Saturday, 2 July 2011

Eternal Recurrence and Me: No Nothingness - Never

One thing I've heard that really maddened Nietzsche, other than the Syphilis, was the thought of Eternal Return. Now don't take me for an idiot here, it doesn't scare me coming back again, and again, and again and so on. I won't remember that I've lived this life before, and I certainly don't remember now, so it's inconsequential, really. But what's gotten to me recently about any Eternal Return, if it does happen (I think some scientific theories may posit another Big Bang occurring after the Big Crunch, but I'm not exactly sure of this), is that it really does make what we do here count, because what we do here, we'll be doing for eternity. Now again, I'm not an idiot. I'm quite sure that free will is not at all compatible with determinism - in fact I am quite sure that free will is only really compatible with pagan magic and the 'soul', but I do believe to an extent, that our beliefs, our memes, can have direct effects on our happiness (and along with that, that believing, if even subconsciously, in free will makes life more bearable). So if this meme were to implant itself into my brain - the meme that life here is meaningful, at least in respect of future lives I'm going to have, then that makes, actually, quite a lot of difference. If the universe is a one shot thing, then the infinity before my existence and the infinity after my existence make life completely useless and completely worthless in the grand scheme of things, since only an infinitesimal portion of the time where universes start and end is spent by you, living. But if the universe is something that simply happens continually, then really you ought to try harder at life - not because of the myth that 'it's the only one you have' but because it's not the only one you shall have; by being happy now you are saving for the future.

But this is of course, not the only thing you can take from this. You can make it an argument to try as hard as you possibly can IN CASE the universe is cyclic, but you can also make it an argument to simply stop trying, so you spend more time in those happy years before you were say, depressed, and less time in the years in which you were - by suicide, for example. This was actually the reason why I attempted suicide a while back there (stopping because I realised I would be causing my parents pain in every iteration of the universe, if the universe does repeat). I know full well however, that it's easier to say 'be happy!' than to actually be happy, but I think I'd probably take more risks in this life now, knowing that it's possible I might live it again.

Of course dear reader, this may all be a vat of monkey faeces. Again, maybe I'm wrong. I say so many things on here it's quite hard to keep track of some of the more ludicrous ones, so please, tell me if you think you have proven me wrong. I won't berate you or call you names, not even in return if you do so to me. In my next post of this '... and Me' series, I'll be looking at the school system in the Anglosphere - and why I'm sick of it. If you've been wondering what's happened to me in the last couple of days, I've been going through another pretty serious depressive episode. No idea why, I'm pretty sure most of what I have is quite chemical in basis. But as of the moment, I can probably presume the day-by-day posting again.


  1. I don't know much about physics, but it seems to me that even if there is a scientific basis for the eternal return, it shouldn't have any affect on me, not only because I won't remember anything from the current go-round, but because the "me" in the universe's next incarnation won't be the same "me" as the one who's typing this response, even if everything plays out exactly the same and that "me" also posts an anonymous comment on your blog. Unless there's a soul or some other kind of metaphysical essence independent of our brains that transfers over, all we essentially have in common is an identical bodily composition, and I don't see why I shouldn't regard this new "me" as anything but a copy. Even in a similar scenario where the atoms that make up my body are disassembled and reassembled to be transferred into a new location with all my memories intact ala "Star Trek", I still don't see how the post-teleportation "me" can be considered "me" in any meaningful sense.

    Granted, I might feel sorry for the poor son of a bitch who has to live my life when the universe reboots itself, and maybe I should try to make better choices for his sake, but I won't literally feel his pain. I'll be dead.

  2. Hmmmmm. I really like what you've done here. This is another one of those comments I'm really just going to have to mull over for a while. Would you be of the opinion that you aren't the same person for the entirety of your life (for example you aren't the same person as you were when you were a child), since your brain constantly changes? Because I've actually been thinking about that for a while - memories do not a consistent person make.

  3. I haven't done nearly enough research on this subject, so take what I say with a grain of salt, but I think that the most coherent way to view the self is as an ongoing process that begins at birth and ends as death.

    If, like most people, you were to view the self as your personality and memories, you would run into problems because that would mean that if you were to step onto a teleportation device like in the scenario I outlined, you would still be the same person post-teleportation, even if, because of a technical malfunction, multiple versions of you were created, each possessing your personality and memories. But that seems absurd. After all, if you pricked one of them with a pin, they wouldn't all simultaneously say, "Oww."

    To get around this, someone might define the self as your personality and memories plus your INDIVIDUAL bodily composition. In other words, the reason that you wouldn't be the same person post-teleportion would be because, despite having the same personality, memories, and even an IDENTICAL bodily composition, the atoms that make up your bodily composition still would not be the SAME ones that made up you when you stepped onto the teleportation device. But even this definition would be problematic because the atoms that make up our bodily composition are replaced every 7 years as a result of a natural process, meaning that every 7 years we would be a different person. This could be the case, however counterintuitive it seems, but I don't think it is. Unlike the teleportation scenario in which your personality and memories are transferred by creating a perfect replica of your bodily composition as it exists pre-teleportation, the natural process by which our atoms are naturally replaced happens gradually, and the reason that our personality and memories are able to transfer during this process is because, since it happens gradually, we are at no point shut off like we would be if we were to step onto a teleportation device.

    The common denominator doesn't seem to be our personality or memories, or even our bodily composition, unique or otherwise, but a kind of individual process that is never interrupted until we undergo biological death. Our personality changes, we forget and misremember things, and even our bodily composition changes (gradually), but this process keeps going for our entire life, and in essence, the same being who is having this conversation is the same one who was circumcised all those years ago.

    Perhaps even my definition has problems, too (it probably does), but I think my initial point remains, which is that death is permanent, and that our suffering, however horrible, does eventually end. Even if another version of Josef Fritzl rapes and tortures another version of his daughter in his basement for all eternity, it won't be the same girl, and when she dies, it will all be over (at least for her). To quote Brother Theodore, "As long as there is death, there is hope."

  4. On second thought, perhaps a better way define the self would be as an uninterrupted chain of conscious experience that begins at birth and ends at death. But maybe this is also a bad definition.

    It is a lot easier to define the self by what it is not than what it is. The only thing I said that I feel reasonably confident about is what I stated in the last paragraph.

  5. So you'd view consciousness as an ongoing process - like an emergent phenomenon. I think at the moment I'd actually agree with you on that one, though I'd really prefer to wait for better scientific research on consciousness before I make any conclusions. Thanks very much for your contributions, though, you've made me realise how this particular post was wrong-ish in a way. You should create a blog of your own, I'd read it!