Using Technology to Deepen Democracy, Using Democracy to Ensure Technology Benefits Us All

Friday, April 04, 2008

Death Is Sublime

Friend of Blog Lincoln Cannon asks in the Moot: Dale, do you conceive of death in a manner analogous to superlative conceptions of immortality? If not, why?

I don't think I do, no. And I can't even grasp exactly why you might think I would. So perhaps our larger disagreements turn in some way on the mutual incomprehension indicated by my befuddlement at your question in the first place.

Is there something superlative about the dead nonhuman animal at the end of a carnivore's fork? Is there something superlative about an accidentally shattered teacup on the tiles at your feet? Is there something superlative about the descent of a tossed ball back to earth?

As I propose in the piece to which you are responding here, I think perhaps you have mistaken my usage of "superlative" to mean simply something like "extreme" or "sublime."

But I use the phrase "superlative technology" in a very specific way, to describe a particular mode of technocentric discourse occasioned by the sweep and intensity of ongoing and emerging disruptive technoscientific change, a promissory discourse of transcendence typically soliciting faithful belief and sub(cult)ural identificaion of a kind that hitherto has been primarily (although not exclusively) an expression of organized modes of religiosity.

I certainly see the sense of the claim that the contemplation of death can be sublime. I mean this in the philosophical sense of the sublime as it is understood by classical aesthetics, as the confrontation with an overwhelming phenomenon that inspires a sense of awe that is not readily assimilated to our everyday language, and that testifying to the profundity of which typically requires recourse to figurative language.

I will also admit that coming to terms with the fact of mortality seems to me fairly indispensable to the project of becoming a reasonable responsible adult person. Meanwhile, the denial or disavowal of that mortality seems to me to produce a kind of death-in-life that is fearful, disengaged, aggressively irrational, and endlessly anxious for reassurances that never finally arrive but the quest for which and the denial of the frustrations of which yield not only death-in-life in the name of "life," but all too often attitudes and behaviors that are death-dealing as well.

I quite understand that there is something profoundly unfathomable in the fact that I who now am alive and who, in my aliveness, live in a world that exists for me as a place that is good for me to live in might somehow vanish from this world that seems a world especially for me and the world live on. It is this, I suppose, that accounts for much of the sublimity of our mortality as the inevitable narrative closure of our lived selfhood.

But I do want to say that despite all that I don't think mortality is the only constitutive expression of the finitude of the human condition that demands such traumatic reckoning if we are to become reasonable responsible adult persons. I personally think it is quite as traumatic as the recognition of our mortality to recognize as well that those on whom we depend are fallible or capable of betraying us, to recognize the ineradicable play of the unexpected in our plans and affairs, to recognize that we can so easily be the cause of unintended harms for others, to recognize that we are prone to error, to unfairness, to misunderstanding.

If you want to say the contemplation of death is a sublime encounter, then one should say the same of all these reckonings as well in my opinion.

But come what may, my use of the term Superlative is trying to get at something quite different from this, although in some ways the topics are interestingly connected to one another.

30 comments:

jfehlinger said...

Dale wrote:

> I quite understand that there is something profoundly unfathomable
> in the fact that I who now am alive and who, in my aliveness, live
> in a world that exists for me as a place that is good for me to live
> in might somehow vanish from this world that seems a world especially
> for me and the world live on.

It's just as weird, or profoundly unfathomable, when you stop to think
about it, to think that there was a world, or a universe, around for
billions and billions of years (at lesat, and whatever might have
existed "before" the Big Bang) before you came into it, as to
contemplate the weirdness of the world that will go on without you
when you die.

That sort of unfathomability colors one's perception of historical
facts -- for me, hearing about something that happened in 1943 is
irreducibly different in that regard than hearing about something
that happened in 1963 (and I have to force myself to keep in mind
that my talking about 1963 has that same kind of otherworldliness
if I happen to be speaking to somebody born in 1971).

Of course, the whole notion of **personal identity** breaks down
into total weirdness if you think about it too hard. What if my
parents hadn't had sex on the particular night I was conceived?
What if that particular sperm hadn't fertilized the egg? There
might have been **somebody**, but it wouldn't have been **me**.
Or would it, in some sense? (Well **no**, of course not!).
And of course, it's a real kicker, for some people, to think
(or worry) that **they** (in some sense) might "come back" as
"something else". We just can't get our heads around this slippery
notion of personal identity (partly because we're so wedded to it in
the first place).

Lincoln Cannon said...

Dale, thank you for responding. As you've suggested, we're still talking past each other.

Do you believe that death will be absolutely the narrative closure of your lived selfhood?

. . . and, similarly, do you believe that birth was absolutely the narrative opening of your lived selfhood?

Please note an emphasis on "absolutely".

jfehlinger said...

> Do you believe that death will be absolutely the
> narrative closure of your lived selfhood?
>
> . . . and, similarly, do you believe that birth was
> absolutely the narrative opening of your lived selfhood?
>
> Please note an emphasis on "absolutely".

WOODROW WYATT: Have you ever had religious impulses, Lord Russell?

BERTRAND RUSSELL: Oh, yes! When I was adolescent, I was **deeply**
religious. I was more interested in religion than in
anything else except, perhaps, mathematics. And, uh,
being interested in religion led me -- which it doesn't
seem often to do! -- to look into the question whether
there was reason to believe it. I took up three questions.
It seemed to me that God, and immortality, and free will
were the three most essential questions. And I examined
these one by one, in the reverse order, beginning with
free will. And, uh, gradually, I came to the conclusion
that there was **no** reason to believe **any** of these.
And, uh, after that, I thought I was going to be very
disappointed, but oddly enough I wasn't.

WYATT: But how did you come to convince yourself there's
no reason to believe in any of these three things?

RUSSELL: . . . About immortality, well, it seemed
to me quite clear that, uh, the relation of body and
mind, whatever it may be, is much more **intimate** than
is commonly supposed, and uh, that there's **no**
reason to think that a mind persists when a brain decays.

. . .

WYATT: Do you think that you and I are going to be
just snuffed out completely when we die?

RUSSELL: Certainly, yes, I don't see why... what...
I mean, I know that the body disintegrates, and I
think that there's no reason **whatever** to suppose
that the mind goes on when the body is disintegrated.

bambi said...

Haven't we been through this Lincoln?

When your heart stops beating, you are not going to float up into the sky to meet up with corpses from the past. You will not zoom into the body of a newborn baby or a ferret. None of those things are going to happen for you.

None of your revenge fantasies about people unlike you burning for eternity are going to come true. Until you face your infantile fears about dying you will never be able to engage life in a meaningful way.

Hard to believe all this stuff has to be said, but there it is.

Dale Carrico said...

As you've suggested, we're still talking past each other. Do you believe that death will be absolutely the narrative closure of your lived selfhood? ...and, similarly, do you believe that birth was absolutely the narrative opening of your lived selfhood?

Well, I wouldn't be surprised if some people who had known me while I was alive continue to talk about me occasionally after I've died, and I can imagine people who have never met me stumbling upon writing I've done after I've died. In that sense at least I suppose my "self" as a center of narrative gravity would fail to close with my own organismic conclusion. I also know that my parents anticipated my arrival in discourse in ways that inaugurated my narrative selfhood prior to my birth.

But I've never made a secret of the fact that I've been a cheerful atheist for twenty-five years without any use for attributions to me of an immortal immaterial soul, at least not to the extent that such an attribution is meant as an empirical description rather than a figurative expression, a signal of moral identity, or the like.

Here's my question for you, Lincoln. If and when you want to claim of your own "self" that it will continue to exist after you die, do you mean that description to be taken as an instrumental claim comparable to the claim that, other things being equal, your self will continue to exist tomorrow morning after a good night's sleep?

If yes, on the basis of what evidence have you earned such a claim? If no, how careful are you to refrain from attributing to this belief effects that are properly confined to warranted beliefs in the efficacious mode, the scientific, instrumental, or pragmatic mode (namely, powers of prediction and control)?

Anonymous said...

None of your revenge fantasies about people unlike you burning for eternity are going to come true.

Does Lincoln believe this?

jfehlinger said...

"Anonymous" wrote:

> [bambi wrote:]
>
> > None of your revenge fantasies about people unlike you
> > burning for eternity are going to come true.
>
> Does Lincoln believe this?

Well, Mr. Cannon is President of an organization that calls itself
the "Mormon Transhumanist Association".

If that means he's an orthodox Mormon (a fair assumption, under
the circumstances), then --

http://www.religionfacts.com/mormonism/beliefs/afterlife.htm :

> Mormons do believe in hell. Those who did not repent
> while on Earth will experience a temporary hell after
> death (during the time that all spirits go to the spirit
> world before the Resurrection), but will have an
> opportunity to repent afterwards and avoid the eternal
> hell. Hell as an eternal place of misery it is inhabited
> only by Satan and those who explicitly reject
> "the Heavenly Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost" even
> after the period of instruction after death.

But you could have Googled this up yourself, no?

Dale Carrico said...

Hell as an eternal place of misery it is inhabited only by Satan and those who explicitly reject "the Heavenly Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost" even after the period of instruction after death.

This is actually a misreading of the relevant scriptures. "Misery" is actually a hot dance club, orgy pit, banquet hall, and Borgesian library... freethinkers and perverts have given the bouncers strict instructions not to permit entry to those who profess faith in "the Heavenly Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost" since these folks tend to spoil the party for everybody else and in any case they all seem to think they have somewhere better to go.

Lincoln Cannon said...

jfehlinger, I appreciate the weight of the sentiments expressed in your quotes of Wyatt and Russell -- probably more than you imagine. I'm not here to tell you I have sufficient evidence that your consciousness (at any magnitude) will go on when your body disintegrates. I'm also not going to tell you I have sufficient evidence that your consciousness will, at some point in the future, be restored to an empowerment similar to or greater than that it now experiences, given your current anatomical makeup. However, I will say that my faith in such matters is neither irrational nor without practical benefit -- even potentially essential in its practical benefit, if something resembling such ideas ever proves possible only subsequent to intentional engineering.

Bambi, please know that your post implies inaccurate assumptions regarding my faith, and that your tone (obviously not intended to be persuasive) will most likely serve only to bolster respect for you among persons with simplistic or dogmatically antagonistic understandings of religion.

Dale: "Well, I wouldn't be surprised if some people who had known me while I was alive continue to talk about me occasionally after I've died, and I can imagine people who have never met me stumbling upon writing I've done after I've died."

I'm glad you recognize these as continuations of your identity. Abstracting from there, I consider it accurate to say that our identity persists in all of our cascading effects in time and space. Whether any aspect of the persistent identity remains conscious to any degree subsequent to death is a matter for which I do not have sufficient evidence to offer.

Dale: "I also know that my parents anticipated my arrival in discourse in ways that inaugurated my narrative selfhood prior to my birth."

Here, too, I share your perspective. Putting dogmatism aside, we can see our spirits emerging into and receding from our mortal lives. To what extent, if any, are those spirits conscious before and after death. And more importantly, to what extent can they be reorganized and empowered subsequent to death, given sufficient technical ability? Of course, I don't know much about the answers to these questions, but I do aspire to a practical faith in what I would like the answers to be. Know that "faith", as I'm using it here, and as it is commonly used among Mormons, is not properly understood as irrationality or will to ignorance. To the contrary, it is a principle of action and power. For example, here is faith in God: to discover and join her to the extent she already exists, and to create and become her to the extent she does not yet exist. God is posited, not proven, except within the context of a position. Anything else is less than faith in God, and perhaps nothing more than irrationality or willful ignorance, so far as I am concerned.

