3

Except, of course, the problem is that I can't find any meaning in my life.

Suppose I consider the meaning of my life to be

A meaningful life is one that by definition has achieved choice-worthy purposes or involves satisfaction upon having done so.

Source: The Meaning of Life, Stanford Encyclopedia on Philosophy

Now further suppose I consider these to be choice-worthy purposes

  1. Alleviate the suffering (physical or mental) of others as well as my own.

  2. Taking part in scientific/mathematical enquiry or any other academic enquiry, and helping others to do so (by being a teacher, etc.). In this, I don't include certain philosophical enquiries, like coming to an understanding of the question "What is the meaning of life?" or "What is a choice-worthy purpose?"

I am aware that 1. and 2. are not exactly distinct, but I still wanted to separate them to highlight the following scenario:

Solutions to all economic and almost all social problems have been found.

Given this scenario, all I have left to do, which I consider choice-worthy, is to engage in some kind of academic enquiry. For example, finding a solution to a particular mathematical problem. In the scenario where

There is nothing new to discover or invent in almost all academic disciplines, except say a few, like philosophy.

Of course, you still have to learn about these discoveries. But suppose this can also be easily achieved.

If one's purposes have already been achieved, what is the meaning of one's life?

5
  • Maybe at this point you are back to the beginning: e.g. Get the girl (or Get the girl)? :)
    – Drux
    May 30, 2015 at 9:13
  • Finding a new purpose
    – Dave
    May 31, 2015 at 3:33
  • If you assume the definition of life as mentioned above and all your problems have been solved then after that there will no longer be any meaning to your life. Jan 22, 2017 at 19:33
  • Trying to find the meaning of life might be in itself a wrong question - it assumes that someone/something else poses you a goal. E.g., psychologist Viktor Frankl takes this position, suggesting that the point is not searching for meaning but creating the meaning. See Man's search for meaning
    – Roger V.
    Oct 27, 2022 at 7:39
  • 1
    invest in better answers
    – user67521
    Sep 1, 2023 at 9:58

6 Answers 6

4

You're kind of begging the question, assuming that the meaning of life depends on purposes and that all purposes already have been fulfilled.

Indeed, in such a scenario there would be no meaning to life according to that definition. If you would still like to have a meaning of life, you could:

  • Use another definition of "meaning of life"
  • Argue that that situation in which all purposes have been fulfilled is merely hypothetical.
1
  • 1
    issue with most questions which appear naive seems to be that they underplay exactly that, imho, how there is no longer any room for maneuver
    – user6917
    Jan 22, 2017 at 19:40
2

If I understand you correctly:

A. I define (inherently valuable, which I believe to be ‘true’) meaning as active achievement of purpose of (personal) value.

B. I have already either achieved or accumulated the means to achieve, with certainty, all purpose I value.

• How do I find meaning now, given A and B?

To rephrase one of the answers above (rework A or B), I might approach from an epistemological analysis. Instead of seemingly arbitrarily (according to and against your current value structure) reworking A and B, it might serve you well to examine certainty.

Oftentimes I’ve found myself at the edge of a similar abyss, before examining my assumption of certainty. This assumption - and its correlated expectations - is, IMHO, like almost all core presuppositions, a manifestation of certain emotional structures operating by contingency.

  1. Pragmatically - How likely is it that, at this moment, I am omniscient to the degree required to write off further learning / better understanding / more fully integrating of my value structure’s interface with the existence in which I was thrown as a foregone conclusion?
  2. Given that I rather cannot claim this knowledge, this certainty, what are the costs and the benefits of holding such a view, in spite?

Sure, it allows me to remain passive. Perhaps this is even the foundational motivation, the aforementioned emotional structure operating by contingency’s devilish and particularly convincing argument (perceived as ‘truth’).

However, within my own definition of meaning (A), would it not serve me better to remain active, at least in an attempt to maximize my certainty that I have no more acres of diamonds (purpose(s)) worthy of upending (valuable enough to make the decision to actively achieve)?

