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Relationship between meaning and the differences in size of physical structures
#1
We've all heard it said from time to time something along the following lines:

"The universe is so overwhelmingly huge, we are a speck of dust, a pale blue dot in the vast ocean of space", etc, and the conclusion many draw from this is often along the lines of "Therefore, our lives and indeed the entire history of mankind is meaningless and completely irrelevant", etc.

Huh? What does one have to do with the other? Just like I don't consider my life more meaningful and relevant upon the realization that I am a larger physical structure than individual quarks, I don't think that my life is less meaningful and relevant upon the realization that galaxy clusters are larger physical structures than I am. These are just differences in size of physical structures. In what meaningful way can these differences be said to relate to the meaning of things?

We can even break it down further: What's the alternative to being a really small part of creation/reality? You're either 100% all of reality, or you're not. And if you're not, you are X% of reality. So what would be the ultimate value of X, then, if not 100%? 65%? 1%? 10^-60%? What does that value have to be to for your existence to be maximally relevant and meaningful, in a way that it is not right now? And why?
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#2
I can understand the reaction, though. Not so much in the sense of "therefore my life is less meaningful", but "it's hard to see a divine purpose". It's one of the things that made me doubt myself, before I found out about NDEs, psi and survival data.
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#3
I tend to see it as a good thing. I can only imagine the trouble i might have caused,( especially in my misspent youth) if I and my cohorts had been granted galactic proportions.
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#4
(08-20-2017, 11:33 AM)Hjortron Wrote: Just like I don't consider my life more meaningful and relevant upon the realization that I am a larger physical structure than individual quarks, I don't think that my life is less meaningful and relevant upon the realization that galaxy clusters are larger physical structures than I am.

Exactly this. It's all relative - people who make this argument choose to compare themselves to bigger things, but that's completely arbitrary: it's also possible to compare oneself to smaller things, and even to nothingness. Compared to nothingness, our lives are incredibly meaningful!

But anyway, as you ask, what does physical size have to do with the meaningfulness of a life? If we shrunk ourselves down to 50% of our current size, would our lives then be 50% less meaningful? If not, what's the formula relating physical size to meaning? (Rhetorical question).

The truly relevant entity when it comes to meaning in life is non-physical and probably has no size: our consciousness and ability to experience.
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#5
The interesting thing about relative size is it requires a subjective evaluation, basically the Boundary of the Experiencing Subject. So the natural question is - 

How far does that experience extend?

"Out of my experience, such as it is (and it is limited enough) one fixed conclusion dogmatically emerges, and that is this, that we with our lives are like islands in the sea, or like trees in the forest. The maple and the pine may whisper to each other with their leaves. … But the trees also commingle their roots in the darkness underground, and the islands also hang together through the ocean's bottom. Just so there is a continuum of cosmic consciousness, against which our individuality builds but accidental fences, and into which our several minds plunge as into a mother-sea or reservoir."
 -William James
"Life is a pure flame, and we live by an invisible Sun within us."

  -Thomas Browne
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#6
(08-20-2017, 11:33 AM)Hjortron Wrote: We've all heard it said from time to time something along the following lines:

"The universe is so overwhelmingly huge, we are a speck of dust, a pale blue dot in the vast ocean of space", etc, and the conclusion many draw from this is often along the lines of "Therefore, our lives and indeed the entire history of mankind is meaningless and completely irrelevant", etc.

Huh? What does one have to do with the other? Just like I don't consider my life more meaningful and relevant upon the realization that I am a larger physical structure than individual quarks, I don't think that my life is less meaningful and relevant upon the realization that galaxy clusters are larger physical structures than I am. These are just differences in size of physical structures. In what meaningful way can these differences be said to relate to the meaning of things?

We can even break it down further: What's the alternative to being a really small part of creation/reality? You're either 100% all of reality, or you're not. And if you're not, you are X% of reality. So what would be the ultimate value of X, then, if not 100%? 65%? 1%? 10^-60%? What does that value have to be to for your existence to be maximally relevant and meaningful, in a way that it is not right now? And why?

I think the relative size of the universe is just another "is just" statement (e.g. the earth is just a speck of dust, your body is just 99.99999% empty space, your body is just a biological robot), and "is just" statements can be used to demystify, reduce meaning, and redefine - and also to create new meanings.

