Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year

I wish you all, whoever might stumble across this tiny corner of the web, a happy New Years.

I am, presently, drunk. Three Coronas, four Jager Bombs, a Surfer on Acid, and half a bottle wine are currently coursing through my system.

It occurs to me, that, at this moment I am happy. I am content. I enjoy my existence in this state. If, however, you were to offer me a button that would perpetuate it, I would refuse. I am in a state of joy, but I am not in a state of fulfillment.

Put simply, I feel good, but that is not enough. There is more to human existence than merely feeling good. Feeling content, or feeling good, is prerequisite to the most important matters of human existence.

There is something else we seek. I do not know what it precisely is. But a finite life spent exciting the parts of our brain responsible for pleasure will not satisfy our natures.

More than pleasure is requires.

Take it from a drunk individual, the sort of individual most likely to throw everything away for pleasure.

This activity is enjoyable, but it does not fulfill. We must go beyond. Go further. Find something else.

In the meantime, though, this is indeed fun.

I wish you all a happy New Years. For when one enjoys himself, he wishes that others will enjoys themselves too.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

So Where Do I End?

Reflections and Considerations on the Topic of the Self

Part Five of Five

This is just a summing-up kind of conclusion, for anything of substance, read: Part One: Do I Exist?, Part Two: What Am I?, Part Three: I Am a Perspective, and Part Four: Am I One Who Sees?

I can approach my brain as an object in the world, but I cannot approach my perception as an object in the world. I am looking at the world. I am finding the world. I am the activity of finding the world. That is all I can say at the moment. So, in answer to the question that we started with, yes I do exist. I exist as an activity, but not as any known object or substance in the world.

There is a hopeful part of me that would like to think that this activity proceeds from a substance that I cannot approach. If, however, there is a substance that I cannot approach, then I will have just as much reason for believing in it as I do a substance that does not exist. For now, I must be content with where I am at.

I cannot deny that there are slippery areas in this essay, areas that need to be tightened, examined, and scrutinized, but for now, these are the ideas and arguments that I stand by.

I look forward to revisiting this topic, I am certain that I will do so. Now, with a basic notion of my ideas formed, I can have them ripped to shreds by actually reading the literature on this topic. Once I have something else to say, I'll write up another blog (or series of blogs).

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Am I One Who Sees?

Reflections and Considerations on the Topic of the Self

Part Four of Five

This won't make much sense if you don't read the thought processes that preceded it: Part One: Do I Exist?, Part Two: What Am I?, and Part Three: I Am a Perspective

There is now a question. Am I the perception from a certain point of view or am I something that perceives from a certain point of view?

If I have adequately distilled down the essence of what I am, that perception, then the question becomes whether or not it is epistemically justified to imagine that there is a substance behind the action that is I.

Perceiving is an activity. If I am perception from a certain point of view, perhaps it is possible that there is a substance that is perceiving. If there is, we cannot experience this substance, we can only experience the perceiving itself. If, however, there does indeed exist such a substance, then surely that substance would be I, whereas that perception is simply what I am experiencing.

Now as I approach this substance in text I approach it as an “Other” in the world, but that is because we are not approaching the substance itself, but rather a speculative abstract notion of the substance. If there is such a substance, we have never encountered it, nor should be ever do so (since to do so would mean that it was Other). It must either be I or it must not exist, in both cases, we should have no way of approaching it.

Occam's Razor

On the other hand, perhaps I have simply over-complicated the issue. Maybe I have multiplied when I should have reduced? Is it not much simpler to say that the substance that makes up the self is just parts of the human brain? That I am, in fact, just part of whatever brain that generates my perspective? That I had things right earlier, and then needlessly muddied the water?

In fact, maybe I've subconsciously smuggled some dualism in here from the outset. After all, I said that I can not be something that I approach because everything that I can approach is Other to me. I can approach all objects in the world, though. So, maybe I've just played some logical games to justify some kind of spiritual or mental substance, when really the only substance I need concern myself with is in my skull.

For the moment, though, I still find my argument to be sound.

1. Everything that I can approach is Other.
2. By definition, I am not Other.
3. I can approach my brain in the world.
4. Therefore I am not my brain.

Perhaps another argument could be made. Perhaps my brain is, in fact, the substance that generates perspective, but that I am, in fact, only the perspective. That was, after all, where my argument ended, with me being perspective. Maybe I am generated by something that I do not identify with.

At this time, this seems to be the simplest plausible explanation. And, in fact, I suppose that I have to be content here. All I can say is that I am perception from a certain point of view. There is nothing in my argument that implies I cannot approach what generates me as being separate from me.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Why Put the Pickle on the Tree?

For the past several years, my family has practiced the tradition of rushing out on December 23rd to grab the least dead tree we could find and throwing on our decorations to enjoy it until the nearest weekend. This year, due to some rather significant changes, we got an earlier start on our Christmas decorating and actually have our tree up early so that we can enjoy it all month long. It's a beautiful tree; a little over seven feet tall, wrapped in enough lights that it can illuminate the entire living room by itself, decorated with shatterproof plastic bulbs and a handful of glass ones, topped off with a glowing star and with a “German” Christmas pickle hidden somewhere in the branches.

I really love our Christmas tree. There's just one thing that's nagging at me.

Why did I have a tree chopped down and put in my living room anyway? What the hell am I celebrating?

I do not mean this in the “I am an atheist, so what does it mean when I celebrate a Christian/pagan holiday” sense, I mean quite literally, why do we do this? You can point to the historical origins of Christmas trees, but that will not necessarily explain why we continue to do it. For that matter, why Christmas lights? Why Santa Claus? What do any of these traditions have to do with my family?

You probably did not click on the link in the first paragraph about the German Christmas pickle, did you? You see, this year we received a “Christmas pickle,” a plastic ornament shaped like a pickle that is hidden in the tree and then searched for on Christmas day to give the person who finds it good fortune for the next year. According to the packaging, it's based on a German custom. I have no doubt that it will become one of my family's personal holiday traditions.

But it has no actual basis in German tradition (as that link discusses). And even if it did, it has no basis in my family's tradition. We aren't German. We don't have any reason to uphold German traditions, let alone German traditions that the Germans are not even aware of. So why put the pickle on the tree?

One of my favorite Christmas movies is Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, a stop-motion film from Rankin-Bass. One of the reasons I like it is that it just pulls origins for Christmas traditions straight out of its ass. It invents reasons for reindeer, stockings, Santa coming down the chimney, and an explanation for how he managed to became the worlds most prolific voyeur. That movie is well aware that no one knows why we participate in the traditions and just makes up reasons as it goes along. So, again, why put the pickle on the tree?

