How can life have meaning in a mechanical universe?

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

  1. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    Oh. I don't believe that SG has Asperger's.

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  3. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Einstein the reputed "nihilist" once said this:


    "A human being is a part of the whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest-a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty."


    Sounds like a cosmic purpose to me. Einstein would've made a great buddhist..
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2013
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  5. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    I don't like counting my breaths. I HAVE learned how to practice mindfulness from a VA training class. There are some good CD's that step you thru this. I recommend them. After you experience a mindfulness session you feel so relaxed. Like your body is made of rubber.
     
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  7. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    There is a sort of primal madness of the soul--a megalomanic audacity--in the very idea that there IS a truth in the universe that one is destined to discover. In a way it is the same drive that motivates science and ALL pursuit of truth. That the universe is even such as would bare its secrets to the likes of some petty and transient creature called man. It is then no great surprise that the quest for meaning--for truth--should so often detour from religion thru the bustling bizarre of scientific wares and trinkets. Every little booth loudly touting it own theory as THE answer to the cosmic riddle. The key here is not to settle for anything less than what your heart tells you is true. As Castenada asks, "Does your path have heart?" Even if that means living in the mystery longer than you expected. For surely tis better simply to know not than to know not that you know not.
     
  8. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    If you don't believe that God exists, then perhaps it would be best to try to find a psychological place where you no longer feel that your happiness depends on the existence of something so closely analogous to God.

    I strongly suspect that's true, though I don't know it for sure.

    Actually, I don't even know what the word 'meaning' would mean in this kind of context. I don't know what qualities the entire universe would have to have in order to properly be deemed meaningful. I don't know how a finite human like myself could ever know about any of that stuff. And finally, I don't know what relevance the universe's cosmic meaning (whatever that means) would have to the kind of meanings that people experience down here in their own personal lives.

    Then why do you associate so strongly with atheists? You sound like you might be happier among more 'spiritual' people, provided that they are free-thinking, non-judgemental and non-theistic. (You might like some Unitarian-Universalist congregations.)

    I should add that it is probably a mistake to call those of us who don't believe that the universe as a whole has a cosmic purpose (certainly one that's relevant to us) "nihilists".

    Those of us who don't believe in cosmic purposes needn't conclude that values don't exist for human beings. We are just more likely to try to provide naturalistic justifications for our values. What we question is whether our human values need to be fundamental to the ultimate nature of the entire universe. In other words, we are questioning absolute values, without necessarily implying that no values can exist at all. We end up relativizing our human values to human beings and to our human situation.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2013
  9. Yazata Valued Senior Member

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    I believe that the word was coined by the Russian novelist Turgenev. He used it to refer to the idea that human values have no justification, and particularly to the idea that there is no justification for morality. He attributed that view to some of the young radicals in his time in Czarist Russia.

    Many theists associated the idea with atheism -- moral values come from God, atheists believe there is no God, so atheists must believe that anything goes. I suspect that some of the more radical 19'th century atheists perhaps did think that.

    There does seem to be a hint of that in this thread. Even if we don't associate it with moral values and with conventional ideas of God, there's still an idea that there needs to be... something... fundamental to the entire universe that gives meaning to our individual lives and provides direction about how best to conduct those lives.
     
  10. Grumpy Curmudgeon of Lucidity Valued Senior Member

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    Magical Realist
    Nonsense. It seems the meaning of words and simple concepts are also beyond you mental capabilities.

    Acknowledgement of vast reality and deep order is belief in woo? I don't think so.

    Gobbledegoop, word salad, air headed pontification so messed up it makes no sense at all. Hawking doesn't use the word information the way you are trying to. And information is not philosophical meaning, nor is it purpose, it is certainly only a part of physical existence(no, the Universe is not made of information, it CONTAINS information within it's physical existence). No wonder your posts are so incoherent, you've tried to equate wonder, awe, mystery and now information with purpose and meaning. We have different words to express different concepts and if you've got them so mixed up it's no wonder you understand so little.

