31 Look, for those frightend of god there is a blessed place,
32 Gardens and vineyards,
33 Virgins with swelling breasts, contemporarys
34 and full cups.
Qoran, Sure 78
In heaven I have been, to which His face
Shines the brightest, viewed there, what to tell
The one coming down lacks word and meaning.
Dante, Paradiso 1
In his novel Cyberiad Stanislaw Lem tells about a robot-constructor (a robot constructing robots) named Trurl, who decides to settle the perfect happiness on earth and the perfect sociaty. Strangely all his projects come out as failures, and it seems, as if neccessairly any being having sensibility must be unhappy. In his trouble Trurl awakes his old teacher Cerebron Emtadrat to live, and he instructs him that there is in fact a perfectly happy machine, the ecstator, wich sole function consists in being happy, but that it is senseless to built this machine.
"If I am going to suggest you to put you in the straitjacket of Eternal Happiness, lets say, I would put you in the ecstator to let you spend the next twentyone billion years in highest and purest hapiness, instead of looring on graveyards in dark night, to bother the remains of your professor in their eternal rest and to steal informations out of graves, if you haven't to face the nice mess you brought yourself into, if you would be free from all your future tasks, worries, problems and troubles who burdens and spoils our daily life - would you then agree to my suggestion? Would you exchange your actuall existence against the kingdom of Eternal Happiness? Answer quick, yes or no?"
"No! Of course not! Never!" shouted Trurl.
Platon once wrote (in theSymposion, 104d) "And more to ask there is no need, why that one wants to be happy, that wants to be happy, but the answering seems finished.", every human obviously persuits Happiness, and why it does so, that cannot be asked. Nevertheless also Platon did notice, two and a half milleniums before Lem, that there is something wrong, that it is not that easy, that humans are capable, if happiness is offered to them, to reject it. In the Philebos 21b Platon imagines the concept of a being participating every pleasure, but not sensibility, like "a polyp or a shell animal like they are to be found in the sea". And here again the partner of conversation rejects to life such a live, full of bliss, but without conciousness. Platon supposes that conciousness must be a part of happiness, because happiness be a perception, demanding a percepting conciousness. Furthermore, he settles in the dialog Gorgias a dialectic of pleasure, in wich he tries to show that pleasure is necessairly connected with pain. The modell wich he has in mind is the one of being hungry and eating. Being hungry is painful, but curing the hunger by eating pleasure: the pleasure comes to existence through a previous pain. The other way round Platon describes in the Phaidon 60b, Socrates, how his chains are removed and he has now, because of his chains finally removed, has and recognizes a pleasant feeling in his tights:
"What a certain thing it is, you men, about that what people call pleasant, who strange it behaves against what seems to be its opposit, the unpleasant, the way that at the same time they never want to rest both in a human, but also, that if someone looks for one of it and gains it, he is mostly almost forced, to take also the other one, as if they two were attached at their point."
A common explaination of this state of affairs usually says that something wich is permanently present cannot be perceived any longer. In that manner in the middle age it was explained that the unhearability of the music of the spheres that we here it from our birth on. And really we cannot see the blind spot on our retina directly, but only infer indirectly, since we are born with this blind spot. And if we were always happy, then we could not percept this happiness, and than we wont be happy any longer. Only the comparision and the contrast to unhappiness makes happiness perceptible. Strange enough than that on many passages Platon emphasizes to belief in a justice in the next world, and that the good ones will be rewarded after their dying with unspoiled happiness, because according to his own theory this is not possible: a god or gods may exist or not, but a heaven, that would be something like the quadration of the circle, something impossible for logical reasons.
"Didn't you wished yourself something?" said the woman.
"No", said the man, "what shall I wish myself?"
Tale of the fisher and his wife
I think there is need to ask more, "why that one wants to be happy, that wants to be happy". Because there isn't really a pure logicall, apriorican reason, why something, wich is perceived for a long time, is perceived less and less. In fact, it isn't that way with all things: a soft tapping for example, repeated again and again on the same place, will become a distinct pain some time. From our birth on we are used to the feeling of having breathed out, but that wont trick us and we will always breath in again. There can be imagined a world in wich people are constantly happy, and there is the question, why our world isn't such a world.
