Category Archives: Physics and Metaphysics

Relativity: A very interesting philosophical paradox

Absolute relativity—that is, relativity absent a reference from which to observe it and organize the implicit relationships—actually precludes relative distinctions between objects, which precludes relativity itself. In other words, unreferenced to a non-relative observational constant, relativity is not relative, it’s infinite.  But of course infinity is purely a concept, because what is infinite cannot exist because it cannot be given a place or a time and thus cannot be defined.  And yet if relativity is referenced to an observational constant, then it’s not actually relative.  Meaning that there is no relativity qua relativity.  Relativity becomes, itself, relative TO the observer.  Meaning that the observer decides what relativity is, and absolutely so, at any given moment, depending on how he chooses to define it according to himself.

In other words, relativity, like infinity, is a concept.  Neither of these things are actual.  And yet if the relative relationships between the objects the observer conceptualizes are not actual, and if the observer possesses a body which is likewise a relative object with a relative relationship to other objects which is not actual, then how does the observer actually observe anything in order to conceptualize it? And if relativity is not a thing, and thus everything is infinite, but infinity cannot exist except conceptually, then what is anything? What exists? How is reality even possible?

So here is where we leave it, the paradox only to be unraveled by throwing out the metaphysics that the giants of history have given us, replacing them with much better, more rational metaphysics that we who stand on their shoulders might devise.  For those who stand on the shoulders of a giant may see things that the giant cannot see, and because of that knowledge build him a step stool.

Infinity cannot be infinite and relativity cannot be relative without the observer.  But they cannot be “infinity” and “relativity”, respectively, with the observer, either.  And yet, they are both necessary to the definition of the observer, himself, and to his purpose.  Thus we know that relativity, infinity, and observer are symbiotic…are corollary.  But how? And What?

The answer is Ability.

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Why Death is Irrational

I shall define death this way:  The end of consciousness; the cessation of self-awareness; the nullification of the distinction of “I”.  This is a fitting description of death qua death, or “proper death”, as it is more aptly described.  What I mean is death unqualified by either science or religion…qualifications like “spiritual death”, or “death” as merely a biological pattern…of “life” scientifically reconfigured.  In both cases, consciousness—the awareness of the Self—has nothing to do with death…death is merely one aspect of a perfunctory reality.  Death is existant; and it is not an end of anything.  And in this case, death is not existentially relevant to man, and so it is not relevant to philosophical truth, and thus is not relevant to ROOT truth.  For philosophy deals with the observer—you and I as our singular Selves—where science deals with the observed, and religion deals with the observer as a mere function of divine will.  Spiritual death refers to the irreversible debauchery of one’s character and the experience of divine punishment, and consiounsess in this case never ceases, and so there is no death as an ending, which means death is purely abstract, merely describing a different version of life.  Biological death, being rooted in the mathematics of science, doesn’t concede the fundamental legitimacy or efficacy of consciousness, and this is because science posing as philosophy is inexorably determinist.  And therefore death has nothing to do with the individual, who has no frame of reference for anything at all absent his consciousness.  Scientific determinism precludes consciousness entirely.

My argument for the irrationality of death is fairly simply, and it is this:  It is a self-nullifying and contradictory act to incorporate into reality, be it via divine power or purpose, or scientific processes, the destruction/subtraction/expiration of that by which creation and the powers and processes which cause it have any frame of reference whatsoever.  The eradication of the reference by which God or nature (physics) and creation can be known as such, and thus given any value, is impossible because it necessarily amounts to a plenary invalidation of both.  And once the Cause and the Caused are invalidated they cannot be, because they can have no meaning.  Their being is entirely dependent upon their meaning, purpose, relevancy, and efficacy, all of which can only be functions of that which is the practical reference for all of these things.  The Truth of all which is said to exist is the sum of meaning, purpose, relevancy, and efficacy.  But without that TO which the Truth of the Cause and the Caused can, in fact, be True, then they cannot be Cause or Caused in the first place.  In which case they could not have caused or be caused at all.  Without the conscious reference, who is there to say what is, and what is is is to be called, and what is actually does, and where it is, and where it’s been and where it’s going?  There is no one.

For a simple example, take “chocolate”.  “Chocolate” which is not referenced to he who can apply it to his single, constant, unchanging and thus objective reference of himSELF, which thus necessarily implies consciousness, or awareness of Self, is not and cannot in fact be chocolate.  Without this reference, chocolate is not “chocolate”—the thing has no meaning.  It has no purpose, no relevancy,  no efficacy…it has no Truth, and therefore is not a thing at all.  It is neither chocolate nor “chocolate”.  And therefore if the reference dies…if “I” qua “I” dies then so must everything else.  If “I” goes blank, then all of reality, all of existence, likewise goes blank.  And if it goes blank then it never existed at all, because blankness, nothingness, is infinite.  And this is why death is impossible.  If we concede the absolute end of the Self then there is no reason why anything referenced to the Self should ever have begun in the first place.  None at all.  Unreferenced reality cannot be real, and could never have been real because a relevant past suggests a relevant present, which is not there.  What is not real now, never was.

It may seem the height of arrogance to suggest that without “I”—without the Self, the individual conscious frame of reference for all of reality—that existence itself is null.  We are bred, I submit, by the implicit humility of western thought and culture to accept that “I” is purely an extension of “other”, and that what is good for the Self is only that which is good for the collective…for the “greater good”.  From this, at least in part, we implicitly concede that “I” is at root transient, and alone is insignificant to the overall ontological and spiritual landscape.  We, individually, are small…mere blips in the vast expanse of time and space and the universe…that reality is reality and existence is existence whether the individual is conscious of it or not.  To suggest otherwise, as I myself have personally experienced more than once, is to be branded a solipsist, a subjectivist, a mystic, and/or a peddler of Kantian collectivist metaphysics.  But whether or not these labels are fitting or rational (they aren’t) is nothing but a distraction.  Conjecture about my motives or my ideas in this context is besides the point.  All I am doing is asking an obvious question with an obvious answer.