Dale: "But I've never made a secret of the fact that I've been a cheerful atheist for twenty-five years without any use for attributions to me of an immortal immaterial soul, at least not to the extent that such an attribution is meant as an empirical description rather than a figurative expression, a signal of moral identity, or the like."

Please know that I, like almost all Mormons, do not include anything immaterial in my faith. When Mormons speak of spirit, they are speaking of something material -- reflecting Mormon canon. Beyond that, they may imagine or describe it in varying ways, but quite universally they will not intend anything immaterial.

That aside, I understand the intention of your statement. You have felt good without expecting any conscious existence beyond your present mortal life.

Dale: "If and when you want to claim of your own 'self' that it will continue to exist after you die, do you mean that description to be taken as an instrumental claim comparable to the claim that, other things being equal, your self will continue to exist tomorrow morning after a good night's sleep?"

I share with you (roughly) the perspective that, at least, our unconscious spirits emerged into and will regress from our present mortal life, perhaps without absolute beginning or ending. I don't know of any good evidence for attributing consciousness to spirits before birth or after death. In the Mormon tradition, most suppose spirits to be conscious before birth and after death, but it's interesting to note that Mormons ascribe inferior consciousness to spirits, which are described as viewing their separation from their bodies as emprisonment, and are deemed to be impotent relative to us and even within our power. Reflecting that, the hypothesis of greatly reduced consciousness (to the point of being almost no more than merely analogous to consciousness) before birth and after death interests me, mostly as a matter of communion with other Mormons. More importantly, however, I do look forward in faith to a day when the spirits of the dead can be revived and empowered again with at least the same degree of consciousness they experienced in their past lives. Note, again, that faith in this matter is will toward and hope in a combination of both discovery and creation, and not only a matter of wishful thinking -- although wishful thinking is a valuable aspect of it. In summary, then, I don't think a straight "yes" or "no" will honestly and accurately answer your question. I am not making an empirical claim. I am taking a faith position -- sort of like a hypothesis with an extra dose of commitment.

Dale: "If yes, on the basis of what evidence have you earned such a claim?"

I propose practical benefits (actual and possible), not any sufficient empirical evidence, as justification for my faith.

Dale: "If no, how careful are you to refrain from attributing to this belief effects that are properly confined to warranted beliefs in the efficacious mode, the scientific, instrumental, or pragmatic mode (namely, powers of prediction and control)?"

I'm not entirely sure I understand this question. However, if you are asking whether I am appealing to anything supernatural, the answer is "no". As most Mormons do not include the immaterial in their faith, so many Mormons do not include the supernatural in their faith. Even miracles, from a common Mormon perspective, occur within a context of law that we have not yet fully understood. If there are conscious spirits, they can be investigated scientifically (at least so far as science can go, given that science faces some real challenges when dealing with matters like consciousness). If resurrection is possible, it can be engineered technologically (although certainly it would require technical capacities that are difficult or impossible to imagine now).

If you're interested in better understanding my perspective, and that of Mormons with similar perspectives, on matters such as these, please see this transcript of the presentation I recently gave in Second Life:

http://transfigurism.org/community/files/11/second_life_20080330/default.aspx

Anonymous: "'None of your revenge fantasies about people unlike you burning for eternity are going to come true.' Does Lincoln believe this?"

No. Bambi probably does not know what she's talking about; if she does then she's willfully misrepresenting the Mormon faith. The description provided by jfehlinger is slightly more accurate, but does not do justice to the Mormon concept of hell. In Mormon tradition, hell is a place you create for yourself. All who desire more, as reflected in their actions, will receive more, one way or another. This is a practical faith, as illustrated by the attitude of Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism. Once, when someone told him that the Mormons would all go to hell, he responded (to paraphrase): if we do then we'll make a heaven of it. I share that faith.

. . . and the underlying ideas (if not also the details) of Dale's humorous interpretation actually have some basis within Mormon eschatology.

Lincoln Cannon said...

Dale, do you understand better, now, what I'm attempting to communicate when I ask whether you conceive of death ultimately quite as superlatively as you claim some Transhumanists conceive of immortal life? Do you acknowledge any possibility of resurrection? If not, I wonder why you would choose to treat death as a superlative. That is a strange faith, even when we feel its weight.

jfehlinger said...

Dale wrote:

> "Misery" is actually a hot dance club, orgy pit, banquet hall, and
> Borgesian library... freethinkers and perverts have given the bouncers
> strict instructions not to permit entry to those who profess faith in
> "the Heavenly Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost" since these folks
> tend to spoil the party for everybody else and in any case they all
> seem to think they have somewhere better to go.

THE DEVIL Why not take refuge in Heaven? Thats the proper place for you.
[To Ana] Come, Señora! could you not persuade him for his own good to try
change of air?

ANA But can he go to heaven if he wants to?

THE DEVIL Whats to prevent him?

ANA Can anybody - can I go to heaven if I want to?

THE DEVIL [rather contemptuously] Certainly, if your taste lies that way.

ANA But why doesn't everybody go to heaven, then?

THE STATUE [chuckling] I can tell you that, my dear. It's because
heaven is the most angelically dull place in all creation: thats why.

THE DEVIL His excellency the Commander puts it with military bluntness;
but the strain of living in heaven is intolerable. There is a notion
that I was turned out of it; but as a matter of fact nothing could
have induced me to stay there. I simply left it and organized this place.

THE STATUE I don't wonder at it. Nobody could stand an eternity of heaven.

THE DEVIL Oh, it suits some people. Let us be just, Commander: it is
a question of temperament. I don't admire the heavenly temperament:
I don't understand it: I don't know that I particularly want to understand
it; but it takes all sorts to make a universe. There is no accounting
for tastes: there are people who like it. I think DON JUAN would like it.

DON JUAN But - pardon my frankness - could you really go back there
if you desired to; or are the grapes sour?

THE DEVIL Back there! I often go back there. Have you never read the
book of Job? Have you any canonical authority for assuming that there
is any barrier between our circle and the other one?

ANA But surely there is a great gulf fixed.

THE DEVIL Dear lady: a parable must not be taken literally. The gulf is
the difference between the angelic and the diabolic temperament. What more
impassable gulf could you have? Think of what you have seen on earth.
There is no physical gulf between the philosopher's class room and the
bull ring; but the bull fighters do not come to the class room for all
that. Have you ever been in the country where I have the largest following?
England. There they have great racecourses, and also concert rooms where
they play the classical compositions of his Excellency's friend Mozart.
Those who go to the racecourses can stay away from them and go to the
classical concerts instead if they like: there is no law against it;
for Englishmen never will be slaves: they are free to do whatever the
Government and public opinion allow them to do. And the classical concert
is admitted to be a higher, more cultivated, poetic, intellectual,
ennobling place than the racecourse. But do the lovers of racing desert
their sport and flock to the concert room? Not they. They would suffer
there all the weariness the Commander has suffered in heaven. There
is the great gulf of the parable between the two places. A mere physical
gulf they could bridge; or at least I could bridge it for them
(the earth is full of Devil's Bridges); but the gulf of dislike is
impassable and eternal. And that is the only gulf that separates my
friends here from those who are invidiously called the blest.

ANA I shall go to heaven at once.

THE STATUE My child: one word of warning first. Let me complete my friend
Lucifer's similitude of the classical concert. At every one of these concerts
in England you will find rows of weary people who are there, not because
they really like classical music, but because they think they ought to like
it. Well, there is the same thing in heaven. A number of people sit there
in glory, not because they are happy, but because they think they owe it
to their position to be in heaven. They are almost all English.

THE DEVIL Yes: the Southerners give it up and join me just as you have done.
But the English really do not seem to know when they are thoroughly miserable.
An Englishman thinks he is moral when he is only uncomfortable.

THE STATUE In short, my daughter, if you go to heaven without being naturally
qualified for it, you will not enjoy yourself there.

ANA And who dares say that I am not naturally qualified for it? The most
distinguished princes of the Church have never questioned it. I owe it to
myself to leave this place at once.

THE DEVIL [offended] As you please, Señora. I should have expected better taste from you.

ANA Father: I shall expect you to come with me. You cannot stay here. What will people say?

THE STATUE People! Why, the best people are here - princes of the church and all.
So few go to heaven, and so many come here, that the blest, once called a heavenly
host, are a continually dwindling minority. The saints, the fathers, the elect
of long ago are the cranks, the faddists, the outsiders of today.

-- G. B. Shaw, "Don Juan in Hell"
http://www.bigeye.com/donjuan.htm

Dale Carrico said...

Dale, do you understand better, now, what I'm attempting to communicate when I ask whether you conceive of death ultimately quite as superlatively as you claim some Transhumanists conceive of immortal life?

Actually, no, I don't think I do.

Do you acknowledge any possibility of resurrection?

Actually, no, I don't. At all.

If not, I wonder why you would choose to treat death as a superlative.

I wonder why you choose to pretend I do.

That is a strange faith, even when we feel its weight.

Well, you're no stranger to strange faiths, after all.

Lincoln Cannon said...

You don't see that you are attributing to death quite as much absoluteness as that attributed to life by some advocates of faith in immortality?

Dale Carrico said...

I said: "I wouldn't be surprised if some people who had known me while I was alive continue to talk about me occasionally after I've died, and I can imagine people who have never met me stumbling upon writing I've done after I've died."

Lincoln replied: "I'm glad you recognize these as continuations of your identity."

Is there anybody on earth who doesn't think people can still talk about them after they die? I'm not sure I agree with you even remotely when you want to attribute to that commonplace observation some sort of thesis about a "continuity of identity." I feel unsure how you are using that phrase, and don't want to have words put in my mouth.

Lincoln continued: "Abstracting from there, I consider it accurate to say that our identity persists in all of our cascading effects in time and space. Whether any aspect of the persistent identity remains conscious to any degree subsequent to death is a matter for which I do not have sufficient evidence to offer."

Uh, no, I don't believe any of that. If you think that is a testable hypothesis, then good luck with that. If that's just a figurative turn of speech to testify to complexities of intersubjective selfhood over time, or the sublimity of the unknown, or the decency of a moral community to reach you mean to signal allegiance or some such thing, then, that's certainly fine by me. I'm not a reductionist.

But I do know the difference between the criteria that warrant belief in an efficacious mode, and those that warrant beliefs in moral, aesthetic, ethical, and political modes. If you are making a claim that would be a candidate for scientific consensus then there are rules you have to follow.

If you are making a claim in a moral, aesthetic, ethical, or political register instead, be aware that the very real values that are unique to those registers (values denigrated by scientistic reductionism) are not the same ones that arise from the efficacious mode, and it is unreasonable -- and often dishonest -- to mistake them.

I said: "I also know that my parents anticipated my arrival in discourse in ways that inaugurated my narrative selfhood prior to my birth."

Lincoln replied: "Here, too, I share your perspective. Putting dogmatism aside, we can see our spirits emerging into and receding from our mortal lives."

Whoa, fella, how can you say you agree with me? How is pointing out that my parents and others in anticipated me in language began the discourse of "Dale" into which I would later find myself participating the same thing as talking about spirits emerging into and receding from our mortal lives? I actually can imagine ways in which that is possibly a statement I could affirm, if it is a matter of trying to talk about how sociocultural archetypes and familial stories and so on weave their way into our unconscious and become partners and antagonists in the ongoing narrativization of our selfhood... but I honestly don't feel sure of what you are meaning by the phrases you are using here.

Lincoln wonders: "To what extent, if any, are those spirits conscious before and after death. And more importantly, to what extent can they be reorganized and empowered subsequent to death, given sufficient technical ability?"

That sort of talk is just so not my thing, Lincoln. Conscious spirits before and after death? How did that get into the picture? I don't follow the steps that get you from A to B here. Sorry.

Lincoln: "Of course, I don't know much about the answers to these questions, but I do aspire to a practical faith in what I would like the answers to be."

That's cool. There are more ways to ask questions and find answers than science offers us. But it is still true that we should know the difference between the forms in which science properly undertaken asks its questions, and we should know whether the sorts of answers we are looking for are the ones to which we properly turn to scientific consensus, legible self-creation, affirmations of moral community, ethical universalization, or political reconciliation.

I will admit that I get the sense from you that what you mean by a "practical faith" looks a little like wanting to pretend a belief and practice that is aesthetically enriching -- and perfectly valuable and reasonable as such -- is instead scientifically valid, even though it looks pretty conspicuously to fail to pass muster on those terms.

Lincoln: "Know that "faith", as I'm using it here, and as it is commonly used among Mormons, is not properly understood as irrationality or will to ignorance. To the contrary, it is a principle of action and power."

Well, once again, I am no reductionist, and I quite agree with you that discourses of value, taste, identification, formal universalization, and reconciliation are all quite rational according to their own proper criteria of warrant and substantiated through their own proper practices and incarnations, and all propel us into action and variously empower us.

But one must take care not to confuse these different modes, their different warrants, or their different their goods, just as one should resist the reductionist impulse to deny all but one mode, hierarchize the modes in some static schema, or struggle to translate the terms of the different modes into that of one's singular preferred mode (as some reductionist champions of science do, but believe me there are certainly moralists, aesthetics, ethicians, and politicians who are just as bad).

More Lincoln: "For example, here is faith in God: to discover and join her to the extent she already exists, and to create and become her to the extent she does not yet exist. God is posited, not proven, except within the context of a position. Anything else is less than faith in God, and perhaps nothing more than irrationality or willful ignorance, so far as I am concerned."

Well, that's not my cup of tea but I can imagine how that is a provocative and empowering vantage to assume on the world in an aesthetic sense. I have a kind of faith in democracy that is similarly more posited than proven, one might say. I certainly wouldn't confuse that perspective with an empirical description soliciting warranted scientific belief and promising better powers of prediction and control than other candidates for efficacious belief on offer.

I wrote: "But I've never made a secret of the fact that I've been a cheerful atheist for twenty-five years without any use for attributions to me of an immortal immaterial soul, at least not to the extent that such an attribution is meant as an empirical description rather than a figurative expression, a signal of moral identity, or the like."

Lincoln replied: "Please know that I, like almost all Mormons, do not include anything immaterial in my faith. When Mormons speak of spirit, they are speaking of something material -- reflecting Mormon canon."

If you say so.

Lincoln continues: "Beyond that, they may imagine or describe it in varying ways, but quite universally they will not intend anything immaterial."

I really can't say that I feel sure you mean by "material" what I do. Given the impact on Butler's performative model of materiality as citational practices of substantiation, however, chances are my own beliefs on these questions, when you really get down to the nitty-gritty, are quite as idiosyncratic as your own, so it's fine with me if you want to just split the difference.

Lincoln: "That aside, I understand the intention of your statement. You have felt good without expecting any conscious existence beyond your present mortal life."

Yes, I really do fine without God, literally: a-theist, without-god.

I said: "If and when you want to claim of your own 'self' that it will continue to exist after you die, do you mean that description to be taken as an instrumental claim comparable to the claim that, other things being equal, your self will continue to exist tomorrow morning after a good night's sleep?"

Lincoln replied: "I share with you (roughly) the perspective that, at least, our unconscious spirits emerged into and will regress from our present mortal life, perhaps without absolute beginning or ending."

If that's the view you think we share, I must say it will be an agreement at a really "rough" level indeed, something that feels general and verging on vacuity. Unless, of course, I'm still just not quite getting what you are saying yet.

Lincoln: "I don't know of any good evidence for attributing consciousness to spirits before birth or after death."

Me neither.

Lincoln: "In the Mormon tradition, most suppose spirits to be conscious before birth and after death, but it's interesting to note that Mormons ascribe inferior consciousness to spirits, which are described as viewing their separation from their bodies as emprisonment, and are deemed to be impotent relative to us and even within our power. Reflecting that, the hypothesis of greatly reduced consciousness (to the point of being almost no more than merely analogous to consciousness) before birth and after death interests me, mostly as a matter of communion with other Mormons. More importantly, however, I do look forward in faith to a day when the spirits of the dead can be revived and empowered again with at least the same degree of consciousness they experienced in their past lives. Note, again, that faith in this matter is will toward and hope in a combination of both discovery and creation, and not only a matter of wishful thinking -- although wishful thinking is a valuable aspect of it. In summary, then, I don't think a straight "yes" or "no" will honestly and accurately answer your question. I am not making an empirical claim. I am taking a faith position -- sort of like a hypothesis with an extra dose of commitment.

A faith position is most emphatically not like an hypothesis with an extra dose of commitment. To say otherwise is to risk denigrating both what is valuable in scientific practice and belief, properly so-called, as well as what can be valuable in faithful practice and belief, properly so-called (which, it is true, tend to look to me for the most part like moral beliefs and aesthetic practices, but certainly no less powerful and reasonable and indispensable for that).

Dale: "If yes, on the basis of what evidence have you earned such a claim?"

Lincoln: "I propose practical benefits (actual and possible), not any sufficient empirical evidence, as justification for my faith."

Well, that may be. But it matters to me that not only scientific practice confers substance/meaning, and also that the substance/meaning that is conferred by science, proper, be respected on its own terms.

I said: "If no, how careful are you to refrain from attributing to this belief effects that are properly confined to warranted beliefs in the efficacious mode, the scientific, instrumental, or pragmatic mode (namely, powers of prediction and control)?"

Lincoln replied: "I'm not entirely sure I understand this question."

And these are for me the key stakes of our dispute. I am demanding only that you not confuse your faithful beliefs with scientific ones, nor attribute to faithful beliefs benefits that are unique to proper science, while still affirming with you that not only scientific beliefs are the ones that confer values indispensable to human flourishing.

Lincoln: However, if you are asking whether I am appealing to anything supernatural, the answer is "no". As most Mormons do not include the immaterial in their faith, so many Mormons do not include the supernatural in their faith. Even miracles, from a common Mormon perspective, occur within a context of law that we have not yet fully understood."

If that's science it's sure as hell shoddy science.

Lincoln: "If there are conscious spirits, they can be investigated scientifically (at least so far as science can go, given that science faces some real challenges when dealing with matters like consciousness).

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Lincoln: "If resurrection is possible, it can be engineered technologically (although certainly it would require technical capacities that are difficult or impossible to imagine now)."

Ya think?

Lincoln: "If you're interested in better understanding my perspective, and that of Mormons with similar perspectives, on matters such as these, please see this transcript..."

Well, I suppose I should be grateful you didn't pass a collection plate as well...

I'm sorry, Lincoln, but for all the protestations to materialism and pragmatism, it sure seems there's a whole hell of a lot of spirit, soul, resurrection crapola getting peddled around here all the sudden.

Forgive terseness and lack of editing... BSG's coming on!

Dale Carrico said...

Lincoln asks: You don't see that you are attributing to death quite as much absoluteness as that attributed to life by some advocates of faith in immortality?

You are claiming that my description of human beings as always actually mortal is somehow as "faith-based" in its "absolutism" (I actually just consider it a warranted and testable description soliciting a consensus of belief better than any other empirical description on offer) as some transhumanist's claim that human beings are techno-immortalizable when not one of them ever has been? Really?

bambi said...

Lincoln says:

Bambi, please know that your post implies inaccurate assumptions regarding my faith, and that your tone (obviously not intended to be persuasive) will most likely serve only to bolster respect for you among persons with simplistic or dogmatically antagonistic understandings of religion.

Yes, I was actually just condensing Dale's verbage in a prior blog post where he tries to point out that transhumanist "beliefs" are dumb -- in a clownish admiring effort to show that they apply equally well to the views held by 95% of humanity.

No specific disrespect of Mormonism intended -- I'm the last one to actually criticise offbeat views except for fun.

I'm not really trying to bolster respect from anybody, else I'd use my actual name so I could benefit from it!

Lincoln Cannon said...

Dale, I am observing (not merely claiming) that your criticism of Transhumanism depends on a superlative faith in death. You are not merely observing and reporting on human mortality. You are extrapolating well beyond your experience to a creed of superlative finitude. You say you acknowledge no possibility whatsoever of resurrection, yet you have no sufficient evidence against such a possibility. You claim that not one human has ever or will ever become immortal, yet again you have no sufficient evidence in support of your perspective. Your insistence on impossibilities is something readily observable -- hardly a mere claim. Moreover, such insistence, given your vast ignorance (given our vast ignorance), reflects a particular kind of trust, a particular kind of will, and a particular kind of faith: in superlative death. While I expect death of some sort to some degree at some time and place, I don't share your faith in superlative death, for all the reasons I DO share some of your skepticism of superlative life. I reject, for practical reasons, the expectation that death is or ever will be the absolute end of my conscious experience. You feel confident that you know better, that my rejection of your faith is naive within the context of contemporary science or even foolish due to its practical detriments in my approach to actual life. Please know that I regard your faith similarly. These are, indeed despite your protestation, our varying hypotheses, with increased doses of commitment. You profess pragmatism, and you are, indeed, applying it pragmatically.

Dale Carrico said...

Dale, I am observing (not merely claiming) that your criticism of Transhumanism depends on a superlative faith in death.

No, you're not observing this. You're stipulating it. I use Superlative in a specific sense that I defined for that purpose. You can try to appropriate the term to describe instead something like the "sublime" or something like "absolute certainty," or what have you. But that simply isn't what I am talking about, and presumably you were responding to what I was saying.

You are not merely observing and reporting on human mortality. You are extrapolating well beyond your experience to a creed of superlative finitude. You say you acknowledge no possibility whatsoever of resurrection, yet you have no sufficient evidence against such a possibility.

Once again, it is the extraordinary claim that requires the extraordinary evidence.

When I claim that everybody dies I am reporting the facts as everybody knows them. I'll entertain further possibilities when I have reason to do so, and not before.

Again, if when you start talking about resurrection and so on you are instead mobilizing an aesthetic vocabulary or signaling moral community or some such thing, that is fine. But that isn't science, that isn't belief warranted in the efficacious mode in the terms I am deploying here.

