qualia and orgasmium

From: Ben Goertzel (ben@goertzel.org)
Date: Sun Feb 15 2004 - 10:59:00 MST

Curzio ... Metaqualia ... whomever you feel like being this morning ;-> ...

I had a bit more to say about qualia and orgasmium and ethics, which I
didn't say before because

a) it gets soooo philosophical/spiritual and veers away from the
technological/futurological focus of the conversation

b) I reckoned that you might think it sounded like useless and ridiculous

But I'm in an even stranger than usual mood this morning, so I decided to
say the extra bit anyway ;-) At first I was going to email it just to you,
but then I decided to inflict it upon the list...

Let me clarify beforehand that I do not think these are matters to be
decided through rational argumentation. Calling them "spiritual" isn't
quite right either because it brings to mind images of religious
mumbo-jumbo, which I dislike as much as any other atheist/agnostic
rationalist. But even so, these thoughts are more "spiritual" than

So -- here we go -- some Sunday morning metaphysics...

Firstly I don't think that seeking "happiness" in itself is a good goal,
because I think that instances of human happiness come in many different
kinds. There are moments of happiness that center on sense-gratification,
and then there are moments of happiness that center on a feeling of
connectedness, which bridges the division between the individual and the
cosmos. These latter moments of happiness are the ones I think are
valuable, and should be maximized. (I stress that I don't know how to
quantify this any more than you know how to quantify your more generic
notion of "happiness.")

Next, about orgasmium. My perspective is that the universe "began" in a
state of pure undifferentiated orgasmic bliss. (Note, my use of "began"
here is not temporal in the normal sense; it's more in the sense of Peirce's
cosmogony ... in terms of what is logically or metaphysically prior.) Then
differentiation came about -- separate objects and separate minds emerged...
leading to US among other things ... but also leading to negative qualia,
which are entirely consequent from the separation of the parts from the
whole, the subdivision of the original formless void.

Now, some of these parts seek to recombine with each other in a sense --
seek to find unity with the whole, directly or via unity with other
minds/beings -- and the best moments of human experience are like this.
Sexual orgasms can be like this in some cases, particularly when experienced
with a partner ;-) ... simple things like love for one's family are like
this too (yeah, I know you can look at sexuality and family-love in terms of
evolutionary psychology as well -- and I think that's interesting -- but I
am choosing a different perspective in this context -- )

But by seeking unity, are we ambitious parts merely seeking to return to the
primordial undifferentiated orgasmium? I don't think so. We are on a
grander quest. We are working toward a kind of dialectical synthesis of
unity and separation, in which the parts still have their autonomy and
choice, but ALSO have the beautiful fused ecstasy and perfection of the
primordial orgasmium. This may seem contradictory; yet, this contradiction
may just be consequent from an overly narrow application of logic.

I think this relates to what you said by "the way to maximize happiness may
be to have a lot of complex minds doing complex things." I'm not sure that
is true. The original orgasmium may have been just as happy as the
dialectical-synthesis orgasmium toward which we are tending. But the new
one has growth and choice along with happiness -- and doesn't need to have
any LESS happiness than its predecessor.... However, the current phase of
passing through a painful separation-of-parts period is a necessary evil
(and is in fact the essence of "evil") in order to pass from the
undifferentiated orgasmium to the dialectical-synthesis orgasmium.

The human Transcension/Singularity should be understood as part of this
process of the void reconnecting with itself, undoing-without-undoing what
it did by separating itself from itself in the first place...

Anyway that's how I look at it. This is a further development of the
perspective in the prose poem "Journey of the Void" that is on my website,
and it's some of the deeper philosophy underlying the Voluntary Joyous
Growth principle that I wrote about in the Positive Transcension essay.

FYI, some Zen Buddhist folks think my perspective has a lot in common with
Zen Buddhism, others see major differences

-- Ben G

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