The Robot and the Doll


Value, meaning, importance, or significance are not things which can be imposed upon us; they can only come from us based upon what we care about. They are not discovered, but rather created through our interaction with the world around us. Thus the very act of caring about something creates meaning, value, and in the end morality.

This excerpt was taken from here.

This is a statement of philosophy, not a statement of fact. We can, indeed, place our own meaning on things. This is true. However, whether the meaning and purpose that we place on objects and ourselves is accurate or not we are not sure of. The validity of subjective meaning would be plausible if not for one thing. This world is not our property. We do not own it. We did not make it. We cannot attest to its origin or its future. We were not here when it came into existence. Sure, we can create, as it were, “out of nothing” our own meaning, but when we do we take the place of authority over it. In this act, we become impostors. Consider the following:

A man builds a robot, then he leaves never to return. Another man finds it and decides that it would make a nice doll for his daughter. He rejects any notion that the robot, now a doll, had any purpose or meaning other than what he gives it. He makes himself the final authority on the issue, and since he does not see any “maker” of the doll around to refute the claim, he rests his case.

Does he not take the place of the maker in this analogy? Does he not then become an impostor, a fake? Bringing this back to reality, we did not even make ourselves! Can we attest to our meaning without taking the place of something if not someone?

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7 thoughts on “The Robot and the Doll

  1. Dear Daniel,

    I agree with that quote. I would add that your values are shaped by your interaction with the dogma of your religion in addition to all the other things that you and I both interact with and react to in forming our values. All that stuff about a creator and making and owning the world has nothing to do with the kind of people we are. It is just smoke and mirrors, trying to add a mystical veneer to a very real and concrete process that does not need the theatrics.

    Thanks.

    1. PiP,

      Why don’t you add arguments to back up your statements? “Smoke and mirrors” and “mystical veneer” are interesting ideas but don’t add much to the discussion.

      1. Hi Daniel,

        This is a statement of philosophy, not a statement of fact.

        (Stating the obvious, and also the pot calling the kettle, well, you know – smoke).

        We can, indeed, place our own meaning on things.

        (So, the original statement is a fact after all? Your statement is true – we are the only ones who can. I can’t determine the value of how you react when you see a flower.)

        This is true.

        (Yes, you already said so, why repeat it? This is just filler smoke.)

        However, whether the meaning and purpose that we place on objects and ourselves is accurate or not we are not sure of.

        (Smoke and a small mirror- Trying to measure the rightness of “Meaning and purpose” has no meaning; what yardstick are you going to use?)

        The validity of subjective meaning would be plausible if not for one thing.

        (Intelligent and thoughtful sounding smoke, as meaning in this context is purely subjective, and is valid only in the context of the beholder. I don’t think you like rain enough! You are a bad, bad man!)

        This world is not our property. We do not own it. We did not make it. We cannot attest to its origin or its future. We were not here when it came into existence.

        (So? This is all smoke that tries to sound mystical, but has nothing to do with how people find meaning and purpose in life.)

        Sure, we can create, as it were, “out of nothing” our own meaning, but when we do we take the place of authority over it. In this act, we become impostors.

        (Stinky flatulent smoke – our own meaning is the only meaning there is, in the context of something having a meaning and purpose to us. “Out of nothing?” If you assign value and meaning to things without giving it any thought, you are probably a sociopath. “Place of authority” and “impostors?” It is your own meaning. Who else has the authority to tell you the right way to feel about how you take care of your family?)

        Thanks.

    2. Perhaps the “theatrics”, as you call them, are closer to the very real and concrete thing than this “process” you mention. If this process is all there is, than what is the value? Do you simply go through life patting yourself on the back only to one day die and cease to exist? 70 or 100 years is not much in light of an eternity of nothingness. If you have nothing after death, why build anything in life? In the grand scheme of things you have nothing to offer that lasts. If this life is all there is, then that’s all there is. Why make the most out of anything when nothing is all it gives back to you.

      When I ask the question ‘how did we get here?’, it occurs to me that there appears to have been a reason for our existence. Why, after all, are we driven to create except that we are mirroring our creator? I look back through the annuls of time and think it is absurd to think that we must have made ourselves into what we are, without first having a reason to go on existing. After all, we are driven to things that foster our continued existence. Where did that drive come from? Evolution? Well then how did we survive before we evolved the drive to do so. For instance, it is conceivable that an organism could be hungry and yet not have a drive to eat or even know what eating or food is and would therefore die. By the same token we could have sexual organs and we would have to reproduce for our species to survive and yet it is conceivable that we might not have known what sexual organs are for or even what sex is. How did organisms get this information. How did blind, undirected processes give it to them? What purpose would a purposeless process have in giving it to them? And where did the purposeless process got the information for itself?

