Monday, May 28, 2012

The layers

1. Epistemological/existential - What exists? How do we know that it exists? Can we ever be sure that we know anything? Can we ever be sure that we know what exists?

2. Empirical - Does what exists and what we know -- or the appearance of what exists and what we know -- have clear, identifiable patterns that can be gleaned via our sensory receptors? Can we use the scientific method as part of a broader methodology and management of mental processes to deduce the probability of outcomes with consistency? Once we've established the extent to which we can know things, what empirical evidence is there for the existence of any particular phenomenon?

3. Systematic/mechanistic - How can all that we can sense empirically be integrated into a mental model for the purposes of processing, output, and evaluation? Is there anything that can be empirically observed that does not fit as a variable, parameter, agent, process, etc. into a system or subsystem? What are the boundaries surrounding systems? Are there boundaries surrounding reality as a whole? How does causality shape the smallest, most irreducible constituents of reality as a system as they transmute from one form to another within the soup of existence?

4. Utilitarian/value-oriented - Does causality impact systems in such a way as to necessitate value? Is there value inherent in any particular process as part of a system? How do we determine what, if anything, is valuable? Is it possible to be conscious and animated without value or the capacity to value and evaluate? If something is valuable, how do we utilize systems thinking and empirical methods to productively maximize or minimize it in the name of a goal or set of goals?

5. Pragmatic/economic - If something is valuable, how do we ensure that we're being practical in acting to the end of cultivating its value? When we make a decision, are we losing something via causality that we can never get back? If so, is the cost worth the product? What is the cost of each of our actions? Are we being cost-effective information/value agents?

Sunday, May 27, 2012


All of the forums that I've frequented have more or less sucked. If you know of any that don't that are also relevant to the agenda of this blog, link to them in the comments.

Solidifying the argument

It's time to solidify the basic antinatalist argument. I've talked at length on this blog about how a value equation should be governed by how causality shapes the phenomenology -- in the forms of qualia and quanta -- of the universe. Well, there are some tangential concepts floating around this place that may not have been explicitly linked to this basic argument up until now, so let's link them once and for all and make our position as rock solid as it will probably ever be.

In a past post, I said:

If there is nothing necessary about life, then we cannot possibly justify it, given that stakes are present. We can only justify taking risks with stakes involved where it's necessary, or where the stakes are the lowest possible out of all the options. If the lowest possible number of stakes within a given scenario is zero, and the other options are not necessary, then we should choose the option with zero stakes.

So what determines whether an action is necessary or not? There are several key components:

1. Value
2. Continuity of consciousness
3. Empirical data/information
4. Probability
5. Abstraction
6. The ego as a process (independent of the phenomenon of sentience)

How can these components be linked together to coherently describe the necessity of mitigating suffering through basic utilitarian mathematical calculations? Simple:

1. I propose that, in the absence of teleology or a god, I should be allowed to stab someone with a knife, because it is physically possible for me to stab someone with a knife.

2. But stabbing someone with a knife is not necessary. Why do something unnecessary if it's probably, based on our past empirical experience of reality, going to cause suffering? Furthermore, in this particular instance, I am not stabbing a mass murderer, rapist, etc., so I am changing the other side of the equals sign (the sum) in the value equation in favor of negative sensation.

3. But why value sensation? It is physically possible to not value sensation, and there is no universal overseer, so why does it matter if we torture sensory agents?

4. Value is a necessity of our continuity of consciousness. So long as we're conscious, we are, wittingly or unwittingly, value agents. For every conscious thought that I process in favor of acting one way, I am necessarily discarding a near-infinite array of other potential actions. Therefore, if I choose to stab someone, I do so because I value that action more than all other potential actions available to me within that arbitrary moment -- including that action that we might erroneously refer to as "refraining from acting."

We could spin a wheel with "stab someone" as one of the options and then actually stab someone once the wheel stops at that option, but that would necessarily mean that we value having our decisions made for us by the physics of momentum. We might subjectively feel apathetic regarding what we're doing, but we still prefer the randomness of the action to the non-randomness of the alternatives. Put another way, it is impossible to act randomly; it is, however, possible to act according to some arbitrary rule, like what the first action is that pops into your head, or which action the wheel lands on; nevertheless, it is still impossible to randomly decide to act according to some arbitrary rule for the same reasons that determinism dictates everything else and randomness doesn't; the decision must be made according to a value system. Maybe suffering isn't valuable, but until another, more suitable thing to value is presented, we don't have a choice; there is no such thing as being simultaneously conscious and non-evaluating.

Whether we are mindful of what we're doing or not, we are sentient beings; therefore, all of our decisions are made based on sensation -- whether our own sensations, or the sensations of others. We innately value avoiding pain; our bodies always reflexively attempt to dispense with it, so our acting in favor of avoiding pain is an indication of pain's value. It is necessary, according to our bodies, to avoid pain. If you intentionally attempt to control your body's desire to avoid pain, it's because you fear a greater pain that the body cannot foresee, or because you are attempting to demonstrate a point that, if not made, will cause a kind of mental discomfort.

5. But what if I'm sadistic, and gain incredible satisfaction and pleasure from stabbing someone? What if my pleasure outweighs the other person's suffering -- and we can somehow scientifically deduce as much with acute neurological instruments? Who cares if the action of stabbing the other person is not necessary?

6. It is necessary to not act in this manner, because of our value system mentioned above. I can just as easily gain pleasure by merely thinking about the stabbing, or by doing something totally different altogether. The pleasure experienced won't be quite the same, or even as intense, but it isn't necessary to stab someone.

7. But why do we value the sensations experienced by other sentient beings just as much as we value the ones that we personally experience? If I'm altering the value equation in favor of my pleasure, even at someone else's expense, I'm still reducing the negative value of the equation, right?

8. I can still alter the equation in favor of my pleasure without stabbing someone; stabbing someone, then, is wasted suffering.

9. But how do we know that the other person's suffering is real in the first place?

10. If we empirically observe the world and the "experiment" of all [ostensibly] sentient beings who've been stabbed leans toward a one hundred percent rate of external signifiers of suffering, then the probability is high that they suffer just as we do.

11. The human individual is an arbitrary abstraction based on the process of ego; we would not be so easily swayed in favor of the belief that personhood is sacred if our egos were not continuous, discrete processes utilizing a set of sensations and experiences behind a defined physical boundary.

12. The process of ego is independent of the sensations necessary for the ego to exist; these two are not one and the same for the same reasons that gasoline is not the same thing as a motor vehicle. Therefore, the space and time occupied by a sensation does not determine its value; the value is determined only by the sensation itself. We can develop a logical understanding of why harming someone in the absence of a greater amount of harm looming overhead is a bad idea, because there is no "harming someone"; there is only "causing electricity in such a way as to elicit negatively valuable physical reflexes." If we combine this axiom with 4., then we quickly realize why the suffering of others is valuable.