It is tempting to look at the historical origins as the reason. And in some cases, this is valid. The fact that Jesus' birth has historically been celebrated on Christmas explains why a Christian family would put up a Nativity display, for example. But the Tannenbaum's origins don't explain why modern American families of non-German origin would continue with the tradition. And how do I justify putting up images of Santa Claus in his bright red coat when I'm really more of a Pepsi fan? These traditions may have made sense to the cultures in which they originated, and it makes sense for people who want to participate in the legacy of that tradition, but I still don't know why I should put the pickle on the tree.

I realize that I probably sound ridiculous at this point, for the simple fact that it's fairly obvious that we take part in these traditions because they're fun and enjoyable. I'm asking “why” in a situation that doesn't need a justification. But, really, far be it from me to demand a justification for anything! I don't want anything justified, I just want it explained. Or, more truthfully, I want to make a point in the course of asking for an explanation.

Look at Chanukah. Why are the various traditions upheld during that celebration? Well, because it's celebrated by Jews who are taking part in the traditions that earlier Jews took part in for the sake of celebrating some aspect of Jewish culture, in this case, the Maccabean revolt and the rededication of the temple. When asked why they light the candles in the Menorah, they can say that it is because they want to celebrate their heritage.

Christmas, however, is full of traditions we no longer can explain, apart from just doing them because our families have always done them. This, at this point, is inevitable. And, hell, the traditions are still fun and there's certainly no reason to discontinue them (I don't want Christmas without Christmas trees). But, I think we have an excellent opportunity here. Since we cannot explain our traditions, why not create some more traditions that we can explain? Traditions particular to our families, traditions that we can create the significance for, traditions that our friends and loved ones actually know the origin of.

Gather round kids, it's time for the annual raising of the BAC! Let me tell you the story of the first time Grandpa got shitfaced in his Santa suit, and then we'll take turns betting on which article of clothing he will befoul first. Yay Christmas!

For example, start putting a plastic pickle in your Christmas tree to remind you and your family of that first Christmas in a different house.

Why I Blog

Sometimes I wonder why I even bother with blogs, why I even bother posting these things online. There is, after all, a potential harm in posting all of your thoughts online: people can read the undeveloped thoughts that you may want to disown one day. Of course, in most cases this does not particularly matter, most blogs are born in obscurity and they usually live and die there. Mine in no exception. This still leaves the question of why I blog in the first place: what is gained by posting my thoughts online that is not gained by writing them and, say, leaving them on my computer?

Recently, when starting this blog, I had a reason to go back over earlier blogs and read what I had written over the last few years. In the course of doing that, I found at least one thing that my blog provided me: a written record of my thoughts over the years. I could read all the posts I made when I was deconverting, the ones I wrote when embracing nihilism, and all the little blogs that spoke hypothetically when I was actually trying to make sense of some idea. Why couldn't I get that same benefit by just writing in a journal or just writing on my computer?

The benefit lies in this: by having a blog I know that there is a possibility, no matter how remote, that I might have to defend something I've written. Consequently, I only post my writings that meet a certain standard of quality. Over the years, I've deliberately tried to lower that standard for various reasons, but the fact remains that when something is posted on one of my blogs, its something that I judged was good enough to have associated with me at one time. Years later when I review my blogs, I know what ideas I chose to associate myself with, and which ideas I chose to let rot in a file on my computer somewhere.

Why do I write at all, though? Why is it that whenever I don't have a blog, I start wanting a blog? What is the purpose of writing in the first place? It's clear that I don't write for the reader's sake (what readers?), I write for my own. I gain two things by forcing myself to keep a blog: first, I gain an opportunity to be productive, and consequently make myself a more productive person; second, I gain an opportunity to take my thoughts and refine them into coherent, written expression, which consequently makes me a clearer thinker and a better writer. These two reasons are why I always feel that I am in some way leading a better life when I'm actively blogging as opposed to living without a written record; they are both opportunities to progress.

I browse the internet, and I come across other blogs that people have built for themselves. Sometimes I walk away feeling superior, other times I walk away convinced that my time would be better spent digging ditches than filling the internet with my chatter. If there's one hope I have from seeing other people's blogs, however, it would be that at some point I will have become productive enough and clear thinking enough that I can consistently produce blogs that some handful of people would find helpful and interesting. Having the audience is not the goal, having the audience is evidence that the goal has been attained or that the goal is being attained.

Of course, if I ever actually had an audience, that would mean explaining why I once called my blog The Daily Bullshit....

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

I Am a Perspective

Reflections and Considerations on the Topic of the Self

Part Three of Five

This one can be read on its own, but is really only valuable as part of the series, which so far consists of Part One: Do I Exist? and Part Two: What Am I?

Take my brain, take the self-aware, willing, sentient consciousness and let me look at it. If I can, then that is not I.

Why does it seem strange to say “I am a brain?” I think if one is quite honest with themselves, nearly everyone finds this an odd concept until they take the time to get used to the idea and to find merit in the logic, presuppositions, and evidence that leads to that position. It seems to me, though, that the reason we have difficulty saying that I am a brain is that we picture a brain in our mind. It is an object. We can look at it. We can touch and probe it. We think of it as “out there.”

And the fundamental problem is that nothing can encounter itself “out there.” Out there is everything other.

Everything I can encounter as an object is other from me. I can approach my brain, my whole brain, as an object in the world. Therefore, I am not my brain.

Self-aware, willing, sentient consciousness. Can I approach this from the outside? Certainly. I can observe you being self-aware, you being willing, you being sentient, and you being conscious. But can I approach all self-awareness? All willing? All sentience? All consciousness? Distill this down, is there at least one self-awareness I cannot approach from the outside? At least one will? One sentience? One consciousness?

It seems to me that this is not the case. I can see my own self-awareness as a phenomenon (in fact, is that not the essence of self-awareness?) My own will. My own sentience. And, indeed, my own consciousness. In fact, at the beginning of this essay I said that this was a matter where introspection might be useful, and my introspection was the act of reflection on my self-awareness, will, sentience, and consciousness as things I had found.

At this point, I take a detour. Now I have to ask what is it that is trying to approach these things. I see then that it is, at the very least, a perspective. A perception, from a certain point of view. In trying to see if there was a self-awareness/will/sentience/consciousness I could not approach from the outside, I realized that I was looking at all of these things through a point of view. That point of view, I now say, is the essence of self. The “seeing through this eye” is what constitutes the I.

Anything that can be seen is Other, whatever makes up the seeing is the I.

Illness and Hedonism

It is inevitable, I am bound to get sick at least two to four times starting in November and continuing into January. Currently, I'm in the middle of my second illness, a mild cold. Fortunately, being sick gave me a time to reflect on my emotional reaction to an aspect of reality. It provided me with an opportunity to gain insight into my response to a particular experience. It allowed me to discover what understanding could be gained from the perspective of someone who is (slightly) sick.

Being sick sucks.

Apart from that mind-blowing revelation, though, I had a train of thought on the first night when I could feel myself getting sick. I will come to that train of thought in a moment, first, a little background information.

I'm no fan of hedonism. I'm no fan of the notion that pleasure is good and pain is bad, partly because I think it is quite possible for pain to be good and pleasure to be bad, but even more pertinently, because I think there are other matters that can be valued more highly than pleasure and that in those cases pleasure and pain are subordinate to those higher values. Of course, due to my current nihilism, I cannot say that there is anything actually better than pleasure, only that I myself am very much relieved that humanity has historically managed to find much that they valued more highly.

Two considerations always concerned me, though. While I always found a hedonistic utopia hollow, I also found any situation that did not contain pleasure to be unsatisfying. Pleasure was not sufficient, but it was necessary; if you're interested in testing this for yourself, try to imagine yourself in heaven, however you would like to conceive it, but imagine it without anything resembling what you would call a good feeling. This always concerned me because it seemed to lend credence to the idea that conceiving of something as good was the same as conceiving of it as pleasant. The other consideration was that it seemed to me that alleviating suffering oftentimes seemed important and worthwhile to me; seeing people I care about suffer, even if their sufferings were actually quite insignificant, made me want to make things better for them. However, if there were more valuable things to be concerned about, then why did I care so much about their suffering, why did it so easily become a priority?

The train of thought I had, which I think will explain those two considerations without falling into hedonism, was this: when I am sick all I want is to get better. I want to stop feeling bad, and in fact, when I am sufficiently sick, that tends to be the prime focus of my life. Once I get better, though, I move on to other considerations. The increase of pleasure and the minimizing of pain is not my prime value when I am well, but it is when I am sick. Why is this?

It occurred to me that the life of pleasure vs. pain could be seen as a kind of necessity. As an analogy, consider oxygen: no one would live their whole life in pursuit of oxygen, but take it away and that becomes the single most important thing in the world. Once access is restored, the formerly deprived person will go back to whatever he finds truly valuable in the world. There are things that are important or even vital, but which can be satisfied to such an extent that they cease to seem worth seeking until they again become lacking. Oxygen is one such thing for physiological reasons; pleasure and the absence of pain could be one such thing in a spiritual, emotional, or mental sense.

Yes, one can lead a hedonistic life in pursuit of pleasure and in flight from pain, but for most people, happiness does not consist of just matters of pleasure. Still, matters of pleasure and pain are a part of happiness, they must be tended to before we move on to our higher values. I conceive of it, now, like a pyramid, sort of like Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs; on the bottom of the pyramid are all the things that must be satisfied and moved beyond.

If you need to shit, you go and shit. But who would lead a life in pursuit of shitting? Shit, and then move on.

One thought occurs to me now, though. All those “higher” values, whatever they might be (say, love, power, harmony, or creative expression), do we pursue these things because we value them so much or do we pursue them because they're permanently elusive? They either can't be completely satisfied or they are very unlikely to be satisfied, so they can only be more fulfilled or less fulfilled. If they were to ever be fulfilled, though, would they too be moved beyond? A question for another day.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What Am I?

Reflections and Considerations on the Topic of the Self

Part Two of Five

This won't make any sense if you have not read Part One: Do I Exist?

I cannot contemplate myself in a state apart from a sensation. Hunger, frustration, cold, bloodlust, anger. Whenever I apply these terms to myself, I do so on the basis of certain sensations that I am feeling that I associate with these states. If I were in the state without the corresponding sensation, I would feel as though something else were in the state. If your body were starving, but you could not feel it, you would feel as though something other than yourself were starving. I think that this is true of almost all parts of your body, so I say that I am separate from at least most of my physical body.

I am situated in the world. I am subject to space. At first, one might think that this is a step back, since it implies that we are wherever our body is. However, imagine a man whose body (sans head) was being kept alive in China while only his head was being kept alive and talkative in Germany. If you asked him where he was, wouldn't he say Germany? It is evident, however, that we exist in the world at a certain point in space. (4, 7, 10)

I am capable of sensation. This means that I am nothing dead. These sensations change. (3, 6, 8)

I am capable of contemplation and mental activity. I am self-aware. (2)

I am moving throughout time. I am I despite motion. (1, 5, 9)

I am capable of will (4).

What am I?

I am whatever it is that is capable of contemplation and mental activity, capable of changing sensation, capable of persisting through time, capable of will, self-aware, and situated in space.

So, it would seem that I am a brain. Specifically, a part of a brain (since there are parts of the brain not related to any of the above characteristics). I am not unchanging, because the brain does change, grow, and diminish over time. I am not united, because the brain is active in different ways at different times leading to changing desires, wills, and attitudes.

Now, I ask, removing all other features of my body and leaving only my brain behind, could I say that I am that? If that brain can produce self-aware, willing, sentient consciousness, then am I there?

But, then, do we really need the brain at all? Let us suppose a machine were perfected that could produce self-aware, willing, sentient consciousness. Would that consciousness not regard itself as I?

And that's when I realize that, really, I am not my brain. I am a self-aware, willing, sentient consciousness. I am produced by the brain's activity, but even if my brain were to die and be replaced bit-by-bit by tiny machines that perform the same functions, I would persist. I am the consciousness generated by the brain, not the brain itself.

It occurs to me, especially exemplified by the wording I chose in the paragraph before last (“Would that consciousness not regard itself as I?”) That there is one other detail that needs to be attended to. Many brains may produce self-aware, willing, sentient consciousness, but why is it that in one case I am there and in all other cases I am not?

Looking from the outside, picturing a brain in a vat generating consciousness, I cannot find myself there. I cannot look at myself from the outside any more than my eye can see itself. I must look from the perspective of consciousness generated by the brain in the vat. If I am looking at the brain from the outside, then I am not the brain.

And that is when I see the whole matter from a new angle.

