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Radical Skepticism and Religious Experience

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  • Radical Skepticism and Religious Experience

    Imagine that I die in a car crash today, and I feel my immaterial soul leaving my body. I then float away to be with Jesus, and experience unimaginable bliss. The Christian will say that this just goes to show that they were right after all.

    Yet radical skepticism won't go away. All of this could be happening in the matrix. It could be extremely advanced extraterrestrials playing some kind of practical joke on me. A higher intelligence could be experimenting on me and giving me these experiences to see how I react. All of these experiences could be going on within a computer simulation.

    So why do people keep saying that NDEs or mystical experiences can give us knowledge of reality? Nothing can give us knowledge of reality. We will never be in that stable and comfortable position of knowing the truth.

    I think the important thing about radical skepticism is that it shows us which questions are worth bothering with and which ones aren't. Contrary to what many people think, questions about God, the afterlife, the nature and source of value, and the ultimate nature of reality are not the important ones. The important questions are the political and ethical ones. What is human flourishing? What is a good society?

  • #2
    Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post
    Yet radical skepticism won't go away. All of this could be happening in the matrix. It could be extremely advanced extraterrestrials playing some kind of practical joke on me. A higher intelligence could be experimenting on me and giving me these experiences to see how I react. All of these experiences could be going on within a computer simulation.
    I believe all these versions will be uncovered by radical skeptics as soon as they need.

    A version of 'extremely advanced extraterrestrials' vs. reincarnation has been already committed by one of those guys. Seriously!
    Last edited by MitiL; August 13th, 2013, 07:24 PM.

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    • #3
      I'd agree with this, but then radical skepticism can probably burn away any foundation you try to place under your feet.

      The question is if personal gnosis is something granted to us upon death, which might be the only way to satisfy anyone who continually questions reality.

      (Assuming, of course, that anything at all happens after death.)

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post
        Imagine that I die in a car crash today, and I feel my immaterial soul leaving my body. I then float away to be with Jesus, and experience unimaginable bliss. The Christian will say that this just goes to show that they were right after all.

        Yet radical skepticism won't go away. All of this could be happening in the matrix. It could be extremely advanced extraterrestrials playing some kind of practical joke on me. A higher intelligence could be experimenting on me and giving me these experiences to see how I react. All of these experiences could be going on within a computer simulation.
        Radical skepticism or pseudoskepticism?

        The problem is not what pseudoskeptics think but what reasonable people should believe.



        So why do people keep saying that NDEs or mystical experiences can give us knowledge of reality? Nothing can give us knowledge of reality. We will never be in that stable and comfortable position of knowing the truth.
        If someone goes to China and comes back to tell you about it would you think China is an extraterrestrial hoax? If someone dies and experiences awareness while his body is dead and then he is revived, it is reasonable to think he experienced the afterlife.

        If a loved one calls you on the phone and tells you they are calling from China would you doubt them? If you go to a medium and they say they percieve a spirt, they describe the appearance, and the interests, the mannerisms and personality etc. of the spirit and it matches a deceased loved one, it is reasonable to assume they are communicating with the discarnate consciousness of your loved one.

        And super psi is not a good explanation.

        Super-psi does not Explain the Evidence for the Afterlife
        Mrs. Piper: Evidence for Survival After Death

        I think the important thing about radical skepticism is that it shows us which questions are worth bothering with and which ones aren't. Contrary to what many people think, questions about God, the afterlife, the nature and source of value, and the ultimate nature of reality are not the important ones. The important questions are the political and ethical ones. What is human flourishing? What is a good society?
        Those are great questions. And knowledge of the afterlife might help answer them. If there is a higher purpose to life then how you answer those questions might be different.

        Also, what is important is a subjective opinion. Science should be about the search for truth regardless of metaphysical or philosophical beliefs.

        Science has led to many advances in the standard of living, increased agricultural production, rapid transportation, improved communication, medical technology. Science should be open to studying the afterlife and ESP because it might lead to new technology or knowledge that would improve our lives.


        Your way of thinking is responsible for incalculable suffering. There are already many facts known about the afterlife but this information is being obscured by scientists and others and needless suffering continues to afflict the people of the world because these facts are obscured.

