Open thread for episode 21.28: Tracie and Don

Don’s Topic: “The Failure of Revelation”

Also, note a few special announcements:

God Awful Movies is coming to Austin, same weekend as our ACA annual Bat Cruise! Come make an atheist weekend of it!
God Awful Movies:
Fri, September 22, 2017 | 8:00 PM – 10:00 PM CDT
Scottish Rite Theater
207 West 18th Street, Austin, TX 78701
ACA Pre-Cruise Lecture:
September 23, 2017 | 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Trinity UMC, 4001 Speedway, Austin, TX 78751
Meet for the Cruise:
Saturday, September 23, 2017 | 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm
Capital Cruises Dock
208 Barton Springs Road, Austin, TX 78704

Caller “Josh” from Episode 21:20 – Further Thoughts

I understand what Josh is asking with regard to hard solipsism. I’ve held since I’ve understood the problem that we can’t know reality is what it seems to be. But we are confronted with no option but to accept what we’re confronted with as the foundation of what’s presented to us to work with. What is the alternative?

When I hear something like Josh has to offer, my immediate thought is how it’s possible that someone can’t differentiate between accepting what confronts us as unavoidable, versus accepting what we aren’t confronted with, and calling that unavoidable.

I get what Josh is trying to communicate. He’s saying that he sees the same reality I do, plus god. And he’s suggesting that just as I accept the rest of that reality, he must accept that same reality, plus god. And we both agree that we shouldn’t deny what we’re confronted with in some unavoidable way.

However, Josh seems to want to define a “feeling” that something is there, with being confronted by that something in a manifested form. The disconnect is that I don’t believe there is a computer on the desk in front of me based on a feeling. I believe it based on a manifestation.

I’d like Josh to imagine a reality we both agree is not real. Let’s say Josh and I have access to a video game that includes some form of simulated reality. In the game, as we navigate the levels, we encounter characters that are manifestations built within the simulation—trolls, goblins, elves, humans. They have territories they inhabit and weapons they use. Some of them can use magic. I tell Josh about a magic golden sword that the elf can access. He has not encountered this yet, so I navigate the game to show him the sword, and there it is, in a box that the elf opens. We both see it, and it manifests to us just as the characters and the territories and other weapons. Josh tells me the humans raise horses. I say I haven’t seen horses in the game. He then navigates to a part of the territories I haven’t visited yet and shows me stables and fields filled with horses.

None of this is real, and yet there are things we can see manifesting, and things we experience with regard to this game. For example, the humans can’t fly, but the elves can, using elf magic. The golden sword can be used by the elves and humans, but turns to ash once it’s grabbed by the hilt by a troll or goblin. And so on. None of this is real—we know it’s only a simulation—and yet there are rules. There are parameters. There are things we can see manifest, and things we can test to see whether they can or can’t be done.

Then Josh tells me the dragons are his favorite characters in the game. I say I haven’t seen the dragons yet, and ask if he will show me the dragons. Josh tells me he can’t show me the dragons. In fact, he can’t actually see them manifested. But he has a feeling there are dragons in the game. I ask him why? He can’t explain it. It’s just a feeling that he believes would not exist in him unless there were dragons in the game.

Even though both Josh and I know nothing in this game is as it seems–it’s all simulated and fake, there is a great deal of difference, between the characters we can encounter in the game, versus the dragons Josh simply feels must be there, although neither of us actually can observe their manifestation in the same way we experience manifestations of every one of the other characters. In the end, whether the reality we inhabit is real or unreal is irrelevant. What difference does it make? What matters is the difference between how we’re determining the elves “exist,” and how Josh is determining the “dragons” exist. When Josh says the dragons exist, he means something very different, apparently, than what we mean with regard to the elves.

I don’t understand what Josh is considering “existent” with regard to the dragons. I don’t understand how a “feeling” within one’s mind translates to a manifestation outside one’s own mind. Just because the reality is all simulated does not make the dragons just as “tangible” within the framework of this game, as the elves. Accepting the existence of dragons in the game—by either Josh or me—represents a departure from how we have, with every other aspect of this game, agreed that things “exist.”

It could be that Josh is trolling. But even if that’s the case, he is by no means the only person to ever use this explanation for the existence of god—to assert that somehow solipsism makes believe in the existence of a god as justified as belief in the existence of the air we breathe. I’ve heard people say this before: We can’t know anything we experience is real, so isn’t god just as believable as that telephone? No. No it’s not, because the telephone manifests in a vastly different way than the god—regardless of what this reality is or is not. Until a god manifests, I don’t agree, or even see how a feeling justifies saying it’s there in the same way we agree the phone is there. Adding things to reality as feelings, in the absence of manifestation, is not how I’ve come to the conclusion I must accept there’s a phone on my desk.

I agree it could be they are both are delusions—but we have to be honest and admit they are delusions of a very different sort.