Philosophical Sketch: Shrinking Future Time

I’ve mentioned Shrinking Future Time (SFT) before, and according to the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, it isn’t one of the three theories on the ontological differences (or lack thereof) between the past, present, and future. As the name suggests, the theory is just turning Growing Past Time (GPT) on its head: the present and future are real, but the past is not.

My goal here is just to start setting up a motivation for further inquiry. Why think SFT is even plausible? Thus I’ll mostly be appealing to some intuitions to try to draw out the possibility.

Presentism has the appeal of, well, right now is all we can seem to access right now. The past is gone and the future isn’t here yet. Dinosaurs don’t exist, and neither do teleporters. GPT adds the past, while still acknowledging the present is special. The past did happen, after all, so saying dinosaurs aren’t real seems kinda silly. But the future is still left undetermined. The present is special as it’s the edge of the block. Eternalism is different from these two both in the reality of the future as well as the present not being objectively special. Subjectively, sure, I’m now, but I’m also here, and we don’t think here is more special than there besides that we’re here. So likewise tomorrow and yesterday are no different than now; I just happen to be now.

SFT clearly shares some elements of each of these, and comparing to space continues to be intuitively useful. In space, there are some places that are, and some places that are not. If we embrace presentism, a place can be and then not be. Or not be and then be. (If we embrace eternalism, it can be only at certain times.) Twenty years ago, if I asked you to go to Blockbuster and pick up a tape, I’d be making a coherent request because Blockbuster was indeed a place. If I ask now, I’m asking nonsense because there is no such place.

Regardless of whether it’s 2017 or 1997, here is always a place, assuming anywhere is, and Narnia is not. (It’s at least not real.) Now one may object already with the Blockbuster example by saying that all that’s changed is the name and maybe some local geography, but the absolute location in space is still there. There’s a patch of ground there that was there twenty years ago and whether the building on top is a Blockbuster or a Burger King doesn’t make an ontological difference here. So consider instead first Narnia. It’s not a real place, so a request to fetch something from Narnia is an impossibility at best. If the universe (i.e. the totality of all space) itself is changing size, then absolute locations (if there are such things) may exist and then not or not and then do.

What Blockbuster helps illustrate is an idea of accessibility. Blockbuster being there basically means it is in some sense accessible. Of course, we also want to say Neptune is a place, but as it stands, nobody can get there from here. However, there’s no deep (meta)physical restriction in the way like there is with places that just don’t exist, only a lack of technology. Presumably the ontology of time and space is not reliant on human technology. (Well, I think it probably is, but not in a way that seems to affect the plausibility of SFT.)

Let’s return to time. Like I can get from here to there, I can get from now to later. The restriction on the “there” is just that the place has to be real. If we continue the analogue, then the restriction on getting to another time is that the other time has to be real. The inverse also applies: if I can’t get somewhere, it’s because it’s not real (again, using this broad definition of “can”), and likewise if I can’t get to some time, it’s because it’s not real. Thus we have the accessible, thus real, present and future and the inaccessible, thus unreal, past. Thus, SFT.

An obvious presentist objection is that we can’t actually get to the future because we’re always in the present. Of course, by that reasoning we can never get there because we’re always here. What we have in motion through time would thus be akin to moving through space but obliterating every location as soon as you leave it. This seems to not be the case for space, but it looks like it could fit for time.

In sum:

  • The present obviously exists.
  • The future must exist for us to be able to get there.
  • The past not existing explains why we cannot go back.
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Philosophical Sketch: Shrinking Future Time

WP: Time Freezing feat. Naps

Today I have another writing prompt to respond to with philosophy instead of fiction. This time it’s about time. (Conveniently, time is another one of my favorite topics.)  Once again it originates from tumblr.

 

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Time travel is a surprisingly well-explored area in philosophy. Freezing time is similar to time travel in some ways, though I’ve yet to come across any papers involving time freezing. (A few quick searches on PhilPapers and in Susan Schneider’s Science Fiction and Philosophy didn’t yield anything, either.) So, here I will consider how time freezing would work given a variety of theories of time.