        The Science Scam

        The science scam is one of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated in the history of humankind and it has done incalculable harm to individuals and to our civilization. This hoax has been carried out by scientists who deny the true nature of human consciousness revealed by the existence of ESP and the afterlife and it has been going on since at least the 1860's.

        How many billions of people suffer unnecessary grief for lost loved ones who are not really dead but are continuing their existence in another dimension? How many billions of people live in fear of death unnecessarily because they are ignorant of the empirical evidence showing there is an afterlife? How many people suffer unnecessarily from ethnic and religious conflicts that would cease if everyone knew the true nature of the soul and its evolution? How much cruelty continues to be inflicted on victims that would never be inflicted if people understood that when you hurt another person you also hurt yourself? How much selfishness continues to exist that would cease if people understood that you prepare the conditions you will experience in the afterlife by the actions you take in the physical life?

        All this suffering continues to occur because some scientists refuse to give up their self-appointed role as the sole source of knowledge about the universe and their artificial and unscientific attachment to philosophical naturalism as the only way to obtain knowledge about the cosmos. This leads them to reject the many independent forms of evidence for ESP and the afterlife which show that human consciousness is not produced by matter, not produced by the brain, but can and does continue to exist after the death of the physical body.

        ...

        There are many independent forms of evidence for ESP and the afterlife. This evidence shows that human consciousness is not subject to the physical laws known to science and therefore cannot be produced by any physical process in the brain. The evidence also shows that consciousness can exist independently of the brain, and that there is an afterlife.
        Last edited by anonymous; August 13th, 2013, 10:01 PM.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post
          Imagine that I die in a car crash today, and I feel my immaterial soul leaving my body. I then float away to be with Jesus, and experience unimaginable bliss. The Christian will say that this just goes to show that they were right after all.

          Yet radical skepticism won't go away. All of this could be happening in the matrix. It could be extremely advanced extraterrestrials playing some kind of practical joke on me. A higher intelligence could be experimenting on me and giving me these experiences to see how I react. All of these experiences could be going on within a computer simulation.

          So why do people keep saying that NDEs or mystical experiences can give us knowledge of reality? Nothing can give us knowledge of reality. We will never be in that stable and comfortable position of knowing the truth.

          I think the important thing about radical skepticism is that it shows us which questions are worth bothering with and which ones aren't. Contrary to what many people think, questions about God, the afterlife, the nature and source of value, and the ultimate nature of reality are not the important ones. The important questions are the political and ethical ones. What is human flourishing? What is a good society?
          In accepting Radical (Cartesian) Skepticism you accept the pointlessness of ALL questions. Do you really have a background in philosophy? Because you use a lot of philosophical "lingo" without knowing the proper usage of these terms.

          So why on earth would political or ethical ones be excempt from skepticism? It makes no sense what so ever. It only makes sense to someone who accepts humanism as his creed in the same way a Christian accepts the trinity.

          The "radical" (or pick-and-choose, as I'd like to call it) skepticism of the humanist/secular western academic culture is a laughably daft attempt at puffing up ones own agenda.

          Accepting Radical Skepticism you can't prove that you are not a brain in vat hooked up to electrical wiring and that some evil demon is "playing" your life using x-box controls.

          Well then, if thats what you'd like to believe, go ahead - but please don't think there can be any foundation for any type of knowledge, not mystical, ethical or political.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post
            Yet radical skepticism won't go away. All of this could be happening in the matrix. It could be extremely advanced extraterrestrials playing some kind of practical joke on me. A higher intelligence could be experimenting on me and giving me these experiences to see how I react. All of these experiences could be going on within a computer simulation.
            This supposes that in the afterlife is still a gap between appearance and reality, but the evidence indicates that this assumption is false because NDEs experimenters obtain an intuitive understanding of reality, not mediated by concepts, like if appears I feel pain, then I feel pain.

            Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post
            So why do people keep saying that NDEs or mystical experiences can give us knowledge of reality? Nothing can give us knowledge of reality. We will never be in that stable and comfortable position of knowing the truth.
            This supposes a cartesian epistemology: if nothing gives us absolutely certain knowledge of reality, then nothing gives us knowledge of reality. But there is another option: even if we accept the gap between appearance and reality, we have a probable knowledge of reality.

            Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post
            I think the important thing about radical skepticism is that it shows us which questions are worth bothering with and which ones aren't. Contrary to what many people think, questions about God, the afterlife, the nature and source of value, and the ultimate nature of reality are not the important ones. The important questions are the political and ethical ones. What is human flourishing? What is a good society?
            No, the radical skepticism can not help us know which issues are important and which are not, because the radical skepticism only brings doubts while doubt is logically possible. Yes, political and ethical issues are important, but also important is the afterlife question, in addition I would not put the afterlife question in the same group as the question of God, values ​​or ultimate nature of reality, because while these issues are quite speculative and are far removed from ordinary life, the afterlife question is extremely important empirical question and may have an impact on everyday life, because it seems that depending on how we live this life, so will the afterlife.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Carl Jung View Post
              In accepting Radical (Cartesian) Skepticism you accept the pointlessness of ALL questions. Do you really have a background in philosophy? Because you use a lot of philosophical "lingo" without knowing the proper usage of these terms.

              So why on earth would political or ethical ones be excempt from skepticism? It makes no sense what so ever. It only makes sense to someone who accepts humanism as his creed in the same way a Christian accepts the trinity.

              The "radical" (or pick-and-choose, as I'd like to call it) skepticism of the humanist/secular western academic culture is a laughably daft attempt at puffing up ones own agenda.

              Accepting Radical Skepticism you can't prove that you are not a brain in vat hooked up to electrical wiring and that some evil demon is "playing" your life using x-box controls.

              Well then, if thats what you'd like to believe, go ahead - but please don't think there can be any foundation for any type of knowledge, not mystical, ethical or political.
              Many people on this forum seem to think that we first need to get clear about our metaphysical foundations and only then can we go on and talk seriously about ethics and politics. I think this approach is completely wrong-headed, and radical skepticism can be a useful way of showing why.

              We don't need absolute foundations for ethics and politics. We are creatures who have empathy, reason, a sense of justice and fairness, enlightened self-interest, and visions of the good society. People from many different metaphysical perspectives can get together and fight for a better world, as we've seen with various social movements in the past, and as we're seeing with environmentalism right now.

              By the way, I do hope that there is an afterlife. I hope I continue to have experiences after I die. My point in this thread is just to say that I can't understand how these experiences, however amazing they may be, could ever get me any closer to knowing God, the meaning of life or the ultimate nature of reality.
              Last edited by Dom1978; August 15th, 2013, 05:14 AM.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post
                Many people on this forum seem to think that we first need to get clear about our metaphysical foundations and only then can we go on and talk seriously about ethics and politics. I think this approach is completely wrong-headed, and radical skepticism can be a useful way of showing why.

                We don't need absolute foundations for ethics and politics. We are creatures who have empathy, reason, a sense of justice and fairness, enlightened self-interest, and visions of the good society. People from many different metaphysical perspectives can get together and fight for a better world, as we've seen with various social movements in the past, and as we're seeing with environmentalism right now.
                I agree. First live, then philosophize, but I doubt anyone here disagrees with this. But radical skepticism does not help us understand this, because radical skepticism only is doubt when doubt is logically possible.

                Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post
                By the way, I do hope that there is an afterlife. I hope I continue to have experiences after I die. My point in this thread is just to say that I can't understand how these experiences, however amazing they may be, could ever get me any closer to knowing God, the meaning of life or the ultimate nature of reality.
                Your problem is that your stereotypes do not fit in this forum: the question of the afterlife is not purely metaphysical, but empirical, and if the majority of those who visit this forum believe that there is an afterlife, is due to empirical evidence and not by faith or because the ethics and politics are unsustainable without an afterlife. You think you're heading toward religious fundamentalists, but I think hardly anyone here is of this type.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post
                  By the way, I do hope that there is an afterlife. I hope I continue to have experiences after I die. My point in this thread is just to say that I can't understand how these experiences, however amazing they may be, could ever get me any closer to knowing God, the meaning of life or the ultimate nature of reality.
                  Taking a positive view on that, it makes you a seeker. That is, you openly express that there is something which you don't understand. I would assume this means you are trying to learn in order to increase your understanding of this issue. I hope you find what you are looking for - via whichever path. I certainly would not claim there is only one way forwards.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I must admit, the thing that inspired me to start this thread was a recent lecture by the British philosopher John Gray, where he was giving a critique of immortality and the afterlife. He asks us to imagine continuing to exist as an immaterial spirit, but still not knowing why you're here or what the meaning of life is or what the true nature of reality is.