Monday, November 28, 2011

A New Policy

I have what you would call a flaky personality. I pick up a lot of projects and interests and abandon them just as quickly for other projects and interests. I am especially guilty of this when it comes to books, I start a lot of them but finish only a tiny fraction of that. Because my goals and projects are constantly shifting, nothing gets done.

I realized that especially with two recent events. The first was reading Wittgenstein's Tractatus. About halfway through I began to lose interest and started looking for something else to read, but, thank God, I could not focus on anything. I realized at that moment that whenever I abandoned one text I was reading for no reason apart from my mind losing focus, I devalued every book I might read wherein my mind might lose focus (all of them). I was perpetuating a policy of not finishing anything that couldn't be done all in one go.

The second was finishing my "Do I Exist" blog in its entirety. After revising it and coming to a different conclusion the second time around, I began to fear that I did not have ample grounding or knowledge to finish it to my satisfaction. It should be noted that I only felt that way after a day of not working on the paper, as long as I was working on it, I felt confident enough. Other projects began to come up in my mind until I decided that I could do nothing until I finished that blog.

Based on these two experiences, I have two new policies.

1. If a project is undertaken, it should be pursued to its completion with as few rest days as possible. The more time spent at rest the more unappealing the project begins to appear.

2. Finish all projects undertaken, unless it is decided that one does not want to complete the project at all. Projects must never be put off for another time, if I intend to complete it in my lifetime, it must be completed now.

I'm curious to see if I become any more productive with these new self-imposed rules.

Do I Exist?

Reflections and Considerations on the Topic of the Self

Part One of Five

I am not well read on this topic (or any topic, for that matter), but I am quite interested and this seems like the sort of question that one can just jump into since it concerns a matter wherein introspection is a meaningful investigation. Naturally, reading what other people have said becomes useful when it comes time to refine and make sense of one's introspective discoveries, but having an initial conception provides something to be refined.

It seems that we must start by discovering what we mean by “I.” First, to begin discovering what I am lets look at what I do or what things I can say about myself.

What is it that I normally might say that I am doing or say are facts about myself?

1. I am typing on a keyboard.
2. I am contemplating the nature of the I.
3. I am cold.
4. I am a libertarian.
5. I will type on a keyboard.
6. I am thirsty.
7. I am drinking.
8. I am not thirsty.
9. I have typed on a keyboard.
10. I am in California.

All of these could reasonably apply to I. I would like to elaborate on these sentences....

Numbers 1, 5, and 9, I think, show something very interesting. It says that whatever is typing on the keyboard in the present (1) is identical to what will type on the keyboard in the future (5) and identical to what has typed on a keyboard in the past (9). We can see here that it is tempting to say that there must be something unchanging for this to be true. Something must be consistent from 9 to 1 to 5 if I did, am doing, and will do all three.

Number 2 denotes that I must be capable of contemplation, therefore I must be capable of mental activity.

Number 3, however, seems to require a body that possesses heat receptors, this only seems true at first, though. Cold can be understood two ways: having a low temperature or having the sensation associated with heat receptors responding to low temperature stimuli. In the former case, something physical is required, in the second even a disembodied mind could experience that as an illusion. Do we ever associate the former with I? Do we ever say “I am cold” and mean, literally, I have a low temperature? In a way, we do, when we say we are cold we are implying that we are in an environment that has a low temperature, but we always say it on the basis that our heat receptors are responding to stimuli. For this reason, I say that whatever we might mean when we say “I am cold,” all we can actually experience is the feeling of cold. I can not actually experience a drop in temperature.

Number 4 says either that I can be a part of a political party, that I can subscribe to certain set of doctrines or attitudes, that I can hold certain beliefs, or that I can consider myself to have something in common with certain kinds of people.

Number 6 seems to say that I can have needs. Thirst is, after all, the sensation of needing a drink. But much like cold, we only say that we are thirsty on the basis of our sensation of thirst. Suppose our bodies needed water, but we had no sensation of it, in that case we would not say that we are thirsty. This is another example of I having the experience of a sensation.

Number 7 says that I am capable of action. I am performing a movement. Now, suppose someone fired a shock into my brain that caused my hand to grab a can, move it toward my mouth, and pour its contents down my throat. In this case, would I be drinking? I say 'yes,' but not in the same sense. I say that I would be drinking in the same sense that I am in California in number 10. I am in the situation of drinking, but I would not say that I am drinking in the sense that it is normally used, that is, in the sense of willing an action.

Number 8 simply says something like number 6, only its negation. Rather than a sensation of thirst it is an absence of a sensation.

Number 10 indicates that I am situated. Regardless of my choice, the fact is that I am in California right now. Why is it that I am in California? Even apart from any sensation of being in California (perhaps I feel very much like I am in New York?), I am, in fact, in California. This means that I am subject to space.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I Hope You Hate The Moral Landscape

I'm coming rather late to this discussion, and admittedly, I have not read Sam Harris's The Moral Landscape, but after winding down from something else that I was writing, I decided to read an article Harris wrote trying to defend his book from certain criticisms. Now, to acknowledge my biases ahead of time, I thought Sam Harris was wrong from the moment I watched his TED video on moral landscapes (it was not difficult to see that he smuggled the "well-being" value into his argument without a factual justification, thereby not actually providing us with any moral facts), and I thought Sam Harris was dangerous ever since I read The End of Faith where he says that it is morally acceptable to kill people who hold sufficiently dangerous beliefs (I can understand that kind of thinking from a relativist or a nihilist, but if you actually believe in moral truths and say that, I think you're dangerous), but now I feel quite secure in saying that if humanity ever succumbs to scientifically powerful dystopia, our scientist overlords probably took inspiration from Harris.

However, some people were not ready for this earthly paradise once it arrived. Some were psychopaths who, despite enjoying the general change in quality of life, were nevertheless eager to break into their neighbors' homes and torture them from time to time. A few had preferences that were incompatible with the flourishing of whole societies: Try as he might, Kim Jong Il just couldn't shake the feeling that his cognac didn't taste as sweet without millions of people starving beyond his palace gates. Given our advances in science, however, we were able to alter preferences of this kind. In fact, we painlessly delivered a firmware update to everyone. Now the entirety of the species is fit to live in a global civilization that is as safe, and as fun, and as interesting, and as filled with love as it can be.

It seems to me that this scenario cuts through the worry that the concept of well-being might leave out something that is worth caring about: for if you care about something that is not compatible with a peak of human flourishing -- given the requisite changes in your brain, you would recognize that you were wrong to care about this thing in the first place. Wrong in what sense? Wrong in the sense that you didn't know what you were missing. This is the core of my argument: I am claiming that there must be frontiers of human well-being that await our discovery -- and certain interests and preferences surely blind us to them.

