Re: Modern Physical theory as a basis for Ethical and Existential Nihilism

From: Benjamin Udell <>
Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2004 02:01:41 -0500

> Sorry. Can't help myself : Is there any point in completing that term paper really?

Actually, between the above remark made in fun, & the subsequent discussion, there are things in common. Above, the joke is that, if one adopts nihilism & the view that nothing is worth caring about, then what value would one place in knowing this or in knowing anything? Ethics pertains to feelings & values regarding power, submission, governing oneself, governing & being governed, decision-making. Then there are also feelings & values regarding other things, including knowledge, what's worth knowing, exploring, etc., standards of evidence, etc. We have no word like "ethics" for it although one might argue that the word "philosophy" was originally meant to mean it. These values with regard to cognition & knowledge are values which in a refined & deepened form motivate science, & they dissolve under nihilism, along, therefore, with science itself. But this in turn leads to the dissolution of nihilism, which used scientific ideas. Vicious circle there.

The subsequent discussion (below) concerns whether we really decide anything & whether there's any scientific basis for values regarding decisions (or anything else). If it's all out of our hands, then we decide nothing, & ethics is an illusion. But likewise, if it's all out of our hands, what is our basis for thinking we have any access to truth? It seems that we are "determined" to believe X or Y just as we are "determined" to do X or Y. So nihilism is just another determined belief. But if in spite of this there is truth for us to care about & which we can & do approach, then why shouldn't we think that there are right & virtuous decisions for us to care about & which we can & do approach? (Is it that truth is "real" but right & virtue are not? But that's another argument.)

(Also, a random thought: we talk about the deterministic as if we were still talking about a coercive mechanical force imposed on us, rather than about mathematical regularities which we believe hold in principle. One question to ask is, who are "we" such that we dis-associate ourselves from the particular complex weavings of regularities that we represent?)

Pretty amazing for a high-school senior term paper, by the way.

- Benjamin Udell

Eric Hawthorne wrote:

>Sorry. Can't help myself : Is there any point in completing that term
paper really?

>On a few points.

>I don't believe in the point of view of "nihilism because everything will happen in the multiverse, anyway, regardless of what I do". My reasons are a little vague, but here's a stab at it:

>1. I look at us group of human observer SAS's as results of and guardians of emerged complex order in our universe.
In fact I believe our universe (its temporal arrow etc) is only observable because it is the set of paths through the multiverse
that has all this emerged complex order in it.I believe these potentially observable sets of paths through the multiverse's general disorder are rare (of small measure.)

2. Somehow, all of us human observers are clearly "in" or "observing" the SAME set of paths through the multiverse. Now that is significant. It tells us that in the emergent-order paths of multiverse info-state evolution, that those paths are observable consistently to ANY observer that emerges as part of the emerged complex order present in those paths.

3. I see humans (or other intelligent lifeforms) as in some strange ways the smart-lookahead "guardians" of the particular piece of emergent-order their most a part of (their planet, their ecosystems, their societies, themselves).The reason we emerged (or are still here) is because we have helped make our emergent complex system "successful" (robust).

4. For some strange reason, I value the most complex yet elegant and robust emergent order (for itself). This is why for example, I'm an environmental activist in my spare (hah!) time.

5. I think if one values elegant, robust complex order, and if one is an active part of the elegant, robust, complex order, who emerged precisely so that a SAS of the emerged system could sense and make sense of the surroundings, and could model and influence the future, and guard the SAS's own existence and that of the whole emerged system of which it is a part, then "guard away" I say, actively, not nihilistically. Model your world. Predict its different possible futures, and use your emerged (and cultivated, same thing) wisdom to steer yourself, and your society, and your ecosystem, and your planet, away from harm and too-soon reduction to entropy. In the very, very end, it is said, entropy wins (like the house wins in Vegas.) But why not have as good a game as possible before it ends in a billion or trillions of years.

