Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Chestertonian Puzzler

Assuming that it is technologically feasible to develop a computer powerful enough to sustain a realistic illusory world (The Matrix, for example). and
Assuming that a society with such technology would test it, and
Assuming they would test it more than once, and
Assuming that the socety, like all societies, would become so decadent that things as stupid, immoral, pleasant, and morbid as that would become popular,
It seems that there would be far more imaginary universes than real ones, hence we are thousands of times more likely to be living in an imaginary universe than a real one.

The Puzzler:
1. Why is this not true, even if you believe all the assumptions? (Hint: If there was a chapter in Orthodoxy you really didn't like, you might have a more difficult time answering this question.)
2. Why does it not matter for the sake of most arts and sciences and the salvation of our souls?

This puzzler was told to me by a certain Tommy Swanson (whom some of you might know, though I don't think he's ever read Chesterton in his life). After I get five answers in the comments section, I'll post the answer.

1 comment:

Hans Lundahl said...

1) If you believe assumption one, meaning thereby the technical possibility (including economic feasability) of an illusion encompassing your whole consciousness, the conclusion is not so much untrue as misstated: we would be far more likely to be experiencing an imaginary world than the real one; if so we would perhaps be living in the real universe, but not experiencing it otherwise than indirectly, through the imaginary one.

However, there is no such thing as a conclusive evidence for such a possibility; theoretically that could be part of the illusion, but there is no prima facie case for it.

Pope Urban VIII, when condemning Galileo might have been foreseeing this scepticism as a consequence of believing each day that what your eyes and sense of balance tell you are sensory illusions. He tried to indicate the idiocy of unwarranted ultrascepticism, just as Luther and the Patriarchs who condemned Copernicus and Papal astronomers.

2a Morals and logic are the same in any possible universe. (Blue Cross, first Father Brown story, author supposedly known on this site)

2b Any imaginary world needs an imaginer in the real one, who can only distort reality so much, but cannot create a world from nothing. (Tree and Leaf, Tolkien)

2c Even if you assume that you are living in a dream, act and decide as if living in real life. (La vida es sueƱo, Lope de Vega)