How would I know?

I am told that reality objectively exists and is true and will continue to be true despite my consciousness of it, but how would I know?  Absent my Self…that is, my awareness of my Self, I have no frame of reference for such an assertion.  So, when I am told that reality is objective and existant outside of me what I’m being asked to do, ironically, is to accept the claim by blind faith.  I am being asked to believe in a thing absent any objective evidence that I can be aware of, because, as I am told, reality is entirely outside of my awareness.  My awareness is irrelevant to reality, because when it’s gone, reality is still entirely real.

This is a problem.

If my consciousness is integrated into reality then reality cannot be utterly real without it; and if it’s not integrated, and reality is outside of it, then my consciousness is entirely irrelevant to it, distinct from it, and therefore is a complete lie.  I cannot be conscious of reality because my consciousness is irrelevant to reality qua reality.  It’s a figment…an illusion.  Thus, I am being asked to accept an objective reality without any objective evidence.  And this, dear readers, by some means of rational extortion and contortion passes for objective truth in many philosophical circles.

And it may further be argued that there is evidence for an objective reality outside of my consciousness that I can be shown now, and that is why I should accept the notion, as if what I accept by consciousness now has any bearing upon a state of absolute unconsciousness.  Whatever I know as a Self ceases to be known when I am no longer that Self.  The Self ceases, and thus any evidence I gather from the frame of reference of Self also ceases.  Such evidence is not really evidence in that case.  And further, to make this argument, that evidence now from consciousness is meaningful, is really just a concession that consciousness is utterly necessary to truth, which nullifies the entire argument that truth is still true and reality still real absent consciousness.

I must say that I find it specious at best to assert that one who accepts the obvious fact that without one’s conscious frame of reference there can be no such thing as reality means that he is a sollipsist, or that morality becomes merely a function of one’s subjective whim.  That is, to be blunt, bad logic.  Given that before any concepts can mean anything they must be consistently applied to the reality which the conscious observer perceives and defines necessarily to himself, the subjectivity of truth and morality is, from this premise, quite impossible.  Because individual consciousness is the frame of reference, morality and truth can be objective.  Individual consciousness allows ideas to have a reference point…a constant for what would otherwise be purely relative.  It allows “me” to ACTUALLY be me and “you” to ACTUALLY be you, and from this we can derive a consistent epistemology and ethics.  It allows reason to be reasonable, and thus ethics to be ethical.  Reason, being anchored in a constant reference, has a consistent meaning, no matter who is using it…me or you or he or she.  Because reason is shared, it is NOT subjective.  There is no subjectivity implicit to the singular Self who communicates…that is, who shares concepts and conceptual consistency.  The same reason that defines MY Self as the reference for all of reality TO ME also applies to YOUR Self as an equal reference TO YOU, because we share the concepts and thus share reason.  The fact that reason must be referenced to the Self doesn’t make it unreasonable, but reasonable, because now it has a reference.  The only time morality and truth become subjective is when one no longer SHARES in the rational truth of the Self as the singular objective reference.  The only time truth becomes a lie and good becomes evil is when people reject the idea that their consciousness—their singular awareness of Self— is the only absolute reference for reality.  And thus, the only time there is “death” is when the Self rejects its own infinite existence.  The only time death is “real” so to speak is when one assumes that their consciousness is transient, or tertiary, or fundamentally irrelevant to reality.

So take heart, and know that because You must always be You, you cannot die and you will not die. You may travel, but you will not end.  You may be out of sight, but you cannot be out of existence.

The Critical Difference Between Science and Philosophy

What is it to which properties attach themselves? What is a thing absent its properties? What is “essence”? What is the IS of a thing? What is a thing without its roundness, or its blueness, or its coarseness or smoothness; its weight or shape, position, location, or speed for example? And where is the distinction between a thing and its properties…the abstract, you might say, and the material? Take away properties and what is left? And if there is no distinction then how do you describe a thing at all? And what and where is the distinction between the properties? Where does a thing’s texture end and its color begin, for example?

Is a thing merely a sum of its parts? Is there a distinction between its parts and itself? If so, then where does the thing end and the parts begin? And if there is no distinction then by what means can we say the thing or its parts exist at all? Parts that are not part of anything are not actually parts. And a thing without parts cannot be distinct because it has no distinctions within itself, and therefore not being distinct it isn’t really a thing. But if it’s not a thing how can we define it? And if it’s not distinct how can we give it a location so that we can compare it to something else in order to say what it is not, as corollary to what it is? In other words, comparison is essential to definition, is it not?

Comparison is essential to definition.

Hmm…

If we give a thing a location…for example, if we say that A exists HERE and B exists THERE and so can compare A to B and thus define A, do we not then admit that A must be A ALREADY and intrinsically and thus is independent of B, and therefore doesn’t need to be compared to B in order for it to be A? And how can this paradox be resolved unless we relegate the objects in question to the realm of pure abstraction, which is the realm of the observer and his concepts? That is, if the paradox can be resolved by making things and their distinctions a function of the observer and his powers of conceptualization, should we not reference all truth and efficacy and meaning to the observer? And if we do that then we cannot obligate the observer to the concepts he uses to describe reality, can we? But then how do we determine any absolute truth FOR the observer if truth is a function of reality which is a function of the observer’s ability to conceptualize? The observer is the source of truth so then can he not decide for himself arbitrarily what is true or not? How can objective truth be both FROM him and TO him?