                    I think this thought experiment raises some really important issues. So many people just assume that they'll have all the answers in the afterlife. But why should this be the case? Even if there is an afterlife, you may be just as confused, ignorant and screwed-up there as you are here in this world.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Juan View Post
                      This supposes that in the afterlife is still a gap between appearance and reality, but the evidence indicates that this assumption is false because NDEs experimenters obtain an intuitive understanding of reality, not mediated by concepts, like if appears I feel pain, then I feel pain.

                      It may be that there is some kind of intelligence out there that has the power to overwhelm us with incredibly powerful experiences such that we are no longer able PSYCHOLOGICALLY to take seriously radical skepticism of the evil demon/brain in a vat/matrix/simulation theory variety, but LOGICALLY these things remain possibilities.

                      If 'God' turns us into zombies who are no longer able to doubt in the radical-skeptic way, then it seems that we are losing our freedom and agency completely. Surely the ability to doubt is the essence of freedom.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Carl Jung View Post
                        In accepting Radical (Cartesian) Skepticism you accept the pointlessness of ALL questions. Do you really have a background in philosophy? Because you use a lot of philosophical "lingo" without knowing the proper usage of these terms.

                        So why on earth would political or ethical ones be excempt from skepticism? It makes no sense what so ever. It only makes sense to someone who accepts humanism as his creed in the same way a Christian accepts the trinity.

                        The "radical" (or pick-and-choose, as I'd like to call it) skepticism of the humanist/secular western academic culture is a laughably daft attempt at puffing up ones own agenda.

                        Accepting Radical Skepticism you can't prove that you are not a brain in vat hooked up to electrical wiring and that some evil demon is "playing" your life using x-box controls.

                        Well then, if thats what you'd like to believe, go ahead - but please don't think there can be any foundation for any type of knowledge, not mystical, ethical or political.
                        This is typical of a certain kind of theologian/philosopher. The idea is that it's beneath them to be discussing such ridiculous ideas as that we could all be part of some X-Box game. What we should be doing is reading our Aquinas and Hegel and getting into some really sophisticated process theology.

                        You can mock it all you like, but the idea is just that there could be civilizations millions of years in advance of our own who are making simulated universes, and that our universe is one of these. We have an X-Box after 40 or 50 years. Imagine what you could have with millions of years of computer development.

                        You will no doubt say that radical skepticism is impossible in the presence of God or Being or whatever you want to call it (even though I'm well aware that for you God is not an 'it'), but if this is true, does this not mean that we are no longer free?

                        As for the idea that radical skepticism leads to an anything-goes relativism, I disagree. Even if the computer simulation scenario is true, it's still the case that the earth goes round the sun and that the heart pumps blood. So there are everyday and scientific truths WITHIN this reality (whatever it is); it's just that we can never know the true nature of this reality. I would say something similar about ethical and politcal 'truths', but there it would be a little bit more tricky.

                        I'm not saying that I actually believe that the simulation theory is true. My point is just that we don't know what this universe is and we can never know what this universe is. The existence of UFOs, ghosts, immaterial souls and paranormal powers won't do anything to change this, since these are all just more things WITHIN this reality (whatever it is).
                        Last edited by Dom1978; August 15th, 2013, 08:46 PM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          You will no doubt say that radical skepticism is impossible in the presence of God or Being or whatever you want to call it (even though I'm well aware that for you God is not an 'it'), but if this is true, does this not mean that we are no longer free?
                          Depends on if you trust in the idea of gnosis, that you can know things from a first person perspective.

                          I'm rather skeptical of the idea myself, though I actually agree with you that the afterlife - if it exists - likely holds an incredible amount of questions.

                          And I'd be more inclined to judge God than believe She/He/It/They should judge me.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post
                            Many people on this forum seem to think that we first need to get clear about our metaphysical foundations and only then can we go on and talk seriously about ethics and politics.
                            Ethical and political positions are inevitably informed by one's understanding of the nature of the reality to which those positions apply, and fundamental metaphysical questions are among the most crucial to forming that understanding. Your formulation is too extreme, but I think the kinds of subjects discussed here are every bit as relevant and worthwhile as the ones to which you keep alluding, and certainly have a strong bearing on those latter issues.

