Wednesday, December 02, 2020

The Meaning of Life

 A lot of people seem to struggle unnecessarily with thinking about "the meaning of life".

It's not difficult.

The meaning of life is to learn how to live happily 
in such a way that 
everyone else could also live happily.

"Meaning" is that which a thing points towards, beyond its own constituent parts. 

By "life" we mean here the timeline of our existence as humans.

(Some will say immediately that this assumes that our life is pointing towards a thing, whereas our life is nothing but its temporal sequence: we are born, we live, we die, that's it. There is no meaning. This argument pre-judges what I am about to say. It begs the question.)

By "learn" we mean here the acquisition of effective knowledge, that is, knowledge that affects the way we live our lives, sometimes called self-knowledge. This as opposed to knowledge that is about things that do not significantly affect how we live our lives. Clearly it is possible for humans to learn in both of these categories.

Learning itself is a way of achieving happiness, since there is a sense of completion and satisfaction associated with learning a new life skill. It implies that learning is a life-long process of practice as well as knowledge, not something that has to be memorised and that the process is then finished.

By "happily" we mean contentment, a sense of completeness, a substantial lack of unfulfilled desire.

By "Everyone else" we mean all other humans, and also to a large extent, all other sentient beings.

By "could" we mean that we are not trying to achieve the impossible. If we tried to live our lives in such a way that everyone else would or will become happy, we would inevitably end up being miserable since other peoples' state of being it to a great extent beyond our power to affect. 

Note that this approach to the meaning of life does not refer to any theological construct. It is very much arising from our own thought processes. It makes no dogmatic claims about the existence or non-existence of a transcendent Being, but it does notice that most major religions do contain ethical commands that are consistent with the statement made here. It is usually summarised as the Golden Rule - Treat other people as you would have them treat you.

So. I hope this has cleared up the matter of the "meaning of life" at least for readers of this blog.

No comments: