Philosophy

The Experience Machine, the Nature of Reality, and God

Have you heard the thought experiment of The Experience Machine? If not, it’s roughly as follows:

Imagine there exists a machine, such that when you enter it, you experience a perfect universe. Everything you desire, is there. A personalised universe designed to make you as perfectly happy as it’s possible to be. Would you enter? Would you ever leave?

I think leaving would be the right choice. We ought to choose reality with suffering over happy illusions.

But I’m trying to pin down why the virtual reality of the machine is less real, and also less good, than the world outside it, and it’s not so clear to me. It feels real. Yes, it’s not physically real, but what’s the difference between our physical world and the virtual world, that behaves the same?

The best I’ve come up with so far, is this: reality doesn’t revolve around me. It lies outside of me, and isn’t dependent upon my will. It has a life of its own.

And this is infinitely better. Why? Because it makes communion, love and graciousness possible. The machine can provide every pleasure, but not these things, which make life life. The beauty of life is in being intruded on by the Other, giving ourselves to the Other, and both creating/becoming something new as a result. It’s sex, as opposed to masturbation. It’s the Trinity as opposed to the monad.

My questions seem to have found their answers 🙂. Even my next question, which I will share anyway.

If reality is outside of my power, is nothing real for God? Is God alone in an experience machine?

The answer is, that God is Trinity. God is the Lover, the Beloved, and the Fountain of Love between the two, and all three exist only in and as this Love. They do not exist, then love, or exist, then be loved. They love and are beloved and conceive love, from all eternity, and this is what God is.

May God bless you, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

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Philosophy, Truth and Freedom

Everyone, no matter how much or little they are aware of it, lives within a worldview. For the most part, this is inherited from our families, media, and cultures, and accepted without a second thought. And this worldview determines your world, the world that you see and engage with.

But what if your worldview was wrong? You would be wrong about what can or cannot be done, or even worse, what ought or ought not be done. Our illusions enslave us, and we aren’t even aware of it.

And then, what if our worldview is wrong, and the world we’re actually in is enslaving us? We would be trapped in a prison which we can’t even see, because that prison is a part of us.

But if we had the true worldview, which is no longer a worldview, but transcends views to reach truth, then we would be free. Even in the darkest, coldest, smallest prison cell in the world, one who has Truth is utterly free, because they have reality. Their existence and their decisions are in their own hands, and no one can take these away.

‘The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.’

Philosophy is the search for the truth above and beyond all views, so that we can really live in the real world.

Perhaps the worldview we unquestioningly received just happens to be right. Maybe. But we can’t know until we loosen our grip on it, and seek the world that lies beyond the worldview. And we also can’t loosen our grip until we are aware of it.

Perhaps more than any other age in history, we are at risk of being enslaved by our illusions and ignorance, because we are the most distracted age in history. Our education levels are improving, but not for the most important questions. We run the extraordinary risk of becoming both the most educated and most closed minded people ever to exist.

And being closed minded, living in illusions, means being easily controlled, and liable to fall into hatred and evil.

We must all be philosophers. We must insist on truly living – living in truth – and accept nothing less. Everything but truth is nothing, and less than nothing.

The true philosopher is always a revolutionary. If they aren’t turning the world upside down, they are not seeking the truth, but are just shoring up views, and are not a philosopher at all.

But at the end of the philosopher’s journey, philosophy is finished. There is no worldview left to be turned upside down. There is only Truth, that is always upside down, and always right way up.

God bless you 🙂

Woman as antithesis of man

Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.’
Genesis 2:18

This passage got me thinking.

It cannot be that it means each woman is merely an assistant to her man, even if she is a partner. That is just obviously not the true destiny of a woman. Women are not merely there for men’s needs, on any level.

It is more true that women help men in their joint destiny. But men clearly help women also. Yet Genesis 2 has a clear asymmetry that still needs to be accounted for.

I would like to suggest that, borrowing Hegel’s dialectic, woman is the antithesis of man. That is, woman presents a contrary, and in ways contradictory, force to the thesis that is man, and yet the two are destined to come together to form a synthesis. Is the antithesis necessarily another thesis? I don’t believe so. It seems to me that in the history of thought it is more of a contrary reality.

We can consider this in procreation; how man provides a first living principle, and woman provides a second living principle that receives and transforms the first, to create a third.

We might also consider the Church, the bride of Christ. The Holy one meets the unholy, and forms the synthesis of salvation, the mystery of the Holyunholy. We must receive the mystery of Christ dynamically, with all that we are, in order to bring to birth the New Man.

Let me know what you think in the comments. God bless!

I am the centre of every rainbow

It is a little known scientific fact, that every rainbow forms a circle around the shadow of the head of the person viewing it. This is due to the strict physics and geometry that the light follows on its course to its observer’s eyes.

This means that no two eyes will ever look at the same rainbow (except in photographs). And rainbows don’t really have an objective existence. At least, not like they appear to us, as a single bow in the sky. Instead, there is the light for an almost (or actual) infinite of different rainbows, if there were only eyes in place to see them. We each only ever see one small aspect of each rainbow, because we are in just one place.