I think that again, like the question, the answer can be found with Lem, this time in his book Golem XIV. In this Lem claims that it is not that way that living beings wants to reproduce and use for this purpose the genes as instruments, but just the other way round. Unfortunatly, once again Lem comes too late with this idea, this time just for five years. 1976 Richard Dawkins published The Selfish Gene, in wich Dawkins settles nothing but this idea (Lem couldn't know behind the iron curtain in Poland about Dawkins, and was that for forced to do his discovery independently). Following Dawkins, the world looks like this: the genes want to reproduce themself, and therefor they built machines, the so called living beings, wich are thought to support this reproduction. To say the truth, the thing is a little bit more complicated, since the genes have no conciousness and therefor also no intentionality. But there are only such genes wich cares about their reproduction, since all others died out, and therefor genes behave as if they had intentionality. That it is that way round, and not the other way, that the living beings use the genes for reproduction, Dawkins verify for example by reffering to the altruistic behaviour of certain animals against conjectural relatives, or a more special case as the t-gen of mice. If the t-gen occurs in a mouse in two alleles, than it dies (or is at least unable to reproduce). Does it occur only in one allel, than the mouse is apparantly unchanged, but than the t-gen works as a segregation distorter, and the mouse will give the gen to all its children. Therefor is it that way, that, if a mouse in a population of mice is carring the t-gen, than the t-gen will spread fast in the whole population and than start to kill the whole population. In fact this is what is (seemingly) happening in savage population from time to time, being killed by a bring-in or a came to existence by mutation t-gen. Regarded from the point of the mouse, this matter of fact is extremly unpleasant: viewed from the point of the t-gen it is bearable: thanks to the segregation distortion, the spreading of this gene is guaranteed. The only question remainig is why there are only few segregation distorter among genes, this question is also answered by Dawkins.
Usually genes built for their purposes living beings with a rather simple and relatively unflexible software, this software is usually called instinctive behaviour. But there are also some living beings, inespecial the humans, equiped with a very flexible programm, wich is sometimes called free will, and wich own therefor a algedonic control: that means, the genes settles some aims, as repletion, reputation, reproduction, and charge their reaching with pleasure, their missing with pain. How these aims are reached is left open to the creativity and imaginativity of these single being. The genes just give the hedonistic scheme, and the being makes up by his own strategies to gain pleasure. A longlasting, even forever lasting happiness isn't in the interest of the genes and does not fit with the principles of an algedonic control. Because usually no human has ever done so much for his genes that it couldn't do not even more, and that for after every happiness he gets sooner or later the feeling of having to do something to be more happy, like the wive in the tale of the fisherman and his wive who wasn't satisfied with her house and not with her castle and who can bare nothing with more unease than a couple of lucky days. Would a man construct a machine with wich it can copy itself (and its genes) a billion times and spread on the whole earth, than the genes would not be pleased, because they couldn't think of such a possibility, and that for only few people find a special pleasure in imaginating of copying themself a billion times (not to mention that it perhaps wouldn't really be the interest of all genes of a human that they were all spread all over the world a billion time, since that would increase the probability of genetic diseases dramatically). But what most people seek is a steady income, a home, a sexual partner and regular meals. And if they have something of that, they wish more of it.
But it is so lovely to wait
Jean Giraudoux, Ondine
Of course all of this isn't at all a inevitable fate. As Dawkins writes, we trick our genes every time we use a contraceptive (in wich in the industrial countries the success of the genes perhaps doesn't depend on a number of children as large as possible, because much children are often poor chiuldren with less possibilities). It is also possible to redirect sex urge into higher spheres and to honour god in mystical ecstasis or to get with any other method the benefits of the algedonic control with minimated effort, like having sex, but not to raise children, or raise children, but only a moderate, overlookable number. In the late anitiquity there was a gnostic sect wich is said (so at least by their christian antigonists) to hold the reproduction for something disgusting, since by reproduction the misery of this unblessed world is prolonguated, and that for the sect propagated kinds of coitus in wich semen is spent, but without reception, like masturbation or fellatio or anal sex as something holy and purifying (semen was thought to be carrying sparks of eternity wich are imprisoned if used for reproduction). Of course this sect has vanished completly from the face of earth expect for some few mentionings in the writings of their antagonists, but to spread and reproduce wasn't their purpose from the beginning. Possible is it also to exercise and learn contentedness and undemandingness.
Nevertheless it seems after the beforementioned as if the human mind is structured in a manner that people always need something to look for and wich they want to reach absolutly, and it seems to be nearly impossible for them to look content on what they have reached. But this striving must not in any case be painful. Platon uses the modell of hunger and food: to have hunger is painful, to ease hunger is pleasant. But it do not have to be so: it can also be pleasure to strive for an aim. As I am translating this essay, I strive for finishing translation, but at the same time, doing this work is something pleasant, in the same way as the painting of a picture can be something pleasant in itself, while the main goal is the finished picture. Maybe the goal of a flirt is to get the other into bed, and maybe the goal of sex is to have an orgasm, but nevertheless flirt or coitus can be joyfull in itself, and therefor there are people who tries to prolonguat it. That for the happiness for a human being in this world consists in doing a satisfying work. Of course it must be a work with obstacles, with difficulties: a computer game wich can be won easily and without effort has less charm, and the most attracting philosophical problems are those wich are said to be unsolvable.