If the observer defines all things conceptually then he must define HIMSELF conceptually. So is the observer just another concept? What is materialism and is there any such thing?  What is matter? Are these merely concepts, too, or are they outside of conceptualization somehow? But if we accept that we as humans sense, then conceptualize, and therefore are observers and conceptualize all of reality, how would we know?

Are there perhaps answers to be found at the level of quantum physics? But does this not beg the question: Where do a thing’s quantum properties end and its Newtonian properties begin? And if one is a function of the other how can there be any distinction, and thus how can each one actually exist? And if a thing has distinct quantum properties and distinct Newtonian properties then are we dealing with one thing or two?

And are the edges of a thing its beginning or end? Or both, or neither? And if neither then where is it? And if both, and the beginning and end of a thing are constantly folding back in on themselves, then isn’t the thing infinite? And if it’s infinite then it cannot have a location and thus cannot exist anywhere. And if it doesn’t exist anywhere then it doesn’t exist at all, right?

And this, my friends? Is the difference between science and philosophy.

Reason, Not Physics: Why miracles are possible

Say we have a medical issue…an injury, for example. If we accept the Laws of Physics as the arbiter of what is possible or impossible, and accept that these laws are the determinative mechanisms which govern all of reality (which is implicit in the laws themselves), then we must concede that we can only correct our injury according to the same rules which caused it.

So far so good…ostensibly.

The problem, however, is that in such a case, while it may seem a perfectly natural, logical, and efficacious assumption—intuitive even—we cannot make an OBJECTIVE moral value judgement between the injury and its remediation. Since they are both created, caused, and manifest by the exact same determinative rules, which, due to their necessary corollary relationship are at root a singularity, the only value judgement which can be rendered is entirely subjective—arbitrary—and therefore fundamentally meaningless.  For it is not possible to claim that one manifestation of the absolute governing mechanisms which define and compose reality is better or worse than another. Different manifestations of natural law observed by the individual are, fundamentally, morally indistinguishable, and thus any value judgements are completely subjective.  And if value judgements are subjective, then any epistemological (meaning/definitions) judgements are irrelevant, because morality and truth are corollary…for if one cannot morally value distinctions, then the definitions of those distinctions are ultimately useless to the individual. And this being the case, no actual distinctions—like “injury” or “healing”—can really be said to exist at all.

To summarize: Once moral distinctions can no longer be made, because all events are products of the same absolute, determinative natural laws, then no distinctions of any kind can be made. And if no distinctions of any kind can be made, then nothing can be said to exist, because it has become impossible to tell the difference between what something is and what something is not.  Natural law, thus, is entirely inadquate as an apologetic for objective existence, and thus it cannot rationally be said to serve as the plumbline for determining what is truly possible or impossible.

You see, once the perspective of the individaul has been rendered moot by subordinating his powers of perception and conceptualization to the absolute determinative forces of natural law, then the very thing which gives natural law any meaning and relevance at all—the observer—is pointless. And without the observer, there is no one to claim that natural law is actually true, or actually exists in the first place.  Natural law, itself, serves no purpose, because it wrecks the observer, who is the ONLY reference—the only constant—by which natural law can be said to have meaning and thus have value.  Purpose, value, and meaning are not a function of natural law, they’re a function of the observer.  That means MAN.  And that means you and me.  And that means we are NOT products of natural law…because the observer cannot be a function of what he observes.  This is a contradiction in terms, and is objectively impossible.  An observer who is a function of what he is observing is by definition NOT OBSERVING.

The very fact that the laws of physics can be defined at all is proof that they are not the root of objective reality.  They are a tool that man, the individual, the observer, uses to organize the distinction(s) between himself qua himself, and his environment (which also includes his body…but man’s body is not himself qua himself, but is ultimately and rationally a part of his environment…but this is quite a complex subject and is best left to its own article). The very fact that man can and MUST make a moral distinction between injury and healing is proof that the laws of physics cannot be the true arbiter of reality and thus are not the arbiter of possibility and impossibility.

I submit then that only that which violates the identity of the individual (the self qua the self) is impossible.  And since identity is a matter of reason—where reason is defined as rational consistency…the non-contradictory combination of concepts (X cannot simultaneously be Y, for example)—we can generalize this assertion to say that a violation of reason is the only impossibility, because contradiction cannot be made rational; and what cannot be made rational cannot ACTUALLY be defined, which means it cannot actually  exist.

So…you want proof that miracles are possible?

I give you the apologetics of reason.

 

There Can Be No Such Thing as Gravity Qua Gravity, So What is it?

The following argument is based upon these assumptions, which I aver are all rationally defensible:

1. All that exists must be able to exist, which then supplants Existence with Ability as the metaphysical primary.

2. Gravity cannot possess any distinct existence. That is, there can be no such thing as gravity distinct or separate from the objects upon which it acts. Apart from these objects it has no relevance, which means it has no meaning, which means it cannot be defined as gravity.

3. There is no such thing as space qua space, because the distinction between objects cannot itself be a thing from which objects are also distinct. Therefore, there must be a different manifestation of distinction. I submit that gravity is this distinction.

In light of these, I submit the following about gravity:

Existence is ability to exist. Existence then is action, because ability must find rational expression as action. Action is always observed as relative movement. I therefore propose that gravity is, specifically, the expression of the ability to exist. Or perhaps better said, it is the action of existing…of existence observed  necessarily as an action.