    Meaningful to us, yes. Meaningful to the Universe, no. Information is something developed in the mind of an intelligence by observation of the Universe. Information does not exist outside of the mind and it's works(books, photos, etc.). Information is the mind's interpretation of the Universe's

    Hint, it's just like you are trying to use it.

    That is an accurate usage, finally.

    Why illusory? It is only illusory to those stuck with the notion of universal meaning, which IS illusory itself. The meanings we give to ourselves are real, even if they are subjective.

    No. As I have explained ad nauseum.

    There are no objective meanings or purposes to our existence, all the meanings and purposes we have we invent for ourselves. The Universe neither knows of your existence, nor does it care if you continue to exist. Since it takes an intelligence to see a meaning, such meanings only exist within that intelligence. Our intelligence gives the Universe the only meaning it has, not the other way round. Just as life gives the Universe the only purpose it has, continuation of that life.

    There is only "specialness" to ourselves, the cockroach sees you as a clumsy, noisy, slow moving mountain of meat that would greatly improve the world by remaining in bed and leaving the lights off(oh, and leaving the dishes until morning). It's all relative. That humans are special to themselves supports what I said, it's all relative to your own frame of reference. As to value, most of the major lifeforms of the last few thousand years would see us as a catastrophe of epic proportions, killing most of them off and poisoning the whole planet, but we think much better of ourselves. Value is relative as well. What I was pointing out was the difference in PURPOSEFULNESS. Humans have many orders of magnitude more of different purposeful activities in pursuit of our reproductive success(the only objective purpose of any lifeform). If more is better, then we are indeed better, otherwise we are just better in our own eyes.

    This is your distortion of my position. Just like all nihilists should kill themselves, the conclusions you reach from what I am saying are not the conclusions I draw from what I am saying. Get it straight, there are no universal meanings or purposes, it all is viewed from the perspective of different frames of reference. The ONLY objective purpose we have found in this Universe is that life's purpose is to reproduce more life. The Universe was not designed for life, most(nearly all)of it is really, really hostile to life, but life exists where it can in this Universe and evolved to fit it, not the other way round.

    So now you want to conflate the meaning of "real" with "universal" and "objective"? Of course there is "real" meaning, as long as you realize that all such meanings are subjective and relative to your own point of view(and your own interests, skills, aptitudes, happiness, relationships, inclinations, knowledge, circumstances, wants and needs). If you mean "real" as in objective, universal, always true to everyone and everything for all time, amen...no. Which is what you mean by "real"?

    Are we going to have to print a dictionary in this thread to keep you straight on the meanings of words and concepts? We're not talking evidence, here. That can be objective. But meaning is a derived thing, it is made up in your own mind. Purpose also only originates within your mind(except for "natural urges", that is hardwired in almost every lifeform, even if it causes the death of that individual, thus the only objective purpose you were made to do).

    Not a thing I learned in science was based on the authority of anyone, but it was based on the things those researchers, scientists and teachers showed to be true with their work, based on the evidence we had at the time. I have lived through the greatest scientific era ever, I have seen it go from the vagueness of Newton(he was taught in grade schools well into the 60s, though I knew differently)to the precision of Einstein, from the static Universe of Einstein to the expanding Universe of Hubble. It was a great education in the fact that the scientific method is the ONLY way of actually knowing anything about our Universe(as opposed to believing anything about that Universe). I am not afraid to say "I don't know". We've had to update our knowledge sometimes almost daily as we learn new things, but that is what makes the scientific method so good, timely and rapid corrections moving toward the actual facts. So any "authority" will be obsolete if he thinks people should believe anything, he has to show it to be true, THEN he gets respect but never authority.