The state of sexual excitement aims for sexual fullfillment, but it is also a joyfull state in its own. If it would secceed us to create a situation in which this state of sexual excitement would play a role, but it would be at the same time such that this state would be prolongued and intensivated, if we would have some highly desirable aim clear in mind, but the reachability of this aim would not only depend upon us, but would resiste us, then we would have, since the sexual pleasure is mostly the most intense, found the greatest possible happiness on earth. In fact, this situation is very easily obtained: you, dear Reader, only have to put on a chastity belt and hand over the key to your loved one. Your wish for fullfillment will more and more grow, and also your pleasure, till you finaly will think having to fade for lust and randyness, without being able to find satisfaction, till you believe to consist only of lust and every touch, every word of your friend brings you to heaven, the only heaven reachable for humans.
That was it. Uääh, what a hard work of translating all this. Hope it is not too full of errors and germanisms; if you think you could do a better job, then mail me. I just want to add some footmarks. The first one deals with the originality of these ideas:
The philosophical consequences of the new interpretation of Darwin's theory as provided by Dawkins and Lem is now reflected by some philosophers. For example, Daniel Dennett uses it to explain how intentionality works, in his essay Evolution, Error, and Intentionality in his book The Intentional Stance, published 1987. Without knowing anything about genetic theory, Schopenhauer invented a philosophical system with a sight on nature very similar in some aspects to Dawkins and Lem. Schopenhauer is often compared with eastern philosophy and religion: I think this is one main difference, that he emphasizes the instinct for survival of the species, wich is a somewhat misleading and very rough describtion of the survival of the genes (of course, the species do not want to survive; but in Schopenhauers livetime, the term "gene" wasn't invented yet). On the other hand, a stricing difference between Schopenhauer on the one hand and Dawkins and Lem on the other hand is that Schopenhauer established some kind of idealism in the manner of Kant, while Dawkins and Lem are strictly materialists.
The impossibility of heaven
I now about five arguments for the impossibility of heaven. Of course there is no strict proof for the impossibility of heaven
The first one is by Watterson. You must know that Calvin is a little boy, and Hobbes is his best friend, a tiger.
Calvin: Do you think Tigers go to the same heaven that people go to? I mean, in heaven, everyone is supposed to be happy, right? But people wouldn't be happy if they were always being in danger of being eaten by tigers! On the other hand, heaven wouldn't be very nice without tigers, either. I wouldn't be happy if there weren't any tigers . I'd miss them. Maybe tigers just don't eat people in heaven.
Hobbes: But then we wouldn't be happy.
The second one is by Borges, who would also miss the tigers:
Del otro lado de la puerta un hombre
deja caer su corruptión. En vano
elevará esta noche una plegaria
a su curioso dios, que es tres, dos, uno
y se dirá que es inmortal. Ahora
oye la profecía de su muerte
y sabe que es un animal sentado
Eres, hermano, ese hombre. Agradezcamos
los vermes y el olvido
[The meaning of it, as far as I am able to translate it into English:
On the other side of the door a man
lets fall down his rottenness. In vain
he will bring his preacher
to his strange god, who is three, two, one,
and will say to himself that he is inmortal. Now
he is hearing the prophecy of his death
and knows that he is a sitting animal.
You, brother, are that man. Let us thank
the worms and the oblivion.]
The third one is a variation of the second one. It uses the fact that humans are a product of evolutionary processes. Evolutionary developments works with continuous changes, not with discret changes. The reason why this is so is because slight modifications of the genes have a comparably high chance of being positive (also the chance might be less than a half), while great changes are almost certainly negative changes. This is so because there are more ways of being dead than of being alive: a complete change of the genes will almost certainly lead to a not working phenotype, while a small change might lead to an improvment. So every quality of a living being most be a continious quality, not a discret quality, that means something that can vary arbitrarily between present and absent. At first view it seems that many natural qualities do not have this quality, as the quality of having eyes, since it seems there are only two distinct possibilities: having eyes or not having eyes. But a closer look shows that this is not true: many chemical processes behaves different wether they are exposed to light or not. So think of a micro organism wich owns a chemical process that depends on light. The connection could be that the organism uses his scourge when not exposed to light: light inhabits the process that leads to usage of the scourge. Than this organism does not move if exposed to light, but it does move in darkness. So it has a higher probability of being in light. No think of this chemical process being concentrated at one special point of the organism: that means, the process will now not only depend on wether there is light or not, but also from wich direction this light comes. So the organism is able to move in the direction of the light. This point can be copied easliy (copying a body part is a trivial mutation), and if these points are placed at different locations, they can be used to determine where the light comes from. For example, they can be distributed uniformly. Or they can be arranged in a depression (they can also be arranged on a hill, wich leads to eyes as the eyes of insects). This depression can be made deeper and deeper, to determine better and better where the light comes from. Finally, the depression becomes cavern, and the light receptors work as a camera without lens. If the animal with the camera without lens has a skin, this skin can be used to protect the camera, and if the skin becomes thik, it becomes a lens. Than a retina and eyelashs and lachrymal glands and muscles to move the eye can be added. And so we got a human eye. But all the steps discribed above are also possible states, wich are all realised in recent animals: there are single-cell organisms with a light sensitive spot, there are animals with eyes like lensless cameras, and so on. To make it work, there must be a middle step between all steps, this middle step must be possible, and it must be an advantage: not only must it be an advantage to have an eye instead of having no eye, it must also be an advantage having a half eye instead of no eye, or having ten or one percent of an eye.
