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The Meaning Of Life.


Malaikat Maut
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For some the meaning of life (or lack of it) is of little to no consequence, but nevertheless it is a subject that has come up a handful of times in game including in a recent essay quest hosted by McVitie. I was doing some thinking in the shower (typical morning material for all, I'm sure) and figured I'd open those thoughts for your review and discussion.

Let's imagine an extremely large clock with 6 billion parts: gears, cogs, springs, various mechanical winding devices and weights, multiple hammers to sound a series of bells, etc. Each part toils endlessly and performs its given purpose with flawless precision. They even work together in such a way so as to accomplish various technological marvels. The clock enjoys free and unlimited energy as well as perpetual motion, winding itself without any "outside" force. For thousands of years the mechanical devices formed by the individual parts, each performing their unique purpose, spin and rotate and wind and hammer in synchronization and harmony.

However, in examining the clock from the outside, what if you were to realize that the clock has no hands? Another scenario is simply that the clock has no observer, but the same conclusion is derived from each: that all of the individual tasks which appear contextually or situationally purposeful are without any true meaning.

Now, as many here understand, I believe that purpose and meaning can only be established if the universe has not only a designer (someone to observe the clock) but also a perfect design (a clock that isn't missing hands). I'm less interested in debating religion and the existence or non-existence of a creator than I am in discussing purpose. Ways that it could be established, in more than an illusionary sense, assuming that the universe is without design, and how our lives could or possibly should be affected in its absence. For instance, how would morality or social responsibility be altered if the illusion of purpose were to be shattered for the majority?

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This is how I see it...

To use your analogy: The clock itself, has hands so that someone can see what time it is but only when considered from the point of view of a pre-set idea of what a clock is. It's designer, creator, and observer is nothing more than a part of a greater system the clock is part of. Their relationship is mutually beneficial and only two cogs in a bigger system. In the same way, without having to go further, I think one must accept that the purpose is what you are, part of a system of systems. If there is some end finite purpose, we must accept it is too far away to see, or perhaps the systems are infinate. If I use the clock, then the prupose of this world and how it functions is in order to perpetuate it's existance for the system above it and so on and so forth...in a sense, this is the nature of faith and hope. That being said, without hands what you remove is the indicator of function for the system above, not the purpose of the clock, for essentially it would still tell time with a very simple addition. You see I said addition rather than repair there? Remove one of the cogs however and you have a totally different problem...then the system either somehow manages to fix itself or must be repaired in order to continue it's function in the larger system else it dies. (I the greater system am thankful for my muscles, my muscles may or may not be aware of how wonderful they truely are simply in virtue of their existance)

In terms of what would happen to morality etc should the true belief spread that we have no real purpose...I feel that is a totally hypothetical question, because due to the above, so long as we function and exist, the purpose we have can lay in so many different aspects that to truely believe we have none is to believe that nothing we do makes any difference to any system at all no matter how much smaller or bigger than our own, when we see our actions have an effect every single day.

There is a lot more to say on this to be fair, in terms of personal satisfaction with ones own perceived purpose, because just having a purpose doesn't necessarily mean you will have a positive emotional response to it, which means the systems work ..er...multi-laterally...or however you say it.

Z

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I am of the belief that we have no "purpose" but to live, breed, and die.

What we do in between is our own personal purpose, but in the grand scheme of things, our lives are meaningless. There are those of us who rise above the rest and have a purpose, who can change the world with a real purpose.

While this is not a very heartening purpose if you look at it that we are insignificant, and are leading meaningless lives, you must be able to understand that what the Grand Scheme perceives as meaningless and what we find meaningful are two complete opposites.

I cope with this reality by doing something meaningful to others. I may not be able to change the lives of the entire world, but I can change the lives of a couple hundred(may be a long shot or and a shortshot, my life has only started. :P).

All in all, it does not matter if your life has meaning, it is whether or not you give it meaning.

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i love the analogy malaikat. The difference, and the flaw...is that the clock parts don't produce new clock parts. We as a civilization breed new generations. I am an extremely devout Lutheran, but I don't look at the purpose to be set twards the "designer". I look as the purpose to be set for the next generation of clogs and gears, as you put it.

"In 100 years from now it won't matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of suit I wore, or what kind of food I ate. What will matter is the difference I made in the life's of those who will see the future."

