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Old 05-27-2012   #11
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Re: Against Anti-Humanism and the Conspiracy?

Quote Originally Posted by Evans View Post
It's almost a paradox: if The Conspiracy is wrong it still has definite value but if it's right and there is no meaning it has no value at all ...
This is what I was attempting to say in recent comments on the thread asking whether TLOers agree with Ligotti's philosophy or not. You've put it much more succinctly.

I would also like to see a world in which everyone had read TCATHR. This is my own personal relation to the work: I take it seriously enough that I don't just think, "Hey, this is pessimistic - cool! I'm going to wear a black T-shirt and pretend I don't care about anything." The issues dealt with in the work are of very deep concern to me, and for that very reason, I find it strange when people do blithely treat it as if it's some kind of cool fashion accessory.

Let's say, for now, that the work is either right or wrong in its assessment of the prospects faced by humans in the universe. (It could actually be half-right, or something.)

If it's right: Well then, I would agree that a voluntary end to procreation is the best thing.

If it's wrong: Then we certainly need to know it's wrong, not just assume it's wrong.

It might be easier to come to a more satisfying conclusion about this EITHER WAY, if everyone in the world were working on the problem.

I myself have no evidence that there's any justification in procreating. Even if I were very hard up for cash, I would not donate to a fertility clinic... ever. But, I haven't ceased to look, to think, to hope, etc.

“Specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart; this nullity imagines that it has attained a level of civilization never before achieved." - Max Weber
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Old 05-27-2012   #12
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Re: Against Anti-Humanism and the Conspiracy?

I wouldn't really identify as a pessimist, but I haven't read TCATHR all the way through, so it's hard to refute. Some of it I agreed with as I do have a misanthropic streak (or at least an anti rat-race streak). But generally when it comes to existentialism I am interested in those who face then seek to transcend pessimism in some personal way.

By temperament, I don't feel the solution to the legitimate issues raised by pessisism is anti life. I think a profound intensification of the experiance of being truely alive is a better way and a better goal. I suppose that isn't the goal of the pessimists or those who are satisfied with life as it is.

... surely anti life isn't the answer. Imagine not being alive to experiance the upcoming Bruno Schulz anthology. Good greif!

Last edited by Draugen; 05-27-2012 at 04:25 PM..
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Old 05-27-2012   #13
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Re: Against Anti-Humanism and the Conspiracy?

Quote Originally Posted by Draugen View Post
By temperament, I don't feel the solution to the legitimate issues raised by pessisism is anti life. I think a profound intensification of the experiance of being truely alive is a better way and a better goal. I suppose that isn't the goal of the pessimists or those who are satisfied with life as it is.
I don't see the seeking of profound intensification of some experience of being alive as necessarily incompatible with belief in the ultimate meaninglessness of life and belief that the relative meanings in life are not worth all the abominable horrors that have always been a large part of a large portion of conscious lives and to one extent or another every conscious life. Personally, I think certain kinds of profound intensifications have improved my state of mind and mental well-being but I am still philosophically pessimistic.

But intelligent philosophies can be interesting to me even when they don't confirm my personal philosophy. If someone tells me something I already believe, it's old news.
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Old 05-27-2012   #14
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Re: Against Anti-Humanism and the Conspiracy?

"It is hazardous to think," says Jorge Luis Borges, "that a coordination of words [...] can have much resemblance to the universe. It is also hazardous to think that one of those famous coordinations does not resemble it a little more than others, even in an infinitesimal way."

Who knows?

We all work within the mystery of sentient existence and only having language to delineate our experience.

Mark S.

"You have no idea how much nastier I'd be if I were not a Catholic. Without supernatural aid I would hardly be a human being." Evelyn Waugh
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Old 05-28-2012   #15
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Re: Against Anti-Humanism and the Conspiracy?

Quote Originally Posted by qcrisp View Post
Let's say, for now, that the work is either right or wrong in its assessment of the prospects faced by humans in the universe. (It could actually be half-right, or something.)

If it's right: Well then, I would agree that a voluntary end to procreation is the best thing.

If it's wrong: Then we certainly need to know it's wrong, not just assume it's wrong.
I don't think we're ever going to have some kind of absolute proof that TCATHR is wrong, because there will be those in favor of procreation because it suits their personal agendas (hedonistic, wanting kids to perpetuate their particular culture, etc), and they always outnumber the anti-natalists, so there's no way to put it to the test.
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Old 05-28-2012   #16
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Re: Against Anti-Humanism and the Conspiracy?

The idea of a moratorium on all world activity in order to stage a conference on whether life is worth living/perpetutating is deeply appealing. I'm sure Borges would have loved it.

As DoktorH said, though, people will always be able to justify procreation to themselves if not to other people. Regardless of the philosophical debate, procreation is considered by most to be an untouchable human right. Cries of 'fascism' and 'eugenics' immediately arise if anything to the contrary is even so much as hinted at.