Yet our experience of it is no less true for that.

I am the centre of the rainbow. And this beautifully illustrates, how I am at the centre of colour and light. I am the one that experiences and knows and receives the world.

And yet again, I am not. There is so much that I do not see, so much that is not in reference to me. My rainbow is not the whole rainbow.

And yet, how can it be known, except in this glorious subjectivity? Even as I imagine the rainbow as others might see it, I just imagine I am those others. Even when I imagine the “objective” view, I am imagining how I might see it through God’s eyes.

The aspect I see will revolve around me. The universe revolves around the One that is experiencing it. My experience is just an aspect of the experience of the One’s, my knowledge just an aspect of the Omniscient’s.

God bless!

P.S. Here’s some cool rainbow facts for you. Not where I found out from, but it gives a good quick run down

P.P.S. I’ve been reading a book giving a brief overview of lots of important philosophers, and loving it. You could probably guess that from this post…

P.P.P.S. Have I maybe gone off the rails a bit? Let me know what you think

I’m writing a book!

For a while now, I’ve been slowly working on a book of Philosophy/Theology. It began as just one or two philosophical thoughts, but as I wrote them down, I found myself stumbling into other thoughts, including some very theological ones. I don’t really know where it is heading, because every time I revisit it, it seems to lead me in some new direction.

I don’t want to give any details away just yet, firstly because the paint’s still wet, and secondly because I think these thoughts need their proper space. So please forgive me for being vague. I believe these ideas are powerful, and I need to handle them carefully.

I will say that I’m very excited by them. They’ve changed my understanding of basically everything. They’re not particularly similar to anything I’ve written on this blog so far, probably because they can’t easily be slipped in, one at a time. Also, they’re just not ready.

Please say a prayer for me and my book. That I’ll write in humility and truth. That I’ll actually write it, and not get scared and bury it in the ground like the wicked and lazy slave in the parable of the talents. That whatever is true in it thrive, and whatever is false in it wither.

Thanks, and God bless you!

Thomas Merton, St Joseph, and Tyler Durden

I was thinking today about what sort of man I want to be known as. My answer was “strong”. But then I realised, that this is my false self (in the words of Thomas Merton) speaking. How do I know? Because it looks at how I’m seen, not how I am.

I was reminded of St Joseph’s great silence in the Bible. Joseph was a good and righteous man, and didn’t care what others thought. He fathered God, but never made a big deal of it. He simply got on and did his duty, or equivalently, did God’s will for him.

St Joseph is the dreamer, but doesn’t fulfil his dreams by words, but by humble, consistent, grueling work. He never sought glory, but was content to contribute to the glory of God, whether he was seen or unseen. I pray God let me imitate my namesake in this [Ignatius is my confirmation name, and Joseph my baptismal].

I also remembered a very different character, with different wisdom: Fight Club’s Tyler Durden said, “Self-improvement is masturbation. Self-destruction on the other hand…”

I absolutely love this quote.

Self-improvement is masturbation because it’s self-pleasing and doesn’t bear any fruit. It’s infantile and revolting. It’s a waste of life to please yourself by becoming “better”. Stop pleasuring yourself in public!

Self-destruction on the other hand… liberates us. Fight Club is about men abandoning what Jesus calls, “the world”. Tyler Durden is captivating because he’s almost St Francis, who was almost Jesus. He recognises and abandons the emptiness of the world, of the self. But in chasing his self out, he is still stuck chasing his self.

Why? Because he believes God doesn’t care about him; his self is all he has. There is nothing beyond his self to be reached.

But St Francis, (and even more truly, Jesus) can totally destroy his self and be free, because the destruction of his self, through all his mad penances and lifestyle, is in the love of God. The falsehood of the self that Tyler Durden could see so clearly, can only be destroyed by the Truth that is God.

God bless you!

What should government be?

[This post got stuck as a draft and now isn’t very timely. Oh well, better late than never!]

As we approach the general election on the 8th May, I thought it would be good to think a bit about politics. So, let’s start at the very beginning…

Where is authority ultimately from?

Authority comes from truth. Equivalently, we can say that authority comes from God, the author of all creation. We should listen to the truth and to those who instruct us according to the truth, simply because what’s in accordance with the truth is in accordance with our true being. As the (virulent atheist) anarchist, Mikhail Bakunin said,

Does it follow that I reject all authority? Perish the thought. In the matter of boots, I defer to the authority of the boot-maker.

This requires humility, because we have to recognise that sometimes, the truth, including the truth of ourselves, is not in accordance with our own wills and desires. At times like this, our desires, if not submitted to truth and reason, actually enslave us, denying us our true dignity and glory.

Today, this is probably not such a common concept of authority. We live in a world that is “post-God” and “post-truth”, believing that these tend towards oppression. Instead, the world believes in desire and force. What’s important is that I claim my “rights”, over against yours. Authority is then just a word for more established power.

Where does government come from?