6. Of course, it doesn't make sense to try to protect (and advance in elegance) an emergent order that is indeed truly robust, does it? But my point back there was that we are supposed to be part of the emergent system's self-defense mechanism, because we can think and plan, and change things in our universe.

7. So can we change the multiverse as a whole? Probably not. But all that observers can ever co-observe is a single self-consistent universe in the multiverse. Look at earth and earthlife like a surfboard and surfer surfing this big coherent wave of informationally self-consistent order that is our universe. What we as the surfer can do is look ahead, and steer the board, and prolong the ride, and make it as amazing as possible before it tumbles into the vortex. That's enough control to say let's delay nihilism til the very last possible moment at least, shall we. Let's see where we might wash up if we keep riding well. Enough. Enough. This tortured analogy is killing me.

8. You may say that there's all these other virtual doppelganger surfers and surfboards (even on our same order-wave universe) so why bother steering anyway? One of us will make it. Yeah well I don't think so. I think all the emergent systems
kind of compete with each other to organize things, and there's winners and losers, and the losers are all just info-noise.

8. I guess the above is premised on the supposition that we CAN steer. That we have any say over when and how
our part of our universe degrades into entrop (info-noise.) This is really vague but I have some strange sense that what observing AGENT (actor) systems such as ourselves are doing is choosing (or having a part in choosing) the way in which their quantum world becomes their classical world. I think there's the possibility of free will there. It's like their steering the NOW wavefront itself (in their shared universe). If the possibly ordered paths through multiverse infospace near these observers are more than one possible path, maybe its the observers, by the sum total of their collective actions, that micro-manage the choice of future info-paths that will still be consistent with the path(s) their all on. Maybe the set of possible
consistent and ordered paths is narrower and narrower as time goes on for them, but I think there are still choices to be made. It's possible that that's an illusion, but choice being an illusion is a concept for the theoretical meta-level, for OUTSIDE our universe path. Inside our path(s), our paths and the real or illusory choices we make within them, are all we'll EVER be able to see. So why not play along with the rules of the game your in, be a guardian angel of elegant complex order near you. Why not model and see the probabilities ahead with all your learning power and determination, and why not then choose
with all your might? Whether it all amounts to a hill of beans in this crazy world or not is one of the last mysteries. But mysteries help make it all so fricking amazing. Try solving them. What can you lose?

9. But go ahead and explore your point of view in your essay, and maybe post it when you're done. I could be entirely wrong the way I see things, and your outline looks great. Maybe simplify, cover a little less, but a little deeper, because simplicity with complexity underneath it is what it's all about. wrote:

