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Absurd Views

Tyler Cowen asks, "What is the most absurd claim you believe?" The rules of the game are that "It should refer to a view which you actually hold, but many other smart people consider untenable and bizarre." Tyler links to a picture of Quine so I think we may hold the same absurd views. Sensible people heap scorn on all sorts of postmodern nonsense about how there's no objective morality and how science doesn't provide us with access to objective knowledge about the external world. I think the postmodern nonsense is basically correct. I recommend Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature and Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind to one and all.

March 21, 2006 | Permalink


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I suppose I'd go with a fairly rigorous materialism. Which means:

1. There is no soul or afterlife.

2. There is no free will, merely the illusion of it.

Of course, while I consciously believe in 2 I'm not sure I *really* believe it. It certainly doesn't affect my actions in any way.

Posted by: Doug T | Mar 21, 2006 11:36:17 AM

Well how could it Doug?

Posted by: Jedmunds | Mar 21, 2006 11:39:11 AM

JFK was killed by rouge element of the US government.

Posted by: Petey | Mar 21, 2006 12:51:48 PM

The end ("big crunch") of the universe will be/will have been, in a strict scientific sense, the very same event as its beginning ("big bang").

Posted by: ot | Mar 21, 2006 12:58:29 PM

JFK was killed by rouge element of the US government.

The Gay Mafia is everywhere!

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Mar 21, 2006 12:58:45 PM

(just in case the absurdity isn't clear: by 'very same event' I don't mean that they are just like each other, but that they are one and the same thing.)

Posted by: ot | Mar 21, 2006 1:01:36 PM

Matthew, if you haven't read historian James Kloppenberg's book Uncertain Victory, please, please go to Amazon and read the blurb--I really think it would float your boat (that goes for you lurkers as well, if you're here in the first place...).

BTW, I believe that marijuana is the most marvelous substance ever to present itself to troubled, hyperconscious homo sapiens and think it should be grown everywhere and made available free to everyone old enough to tell their children they can't smoke it yet.

Posted by: elle loco | Mar 21, 2006 1:10:47 PM

It is okay to kill one person so that a hundred trillion rabbits can have orgasms.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Mar 21, 2006 1:20:37 PM

Neil - shouldn't we, in fact, be required to kill the person standing in the way of the rabbit orgasms? I agree with you, by the way.

Posted by: Sam TH | Mar 21, 2006 2:36:32 PM

Yeah, I realized after I posted that I hadn't used the right normative operator. Actually, to put it in the way I think consequentialists really should -- killing one person so a hundred trillion rabbits can have orgasms is a wonderful thing to do.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Mar 21, 2006 3:16:17 PM

I believe in the Trinity. That something is incomprehensibly three and only one at the same time.

Posted by: Pet Lover | Mar 21, 2006 3:28:38 PM

Matt, I'm quite willing to accept that science doesn't provide YOU "with access to objective knowledge about the external world." How could it? You don't know any science. But I can't see how you believe yourself to be competent to have an opinion as to whether science provides a scientist with access to etc. etc.

Posted by: JR | Mar 21, 2006 4:10:30 PM

Human life is not inherently valuable.

Posted by: LXB | Mar 21, 2006 4:28:05 PM

JR - That's a silly thing to say.

Posted by: washerdreyer | Mar 21, 2006 4:47:21 PM

Hmm. I think the most *absurd*, in terms of people saying "that's crazy!" is much like Matt's. I'm not sure whether I'm more or less or equally...post-modernist, for lack of a better term...than Matt re: morality and science, but certainly more so than most people (although my position re: morality might more accurately be considered to come from a kind of skepticism than true extreme relativism, and I don't consider my position re: science to be *that* extreme [from a philosophical perspective]).

However, I think the belief of mine which gets the most *distressed* reaction, in terms of people who like me being upset that I appear to hold this position, is my belief that there's probably no such thing as morality in the conduct of war, and compacts like the Geneva Convention are largely exercises in people fooling themselves. (I tend to think following the notions laid out in the Geneva Convention is a good idea for pragmatic reasons, fwiw.)

Posted by: Quarterican | Mar 21, 2006 5:36:39 PM

You really think tht Neil? In your heart of hearts?

Posted by: Patrick | Mar 21, 2006 5:53:17 PM

I don't know how absurd this is, but it's definitely unusual. I believe that gorillas, dolphins, orangutans, chimpanzees, and dogs are people. Incredibly stupid people by human standards, but people nonetheless.

Posted by: Greg | Mar 21, 2006 6:24:10 PM

I believe that I am destined to die alone and be eaten by cats.

The few friends to whom I have confessed this belief assure me that this is an absurd belief, as I am pretty, funny, cool to hang out with, etc, etc, and in no danger of this, but I suspect this is just because a) they're girls and were trained to be nice or b) they're guys and therefore want to sleep with me.

Posted by: flippantangel | Mar 21, 2006 6:40:21 PM

1. I believe you will be able to get around Los Angeles pretty well by rail within 20 years.

2. All state legislatures should be unicameral.

Posted by: Delicious Pundit | Mar 21, 2006 7:39:55 PM

Patrick, I have intuitions to the contrary. But I think that moral intuitions are generally unreliable, because of their dependence on emotion. Since the goodness of pleasure can be detected without any emotion standing between you and the pleasure -- just like the darkness of black can be detected without any emotion standing between you and the black -- it escapes this problem. Nothing else does, as far as I know.

I regard my intuition that you shouldn't kill one person for a hundred trillion rabbit orgasms the same way I regard a perceptual illusion.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Mar 21, 2006 7:52:12 PM

Crack was introduced into the inner-city by the CIA

Posted by: justin | Mar 21, 2006 8:34:27 PM

1. Infanticide is not necessarily a bad thing, and can be a very good thing.

2. To tie in another thread: the Beatles are overrated. Very good, but overrated.

Posted by: snowdensofyesteryear | Mar 21, 2006 10:03:21 PM

Uh, insofar as Empiricism and the Philosophy of Mind touches on questions like those mentioned in the post, it takes a position opposite to the "post-modern" one, so I'm really puzzled as to why you're citing it.

Posted by: bza | Mar 22, 2006 1:07:54 AM

Although I am an atheist, I maintain a lingering and paranoid doubt that God exists and is coming back to eat me.

Posted by: Iron Lungfish | Mar 22, 2006 2:56:03 AM

A toss up between:

I think the cyclical history of civilizations a la Spengler's "Decline of the West" is probably roughly accurate.

I believe in space aliens, because I think that because the Drake equation solves to at least 1, it probably solves to more than one.

Posted by: Jeremy | Mar 22, 2006 7:55:05 AM

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