I have to add "Heaven is a Place on Earth" on my list of highly irritating songs, right next to "Knockin' on Heaven's Door". A big part of this is that it is so repetative - for people who don't get it, imagine making a half-hour mix of the horrible bits of each song going on forever - someone would have to be stoned to keep swaying to such inane rubbish. I don't think the "heaven" reference has anything to do with it - Handel's 「Messiah」 is an incredible piece of music, regardless of it being named after an element in christian theology. I do find the fixation on heaven to be kind of weird though, the afterlife in general is, metaphorically speaking, a weird place in religious philosophy.
I don't believe in an afterlife, and am secure and comfortable with that conclusion. I hold that all we are functionally is a product primarily of our brain and partly of certain other parts of our nervous system, and when that ceases to function, that's the end of us as people.
Death doesn't really scare me, and I am pretty sure that the transition to death, fates permitting, will be like passing out or falling asleep. If pressed I'd say this has a 98% likelihood in my eyes, and from my main perspective I'd say that it not being more likely is that egoistic subjectivity is a very tempting illusion that manages to push back a bit against the scientific naturalism that I subscribe to as a whole. Enumerating the possibilities of death:
- Naturalistic materialist oblivion - Death is an extinction of the self, and the world goes on. As the brain ceases to function, I am no longer meaningfully an entity, and eventually the body ceases to function and live. I believe this to be what happens, accepting it and being happy with it. In the end I hope to have helped people be more fulfilled and to have manipulated and spread interesting ideas among people with whom I've interacted.
- Solipsistic oblivion - All reality is a dream, I am the dreamer, and when I die the rest of that illusion fades. I've never been able to dismiss this possibility entirely - it's not my main working theory, but it's not really disprovable, it makes more sense than some of its lower-ranked possibilities, and it does play to the ego. I don't like this possibility much - it pleases me to think that I've contributed in at least some ways to a real world that will outlast me.
- Single-bring looped reincarnation - Long ago in a discussion on Hinduism, I had an idea on how to solve problems of "conservation of self" across reincarnation (that is, if there are more beings alive now than ever before and all selves have past lives, some souls are presumably in fact new if we assume that selves are units). My solution was to allow a "next life" to be in the future or the past, and in fact to posit that there is a single self for all living beings moving through all of time and that all beings being one could thus be a strange kind of literal truth. I don't actually hold to this possibility in anything more than the most negligible way - it has some little appeal for being slightly cleverer than some of the other egoistic soul-accepting frameworks. I don't even take it seriously enough to have thought about if I like it - maybe it'd be nice to believe that in time the people I have liked are people I will be and I will know all the joys they know (provided those are not in fact incarnations I have already been), but that's just an off-the-cuff estimation.
- Data constructs - This is at present the most serious contender against naturalist materialist oblivion, and even still it seems kind of unlikely to me. I've talked about it a bit before - under it, we understand intelligence as being a characteristic of a pattern of states of information, and the instantiation of these patterns in a physical universe both undecidable and unimportant. Branching subjective universes and personal development are very large in number, the pattern-space being infinite in character. I believe this to be a much more generalised brain-in-a-jar scenario. Death in such a framework, if there is a physical universe, would thus be a divorce of the accidental grounding of the pattern in reality and might lead to insanity, or might be oblivion, or might be a progress into extended dreams. In fact, all of these would happen to some branches of the dataflow that so far I call me. There are a few problems I have with the idea of adopting this as a worldview, although it feels plausible. First, it is not a practical belief - there is a subjective universe I live in, and the perspectives I've used so far have been fruitful - this does not promise any greater depth of experience than what I can have with a simpler perspective - just like with a brain in the jar that happens to be a scientist, I may be discovering reality that are invisibly-to-me shallow, but if I can never step outside of them they are not functionally different from a deep reality and the distinction is functionally moot given where I stand. Second, it has no predictive power and offers no functional grounding on the nature of things. It may be paired with modified versions of other perspectives to have such things, but intrinsically it doesn't get me anywhere. I am also fairly scared of this possibility - I don't want to live forever, endlessly branching with some of me exploring the darker realms of myself, potentiality, and the like. In such a model there may be branches that acquire the oblivion I want, or alternatively some human-traditional afterlife that I would actually find acceptable, but a lot of me would be suffering. I should note that this idea comes in versions that are solipsistic and those that are not... er.. actually, no, I think this might be a perspective that would rule out solopsism in a cute way. Hmm.