(Part Two: Why UPB Self-Nullifies) The Multitudinous Problems with Secular Ethics: A critique of Universally Preferable Behavior

[I apologize in advance for the tedious and highly technical nature of the following article. Bear with me. There really isn’t an easy way to do this. Thanks.]

1. If UPB is simply a set of possible choices, but does NOT reference an absolute moral Standard which makes compliance with UPB not simply preferable, but necessary in order to avoid some kind of irreparable existential contradiction, which thus implies and necessitates some irreparable existential injury (however that is defined…if it even needs to be defined at all), then UPB cannot claim to be either universal nor preferable, since there is no fundamental existential difference between compliance and non-compliance. In which case, UPB self-nullifies.

2. If UPB IS considered an inexorable natural law–referencing itself as its own absolute moral Standard–to which the individual is obligated or face some form of irreparable existential injury (however that is defined…if it even needs to be defined at all) then UPB is not preferable, but necessary, and perfunctory, and it self-nullifies.

3. If UPB is a legal (as opposed to ethical or moral) Standard–that is, Law as defined by a legal Authority, like the State–then by definition the individual is legally obligated to comply, and non-compliance results in punishment which, though legal, is, for all practical purposes, existential in its effect, since the manifestation of the ownership of oneself–i.e. free will/choice–while under State sanction is impossible. And therefore, UPB is not preferable and therefore self-nullifies.

Now, to expand upon point number two; and the reason is because this argument is, as I observe, the primary argument utilized by apologists for secular ethics:

If UPB is considered merely a de facto parameter of (one’s) Existence–that is, the perfunctory behavior of (one’s) Existence which affirms that (one’s) Existence actually exists, then UPB is nullified. Meaning, if we use the argument that because we observe that species or the individuals of that species behave in ways which are consistent with survival and reproduction and then claim that this behavior is actually preferable…we’ve contradicted ourselves and shown that such behavior cannot possibly be preferable, let alone ethical, and is only universal in that it is simply a de facto function of Existence qua Existence. In other words, if we remove choice–moral agency–from ethics entirely, or make it purely a function of the laws of nature, then a choice is never actually chosen. However, removing choice contradict ethics as meaningful in any rational or practical way, because amoral ethics imply behavior which doesn’t make a distinction between good behavior or bad behavior. So…why would any given behavior be preferable? It wouldn’t.

Also, notice how in scientific terms, which are the secularist’s terms of epistemology, ALL action is merely “behavior”…”choice” as a vehicle is sophistically smuggled in later–a bromide meant for and used by the small minority of non-communist atheists as a nod to the non-aggression principle; but UPB pairs with the NAP like salad pairs with Guinness.

If we accept Existence as the Metaphysical Primary, and therefore objective (empirical) reality and natural law as its practical Ethical and Epistemological derivatives , then we must admit that one cannot act via his Existencee in a way which contradicts his Existence…so regardless of what one does, and therefore what one chooses, one must necessarily always be acting ethically. To claim that one can somehow violate the terms of his or someone else’s (absolute) Existence by Existence, itself, is a contradiction in terms. Therefore, if UPB is said to be an Ethic derived from Existence, it is impossible for one to violate it, since one cannot violate the very thing that makes all behavior–like the “violation” itself– ultimately possible.

On the other hand, if we were to place UPB outside of (one’s) Existence and then argue that, as an Ethic outside of Existence (which is its own giant fallacy, given that Existence is the Metaphysical Primary for all apologists for UPB, I think), failure to follow UPB somehow amounts to an Ethical, and therefore moral, violation, and therefore is evil, and therefore obliges men to “prefer” UPB,  then the individual–as a rank existant–could neither be the source nor the reference for UPB, which makes whatever the individual prefers, and thus ultimately chooses, entirely besides the point…since his choice and preference are a function of himself. This again, as I asserted above in point 3., relegates UPB to the status of a Legal Code–the Legal Law–which means that coercion by a legal Authority, not preference, is the only legitimate and rational means of fulfilling the Law.

Now, if we claim that (one’s) existence is not in fact absolute, but somehow transient–an effect and not a cause, as it were, or a function of some Absolute Cause outside of (one’s) existence, then we would have no logical reason to conclude that behavior which promotes one’s existence is preferable to behavior which does not. For (one’s) existence, being non-absolute, is no more valid a state of nature than is his non-existence. Non-existence, because existence is not absolute, does not violate the Absolute Cause (that of which (one’s) existence AND non-existence is a direct effect), and therefore it can be no more rationally nor morally preferable to behave in ways that promote existence–of either oneself or others–than to behave in ways that do not. And therefore by what basis can we argue that UPB is actually preferable at all? No basis.

Interestingly, I have noticed that those who promote Existence as the Metaphysical Primarily DO, irrationally, make the distinction between Existence, the Primary, and one’s individual existence–because they understand that individual existence necessarily incorporates consciousness, and therefore they reject it as having anything to do with Existence qua Existence, because consciousness they assert is not objective, because it’s not empirical. But you see as soon as one makes the distinction between conscious existence (consciousness) and Existence the Primary, then whatever the individual consciously prefers--and all preference is conscious by definition–is beside the point. When you reject consciousness as fundamental to Existence you necessarily reject choice. Which means that you reject choice as fundamentally meaningful, which not only wrecks UPB but wrecks morality entirely, and makes any discussion of Ethics pointless.  I submit, however, that if we oblige consciousness to rational consistency, which is entirely logical (and a separate article), then reason alone serves as a perfect and categorical guide to Ethical behavior, because it makes Truth actually and objectively possible.