You claim that not one human has ever or will ever become immortal, yet again you have no sufficient evidence in support of your perspective.

Life is a vulnerable process in a demanding environment. There are no perpetual motion machines. There have been no non-mortal humans. Are you effing kidding me?

To believe life is techno-immortalizable is to not understand what life is at a very basic level. This isn't a matter of me making a predictive claim for all time, this is a matter of exposing the dangerous ignorance and distortion at the heart of techno-immortalist discourse as such. You people wish I was making a predictive claim, because then this is just a matter of two people trading predictions about something nobody knows anything about, an eternally prostheticized life-process or quasi-life substitute or endlessly prolongable intelligible narrative of some kind, whatever the hell that is supposed to be.

But I'm not offering a prediction and I'm not taking the predictions of the techno-immortalists seriously in the first place. You don't know what you are talking about and until you do there is no point in trading predictions. That is what I am saying.

Your insistence on impossibilities is something readily observable -- hardly a mere claim. Moreover, such insistence, given your vast ignorance (given our vast ignorance), reflects a particular kind of trust, a particular kind of will, and a particular kind of faith

Lincoln, this is nothing short of complete bs. This is like climate change denialists trading on the inherent modesty of pragmatically warranted descriptions to create the false impression that reasonable caveating and qualification makes even forceful and near-universal scientific consensus non-actionable at the level of regulation and policy.

When I say, Lincoln, that you are not going to live forever in a robot body or uploaded into a computer, this claim is the furthest imaginable thing from a statement of faith. It isn't hard to see which belief here is the one that is faith-based, it is techno-immortalism that is faith-based through and through.

a particular kind of faith: in superlative death. While I expect death of some sort to some degree at some time and place, I don't share your faith in superlative death

I honestly don't know what the hell this faith is supposed to consist in, or why you use the word "superlative" to describe it. I would describe my boot as solid, black, worn, and heavy enough to crack an eggshell with -- and I never expect it to morph into an anti-gravity boot. Do these look like superlatively faithful utterances to you? Define your idiosyncratic usage, please.

You feel confident that you know better, that my rejection of your faith is naive within the context of contemporary science or even foolish due to its practical detriments in my approach to actual life. Please know that I regard your faith similarly.

Faith -- in the sense under discussion here -- means belief without warrant. It is perfectly warranted to say that people die. There is no warrant for an empirical claim that people resurrect or are techno-immortalizable. If you aren't making an empirical claim, don't pretend otherwise. If you imagine you are making an empirical claim, then pay the price when it is exposed as unwarranted. Playing fast and lose with the definitions of "faith" and "belief" is an old snake-oil salesman scam of evangelical types. Try again.

These are, indeed despite your protestation, our varying hypotheses, with increased doses of commitment.

Saying it doesn't make it so, Lincoln. Candidate descriptions for warranted belief in an efficacious mode don't become more factual the more intensely you believe in them. Clapping louder won't make Iraq a success, won't make a looted crumbling infrastructure functional, won't let anybody eat their cake and have it too, and won't make you an immortal robot.

You profess pragmatism, and you are, indeed, applying it pragmatically.

I speak of pragmatism in the sense of the American school of philosophy the key figures of which for me personally are James, Dewey, and Rorty. Be careful Lincoln if you want to start flinging glib formulations around. I actually know what I'm talking about on this subject.

jfehlinger said...

Lincoln Cannon wrote:

> I reject, for practical reasons, the expectation that death
> is or ever will be the absolute end of my conscious experience.
> You feel confident that you know better, that my rejection of
> your faith is naive within the context of contemporary science. . .

If that isn't true (i.e., if it isn't true that your rejection of
Dale's "faith" in the nonexistence of immortal spirits is naive
within the context of contemporary science), then I have to admit
that modern American science education has utterly failed in my case.

On the other hand:

"In an e-mail message from the American Association for the
Advancement of Science I learned that the aim of this conference is
to have a constructive dialogue between science and religion. I am
all in favor of a dialogue between science and religion, but not a
constructive dialogue. One of the great achievements of science has
been, if not to make it impossible for intelligent people to be
religious, then at least to make it possible for them not to be
religious. We should not retreat from this accomplishment."

-- Steven Weinberg
http://kinkazzoburning.blogspot.com/2006/11/astrophysics-universe-and-some.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Weinberg

Lincoln Cannon said...

Dale, when you speak of death, you speak of something that you imagine to be perpetual and emersive, quite analogous to the imaginations of the faithful of superlative life. You make the extraordinary claim that there is no possibility whatsoever of resurrection. Your human mind, in all its non-superlativeness, is reaching out into eternity like a feeble arm into the deep currents of the sea, and positing a lack of possibilities. Where is your extraordinary evidence?

Unlike you, I'm not claiming a lack of possibilities; I'm not even claiming the impossibility of superlative death. To the contrary, I am recognizing possibilities, and committing myself to those that interest me most. You want evidence for the possibility of experience approaching immortality and eternal life? Only time and experience can provide that, and yet its particular manifestations may indeed depend much on our thoughts and actions. Many truths are created, and indeed are often those most important to us.

Again, as I've repeated several times, I'm claiming no sufficient evidence for immortality or eternal life. To the contrary, I've rejected the pertinence of your request for such. There is not and never will be sufficient evidence for the better world. We make that world, or die trying, despite the insufficient evidence. When we make it, it is again before us, without sufficient evidence. The value of superlatives is not the (im)possibility of their absolute manifestation in our concrete experience, but rather their service as economical indicators of interesting direction.

When you claim that everyone dies, you are indeed reporting your observation of facts as you and I, and apparently most or all humans on Earth, know them. Whether every person, including those beyond Earth (if any) and those in the past and future (if any), knows them as we do is a matter of speculation, based in a faith in uniformity. I share much but not all of that speculation with you. I see no reason to extrapolate the present state of our universe to whatever (if anything) lies beyond our universe or to all possible pasts and futures of our universe. I'm interested in possibilities that correspond with our desires. I do want to know what we can discover, but then I also want to know what we can create. I'm unwilling to consent to a lack of possibilities, but also recognize empowerment through discovery of apparent contours to the possible.

You say you'll entertain further possibilities when you have reason to do so. I tell you that I have, now, reason to do so: my desire. I'm also far from alone in this. While you may have no interest in possibilities approaching immortality and eternal life, others do and that is reason enough. That said, I share with you concern about the negative effects of exclusive focus on the future, and work (more than most) to persuade others away from such focus, as I work to persuade them away from exclusive focus on the present.

When you say that resurrection isn't science, I agree, in that you're using "science" to describe theories that have achieved and continue to maintain objectivity via application of the scientific method. However, I will not agree that resurrection is somehow anti-scientific. Resurrection is no more anti-scientific than was heavier-than-air flight prior to the time when we achieved the capacity to begin formulating technical hypotheses that would lead to theories from which engineers could better pursue implementation. You may feel inclined toward a feeling of nobility in refraining from interest in propositions for which we currently lack technical hypotheses. I don't. Moreover, as I've emphasized repeatedly, I recognize that the shape of the future, even positioning ourselves for particular technical hypotheses, may depend on our faith. That is my justification -- as if I need one.

I, too, often see life as a vulnerable process in a demanding environment. Without contradicting that, I often see life as a remarkably hearty process in a condusive environment. There are wonders for me in both directions.

You say there are no perpetual motion machines, yet you appear to be relying on one to prevent future persons from resurrecting you. You say there have been no non-mortal humans, and I agree as a matter of definition, but I'm not kidding when I wonder whether humans can be transfigured or resurrected, even repeatedly, experiencing states of increasing quality and quantity of life -- immortality and eternal life. I recognize that a time may come after which I simply never awake, or a life-state may attain beyond which I simply never manifest, but tell me, Dale, as a pragmatist, why I and others should not pursue the quality and quantity of life we desire. Tell me why we should not suppose possibilities congruent with our desires. Tell me why we should ever consent to death or hell, however evident, however heavily pressing they may be. Restrain entertainment of possibilities until we have reason to do so? If you mean that pragmatically, sure; desire is reason enough. If you mean that in any other way, that's your problem, and it's a cold and timid one.

When you claim there is no possibility of resurrection, you are indeed making a predictive claim. You can protest, of course, but the prediction remains. Interest in possibilities approaching immortality and eternal life is not, despite your suggestion, a necessary misunderstanding of life. If you or anyone else insists that immortality is exclusively superlative life then, sure, we encounter irrationality as we attempt to reconcile abstractions with concrete experience. However, your insistence, or anyone else's insistence, does not compel me to accept your definition. I recognize immortality as an ideal that could be pursued eternally without final manifestation. It is a rhetorical shortcut, which is sometimes useful and sometimes not. Contrary to your claim, I know what I'm talking about when I use the word "immortality" quite as much as I know what I'm talking about when I use any other words that evoke conceptions of broad abstractions across imagined human possibilities, and that doesn't mean I'm insisting on any particular increased precision until I choose to do so explicitly. It seems rather childish to tell persons that they don't know what they mean by the words they use.

Your assessment, as bs, of my observation that your insistence on impossibilities is a particular kind of faith, is inaccurate. To claim impossibilities is quite as positional as to claim possibilities, and all positions are taken in faith -- yes, even scientific positions, which do not displace faith, but rather add objectivity on top of our SHARED faith. However, your position on impossibilities is not remotely scientific. Science is about possibilities -- not impossibilities. Moreover, your position on impossibilities is, as I've indicated, a form of trust and will. You are faithful in impossibilities. If my assessment actually is wrong, I challenge you to demonstrate my error by dropping, from this time forward, all of your claims about impossibilities. Good luck.

I agree that it is perfectly warranted to say that people die. I also agree that it is perfectly warranted to say that you and I have seen no people transfigured or resurrected to immortality. I'm not, and haven't been (despite your suggestion), claiming otherwise. However, what I am claiming, is that you have been making the perfectly unwarrented claim that resurrection and approaches to immortality and eternal life are impossible. You, not I, are engaged here in unwarrented claims. I have acknowledged possibilities either way. I have expressed faith in a particular subset of those possibilities, without claims of sufficient evidence. Yet you somehow suppose that you have evidence against that subset of possibilities sufficient to make the claim that they are impossible. Analogously speaking, you should return to your passive atheism, or restrain your claim to an active atheism of only practical concerns, rather than pretend to an omniscience that would, in itself, directly refute atheism.

Do candidate descriptions for warrented belief in an efficacious mode become more factual the more intensely we believe them? Well, to repeat an example, heavier-than-air flight became more factual the more intensely we believed in it. This, of course, is not an exception to any rule, but rather indicative of the rule. The facts of experience do, indeed, depend to some extent on our will to create, although I've not pretended that the facts of experience entirely depend on our will to create. Clapping louder could contribute toward making Iraq a success, and making a looted crumbling infrastructure functional. Whether you like it or not, our morale affects our actions and subsequently the facts of experience. Of course, you DO like that, because you readily demonstrate it here at Amor Mundi, where you clap loudly (with admirable endurance) in anticipation of corresponding effects.

When I speak of pragmatism, I too am referencing the tradition you mentioned. My second son's middle name is "William James". Shall we dual? ;-)

Lincoln Cannon said...

jfehlinger, while I'm sure it's an exageration to claim that modern American science education has utterly failed in your case, I'm quite comfortable supposing that you may be engaged in scientism.

peco said...

