so on.

	"Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard
	it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and
	rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it
	is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in
	anything merely on the authority of your teachers and
	elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been
	handed down for many generations. But after observation and
	analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and
	is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then
	accept it and live up to it."  
	- Buddha

Anders Sandberg                                      Towards Ascension!                  
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