Theories of Time

There are two main questions to answer regarding how time operates, at least as far as time freezing is concerned:

  • Is the present special?
  • Do the past or future exist?

If the present is not special, the latter question is irrelevant. We have the B-series of time wherein all times are equal and “now” is just an indexical. That is, “Rick and Morty is on TV right now” just means “Rick and Morty is on the TV at 15:41 on 2017-06-29″. This is similar to how we don’t usually think of here as being special. I’m sitting here, but this chair is no more existing than any other chair.

If the present is special, then the existence of the past and future can be brought into question. If they both do, we have the full timeline already existing, but there’s a sort of “moving spotlight” going along the line, wherever that spotlight is being “now”.

The other extreme is presentism: there is only now. If we add the past we get the “growing block” theory wherein that which already has happened is still existing or real, but the future is still unwritten. The other option, wherein the future already exists but we burn the past behind us, is at least conceivable, though I’ve never heard of anyone thinking it’s true. Since it could make for interesting writing, I’ll consider it.

Freezing Time

So, let’s consider each of these theories and how freezing time would work. By “freezing time” there’s two possibilities. One is that time itself stops, but the freezer is able to move about. The other is that everything besides the freezer just stops moving. The latter is at least conceivable under any of the theories. The trickier bit is making time itself stop.

With the B-theory, time is just the sequence of everything that happens. Thus freezing time would be nothing more than many actions fitting into one simultaneous event. Now, for naps this might not be too bad. Naps already take no perceived time, so the napper would merely be energized all at once rather than with chances for interruption. Since time does not actually move with the B-theory, there’s really nothing to freeze. Since time is static in the first place, you can’t make it more static.

Presentism on the other hand has no time other than now, so to make now last longer has to mean something else. (Under any dynamic theory it is always now, but presentism adds the extra challenge of leaving nowhere to stall a spotlight or keep the cube the same size.) As far as I know, the best way to put time is as the changing of objects. This would mean there really is also nothing especially temporal to freeze. All objects would quit changing, less the ones the freezer interacts with, and this is all there would be to time being frozen. As far as a nap goes, since perceptions while napping do not change, napping is already effectively freezing time, just with a jump at the end.

The moving spotlight offers a nicer example of time actually staying still. While the freezer moving about would be tricky to explain without appeal to other things not, it may instead be explained as the freezer being able to move while the spotlight stays still. The trickier bit for this and the next two theories is that the spotlight staying still (and being able to change as it does) is that it brings in a sort of hypertime. Time may move at one second per hypersecond, and then some power enables you to maintain your hypervelocities (length per hypertime) even as velocity (length per time) becomes undefined because no time passes as you move. (The trickiness with hypertime is that if there’s hypertime, why not hyperhypertime, hyperhyperhypertime, etc. In fact, a whole arms race could be made of this! Alice can freeze time, but then Bella can freeze hypertime. And then Carly can freeze hyperhypertime. With the right odd affinity for dimensional analysis, I’m sure this could be used for a unique plot.)

Naps would be less interesting here. You’d get a bit of extra rest by only using hypertime while time waits. That you continue to age would mean your lifespan would be shorter by some hours but the same length in hyperhours. (Or experienced hours, except for that you threw those away with that nap!)

Growing block and shrinking block (the handy name I’m giving to the present and future existing) operate in more or less the same way. Growing block is, for these purposes, moving spotlight with the future undetermined. That doesn’t really affect freezing time. Likewise, shrinking block is moving spotlight without a real past. (Admittedly, I don’t know what the payoff of that is. Maybe there is one, but usually the payoff of no past is nothing to determine the present. But since the future is already set, you don’t really get radical freedom.)

WP: Time Freezing feat. Naps

Ignoring values (is silly)

A certain article on the Huffington Post is making the rounds on Facebook among those opposed to the current actions of the GOP regarding healthcare. The main point is that the author cannot argue for caring about other people on the basis of their being people.