To believe life is techno-immortalizable is to not understand what life is at a very basic level.

(Conventional definition of life: homeostatis, organiztion, metabolism, growth, adaptation, response to stimuli, reproduction)

Computers, along with computer programs, definitely have organization, homeostasis, response to (digital) stimuli, and reproduction. Metabolism is certainly possible if the computer controls power plants, and growth is also possible, but harder to do. If adaptation is possible, then life might be techno-immortalizable if it can be represented in a computer (not sure about this).

(You're saying "life isn't techno-immortalizable," not "there isn't any evidence for it, so it life probably isn't techno-immortalizable")

Dale Carrico said...

Dale, when you speak of death, you speak of something that you imagine to be perpetual and emersive, quite analogous to the imaginations of the faithful of superlative life.

It takes a hard core scientist to take a look at a corpse and see evidence of resurrection there. Yawn. When I speak of scrambled eggs I speak of eggs that will remain scrambled. I don't know where I get such fanciful magical notions.

You make the extraordinary claim that there is no possibility whatsoever of resurrection.

The extraordinary claim is yours if you think you have any reason to think resurrection is afoot. Name the reasons or the evidence for asserting such a claim.

Your human mind, in all its non-superlativeness, is reaching out into eternity like a feeble arm into the deep currents of the sea, and positing a lack of possibilities. Where is your extraordinary evidence?

What counts as evidence for you? What is it to make an empirical claim? It's true and completely facile to point out that every instrumental description -- including such unbelievably overabundantly substantiated claims as that human beings are mortal -- is contingent and defeasible in principle, but this does not diminish our right confidence in beliefs warranted by the criteria of consensus science. Defeasibility in principle doesn't make reasonably warranted beliefs faithful. Finitude makes even good science defeasible but it doesn't make science indistinguishable from religion. People really need to learn to hold multiple ideas in their heads at the same time.

I am recognizing possibilities, and committing myself to those that interest me most.

No, Lincoln, you are stipulating possibilities that edify you. So long as you don't pretend that there is something scientific about this procedure, or denigrate science from the vantage of your affirmation of these edifications (which I agree need not be scientific to deserve affirmation), then I certainly have no problem with that. Let a bazillion flowers bloom. But don't pretend your aesthetic tastes or sub(cult)ural identifications are rightly universalizable.

I'm claiming no sufficient evidence for immortality or eternal life. To the contrary, I've rejected the pertinence of your request for such. There is not and never will be sufficient evidence for the better world.

You can deny the pertinence of such a request only so long as you refrain from the pretense that your belief is efficacious (rather than, say, edifying). If you want to claim the status of science you have to be adequate to its demands.

We make that world, or die trying, despite the insufficient evidence.

But of course I am the last to claim that world-making in the aesthetic, ethical, or political senses is a scientific matter in the first place.

The value of superlatives is not the (im)possibility of their absolute manifestation in our concrete experience, but rather their service as economical indicators of interesting direction.

That isn't what I mean by "superlativity" and I am not interested in blunting the force of the critique of superlativity in my terms through a discussion of yours. Please pick another word that won't lead to such confusions.

When you claim that everyone dies, you are indeed reporting your observation of facts as you and I, and apparently most or all humans on Earth, know them.

Apparently? And are you prepared to claim otherwise? I'm not talking about facile weaseling about the failure of naive word-world correspondence theories of truth, or the defeasibility of even strongly warranted candidates for scientific consensus (two pragmatic theses I'd already taken deeply to heart over twenty years ago), I'm asking if you are prepared to claim that a different description than mine that all humans are mortal is better warranted for our instrumental belief, and if yes, then provide your reasons and evidence, and if not, than stop pretending my assertion is faithful or your effort to trouble it is somehow scientific. It's that simple. Put up or shut up.

Whether every person, including those beyond Earth (if any) and those in the past and future (if any), knows them as we do is a matter of speculation, based in a faith in uniformity.

Then nobody knows anything in any meaningful sense, however contingent. If you believe this what are you arguing for? What are the stakes of dispute in the first place?

I see no reason to extrapolate the present state of our universe to whatever (if anything) lies beyond our universe or to all possible pasts and futures of our universe.

But only you are engaging in such fun and games. You may try to sell the notion that the affirmation of warranted descriptions amounts to a hyperbolic claim about all logically possible universes or what have you, but back here on planet earth I notice that of the two of us it is only you who ever seems to be gabbing about robo-immortality and resurrection and divinity and the rest of that theological paraphernalia.

You say you'll entertain further possibilities when you have reason to do so. I tell you that I have, now, reason to do so: my desire. I'm also far from alone in this.

Wishing doesn't make things so, if we are contemplating the efficacious mode of warranted belief ascription. Understanding this and respecting it on its actually terms does not require the denigration of creativity, as I endlessly reiterate that moral, aesthetic, ethical, and political beliefs are reasonable, indispensable, and irreducible to the efficacious mode. When you speak of immortality you act as though you are making a scientific claim. You're not. If it is a figurative or moral claim, then fine.

While you may have no interest in possibilities approaching immortality and eternal life, others do and that is reason enough.

If people talking about this claim to be scientists when they do, they are cranks and should be exposed as such. If they are making aesthetic declarations or what have you, their discourse may not be my own cup of tea but I certainly have no quarrel with it so long as they don't start with the evangelizing.

That said, I share with you concern about the negative effects of exclusive focus on the future, and work (more than most) to persuade others away from such focus, as I work to persuade them away from exclusive focus on the present.

It's hard to know how you are using these terms -- I for one disapprove the focus on "the future" because it denigrates the open futurity arising out of the present. When you seek to dissuade people from the present, I think I am likely to disapprove this distraction from the worldly for the "otherworldly" for exactly the reasons I disapprove distraction from the worldly for the "otherworldly" in its guise as "the future" in parochial sub(cult)ural construals. Given this, I can't say that I am confident that this is a concern we "share" at all.

However, I will not agree that resurrection is somehow anti-scientific. Resurrection is no more anti-scientific than was heavier-than-air flight prior to the time when we achieved the capacity to begin formulating technical hypotheses that would lead to theories from which engineers could better pursue implementation.

They laughed at the Wright Brothers, too! Regular as clockwork. There were contemporaries of the Wright Brothers just as convinced as they were that they had plans for perpetual motions machines and maths for squaring the circle. They got laughed at, too. Those who laughed were right to laugh, and their laughter was vindicated. You're going to die, you are not going to live forever in a robot body, and your consciousness will never be uploaded into a computer.

You may feel inclined toward a feeling of nobility in refraining from interest in propositions for which we currently lack technical hypotheses. I don't.

wtf?

I, too, often see life as a vulnerable process in a demanding environment. Without contradicting that, I often see life as a remarkably hearty process in a condusive environment.

Yeah, and? Hearty ain't perpetual motion, omnipotence, or immortality. You can't get from here to there. Sorry, guy.

You say there are no perpetual motion machines, yet you appear to be relying on one to prevent future persons from resurrecting you.

If it weren't for all those perpetual motion machines dead organisms would be popping back to life all the time! Damn you deathist perpetual motion machines, damn you!

You say there have been no non-mortal humans, and I agree as a matter of definition, but I'm not kidding when I wonder whether humans can be transfigured or resurrected

I don't think you're kidding. I just think you're seriously deluded.

but tell me, Dale, as a pragmatist, why I and others should not pursue the quality and quantity of life we desire. Tell me why we should not suppose possibilities congruent with our desires. Tell me why we should ever consent to death or hell, however evident, however heavily pressing they may be. Restrain entertainment of possibilities until we have reason to do so?

Well, whatever floats your boat. But as I have said before I think that many who fail to come to terms with their mortality substitute for a life lived a kind of fearfulness that is a death in life and in the panicky pursuit of impossible deathlessness it is too easy to take up death dealing.

Interest in possibilities approaching immortality and eternal life is not, despite your suggestion, a necessary misunderstanding of life.

Also, up is down.

If you or anyone else insists that immortality is exclusively superlative life then, sure, we encounter irrationality as we attempt to reconcile abstractions with concrete experience. However, your insistence, or anyone else's insistence, does not compel me to accept your definition.

Well, that's true. Nobody can compel you to talk sense.

I recognize immortality as an ideal that could be pursued eternally without final manifestation. It is a rhetorical shortcut, which is sometimes useful and sometimes not.

That sounds like an aesthetic claim. I have no problem with that at all -- although it isn't my bag particularly.

I agree that it is perfectly warranted to say that people die. I also agree that it is perfectly warranted to say that you and I have seen no people transfigured or resurrected to immortality. I'm not, and haven't been (despite your suggestion), claiming otherwise.

What the hell are you gabbing about then?

However, what I am claiming, is that you have been making the perfectly unwarrented claim that resurrection and approaches to immortality and eternal life are impossible.

Whatever gets you through the night, Lincoln.

You, not I, are engaged here in unwarrented claims.

You're the Robot Cultist, not me. But, uh, sure, okay.

Do candidate descriptions for warrented belief in an efficacious mode become more factual the more intensely we believe them? Well, to repeat an example, heavier-than-air flight became more factual the more intensely we believed in it.

I do not agree at all that claims become more factual the more fervently we pine for them to be true, nor do I agree that heavier-than-air flight was invented only when enough people believed in it enough to make it so.

Clapping louder could contribute toward making Iraq a success, and making a looted crumbling infrastructure functional.

That strategy is really working out well so far.

When I speak of pragmatism, I too am referencing the tradition you mentioned. My second son's middle name is "William James". Shall we dual? ;-)

No need to dual. Just live up to the tradition you claim to reference, then.

jfehlinger said...

> No need to dual.

No need to duel.

But where's my Ndoli dual?

Lincoln Cannon said...

Dale, you continue to misconstrue (purposefully?) my arguments. I've not claimed sufficent evidence of resurrection, in a corpse or anywhere else, yet you pretend repeatedly (repeatedly . . . repeatedly) that I have. However, in contrast, you continue to claim sufficient evidence against resurrection. Is your hard core scientist at work behind that claim? When you speak of scrambled eggs, you speak of eggs that will remain scrambled, and you see no fanciful magical notion in that? I've never experienced any egg that remains scrambled in perpetuity. No one else, other than you, that I know has ever made such a claim. The point is that the scrambled egg almost certainly will not remain scrambled. Most likely, at least in the short term, its component parts will become part of other systems. However, given sufficient interest and power, I imagine something sufficiently like the original egg could be restored. That, however, demonstrates a problem with your analogy. Eggs do not have and appear quite unlikely ever to have sufficient interest or power in restoring themselves. Perhaps non-eggs with sufficient interest and power will restore eggs in the future. However, those non-eggs, assuming they are more closely related to us, may be more interested in restoring us -- not in any absolute way, but in a sufficient way, as waking up in the morning is a sufficient restoration of the person you were when you went to bed in the evening.

In response to my request for extraordinary evidence for your extraordinary claim that resurrection is impossible, you asked what counts for me as evidence for empirical claims. My answer is: experience. Moreover, if the empirical claims would be elevated to the level of objective esteem, my answer is: shared experience.

However, your claim that resurrection is impossible does not remotely merit the esteem of objectivity, as none of us appear to have shared such experience. You appear to be claiming that you have experienced the impossibility of resurrection, but I don't believe you. Rather, I think you are exagerating as an expression of incredulity, which incredulity is certainly not unusual, but is equally certainly not empirical, objective or scientific. I share with you confidence in beliefs warrented by the criteria of consensus science. Beyond that confidence, I do not share with you a faith in superlative death. That's your choice. Science does not somehow compel your faith in this thing.

While I agree that science and religion are distinguishable, I disagree with your implication that science does not rely on faith. The contextual assumptions and methods of science certainly are matters of faith, and will be so always unless we manage somehow to attain to omniscience -- which, in actual manifestation, neither you nor I anticipate. Moreover, religious knowledge should be leveraging the improved epistemic processes of science to the extent they are applicable to its domain, yet this will not somehow drive faith out of religion. There is nothing necessarily irrational, anti-scientific, or willfully-ignorant in the definition of "faith". Pretending that somehow faith is an altogether separate and unrelated idea from science (holding two ideas in your head at the same time) is not an intellectual strength. Reconciliation, syncretization, even atonement, are intellectual strengths. The former is lazy, whereas the latter is empowering.

Thank you for acknowledging that my faith need not be scientific to deserve affirmation. Please know that I fully agree that we should not pretend to scientific theory where there is none (yet), which is precisely why I've attacked your claim that resurrection is impossible. I also agree with your assessment that world-making in the esthetic, ethical and political senses is not a scientific matter. However, there is some complexity in the response I should give to your statement that I should not pretend my faith to be universalizable. While I fully agree that there generally is no value, and indeed immorality, in attempts to force my will or desires or the law of my community on others, as it turns out, the law of my community, as well as my wills and desires are directed at atonement, or fulfillment of and reconiliation with others' wills, desires and laws. Basic to my faith is interest in the discovery and creation of worlds without end, each consistent with the desires, wills and laws of its inhabitants. So, in spirit, I do agree with your statement, although my faith is abstracted enough that it would almost be accurate to claim that I also disagree with your statement. In a sense, I do intend a universalizable faith, but only in a pluralistic sense, which is a very loose universalization at most, to be sure. This perspective is among the reasons pragmatism is so popular among Mormon philosophers.

You claim that I'm using superlativity differently than you. However, I don't think that's the case. I do think you've not yet recognized that you are treating death in a manner analogous to that in which some Transhumanists treat immortality. Your explicit claim that resurrection will be impossible corresponds to their implied claim that dying will be impossible. If I'm continuing to misunderstand you, please help -- as if I need to ask so nicely. ;-)

You ask whether I am prepared to claim most or all humans on Earth do not observe that everyone dies. This question, however, is disingenuous, given that it is in response to my explicit claim that most or all humans on Earth do observe that everyone dies. Your concern was the "apparently" I included at the beginning of my statement. That's just a token of epistemic humility. Perhaps you can relate? Yet you pretend that the observations of most or all humans on Earth is somehow evidence that resurrection is impossible. That's poor reasoning, Dale. Your claim that resurrection is impossible is indeed faithful and unscientific, and will remain so unless you actually attain to omniscience, which in itself would produce the resurrection along with all sorts of nonsense.

In response to my description of the limits of knowledge (that it is always ultimately faith-based), you respond that my description implies that nobody knows anything in any meaningful sense. I disagree, of course, and am somewhat surprised by your response, given your pragmatism. To acknowledge the limits of knowledge is not to become nihilistic. The world of meaning persists quite handily without turtles all the way down. Meaning, in the only way "meaning" has any meaning, remains quite accessible without any appeals to actual absolutes, in knowledge or otherwise. Thus, I care about this argument because it is meaningful within the context of meaning as we actually experience it. We are shaping what we've got to the extent we can, and I want to be part of that. Beyond that, I pray for grace in relation to any superior knowers and powers.

You know, of course, that I am far from alone in my faith. Indeed, I share substantial portions of my faith with the majority of humans on Earth. The peculiarly Mormon portions of my faith are likewise shared with millions of persons, many of whom are among my closest family and friends. And the peculiarly Transhumist portions of my faith, although far less wide spread, are yet shared to extents I value. Given this, I'm not sure what you intended me to understand by your claim that you somehow better represent planet Earth. To the contrary, respect for community is essential to my faith, and has deeply influenced my efforts to reconcile my personal attitudes and ideas with those more easily shared with persons around me. The shared ideas become common ground from which to launch into differences and onto which to land for reconciliation. Faith in theological ideas like transfiguration and resurrection to immortality are more representative of planet Earth than most of the ideas expressed on Amor Mundi. The technological appendages of my faith, while certainly not so broadly shared with planet Earth, are important practical approaches to actual expression of the theological ideas. They are, more so than the religious grounds, the air of difference toward which I launch and from which I return with hope in reconciliation.

You state that anyone claiming to be a scientist when talking about his faith is a crank. I may or may not agree, depending on the details. We are fools if we do not use our best understanding of science to describe contours of the possible. From there, we can certainly launch with expressions of faith in possibilities that inspire us, and we would again be fools not to account for the scientific contours of the possible in our expressions of faith. Certainly we should work to differentiate between ideas that have achieved and maintain a scientific objectivity versus those that express our ethics and esthetics. Yet our faith is empowered as we consider how best to pursue it (and sometimes modify it) within the context of science. Moreover, sufficiently empowered, faith shapes some observations of science.

You claim that you have no quarrel with faith declarations, so long as they are not evangelized. This is ironic, given that a primary purpose of Amor Mundi is evangelization of your faith.

Yes. They did laugh at the Wright Brothers. No. They were not vindicated. Moreover, to the extent their laughter was not compassionate, they were never and will never be vindicated, regardless of the success or failure of the targetted engineer. Vindication has no meaning without ultimate appeal to compassion.

You tell me I'm going to die. I agree that to some extent at some time and place, I'll almost certainly die, and my faith is that subsequently, to some extent at some time and place, I'll live again. You tell me that my consciousness will never be uploaded into a computer. I tell you that you have no sufficient evidence against uploading, and that if uploading is possible then you and I are almost certainly already uploaded. You tell me that resurrection is impossible. I tell you that you have no sufficient evidence against resurrection, and that you do have, instead, a faith in superlative death. Vulnerable processes in demanding environments are not nothing, impotence or perpetual death.

Clearly, you make a logical mistake in supposing, as you have, that any actual resurrection would imply that resurrection must be pervasive in time and space. If resurrection is possible, only something akin to a perpetual motion machine could ensure that you are never resurrected. And again, you have no sufficient evidence that resurrection is impossible.

You tell me that you think I'm deluded for wondering whether humans can be transfigured or resurrected. I may indeed be deluded, but I'll add some observations. First, although you may protest, your faith in prosthetic freedom corresponds to my faith in transfiguration. Second, given your limitations (which I presume are similar to mine), your claim that resurrection is impossible is a better candidate for delusion than my recognition that there is no sufficient evidence for or against resurrection. If faith is delusion, you and I are both deluded. If unwarrented scientific claims are delusion, perhaps only you have the honor.

I agree with your observation that some who fail to come to terms with mortality substitute a life lived with fearfulness that is a death in life. I, too, work against such perspectives, although not at the extreme you do, which extreme introduces other detriments. Others who fail to come to terms with mortality substitute a living life with a life lived that is a death in life. Your faith in superlative death would substitute a living life with a life lived. You marginalize possibilities when you posit only finite demanders. Anything short of eternity (in quality and quantity) is unworthy of your unprovisional consent. In that, you damn yourself.

You say you do not agree that all claims become more factual the more fervently we pine for them to be true. In that, you appear to be acknolwedging that some claims become more factual the more fervently we pine for them to be true. Moreover, the implication is that yet other claims become more factual the more fervently we WORK for them to be true. That is sufficient. I am making no absolute claims about our ability, present or future, to shape worlds.

You say you do not agree that heavier-than-air flight was invented only when enough people believed in it enough to make it so. I actually do agree that I see heavier-than-air flight occurring in nature, and I actually do believe that it was possible prior to human belief in it. However, our faith was essential in our engineering efforts, and so will faith remain essential in future engineering efforts. The strategy of clapping louder, understood as a metaphor that in practice should be fully extended to WORK, is indeed working, although not always so fast or so well as we would like. I anticipate there will always remain work to do in pursuit of the better world.

Finally, I'll respond, in a somewhat tangential way, to your question: "What the hell are you gabbing about then?" I'm gabbing about similarities and differences I perceive between your ideas and my own, and I'm doing that because I value your divergent perspectives, which you have, as yet, continued to gab about.

jfehlinger said...

Lincoln Cannon wrote:

> I've not claimed sufficent evidence of resurrection. . .
> yet you pretend repeatedly. . . that I have. However,
> in contrast, you continue to claim sufficient evidence
> against resurrection. . .
>
> your claim that resurrection is impossible does not remotely merit
> the esteem of objectivity. . . You appear to be claiming that
> you have experienced the impossibility of resurrection, but I
> don't believe you.


WOODROW WYATT: Do you think that it is **certain** that there is
no such thing as God, or simply that it is not proven?

BERTRAND RUSSELL: I don't think it is **certain** that there is
no such thing, no. I think, uh, that it is on exactly the
same level as the Olympic gods or the Norwegian gods.
They also **may** exist -- the gods of Olympus and the gods
of Valhalla. I can't prove they **don't**. But I think
the Christian god has no **more** likelihood than they
have. I think they're a **bare** possibility!


The bottom line here is that, at some point, "a **bare** possibility"
becomes bare enough that the sensible thing (for the
scientific community, at least) is to drop it.

There's also something more subtle than this going on --
"immortal souls", "resurrection", and so forth are not simply
isolated (putative) phenomena -- they would have to be fitted
into an overall framework of how the world works -- a
framework that meshes with physics, chemistry, and biology.
And that overall framework has evolved, over the past
several centuries, far from one that would easily accommodate
such things as "spirits" and so forth. It's a kind of
discourse that simply no longer meshes with the context of what
Susan Haack analogizes as the "crossword puzzle" of scientific
knowledge.

Of **course** souls and spirits and so on still figure in
the talk, entertainments, folk beliefs, mythology, and religious
beliefs of ordinary "civilians", because those activities
(a Stephen King novel, let's say, or the _Left Behind_ novels,
or the latest Dracula movie) are not accountable to the
scientific community's standards of plausibility (and **shouldn't**
be -- that would be scientism in a particularly ugly form:
let's ban Tolkien from the school libraries -- we don't
want kids thinking there are such things as elves and hobbits).

> You know, of course, that I am far from alone in my faith.
> Indeed, I share substantial portions of my faith with the majority
> of humans on Earth. The peculiarly Mormon portions of my faith
> are likewise shared with millions of persons, many of whom are
> among my closest family and friends.

Well, Scientologists, and UFO enthusiasts, and alien abduction
survivors could no doubt say the same thing.

Again, I think it's very amusing that the >Hists are finding allies
here. Not long ago, if you dared to suggest that there
were obvious similarities between the Singularitarians' apocalyptic
and paradisal hopes and fears and those of Christianity,
the defenders of >Hism would accuse you of ignorant slander.
Now, it would seem that at least some of them have found
a natural ally here. As Mr. Spock would say, "fascinating"!