Part three very soon.

Scientific Determinism and Cause and Effect, and Ethics: an in-depth conversation with a determinist

The following is a conversation I had last week with an apologist for scientific determinism in the comments section of a Sam Harris YouTube video entitled “Free Will“. The first comment is my intitial contribution to the thread where I am addressing not Philip, the person with whom I will eventually have the conversation, but simply the video itself. The “you” in this comment refers to Sam Harris, as well as anyone who would assert, specifically, the fallacy that there can be ethics despite an utter lack of any free will, and this due to the monolithic and infinite deterministic power of “cause and effect”.

This is a complicated issue…well…no…the issue qua the issue isn’t actually that complicated. That is, the complication and complexity which indubitably arises in these kinds of discussions isn’t so much a function of the relatively simple and arrantly true claim that “A man who has no agency (cannot act according to himself) cannot actually do anything, because he qua he doesn’t act; and so by definition he cannot act ethically, so why the fuck are we bringing ethics into a conversation about determinism?”, but rather due to the fact that an advocate for determinism and an advocate for individual agency are going to interpret reality according to entirely separate and mutually exclusive metaphysical premises. This means that the conversation, in order for it to not be a collosal waste of time will trend towards…that’s right, metaphysics.  And that’s where the shit gets real. It is there, and only there, that you can really make the relevant case for your position. Like…if you are going to say that man is Self (that is, an Agent who functions from a position of Self-awareness, which implies the actually reality of Self and thus an efficacious distinction between Self and Other (environment)), or that man is Determined (a direct function of Cause and Effect, and thus has no efficacious ontological autonomy), then you must necessarily answer the question “What IS man?”. And that’s why metaphysics is always a part of these discussions, and why they go the way they go when the two conversants are fully committed to their completely different ideas, and also to the conversation (a combination which is unfortunately a lot rarer than you might think). Getting to the metaphysics is involved, and requires a careful and voluminous and painstaking dissection of any number of tertiary and ancillary assumptions. Obviously a YouTube comments thread isn’t the most ideal setting for this dialectic, which is why you’ll undoubtedly notice that the conversation is a bit clumsy and opaque in places.  Nevertheless I think that this conversation has, overall, a lot of value. For example, two of the more salient topics I address is:

1. How determinism contradicts the plurality of existence (the distinction (independence)) of existant objects, which is an implicit prerequisite for cause and effect according to the determinist’s own definition of this mechanism; and:

2. The paradox of: the necessity of the absolute-ness of objects (objects being infinitely themselves…that is infinite existential singularity) + the necessity of absolute relationship between a given object and any number of other distinct objects (infinite existential plurality)…which, as I said, scientific determinism contradicts.

The non-italicized comments are mine, the italicized, his. Thanks so much for reading; I hope you enjoy it.

-Zach

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Laughable. You can deny the existence of will and choice, which, drawn out to its logical conclusion, means that the Agent who is said to Will and to Choose (the autonomous Self) is entirely irrelevant, which practically speaking is the equivalent of non-existence, and yet still argue for ethics! Absurd. How do you have morality [or ethics] absent moral [or ethical] agency? How do you have intelligence absent intellectual agency? Scientific determinism is proof that scientists shouldn’t be within a thousand miles of philosophy. Once Sam can provide a metaphysic which does not collapse under the weight of its own contradictions then maybe I’ll consider him more than just another articulate pseudo-intellectual turned polemic.

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I think you’re confusing ethics with moral accountability. Even without free will, it makes sense to want people to have a good experience in life. You can accept you aren’t in control of your thoughts and actions, but you still have a conscious experience. So we have an ethical obligation, regardless of the existence of free will, to increase well being wherever we can. That means potentially stopping someone from doing something that decreases well being. Whether or not they were in control is besides the point.

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Without moral accountability, ethics are irrelevant. Meaning, you cannot argue for rational ethics if no one is actually able to act ethically, because choice (and thus will; and thus consciousness) is precluded by your scientific determinism. The irony is that this destruction of ethics (by making “Determinism” the metaphysic) is exactly what the Protestant church teaches. Man is fallen, and thus pervasively depraved, and so cannot choose good or know Truth. Sam is just another mystic without the funny clothes, I’m afraid.

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you didn’t really reply to what I said. I said suffering and well being still matter if free will doesn’t exist. and there’s no reason to think consciousness wouldn’t exist without free will. People can act ethically and also accept that they are not in control. determinism does not argue that we are depraved and evil, it argues that we are what we are for reasons beyond our control. To some, recognizing this make morality clearer. You are able to forgive others and think in terms of how they can be helped. if there’s no cause behind their action then there’s no way to change it. Belief in determinism also keeps you cognizant of what is affecting you and the things you do. you may not be in control, but in a sense you gain perspective from recognizing this.

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I did reply. You are arguing that ethics is possible absent moral agency. That is, absent the ability to choose right from wrong. If choice between right and wrong is impossible, then what you know to be good or bad with respect to anything is irrelevant. Which makes ethics irrelevant. And that which is irrelevant cannot by definition be effectively applied. Further, I notice that you make the implicit argument that you can know what is true or false and good or bad without actually being able to choose to pursue or apply one over the other. This is a rational impossibility. To be able to define a thing and yet be unable to apply it to a paradigm (like your existence) referenced to You (You, the Observer, as distinct from what you observe), makes the definition irrelevant. And it is impossible to generate an irrelevant definition. You cannot create meaning which doesn’t actually mean anything.