                            I think this approach is completely wrong-headed, and radical skepticism can be a useful way of showing why.
                            Only if you apply radical skepticism in an extremely inconsistent and selective way.


                            We don't need absolute foundations for ethics and politics. We are creatures who have empathy, reason, a sense of justice and fairness, enlightened self-interest, and visions of the good society.
                            Really? How do you know that? What if none of the people you think you are speaking to and of actually exist, but are instead mere automatons or figments conjured by the cabal of aliens and evil demons in whose clutches your psyche is inextricably mired, and your own perception of yourself as an empathic, reasonable, just, fair, enlightenedly self-interested, visionary being is likewise some form of self-delusion or reflects a drug-induced state not characteristic of your true nature? Can you prove it isn't so???

                            People from many different metaphysical perspectives can get together and fight for a better world, as we've seen with various social movements in the past, and as we're seeing with environmentalism right now.
                            Those past social movements could be a fictitious construct of the same great deceiving conspiracy that tricks people into thinking they're in the afterlife. So could the environment.

                            Or, perhaps the environment does exist, but the notion that humans can have an effect on it is entirely fictitious. Rather, the alien/evil-demon overlords simply choose to manipulate things to look as though humans are affecting the environment, yanking our chains-- then, once the environmentalists have gotten together and done their very best to bring about a positive change in accordance with the data they have gathered from past perceived instances of human environmental influence, these alienemons will cruelly pull the rug out from under them and bring about the exact opposite effect.


                            By the way, I do hope that there is an afterlife. I hope I continue to have experiences after I die. My point in this thread is just to say that I can't understand how these experiences, however amazing they may be, could ever get me any closer to knowing God, the meaning of life or the ultimate nature of reality.
                            If you choose to arbitrarily disbelieve/intensely-doubt anything relating to those experiences, then I suppose not. But if you're going to be consistent about it, you should also arbitrarily disbelieve/intensely-doubt everything you experience on Earth as well, voiding your oft-repeated claim that societal or environmental concerns are and ought to be the focus of Man's attention. Why organize to protect a species or an environment that may or may not exist? No matter how much we experience them as real and perceive what seem to be unambiguous corroborations of their existence, we can never truly, ontologically know that they are real, and should therefore go on expressing indifference to their very claim to existence, to say nothing of their claim to relevance in our lives. Radical skepticism, the true and just philosophy, demands it of us.
                            Last edited by MaxPower; August 16th, 2013, 03:51 PM.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Dom1978 View Post
                              This is typical of a certain kind of theologian/philosopher. The idea is that it's beneath them to be discussing such ridiculous ideas as that we could all be part of some X-Box game. What we should be doing is reading our Aquinas and Hegel and getting into some really sophisticated process theology.

                              You can mock it all you like, but the idea is just that there could be civilizations millions of years in advance of our own who are making simulated universes, and that our universe is one of these. We have an X-Box after 40 or 50 years. Imagine what you could have with millions of years of computer development.

                              You will no doubt say that radical skepticism is impossible in the presence of God or Being or whatever you want to call it (even though I'm well aware that for you God is not an 'it'), but if this is true, does this not mean that we are no longer free?

                              As for the idea that radical skepticism leads to an anything-goes relativism, I disagree. Even if the computer simulation scenario is true, it's still the case that the earth goes round the sun and that the heart pumps blood. So there are everyday and scientific truths WITHIN this reality (whatever it is); it's just that we can never know the true nature of this reality. I would say something similar about ethical and politcal 'truths', but there it would be a little bit more tricky.

                              I'm not saying that I actually believe that the simulation theory is true. My point is just that we don't know what this universe is and we can never know what this universe is. The existence of UFOs, ghosts, immaterial souls and paranormal powers won't do anything to change this, since these are all just more things WITHIN this reality (whatever it is).
                              You haven't understood at all.

                              You want Radical Skepticism to be applied to, for example, belief in god and transcendent experiences - but NOT towards other things we think we now. This is patently absurd.

                              Radical Skepticism demolishes the foundation of our own experience - and thus it destroys not only belief in God but belief in the existence of other minds, a world external to ourselves, history and EVERYTHING else.

                              Radical Skepticism can't be used against some beliefs but not against others. That is the only point I made.

                              I made no positive claims of God or anything else.

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