How can life have meaning in a mechanical universe?

Discussion in 'General Philosophy' started by Magical Realist, Mar 2, 2013.

  1. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

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    It seems much more likely the result of conditioning. Apes and other animals seem to get along fine without it. Social animals do seem to have a need to feel a purpose within the context of their society. Perhaps in the absence of small coherent societies, people seek meaning in a religious or universal context, in which case it is misplaced.
     
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  3. Cyperium I'm always me Valued Senior Member

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    Purpose and meaning requires a perceiver of that purpose and meaning. So if the perceiver vanishes then so does the purpose and meaning for that perceiver. If a strictly mechanical universe doesn't allow for the continuing existence of the perceiver (which lasts forever in some way) then there is no more purpose.

    There is a purpose and meaning in each instant of the perceivers life, by the simple fact that we are perceivers, what happens affects us (thus yielding inherent purpose to us). BUT if we die and are no longer perceivers of that purpose then that purpose dies with us. It could potentially carry on to other perceivers because it has affected us in a way that makes us affect others, but eventually they too will die and the purpose will then die with them.

    So if the purpose is to survive then the perceivers has to survive as well.
     
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  5. Cyperium I'm always me Valued Senior Member

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    I don't think so, I think the pre-disposition to search for purpose and meaning is natural to all humans. It is probably also a source of many scientific discoveries, to look for inherent order in the universe in order to get a glimpse of the overall scheme of things has probably been a great striving force for many scientists. Then what form that search takes may depend on various things, including religious conditioning, but religion itself was probably created because of that need (not the other way around). It might be tempting to think that religion was created for the rulers to ensure the obedience of the people, but I think a bunch of people sitting near a bonfire telling stories to eachother to give them purpose and guidance in life is closer to the truth (then the rulers discovered that it was a great tool to ensure the obedience of the people).

    In my opinion, life would be pretty pointless without a purpose greater than oneself. In the other post you pointed out that a painting would be as meaningful even though there is no point in life. Well if I looked at the painting while having that feeling of "there is no point in life", then I wouldn't perceive any point in that painting either. In fact, the most common feeling of people that are depressed is that there is no point in life, ask them if they would see any point in a painting while feeling that way (I know the feeling, no way can a painting solve that).

    I can tell you that there is more than you know, the rainbow doesn't stop where you can't perceive it, it has exotic colours no man has ever seen, likewise existence doesn't end where we fail to measure it, because we are fallible and our instruments are weak. Even so we can already see that a system in the world can give rise to the subjective experience of living, which is already more than can be measured, the system giving rise to the experience can be measured (which is obviously the objective aspect of it), but not the subjective experience itself. Reality have to hold both the subjective and the objective, not only my subjective but all subjective or do you claim that I am the only one subjective? Doesn't all subjectives co-exist?

    Again, the brain and the systems within it are only the objective aspect, so if we truly have a subjective (which is self-affirmative) then that is itself indication of a higher existence that we haven't been able to measure, a existence which involves all subjective beings and which contains them.
     
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  7. LaurieAG Registered Senior Member

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    I just found this quote from William Blake's 'Proverbs of Hell' circa 1793.

     
  8. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    I see your point. Nonexistence would certainly put a big damper on the big party of cosmic meaning. Which is why I remain open to the possibility of something beyond death. Frankly I don't believe a subjective state of nonexistence is even possible. The body may perish, so that in the objective sense there is something that ceases to exist. But the mind goes on imo. In what way? I have no idea. Once we die there is certainly nothing left keeping us from coming into existence again as we did once already. Not exactly reincarnation so much as endless first time incarnations. Or perhaps some mode we can't even imagine. Just trying to remain openminded here.
     
  9. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    [color=#ccoo66]"The apocalypse is finished, today it is the precession of the neutral, of forms of the neutral and of indifference…all that remains, is the fascination for desertlike and indifferent forms, for the very operation of the system that annihilates us. Now, fascination (in contrast to seduction, which was attached to appearances, and to dialectical reason, which was attached to meaning) is a nihilistic passion par excellence, it is the passion proper to the mode of disappearance. We are fascinated by all forms of disappearance, of our disappearance. Melancholic and fascinated, such is our general situation in an era of involuntary transparency."

    —Jean Baudrillard, Simulacra and Simulation, "On Nihilism", trans. 1995[page needed][/color]
     
  10. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

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    I was trying to explain that life can have personal meaning even though it has no meaning outside of the context of life. The fact is no one has discovered if there is any meaning to our existence in the universe, yet works of art of created and most people don't commit suicide. How can that be?
     