    It's not belief, it is demonstrated fact. I have demonstrated it myself in both physics and chemistry labs for over thirty years. Truth is a loaded word, hijacked by theists. As they use it it does not apply to what science produces. Knowledge is a more precise word, because truth is "eternal", knowledge is provisional, subject to falsification given new evidence or understanding. And anything(an effect, entity, force...)that is not in evidence should not be inserted in your logic.

    You wish. Many theists say the same thing, yet you continue to deny theistic beliefs. Confusing at best. I do have a very robust sense of reality, I just don't accept as real that which cannot be shown by the evidence to be real. If you told me it was raining outside I would probably accept your word on it, provisionally(I could always go look for myself). But if you tell me the Universe was created for the purpose of giving you(or anyone on any planet anywhere)a nice place to live...

    Actually, exactly the same information as I have ever presented on this forum is easily and freely available to anyone, there are mysteries in science, things we don't yet know and maybe never will, but only the dangerous scientific knowledge is kept secret(though, oddly, I know EXACTLY how to build a simple gunbarrel atomic bomb in my basement, though I don't have the money, materials or any motivation to do so). My current purpose in life includes some time spent trying to correct such common misconceptions.

    Quite the contrary, the fact we don't know everything is simply impetus to try to rectify that situation. The fact that it will never be finished is not a reason not to take the trip. And we have no control over nature, everything we ever do will be within the confines of it's laws. And everything I am terrified of can be shown to be something real. One thing that worries me is meteor strikes, another football sized asteroid passed us by just yesterday. Please quit descending into this derogatory tone, your strawmen are starting to get you famous.

    If it ain't in evidence, it ain't real, dude. "And then a miracle occurred" is not a valid factor in a math equation. Scientists see no reason to think the Universe has a purpose other than to make Black Holes, so they don't add one. Life has demonstrated that it's purpose is the continuation of the DNA molecule, it's built in. Any other purpose comes from our own minds. We may project our purposes on the Universe by our activity, but the Universe is unaware of your existence, or it's own for that matter.


    Grumpy

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  11. Balerion Banned Banned

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    You've never met a single mother, apparently. There's nothing egomaniacal about that sense of purpose.

    You can forestall it.


    Where do you get the idea that truth has to be comfortable? Your premise seems based on the conceit that truth must be comfortable, yet you've presented no argument as to why that has to be the case.
     
  12. Balerion Banned Banned

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    That has nothing to do with purpose. He's talking about being part of a larger structure. That's simply perspective, not purpose.
     
  13. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    I prefer being a gadfly among the smug and complacent to being a companion to the restless and discontent. Complacency has always fascinated me, both in its theist and scientistic forms. How people can be so trapped inside their heads mistaking their own concepts and theories for a reality they hardly come in contact with. Consider it my divine mission, my cosmic purpose, to raise questions where everyone is totally sure about their own answers.


    Well for starters we could say that the universe has meaning to the extent that it cannot but be experienced as pre-saturated with subjective feelings and qualia. That just as the color red is a specifically HUMAN projection of our own physiological stimulation that just about everything else about the universe that we perceive is experienced AS it impacts us. We could not even experience a reality that was not related to our concerns and our values in some sense. So consciousness itself already presupposes a relevance, a meaning, to us in what happens, otherwise it'd never arise in our consciousness to start with. This ontological centeredness of our own mind is the reason we can expect reality to involve us on some deeper meaningful level. Because WE are constructing the universe as meaningful, or even as meaningless, in our own minds. Knowing the truths of the universe thus show us truths about what we are and what we are meant to be because we are an integral part of the universe we are trying to understand.



    I started attending a Unitarian church back in the 80's when I lived in Austin. I dropped out because they were TOO neutral. Their sermons talked about values and relativistic truth as if there wasn't anything real behind it. I needed something more absolute I could believe in.

    You project a construct of absolutely objective being as the scientifically-defined universe and then ask to have your subjective experiences of meaningfulness honored as just as real? That seems contradictory to me. If meaning is just a matter of individual emotions and tastes, then it doesn't seem connected to reality in any valid sense. And indeed how could it be where the ultimate reality is predefined as mere meaningless particles of matter. Hallucinations and delusions of meaning yes. But nothing "real" since for you only meaningless physicality is real.
     