This cuts right to a common problem in popular discussions about most political problems right now: we have lots of arguments getting from a value to a policy, but the values themselves are left untouched, despite their being the crucial starting point.

I’ll move to the question of minimum wage because I think it more easily illustrates the point. Let’s say Larry thinks we should raise the minimum wage, and Ronnie thinks if anything it’s already too high. Larry argues that the minimum wage right now at full time is not enough for someone to get by on, so it should be raised. Ronnie argues that minimum wage creates a market inefficiency and thus should be chopped.

That Larry and Ronnie don’t necessarily disagree on the descriptive facts (minimum wage is not enough to get by on, and it also creates market inefficiencies) should indicate that the problem is not the descriptive facts of the matter. The disagreement is on the values driving the decisions, and that disagreement has to be settled first. The relative importance of making sure everyone can get by, everyone working can get by, unemployment is minimized, GDP is maximized, etc. has to be settled first. (Unless one option satisfies all of the values — in these cases the value question can be skipped, but they’re pretty uncommon unless you stumble upon a close cluster of values.)

My particular position and the progressive series of compromises going rightward illustrates the importance of settling the value question. In this case, the main value driving my position is that everyone should have enough to get by and their individual freedom maximized. An anarcho-communist system (as far as I know — the descriptive matter is less important for the sake of this post) maximizes this, and with such a system the concept of wages isn’t really there to have a minimum. Given capitalist, a move over to universal basic income makes sense, and with such there’s no need for a minimum wage, so then my ideal minimum wage given capitalism and a UBI is $0. However, if there is not UBI, then (again, as far as I know) people are best served with a higher minimum wage than the US currently has. So with the one value a wide range of incompatible policy options are optimal depending on the other givens.

Now, we may or may not agree on the goals. Usually there’s more than one in play, complicating the matter. I saw a clip from Hannity last night and, despite the usual anti-conservative rhetoric suggesting the otherwise, he made repeated appeals to helping the poor, unemployed, and uninsured. As it turns out, apparently a lot of conservatives aren’t monsters. Rhetorically, getting that first matter sorted out as the goal makes the following discourse much clearer. Getting the further goals into play and sorted out also helps. One may place more or less value on, say, keeping resources out of the hands of the undeserving, and who is deserving a further question.

For example, drug testing welfare recipients and pouring money into immigration control is, economically, stupid. However, that may or may not be the point. If the goal is to save money, then obviously don’t do those things. However, if spending a little extra is worth keeping money out of the hands of the undeserving, and either of those groups are considered undeserving, then that it costs a little extra isn’t an effective argument against it.

One more example: abortion. In this one, I see people even putting values onto each other. Every now and then I’ll see someone say everyone agrees that killing people is wrong outside of self-defense, and the whole disagreement is the fact of the matter of whether a zygote/embryo/fetus is a person. However, the famous violinist argument even goes as far as to use an adult person as an example of someone it’s okay to deny access to your body to. (For the unfamiliar: Consider a famous violinist was deathly ill and to survive required being hooked up to your body for a few months, using you as life support. The one making the argument says you’d be within your rights to deny him access or allow access and later change your mind.) Clearly some people value bodily autonomy over a dedication to the lives of persons. For these people, the personhood argument is a waste of time; the heart could beat and brain be fully functional at 1 week.

Ignoring values (is silly)

WP: Red Strings Extending Past the Sky (feat. Free Will)

Another writing prompt (with responses):

Image may contain: text

Off the bat, I have a little bit of a problem with the premise given it entails fate, but that’s okay, it opens the door to talking about the interplay of free will and fate. I’ll talk about that first. Then I’ll get into the possibilities of what an upward-going string could mean, be it aliens, celestial bodies, or (as I initially read it) the dead.

Fate and Free Will

I don’t imagine I need to spend much time showing how these two at least appear to clash. If you’re fated to something, that just means you’re unfree to avoid that something, at least using a fairly standard meaning of “fate”. Again, I’ll delineate several possibilities and then discuss the interesting options:

  1. You are bound to end up with the person you are fated to. Let’s bring back Ally and Bella and say now rather than twins they’re fated lovers. There’s no way they can go through life without ending up together.
  2. You’re bound to not end up successfully with anyone except whom you are fated to. Ally may date Carly for awhile, but they’ll never work out because Carly isn’t Bella.
  3. Fate influences events to steer you and your fated lover together, but ultimately you are free to choose. Ally and Carly could work out, but the scales are tipped towards her ending up with Bella.
  4. Fate is an impotent prophecy. The string between Ally and Bella does nothing and means only as much as they let it.

My first question here: In which of these possibilities is free will still an option?

What exactly fate is supposed to be is another question, but it doesn’t muddy the waters too much. The three options I see are some sort of divine power, causal determination, and a social story. By divine power I mean anything from what God set up for us to do in advance to a mystical energy that guides the universe. By causal determination, I mean if we live in a world where some sort of deterministic laws govern everything that happens, then in some sense we are fated. While it might sound silly to say when I knock the cup off my desk it’s fated to hit the floor, if complete knowledge of the particles in the universe could let you tell the life story of a newborn, “fate” seems like an alright word to use. These first two options work essentially the same, and fit quite nicely with 1. The third option, a social story, is more along the lines of 4. If your family has sold oranges for seven generations and they hope you continue, in some sense it’s your fate to sell oranges. However, this is totally compatible with you having a real option not to sell oranges.

What kind of fate fits with 2 and 3, then? Well, 2 could go with either of the first two options easily. Just because Ally is fated to not end up with anyone besides Bella doesn’t mean she has a fate to end up with Bella. She might just be forever alone. Looking at 3 requires a bit more because it demands some real possibility. It still works with the first two options if we modify them to be merely probabilistic or “leaning” in nature. On the divine end, God (or the universal spirit or whatever — I’ll say “God” from here on out) may not want to control but merely help you make certain decisions. A salesperson can’t make you buy something, but she can certainly try loading the deck in her favor. Likewise, God might not force Ally and Bella together, but nature may be set up so they’ll have all the best reasons to end up together. Likewise, if deterministic forces govern most of the world but leave freedom for people, those forces may overwhelmingly be lined up for Ally and Bella to have all the best reasons to choose each other. They may in their freedom betray their reasons, but nonetheless, the reasons were setup for them.

The compatibilist may here object that even with 1 Ally and Bella are still free. Even if the laws of nature or preordained story of the world demands they end up together, it is still they who choose to be together. That they are determined in their action does not change the fact that they chose what they did for some reasons. So when I say they have no choice, I’m mistaken. They totally have a choice, and they will choose each other.

I think these options illustrate the divide between libertarianism and compatibilism nicely. The libertarian simply cannot have 1, short of Ally and Bella ending up together by force and every other possible ending being taken away. Short of that, at the very least the two have the option to, say, kill themselves. They may choose to remain single. If the strings of fate only demand some societal role of togetherness be fulfilled, the mob may coerce them together as children, but if any choice of theirs is demanded, it must remain with no fact of the matter until they choose it, and what they choose must have no fact of the matter until they choose. That is, if they aren’t together yet, the statement “They end up together” must be neither true nor false.

I want to return to the loophole enabling the libertarian to have 1. Generally speaking, the libertarian requires free will and multiple actual possibilities for what choices may happen. (Contra the compatibilist who does not have this second requirement.) However, the choices don’t actually have to have any potency. Perhaps Ally and Bella are restrained from birth and end up together in some way not requiring any choice from either one of them. They may choose to reject each other but be physically forced into some bodily actions. In this case, freedom of the libertarian kind is still present.

The Skyward String

For better or worse, which of those four options and how much free will (libertarian, compatibilist, or none) is in play doesn’t really change the question of what it means for the string to be going upwards. The one important difference is that if the strings actually indicate an unavoidable fate, they must be indicating a possible fate. A clear case would be if we all have birthmarks on our chests with the year we die. You could not have the year 1999 birthmarked in this way because obviously you live past 1999. However, even the oddest options still have their possibility open for question.