In other words, "is just" statements are paradigmatic wrecking balls and that can be bad or good depending on whether the part of the paradigm destroyed was beneficial or harmful. They often provide a momentary feeling of transcendence that is addictive.

"Is Just" statements are metaphor flips: they take a commonly accepted naive realist metaphor and flip it into a new less common metaphor. Adopting the new metaphor can make one feel smugly assured of being in the club of esoteric knowledge with those who know the true nature of reality - when in reality they've only adopted a new metaphor that is just little bit more obscure. Cool

If one's mental model of the universe is small (a tribe; a piece of land), then one's ego might be enormous in comparison and one's ego could possibly be in an excess of meaning . An "is just" statement could serve to cut that meaning down to a healthier size.


On the other hand, if one already feels lonely and hopeless, then such an "is just" statement could push someone over the edge into an abyss of smug suicidal cynicism unless that person takes on a new frame to rebuild meaning after the "is just" wrecking ball swung through.
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#7
(08-20-2017, 11:33 AM)Hjortron Wrote: We've all heard it said from time to time something along the following lines:

"The universe is so overwhelmingly huge, we are a speck of dust, a pale blue dot in the vast ocean of space", etc, and the conclusion many draw from this is often along the lines of "Therefore, our lives and indeed the entire history of mankind is meaningless and completely irrelevant", etc.

Huh? What does one have to do with the other? Just like I don't consider my life more meaningful and relevant upon the realization that I am a larger physical structure than individual quarks, I don't think that my life is less meaningful and relevant upon the realization that galaxy clusters are larger physical structures than I am. These are just differences in size of physical structures. In what meaningful way can these differences be said to relate to the meaning of things?

We can even break it down further: What's the alternative to being a really small part of creation/reality? You're either 100% all of reality, or you're not. And if you're not, you are X% of reality. So what would be the ultimate value of X, then, if not 100%? 65%? 1%? 10^-60%? What does that value have to be to for your existence to be maximally relevant and meaningful, in a way that it is not right now? And why?
I don't draw any meaning from the size of myself compared to the size of the universe.

Actually I don't think there really is any such thing as "size", so in truth it becomes a non sequitur. 

I could give an example by asking a question like: in a dream, which is physically bigger a car or a toaster? You might say car, but I would answer that neither of them has a size, they are ideas, not physical objects, they don't have a "size",, it's a dream after all.

Or put another way- the universe is IN us. We imagine it. We bring it to life through our process of creating "experience". So in a way, we are bigger than it.

I'm not trying to play word games. I promise.

So no. I draw no conclusions of relative importance based on the difference in size that we may perceive between things.
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#8
What the analogy means is humanity holds no special place in the universe. Earth is not at the center of the universe, our galaxy or the solar system therefore we are not the center. Asking such a question shows the self serving importance perhaps arrogance certain individuals believe humanity inherently possesses. When asking such a question keep in mind there have been 5 mass extinctions during Earth's history so far. Think of all the hominid species that came before our species arose the next time "you" all talk yourselves into believeing humanity is important.
The universe is giving the answer but it's not the answer that humanity has created through its mythologies.
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#9
(09-16-2017, 11:15 AM)Steve001 Wrote: What the analogy means is humanity holds no special place in the universe. Earth is not at the center of the universe, our galaxy or the solar system therefore we are not the center. Asking such a question shows the self serving importance perhaps arrogance certain individuals believe humanity inherently possesses. When asking such a question keep in mind there have been 5 mass extinctions during Earth's history so far. Think of all the hominid species that came before our species arose the next time "you" all talk yourselves into believeing humanity is important.

I guess I many have said this already, but maybe in a more concise way:

I think the importance of humanity (if any) has nothing to do with our physical nature, or the physical nature of the universe. It has more to do with our relationship to consciousness and the universe's as well. 

So given this, and our infantile level of understanding of consciousness, it's hard to say how important we might be. It would only be uninformed conjecture.
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#10
(09-06-2017, 09:10 PM)jkmac Wrote: I don't draw any meaning from the size of myself compared to the size of the universe.

Actually I don't think there really is any such thing as "size", so in truth it becomes a non sequitur. 

So no. I draw no conclusions of relative importance based on the difference in size that we may perceive between things.
Oh the jokes that come to mind.
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