Somehow I feel the writing style for this guy will be a lot more telling than the VIs.
Some excerpts to get an overall feel for it:
Originally Posted by Suicide NoteHow far I can draw the implications of nihilism to life? To actively answer this question would constitute an experiment in nihilism: nihilism as a foundational premise for life. Nihilism as the highest organizing principle of a life. Such an experiment in nihilism would be an experiment in Western rational-empiricism for nihilism appears to be the MITCHELL HEISMAN 28cumulative consequence of the scientific approach to life. Nihilism is where science and philosophy meet. Is the proposition that life is meaningless a meaningful statement? Underlying the utterance “I don’t believe” are innumerable assumptions, unconscious impulses, and chance happenings. The disbeliever contradicts himself or herself in the very living impulses that make possible that assertion of disbelief. This contradiction cannot be eradicated within the framework of an examined life because it is the condition of that life. Nihilism could be interpreted as the inherent paradox of living a belief in disbelief. So called “nihilism”, however, is more unbelief than belief in disbelief. Unbelief is a condition reached through negation. It is not a positive expression of belief in disbelief, but rather, the negative cumulative result of refuting and recognizing the groundlessness of any and every instance of belief encountered thus far: lack of justification for belief in the authority of the state, lack of justification for belief in the authority of one’s instincts and emotions, and, lack of justification for belief that God exists. From a rationalistic view, belief in disbelief is self-contradictory. Yet I have yet to find a reason to think that there exits any sufficiently well developed system of thought that is not fundamentally self-contradictory. From purely rationalistic view, nihilism is self-contradictory; the nihilistic self-destructs. This is another way of looking at the postmodern self-destruction of reason. If rationalism leads to nihilism, and nihilism leads to disbelief in reason, then rationalism leads to the self-destruction of reason. If the philosopher maintains a life according to reason or as an embodiment of reason, then does reason lead the philosopher to self-destruct? AN EXPERIMENT IN NIHILISM 29Unbelieving in nihilism, I confront unbelief without believing in it. Because unbelief, so defined, is a not an abstract position, but the result of discerning a lack of ground for the various instances of belief I encounter, an experiment in nihilism so conceived amounts, not to the paradoxes of rational argument, but an empiricaldemonstration of the lack of ground for instances of belief. So instead of a purely rational argument, I will design and conduct an experiment to test the proposition of the meaninglessness of life. How far I can develop a nihilistic worldview or a nihilistic life? I can posit death to empirically test the implications of the nihilistic proposition. Actualizing a hypothetical death could experimentally test the consequences of a hypothetical nihilism. Willing death is, then, an attempt to live a nihilistic life.God is the greatest greatness; the most potent conception of absolute perfection, absolute power, and absolute goodness ever conceived of by the human mind. The conception of God is being beyond all conception. God is the power that overcomes all human probabilities and transcends even the greatest possibilities. But would it be even better if God actually existed? In 1078 St. Anselm offered what he believed was a proof for the existence of God. A being, he thought, can be conceived so that nothing greater can be conceived. This being would not be greater than anything conceivable, however, if it existed only in the intellect — its actual existence would be greater. How can one resolve the contradiction between this intellectual conception of God and the superiority of God’s existence? God exists. The potentially fatal assumption of this argument is that existence is superior to non-existence.7 The erroneous assumption that existence is superior to non-existence, or that life is superior to death, is a bias that has a strong basis in human evolutionary psychology. If, unlike myself, someone were to assume that even human existence is superior to non-existence, then death would be ranked inferior to life. The transhumanist quest for immortality, and all ways of enhancing life beyond present human limits, moreover, would follow from the assumption that existence is superior to non-existence. The Biblical God, in a similar manner, evolved out of an extreme extrapolation of the logic of human life. St. Anselm attempted to conceive of a being so great that nothing greater could be conceived. But are there human limits to our human ability to even conceive of the greatest greatness? It is one thing to conceive of the abstract qualities of God. It something quite different, however, to literallyconceive God in the way that an architect conceives of the greatest possible building, or an artist conceives of the greatest possible work of art. Is it possible to conceive God in the way that an engineer conceives, designs, and builds the greatest technologies? Would not the very greatestconception of God be conception as the designer, architect, or engineer of God? Before the human mind evolved, the very conception of God was not possible. Humans can conceive of the being of God. Yet if the existence of God would be greater, then howcould God’s existence be brought into being? If we could conceive the architectural blueprints for such a being, then would not building that being be even greater? Is it, in the 21st century, technologically possible to create God? If God is, by definition, that which is beyond the scope of human capabilities, how could humans design what is beyond human intelligence? It is a conceivable task just as it GOD IS TECHNOLOGY 35was conceivable for human software engineers to design a computer program that beat the greatest human chess master in 1997. While a computer engineer could not have beaten the greatest chess master, a group of computer engineers was capable of designing the software that could. Chess playing programs are a narrow form of artificial intelligence. The greatest being that is literally conceivable for human designers would seem to be a general artificial intelligence that surpasses all human capabilities. To technologically design an intelligence beyond the scope of all human intelligence could be conceived as the creation of God. A first pitfall in the plan to create God-AI is the belief that an attempt to build God amounts to an attempt to build an infinite being. Human intelligence — including the intelligence of the human authors of the Bible — was and is of finite capacity. This means that the finite intelligence of the human authors of the Bible was able to convince other finite intelligences of the existence of an infinite being. Just as infinite intellectual capacity was not required to produce the Bible and the very conception of God, God-AI would not have to be of infinite capacity. God-AI would have to be of qualitatively greater capacity, but not of infinite capacity, to convince humans of its God-status. The real question here