But as Q Crisp said, it would be good if everyone had read TCATHR and if life's meaning were being discussed everywhere. Sadly, the hedonic treadmill and the world's never-ending supply of divertissements make that highly unkilely. Look as if only an asteroid can put an end to the Nightmare Factory:-)
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Old 05-30-2012   #17
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Re: Against Anti-Humanism and the Conspiracy?

[quote=qcrisp;80395]
Quote Originally Posted by Evans View Post
I myself have no evidence that there's any justification in procreating. Even if I were very hard up for cash, I would not donate to a fertility clinic... ever. But, I haven't ceased to look, to think, to hope, etc.
Mostly they'll pay you to - no donating necessary. Heh. I'm all for the smart folks "donating" their dna. Hell, do an insemination tour of the world's sperm-banks and get your seed out there - it may just save us.

Mark S. That Borges quote is right on the money.

To talk into my own navel some on the topic of soap-boxing defeatism; feel free to skip - there's some bad-language, fragmented sentences and poorly thought out emotive reasoning:

I think the emerging culture with it's instant gratifications, distractions, promises of techno-utopias and rock-stardom to all &c. have been keeping culture in an extended holding-pattern of adolescence.

Some adults I've met in the last few years have entirely missed out on the very natural and normal transition into adulthood from this extended teenage-dom as a result; which comes with the realization it's /all/ make-believe, objective reality is irrelevant as we live with our day to day lives and whatever lie holds them together enough to maintain, that lie is evolving frequently (remember when we believed in fairies? Conan Doyle I'm looking at you,) we mean very little but for our role in the greater community, and we need to contribute back to make the world we want our descendents to live in (as we'll be long turned to dust).

Anyone here who grew up in an environment where most kids dropped out of school to work in dangerous blue collar jobs, as the ONLY positive option (the other popular choices being necking oneself or a career as a drug-dependent criminal), would think it pretty splendid that anyone could have held onto the idea of all this make-believe stuff long enough to be jaded by it's absence. I realize it's not localized to big cities but I think it's where a lot of this crap comes from. Our ancestors would think we were mad for worrying over this stuff.

Big empty universe, check. Now make it a little less empty for the poor prick on the corner fresh back from Afghanistan to no home and the members of our own families who need a hand that don't have the luxury of a shiny pc to weep on.

Do your small part and it'll all come together just fine - just not in our lifetime - it's not something grand gestures will fix. We all need to contribute on a small scale. This premise is kind of the opposite of the banality of evil (google it) - making decency /actually/ common.

Start with calling your siblings and your folks and telling them you love them even if they're ####-birds, give your change to the alky on the corner just in case he's actually just hungry - even if you know he's not, ask the sad faced clown in the convenience store how his day has been, go donate a kidney if you have one to spare &c. - love your fellow man and you'll feel swell because you'll be living for that greater community rather than this myth of the individual; to whom it matters if beyond that emptiness up there is just more emptiness or not.

Thanks for reading!



Last edited by RaleC; 05-30-2012 at 01:15 PM.. Reason: vainglory
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Old 11-20-2012   #18
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Rationalism, Pragmatism, and Mysticism

As others have said here, the reason people aren’t clamouring to refute TCATHR is surely because most people haven’t read it, but the reason that in turn is so is because the book is so subversive. I think the unpopularity of that book, then, is similar to the unpopularity of philosophy in general--at least in North America. American philosophy, for example, is paradoxically antiphilosophical, and it’s called pragmatism. When faced with pessimistic or iconoclastic arguments, a pragmatist ignores them because a pragmatist doesn’t have the time for philosophical reflection in the first place. A pragmatist is like the man of action as opposed to the mouse, in Dostoevsky’s Notes From the Underground; a pragmatist acts without thinking too much. The more you think, the more skeptical and jaded you become, as you question more and more social conventions, until you realize that reasoning is an accursed mental process, since we’re free to abuse it (from a biological standpoint) and thus to prevent ourselves from being happy, from buying into the natural scheme of things, as it were, and procreating, settling down, and fitting into society.

On the one side, there’s rationalism which leads to something like TCATHR. On the irrationalist side, there’s pragmatism, which is mental servitude to what tends to be an ideology that serves the oligarchic status quo (“just keep your head down, work hard, and don’t ask so many questions”). But there’s another form of irrationalism, which is Eastern mysticism. A Buddhist, for example, might criticize TCATHR for presupposing the egoism that comes with an excessive use of reason. Descartes followed rational skepticism until he doubted away everything but his egoistic flow of consciousness. What really interests me here is the clash between existential angst, which is felt on the basis of following philosophy and science to their bitter ends, and mystical enlightenment which supposedly combines detachment with bliss. The skeptic, pessimist, or existentialist suffers from her alienation, whereas the mystic can doubt away the whole apparent world as an illusion, without suffering much, because she supposedly finds a deeper, more comforting reality, namely the oneness of everything.
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Old 11-21-2012   #19
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Re: Against Anti-Humanism and the Conspiracy?