- Mosaic Afterlife - (mosaic in the sense of an afterlife like that described in one of the religions claiming inspiration by Moses). Judaism as I understand it doesn't describe an afterlife with much detail - Islam and Christianity suggest some kind of continuation into a new and distinct existence after death. I almost never think about this - while I can admire Islam and Judaism for having a reasonably clean theology, I don't believe them to be at all likely. The "live and have another long existence afterwards in some different reality, the specifics possibly depending on how one has lived one's first life" doesn't seem like it has much of a point nor does it have an appeal. I find this possibility pretty repugnant, particularly the notion of being judged by some foreign value system. If I ever came to believe that gods existed, it would be much more unlikely that I would ever either accept that I have an obligation to adopt or live by their value system or to hold that their value system is intrinsic in the nature of things. Were such things real, I would be prepared to disagree with one or more omnipotent and omniscient gods on value systems, because I hold that value systems are inherently subjective. I may be harmed without my consent by such beings, but I cannot be punished or forgiven by such beings in the deepest sense without my consent and unless the actions in question are viewed relative to the value system in which I operate. I may fail to live up to my value system, and there are some things I have done for which I have not forgiven myself, but these things might not even be wrong by Islamic, Christian, or Judaist value systems, and likewise there are things that I have done that might be wrong by those value systems but for which I am unrepentant because they are not wrong or even problematic by my value system.
- Ghostlike slumber - A "turned-down" dreamland where I live in a foggy and traversible version of every experience I have had in life, with the ability to try to dream up new things but with none of the external influx of new ideas and experiences as source material, this going on forever. Intellectually, this idea has no appeal, but emotionally, it's been a strong fear I've had for a long time. I'm terrified of it because it combines profound stagnation and lonliness, two things that already are wreaking havoc in my mental life. Making this complete without even a theoretical possibility of end would complete the nightmare. I kind of explored the far end of this possibility with the one "webcomic", Oyschlisn (Yiddish for separation) I've put up so far - I believe that in such an existence sanity and memory would slowly lost with only a few of the passions and motifs of a personality remaining long after the rest is gone.
Note that "if I like it" neither should nor does have much weighting on what I hold to be true. I am comfortable with oblivion and want it after death, but when I came to the conclusion that that awaits me (us), I was pretty neutral on it.
(I should note that the word 「Solipsism」 is one which I have enormous difficulty remembering how to spell - parts of me keep trying to "correct" it to the non-word 「Soliphism」. It's embarassing, particularly given that solipsistic arguments are the best way to unravel philosophies that reject some form of the pragmatic-empiricist foundations of modern mental life - it is only by accepting the pragmatic (ungrounded in the logic-as-foundation-ist view) steps of and needed for establishing empiricism that we can begin to build a coherent and honest worldview. Someday I will get the spelling and pronunciation right. Maybe.
Drawing: I'm really looking at how people's faces are positioned on their head, and aside from the "oh no another way to view people as objects rather than someone *I* can actually interact with" intuitions, the variations in face positioning makes me feel less worried about face placement in sketches. I think approximating soft borders when I don't draw them and learning to draw them when I like is probably more important than getting first-level placement correct (although making sure the features wrap correctly and fit with each other will be necessary).
Seeing all the happy couples in this nice weather certainly inspires bitterness, but I'm still in a relatively good mood today. I am a bit bored and lonely.. Crazy Goat, as usual, has reasonably good tea, although their walls are amazingly and bizarrely yellow.
The webcam in my current main laptop is as nice as the external USB webcam I bought to talk on Skype with Lizza a few years back. Maybe that webcam should be attached to my PlugPC. I could presumably yell at my cats with prerecorded yells from my TV PC if I see them misbehaving from my office using the camera attached to the PlugPC.