Ignoring the fact that you're violating someones, granted Kim Jong Il and the Boston Stranger, dignity as a human being to form their own preferences, it is blatantly an attempt to set one value as the most valuable simply by altering people's minds.

I expect that a good many people will think Harris is onto something pretty neat here (although, try to imagine what he's saying with less violent characters. Like imagine him altering the brains of people who are too individualistic, too free spirited, too patriotic, or too protective if it happens to conflict with what he thinks humanity really wants), but I hope that most who encounter this statement will react with something like anger and loathing. However, while reading this, a scary thought occurred to me: with increasing scientific knowledge and increasing technology, one day the only thing that will keep this from being implemented is that sufficient people hate the idea enough.

And if it were implemented, there wouldn't be enough diversity left for anyone to wonder if it might not be a bad idea.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Letter to Todd Strandberg

I've been feeling nostalgic lately, and as part of that nostalgia I logged onto As a teenager just out of Junior High, that website was the most important reading material to me. I even owned the Are You Rapture Ready dead tree version of the site's articles.

Even though my mindset is now pretty much as far from that site's philosophy as you can get, a lot of my thought really started there. It was there that I picked up my interest in politics and apologetics, which led to my interest in C. S. Lewis, which led to my interest in philosophical debate, which led to me actively critically analyzing my beliefs, which led to me ceasing to be a Christian among other things.

So, feeling grateful, I shot Todd Strandberg, the site's owner, an email.

Hello Todd,

Yesterday I suddenly felt compelled to log onto, just to see how the site looked. I do this every so often, just because I get a little nostalgic sometimes and like to visit websites I once frequented. I discovered your site the summer before my freshman year of High School (2003), and was instantly hooked. I used to spend all night reading and re-reading the articles on the site, to the point that I used to print out my favorites and give them to teachers at school to get their thoughts (it was a private Christian school).

Over time, I have left the Christian and the theistic fold. Still, I like to look back on all the influences on my thinking over the years, and your site was a big one. From your site, specifically the Nearing Midnight weekly commentary, I developed my interest in politics and my interest in how Christianity relates to the world's varying perspectives, which led to my interest in philosophy, which is now a very big part of my life.

Even though you and I are no longer in agreement, I just wanted to give you a big thanks. Looking through the site yesterday made me remember what an influence you were back in those days when I used to spend my nights looking up the word “rapture” just to see what information I could find.


I genuinely want to express my gratitude for his site, but I can't deny that part of me also wants to see my e-mail show up on the Interesting Email page.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Everything Dated Prior to this Post

Has been imported from other blogs that I've had over the years.

The posts have, in most cases, been edited either to correct minor spelling and grammar errors, to remove author's notes, to remove references to other blogs that were not imported, or to make certain stylistic changes that I am compelled to make (most images were added later). I try to keep the intent of the original blog intact (because seeing things that changed and things that stay the same is what makes importing these blogs fun, and to do that the old blogs need to say the same things they said back then).

The blog where I originally posted everything prior to "On Religion" has since been deleted. All other blogs will include a link to their original posting.

I would like to stress that the things written in these old posts often do not represent my current thought, but they represent the evolution of my thought. Although, I can't deny, that I often find some version of my current beliefs in these old blogs. It's comforting to see the consistency, but disheartening to see the sometimes small growth and change.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Obscurity of God and the Nightmare Box

Original Posting

It’s something that goes beyond life-after-death. What’s in the box is proof that what we call life isn’t.

Our world is a dream. Infinitely fake. A nightmare.

One look, Rand says, and your life—your preening and struggle and worry—it’s all pointless.

The grandson crawling with cockroaches, the antiques dealer, Cassandra with no eyelashes wandering off naked.

All your problems and love affairs.

They’re an illusion. “What you see inside the box,” Rand says, “is a glimpse of the real reality.”

-Haunted by Chuck Palahniuk

Let me start with a statement that I shall make no effort to argue for or defend. If you disagree with this statement, there is no need to even bother coming up with a rebuttal, you can simply disagree and move along. The statement is, as you read this right now, being furiously debated all across the internet as it is.

Humanity, as a species, has no good evidence to support the belief that God exists.

Now, this is not necessarily evidence against his existence. If God is, as many theists believe, omnipotent and omniscient, then it would not be difficult for him to avoid providing us with evidence of his existence. Unlike natural forces like gravity or natural occurrences such as combustion, God would be capable of resisting observation and obscuring himself. Indeed, if you agree with my above statement, and also happen to be a theist, I do not see how you can avoid the conclusion that God is obscuring Himself.

God, if there is a god, is a reclusive god.

Now, you may object that God has not really been silent, but in fact has revealed himself to us at various times and in various ways, most notably through prophets and holy texts. Even if one accepts a particular sacred text as the word of God, the fact remains that it should not be very difficult for him to give each and every one of us a personal chat wherein he explains himself as best as the truths of his nature can be simplified for human language, the fact remains that it is not necessary for modern humans to rely on 2000 year old records if God is indeed omnipotent. In other words, it is possible for him to give each of us our own personal revelation, but instead we are expected to rely on the records of revelations he gave to long dead prophets and teachers.

Even if he does speak to us, he is only whispering. For what reason would God whisper, if that is indeed what he is doing? Or for what reason would God be silent, if in fact humanity has never received any kind of revelation? Disregarding the atheistic answer, which is perfectly valid but does not make for a very interesting discussion, the most likely explanation is that it is God's will that he not be clearly known or clearly grasped.

Which leads me wondering why God would not want to be clearly known or clearly grasped. What is it that God gains or avoids by keeping us in the dark about his existence? If God is obscuring himself, to what end is he doing it?*

God, in most traditional conceptions, has desires, but never needs. Humanity has needs, though. I have a suspicion that the obscurity of God is best understood as being for the sake of humanity instead of being for the sake of God. To flesh out my suspicion as to why God must obscure himself, I turn to a subplot of a book I really happen to like.

In Chuck Palahniuk's 2005 novel Haunted, one of the stories concerns a device called The Nightmare Box. The box ticks, and while it is ticking it is just an antique oddity. Then it stops ticking. When it stops ticking, a person can lean their weight against the box, move their left eye to a lens, hold onto two handles, and press a button. After that, your life no longer matters. You give up college, you give up your career, you take out your jewelry, you no longer care if cockroaches crawl through your clothes, and you no longer see the need to keep your long, pretty eyelashes. You give up on life. It is no longer worth the effort.