  14. Balerion Banned Banned

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    Martyr syndrome. Typical of most kooks.

    Yes yes, the world is blind and you're the only one who can bring us to the light.
     
  15. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Believe me, a bunch of over-the-hill science nerds sitting online all day obsessively touting the scientific method as if it were the secret of all truth is NOT the world. You are only one tiny sect in an ocean of people who believe in a meaningful reality and who are actually living out that meaning everyday.
     
  16. Balerion Banned Banned

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    Why should I believe you? What information are you privy to that I'm not? You keep criticizing others for saying they know the truth, yet you're the one making the claim that there is a design to the universe. So far all you've offered as evidence is a couple of misunderstood quotes by Einstein, which is no evidence at all.

    Why would that matter, even if it were true? You think truth is determined by popular vote?

    Ah, to be young and naive again. Okay, so I was never this naive, but still.
     
  17. Mazulu Banned Banned

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    Nihilism is like mold and rot that overcomes spoiled food; it declares itself the truth in all of it's disgusting and diseased horror. It is better to believe in God or some other joyful and beautiful wonder. It is better to believe in something that gives you strength, endurance and passion for life. Nihilists like Baleron should be shushed and shooed away lest they turn all joyous and beautiful things sour and ugly.
     
  18. Balerion Banned Banned

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    You know, not everyone is weak-minded like you and MR. Not everyone requires there to be some greater meaning to life for life to be beautiful and joyous. This is just another false dilemma created by intellectual cowards.
     
  19. Mazulu Banned Banned

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    Apply bleach, scrub and clean. Throw out rotten food.

    Intellectual honesty is helpful in some circumstances, but at other times unhealthy. It is good, right and true to advance what is good for people's lives, health, well being and happiness. But nihilism's preoccupation with what is measurable when some things are clearly not measurable is to harm and hurt people's lives. Nihilism is the real villainy.
     
  20. Mazulu Banned Banned

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    Hey Baleron! If you're so strong, why don't you live outside in the cold and the rain like our primate ancestors did? Why don't you hunt with your bear teeth? Baleron the powerful should show us all how to be strong.
     
  21. Balerion Banned Banned

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    What does that have to do with being able to accept the fact that there is no skydaddy to cuddle us when we die? Should people who don't believe in fairy tales also go live out in the wild?
     
  22. Grumpy Curmudgeon of Lucidity Valued Senior Member

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    Mazulu
    See why I don't like the label? Of course your screed here shows more about your intolerance of other ideas as well as your complete misunderstanding of what those ideas contain or the consequences of their precepts than it does about nihilism. I disagree that believing in gods is superior to actually facing reality, and such a belief in no way insures a better outlook(history tells us differently). Personally, I think the world would be better off without the preconceived false notions of reality religions teach and the intolerant people who hold them. Maybe then more people will learn to deal with the Universe as it really is, not as they wish it would be.

    Magical Realist
    It is the secret to all knowledge. As to over the hill, we seem to be kicking your ass.

    Grumpy

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  23. Magical Realist Valued Senior Member

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    Don't be too hard on them. When you decide that your life is meaningless see, it becomes all the more important to prove your fading manhood to yourself in the form of petty pissing matches and contests over who can be the most insulting without getting banned. You see this over and over in these groups, and after awhile you just feel sorry for people like this, as you might for a couple of chimpanzees thumping their chests to the world in their cramped shit-strewn little cages. At best we can only humor them. At worst we can just let them be. One afterall quickly wearies of their endless ad hominems, put downs, schoolyard taunts, and juvenile boasts of intellectual bravado. Surely a damning indictment of the value of nihilism when used as a philosophy to live one's life by.

    ps--none of this applies to Yazata. But then he doesn't think he's nihilist either. I take his word for it.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2013

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