Archives for posts with tag: choice

Simplistic, but valid: From nothing comes nothing.
Either something exists, or nothing exists.

We can side with the likes of Stephen Hawking and assert eternal existence of gravity and quantum vacuum and, also, assign it practical [and mindless] divinity. Then we can reasonably speculate that myriad minuscule fluctuations in the quantum foam converged to burst forth from the singularity. Inflation, then space-time, which is running down, back down to the nothing.

Or, we can assume transcendence. That is, we can assume an eternal something that is truly beyond nature. Eternal is the key, and transcendence is required, or it is just natural, and we are back to nothing. There are some significant hurdles to deal with in assuming the divine, but an eternal transcendent actor can only be referred to as god. (Peterson says as much, often.)

If we hold to the first, methodological materialism, or naturalism, or atranscendence, then we are stuck with nothing and there simply is no such thing as agency. No choice is any more significant than any event. It takes two things to do anything: Time and Energy. States and systems exhibiting disequilibria will tend to equilibrate, taking time and using energy. Disequilibrated systems do anything that takes time and uses up energy, as long as it lessens the disequilibration. Often, order arises, emergent phenomena. A simple example is a dust devil in a dirt field. The ground heats unevenly under the sun, and the air warms slower, disequilibria. A warm thermal begins to rise, often beginning to spin, and up arises a dancing, self-organizing, dust devil, chasing the warmest spot near it. It is a dissipative system, more efficient at increasing entropy than simple convection. Assuming atranscendence, the dust devil is the same as any choice I make, any idea I conceive, any action I take. It all, only, tends to use up time and energy bringing the universe back to closer to the absolute and eternal nothing of its beginning.

Given my definitions above, the options are god or not-god.

That is, god is that which is eternal and transcendent.

Not-god is that which is yet eternal but nothing, that which momentarily and currently is subject to unwinding the initial winding of the singularity, and the unwinding is simply the using up of time and energy. (It makes no difference in this assumption whether the big bang is a single freak occurrence, or if it is quasicyclical, repeating randomly for all eternity.)

If we accept the god assumption, we are faced with eternity. We exist in time, but we will exist in eternity (and perhaps have always existed in some sense). The questions religion and philosophy address boil down to this: In eternity, with-god or without-god? One choice with two options. We will enter eternity having chosen god or refused god.

In that assertion, I’m assuming the god condition of eternal and transcendent reality. Given that assumption, the choice, the ultimate choice, true agency, is between with-god and without-god.

There either is choice, or there is nothing.

I admit I am defining nothing as meaninglessness.

I’m defining eternal and transcendent as meaning, reason, and rationality. It is my assertion, my premise. It is fundamental within me. (It is fundamental within the universe.)

Choice, agency, is the only thing that matters. If not-god is the reality, then there is no choice, no meaning, no rationality, no reason, nothing. If god is the reality, and there is no choice, no agency, regarding eternity with god or eternity without god, then we are back to nothing, back to no choice, no meaning, no rationality, no reason.

Given any reality approximating that, truth has no meaning in any case where choice, true agency, isn’t foundational and intrinsic. Individual agency must be real or there is not even anything that can be called truth, not in the abstract, not in the concrete, not in the ideal, not even in the notional. If I have no choice in the matter, no agency, nothing matters and nothing is the only true reality. If there is such a thing as reality, choice is real; agency is real.

Obviously, I cannot get away from the notion of truth, and one might argue such persistence makes it deeper, more real, than choice. No. First, we must not conflate Truth with Reality. That which is real is not the same as that which is true, not even in the ideal. It goes to meaning. If the not-god reality is real, then all that we seem to know is simply a random confluence of quantum fluctuations that happen to have congealed into a mass hallucination. If my mind is merely matter and energy and chemical processes running in patterns dictated by quantum fluctuations, I have no mind, and I have nothing on which to base any assumption. I can have no reason to assume any of it will continue. I have no real reason to base any of it on.

In that case, I have no reason. There would really be no reason and no such thing as reason, only matter, only energy, only a persistent, sequential running down and unwinding.

Frankly, I find it unreasonable to assume there is no such thing as reason.

I find it irrational to assume there is no such thing as rationality.

It seems as certain as anything else that there must be an eternal transcendent actor. Being confined to time and nature, we cannot hope to know this super-nature directly. We can only hope to systematically and rationally investigate it and aim at truth, as we do with all of nature. The nature of nature, our reality, seems to include something transcendent that we typically call mind. There isn’t a significant difference between “mind” as we use it, and “spirit” as we use it. There is no quantifiable reason to suppose mind is any less real than matter. Consciousness is really a thing, a thing we do not understand. Our religions may be so far from truth as to be laughable, but so may our sciences.

Again, without choice, there is no truth.

If I am not really a free agent capable of making real choices with meaningful consequences, then there is simply nothing, at least nothing that has any meaning, nothing that matters.

No one considers a floating bit of dust in the air to be evil.

We may consider bits of vegetation and grains of sand blowing in our faces in a strong wind to be nuisance, perhaps even painful under some conditions, but certainly none of us would call it evil. The necessity of raising a hand to the wind and squinting to keep the tiny wind-hurled projectiles out of the eyes is simply part of the great outdoors on a windy day.

When a pebble is freed from its location by weathering, no one thinks of it.

When a bit of cliff debris falls, no one even notices, unless he happens to be standing near enough.

Likewise when a boulder, precariously perched, finally gives way, it is hardly worth our note, unless the protrusion had been widely remarked upon.

Still, no one would call it immoral, evil.

These are all simply natural. This is how our world works. Aging happens. Stresses build and relive. Disequilibria builds, and dissipates, sometimes imperceptibly, sometimes dramatically, sometimes in self-organizing, emergent systems or phenomena that live, figuratively, and even literally.

None of this is evil.

Nature concentrates energy, and some systems use that energy in interesting, even creative ways.

Nature pours down radiant energy on the earth, and green plants use it to build. Herbivores and other creatures use that energy to build. Those, in turn, are used by other creatures in some way to build in another way.

Passive recipient, parasite, herbivore, carnivore, omnivore, et al. These are simply nature using resources to build. We may see destruction involved. We may see it as gruesome, bloody, distasteful, and worse, but it is all of a piece. All of it is simply nature. It is not inherently bad. It is not evil.

Why is it that some want to call certain spectacular workings of nature evil?

Earthquakes are not evil. Earthquakes are part of the natural processes described above.

If an earthquake happens to cause death and destruction, well, that is only the way of nature.

We consider it tragic, especially when many souls are lost, but it is not evil. It is not something someone, some agent, did. It was not intentioned, nor was it negligent. There was an imbalance, a buildup, and subsequent release.

Some ask why God didn’t stop the earthquake that killed millions, but no one asks why God didn’t stop that grain of sand from sticking in your eyebrow. There is no difference in the grand scheme. Both were simply nature redistributing matter and energy to alleviate imbalance.

The difference comes in agency.

We humans, we are free moral agents.

While there is nothing bad or evil about pain, suffering, and deprivation in themselves, it is bad, it is truly evil, when one person chooses to inflict pain and cause suffering and institute deprivation.

Coercion is evil.

I want to emphasize that. Coercion is evil.

 

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