Monday, November 14, 2005

Conversations with God, part 16

Family and relationships, part 2

This view that we are all one in the literal sense is extremely counter-intuitive. Nothing could be more obvious than that I'm me and you're you, and I'm not you, and you're not me. I have a first person perspective about myself and a third person perspective about everybody else. I have direct and immediate access to my own mental states, and I have no access to other people's mental states. I own my own body, but not the body of another person, and when I walk into a room full of other people, I'm never confused about which body is my own. My body is the one that moves when I will it to move. I am aware of my own experiences in a private and incorrigible way, and nobody is aware of my experiences in that same way. They are only aware of their own experiences in that way.

Our cognitive faculties automatically tell us certain things about the world. We all perceive that we are distinct individuals. If the problem is ignorance, then we can't trust our cognitive faculties. If we can't trust our cognitive faculties, then we can't distinguish between what is real and what isn't. If we can't distinguish between what is real and what isn't, then we're in no position to call ordinary experience "ignorance" and the New Age experience "enlightenment," rather than vice versa. But if we can trust our cognitive faculties, then "enlightenment" is really just another word for "self-delusion" because it forces us to reject what our cognitive faculties are telling us. People are not born "enlightened." "Enlightenment" is something they achieve through mental gymnastics.

If we deny the obvious fact that we are not all the same person, then we cut off the branch we're sitting on by doing away with the necessary preconditions for being able to make a determination about whether or not we are individuals. Plainly put, it is irrational to deny that we are individuals. And since we are individuals, we sometimes have conflicting self-interests. Enlightened self-interest, then, is nothing more than delusion.

to be continued...

Part 17


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