Because the Nightmare Box shows you a glimpse of real life. It shows you that there is a more real life, and it shows you that this life you are living in right now is an illusion. None of your struggles, goals, dreams, or fears have any real significance, they are all just a part of a make-believe world. They are fiction. So you just give up. You stop bothering to make anything of your life because, well, why try to build a life here in the world of illusions when there's a real world out there somewhere?

Now, this is fiction, and this is human motivation filtered through the mind of one particular author. You can decide for yourself; if you knew, not believed, that there was a real heaven out there and that our world and our existence was artificial and unreal, could you continue living as though life mattered? Could you continue valuing your education, your career, your home, your appearance, your art, or anything else that you believe makes your life worth living if you found out that your whole existence was the equivalent of a video game or a novel? Entirely fictional.

Maybe you could. Maybe you could not. That requires introspection to determine.

Even if you could continue living your life, though, it would never be the same. It is one thing to simply come to the conclusion that life is an illusion; one can cope with that by remembering that this would also make us an illusion, therefore the world is still real to us. It is another thing entirely to come to the conclusion that life is an illusion, but also have something real to compare your illusory life to. The world would begin resembling a cartoon, it would no longer create the sense of weight and significance necessary for us to continue seriously living our lives. Even if you could continue living your life, everyday would be a struggle to stave off a nihilistic infection of the spirit.

What does this have to do with the obscurity of God?

Go read your Bible, and you will find a description of a God who oftentimes simply appears to be a human writ large. He is an almost relatable figure, although He is often offensive to our modern sensibilities. Nonetheless, in the Bible, God cares about the things that human beings tend to care about. He provides a code of laws, he gets involved in warfare, he gets involved with politics, he is jealous, he seeks glory, he has an opinion on good sex as opposed to bad sex. This is a God who is very concerned with what we concern ourselves with.

Now ask yourself if this sounds right? Are we not told that God is beyond humanity? Transcendent? Almost incomprehensible to us?

Imagine if you met that incomprehensible God. That God who is so far removed from what we care about, that he would make our entire lives seem insignificant by his presence. There is the first real entity you have ever encountered, and he simply is not concerned about the petty problems and your petty values that you concern yourself with. There He is: a Nightmare Box for the whole world.

Why do I say that he would be a Nightmare Box for the world? Because after being in His presence, it would be impossible for you to continue caring about anything in your life. How can you submit taxes after having an encounter with God, with all his apathy toward taxes. How can you form a relationship with another person, they are bound to seem like a shadow or a parody of a personality after having encountered God. How can you keep working your mundane job, knowing that it will not get you any closer to that extraordinary real world?

You may here object that I have fallen into utter speculation. After all, how do I know that God will not care about taxes? And how do I know that God's personality would be so deep as to make all other personalities appear shallow as a puddle? And how do I know that you would not be able to keep working because your only concern would be to grow nearer to that real world?

To this I would simply say that the search for meaning and the search for significance and value is one of humanity's most basic drives. To encounter something (someone?) who is literally more real than our world would cause our hearts to pour out. In our lives, as I believe I have discussed previously, we are responsible for creating our own meaning and our own value. In the presence of God, there would be no need for such an act of the will. The sense of meaning would be drawn out of us as soon as we see how fictional our world seems in comparison to Him. We may not all love Him, but it would be impossible to deny his significance. Although, I must admit that it is possible that he would be concerned with taxes, I suppose I just really hope that he is not.

And then what would happen?

I think humanity would screech to a halt. With such certain knowledge of God, all we would ever be concerned with would be God. We would all become like monks, devoting our lives to this entity, because nothing else would seem to be worth our time. Everything earthly would feel like trudging, we would feel like we were just playing a role or playing make-believe. Nothing would be able to create a sense of importance or significance in us. Once you encounter something that matters as much as God does, it would be impossible to feel that anything else matters.

Our earthly life would wilt.

So, if God is obscuring himself, I think that it is because he wishes to preserve this human world. He is obscure, so that by remaining mysterious he keeps us able to regard our own world as being worth living for.

*It should be noted that I am here making the very unwarranted assumption that God must be acting toward some end. This is an anthropomorphism. We believe that humans act toward some end, which causes us to impose that human trait upon God. My other presupposition is that, if God is working toward a goal, that goal is something that human beings would find valuable. It is possible that God's true end would simply be baffling to us because we would never think it worth seeking.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

On the Romantic Impulse

Original Posting

There is an impulse that drives us to want to be seen by another person. To have another person look at us and have a definition of us in their minds. We want to exist in their eyes, we want to have our presence acknowledged. More so, we wish to be significant, we want to find someone who will regard us as a significant part of the universe. Why do we want this? I suspect that it has something to do with what I talked about in my last Sunday Bullshit: all value is created by people. True, we can value ourselves, but we also want to be valued by another. We want someone outside of ourselves to say that we are important.

We want another person to step in and say, “yes, I value you. Yes, you are important. Yes, you are significant.”

“Yes, I love you.”

This impulse, the impulse to find someone who will value you, is one of the single most powerful motivators for the human character. This is often expressed sexually, but even apart from all sexuality I think that the impulse can exist. It is related to, but distinct from, the desire for sex.

How do we make sense of the world except through value? We, each of us, creates his or her own subjective world by taking our perception of the world as is, and then coloring it with our preferences and values. If our subjective world contains nothing that we find worth pursuing, nothing that we enriching, we find ourselves in a state of boredom and ennui. We, therefore have a desire to find something that we can pour ourselves into. Something that we can value, something that can occupy our mind, and drag us out of our complacency. This is the desire to love. The desire to value.

By and large it is quite difficult to find oneself valued meaningfully. This seems to be because we fall into one or two conditions: we either value very few people in such a way or we value many people in such a way. To be valued by one who is capable of valuing many, it does not seem a great matter to be loved by them. This is often the case with a group of friends, where it is difficult to feel any friendship to be particularly weighty if one is surrounded by many friendships. In the case of people who value very few people, it is difficult for most people to find a way to occupy such an elite position. This is usually the case when we talk about exclusive, romantic love: it is a matter of occupying a very elite spot in someone's life, of being valued in a very unique way.

Once in this state, we become full of jealousy and insecurity, because we dread the thought of losing such a position in a person's life, or worse, having our position reversed and becoming an object of loathing for them.

