Talons Philosophy

An Open Online Highschool Philosophy Course

By

The Greatest Question of All Time: The Meaning of Life (plus religion!)

Metaphysics deals with some of the great questions of philosophy, and of life. The questions that science cannot answer. Why? Because science answers questions and comes to conclusions based on observations and human senses. But how are these senses reliable? Chris notes in this post that, especially if the world/universe/humanity is a ‘cosmic accident’ or random chance as believed by many with the Big Bang theory and theory of evolution, then how can humans – who are simply a collection of particles (according to science), and were not intended – be trusted to analyze anything and come to any sort of conclusion or ‘proof’.

And perhaps all of ‘reality’ is simply our minds composing things for us to see, smell, taste, hear, and touch, even though they don’t exist. Perhaps nothing exists, but how could that be? We are here, I am typing this, aren’t I? If I am not, and I do not exist, and nothing exists, then what is allowing me to experience things? To me, it doesn’t add up. If nothing exists, then what is happening? Or maybe it is just my mind that has created everything that I am and think and see. But then what? Is it just like my brain floating around in nothing. That doesn’t make sense. Plus, as Jess pointed out in her post on nothingness, nothing is actually something; therefor nothing cannot exist (or, not exist). So if we say that we are actually here, then what? Our senses are still somewhat unreliable. So then what is real? And what is reality? How do we know? And since we are here, why are we here? Really, what is the point? Is there a point? Does there need to be a supreme being for there to be a point? I guess that is the question. We all wonder about what is the meaning of life, and why are we here. To answer that, we must first answer if there can be a meaning or point, if there is no ‘intelligent design’, I guess you can call it.

 

– To be clear, this post is not intended to force anyone into anything. Believe what you believe, but put some thought into it. –

Now, after a bit of thought, you might say, “well of course there can still be a meaning of life without God!”, for it is true that many, non-religious people and philosophers have come to conclusions. Many forms of philosophy and other people often see the meaning of life as to find happiness, in fact this may very well be the most popular answer to the question. Others, like Plato, believe that the purpose in life is to reach the highest form of knowledge. Philosophers and thinkers of Utilitarianism, such as Jeremy BenthamJames Mill, and John Stuart Mill say that the purpose in life is to create the greatest happiness for the most people. There are two branches of philosophy; however, that I find have a quite interesting view on the question: Nihilism, and Absurdism.

Nihilism essentially says that life does not have objective meaning, and more generally, basically says that nothing exists, therefore everything is meaningless.

Absurdism says that humans have a great tendency to look for meaning in life (and we do, hence this post), but we will always fail at any attempt to find meaning. Because it appears that life is completely meaningless, absurdism says that there are essentially three ways to respond to this. The first is Suicide, which I guess makes sense, because really if there is not point then why live out the rest of your life in meaninglessness? The second is to turn to belief in religion, because religion offers meaning in life, a purpose, and since really nothing can “prove” nor “disprove” the existence of God (or really ‘prove’ anything) then this also seems to be a reasonable conclusion (but this actually comes to the heart of the main question of “Does meaning in life rely on a supreme being?”, so we’ll come back to this). The final option is to accept the fact that life is meaningless and just move on with your life basically.

And this brings us back to the question. When you think about all of the different meanings people have come up with (remember?: happiness, greater good, gaining knowledge, etc.), the question is then WHY? Why do we want happiness? If life is complete chance, and you and I were just blown up from nothingness, then really is there a point to all this? If there is no heaven, no ‘afterlife’, then we all just die. That’s it WE JUST DIE. And we all know that death is inevitable. So we are born onto this planet, we grow up, we go to school, learn, hopefully have fun, meet people, grow up, maybe go to school some more, learn more, meet more people, have more fun, get a job, maybe get married, start a family, and introduce a new person into the world to do the whole thing again. Then you keep working for a while, raise kids, retire, maybe travel if you’re lucky, have grandkids, and then, we die.

 

So we can say all we want that the meaning of life is to find happiness, but why. If we’re all just gonna die anyway and completely cease to exist, and then, that’s it, then there is no point. I don’t know if I’m being clear enough here, but personally, I cannot see anyway that there can be a real, ultimate, purpose that makes sense without a supreme being or afterlife. And I don’t think that religion was created out of this very fear, either. To me, it doesn’t really make sense that people devote their lives to something they don’t believe to be true. And don’t get me wrong, this does not mean that if you don’t believe in any supreme being or religion then your life is worthless, because honestly I really don’t believe that any life is worthless, in fact I value life much more than many people in the world, but I do think that without religion, people will search and search to give their lives meaning, but many people never find that meaning, or find a meaning that I have just concluded to be not an ultimate purpose, and it is sad, but they just die.

The way I see it, there are three options of what happens when we die. Either we just die, and that’s it, or we die and go to a ‘heaven-like paradise’, or we go to a ‘hell-like place of suffering’. The funny thing is, nobody ever believed in the third option and knew that that’s where they were going, and no one (in any religion I know of) only believes in the first option, and ends up in the second (if it exists). And to be clear, the conclusion is that there is only meaning in life in going to the second option.

 

3 Responses to The Greatest Question of All Time: The Meaning of Life (plus religion!)

  1. bryanjack says:

    This is a thoroughly energetic and probing post, Liam. It’s interesting to note that you are looking in on the very same question that Angela is in her post, potentially, just from an opposing angle. Having just asked her a few questions to extend what she presents (for the moment, anyway) as a conclusion, it may challenge you to consider alternative perspectives to the one you’re reaching here: “If we’re all just gonna die anyway and completely cease to exist, and then, that’s it, then there is no point.” Both you and Angela (and perhaps others) might find interesting discussions by addressing the purpose and meaning that might exist in such a world as you describe here.

    While they are related to the Nihilists, existentialists such as Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus (and occasionally Frederich Nietzsche) created a wave of empowerment by confronting what others found to be a meaningless void, even if they are remembered as rather dour gentlemen.

    Beyond these three, this New York Times essay asks persuasively:

    “…must the meaningfulness of our lives depend on the existence of God? Must meaning rely upon articles of faith? Basing life’s meaningfulness on the existence of a deity not only leaves all atheists out of the picture; it leaves different believers out of one another’s picture. What seems called for is an approach to thinking about meaning that can draw us together, one that exists alongside or instead of religious views.”

    The author presents the:

    “promising and more inclusive approach […] offered by Susan Wolf in her recent and compelling book, “Meaning in Life and Why It Matters.” A meaningful life, she claims, is distinct from a happy life or a morally good one. In her view, “meaning arises when subjective attraction meets objective attractiveness.” A meaningful life must, in some sense then, feel worthwhile. The person living the life must be engaged by it. A life of commitment to causes that are generally defined as worthy — like feeding and clothing the poor or ministering to the ill — but that do not move the person participating in them will lack meaningfulness in this sense. However, for a life to be meaningful, it must also be worthwhile. Engagement in a life of tiddlywinks does not rise to the level of a meaningful life, no matter how gripped one might be by the game.”

    You can read the rest of the article here: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/11/the-meaningfulness-of-lives/?_r=0

    Thanks for an insightful post! I’m looking forward to these ideas shaping our discussion in the week to come.

    Mr. J

     
  2. Pingback: Learning and Metaphysics | Talons Philosophy

  3. Pingback: The Meaningfulness of Lives | Talons Philosophy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

css.php