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Internet Goosing the Antithesis

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Down the rabbit hole of infinity

It is a point that irritates many irrational people that once you accept certain premises, you must either be a hypocrite or paralyzed by total nihilism.

When I used to discuss on IRC, it happened that I encountered people who said that reality was wholly subjective. When I was sure that the person believed this, I then asked them to believe very strongly that I would not ban them. After all, if reality is wholly subjective then their desire would certainly be able to nullify any "objective" action of mine. Then I banned them. Theoretically, if reality was subjective, then reality is determined solely by one's mind, and they should have been able to simply wish my actions away.

But none of them were ever able to wish my actions away. I wonder why. Maybe I just need to believe that they did.

You can call such a premise a "rabbit hole". Once you get into a rabbit hole, you're stuck in it, with no way to get back up. Once you accept the idea that reality is subjective, you have no more way of knowing anything, and the only logical consequence is generalized epistemic anxiety. You can no longer know if your chair will hold you, if the chair might turn into an eggplant, or even that it already has turned into an eggplant and you are hallucinating that you are sitting on a chair. You could also be dreaming, or not-dreaming, or neither, or both at the same time. The laws of logic, being objective, must fly out of the window. The end result is total insanity.

Another type of rabbit hole is the idea that reality is subjective because of an exterior agency. Take the Evil Daemon argument - that there is an evil demon out there, able to change reality as it desires, and which can also make you not realize its existence. If this was true, then how could we really know anything? Anything one brings up could be a pure fabrication of the Daemon. We can't even appeal to the Daemon's motives, since any motive we come up with could also have been fed to us by the Daemon. There is no way to get back up to reality from here, once we accept the premise of a being with what amounts to infinite capacity.

This situation reminds me of one cult which I like to read about, the cult around Indian guru Sai Baba. He claims to be God himself and that everything that happens is his doing. This is a profound rabbit hole indeed, if you can believe that. Then anything bad that happens is really just a test of your faith! Convenient indeed!

The movement around [Sai Baba] interprets everything doubtful so as to make it seem wise, even at the cost of all common sense and reason. The whole teaching is built upon on the assumption of [Sai Baba]'s 'divine infallibility' (supposedly far greater than any Pope's) which may not be questioned and which generates a self-reproducing system of delusions, of preconceptions and subtle discriminations against those who reject it.
http://home.no.net/anir/Sai/enigma/dis6.htm


This kind of claim can even lead a woman to deny that her rape has actually happened. This is powerful delusion! And yet, if everything is the product of Sai Baba's will, doesn't her doubt make perfect sense?

Now I'm sure you see where I'm going with this- I'm going to talk about God. And the most obvious objection, as Descartes brought up in his own examination of the Evil Daemon argument, is that God is good and would never try to deceive us. But that is not acceptable in the rabbit hole. How do you know that God is good? Because the Bible says so? God could have written lies in the Bible. Because you believe it? God could have implanted that belief in you. Any argument that the Christian uses to justify his beliefs, even emotional or faith-based arguments, can be defeated easily.

In essence, we are back in the Cartoon Universe, with us as the hapless cartoons. Even if it was conscious, how could a mere cartoon character assume that he can see through the machinations of his cartoonist? We would call such a character very naive indeed. Yet this is the position that Christians are in. Once moral autonomy is suspended, anything goes.

The fact is, once they accept the notion of an infinite god, Christians cannot even justify their basic premises. The existence of "Jesus"? Could be a fabrication by God to make you believe that he cares about your existence. Original sin? How do you know it exists? Where is it? Heaven and Hell? Could be completely implanted.

How do you know anything? "Duh, I just do." Welcome to the rabbit hole...

Post a Comment


11 Comments:

At 8/27/2006 9:43 PM, Blogger beepbeepitsme declaimed...

I am compiling a blogroll of atheists and agnostics. Do you consider yourself to be in either of these categories? And if so, would you like to be added to the blogroll?

 
At 8/28/2006 8:01 AM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

Yeah, I think we qualify. Go ahead.

 
At 8/28/2006 11:40 AM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

Good one Zach. (Comment above. Post run-of-the-mill excellent Franc.)

I've been giving the Cartoon Universe a lot of thought since I first read it (about two weeks ago). Thanks for the link, by the way. I had heard the term before that, and agreed with the general idea. On reflection, I would have to say that it is a specific genre of cartoon, the comic book. There is too much support that one could give for living in a more general idea of a cartoon universe. I often think I'm living inside a Dilbert cartoon for example. ;)

"There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly dissapear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another that states that this has already happened." - Douglass Adams


Dippy Dawg: "Musta been a pretty big rabbit, doncha think?"

Bugs: "Mmmmm yeah...Could be!"

That's all folks!

 
At 8/28/2006 2:30 PM, Blogger groundfighter76 declaimed...

or that Evil Daemon could be deceiving you into thinking he doesn't exist, when in actuality he does. If you claim that you don't accept the Evil Daemon, then that would just beg the question that he is not now deceiving you.

The Daemon is "able to change reality as it desires, and which can also make you not realize its existence... There is no way to get back up to reality from here" *whether* you accept the premise or not.

Any argument Franc uses to justify his beliefs, even emotional or faith-based arguments, can be defeated easily.

Great argument.

 
At 8/28/2006 4:39 PM, Blogger Francois Tremblay declaimed...

Apparently groundfighter believes that supporting my argument = defeating it.

Since the fantasy of "God" existing fucks up all knowledge and meaning, it fucks it up for atheists too. How does that help your postiion any? You're still fucked. Great Christian logic, buddy.

 
At 8/28/2006 5:29 PM, Blogger groundfighter76 declaimed...

My point is that you are not going defeat Christian belief with Cartesian arguments of this sort (I don't need to point out other problems with it).


Franc said, "Since the fantasy of "God" existing fucks up all knowledge and meaning, it fucks it up for atheists too. How does that help your postiion any?"

If you are the one who is being deceived, I don't see how that destroys *all* knowledge and meaning - maybe it's just atheists or maybe it is everyone, in which case I don't see why you would think Christians are irrational.


Hint - your argument isn't a good argument, so I would not exactly say I'm supporting it.

:)

 
At 8/28/2006 9:42 PM, Blogger beepbeepitsme declaimed...

OOps sorry, I reposted the question.

Welcome to the new blogroll :)

 
At 8/29/2006 7:47 AM, Blogger Zachary Moore declaimed...

Groundfighter: The Daemon is "able to change reality as it desires, and which can also make you not realize its existence... There is no way to get back up to reality from here" *whether* you accept the premise or not.

Uhh... that's the whole point. The argument destroys knowledge claims for all positions. What's ironic is that Christianity presupposes the existence of an entity with this ability, and then thinks it can still appraise reality.

 
At 8/29/2006 10:12 AM, Blogger groundfighter76 declaimed...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 8/29/2006 10:14 AM, Blogger groundfighter76 declaimed...

Zach said, "Uhh... that's the whole point. The argument destroys knowledge claims for all positions. What's ironic is that Christianity presupposes the existence of an entity with this ability, and then thinks it can still appraise reality."

It appears that you have missed the point of my response. Not surprising. Or have you just 'defined' this into reality as you are so apt to do?

 
At 8/30/2006 5:21 PM, Blogger breakerslion declaimed...

And so, our Super Villian changes reality to hide the fact that he can change reality and ... uh... wait a minute... disappears up his own asshole! Yeah, that's it!

They're hopeless Franc. They would rather be children all their lives, and live in Cartoon Land, squirming and groveling and attempting to curry favor from Invisible Super-Daddy in the Sky.

 

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