In order to get through life, it is necessary to hold only one-dimensional summary perspectives of most people in our minds; imagine if you had to view everyone you meet as a full and complete human being, it would be far too taxing. We have a limited number of people that can become real to us, a limited number of people that we can perceive as being complex, multi-layered characters. If you view someone in this deeper way, you have already begun to value them; likewise if you are viewed by someone in the way, you have already begun to be valued by them ('value' in this case being distinct from love).

There comes a point at which we wish to know a person more deeply. Not just their positive traits, either, no we want real flesh here. We want to know flaws as well as qualities. We flesh them out, we develop a perspective of them, and we allow a version of them to exist, writ large, in our subjective world. We begin putting stock in their opinion, because only by saying that their opinion is an important matter can we say that their opinion of us is likewise an important matter. We put stock in them. We build them up. We make them important.

And all we can hope is that, upon making them so important, they will turn and regard us as important as well. That we will be able to enter into a state of mutual valuing. The state of love.

It becomes tempting to lie at this point. We grow fearful that, upon being seen, we will be discarded as unsuitable. There is no satisfaction to be found if we give into this impulse, however, as it will invalidate whatever perspective they have of us, as we would know that it is an artificial creation rather than our genuine character. The only way to experience the full satisfaction of having another person value you so deeply is by allowing yourself to be exposed before them. This, in turn, leads to a certain dread and anxiety, as one is offering oneself to the other for judgment and fearing that one will not be adequate. Taking a shortcut and using falsehood, though, will make it impossible to achieve the full experience.

Upon entering the state of love, the state of mutual significance, one gets a feeling of rightness. A feeling of flourishing. One feels that their life, their subjective world, has been blessed, been made richer. This is why romance is often held to be intoxicating, one's outlook on the world is altered. The Other becomes a reference point for evaluating the world. And once the Other becomes so large to you, it becomes terrifying to even imagine leaving that state of love.

This is why some will go to such drastic lengths to remain in that state, and why it is difficult to exit the state and simply move onto another. In order to experience the richness and satisfaction of such a state, one must spend some time building up the Other's importance and significance. Simply leaving and moving onto another makes our own value judgments appear cheap. For this reason, for the sake of preserving the legitimacy of our own will and values, we will often go to extreme lengths to be with the one we have already built up in our subjective world.

So, there we have it, for week two, my account of how people come to value each other and forge a strong connection. That is my account of romantic love: a matter of people coming to make each other important in their own subjective world, of coming to regard another person as being worthy of being a reference point in our own evaluations of the world and life.

No doubt, the blog itself surely failed to be romantic.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

In Response to the Absurd

Original Posting

Nagel's Account of the Absurd

[The sense of absurdity] is supplied, I shall argue, by the collision between the seriousness with which we take our lives and the perpetual possibility of regarding everything about which we are serious as arbitrary, or open to doubt.

All human beings put effort toward living their lives. This is inescapable. As a living human being, all you can do all day long for the entirety of your life is live your life. However you choose to live it, the fact remains that that is where your efforts are devoted. At the same time, as a human being, you are capable of looking at your life from another point of view; you are capable of allowing your perspective to step back to survey your own life from an outside view. Upon doing so, you find that all the motivations driving you and all of the justifications for your actions can seem arbitrary, you can see that all of the things that you consider good for their own sake could just as well be seen as not good or as unimportant. Upon seeing your life from this perspective, however, nothing really changes, you are still living the same life you were living before you stepped back.

This, according to Nagel, is where the absurd comes from. The fact that we can see how much of our lives is arbitrary, but that we continue to live that life just as seriously as we did before we saw ourselves that way, causes us to feel that our life is in some way absurd. In some way a pretension. That the seriousness and difficulty of our life is not congruent with the fact that we suspect all of our goods are arbitrary or at least open to doubt.

He proceeds to argue that there is no good and no cause that we cannot doubt, and consequently, it is not that the world has failed to supply us with meaning, but that we ourselves are capable of doubting anything we might find meaningful. The absurd comes not from the world, for there is no possible world in which we might not doubt, but rather comes from ourselves.

Upon taking this step back, to look at our lives from the outside, we still must continue with our seriousness, despite knowing that our seriousness can be doubted and without having satisfied these doubts. This leads us to regarding our lives and our seriousness with a certain irony. We are sustained by our very natures to continue living our lives, even as reason and justification are called into doubt.

A Need for Facts; a Confirmation of Doubt

Our sense of the absurd is, for Nagel, bound up in our awareness of how arbitrary, specific, and idiosyncratic all of our goals and desires are. It's our awareness that what we are pursuing could be different. It is the fact that we can doubt our our goals, and really any goal, that causes us to feel the absurd.

This, it seems to me, is related to our need to believe in facts, especially among philosophical types. What I mean by the need to believe in facts is our need to believe that the propositions we hold as true are true or false independent of our perception of them. We have a need to believe that we are merely conforming to the facts of the universe, because admitting that some statement is true only because we have agreed to believe it is true lends that statement a certain invalidity.

This invalidity, I believe, comes from the fact that facts are facts no matter what humanity (whose mind is in constant flux) believes about them. If some statement is held as a belief, but is not also a fact, it appears invalid in comparison to beliefs which are held and are also facts. Anything that is dependent upon humanity is also dependent upon our fatigue, our hunger, our shifting moods, our shifting circumstances, our changing minds, etc., in comparison to unchanging fact, we find these to be invalid.

More deeply, though, is the simpler problem that any statement dependent upon humanity can also be rejected by humanity. Facts can be rejected by a human, as well, but in that case we say that the human is not living in reality. In other words, we tend to side with facts over human whim. In a situation without facts, however, all we have is human whim. All humans being equal at least insofar as they are all equally human, our most deeply cherished value or goal can be written off as insignificant by another person, and we would be utterly incapable of proving them wrong.

Nagel's “stepping back” involves the doubting of all of our goals and all of those things that we live for. What does this mean, other than simply seeing that we have no good reason for believing that our values are factually valuable? When we doubt our values, isn't that just us acknowledging that we haven't got facts to prove how valuable our values are?

And when we notice how arbitrary, specific, and idiosyncratic our values are, isn't that just us realizing that all of our value judgments taste like the beliefs that spring forth from our biases? In other words, realizing that we want what we want because of our natures rather than because of their natures?

A Restating of the Absurd

It would seem that the sense of the absurd comes not merely from knowing that our values can be doubted and then still striving to pursue them, but rather from coming to the conclusion that our doubts are correct. The sense of the absurd comes from knowing that nothing that we pursue is factually worth pursuing, and then pursuing it all the same.