>>I am writing my high school senior project term paper on defending ethical and existential nihilism based on quantum and multiverse theory. I was looking for any comments on the subject. Here I place my outline for said paper:
>>A Scientific Basis for Ethical and Existential Nihilism
>>I. Introduction
>> A. Societal habit of classification of moral disciplines
>> B. Difference of anyone to a possibly fitting classification makes such divvying impossible
>> C. One must evaluate the individual sets of moral principles to establish their validity
>>II. What is ethical?—Establishing a Basis for Reference
>> A. Definition of ethic/moral
>> 1. Participation/contribution
>> 2. Action
>> 3. Earning
>> B. Earning as an ethical point for reference
>> 1. Earning governed by psychological history
>> 2. Psychology influenced by the physical
>> 3. The physical is governed by causality
>> C. Ethic is debunked by the causal nature of space-time and quantum superpositioning
>>III. Space-Time and Quantum Physics form a basis for inevitability
>> A. The “So-Called Relativity Theory” Perspective
>> 1. The space-time manifold is a substrate upon which things exist
>> 2. The future condition of events or anything can be determined using equations to model energy and position over time
>> 3. All things have a definite past, present, and future, ontologically
>> 4. Limited by information acquisition
>> a) speed of light
>> b) infinitesimal spaces governed by quantum theory
>> B. Quantum Physics Perspective
>> 1. Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle
>> a) impossible to know one’s future
>> b) definite past
>> 2. Schrödinger’s wave function
>> a) Schrödinger’s Cat Paradox
>> b) superposition of waves
>> c) collapse of the wave function
>> d) Copenhagen Interpretation (CHI)
>> e) Hugh Everett III’s theory that all possible resultant collapses can be defined by a superposition in Hilbert Space
>> C. Multiverse Theory—Multiple Universes in which all possibilities are played out
>> 1. There is a total number of possible arrangements of matter based on the limits of the entropy of space-time, where the total is equal to the permutation of particles and energies and dependent on the total number of particles
>> 2. All these possibilities are superimposed upon one another to form an infinite-dimensional Hilbert Space in which the wave function resides, evolving over time
>> a) Each universe is a subset, a space-time system in which one arrangement of matter exists
>> b) One space-time event sequence is merely the use of time and physical law/rules to determine a valid progression of one universal space to another
>> c) This creates multiple space-time pathways, each of which encompasses a version of the past, present, and future
>> d) Each point has a past with possible futures to be determined upon collapse of the wave function
>> e) Our own physical, present reality, interpreted as a resulting situation of the collapse, is one point in space-time with a sequence of probability states with the same past configuration
>> f) This course of action leading to each possible reality yields multiple pathways from the beginning to the end of time
>> g) Each point in time has nearly infinite future possibilities, but each path contains only itself—one path with two endpoints—essentially arriving from the restraints of causality on the topological set
>>IV. Philosophical Implications
>> A. Every person has a definite past
>> 1. Every person is the result of the path of space-time upon which its universe’s energy has traveled
>> 2. Because of causality and entropy bounds, one has no control over the past
>> 3. A future is simply the result of influences of the wave function and its probabilities on space-time
>> B. A person’s future is inevitable
>> 1. No matter what decision one chooses, the psyche’s action is defined and controlled by the wave function in its space
>> 2. All decisions, choices, and outcomes are predefined, if only in a superposition of probabilities
>> 3. This leads to a lack of personal contribution on the part of the person.
>> C. A person is not to be held accountable for what he/she cannot control
>> 1. If a person cannot control the set of probabilities of the outcome, then are they really making a decision?
>> a) Yes, they do define a pathway,
>> b) But, there is no preference of one over the other physically, except what is determined by the probabilities defined by the wave function
>> c) No one outcome is more likely then another with respect to its predefined wave-function probability of occurrence within the Hilbert Space
>> 2. Not having any preference of one course of action over another causes a void of emotional imperative
>> D. The lack of responsibility on the part of the individual results in a demoralization of human will
>> 1. Human will is merely the result of a manifestation of a pathway of the wave function
>> a) There is no earning, as everything is determined as a whole of the state of the universe—everything is part of the same system and coordinates the various conditions for future outcomes
>> b) If there is no preferred human will, there is no moral imperative
>> 2. Morals are the principles of conduct governing an individual or a group
>> a) This is devoid of valid background
>> (i) There is only the physical that actually governs someone
>> (ii) An ethic is “a guiding philosophy” that drives people to an end based on moral obligation
>> (iii) They have no sound logical basis, s there is no preferred action over another
>> b) This yields a demoralization of the ends of ethics to which people are judged
>>V. Conclusion
>> A. Societal Taboo
>> 1. Societal taboo is the aversion of standard moral or ethical principle
>> 2. Because any ethic/moral end is void, so are society’s totems and taboos
>> B. Existential Nihilism
>> 1. In addition to the invalid social ends, there is no scientific justification for morals of any sort, only that in the Darwinistic sense
>> 2. Everything is merely its own existence in the Hilbert Space-time framework
>> 3. Thus, existential and ethical nihilism replaces moralism.
>>Feel free to comment on this. Is my logic sufficiently justified? If not, how so? Thanks
>>--Cesar C
Received on Wed Jan 21 2004 - 02:05:50 PST

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