The Kodachi (Part 4 of 5) -- I Am A I

[Note: for Part 3 of this auxiliary series, click here.]

Okay, admittedly, if I go up to an atheist-on-the-street and I ask what her core belief is, as an atheist, she will probably say: "I don't believe God exists".

She will probably not say: "I believe the Final Fact is only reactive."

Nor is she likely to say this, if I press her on what it means for God to not-exist.

What she will probably come down to, sooner or later, is: "I don't believe a Person exists Who made the world or does anything else."

If I ask her whether she is a person, however, she will probably say: "Yes."

In fact, she is likely to say: "Of course!"

If she is being especially reflective, she might say: "I don't know."

She will probably not say: "I am not a person"--unless she is devotedly following a metaphysic that teaches her she is not a person.

But even philosophers who consider themselves to be nothing in the zero sum, or who consider themselves to be illusions of conscious will, still expect to be paid by their employers. They will insist they have rights. They will prefer not to be plagiarized or libeled.

Even a guru who says to us "I am not a person", expects us to treat him as a person.

And even if he renounces all material connections (such as followers, for instance) and goes out into the desert alone to starve--he still will find himself fighting the temptation to say "I AM... not a person."

If he is honest, and understands what he is doing.

Such people would never be reading this book, of course. They would not be where I am. And they would be doing their best not to listen to me if I went to them--for I would be only one more illusion.

I do feel very sorry for them, though.

They would think my pity is an illusion, too.

But, by default, I cannot be talking (now) to them; for they would never even pick up this book. I am talking to you, my reader.

I am... presuming I am a person, who (as a person) can do things. I am making my own contribution.

I am... presuming you are a person, who (as a person) can do things. You can make your own contribution.

This is the Golden Presumption: I can act. I do act. I extend this presumption to you as well, my reader.

Maybe I am presuming wrongly. Maybe I cannot act; because 'I' (as an 'I') do not exist.

All I can say... but if 'I' cannot act, then 'I' cannot even be saying, "All 'I' can say is if 'I' cannot act then 'I' cannot claim to be a person--nor make any other claim."

'I' must be able to act, even to deny that I can act.

This does not prove I can act.

It does prove that I should not accept any contradiction of the Golden Presumption as being true.

And atheists are quite aware of the implications of this.

When they want to be.

Atheism requires that the Final Fact does not act.

In practice, atheists require that they themselves can act. Even the atheists who deny they can act, will require they can act.

Why would a philosopher deny she can act?

In order to avoid the implications of a real action capability.

This doesn't stop her from expecting royalties from any books she writes on the subject, of course--she insists on her own personal responsibility, when it is to her credit to do so. She insists on her own personal responsibility when proposing that she does not really have any personal responsibility.

This is humorous. The other main branch of atheists get the joke quite well. The total react-er is contradicting the Golden Presumption, and so is contradicting (literally!) herself. What she is proposing cannot possibly be true.

Instead, it must be true that actions exist--especially the actions of atheists themselves. No problem.

These actions must (per atheism) be produced by, and only by, reactions.


It is silly to claim that a brick house has no bricks in it.

And even if, for purposes of argument, we allowed that the word 'brick' is so nebulous as to let us to safely propose that a brick house can possibly have no bricks in it--we wouldn't be able to use 'no bricks' elsewhere in a real sense.

Atheists, to put it analogically, think the Final Fact has no bricks.

This is also humorous. And the total react-er atheists get the joke quite well. If foundational reactions mean no-Person (in the case of God), then foundational reactions cannot later mean person (in the case of Man).

This is why the total react-er atheists insist on the chain of property transfer. Actions, if they did exist, might produce reactions--an Act-er might cause reactive results--but reactions only produce more reactions.

Each side sees the contradictions of the other with admirable clarity. Each side rejects the contradictions of the other, because those are contradictions.

Yet they don't also reject their own contradictions.

Because then atheism would be concluded to be false.

And not-atheism would be concluded to be true.

Maybe I do only react and counterreact. If so, and if someone tells me the Final Fact also only reacts and counterreacts, then I might as well conclude the FF is also a Person.

But an atheist will say that the structure of my thinking organ, my brain, is what makes the difference between me being a person, and the FF (usually Nature) not being a Person.

It is not that my brain is more complex than the total field of Nature--my brain certainly is not! But it does have certain arrangements that are complex, in specific ways, distinct from other portions of Nature (such as, for instance, this book you are reading).

Can that possibly make a difference?

One type of atheist will strenuously claim it makes all the difference between reaction and action.

The other type of atheist will strenuously claim it cannot possibly do any such thing--but it does make some other crucial kinds of difference.

You may notice this has parallels with the question of computer AI.

One type of atheist believes that if we just get those reactions and counterreactions complex enough, in the right ways, intentive actions will be produced as a capability for the computer--just like with us.