;->

peco said...

You say you do not agree that heavier-than-air flight was invented only when enough people believed in it enough to make it so. I actually do agree that I see heavier-than-air flight occurring in nature, and I actually do believe that it was possible prior to human belief in it. However, our faith was essential in our engineering efforts, and so will faith remain essential in future engineering efforts. The strategy of clapping louder, understood as a metaphor that in practice should be fully extended to WORK, is indeed working, although not always so fast or so well as we would like. I anticipate there will always remain work to do in pursuit of the better world.


This is the only thing you have been saying that makes perfect sense.

Lincoln Cannon said...

jfehlinger, I am frequently asked by atheists why I have faith in my God and not in all the other gods that have been or ever will be imagined. There is, however, a problem with the question. It assumes that I have no faith in all the other gods that have been or ever will be imagined, and that assumption is inaccurate. As a rough shortcut for understanding, I'll say that my perspective on God is similar to that expressed in the works of Joseph Campbell, although I don't limit God to the abstract. As is common (although not common enough) among Mormons, I'm interested in universal redemption, according to the wills, desires and laws of all individuals and communities, which certainly have been reflected in their varying understandings of God and gods, and that which is analogous.

You're focusing, in your post to me, too much on the question of God's existence. I'm relatively uninterested (although not altogether uninterested) in that question. As I've mentioned before, God is posited, not proven, except within the context of a position. Faith in God is not only to discover and join God to the extent she exists, but also to create and become God to the extent she does not yet exist. Your perception of bare possibilities really isn't a primary concern. Contemporary scientific understandings of the contours of the possible really aren't the primary concern. The concern is the extent to which the God in which I put my faith will realize my salvation. You have your analogous God, whether you call it that or not. We all do, unless we're nihilists.

I agree that we should seek to reconcile any manifestations of experience approaching transfiguration and resurrection to immortality with our scientific understanding. You suggest that such reconciliation would be difficult, and it may be, but there is no reason to suppose it impossible. Moreover, I personally feel little tension between science and religion, except to the extent that one or the other manifests itself dogmatically. In my estimation, Mormons can relatively easily reconcile their faith with contemporary science. Much of that ease arises from the materialistic and naturalistic aspects of Mormon theology. For example, Mormons consider even spirits to be material, which resonates quite strongly with the Transhumanist idea of substrate independent consciousness, which is commonly an explicit assumption in arguments for the feasibility of mind uploading and the simulation hypothesis.

Dale Carrico said...

Dale, you continue to misconstrue (purposefully?) my arguments. I've not claimed sufficent evidence of resurrection, in a corpse or anywhere else, yet you pretend repeatedly (repeatedly . . . repeatedly) that I have.

You tell me it is a faithful utterance for me to claim that everybody dies, and then whine that I purposely misconstrue your respect for evidence and so on. I honestly can't tell what you even mean by evidence or faith half the time.

However, in contrast, you continue to claim sufficient evidence against resurrection.

Sigh...

Is your hard core scientist at work behind that claim? When you speak of scrambled eggs, you speak of eggs that will remain scrambled, and you see no fanciful magical notion in that? I've never experienced any egg that remains scrambled in perpetuity.

Do you think this is a clever thing to say? You think it's magical thinking for me to expect my scrambled eggs not to spontaneously unscramble on the plate?

No one else, other than you, that I know has ever made such a claim. The point is that the scrambled egg almost certainly will not remain scrambled.

If you really think that that is what I meant then you are insane.

Most likely, at least in the short term, its component parts will become part of other systems.

Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes yes. Do you honestly think that this is what I meant?

However, given sufficient interest and power, I imagine something sufficiently like the original egg could be restored. That, however, demonstrates a problem with your analogy. Eggs do not have and appear quite unlikely ever to have sufficient interest or power in restoring themselves. Perhaps non-eggs with sufficient interest and power will restore eggs in the future. However, those non-eggs, assuming they are more closely related to us, may be more interested in restoring us -- not in any absolute way, but in a sufficient way, as waking up in the morning is a sufficient restoration of the person you were when you went to bed in the evening.

You got me Lincoln. In a magical future we may invent scrambled egg reassembly technology. This is what it is like, ladies and gentlemen, to argue with transhumanists. By the way, every single one of you is going to die.

In response to my request for extraordinary evidence for your extraordinary claim that resurrection is impossible, you asked what counts for me as evidence for empirical claims. My answer is: experience.

The experience of hairs springing up on the nape of your neck upon reading what is for you a good poem is not evidence in the scientific sense, and this is part of what I am trying to get at when I insist that we walk and chew gum at the same time, recognizing at one and the same time that science actually is an actual thing providing actual benefits unique to it, while also recognizing that not only science is such a thing providing actual benefits.

Moreover, if the empirical claims would be elevated to the level of objective esteem, my answer is: shared experience.

Not all shared experiences provide grounds for testable and so warranted beliefs in the efficacious mode, but not only those shared experience that do provide such grounds are valuable. Still, we need to know the difference to gain the benefits available in each. As I keep saying over and over again.

However, your claim that resurrection is impossible does not remotely merit the esteem of objectivity, as none of us appear to have shared such experience. You appear to be claiming that you have experienced the impossibility of resurrection, but I don't believe you.

What shall we talk about next, leprechauns? The defeasibility in principle of all warranted scientific consensus fails absolutely to rule them out too. You have never given me any reason to entertain the possibility of resurrection scientifically, so why should I?

I get it, you're scared of dying or whatever. Fine, go to church or to a brothel or to a therapist or to a drug dealer or to an art gallery or to the movies and deal with it as you see fit, who cares? Just don't pretend this is a scientific response or that scientific responses aren't scientific when they are.

These fun and games with defeasibility are neither here nor there. Do I have to pretend "climate skeptics" or objective studies of "faith healing" or champions of "safe cigarettes" are as scientifically warranted as the contrary scientific consensus on these questions just because as good pragmatists we know that no warranted belief is certain however rightly confident we are in it, that no description is indefeasible in principle by better candidate descriptions that may arrive along the road of inquiry, and that word-world correspondence is a naive and incoherent model of truth? The answer, for those keeping score at home, is: no.

Rather, I think you are exagerating as an expression of incredulity, which incredulity is certainly not unusual, but is equally certainly not empirical, objective or scientific.

Declaring things possible without reason and then pointing out nobody is in a position absolutely to disprove them actually isn't science, properly speaking, Lincoln. It can make for interesting poetry, however, or philosophical theory (I have always thought of philosophy as a literary genre rather than a science in any case). It really pays to grasp the difference between these sorts of things.

I share with you confidence in beliefs warrented by the criteria of consensus science. Beyond that confidence, I do not share with you a faith in superlative death.

This last faith you attribute to me is meaningless. But whatever.

That's your choice.

It's your choice to keep saying this.

Science does not somehow compel your faith in this thing.

I am not only compelled to belief by science, as I have said repreatedly scientific, moral, aesthetic, ethical, and political beliefs are all warrantable according to their proper criteria. If you say it is "faithful" to describe people as always mortal this is just plain wrong. If you point out that your desire to live forever in a robot body is not perfectly disqualified by science then that is strictly speaking right, but certainly you are not being scientific when you claim to believe that you will live forever in a robot body. If you point out that not only scientific beliefs are valuable, I never said otherwise.

While I agree that science and religion are distinguishable, I disagree with your implication that science does not rely on faith.

Here we go.

The contextual assumptions and methods of science certainly are matters of faith, and will be so always unless we manage somehow to attain to omniscience -- which, in actual manifestation, neither you nor I anticipate. Moreover, religious knowledge should be leveraging the improved epistemic processes of science to the extent they are applicable to its domain, yet this will not somehow drive faith out of religion. There is nothing necessarily irrational, anti-scientific, or willfully-ignorant in the definition of "faith".

Yeah, your Mormon faith is just as scientific as a good engineer's faith in physics, and your belief that you might live forever is just as factual as my belief that everybody dies. Very exciting.

Pretending that somehow faith is an altogether separate and unrelated idea from science (holding two ideas in your head at the same time) is not an intellectual strength.

No, you're right, Lincoln, you've persuaded me, everything is everything else, and nothing is anything. It's all so clear to me now.

Reconciliation, syncretization, even atonement, are intellectual strengths. The former is lazy, whereas the latter is empowering.

How could I have been so lazy to distinguish science, from morals, from aesthetics, from ethics, from politics? Everything is so much clearer to me now. I could have been a Mormon Robot Cultist like you all along and just as reasonable as can be! It's awesome!

Thank you for acknowledging that my faith need not be scientific to deserve affirmation.

I've never said otherwise, and I've written this repeatedly. I didn't quite realize that for you "affirmation" would require complete conversion to Mormon Robot Cultism, but I'm ever so much happier now that you've shown me the light of your faith that it's all good.

Please know that I fully agree that we should not pretend to scientific theory where there is none (yet), which is precisely why I've attacked your claim that resurrection is impossible.

You are going to die.

I also agree with your assessment that world-making in the esthetic, ethical and political senses is not a scientific matter.

Yay.

However, there is some complexity in the response I should give to your statement that I should not pretend my faith to be universalizable.

Not content to insist that science is faith and faith science and nothing anything and everything everything else, Licoln prepared, flabbergastingly, to evangelize anyway...

While I fully agree that there generally is no value, and indeed immorality, in attempts to force my will or desires or the law of my community on others, as it turns out, the law of my community, as well as my wills and desires are directed at atonement, or fulfillment of and reconiliation with others' wills, desires and laws. Basic to my faith is interest in the discovery and creation of worlds without end, each consistent with the desires, wills and laws of its inhabitants. So, in spirit, I do agree with your statement, although my faith is abstracted enough that it would almost be accurate to claim that I also disagree with your statement. In a sense, I do intend a universalizable faith, but only in a pluralistic sense, which is a very loose universalization at most, to be sure. This perspective is among the reasons pragmatism is so popular among Mormon philosophers.

I wanna be a transhumanist Mormom, ma!

You claim that I'm using superlativity differently than you. However, I don't think that's the case.

Oh, believe me, it is.

I do think you've not yet recognized that you are treating death in a manner analogous to that in which some Transhumanists treat immortality.

This is a false assertion.

Your explicit claim that resurrection will be impossible corresponds to their implied claim that dying will be impossible.

Genius!

If I'm continuing to misunderstand you, please help -- as if I need to ask so nicely. ;-)

I have concluded that you are beyond help.

You ask whether I am prepared to claim most or all humans on Earth do not observe that everyone dies. This question, however, is disingenuous,

Is it, indeed?

given that it is in response to my explicit claim that most or all humans on Earth do observe that everyone dies. Your concern was the "apparently" I included at the beginning of my statement. That's just a token of epistemic humility.

You're nothing if not humble, Lincoln.

Perhaps you can relate?

I relate you to most of the faith-based techno-utopians who argue with me here on my blog, actually. The moves aren't exactly unpredictable.

Yet you pretend that the observations of most or all humans on Earth is somehow evidence that resurrection is impossible.

How desperately you cling to the fact that defeasible science cannot rule out anything absolutely! Of course I grant all that, that's philosophy 101. My point is that neither is there any scientific reason to entertain some possibilities seriously, without cause.

