Wednesday, April 7, 2010

What I Believe: Part 1

Okay, so I figured it's time that I set about on a new project, besides the 652 project. The title should be pretty self-explanatory, but here are the reasons that I'm embarking on it. First, this serves as a sort of time capsule for me. In five to ten years, I'll be able to look back on this series of posts and figure out who I was. Everything I've put on the net has been a sort of time capsule for me; even now, there's a distinct thrill in calling up old articles to see what I thought. The second reason is that it'll help me to figure out what it is that I actually believe. I've long agreed with Socrates that the unexamined life is not worth living. So the third reason is that once I have all this down in writing, I can take quick mental shortcuts, or look things up instead of having to actually think.


Let's start with my axioms. In parentheses are the philosophical concepts that are most closely related to those beliefs. This whole section also comes from the caveat that I generally think philosophy is a bunch of wankery full of useless distinctions.

1. Reality exists. (Philosophical Realism)
2. I exist. (Cogito ergo sum)
3. My memory and senses are mostly reliable. (Critical Realism)
4. Logic is infallible. (Rationalism)

Of those, I think maybe number 4 needs the most explanation. Logic gets a bad rap, mostly because of Spock. Logic isn't absolutely opposed to emotion, and I'm not saying that it's the king of decision making. But logic, as a system, absolutely cannot fail. If A = B, and B = C, then A = C. There are obviously things that can't be proven logically (see Gödel's incompleteness theorems), but the basic axiomatic statement I'm making is that things, once established, do not change unless you got it wrong the first time (which is very probable).

From 3 and 4, I get another theory; that a combination of senses and logic can actually tell me things about the world (Empiricism) (5). (From there comes a disbelief in a large number of things, which are mostly defined by their innate inability to be proven, such as miracles and supernatural forces. If something supernatural were able to be explained by science, then it would cease to be supernatural. Nonexistence is one of those things that can't always be disproven.)

Eventually a study of existence seems to reveal (to me) that the whole of it is made up of stuff (energy, matter, etc.) which follows laws (Metaphysical naturalism) (6). This would imply that things happen because of prior events, including conscious choices (Determinism) (7). It would also imply that consciousness itself is somehow physical in nature (Materialism) (8).

In summation: free will is an illusion, consciousness is some kind of emergent phenomenom, and the universe is composed entirely of things which are natural and driven upon laws which are likewise natural. There are some other philosophical questions to which I also hold beliefs, but which are somewhat less connected to the main axioms and derived truths.

1. The strong Church-Turing thesis is true.
2. My experience of consciousness is roughly equivalent to the experience of consciousness as experienced by other people.
3. I exist as the end result of mostly randomness.
4. Reality as we know it is (probably) virtual.
5. There are no moral absolutes.

Upcoming parts will probably include Morality, Spirituality, and Politics.

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