The other type of atheist believes that no amount or arrangement of reactions and counterreactions will ever produce a single action; although they readily agree that after a certain point we will be unable to keep track of the complexity and so it will look (to us) like the computer is acting. This is highly evident even in toys designed to amuse us. "My Furbee loves me!" my little cousin used to say--before she grew up and learned better. Flip a series of drawings at high enough speed, and they seem to move by themselves. The efficiency of the reactions, is the crucial difference--so such atheists think. (And so such atheists think they are thinking!)

Either way, a lot of atheists are quite sure that sooner or later they will be able to demonstrate, with AI (one way or the other), that human thinking only needs to be considered in reference to ultimate reactions.

And here comes the hole.

The human thinking they are hoping to explain in this way, is the human thinking they are using to make their explanation.

So what if computers become complex to the point we cannot keep track, and it looks like actions? We've been in that situation ever since we invented computers! I can't keep track of what is happening in my Macintosh already. I can't keep track of what is happening in a game of Pong released in 1980. I doubt I could keep track of what was happening in the punchcard computer my mother helped operate, back in the 60s.

Nothing new (in this scenario) will ever be added to the mix--the illusion will only become more difficult to detect. And we already know what the implications of this illusion are. My cousin's little Furbee is not a person. A much better illusion cannot really change that.

On the other hand, so what if it happens to be possible for reactions to produce actions inside a computer? The atheists who hope to prove it is possible by doing this, are already presuming it is possible--in their own thinking (relative to atheistic philosophy)! They might as well have stopped with the flat assertion. Nothing at all will be accomplished if they did succeed--except to distract attention from the real question.

Does it matter whether we (not the computers) are persons, or not?

All of us say 'yes' to this--except those persons who understand the metaphysical implications of saying 'yes' to this, and so who then (temporarily) say 'no' to avoid those implications.

It isn't wrong to try to use human thinking to explain human thinking. After all, I'm doing it myself right now!

It is wrong to try to presume a targeted conclusion, though.

This is why atheists, quite properly, do not accept Christians (or anyone else) saying: "If you will only start by presuming God exists, I will prove to you that God exists."

Similarly, I do not accept atheists (or anyone else) saying: "If you will only start by presuming we can justify an argument, we will prove to you it is possible to justify an argument."

Thanks, but no thanks.

Yet one way or the other, this is what atheism eventually requires.

We know what reactions at least sometimes produce, in regard to human thinking.

At least sometimes, reactions produce total drivel.

I repeat: we know this quite well. We know it so well, that usually the first conclusion we draw when we think someone's "conclusion" has been produced by knee-jerk automatic reactions... to discount the conclusion.

And to discount the relevancy of that person.

It isn't that the (merely reactive) conclusion must necessarily be false. We just don't trust the source. We want to hear from a responsible thinker (even if he turns out to be wrong); not a driveller.

No atheist would intentionally accept Christianity (for instance) on the ground that Christians are knee-jerk mouth-breathers.

No atheist would accept Christianity as a belief on this ground, even if Christians were proved to be exceptionally efficient knee-jerkers!

But atheists propose (in effect) that the Final Fact is an automatic set of knee-jerks. And this automatic knee-jerking necessarily produces all of our thinking--including theirs.

So why should I believe there is a difference, in their case?

"Because...!" says the type of atheist who believes there is a real difference in this case.

"Because...!" says the type of atheist who believes there is no difference but that the no-difference makes no difference and so can be trusty anyway.

This is a mutually exclusive option set. Either a difference can be made, in this set of ultimately automatic events--or not.

And either way: they are presuming their conclusion.

The details of their explanation attempt are irrelevant.

We cannot reliably prove that this time the proof can be considered reliable--because we will already be presuming that this time the proof can be considered reliable.

We cannot prove there really are such things as proofs.

And, we cannot prove we don't have to have proofs.

But we will end up trying to do one or the other, for the sake of our own claims as thinking people--if we propose atheism.

If we propose atheism, we end up attempting one of two impossible tasks:

justifying the Golden Presumption.

denying the Golden Presumption.

Atheism must be false.

Not-atheism must be true.


[Next up: A Conclusion That Begins. (Also, not necessarily "period"...!)]


Jason Pratt said…
Registering for comment tracking.

If someone notices that this formal argument in favor of theism (or not-atheism) vs. atheism, amounts to an application of the Golden Rule (do as you would be done by; love your neighbor as yourself), I certainly won't mind. {g} Relatedly, we'll be getting back to the "true love" connection in Part 5.

I would also be curious to see if it's possible for an atheist to set up an argument vs. theism an in favor of atheism, by a similar formal appeal to respect for ourselves and for other people as responsible persons. (I could point to some arguments from atheists that proceed on the ground of formal disrespect for their opponents at least, as well as disrespect for themselves as persons when that looks immediately convenient... {wry g} But obviously those arguments are not the same thing. Rather the reverse!)


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