Saturday, January 13, 2018

Hallucination revisited

In my post on the hallucination hypothesis I came up with a thought experiment in which you imagine seeing somebody alive standing in front of you who you know to be dead, especially somebody close to you like a family member or friend. Then I asked you to imagine what you might make of it and said there were just a few possibilities:

1. You're dreaming.
2. You're hallucinating.
3. You're seeing a ghost.
4. The person never died to begin with.
5. The person has risen from the dead.

Well, today I thought of two more:

6. They've become a vampire.
7. They've become a zombie.

I don't know why I never thought of that before. Of course a lot of internet trolls out there like to call the risen Jesus a zombie, but that is incorrect. A person who rises from the dead really is alive and typically likes to eat fish (Luke 24:42-43) rather than brains or human flesh. Zombies are the undead, not really alive, and they eat human flesh, especially brains if they are classic zombies. So there.


At 1/15/2018 9:06 AM , Blogger Staircaseghost said...

You left out twin, clone, and android.

To 3,6, and 7 you might add a dybbuk, or a wraith, or a revenant, or any number of other supernatural nasties.

I don't know many people who "really are alive" who can shift their shape, communicate telepathically, and phase through walls like Martian Manhunter, so I don't know why you would cherry-pick the bit about the fish to make your point. Do you suppose if the spear-hole (which was still present) were in the right place, they would have seen the masticated fish fall out of his torso?

One very very very important thing that swoons, mistaken identities and hallucinations have in common that separates them from zombies and resurrected messiahs is that the former are all psychologically *implausible*, while the latter are all physically *impossible*. If a miracle can make the impossible a plausible explanation, a fortiori, a miracle can make the implausible plausible as well. So clearly, we need to embark on an investigation into miraculous hallucinations...

At 1/15/2018 11:23 AM , Blogger Sam Harper said...

8. It's his twin!
9. He's been cloned!
10. That android looks so real!

Thank you.

About the fish comment, let me explain that further. There are a lot of obnoxious people out there who like to refer to the risen Jesus as a zombie. This is never meant as a serious claim that Jesus was a zombie. It's just meant to make fun of the Christian belief in resurrection. I was making a joke by pretending to take the claim seriously. The thought behind the claim that Jesus is a zombie is never anything like, "He wasn't really raised from the dead; rather, he was a zombie." Rather, the thought is that a risen person would be a zombie. In other words, Jesus, as he is portrayed in the post resurrection appearances, was a zombie, whether these accounts are fictional or historical. But that is incorrect since zombies eat brains and human flesh, but Jesus ate fish. Does that clarify things?

I'm not sure I understand your second point. Specifically I don't understand what you mean by a miracle making the impossible something that's plausible. Something that's impossible could never happen. A miracle couldn't make something that's impossible become possible. If some event happened, and it's a miracle, then the event was never impossible to begin with. I can't make sense of the idea of a miracle making something that's impossible become possible, so I don't know what you're trying to say.

At 1/17/2018 10:32 AM , Blogger Staircaseghost said...

You're not giving yourself enough credit. I think in your everyday life if someone tells you perpetual motion machines or faster-than-light travel are physically impossible, you are not completely out to sea about what they mean.

A man rising bodily from the grave after 36 hours of brain death is physically impossible. That's why the miracle is supposed to be so impressive. No religious person ever says, "hallelujah! It's a miracle! Nothing at all unusual has happened!"

Nomological laws categorically rule out certain observations. However one decides to reconcile this with one's personal metaphysics of miracle-working gods, they make modal claims that go beyond mere statements of (im)probability. It's a bigger deal, miracle-wise, to flout one of those than to just give subtle nudges to the laws of chance.

For a being capable of doing the physically impossible, doing the merely improbable is child's play! Therefore, a miraculous implausibly shared hallucination is the Best Explanation (TM) where such sightings are concerned.

At 1/17/2018 12:38 PM , Blogger Sam Harper said...

You're right. I was focusing on your use of the word impossible without paying enough attention to your qualification, physically impossible. I'm guessing, now, that your qualification is meant to leave room for logical or metaphysical possibility because otherwise I'd still say it makes no sense to talk about an impossibility being made possible by a miracle. If you would just be more explicit about these things, I wouldn't have to keep making guesses about your meaning.

Of course, to be persnickety, a resurrection is not physically impossible either. It's just so unlikely that for all practical purposes, it's physically impossible. But that isn't important for your point. I agree that the surprise of a resurrection is in the fact that it's not at all what we would expect.

I've read your third paragraph three times now, and I don't know what you're trying to say there.

Concerning your last paragraph, I'm not totally sure I understand what you're saying there, either. It almost sounds like you're saying that if there is a God capable of doing the physically impossible, it follows that a group hallucination, though miraculous, is the best explanation for any sighting of a resurrected person. I don't see how that follows, though. Maybe what you mean is that even if we grant a being who can do the physically impossible, we still have to consider which is more physically impossible--a resurrection or a group hallucination. Since a resurrection is more physically impossible than a group hallucination, it follows that a group hallucination is more probable than a resurrection on the supposition that a being exists who can do the physically impossible.

Assuming that's what you're saying, this argument is problematic. One physically impossible event can't be more or less improbable than another physically impossible event. If it's physically impossible, then it's physically impossible. That's about as physically improbable as you can get, so any events that are physically impossible are equally improbable. If you grant the existence of a being who can do the physically impossible, then you've moved from physically impossible to possible in some sense. But then there's no reason to think it would be more difficult for that being to produce a resurrection than to produce a group hallucination since we've stipulated that they are both physically impossible and therefore equally improbable. Or, even if it was easier for the being to produce a group hallucination than a resurrection, there's nothing in the nature of either that would tell us which one the being might prefer to do. You might be able to make an argument from the circumstances to speculate about what the being might prefer to do, and from that arrive at some probability that would favour one scenario over the other, but I don't see any other way of attaching a higher probability to one than to the other.

If we were talking about an individual hallucination or even a group sighting of some sort like an illusion or a misidentification, I would readily grant that such a thing is far more likely than a resurrection with or without positing a being who can do the physically impossible.

As a side note (and not a serious one), I really hope you don't actually believe zombies are physically impossible because that will leave you unprepared when the zombie apocalypse breaks out.


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