  11. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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  12. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    John Updike on Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing

    http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/07/30/john-updike-jim-holt-why-does-the-world-exist/


    Jim Holt: "When you listen to such thinkers feel their way around the question of why there is a world at all, you begin to realize that your own thoughts on the matter are not quite so nugatory as you had imagined. No one can confidently claim intellectual superiority in the face of the mystery of existence. For, as William James observed, ‘All of us are beggars here.’"
     
  13. Cyperium I'm always me Valued Senior Member

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    I've also thought about the possibility of endless first-time incarnations, since after all we aren't bound by time anymore but in exactly the same state as before we were born. Actually the same state as before the universe itself existed. So I guess it is reasonable that we are born "again" but it would be the same birth, so to speak.


    Sometimes it is because people still have hope (and faith) for a meaning, and sometimes they choose to occupy themselves with things available so that the feeling of emptiness is subsided. Sometimes they choose to give meaning to other things in a attempt to fill the emptiness. I would think addiction is often caused by the attempt to fill the void. I think that as long as we are happy (despite the lack of meaning) we can more easily avoid the feeling of emptiness, but when tragedy strikes or when bad things happen to us then that feeling can potentially overcome anything else. They could also choose to simply ignore the feeling while still remaining skeptical about it, we have the power of delusion after all.

    I agree that things that happen in life are meaningful, not only "might be", but it is a temporary meaning and they can at least partly fill the void of universal meaning, but the void can always threaten the temporary meaning, and while you feel that void no temporary meaning can fill it. Distraction is probably the best method then, or pills (sorry but that's the way it is). Time is also a good friend in such occasions, in my experience all feelings eventually subside into other modes.

    I guess we can thank our fallible nature that we don't always feel that way, perhaps the feeling of comfort is because deep down you still have a slight hope that all of this isn't in vain? That all of this isn't just swept away into nothing? That our life might have some true actual meaning after all? That we just don't know.

    I understand that science can't assume positive existence for something without proof, but we can. Science doesn't suffer the consequences, but we do. That we assume the positive instead of the negative isn't a delusion, it is simply a choice that we make because there is a possibility that there really is meaning to our existence. Existence is all we have, it's not something to throw away when there is a possibility for it, in fact we should gather armies to defend it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2013
  14. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

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    I don't think most people care at all about the meaning of our existence relative to the universe as a whole. Belonging to a human community (or just a community of two that includes you and your cat) is usually enough.
     
  15. Cyperium I'm always me Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, and I guess that if they are predispositioned to think that there is no meaning then they should be thankful for their ignorance on the matter. Some people aren't as lucky.
     
  16. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

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    I think people are just conditioned to feel a part of some godly plan, and feel lost without it. I was never conditioned to believe that, so it doesn't bother me.
     
  17. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Lest anyone fall for the lie that longing for the meaning of life is some weird quirk or due to conditioning that came out of religion, here's a brief history of this VERY human pursuit going all the way back to Plato.

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/life-meaning/
     
  18. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

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    what, if anything, makes life meaningful

    That is a different question than what does life mean in the context of the universe as a whole, which is a religious question. These guys are trying to find what is meaningful for them in the context of human society, which might be religious or might not be.
     
  19. Crunchy Cat F-in' *meow* baby!!! Valued Senior Member

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    It's hard to say because I can't find any direct study results on it. I have a friend whom had been conditioned very comparitively to me; however, I don't have the need to feel objective meaning while my friend does (and we are both atheists).

    I'll speculate that religious behavior enabled certain types of genetic predispositions to flourish and refine in the gene pool and this may be one of them.
     
  20. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    No..the meaning they were concerned about was existential meaning, not social meaning. IOW, what is the meaning of man himself as a being. You would be hard pressed to find Plato, Lao Tzu, Buddha, the Sufis, or any other philosopher/mystic advocating a "a good social life" as an answer to the deep issues they raised.

    "Master..master..what is the meaning of life? "

    "Oh just settle down with a nice girl and start a family. That'll take care of it all." lol!
     
  21. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

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    I guess you never read any Lao Tzu.

    "If you want to accord with the Tao,
    just do your job, then let go."
     
  22. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Cherrypicking Lao Tzu to prove your nihilistic belief system? That's pretty funny.

    "Tao (Chinese: 道; pinyin: dào) literally means "way", but can also be interpreted as road, channel, path, doctrine, or line.[41] In Taoism, it is "the One, which is natural, spontaneous, eternal, nameless, and indescribable. It is at once the beginning of all things and the way in which all things pursue their course."[42] It has variously been denoted as the "flow of the universe",[43] a "conceptually necessary ontological ground",[44] or a demonstration of nature.[45] The Tao also is something that individuals can find immanent in themselves."---http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taoism
     
  23. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

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    Does it matter, most life lives without a care as to why they live, in short I ask "Does life need a meaning?"
     

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