One of my favorite quotes. So as you can see I think the meaning of life is the preservation of life for the next.

Therefore "For instance, how would morality or social responsibility be altered if the illusion of purpose were to be shattered for the majority?"....the illusion of purpose would never be shattered unless the reproduction of children happened. I have always fully believed, that if when I died and moved to a better place, that if one person said "His life helped make a positive difference in my life" then I think the meaning of life was answered right there.

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I'll try to disregard the fact that you're attempting to sneak the ol' watchmaker argument past us in "observer" clothes :P and rather focus on the purpose bit.

Your clock-hands question is forcing an already weak analogy - us 6 billion buggers are not, in fact, "a clock", hence, we do not [u]need[/u] to have "hands" showing a three-headed alien on a casual Sunday Mars fly-by "the time", as it were.
We also did not really "spin and rotate in harmony for thousands of years", I'd much rather fancy a "ground against each other in accelerated entropy" description, so despite some short-lived localized pockets of synergy, we don't have any "higher purpose" to speak of (except maybe entertaining the dolphins :D), and subsequently liken to time-keeping.

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[quote name='(Zl-eye-f)-nea' date='12 January 2010 - 04:15 PM' timestamp='1263330927' post='52578']To use your analogy: The clock itself, has hands so that someone can see what time it is but only when considered from the point of view of a pre-set idea of what a clock is. [/quote]
[quote name='Totenkopf' date='13 January 2010 - 08:19 AM' timestamp='1263388780' post='52645']Your clock-hands question is forcing an already weak analogy - us 6 billion buggers are not, in fact, "a clock", hence, we do not need to have "hands" showing a three-headed alien on a casual Sunday Mars fly-by "the time", as it were. [/quote]
Unfortunately, any analogy would be imperfect due to our reliance on language and its inefficiency or inability to approach infinites and abstracts.

[quote name='(Zl-eye-f)-nea' date='12 January 2010 - 04:15 PM' timestamp='1263330927' post='52578'] It's designer, creator, and observer is nothing more than a part of a greater system the clock is part of. Their relationship is mutually beneficial and only two cogs in a bigger system.[/quote]
But you’ve just made the assumption that we have a designer, in which case I concede that fact alone is sufficient to grant us a greater purpose. I would like to assume that no greater system than humanity exists, and, in my clock analogy, humanity would have aspired to the pinnacle of its achievements: a harmonious yet complex world society. The murder rate is 0 and employment is 100%. I would make the claim that the universe, being the largest and ultimately final system yet unaware and inanimate, is purposeful insofar as that it sustains sentient life. So again, in the absence of a designer…is existence meaningful? Are there logical ways to support that it is?

[quote name='(Zl-eye-f)-nea' date='12 January 2010 - 04:15 PM' timestamp='1263330927' post='52578']In the same way, without having to go further, I think one must accept that the purpose is what you are, part of a system of systems. If there is some end finite purpose, we must accept it is too far away to see, or perhaps the systems are infinate. If I use the clock, then the prupose of this world and how it functions is in order to perpetuate it's existance for the system above it and so on and so forth...in a sense, this is the nature of faith and hope. That being said, without hands what you remove is the indicator of function for the system above, not the purpose of the clock, for essentially it would still tell time with a very simple addition. You see I said addition rather than repair there? Remove one of the cogs however and you have a totally different problem...then the system either somehow manages to fix itself or must be repaired in order to continue it's function in the larger system else it dies. (I the greater system am thankful for my muscles, my muscles may or may not be aware of how wonderful they truely are simply in virtue of their existance)[/quote]
[quote name='phantasm' date='12 January 2010 - 05:03 PM' timestamp='1263333839' post='52584']i love the analogy malaikat. The difference, and the flaw...is that the clock parts don't produce new clock parts. We as a civilization breed new generations. I am an extremely devout Lutheran, but I don't look at the purpose to be set twards the "designer". I look as the purpose to be set for the next generation of clogs and gears, as you put it.

"In 100 years from now it won't matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of suit I wore, or what kind of food I ate. What will matter is the difference I made in the life's of those who will see the future."