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Ethics is a function of epistemology. It is the rational (True, and thus appropriate, or Good) application of what you know. If you are unable to apply what you know, because free will and thus choice is impossible, then ethics does not exist. And if there is no application of what you know, then what you know is irrelevant; and if what you know is irrelevant, then you cannot actually know yourself. Which makes “yourself” impossible to define. Which means you cannot define others.. And all of this means that “Sam Harris” doesn’t actually exist to make this argument. And neither do you or I. So who is typing then?

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maybe we have a different definition of ethics. to me, an ethical action or event is one that results in someone feeling good rather than suffering. it’s true that if your definition of ethics requires moral agency, then yes, ethics don’t exist within determinism. all I am saying is that people have experiences regardless of control and it makes sense to want those experiences to be good even if you can’t truly control them. the thing is, we can apply our knowledge of right and wrong without control over the factors that led to the knowledge. it doesn’t make sense to make a decision of right or wrong that is not based on factors you don’t control. what would that even look like? which brings up the other point of the self. it’s true, under determinism the self is just an amalgamation of genes and experience. this solidifies the definition of the self more than a belief that there is some un-quantifiable 3rd factor. or you could just look at the self as the result of a configuration of matter that happens to result in consciousness, which also makes sense. you and I and Sam Harris exist as vessels for experience with predispositions. so yes, I’d say you are typing, but you are your genes and environment.

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Okay…well, leaving aside ethics for now, wrt your last comment I would ask how it is possible under the scientific determinism argument to get consciousness from unconsciousness? That is, determinism, I submit by definition, is the absolute antithesis of consciousness. It renders it completely (infinitely) irrelevant–lacking any degree of efficacy whatsoever, which means that if determinism is true, consciousness could not possibly exist. The empirical and rational proof of consciousness is that which gives it efficacy–the ability to apply the awareness of Self to a given existential context (the Self in Its Environment). If choice is impossible, then awareness is meaningless, because man cannot apply what he knows, including the knowledge of him Self. Which brings us back to the lack of any rational efficacy to consciousness within the determinist model. And we can assert that consciousness is an illusion, but this merely begs the question “An illusion of what?”. How can there be an illusion of that which determinism makes impossible by making it utterly antithetical to determinism?

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I’m not sure I see why consciousness has to be connected to free will. we don’t know how consciousness arose, but it seems rational to assume it comes from the brain. it may be my lack of philosophical training, but I’m not sure what you mean by the proof of consciousness being the ability to apply the self to an existential context. the only evidence I see is ones own experience. I know I am conscious, but I don’t know you are conscious. there doesn’t seem to be any evidence of free will. the two seem mutually exclusive. it’s not that choice is impossible, it’s just that all the factors that go into a decision can be, in theory, accounted for, given enough data. I don’t really see consciousness as an illusion because of what you said: an illusion of what? it’s a space for us to process information, but we know it’s not the only way we process info. the info we process, both conscious and unconscious, gives rise to our feelings, emotions, personality, views, and everything that we imagine makes up the self. I would say the self is an illusion if you believe we are just vessels for experience. but, consciousness itself is the tool we use to experience the world. my answer to your question is that I don’t think consciousness, free will, or even ethics really depend on each other. I like this conversation. if you can, I’d like to hear how you reach the idea that consciousness is antithetical to free will.

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Well, I think studying philosophy would be something you might do…not to sound pejorative or patronizing, of course. I find that the lack of rational consistency which is, again with respect, profound amongst scientists has precisely to do with their ignorance with respect to philosophy. Scientists are great at mathematically categorizing what they observe, but have no real plumb line for actually defining it in an ontological sense, which is absolutely necessary before one can make a philosophical assertion like “free will is an illusion”. Indeed, in order for science to be in any way meangingful, one must assume an ontological distinction between the observer and what he observes. Scientists like Harris obliterate this distinction by making the observer a DIRECT function of what he observes, which wrecks the dichotomy that gives science any practical application or indeed any meaning by wrecking the ability of the observer to actually apply any of the knowledge he gathers about his environment through observation because choice, which is rooted in the knowledge of what is true or false, becomes impossible. And this because the observer–the moral and intellectual agent whose existence provides the rationally necessary context for knowledge gained through observation–is concluded to not actually exist. Consciousness I submit is merely the ability of the Self–the individual Observer, of you will–to conceptualize what he observes and the apply it to his life: the manifestation of the ability of oneto make a distinction between himself and his environment. It’s not a “state”. It’s merely the awareness of self, which is merely the ability to conceptualize self, which implies the conceptualization of that which is not self. Once this dichotomy is realized, free will I think is self evident.

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I must be missing it, but I don’t see how a lack of agency leads to nonexistence. You can put info into a calculator and it gives you an answer. That does not make it free. Similarly, we can take in info and then apply the knowledge we gained from it. The process is much more complicated for us, but at no point do I see the opportunity to insert free will. I don’t see how Harris wrecks the distinction between observer and what he observes or, if he does, how that makes choice impossible. Unless by “choice” you mean free choice. We make choices all the time with the inputs I’ve already mentioned. Your talk of an ontological argument seems to muddy the waters. The logic seems simple to me: If the material brain is all that is responsible for consciousness, then consciousness arises out of states of matter. If we live in a universe that follows cause and effect, then all states of matter arise out of previous states of matter. I’m sure it can be put more eloquently, but that’s how I think of it. Your last paragraph makes sense to me until the end. I don’t see how the conceptualization of self and that which isn’t the self leads to free will. I previously talked about the self being an illusion in that it is merely how genetics and experience manifest in consciousness. So in some sense, I think the dichotomy is false. The self is unavoidably connected to everything else because it is a product of everything else. I see what you mean about destroying the distinction now. It seems unavoidable. I guess I’d like to know if you think the logical argument I gave above makes sense. We can argue about the truth of the “ifs” if you’d like, but it’d be a weird and probably fruitless argument.

