As we continue reading through chapters 6-15 of, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick, we are presented with many instances as to whether or not humans can actually empathize with androids. As we are presented with scenes demonstrating interactions between humans and androids, there are specific mentality focuses presented with several characters. Relative to empathy, characters such as Phil Resch , Rick Deckard, and John Isidore, lay down a scale for us in terms of empathy for androids.
Evidently the most cold-hearted out of the three, Phil Resch presented no empathy towards androids whatsoever. An instance, where we see the true colors of Resch are presented when both he and Deckard go to retire Luba Luft. Right before retiring Luft, Deckard bought Luft a book which contained a picture that she liked. When Resch saw what was occurring in front him, he mentions, “My departmental budget could never in a million years be stretched-” (133). Based on this quote, we can draw the conclusion that Resch would never grant the final wishes of any android that he retires. In addition, Resch would also never agree to understand these androids. Another instance, would be when Luft provokes Resch, comparing her idea of imitating with Resch and his position as a bounty hunter, Phil mentions, “I can’t take this” (134). Meaning, that he exemplifies the stereotypical image of a real bounty hunter. Which is someone who seeks out a target for the sake of a reward and evidently feelings from the target will never derail him from doing his job. He also views these androids as machines, machines that will never be declared as humans.
Rick on the other hand, started off as a regular bounty hunter similar to Resch, but as he gets to know some of his targets, he begins to empathize with androids. The first encounters with these Nexus-6 type androids was not pleasant with Deckard. Polokov attempted to kill him by confrontation and Garland tried to do the same thing, both of which ended up failing to do. With Luba Luft it was a bit different. After Luft was retired by Resch, Rick was furious with him. He was literally baffled that Resch was able to retire her so easily without any remorse. He also contemplated about testing others for feelings towards androids. The text mentions, “He had never thought of it before, had never felt any empathy on his own part toward the androids he killed. Always he had assumed that throughout his psyche he experienced the android as a clever machine – as in his conscious view … Empathy toward an artificial construct? he asked himself. Something that only pretends to be alive? But Luba luft had seemed genuinely alive; it had not worn the aspect of a simulation” (141). Obviously to Rick, Luft was thought of as a normal person trying to live a normal life. Or, he was only able to empathize with her because of his admiration of operas. But most importantly, he viewed her as a person not as a machine. Through imitation, Luft was able to portray herself as a normal person and not act intellectually cold, as most androids seem to do. Because of this, Luft did not appear synthetic to Rick and he felt as though a real person was murdered by Resch. I believe that Rick obtained his empathy for androids, not because of his admiration for operas or his attraction towards female androids, but that he believes that androids can change themselves to become human.
Being treated differently by humans for being a special, John Isidore can empathize the most with androids as humans treat them differently as well. As we know, three of the eight escaped androids from mars remain operational, and they are residing within the same apartment complex as John. The androids begin conversing about their home planet, Mars. All of them stating that Mars is a horrible place to live. Once Isidore discovers that they are androids, he mentions, “‘But what does it matter to me? I mean, I’m a special; they don’t treat me very well either, like for instance I can’t emigrate'” (163). Evidently, Isidore is the only one out of all the characters that can truly understand how an android feels. His treatment from other humans hasn’t been the best experience, and he can relate that for androids, it’s been pretty much the same. They are both neglected as being human, from all of the other normal humans within this society. As a special, you lack intelligence, and as an android, you lack empathy. Both of which, are essential to be declared as a normal human.
In general, understanding the concept of being human involves many complex emotions and the ability to feel. From these three characters, we are able to familiarize ourselves with how the levels of empathy for androids are scaled for humans. Phil represents humans who view androids as machines, Deckard represents humans who can view some of them as human, and Isidore evidently accepts them completely. Overall, whether or not someone can view an android as a human, depends on the individual.
Great blog Daniel! I’m choosing this as a “featured” post 🙂