It’s been a rather long while since I wrote on this blog. Since then a lot has happened.
One of the things that I want to talk about was something that I have been thinking about since I watched some review for the Talos Principle and it the theory that meaning begets purpose and its influence on religion.
What religion am I?
Kind of a personal question but it bears mentioning because I think I’m in a rather unique position with relation to most of the people I know. I was raised Muslim, and I guess I still am, but I have come to some realizations since then and I’m not sure how to categorize myself anymore.
Have you watched Ex Machina?
No? Yes? If you have you might remember this one scene where Nathan asks Caleb about a Jackson Pollock painting. Jackson Pollock is the painter who would splash paint across the canvas in seemingly meaningless ways until he covered the canvas in paint, and felt that the painting was finished.
Nathan explains this and that Pollock would let the paint go wherever it would like. He then posits what if Pollock would only paint a brush stroke if he had full intention for what it would produce.
“Then he wouldn’t have painted a single stroke.”
This is a great allegory for whether purpose and meaning are connected, dependent, or independent. Throughout history human beings have been creating world views laced with “purpose”: purpose for the creation of the Earth, the creation of humans, the survival of humans, and so on. Early models of the universe, in Western philosophy, depicted the Earth as the center of the universe with everything revolving around it. We know now that this is not true: planets of our solar system revolve around the sun.
In Abrahamic religions, there is a deity called “God” who creates humans with a purpose and rewards us for fulfilling it or punishes us for leaving it unfulfilled.
Whether these religions are true or factual in their understanding of the fabric of the universe is beyond my knowledge. But because they are in part created by us, humans, they have a lot to say about ourselves.
In fact they have a lot to say about how we feel that there needs to be a purpose for humankind, the vessel we exist on, and the like.
Back to the Jackson Pollock painting thought experiment: If Pollock did not paint each brush stroke with intention, is the painting “meaningless”. Or, even further, is it not even a “painting”. How can we define a painting in such a way that random splatters of paint on a board which were created unintentionally is “not a painting” while delicate brush strokes with the purpose of depicting some thing is?
Or do we even need to?
Are Pollocks paintings required to depict some thing or exist with some purpose for it to be a painting? For it to be anything at all?
Why can’t the purpose of its existence be existing itself? In other words, should it not be allowed to be for being’s sake.
In this vein I present the following argument that I have yet to refute. This has been the closest semblence of a religion for me for some time.
What I believe
Now for the logical conclusion.
Are human beings required to have a purpose for being in order to hold meaning? Does meaning beget raison d’etre?
My conclusion thus far is that I really don’t know but with large probability the answer is no. And not just for humans, but for all things.
Developing games has kind of created a perspective on this that I cannot unsee. When I am creating a game, placing AI controlled characters in the world, positioning a character that represents the player, I’m essentially creating a world with “people” in it with behaviors that I define (AI bots) and behaviors that I don’t (players).
Is there a reason for any of them to exist? I’m not even sure if the word “reason” even applies.
Is there a meaning for any of their existences? Probably not, although I also don’t even know if it applies.
Think about this perspective: I’m essentially God in this scenario putting a bunch of creatures I created in a little world literally for my own fun. Beneath the fun there’s no reason for anything, everything just IS.
I think the real world is not far off from this example, although what was created in the very beginning remains to be seen because I suppose something had to create the matter in the Big Bang (assuming that theory is the correct model).
Things in the real world, like people, like you and me, just exist and that’s really all we know for certain.
We can ask questions about why we exist and what does our existence mean, but I feel like it’s just like looking into the void and asking “where’s the light?”. There could be one in the far off distance, but according to all we know so far, there is a significant likelihood that there is no light and it isn’t even a relevant question. Either way, all we can be certain of, is that we don’t know.
In the similar vein to “All I know is that I know nothing”, all I believe is that I belive nothing until proven otherwise.
Because I just don’t know.
[ Photo by Greg Rakozy on Unsplash ]