The first response in the image suggests an alien. This is a pretty straightforward way about it. If fate demands possibility, this string would also demand contact with aliens within the lifespan of the person. (The prompt says “you,” so I’ll say your lifespan.) There’s nothing too outlandish here; there’s a lot of space in the universe, so some other sapient lifeforms being around isn’t out of the question.

The next suggestions are of celestial beings, interesting for being inanimate objects. (Well, unless a really wacky mode of panpsychism is right.) While objectophilia is certainly a thing, it is, to my knowledge, relatively unexplored. Moreover, this poses problems for the idea of a soul mate. Presuming being a soul mate requires a soul, this option is just off the table unless one of those wacky modes of panpsychism is right.

(What’s panpsychism? It’s the theory that everything is perceiving, thinking, experiencing, or otherwise of the same kind of thing a mind is. If you put the basic proto-psychic particles in the right shape, like a brain, you get robust consciousness. I’ve yet to see any literature discussing whether the moon could be conscious, though many physicalist (i.e. everything is physical) definitions of consciousness have to deal with the implication that solar systems or galaxies fit the definition. You would probably have trouble unbuckling Orion’s belt either way.)

The pilot option only makes me question what “beyond the sky” means in the original prompt. It might just mean past the point of visibility, in which case, sure, a pilot works. If it means beyond the Earth’s atmosphere (and pilots merely fly in the sky), then of course a pilot is not an option. Of course, if your lover is a pilot, they will likely be on the ground at some point, giving you a hint that way. If your lover is some faraway celestial body, your string will have some sort of regular rotation, sometimes pointing into the sky, and other times the ground.

Finally I have my original reaction: a dead person. As noted, with some of the freedom options, one of the lovers dying before fate can have its way is an option. Even if Ally and Bella choose to live as long as they can, Bella might be killed in a fatal accident. Say the strings appear when you hit puberty. Unfortunately, fatal accidents do not care about age, so Bella might be hit by a bus while Ally is only five, and then when Ally hits puberty, her string points skyward because it’s unclear which other way it would. Perhaps it points towards Bella’s corpse, though it’s not clear Bella is  her corpse. If Bella survives death, then either she is spatially related to Ally or she is not. If she is, then the string just points in the right direction — that we talk about the afterlife (or at least Heaven) being upward led me to assume skyward string indicated a dead lover, though any direction is in the realm of possibility. If she’s not spatially related, or if she does not survive death, then no direction makes sense, so Ally would be able to conclude her lover is not dead in such a way that she is not spatially related to her. (Or the strings have a special caveat for dead lovers.)

WP: Red Strings Extending Past the Sky (feat. Free Will)

WP: Twin Pain

From the writing-prompt-s tumblr:

You live in an alternate world where twins — fraternal and identical — can feel each other’s physical pain. You are an only child with no siblings. One day, suddenly, you feel a burning pain in your chest.

This prompt brings up a few problems. The first is of identity: what makes a pain yours? The next is an epistemic problem brought up by tumblr user askmissbernadette:

It’s called heartburn, learn to eat slower you hooligans

In a case where you may or may not have a long-lost twin, under what circumstances can you figure out whether or not you do? And if you can figure out that you do, how can you figure out that you can?

Identity

Let’s set aside your circumstances in the prompt and only consider the more usual case in this world of a pair of twins who feel each other’s physical pain. To feel someone else’s pain can take a variety of forms, particularly when the limitations of reality are lifted. Five levels are apparent:

  1. On the tamest end we have real-world recognition-based empathy. For example, if you see someone hurt, you recognize the hurt and are hurt in recognition of their pain.
  2. Next, also from the real-world, we have the sort of empathy where in response to seeing someone else having a feeling, you feel something mirroring that feeling. Of course, this is based on your perception of the feeling.
  3. A non-real level, when someone else feels a pain and it causes you to feel a pain through some mechanism. Maybe it’s magic. Maybe it’s really weird laws of physics. Perhaps a device that records their pain, sends a radio signal to a device
  4. A further non-real level, most easily explained by example. Say Ally and Bella are twins in the WP world. Ally gets hit by a hammer in her stomach and feels a pain in her stomach. At the same time, Bella feels a pain with all of the same properties in her own stomach.
  5. On the farthest level, we have the same pain in Ally and Bella. That is, Bella doesn’t feel the pain in her stomach — she feels the pain in Ally’s stomach. Within this type, she may have her own experience of the pain or, somehow, there is only one experience, though they both experience it.