When talking about the absurd, we frequently associate it with death, or with the extinction of our species, or with our insignificance in the universe (the “bad arguments” that Nagel starts his essay with). These are all situations where the importance of anything human is called into question. Then we mention these scenarios because that is how we are expressing the question: “why does anything human matter?”

For, that is what we are really coming to face, that upon finding no factual basis for our values, we have only a human basis for our values. All of our ends of justification, all of our good-for-their-own-sakes are only good because we will them. It is all very human.

Is something human worth pursuing?

Must We Continue Pursuing?

Until we die, we must continue pursuing something. There is simply no way not to. If we continue living our lives, then we are continuing to pursue all the guiding values and principles that govern that life. If we decide that suicide is the best course of action, then we must still pursue the principle that an absurd life or a human life is not worth living (another value judgment). If we try to transcend all pursuits, that in itself is pursuing. One may try to avoid all pursuits by merely sitting in a chair and doing nothing, in essence imitating the dead while sustaining his biological processes, but as soon as he shifts to get comfortable or eats to stave off hunger or even resolves not to shift or eat, he will again be pursuing.

It is inevitable, we must continue pursuing so long as we exist.

If we stop here, we are in a deeply absurd position. The question is anything human worth pursuing remains unanswered, all we know is that we have to pursue human values. In other words, life may not be worth living, but we still have to live it. How absurd it would feel to pour yourself into your life's pursuits without knowing why, only knowing that you must. This seems to be the prime flaw in Nagel's essay, he is content to let the issue stop here and simply recommend taking this absurdity as something that adds a little irony to life.

I would like to hope that we can do a little better than that.

Escaping the Absurd: Accepting an Absence of Facts

There is a way to escape the absurdity of life, and it consists of two steps. The first is to work through our need for facts and accept that value is not rooted in fact.

There is no factual basis for ending a chain of justification at any point, as that would mean that something is factually valuable for its own sake, and if that were true we would have no sense of the absurd.

Why then do we stop at that point? It is because of our nature, as Nagel says, citing Hume. I would like to state it a bit differently, though. All chains of justification come to an end because we come to something that we will for itself. And, it could not be different. No value exists in the universe, things are only valuable to someone or something.

Upon understanding that all value only exists to someone or something, we see that doubting a value is senseless. One only doubts statements that have a truth value, any statement that cannot be true or false cannot be meaningfully doubted. So, when one takes the step back and sees how arbitrary all of ones goals are, one can simply remember that they are valuable because he wants them.

The facts are not there. It is up to you to decide if you can still love something without it being factually valuable. Of course, if you say that something can only be valuable if it is factually valuable, you are in that very statement making a non-factual value judgment. Clinging to the need for a factual value means clinging to an absurd existence.

As an aside, it seems to me that we as a species have largely accepted the propositions necessary for this step (we largely have given up trying to find value outside of ourselves). Whether or not we have come to be okay with that, I am not sure.

Escaping the Absurd: It's All Human

However, working through our need for facts and recognizing that all value is human is not enough to stave off the absurd? After all, in all the despairing “bad arguments” that Nagel gives as examples, the person arguing seems acutely aware that all values are human. Isn't that why he binds the absurd up with human insignificance?

Nagel argues that there is no world in which we would not find the absurd, because it is our ability to doubt that brings it about. That is not really true, though, is it? If it were possible for a thing to be factually intrinsically valuable, well, where would the absurd have gotten to? Where would our doubt be if we could grasp that there was some good that was truly valuable apart from human will?

And so, breaking away from our need for facts only makes up half of the escape from the absurd. It causes us to stop requiring what is not there. The second half of the escape comes from accepting that human reasons are good enough. That wanting something is a good enough reason for calling it good.

“Good enough reason” is another human judgment, another matter of human will, for we are the ones who decide whether or not a reason is good enough. It is not a fact that human will is sufficient. Perhaps, you say, human will is simply too insignificant to care about. You may, of course, say that. However, it is your human will that is declaring human will insignificant. Since reality is void of value, human will is all that we have to create value, but you can commit yourself to nihilism by devaluing value itself.

You will inevitably lead a life that contradicts that nihilism until you die, however.

This calls for a value judgment. I am not one who believes that one must have the corresponding emotions to make a value judgment, it is simply an act of the will. So if you say “human value is enough,” then it is enough. If you say “human value is not enough,” then it will not be enough. To escape the feeling of the absurd, though, your emotions must eventually come to correspond with your value judgment. The first step toward that state, however, is making the initial value judgment.

Why Escape the Absurd?

There is really only one reason to escape the absurd, and that is because you want to. If you do not want to, do not find it to be a bother, or perhaps even find it delightful, then leave it be. Both steps of escaping the absurd are changes you make to yourself, one consists of making peace with facts, the other consists of making a value judgment. You are under no obligation to do either of these things.

All I can hope to have shown here is that one can escape the absurd without denying any facts or retreating into fantasy. That one can accept facts as facts and still escape the absurd. If I have shown that, then this blog was a success.


We need not live as Nagel suggests, doubting our goals, pursuing them all the same, and then living with a sense of irony about our lives. Nor do we need to resort to tragic heroics like Camus suggests, trying to defy the universe (I am here using Nagel's account of Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus is still on my reading list). Instead, we can simply recognize that doubting the value of a thing is senseless, and that the only judge of a thing's value is how much we want it. Any sense of the absurd is unnecessary, and we need not retreat from reality to attain an escape from the absurd.

After this escape from the absurd, there are two things that change for us, which I believe will have a practical and spiritual benefit for us.

First, any sense of the absurd that remains becomes a clue for us. When we start to feel a sense of the absurd in our lives, it may indicate that we are pursuing something that we do not really want. For those of us with a fickle will, we may be acutely aware of a certain absurdity throughout our entire lives, even after performing the escape and taking this perspective, due to constantly finding ourselves pursuing objects even when we are not actively wanting them. For those of us with a steady will, I imagine a sense of the absurd would make only very rare appearances in their lives upon adopting this perspective. This has the practical benefit of letting us use any feelings of absurdity as a call for introspection.

Most importantly, however, is that with this understanding of values, we understand that there is no need to pursue what one does not will. Upon understanding that we are responsible for all value in our lives, we are free to create our own values, looking at what we love and pursuing only for the sake of love instead of pursuing due to a perceived fact of the universe. Once we accept that all value is human, and we decide that human value is enough, we are free to create our own system of values.