Practical metaphysics

If Rudolph Steiner’s account of the life of the soul after death is correct, then there would be a good reason to avoid hedonic recalibration above the proverbial ‘hedonic zero.’

He claims that between rebirths, a period that will last for at least a few months, the soul experiences a tremendous sense of loss and craving for the body it once had. Worse, whatever things the person used to enjoy, look forward to, or be addicted to in life, will be things the soul will now intensely crave.

If such craving does not subside enough after a certain number of days, the soul will look around desperately to find a place where reincarnating might allow it to satisfy its cravings. The only way to be reborn in a higher plane is to either forgone those cravings or, well, be super-mindful as you die.

I don’t know what the probability of this is. But it does comes to bear on matters of policy. If we were to modify our brains to be in a perpetual state of hedonic bliss, the cravings of the soul upon death would be much worse and thus the fate at the point of reincarnation would be disastrous.

If it so happens that Steiner is right about the causal web that unites the body and the soul, and the rules the determine reincarnation, then we would have to reconsider the methods used to achieve the Abolitionist Project. The philosophical, ethical and normative justifications for carrying out the Abolitionist Project would still hold, no problem. But it would add an extra layer of complexity and unintended consequences to our actions.

Perhaps in that case the project should stop once we achieve sustainable hedonic zero, rather than going after higher and higher levels of bliss.

Alternatively, as Steiner believes, some forms of bliss (specifically the encompassing loving-kindness) may not cause craving after death. In that case, developing technologies that enable those kinds of experiences and inhibit the mundane craving-prone forms of pleasure might be the way to go.

What I am pointing out here is that the particular *details* of the ultimate solution to the mind-body problem, and the causal web within which this interaction takes place, can have important policy consequences.

In that case, allocating more resources to the *investigation* of this relationship is paramount before committing ourselves to particular courses of action.

The focus on cultivating a universal desire to relieve all sentients from the burden of their suffering, though, shall remain immutable for the rest of eternity. Amen.

2 comments

  1. Pingback: Qualia Computing So Far | Qualia Computing
  2. algekalipso · October 15, 2014

    David Pearce commented: Andres, if Rudoph Steiner’s metaphysics is correct, then the scientific world-picture collapses. I don’t know how much of my moral framework would survive the wreckage.

    I answered: Understanding the tremendous significance of the phenomenal binding problem will make a materialists’ worldview collapse. But your moral framework did survive the wreckage of that transformation, didn’t it? A ‘metaphysical collapse’ of one’s views may sound too huge to even fathom… but the practical consequences may still be tractable without having to completely edit every single ethical judgement done in the past.

    Acknowledging the importance of the binding problem has had profound effects in my probability estimates of sentient digital computers being ever constructed. The extreme focus in AI as the future source of consciousness subsided within me. Yet, most of my ethical reasonings remain intact. Why couldn’t it be the same with a shift to scientifically grounded dualism? If dualism is actually the case, that would not completely obliterate the value of the laws of physics, or the merits of molecular biology. Their predictive value will remain as it is, but space would be opened for a bigger big picture to improve the predictions of every field. No need for existential despair.

    I’m currently thinking about empirical methods that may unearth the differences between various dualistic theories. Why not? I like exploring new frontiers. Whether I’ll find a formalizable model that unites phenomenology and physics remains to be seen…

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