Whether there are actually two options in 5 is itself another question, though. Is there more to pain than just the experience? The options are either there is some abstract entity of pain that is instantiated in the experiences, and thus one pain can be experienced multiple times or by multiple people or else there is only the experience. Perhaps, though, experiences can be repeated, within or across people. If, however, every experience is unique, then one pain can only be instantiated in two experiences if it’s itself some separate thing.

Are experiences unique? I argue they are. Our experiences do not come in neat, discrete parts, but rather messy wholes. When I see the glass on my desk, I don’t just see the glass. I’m seeing a bunch of things while feeling and hearing and smelling other things. Even with regard to the glass itself, it has a certain focus in my vision at a certain distance, and, most fleetingly, at a certain time. Moreover, I recognize it as a glass because of a certain cultural context. Rather than just seeing a clear cylinder with some color in it, I recognize it as a thing to pick up and drink from if I’m thirsty. My experience of it right now is as something not to drink from at this moment, but probably in a few minutes. Likewise, each pain and every other experience comes with a complex context that cannot be repeated.

If there are abstract entities, perhaps pain is one of them. In this case, if Ally gets hit in the stomach, the stomach pain entity is called upon to spawn itself in Ally. The same stomach pain entity is also called upon to spawn itself in Bella.

If instead pain is just the experience, we get the odd case of Ally getting hit in the stomach and Bella feeling that same pain. Here the difference from 4 is most evident. If 4 is the case, then Bella would feel pain in her own stomach. If 5 is the case, then Bella feels pain in Ally‘s stomach since the experience is of a pain in Ally’s stomach.

Of course, the prompt has you feeling pain in your own chest, so if 5 is the identity involved, you have no reason to suspect you have a twin. If 4 is, then we have to ask how the properties transfer. The most evident property of pain is its ouchiness. That is, pain feels painful. But if Ally feels a pain in her chest that’s six inches from her right side but also in her heart, but Bella’ heart is eight inches from her right side, does she feel the pain six inches from her right side or in her heart?

Epistemology of Pain-Twins

Let’s assume the fourth level is the one involved here, and you feel a pain in your chest. Can you figure out if a twin explains the pain, and if not, can you figure out if you have a long-lost twin?

As askmissbernadette brings up, you might just have heartburn. Now, this assumes you have that kind of pain. Even if you’re not familiar with heartburn, you can probably imagine a difference between simple heartburn and being shot in the chest. Likewise, you can imagine a difference between heartburn and being poked in the chest. If the pain is heartburn-like, odds are probably better you have heartburn than you have a long-lost twin, especially if you haven’t noticed unexplained pains up until this point in your life. If not, maybe there’s something. If you happen to have access to doctors and medical tests, that can further your knowledge of the odds either way. If some known, not-super-rare explanation can explain the pain, it’s again probably more likely that than a mystery twin. If not, you might have some reason to be suspect, though the point remains if you’ve made it more than ten years without noticing anything off, you’re probably fine.

This epistemic point undermines the prompt a bit. Little kids get hurt a lot. Unless they’re living unusually safe lives, they run into things, fall, scrape their knees, and generally exploit how quickly they heal. But if you’re nine years old and start feeling a bleeding pain in your knee while sitting in class or feel like you just ran into a wall while watching television, that’s when you’re going to figure it out.