is: how superior to biological humans would a postbiological being have to be to begin to qualify as God? From a contemporary scientific, cosmological perspective, the “infinite” God of the Bible created a universe that is remarkable, not for its infinite vastness, but for its remarkably finite provinciality. A vast, thirteen billion year old universe wherein the Earth is not even the center of its own solar system in a galaxy among countless galaxies almost humiliates the little “four corners” of a six thousand MITCHELL HEISMAN 36year old Biblical Earth. This Earth-centered “infinity” turned out to be remarkably finite. The raw contradiction between the pre-Copernican universe of the Bible, and pretensions to divine infinity, illustrates the point that God had to be only relatively superior to humans, not infinitely capable in all respects (even though God was conceived through aspirations toward infinity). In the Biblical story of Hebrew slavery, for example, the Egyptians represented the summit of human power on Earth. While the Egyptians were more powerful than the Hebrews, God, it was believed, was more powerful than the Egyptians. God did not have to be infinitely powerful, just relatively more powerful than the greatest earthly human powers. In the same way, an artificial intelligence-based God would not have to be infinitely powerful, but it would have to surpass the power and capabilities of all biological humans. The central story of the Jewish religion is that of a slave nation, oppressed by Egyptian masters, who are liberated though the will of God and, in return, engage in a covenant with God. For nearly three thousand years, Jews have understood what they are, and oriented their existential compass, in the light of this narrative. Yet the Exodus story is not only the central, root paradigm of Biblical religion. The Exodus paradigm contains the kernel of a larger paradigm shift in human evolutionary history that may culminate in the technological creation of God.Who is to say that the life of a saint, an artist, or a philosopher is superior to a life spent sniffing glue? While liberalism tends to be reductionistic on a social level, its mediocrity is revealed in its resistance to applying the same scientific reductionism to the level of a human individual. More specifically, liberals tend to resist the implications of the contemporary scientific view that human beings are material or physical things. Liberals are not at all fully nihilistic. In part, there is the practical belief in values vaguely corresponding to human rights. But more fundamentally, “secularists” implicitly believe in a religion of the common emotions. They generally believe that meaning is to be found in the material, biochemical processes that humans experience as emotions.They generally believe that it actually means something when these old biological mechanisms produce the familiar emotional routines. While one may feel compassion, does this mean that one lacks the capacity to discipline one’s self from being masteredby that impulse. That people are mastered by such impulses is only another confirmation of Darwin’s insight that humans are animals. Most humans are driven overwhelmingly by instinct and emotion. The “secular” belief in emotions is the last degenerate remains of romanticism and religion. The modernistic project did not destroy romanticism, it only reduced to a common level. Modernity and postmodernity retain romanticism by reducing the belief in emotion to the most common experiences, i.e. hunger, fear of death, and lust. The emotional joy of cynical laughter could be considered characteristic of the new romanticism. Emotions are at the root of myths. To engage in human relationships is to dwell within a mythological world. Outside that is, as far as I can see, a material, physical world indifferent to the existence or non-existence of humans and not discernable partial to the senseless will to live. To aestheticize or romanticize this experiment in death or this work is to misunderstand it. Most people are slaves to the aestheticization or romanticization of death. Yet if this mode of interpretation is valid at all, try viewing death, not as a tragedy, but as a comedy. If the progress of reason leads to nihilism, then Enlightenment levity might as well culminate in a punchline! If reason cannot determine fundamental values, then reason can be used to justify literally anything. A truly “rational regime”, consequently, would culminate not in a net increase in order, but anarchy, entropy, and finally, THE PUNCHLINE 1877 death. If life is not fundamentally more rational than death, then death is the endpoint uncovered by the quest to overcome prejudice in the name of Enlightenment. Were Nietzsche and the Athenians right about Socrates? Reason appears unable to determine values and, therefore, the entire Western pretension to rationalism is a kind of joke. And even worse, it’s not even a good joke. Yet I have to laugh. And as I laugh, I observe myself laughing. And as I observe myself laughing, I reflect that humans are material animals and that my own laughter must in some way be attributable to a genetic mechanism that evolved through natural selection. From a Darwinistic view, every capacity for emotion evolved as a product of genetic adaptation. Emotions, then, are biochemical-based illusions that evolved to propagate genes. Pleasure, happiness, emotions, and desire: these are the evolutionary tricks that promoted the survival of our ancestors. The “happiness” and “sadness” of present day humans are the genetically adaptations of generations of ancestors. This is “happiness”, the great goal of humanity has been striving for: a particular configuration of biochemical reactions. Why, not, then, drug one’s self into a state of “happiness”? If evolution had taken a different turn at some early point, a completely different configuration of stimuli would produce biochemical reactions of “happiness”. It just so happens, however, that evolutionary path taken by innumerable ancestors yields these particular, incidental, prejudices of human nature. Wild, untamed sexual passion can clearly be adaptive for propagating the selfish genes. The genetic program for these “romantic” behaviors, like clockwork, are passed on, generation after generation. Ancestor after ancestor executed MITCHELL HEISMAN 1878the same genetic program for romantic sexual passion, and contemporary humans are only repeating the script. The entire catalog of romantic behaviors from love to selective altruism has its basics encoded in the code of the selfish genes. Even as condoms and birth control subvert the genes themselves, people are still content to obey their genes towards genetically maladaptive ends. Such people “outsmart” their genes, only to be duped into belief that their instincts and emotions were something more manipulations by their genes in the first place. For some, the meaninglessness gleaned from a scientific view of life leads to nausea, angst, and nihilistic despair. I reject this attitude on the grounds that nausea, angst, and nihilistic despair also originate in material reactions in the brain. What does despair mean to someone who interprets that emotion as a chemical reaction in the brain? The process of disillusionment can also be disillusioned and de-aestheticized.