Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Chestertonian Puzzler II

Well, I said I'd wait for five answers...they aren't forthcoming. Here's the repeat of the question, the one answer I recieved, and the next puzzler.

Assuming that it is technologically feasible to develop a computer powerful enough to sustain a realistic illusory world (The Matrix, for example). andAssuming that a society with such technology would test it, andAssuming they would test it more than once, andAssuming 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?

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)

I might add that the belief that one is within a computer illusion is exactly the type that is condemned in the chapter called "The Maniac" in Orthodoxy. Another somewhat convincing proof of the reality of what we experience (as opposed to the idea that it is a computer illusion) is the problem of evil. Why would a person put in evil in their imaginary world? I can think of three types of human persons who would do such a thing: a sadist, a poet, and a consummate deceiver who beleived it would make the illusion more realistic. It cannot be the sadist, for if it were, the imaginary world would be far more evil than it is. It cannot be a poet, for the person who designed the world, if he is a poet, is obviously a superlative poet. If he is a superlative poet, however, he would know that an imaginary world would be less poetical than a real one, and would never have made the illusion in the first place. If he is a realistic person, why has the absolute power that he has over the lives of his patients not made him into the sadist?

Anyway, here is the next puzzler. It's much funnier.

A man in Ireland planted an apple tree in his backyard. That night, an Irish fairy came. Using a chapter from a book by Chesterton, she cast a spell on the tree. That fall, in the time when the apples were ripe, the man was found to have been eaten by a well-known animal from India. What chapter of what book by Chesterton did the fairy use?

Hint: The book by Chesterton is one of his more famous ones. There are also two completely irrelevant details in the puzzle.

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