Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep: the Morality of Life and Greed

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“Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” is a novel written by Philip K. Dick. With the confusion of not knowing whether or not the characters are human, it really makes you think about what makes someone human. This book explores the deeper meaning of what makes someone a “human”, like culture, conflicts, beliefs, morals, power, and greed.

Humanity has been philosophized for centuries by teachers, poets, and students alike. Why are we here? Why are we the way we are? Humans are incredibly complex beings; we have emotions and we have the ability to make rational and irrational decisions like no other species. A human’s range of emotions is so wide there are too many to name. But from this range of emotions, we experience empathy as well, and our empathy is one of the main traits that makes us human. Empathy is the feeling of concern or sorrow for others that can impact our rational thoughts in difficult situations. I say empathy makes us human because it is the very thing that drives us to save lives, stops wars, and even makes us keep pets . This empathy affecting one's decision making is shown in this quote from the book, “...Ultimately, the empathetic gift blurred the boundaries between the hunter and the victim, between the successful and the defeated” (Dick, 29). This quote is Rick Deckard- the main protagonist of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep- pondering the thought of killing in a scenario. The empathetic scenario in question being to kill or be killed. You might think, ‘that’s a stupid question--.’ But someone who is very empathetic of others might choose to be killed rather than to kill. It is those decisions that decide whether or not someone succeeds or is defeated.

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On that topic, near the middle of the novel Rick contemplates the morality of being a bounty hunter, of killing androids without a care. He questions whether it is immoral to take an android life in comparison to a human life, because to an empathetic person life it is still life whether or not it’s artificial. This quote by Rick directly relates to this topic. "’Do androids dream?’ Rick asked himself” (Dick, 182). This question reflects on what qualities and traits makes one human. It seemed that Roy Baty dreams just as Rick does; dreams for a better life and for the ability to have spiritual fusion with Mercer, The godlike figure that is the main religion in the novel. But Rick being a bounty hunter is still sent to kill them as if they don’t dream. This internal conflict of Rick is the main frame of the book, the conflict of the value of life.

Near the end of the novel, a similar situation strikes Rick. Rick finds a supposedly extinct toad and brings it home overjoyed with the fact he has a live animal. He returns to his wife only to have her find a control panel on the back of the toad. Rick says this following that interaction, "The electric things have their life too. Paltry as those lives are" (Dick, 239). Finding out it’s fake makes Rick really contemplate whether or not it really matters if the toad was real or not in the first place.

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