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I’m loquacious…that sometimes makes my arguments less accessible than I’d like them to be. My apologies. What I am trying to convey is that when you destroy the distinction between observer and observed, you cannot speak of Self, which means you QUA you cannot possibly make the arguments you (or Harris) are making. The very fact that you claim a truth is the proof that you concede that you can know the difference between truth and falsehood and can act in service to this knowledge. * If all things are determined, then there is no difference between this idea or that. Sam Harris is no more correct in his asssertions with respect to will than one who asserts the exact opposite. Everything by his own definition is merely the necessary and unavoidable effect of the Great All Determining Cause. So Harris makes an argument whilst at the same rendering his argument moot. Your agreement or disagreement is as determined as his assertion. Of what value then is consciousness? Of what value is knowledge? Of what value is science? None at all. And this further undermines his argument. As far as a “cause and effect” universe–I really don’t understand what that means. In order for “cause and effect” to have any practical value, there must be a difference between those things which are cause and effected, I would think.. Are you saying that “cause and effect” is a force which actually causes the things (material objects) upon which it acts? And if so, how do you quantify or even qualify cause and effect since nothing actually exists to be caused or effected because every object is a DIRECT and absolute function of “cause and effect”. Or are you saying that cause and effect is a force which is distinct from the things upon which it acts? In which case those things, ontologically speaking, are their own root “causes” if you will. I myself submit that cause and effect is simply one of many ways man conceptualizes the relative movement of objects he observes. Cause and effect is not ACTUALLY causal in the ontological sense. Meaning that cause and effect can describe relative movement but it cannot explain how a thing exists.

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this is getting into territory that departs from practicality. how is any science able to be done without breaking the dichotomy? I think youre judging the value of an assertion based on whether or not it was made freely rather than whether or not it reflects a truth about reality. and if we’re going to regress into claiming to not know anything about reality, then we can’t really get anywhere. my agreement or disagreement still matters without freedom of choice because it is still either right or wrong and it has consequences in the world. your deconstruction of cause and effect has left me perplexed and no closer to understanding you. I’m using cause and effect in the simple way people use it normally. as in, one thing causes another thing. a thing cannot come from no cause. I don’t know about you, I’ve experienced enough to believe all things are caused. what would it look like to see something that wasn’t caused? I don’t get your definition of existence. does something have to be separate from cause and effect to prove cause and effect? that simply makes no sense, and also doesn’t seem like a rational argument against it. if cause and effect can’t explain how something exists, then I don’t know what can. science makes basic assumptions about reality to function, but anyone who would honestly dispute those assumptions would not be able to function in reality themselves. philosophy and pure logic has its uses, but it seems one can use word games to get somewhere that doesn’t truly make any sense. we could blame this on my ignorance, but I have confidence that I would understand what you are saying if it truly made sense. I can tell you are very intelligent, but your ideas just aren’t clicking with me

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Quick reply: If everything is a direct function of something else, how can anything actually exist? If cause and effect is monolithic and infinite, how are objects actually independent of each other?

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I just do not see why interconnectedness makes things non-existent. Object aren’t really independent of each other? there’s no situation where an object isn’t being affected by another objects, even if it’s just gravity. can you give me one example of a thing that is not a direct function of something else?

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But it’s not interconnected-ness you are asserting. It’s a lack of any distinction whatsoever. You are making one thing an absolute function of another. “Absolute” means that there is no actual difference between the cause and the effect. This is not interconnectedness. This is the assertion that no “thing” (an object qua itself) actually exists. It makes your empirical perception of distinct objects actually impossible. To answer your question, I guess I would ask: does the apple fall from the tree because of gravity first, or because it is able, as a function of its own independent existence, to be “caused upon” by gravity? Unless the apple IS actually the apple, first, then it cannot be caused upon by gravity…there can be no real relationship.. Gravity then requires a true dichotomy. A true distinction. An apple qua an apple. Determinism makes this impossible.

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yes but you wouldn’t attribute free will to the apple simply because it exists right? gravity may cause it’s movement, but it’s existence is not of its own doing. it came from an apple tree, which came from a seed, and on back the causes go. how can cause and effect be separate when each effect then becomes a cause? what I am saying is that an object can’t exist without a cause. an effect cannot be removed from its cause so the apple can’t just ‘exist’ independently. gravity’s effect on the apple requires the apple to exist, but the apples existence is predicated on prior cause as well.

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Naturally I wasn’t asserting that the apple had free willl. I was asserting that before an apple can fall, it must BE an apple. It needs to possess a distinct identity before it can be said to be caused upon (effected), and before it can be said to cause something else. The point of my initial comment on this video was to point out the inherent rational contradiction which undermines the whole determinist argument. Since “cause and effect”, or the “laws which govern nature” are absolute and monolithic, there can be no such thing as distinct objects, because no object is “itself”–it is entirely a direct and absolute function of something else. There are no such thing as “things” which cause and effect acts upon, or cause and effect other things, because everything is merely an extension of cause and effect. Nothing has any actual identity. The apple is an absolute function of what caused it, which means the apple does not actually exist as such, which means it couldn’t have been caused, which means that that which caused it isn’t actually a cause, because it produced no effect, since the apple doesn’t actually exist. This is why YOU, if indeed you are a direct and utter extension of something else, don’t actually exist. Which means you can’t have a sense or awareness of “you” because you qua you is impossible. Now, if you’d like me to address how think the contradiction can be resolved with a better explanation of how to interpret reality, I can do that. But the fact that I’ve offered no resolution to your determinist fallacy doesn’t mean it’s not a fallacy. With respect, the determinist model colllapses under the weight of its own massive contradiction. You need a new model. Saying “this is the only model science supports” doesn’t make the model rational or true. It merely means that science as of now has failed to provide a rational interpretation and model of reality. So, re-evaluate your premises and start again.