Oh, man. I just realized this whole time I've been confusing "Anti-Natalism" with "Anti-Navalism". My position was being for the boat - but against the long-range nuclear first strike capabilities. Now I find out it's about babies I find myself thinking "Who cares? Those babies can't carry or operate a long-range nuclear first strike apparatus."

Unless they all got together...



Last edited by RaleC; 11-21-2012 at 01:17 AM.. Reason: Parse
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Old 11-21-2012   #20
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Re: Against Anti-Humanism and the Conspiracy?

Even provided the majority of people alive read and responded favorably to the book and even tried to implement its ideas in a literal instrumental sense:

Over-valuation of human consciousness seems likely to lead to problems with being anti-life. To explain what I mean, consider the fact that we take the consciousnesses of anti-life writers and philosophical pessimists seriously as discrete entities, when these consciousnesses are in fact aspects of (or possibly programs being run by) biological masses divided into organs and cells, and these organs and cells are very much pro-life and very determined to reproduce themselves. These consciousnesses (and ours) are basically ghosts produced by very small machines which are incredibly serious about consuming the universe and filling it with copies of themselves.

For example, if Ligotti slashes his arm, his cells will rush to repair the damage - "his" thoughts on whether the damage is worth being repaired will not affect them at all. But the language we use to construct philosophical positions is geared towards over-valuation of consciousness, since note that in the previous sentence I said "his cells," under the assumption that Ligotti's consciousness owns or is somehow in charge of his immune and autonomic nervous systems. But this isn't really the case, since to the best of my knowledge Ligotti (unless he has some kind of Shaolin monk powers) can't will these systems to stop working any more than he can will his heart to stop beating.

In science fiction there is the idea of Von Neumann machines, or machines designed only to consume matter and turn it into copies of themselves. And we are in fact made up of billions of tiny Von Neumann machines called cells. Cells are like Sartre, Hercules and Stalin rolled into one...and like the Bodysnatchers, since they want to consume everything and replace it with themselves. Micro concepts in human consciousness (compassion, meaning, value, suffering, love, hope, etc.) make no real impact on the macro world of the cells, which are concerned entirely with the continuation of their project. To get some idea of how serious they are:

1) The universe is not really that hospitable to life what with gamma ray bursts, asteroid impacts, etc.
2) All species eventually go extinct
3) Entropy means eventual heat death and total information loss

So, life is doomed to eventual failure (at least as far as we know with our present understanding of physics), but it continues attempting to execute its program as if success were guaranteed, not at all influenced by setbacks and failures. Life has essentially declared war on the universe and is seemingly unintimidated by the odds stacked against it. Anything we can think of that has meaning - whether negative or positive - has no meaning to DNA, all that matters is the continuation of its program. On the deepest levels, everything in your body is more alien and implacable than a Lovecraft monster. The eyes you are using to read this post are swarming with tiny microbial monsters made of acid and protein machinery intent on overrunning all of time and space.

Taking all this into account, possibilities for consciousness interfering with and/or defeating/destroying life:

1) Suicide without reproducing. Ineffective, because other forms of life will consume your corpse and continue reproducing.

2) Sterilization or extinction of the human race. Still not really effective, because cellular evolution and speciation will continue, and another intelligent species (possibly even one that suffers much more than human beings) could conceivably arise over the billions of years left in the universe. There is an Alfred Bester short story where the last man on Earth crawls into the ocean, and the contents of his intestines alone are enough to pollute the ocean with life, eventually leading to conscious beings arising again.

3) Conscious beings not only stop reproducing, but find a way to sterilize the world so that all cells are destroyed. Humans could conceivably build a weapon which would completely destroy/sterilize the Earth and annihilate all cells and molecular programs (viruses, etc. which may or may not be alive). This would seem to take care of the problem...except that life might still exist somewhere else in the universe, and its possibility might even be inherent in matter due to the interaction of various environments with various elements. So even if the human race went extinct, the universe (or the cells, assuming we're incapable of completely destroying or sterilizing them) might "throw up" conscious beings and suffering again. Life might be like a ghost haunting matter, always waiting to pop out when least expected and resume its routines.

To summarize:

1) Life is really serious about its project, much more serious than "you" are about any of "your" beliefs, opinions and values, even those "you" would be willing to "give up" "your" "life" for (yes, all of those quotations marks were necessary).

2) We cannot really know whether species suicide would end suffering even if we tried to eliminate all life, since conscious life might arise again and possibly suffer even more than humans suffer.

Note: I am aware that in this post I have anthropomorphized DNA processes which (as far as we know) are occurring blindly and without any kind of "will" as we would think of it...processes which probably have more in common with the laws of physics than with the "laws" or values which we've made up as abstract concepts. But there doesn't seem to be any way to discuss these processes meaningfully without slipping into some degree of anthropomorphism.
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