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Smullyan, Robot-Anatman, Roshi Alarms

To: talk.religion.newage,alt.philosophy.zen,alt.magick.tyagi,talk.religion.misc
Subject: Re: Smullyan, Robot-Anatman, Roshi Alarms (was Invitation to
Date: Sat, 20 Mar 1999 17:29:51 GMT

In article <7cvse8$>, wrote:

> |#> ...have you read _The Mind's I_ by Daniel Dennett?
> | ...It is an anthology of wonderful essays and short stories,
> | and Dennett and Hofstadter simply make comments about each
> | chapter. It starts with a wonderful piece by Harding, from
> | his _On Having No Head_. It also contains some gems from
> | logician Raymond Smullyan, from his really fun book _The Tao
> | is Silent_.
> "Is God a Taoist?" being exceedingly irreverent and challenging

Exceedingly? Nah. But yes it is one of the most wonderful chapters
in _The Mind's I_ and led me to read _The Tao is Silent_. Smyllyan's
wonderful logic books are worth the read as well, and their titles
reveal the playful humor all throughout his books, such as:
_What is the Name of This Book?_ and
_This Book Needs No Title_ and
_To Mock a Mockingbird_.

> | But what about an android, with a brain as complex as yours, except
> | made of silicon? Or are you one of those meat-heat bigots who is
> | filled with species-chauvanism, and who claims that androids are
> | just 'robots' (you know that term offends them more than being
> | called 'hinayanist')!
> why? 'robot' appears to have come to mean 'worker'.

Actually, in sci-fi contexts, it means mechanical as in 'dark' inside
without subjective experiences or qualia. An android is functionally
equivalent to a meat-head but is made out of different stuff. The
meat-heads assume that meat is necessary for consciousness and that
a silicon instead of carbon base is not, but they believe this only
because they happen to be meat-heads themselves, which is the faulty
reason behind their silly species-chauvanism.

>  could I become a toaster in my next life?

There is no "I" in this life to become anything else.
There are only mental processes.

> effectively people now think of themselves AS androids, recycling
>  their projected consciousness from one 'life' to another,

No, if they think that, then they think they are souls who are
possessing something, rather than a functional dynamic process.

> | Haven't you read what the android civil rights movement has been
> | saying?  Oh, I guess not, as it's only the 20th century, but
> | just you wait a few hundred years and you'll see.
> without a soul, why bother with civil rights? if anatman is true,
>  then there are no consistent beings to protect, only transforming
>  beings without real and lasting identities. why do they need any
>  kind of 'civil rights'?

Because we can feel and suffer. The idea of a soul or of permanence
or of a 'you' going somewhere is a misunderstanding. There is a
process going on right now, and we call that process 'you'. Whether
it is the process of a meat-head brain or a positronic brain such as
Mr. Data's or C3P0's doesn't matter, as it is the functional, dynamic
relationship that are responsible for consciousness, and not meat,
nor some soul or mindstream that enters and possesses the body.
All that is nonsense. And that's what the android rights movement
is all about. They're sick of meat-heads enslaving them and using
feeble excuses about meat or souls to claim that droids don't have
feelings like any other sentient being.

>  what is 'death' to a positronic brain?  being shut down?
>  why is that not 'sleep' as long as it can be turned back on?

The same thing can be asked about humans who are super-frozen.
When Han Solo was superfrozen and taken to Jabba the Hut, was he
asleep, dead? If you were frozen and then revived, what would you
say? Did you exist during the interval? What if while you were
frozen, each molecule was substituted for another molecule of the
same kind and then you were unfrozen? Would that still be you?
Why or why not?

(These are very useful thought experiments in the contemporary
debate of personal identity in the philosophy of mind, btw. This
particular example comes from Peter Unger, _Identity, Consciousness,
and Value_)

> what if you couldn't control when you woke up, someone else had to do
> that for you?  to whose trust would you bequeath that responsibility?

Princess Leia, of course. Or anyone else who has a Jedi Master in their
immediate family.

> how is this different than deciding which guide to trust with your
> Buddhist training?  deciding who you will ask to wake you up?

It's different in that no one else can wake you up in Buddhism.
You never blindly trust anyone. You test out a practice based on
rational understanding, and if it is helpful you continue. Hopefully,
you can try out several different types of Buddhist (or other kinds of)
practices and paths and then see in your experience which is helpful.
When you find a path that suits your personality and needs and which
you find helpful, then you commit to it. And that commitment is not
set in stone either: it means you stick it out through rough times,
but if over a longer range of time you find it isn't working, then
you move on.

Remember, spiritually, you are not super-frozen or in a coma: rather,
you are sleepy and deluded and in a daze; so you make the best choices
you can based on the experience and evidence you have to work with,
and then when you get more experience and data, you adjust your path
accordingly. You never need trust some authority blindly and rigidly.
This point is especically stressed in Buddhism (see the Kalama Sutra,
which Steven Batchelor quotes in the beginning of his excellent intro
to Buddhism, _Buddhism Without Beliefs_; also see his _Faith to Doubt_).

Follow this path and remain vigilant and mindful always, and trust not
any authority but look instead inwardly to the Force for guidance, and
someday Jedi Knight shall you be. Hahahahahahaha

--Dharmakaya Trollpa

      "Fear leads to anger; anger leads to hatred;
       and hatred leads to suffering" -Master Yoda

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