This isn't absolutly right: there are of course discreet steps, the steps between the generations. But in evolutionary terms, these steps are very small and the process is nearly a smooth one. There are some dramatically changes, like the change between 44 and 46 chromosomes - but copying of an organ is a trivial step, we said.
Having an eternal soul is something that couldn't come in a natural way by natural selection. Well, nobody supposed an eternal soul to be the product of natural selection: it is usually assumed that god gives human an eternal soul. But the difficulty stays the same: since being a human is also no discreet property in evolutionary terms: there is no way to draw the line between homo sapiens and non homo sapiens in historical time. Today, it is of course possible to draw the line, but we do not only want to assume every contemporarian human being to have an eternal soul, but also every human being who ever lived. We could say that every animal or every living being has an eternal soul, but that would do no good, because there is also no possibility to draw a distinct line between the living and the not living, since the living beings evolved of not living chemical processes. Even today, there remains some strange things like viruses, not really living, not really not living. We could say that every thing has an eternal soul. But if we assume that even a stone has an eternal soul, what happens if we break this stone in two parts? Does that cause another eternal soul to exist? We could say that every thing is composed of as many souls as it has parts, assuming that a stone has as many souls as atoms, and that the body of humans contain a special soul, besides the ordinary souls, but this special soul being nothing prinipially different thing than the ordinary soul. This theory was actually invented, by Lady Ann Conway, and became famous under the name of Leibnitz, but I do not think that it sounds like a rather convincing theory.
Another possibility could be that god gives a soul the being he wants, and refuse a soul he wants to refuse. That could mean that there are some humans without a soul, or that there are some things with a soul without being human, or both. It can be assumed that god gave someone a soul, but not his or her parents. If you want to believe that, believe it, but I see no reason to do so.
Of course it is possible to deny that there was ever something like a natural selection. If you read this and live outside the U.S.A.: I think there is pretty much evidence for a natural selection, and I do not want to repeat what you can read elsewhere, since I think nobody wants to deny the existence of a natural selection. If you live inside the U.S.A.: pitty you, nevermind.
The fouth argument deals with the fact that a human being can make just a limited number of experiences. For example, it is hardly possible to discrimate more than one billion different colours. And it is hardly possible to discriminate more than a billion viewpoints. So a human can perceive only a billion to the power of a billion different pictures, or less. "only" is maybe not the correct expression, since this number is much much larger than the estimated number of atoms in the universe - but it is still a finite number. And in the same manner as there are just a finite number of pictures to view, there are just a finite number of possible perceprions at all. So somebody in heaven will come to a point not perceiving anything new. Perhaps god changes his or her mind, so it can perceive new things, like a new colour, or make him or her watch directly the platonic ideas. But changing someones mind means not to change this person, but to exchange it: replacing one person with a limited mind by another person without this limitations; an argument wich can be found, for example, at Marc Aurel. Perhaps the person in heaven has a very weak and limited memory, so it forgets everything after a while - but to you want to be in a heaven like that? Or the person experience always the same, something like a neverending orgasm - but once again, do you want to live in a heaven like that? On a long view, heaven should be boring like hell. Could you imagine anything you want to do or to be forever?
The fifth argument asks: why should god do all this trouble? Why should he make a rotten world like the one we are living in (it is not a rotten world if I assume that nobody made it - but if I am to think that it is made intentionally, it is pretty lousy), if it is not our real home? By the way, ancient theologians thought that god created time, while he himself doesn't suffer time or change (contemporarian theologians, as far as I know, are less interested in metaphysical questions, they are more interested in proofing that Jesus was the first feminist or the first shrink). But what kind of guy is this who cannot wish anything - that would mean to be affected by change - and to love in a manner very hard to imagine? If he created the whole space-time in one now, why did he do such a thing, and how did he do that, since he did it out of time?
Right, now the appendix is as long as the whole essay, but who cares?
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