Say your twin and you both managed to avert this. Can you find each other given the pain sharing? If I were that curious, I’d stab myself with a pen in Morse code to send a message. What if my twin isn’t in a context to understand Morse code? Well, some form of rudimentary message sending might be possible. Making obvious intentional pains would draw attention, if there are such things. Doing something like bashing your arm into a tree would generally be unambiguous enough. Getting a responding pain would be a pretty solid clue, though the question would remain why nothing was noticeable earlier.

Perhaps they were in a very long coma (this is fiction, after all) and after over a decade (or more) have finally woken up. Chest pain may be the first pain they experience upon waking up. Unless they immediately back into a coma, though, they will experience more pains. So while the chest pain alone will not put you on good grounding to conclude you have a twin, the series of pains thereafter that do not match your activities will.

 

WP: Twin Pain

Software (May 2017)

As I get ready for another reformat of my laptop, I’ll take a moment to consider what software will be getting put back on.

Express Burn Disc Burning Software seems light and easy enough. I got it because it came preinstalled and had no drawbacks for putting an ISO on a DVD-R. I might just get a different disc burning program, though.

FL Studio 10 lets me turn the MIDIs I make into listenable audio tracks.

Skype is the only way I have to communicate with some people.

Spotify lets me listen to pretty much anything for free, and its organization is a fair bit better than YouTube. Plus I don’t have to deal with Chrome’s attempt at handling memory.

4k Video Downloader 4.2 is the only program I’ve ever found that will download Youtube playlists in a variety of formats without making a fuss.

Sumatra PDF is light and lets me read my ebooks and papers. I may seek out something with better highlights and annotation powers.

FileZilla lets me easily move things on and off my wobsite.

HydraIRC is a nice IRC client. That’s about the extent of what I would ask of it.

SimCity 3000 is a very fun game.

Pidgin covers basically all of the messaging protocols. Notably XMPP.

Adobe Illustrator CS6 is great for making vector graphics.

Process Blocker is good for when a process doesn’t seem to want to buzz off.

Adobe Photoshop CS6 is a fantastic photo editor.

VLC Media Player gets the job done for video viewing. And the keyboard controls are nice.

Notepad++ is my goto text editor. Which I use surprisingly often.

IrfanView is good for viewing images.

Audacity for audio editing.

Google Chrome because of ChromeCast.

Windirstat for keeping tabs on how much stuff is taking up space.

 

 

Software (May 2017)

Path to idealism

A friend of mine suggested I should write up how I came to idealism, which I’ll do here. I’ll note up front that I do not think that I came to it through the best philosophical arguments, possible or actual. Nonetheless, the path itself may be elucidatory of rhetorically strong arguments for it. (It may well also just be a generally uninteresting anecdote, but in either case, the request is fulfilled.) I may as well also explain how I came around to agent-causal libertarianism and agnosticism regarding the existence of divine beings. They all tie together, anyway.

At the end of high school I was a generally stereotypical new atheist with a strong inkling of disillusionment coming out of having strong religious beliefs that fell apart (and were probably of a harmful variety, anyway). Along with this came an eternalist theory of time, incompatibilist determinism, and a general scientism. Ultimately, buying into a third-person methodology probably did a lot of this. When still a Christian, I appealed to revelation that couldn’t be verified with a third-person perspective. I was told that if something didn’t qualify as evidence for others, it can’t qualify for me either. This didn’t knock over the dominoes immediately, but once I internalized it, everything else started to fall into place.

My first semester of college I took two seven-week seminars that met daily. Each of the two professors were brilliant, and the latter of the two a theologian as well. At that point I had two contradictory beliefs in mind: (1) religion and theism are completely stupid and (2) these religious people/theists are brilliant and have thought hard about religion and theism. The latter option won given the stronger evidence in its favor (Dawkins and friends have very condescending things to say, but looking back, I don’t see much substance to those things). Of course, this didn’t defeat my atheism, but it certainly made me believe the alternative is plausible.