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I think you’re reading too much into the importance of objects being identifiable. a determinist could describe reality as the process of matter continuously shifting into different forms. the distinction of when an object becomes what it is and stops being what it is is not clear. in this way, cause and effect is more like a continuous process rather than a series of stages because whatever stages you draw are arbitrary. however, it makes no sense to conclude that because stages of matter are ill defined, objects themselves don’t exist. hurricane Matthew is on the way. there is what Matthew is right now, but there is also the process of Matthew’s development. these two concepts cannot be separated, yet we can’t deny the existence of Matthew. I simply do not see this fallacy of determinism. i would like to hear another way to interpret reality that allows things to exist without a cause, but I understand if you are getting tired of this conversation.

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I would say that determinism actually makes cause and effect impossible because there are no independent “things” possible. Everything is merely an extension of determinism. There is no First Cause. Like…the first cause MUST have happened; it could not have NOT happened. In other words, it was determined. It had a cause; and that cause had a cause, and so on and so forth. Cause and effect is subordinated to the infinity of Determinism. Determinism is absolute and monolithic. It doesn’t actually allow for any distinct objects to cause or to be caused upon. Cause and effect is only rational when it becomes merely a cognitive means by which man organizes the relative movement of what he observes. But here’s the bigger issue: I think you are hinting at an implicit root paradox, and I think you are on to something. This is how I define the paradox to which I think you are alluding: object X must be defined according to its observable relationship with object Y; it cannot exist in a vacuum of itself, because in a vacuum of itself it is infinite, and what is infinite cannot be valued and thus cannot be defined. And I am saying that there can be no relationship between objects X and Y unless each object is ACTUALLY itself-with a distinct and separate ontological essence whereby it can have a unique identity and thus it can be said that object X IS ACTUALLY object X, and thus can have a relationship (like “cause and effect”) with object Y. And that is the big question. We need a metaphysic (an irreducible…an axiom of reality; that explains how what is, IS) that resolves this paradox. And it’s not been done yet. Well…I think I’ve done it 🙂 But I don’t think anyone else has. Anyway, I think you’ve definitely identified the paradox. It’s needs to be resolved, but determinism can’t do it.

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I’m still hesitant to accept that cause and effect requires independently defined causes and effects. but I see what you are saying. first cause is obviously a problem, but we can’t expect to know everything, or even that we are capable of understanding first cause, or that the question even makes sense because of the connection of time and space. but you think you have discovered an alternative to the apparent paradox? I’d love to hear it. unless it’s a secret.

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Well, at this point I think I will leave you with the paradox. The explication of the metaphysics, while not complex or hard to understand, necessarily, will likely lead to an even longer and more tedious conversation than this one. And I’m just not up for that right now.:-) I appreciate your time, and this was fun. Thanks for sharing you ideas with me; I always learn just a little bit more by these kinds of engagements, and I discover more of my own weaknesses, which is exceedingly beneficial in refining my ideas and, importantly, how I deliver them. Take care, man. And thanks again.

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Thank you too. I can’t say ive changed my mind but I feel that I need to read more philosophy. It’s a very difficult question. Take care.

Sam Harris: Science’s Satanic High Priest

To claim that will and choice are illusions is to claim that thought itself is an illusion. To claim that thought is an illusion is to claim that the Agent who necessarily must exist in order to think and to will and choose is likewise an illusion. This equation is inexorable, and quite frankly, obvious to anyone not a rank pseudo-intellectual determinist ideologue.

And once the intellectual Agent (the Self) is claimed illusory then morality must likewise be illusory…for the intellectual Agent is also the moral Agent.

And therefore, make no mistake and do not be fooled. Any scientific determinist like Sam Harris who argues that will and choice are an illusion is wrecking not only an aspect of man’s mind, but all thought itself, which thus denies the truth and validity of the Self…the individual human being. And once the Self is declared merely a figment of infinite universal cause and effect then morality is obliterated. And what follows is a torrent of bloodshed.

In my next article, I will make my case for what I consider the root flaw of scientific determinism: the subordination of the Observer to that which is observed. In other words, the absence of any rational metaphysic.

 

 

 

The Paradox of Existential Plurality

The following is a true paradox, not a contradiction in terms presented as a paradox because some people are too lazy to fully and properly think it through. (And by “some people” I mean many scientists, as well as most (other) religious people, especially and including Christians.) 

A thing which has no parts cannot exist; and therefore all things must contain an infinite number of parts.

To Claim That Man is Caused is a Contradiction, and Thus Impossible

Before you can claim to be caused by some root determining force, like God or Natural/Physical Law, you must be able to define “you” as distinct from that force; otherwise “you” is merely an absolute (categorical) extension of the force which means that there is in fact no “you” at all but merely the determining force. And this makes it impossible to ask the questions “what caused me?” and “what am I?” (which in fact summarize the underlying rationale for claiming you were caused) because there is no frame of reference for “me” at all.

Of course once you define “you” as distinct from the root determining force then you have rendered the claim that you were caused by this force a ridiculous contradiction. The very assertion, in other words, that “X caused me” is rationally impossible.