That's poor reasoning, Dale. Your claim that resurrection is impossible is indeed faithful and unscientific, and will remain so unless you actually attain to omniscience, which in itself would produce the resurrection along with all sorts of nonsense.

You're going to die, Lincoln. I have no cause to seriously entertain alternate claims on this matter -- at least not from a scientific point of view, among the others on offer -- even though you are quite right to point out that it is not the power or frankly the job of science to provide indefeasible descriptions as candidates for our warranted belief, and so your pining for immortality is not strictly speaking ruled out logically as impossible, for whatever that's worth.

In response to my description of the limits of knowledge (that it is always ultimately faith-based), you respond that my description implies that nobody knows anything in any meaningful sense. I disagree, of course, and am somewhat surprised by your response, given your pragmatism. To acknowledge the limits of knowledge is not to become nihilistic.

You are not acknowledging the limits of knowledge as far as I can see but treating factual accounts and faithful aspirations as indistinguishable. I do think that is nihilistic, or more to the point cynical and deceptive.

The world of meaning persists quite handily without turtles all the way down.

I teach this stuff, Lincoln.

Meaning, in the only way "meaning" has any meaning, remains quite accessible without any appeals to actual absolutes, in knowledge or otherwise. Thus, I care about this argument because it is meaningful within the context of meaning as we actually experience it.

Not only science produces meaning, but the meanings produced by science provide benefits unique to science and it pays to understand the differences that make a difference here.

We are shaping what we've got to the extent we can, and I want to be part of that. Beyond that, I pray for grace in relation to any superior knowers and powers.

I'll leave all that to you.

You know, of course, that I am far from alone in my faith.

That's why I am a strong defender of secular multiculture and the separation of church and state.

Indeed, I share substantial portions of my faith with the majority of humans on Earth. The peculiarly Mormon portions of my faith are likewise shared with millions of persons, many of whom are among my closest family and friends. And the peculiarly Transhumist portions of my faith, although far less wide spread, are yet shared to extents I value. Given this, I'm not sure what you intended me to understand by your claim that you somehow better represent planet Earth.

You're right, Lincoln, everybody is a Mormon Techno-Immortalist Robot Cultist like you. You are Everyman.

To the contrary, respect for community is essential to my faith, and has deeply influenced my efforts to reconcile my personal attitudes and ideas with those more easily shared with persons around me.

Good for you.

The shared ideas become common ground from which to launch into differences and onto which to land for reconciliation. Faith in theological ideas like transfiguration and resurrection to immortality are more representative of planet Earth than most of the ideas expressed on Amor Mundi.

But I for one salute our coming Mormon Robot Overlords!

The technological appendages of my faith, while certainly not so broadly shared with planet Earth, are important practical approaches to actual expression of the theological ideas. They are, more so than the religious grounds, the air of difference toward which I launch and from which I return with hope in reconciliation.

Forgive me, I fell asleep there for a second...

You state that anyone claiming to be a scientist when talking about his faith is a crank. I may or may not agree, depending on the details. We are fools if we do not use our best understanding of science to describe contours of the possible.

Let's call it evens and stop here.

From there, we can certainly launch with expressions of faith in possibilities that inspire us, and we would again be fools not to account for the scientific contours of the possible in our expressions of faith.

If you mean we do and are right to hold scientists accountable according to standards not always only reducible to scientifically warranted beliefs, and that we properly understand technoscientific changes according to moral, aesthetic, ethical, political accounts, then I agree with you.

Certainly we should work to differentiate between ideas that have achieved and maintain a scientific objectivity versus those that express our ethics and esthetics.

Exactly as I've been saying.

Yet our faith is empowered as we consider how best to pursue it (and sometimes modify it) within the context of science. Moreover, sufficiently empowered, faith shapes some observations of science.

You're starting to push the envelope here, but fine.

You claim that you have no quarrel with faith declarations, so long as they are not evangelized. This is ironic, given that a primary purpose of Amor Mundi is evangelization of your faith.

No doubt that's how it looks to an evangelical.

Yes. They did laugh at the Wright Brothers. No. They were not vindicated. Moreover, to the extent their laughter was not compassionate, they were never and will never be vindicated, regardless of the success or failure of the targetted engineer. Vindication has no meaning without ultimate appeal to compassion.

What a way to ignore the point. It isn't only the Wright Brothers who got ridiculed for their plans -- would-be inventors of fountain of youth elixirs, perpetual motion machines, and circle squaring maths were also ridiculed and it is their plans not their detractors who were vindicated. That's not something Robot Cultists like to remember from history for obvious reasons. But, yes, Lincoln, you're right, it's nice to be nice. That's also important.

You tell me I'm going to die. I agree that to some extent at some time and place, I'll almost certainly die, and my faith is that subsequently, to some extent at some time and place, I'll live again. You tell me that my consciousness will never be uploaded into a computer. I tell you that you have no sufficient evidence against uploading, and that if uploading is possible then you and I are almost certainly already uploaded.

Whatever gets you through the night.

You tell me that resurrection is impossible. I tell you that you have no sufficient evidence against resurrection, and that you do have, instead, a faith in superlative death.

It's a mighty thin thread you're hanging on, and I think you would be better served getting some therapy and coming to terms with your mortality. But that's not my business and I don't really care so long as you don't evangelize me, or try to undermine the status of science, or get in the way of my own consensual practices of private perfection and public expression to the extent that they do no harm to the general welfare.

Vulnerable processes in demanding environments are not nothing, impotence or perpetual death.

Well, they have always eventuated in death and there never has been a resurrection and there is no cause to seriously entertain the likelihood of one, but, whatever spins your wheel.

Clearly, you make a logical mistake in supposing, as you have, that any actual resurrection would imply that resurrection must be pervasive in time and space.

In magical leprechaunland resurrections happen every day, so I too may be immortal and I am edified to think so. Disprove it! You can't? And you claim to be more reasonable than me when you doubt magical leprechaunland resurrection? And you call yourself a pragmatist. The very idea.

If resurrection is possible, only something akin to a perpetual motion machine could ensure that you are never resurrected. And again, you have no sufficient evidence that resurrection is impossible.

It's so consoling to believe in magic.

You tell me that you think I'm deluded for wondering whether humans can be transfigured or resurrected. I may indeed be deluded, but I'll add some observations.

I apologize. It's true that I think you're deluded, and it's also true that I think you are playing cynical dishonest disrespectful games with argument as many faith-based people do online defending and evangelizing about the "reasonableness" of their pet parochial faiths. You have tried my patience, and driven me to exasperation. It's fine that you are deluded, I hope you are happy in your delusion, no doubt I am deluded myself in many areas of life, so long as you respect the secular separation of church and state, and defend consensual multiculture I'm fine with what looks to me like your delusion, although I disagree with you that we have share so much ground on this particular topic that I can enjoy or benefit from exchanges with you on it. I don't think we are capable of not talking past one another on this topic unless we were to relinquish vocabularies that seem to be fairly central to our narrative selfhood at this particular moment. The things you are saying just make me mad or bored, the discussion isn't fun for me at all, but is hitting diminishing returns.

First, although you may protest, your faith in prosthetic freedom corresponds to my faith in transfiguration.

Language, spectacles, vaccinations, and transsexual surgeries actually exist. Robot bodies and digital uploaded consciousnesses don't exist. This matters.

Second, given your limitations (which I presume are similar to mine), your claim that resurrection is impossible is a better candidate for delusion than my recognition that there is no sufficient evidence for or against resurrection.

Wow, not only does our inability to conclusively logically disprove resurrection make it equivalently scientific as the claim that everybody dies, but you believe that the resurrection claim is scientifically stronger than the contrary claim.

Up is down. Check!

If faith is delusion, you and I are both deluded.

No difference between science and religion. Check!

If unwarrented scientific claims are delusion, perhaps only you have the honor.

Only the person concerned to preserve the criteria on the basis of which factual statements are warranted as such is deluded, while the person who demands we entertain non factual but logically "possible" descriptions, however implausible or unmotivated, as warranted is not deluded. Reasonable is delusion, faith is fact. Check!

I agree with your observation that some who fail to come to terms with mortality substitute a life lived with fearfulness that is a death in life. I, too, work against such perspectives, although not at the extreme you do, which extreme introduces other detriments.

Don't be "extreme" in recommending people come to terms with mortality. Mainstream belief is extreme, extreme Robot Cult beliefs are reasonable. Check!

Your faith in superlative death would substitute a living life with a life lived.

No matter how many times you say it this phrase is not one whit more meaningful. And given the fact that I introduced the term Superlative in the critique to which you claim to be responding and gave it a meaning in that critique that you are repeatedly refusing to apply while still reiterating the term itself, I will assume that part of what you are up to is to steal the term the better to domesticate the threat it represents to the dissemination of your worldview. Transhumanists stole technoprogressive, why not try to steal superlative too?

You marginalize possibilities when you posit only finite demanders. Anything short of eternity (in quality and quantity) is unworthy of your unprovisional consent. In that, you damn yourself.

Yes, to reality. I like reality, the water's fine.

You say you do not agree that all claims become more factual the more fervently we pine for them to be true. In that, you appear to be acknolwedging that some claims become more factual the more fervently we pine for them to be true.

You have to be pretty desperate to find such an acknowledgment in what I said. But, let me clarify it for you now. Fervency of belief is irrelevant as a criterion for warrantability in the efficacious mode.

Moreover, the implication is that yet other claims become more factual the more fervently we WORK for them to be true. That is sufficient. I am making no absolute claims about our ability, present or future, to shape worlds.

That's nice.

You say you do not agree that heavier-than-air flight was invented only when enough people believed in it enough to make it so. I actually do agree that I see heavier-than-air flight occurring in nature, and I actually do believe that it was possible prior to human belief in it.

Wow, what a stunning concession to the obvious.

However, our faith was essential in our engineering efforts, and so will faith remain essential in future engineering efforts. The strategy of clapping louder, understood as a metaphor that in practice should be fully extended to WORK, is indeed working, although not always so fast or so well as we would like. I anticipate there will always remain work to do in pursuit of the better world.

We're talking about the criteria on the basis of which we warrantedly affirm candidate descriptions for instrumental belief as true, we are not talking about how motivation enables projects to find their way to fruition when they conform to physical and social strictures. Or if that is what you are talking about, that isn't what I was talking about. But, no, clapping louder won't make you immortal. However loud you clap.

Finally, I'll respond, in a somewhat tangential way, to your question: "What the hell are you gabbing about then?" I'm gabbing about similarities and differences I perceive between your ideas and my own, and I'm doing that because I value your divergent perspectives, which you have, as yet, continued to gab about.

That's fine. I am enjoying this exchange much less at this point than you appear to be. If there weren't an audience of lurkers here I am presumably instructing on matters of concern to me through the publication of this conversation with you I would simply be ignoring you at this point, on this topic at any rate.

Lincoln Cannon said...

Dale: "I am enjoying this exchange much less at this point than you appear to be. If there weren't an audience of lurkers here I am presumably instructing on matters of concern to me concerning pragmatism, pluralism, and the critique of superlativity through the publication of this conversation with you I would very likely simply be ignoring you at this point, on this topic at any rate."

Okay. Thank you for your time. I've benefited from the exchange.