My third semester I took a course on ancient and medieval philosophy. In the class we talked about some sort of phenomena (either color or feeling or pain; I don’t remember–for the sake of not writing a bunch of disjunctions, I’ll assume pain) and the professor asked us to explain what they are, more or less. I identified pain as a neural state. I.e. pain is just an arrangement of one’s brain and neurons and maybe some other biological stuff. The professor responded that may have some causal or correlatory connection to pain, but is not itself the feeling of pain. I pondered on this for awhile and the distinction became immediately apparent. (This is when the door to first person methodology opened back up.) From this I inferred some sort of “soul” must exist. I used “soul” synonymously with “mind” or “immaterial self”. While now I know physicalists have a response to this, I did not know that at the time, so I was convinced. With this I became a substance dualist.

The next semester I took a class on early modern philosophy. I appreciated philosophers like Descartes giving me further ammo for dualism, but my focus turned more towards whether divine beings exist (or, specifically, God). Descartes’s Meditations persuaded me pretty well, particularly on how we can get around skepticism. In the Meditations he only gives a natural theological argument, so I wasn’t pushed to any religion, but I did take to deism, though with hesitation. In fact, the final for the class had two essay questions of which we had to pick one: argue for or against the existence of God or free will. Being hesitant on God, I picked the free will option, running the “both determinism and indeterminism are bad for free will so we don’t have free will” argument. (Which in the paper I’ll be presenting in April, I argue doesn’t actually work.)

The following semester (fall of my junior year; also my first semester as a philosophy major) I took a class on science fiction and philosophy in which I had plenty of opportunities to apply substance dualism to all sorts of fun problems. The main thrust of it relied on God mapping souls to bodies. The deism obviously was critical. In the sci fi and philosophy class I found the arguments for compatibilism really compelling.

The next semester (spring of junior year) a few important factors came into play. I took an independent study on early modern philosophy and the PSR. Reading more into Leibniz and Spinoza with their basically panpsychist views probably had some effect. Reading Reid fully convinced me of agent-causal libertarianism. I was already starting to see how compatibilist free will has some problems (like not being free will), but had no way around it, not really getting event causal libertarianism (and universal object causal libertarianism being wacky). ACL filled the hole the best and, to my knowledge, indeed is the best explanation. The door being open to first person experience being relevant to an argument was of course needed for Reid’s argument having any force on me.

In the winter months of my junior year I started reading some work found on marxists.org, in fact just plucking anything that looked interesting and giving it a go. At this same time I started paying more attention to continental philosophy (which isn’t covered super well at Valpo). Most notably for this story, I took a liking to Sartre. Moreover, I found his argument for atheism more compelling each time I read it. Once I was fully convinced of libertarianism, the deism fell out to positive atheism. A long conversation I had with another friend in which he tried to convince me of physicalism was the straw that led me to look at all the problems with dualism. Without God to make the whole thing work, dualism was ready to fall out. Of course, the original point that made me move away from physicalism holds, and since then I’ve found more compelling arguments as well.

This past fall, with physicalism and dualism each unappealing, I started to lean to idealism. A few weeks in, I read Peter van Inwagen’s chapter in Metaphysics in which he reconstructs an argument for idealism and then knocks it down. I found the reconstructed argument far more compelling than the knocking down. (While I’d read Berkeley twice before, neither time was I moved. I couldn’t really understand the texts at the time, either.) Since then I’ve been working on a nontheistic account of idealism. At the same time, I took a class on philosophy of religion. There I learned Sartre was wrong; free will and theism are compatible.

At this point, I’ve acquired more compelling arguments for ACL and idealism. The agnosticism on the existence of divine beings stems from no longer having a strong case either way. Traditional idealism demands theism, but I think this is a hasty move. Multiple people have pointed out that the most apparent problems in my current set of beliefs all go away with God in the picture. I’m hesitant to apply such a powerful fix, inclined instead to believe other options should be explored first (which is what I’m doing now, alongside trying to make the case that what I’m doing totally isn’t monism because there are at least two things). Moreover, as the friend who suggested this post put it, I want an ontological argument for every property of God. So even if there is some being keeping our ideas consistent and explaining intersubjective agreement, that being isn’t obviously omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient, etc.

Path to idealism