Thursday, March 20, 2008

Meaning of Life? Pointless question?

Meaning of Life? Pointless question?

 “What is the meaning of life?” The question has been pondered about by countless philosophers for centuries. It makes me wonder why… because I think it’s a pointless question. But I don’t think the question is pointless because I think that life has no meaning. I think it’s pointless because the question assumes that there should be a general standard for meaning and that it has to be defined external to the person asking the question.

There was a commercial before by the World wildlife foundation which I found to be a bit intellectually substandard. The commercial was about wildlife conservation. I don’t remember the exact words, so I will paraphrase: “It is perhaps the greatest question man has ever asked. We know that plankton exist to feed the whales, we know that zebra exist to feed the lions, we know that (insert species here) for (insert species here). What about us? What is our purpose?

I didn’t like the commercial for a variety of reasons. One, because it states that the inane question “what is our purpose” is the greatest question man has ever asked. Two, because it seems to assume that there is a universal purpose for why we are all here

From a lion’s perspective, a zebra’s purpose may be to satisfy its hunger. But from the zebra’s perspective, the purpose of its existence may be to get through life without satisfying the lion’s hunger. Purpose comes from either the lion’s or the zebra’s intent to achieve its own respective goals -Goals that are diametrically opposed to each other.

One may say that the purpose of fire is to give us warmth or to heat our food. But fire didn’t come into existence to serve man. Fire existed and then man found purpose for it. But that purpose only exists to those with minds to see benefit from fire. From fire’s perspective, it doesn’t care what man does to it. Fire itself has no intrinsic purpose for existence except for the subjective interpretations of purpose that man assigns to it.

Meaning is defined as the overall purpose of one’s existence. The claim that there is an overarching purpose for the existence of everyone or everything is a circular claim. The question “What is the meaning of life” is a question that proposes its own answer

Purpose requires intent, can only exist in minds that are capable of intent and is perspective relative. From a theistic standpoint, it’s a valid question since you may be of the belief that you were created by a mind that is capable of intent, for a purpose that it defined itself. It is valid to ponder what intentions your god had for creating you. Though I don’t see how you can get an answer unless you can ask him yourself.

However the question just doesn’t make sense in a secular forum because it presupposes true the assumption “purpose precedes existence”; That we were put here for a purpose that preceded our capability to define it and that the birds, lions, the whales and us are pawns fulfilling a purpose that was devised by a mind that is capable of intent –by asking such a question, you are already presupposing true the existence of a sentient creator

One of the most irksome questions that theists ask me is “If there is no god, how can our lives have meaning?”

Believers who can’t see meaning or purpose in life without god bother me. I just don't understand why some people can't grasp any concept of meaning or purpose without god. It seems like they’ve surrendered so much of their thinking process to their chosen deities that they’ve forgotten that purpose could also be defined from the first person perspective. They believe that they have a purpose, I believe that I have a purpose. The difference is that I don’t need other entities to define that purpose for me

It’s not just believers who misuse the word “meaning”. Some atheists claim that according to evolution, the meaning of man’s life is to spread his genes. I think that “meaning” is not the most appropriate word here. Evolution is a mindless process that is incapable of purposeful action thus it cannot ascribe meaning or have reason for anything that it “does”. Evolution gave us the capability and the motivation to procreate. Whether that will be the purpose of our existence will be determined by the individual who has the mind to conceive of purpose

The question “what is THE meaning of life” makes as much sense as “what is THE favorite color” which cannot be answered unless you have a reference point. For the question to have sense, you have to replace “THE” with “you” or “my”. So instead of asking: “What is the favorite color”, ask what is your/my favorite color

Instead of asking “what is the meaning of life”, ask: “what is the meaning of your life?” “What is the meaning of mine?”


Prudence said...


I'm going to add this to my favorite posts :-)

jaywalker said...

thanks :)

Lemmor said...

This is a very well written blog. Thanks! You have no idea how it helps me.