      “We are here because, indirectly, no one and nothing has made us and put us here. Both no one and nothing did a fantastic job of making us into what we are and putting us here where we are so wonderfully accommodated. I would like to thank no one for existence. I am also putting in a special commendation for nothing for bringing about everything in existence from itself. In fact, since nothing is our apparent creator, I am going to pay homage to it by attempting to do absolutely nothing so as to mirror nothing. I will also pattern my life after no one’s superior character.”

  2. ” If this process is all there is, than what is the value?”
    Nothing has value to humans unless humans place value on it.

    “Do you simply go through life patting yourself on the back only to one day die and cease to exist?”
    It looks that way.

    “If you have nothing after death, why build anything in life? … Why make the most out of anything when nothing is all it gives back to you. “
    I guess just because that is what we do. If life after death will be so wonderful for the believer, why do they fight the grave so ardently? If heaven will be so wonderful, why do Christians avoid going there to the best of their ability?

    “Why, after all, are we driven to create except that we are mirroring our creator?”
    A large assumption. If we are “mirroring our creator” as you claim, what do we create that is like anything you believe God created?

    “…it is absurd to think that we must have made ourselves into what we are, without first having a reason to go on existing.”
    Well, my “reason” to go on existing is I kind of like existing. I am not quite ready to stop existing.

    “After all, we are driven to things that foster our continued existence. Where did that drive come from? Evolution?”
    Yes, evolution. But in nature, even though creatures have this instinct to avoid danger, most do not survive very long. So, why do you believe God gave them this desire for self preservation if for most, it will fail?

    “What purpose would a purposeless process have in giving it to them?”
    It wasn’t “given” to them, in an instant, as you seem to be insinuating, but developed over a very, very long time. The process had no particular goal, so it was “purposeless”.

    “Both no one and nothing did a fantastic job of making us into what we are and putting us here where we are so wonderfully accommodated.”
    Have you looked around lately? Disease and natural disasters really put a dent in these wonderful accommodations.

    “I would like to thank no one for existence.”
    I guess you could thank your parents, grand parents, great grandparents, etc. With out them, you would not be here.

    1. First,

      “It wasn’t “given” to them.” I understand that…from your perspective. It was only a figure of speech.

      “Have you looked around lately? Disease and natural disasters really put a dent in these wonderful accommodations.” By ‘accommodations’ I mean solid food, oxygen, water, nutrients, wood, fire, salt and other spices, the materials and processing materials to form steel and other metals, gravity, light, energy. The list goes on I’m sure. All waiting to be tapped by mankind.

      Do you truly consider the implications of my points before you systematically and rhetorically deny them? I’d like to think I’ve done the same for you. Though I probably automatically look for the rhetorical line by which to deny what you claim. This is because I believe what I believe so strongly. Would you say that you respond to my points the way you do because you believe what you believe so strongly? I never feel like I see evidence that you have really wondered if maybe God does exist and therefore pursued the question with vigor. Perhaps you have. I’m just saying I haven’t seen evidence of it in your writings. And when I say “pursued the question”, I mean since you’ve become an atheist not before. But perhaps you haven’t seen the evidence from my writings either that I’ve pursued the other side of this debate. I can say that I have greatly pursued knowledge on the subject. Though I haven’t gone about specifically to pursue evolution. It would be a waste of time to pursue something that I consider to be absurd. But perhaps you feel the same way about my God.

  3. Tim – Would you say that you respond to my points the way you do because you believe what you believe so strongly?
    Well, actually, to be completely honest, I do not feel as strongly that I am correct, as I do that you are incorrect. And not even that really. I just feel very strongly that you believe as you believe for unreasonable or illogical reasons…if that makes since. In other words, I don’t KNOW that I am right, but I am confident that you are not right.

    Tim – I never feel like I see evidence that you have really wondered if maybe God does exist and therefore pursued the question with vigor.
    Perhaps if you read the first entry in my very haphazardly attended blog, your question will be answered. I was a bible believer for a very long time.
    http://i-smell-smoke.blogspot.com/2007_07_22_archive.html
    I probably held many of the beliefs you now hold.

    Tim – It would be a waste of time to pursue something that I consider to be absurd. But perhaps you feel the same way about my God.
    I don’t really find the idea of God absurd. Honestly, I like the idea. Part of me wishes that there was some concrete scientific evidence for the past and/or present existence of a loving creator of all we see. Part of me wishes there was an afterlife (though the Christian hell is very unappealing).
    But I am no longer a “believer”. I don’t “believe” things without something tangible, reliable, repeatable, as a testament to the claim of authenticity. I can’t “believe” in the God I once believed in, I guess because my ability to “believe” was largely based on emotions. I mean, my conversion experience, when I became a believer in Jesus, was an emotional experience. I did not become a believer based on well thought out, rational ideas. it was purely emotional.

    How about you Tim? I am guessing you became a believer much like me and most other believers, unless you were raised in the church. I would be very interested (genuinely) to hear your testimony.

    bob – r.u.reasonable@gmail.com

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