My guess is, that government more or less grew out of natural structures of authority. At the lowest level, a father is naturally and historically the head of his family, as the one primarily responsible for its defense and provision, and therefore most aware of how to make the best decisions for it. In society at a larger level, say an extended family or a village, a father figure will emerge too; one who is strong, wise, and provides for the people. At each larger level, “father” figures may emerge, as and when groups become more integrated, and need someone to give them unity and provide for the common good.

Of course, right from the lowest level, and right from the beginning, violence ruins this lovely human family. There are bad fathers, bad chieftains, and bad kings, and then there are usurpers, often friends and relatives, who take power for themselves with the best or worst of motives, so that “authority” is rarely held by those who deserve it.

Plato believed that the ideal government was that of the Philosopher Ruler, but that this would degenerate into a timarchy (military/honour based rule, e.g. Sparta, or feudal [Samurai] Japan), which would degenerate into oligarchy (wealth based rule- think of the USA), which then degenerates into democracy (people/pleasure based rule- think of ancient Athens, or Norway, Iceland, or Sweden), which finally degenerates into  tyranny (the rule of absolute violence, and unrestrained desire). I think he was onto something. It is essentially the process of men and societies diverging from the highest good, Goodness Itself, to lesser, more divided goods, going through honour to wealth to selfish happiness to unrestrained desire.

What should government be?

The government’s duty is to serve the common good in accordance with the truth (it is impossible in discord with truth). Therefore, it should be honest; should seek the truth on every matter, with open, humble ears; it should respect the freedom of lower levels of government and society, which are generally better placed to look after their own common good; it should be firm in justice, but double so with itself; it should serve all, and respect all; it should be both strong and gentle; both reserved and courageous; it should be genuinely humble, never glorifying itself, but placing itself beneath others; it should be self-sacrificing and unprofitable; and undoubtedly much more. To simplify, a good government, and the people who compose it, should have all the qualities of a good father.

At this point you’re perhaps thinking this is literally paternalistic government. But the issue of paternalism would actually be an issue in a father too. The problem is the same in both overbearing parents and overbearing governments: both children and peoples need freedom in order to flourish, including the freedom to make mistakes.

Is this realistic?

If we could have a government of saints, absolutely! But saints are hard to come be, and generally wouldn’t want such a position. They know too well, how violence and sin thrive in power, and they don’t seek power, or its prestige and rewards. Their humility keeps them from seeking any position except the least. And the struggle for power, is a struggle, and they do not desire struggle and strife, but love and unity.

Still, it’s good to have ideals to reach for. If you’re in government, be like a good father and you’ll do well. For the rest of us, this can shape our engagement with politics, and perhaps we’ll see a conversion of our government.

palace_of_westminster2c_london_-_feb_2007

 

Finally

‘You know that among the pagans their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all. For the Son of Man Himself did not come to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.’
[Mk 10:42-45]

Whenever I read this passage, it makes me wonder if a Christian should be in politics at all. I don’t suppose Christian virtue would go very far. After all, the kingdoms of the world belong to satan, and are given to his worshippers [Lk 4:6]. I guess we must engage according to the gospel, and abandon any struggle for domination.

 

Please, share your thoughts! God bless you!

What does it mean to be human?

What does it mean to be human?

The ancient, “in the image of God” sums it up quite nicely for me. I’d put it two ways: it is our ability to reach eternal, invisible truths, such as maths, the laws of physics, beauty, morality, love, humanity, etc. and also our ability to explore and express these in entirely new ways, through our own creativity and shared life. We bring eternity into time. I believe this is what St. Thomas Aquinas was getting at (more or less) when he claimed we each have a “rational soul”.

While animal life, even as far as they are capable of reasoning, is determined by the nature of each species, life for humans has no boundaries imposed upon it, but is capable of reaching/creating entirely new horizons. Humanity is essentially transcendent, innately seeking to go deeper, and express more fully, breaking apart old ways to create new possibilities.

But we see how terribly humans can abuse this power, these new possibilities. We see our great inhumanity. The same scientific breakthrough that allows billions of people to live today, was utilised by the Nazis in their horrific gas chambers. I would argue that our greatest atrocities follow when we sever these two ways; separating eternal truth from our self-creation, and so making our self-creation a mere perversion. Here is, I believe, the original sin, the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.

Our personhood, I believe, refers to our freedom in our relationship, both with these higher truths and with each other. We deny others their personhood (and our own too) when we refuse to relate to them in freedom, whether because we don’t understand, or we are afraid, or we wish for power.

What about those who are unintelligent, or incapable of self-expression? The definition I gave is, I believe, entirely qualitative, and so we do not become “more human” as we become more intelligent or more expressive. Intelligent people often scoff at meaningful questions, while the supposedly stupid often have profound insights (though they also often lack the confidence to recognise them as such). Regardless of intelligence or ability, we have an innate openness to eternal truths, to the divine, and for these to come to the world through us (even those without working brain cells). Indeed, at her very conception, the Blessed Virgin Mary was intimately united as spouse to the Holy Spirit of God.

[This originated as a comment on the video.]

God bless you