One of my favorite quotes. So as you can see I think the meaning of life is the preservation of life for the next.[/quote]
I had originally thought these arguments to be different, however, I realize that they are the same. Phantasm, it’s easier to spot in your post as it sounds as though you acknowledge and accept that existence is futile in the immediate. However, you neglect to consider the logical implications on subsequent generations. If our purpose is solely to breed a generation of individuals who have no purpose other than to do the same, I would say that the meaning of our existence is not only illusionary but also elusive. What’s the point of perpetuating a species that serves no purpose other than its perpetuation?

Also, for the sake of being thorough, I would like to be Biblical for a moment. In addition to the logical argument covered above, there is also a scriptural (Abrahamic) argument based on God’s command to “be fruitful and multiply”. However, that command was delivered only twice, both in the Old Testament, both to very specific individuals, and under even more specific circumstances. It was delivered once to Adam and Eve shortly after creation, and again to Noah and his sons almost immediately after the flood. It’s impossible to argue the command is valid outside of those instances without also accepting the entirety of Old Testament law as delivered to the tribes of Israel, and even then it’d be kinda spotty.

Z makes the same claim, although more abstract, to a seemingly infinite chain of systems each granted purpose by the system preceding it. First, it’s an assumption that those greater systems would exist in the first place, but even so if the chain is finite than the final system’s futility will invalidate the purpose of all of those before it and if the systems are infinite than the purpose is certainly illusionary as it will never truly be actualized…

Edited by Malaikat Maut
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That first quote you used of mine, contrary to how you used it, was not used to say your analogy is imperfect...if you follow what I said you will see it is closer to the opposite, it only goes to show the system of systems.

It is what you assume I mean by “designer” that is the issue here, not that I think there is one. You haven’t actually specified it, but by observer designer etc you seem to mean some sort of godly intelligent being. I don’t. The wind makes designs in the sand everyday…for example.

You can put the system of systems into another clock...but you will have the same situation. Hence the infinite system of systems. (You say I’m making an assumption a greater or lesser system exists, that there is only the human system, but I already gave you an example…here’s another...we are in the world perpetuating it, it is part of the solar system the solar system is part of something else and so on and so forth vice versa affecting each other).

A reductionist might say: “But what is the point of the systems? Isn’t that what would give the sort of purpose he is describing?” Well in my first post I already answered that.

If the question is “what are the consequences of a being who truly lacks any meaning and purpose”….then my answer is, said being doesn’t exist. If it is “what are the consequences of a being who truly believes it lacks any meaning and purpose”…then my answer is, it will die.

Z

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[quote]It is what you assume I mean by “designer” that is the issue here, not that I think there is one. You haven’t actually specified it, but by observer designer etc you seem to mean some sort of godly intelligent being. I don’t. The wind makes designs in the sand everyday…for example. [/quote]
I believe the words design and designer imply sentience. Random patterns in the sand can hardly be called a design and are given purpose or meaning only through the gratification of an intelligent observer. As I implied above, I don’t believe that the processes or even existence of nature are purposeful in the absence of life. The universe serves no function other than to host and sustain our purposes (assuming we are the only intelligent life forms in it).

[quote]You can put the system of systems into another clock...but you will have the same situation. Hence the infinite system of systems. (You say I’m making an assumption a greater or lesser system exists, that there is only the human system, but I already gave you an example…here’s another...we are in the world perpetuating it, it is part of the solar system the solar system is part of something else and so on and so forth vice versa affecting each other).[/quote]
Our universe is finite, although expanding. It contains a finite (and relatively small) amount of particles such that the number of physical systems is certainly limited, the largest of which are galaxy clusters. In any case and as previously stated, I don’t feel that an infinite chain is sufficient to establish purpose. This is my opinion and I’m looking to have it changed. Perhaps we can look at it this way. To make things simple, let’s assume that 0 is the grand purpose for the infinity of systems which form an asymptote that approaches 0. The systems will never truly intersect or contain 0, so the purpose is illusionary.

I also already stated that in a finite system the end or final system must have a purpose or the others which compose it are similarly meaningless.

[quote]A reductionist might say: “But what is the point of the systems? Isn’t that what would give the sort of purpose he is describing?” Well in my first post I already answered that.[/quote]
It just seems like a circular argument to me. If our purpose is to grant purpose to others which have no real purpose the entire thing seems meaningless when viewed from a high enough vantage point.

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