Then, you might argue, I will be back where I started (B), finding all purpose of value and the certain means to achieve.

The aforementioned above answer on arguing the impossibility of finding such certainty, to me, is compelling enough to quell my emotional structure’s hunger, at least...

I believe it was Karl Popper who argued against the future being certainly predictable on a similar epistemological grounding.

You just have to make it personal, fully integrating (beyond mere intellectualist / face-value understanding) that maybe you won’t find purpose of value / worthy of active achievement, thus meaning today. Maybe not tomorrow. Maybe never. And maybe that’s okay, even within A.

Perhaps the meaning you seek as a state of active achievement of purpose of value is something deeper than traditional value-seeking.

Perhaps you define and thus create an environment or context for your definition of Self which depends upon achievement, value being a post hoc theorized attempt to explain this dependency on striving.

What is it about the Here and Now, your present Space-time existence / Self, which is, from your current perspective, (perhaps inherently) flawed?

Without assuming where I’m going with this, I believe it was Thomas Stearns Eliot who said something along the lines of half the worlds problems are people trying to become important.

A rigidity in direct resistance to a willingness to experience feelings of:

  • Personal Meaninglessness (i.e. “no one cares about me”);
  • Inferiority, Inadequacy, Weakness (i.e. “I’m not good enough”);
  • Worthlessness (i.e. “it is right that no one should care about me, not only bc I’m currently not good enough (for love, whose first step is attention), but bc I never will be, bc I am inherently flawed / worthless, like a piece of trash floating in the solar winds”);

I do not suspect this is guiding your pursuit of meaning, nor an inferiority complex which demands constant striving in an attempt to quell the self-loathing, nor even an artifice delicately constructed to give logic to the emotional structure which demands inactivity, for fear of failure, shame, isolation, death.

However, I do find it entirely possible that, given your definition of meaning (A), and your assumption of fulfillment of such (B), that it might serve you well to examine your Self (I know I hate myself too for not being able to come up with a better phraseology), meaning, no pun intended:

• Where are A and B coming from? Or, rather, how did I arrive at A and B with such conviction?

I believe therein lies your highest hope of answering your questions of existence.

1

Traditional English-speaking Christians made this question their first entry in the "Westminster Shorter Catechism", a kind of standard guide to Christian thinking:

Q: What is the chief end of man?

A: Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

1
  • it is just a mofo game, and i hate everything for it.
    – user67521
    Sep 1, 2023 at 10:41
1

I would look to play, and art as a kind of play, creativity with the nature of what creativity is, in relation to the apex of Maslow's hierarchy of needs 'self-actualisation':

the self-creation/extension/complexifying that we seek and find our fulfillment in, when other already definable need have been met.

As Nietzsche put it,

"Man's maturity: to have regained the seriousness that he had as a child at play." -Beyond Good & Evil

Aristotle's picture of the human telos is similarly an open-ended picture of seeking to maximise personal capacities and then flower and pass that on to future descendants, which he compares by analogy to the telos of a seed that aims similarly to flourish. Aristotle describes the human telos as 'eudaimonia', literally translated to 'good or well-kept spiritdness', often said in I think poor translations to mean 'happiness', but I'd say best understood as 'human-flourishing'.

There is something about the human telos that seeks not only to flourish in the terms we have but to question and seek and explore and manifest new terms, new ways to be. I see the paradigm of this in art, as a high craft that seeks to push how that craft is understood and the scope of what can be done with it. Fundamentally that is a kind of play, the development of our capacities undertaken when we are maturing in a position of security. When we play with what play is, we are at our most human: seeking the meaning of the meaning in life is to be human like cutting is to what a knife is. It is not a passive thing to be found, but an active process, of creating the means to better create, that we engage with when we can, or when we must, to orientate and check the coherence of what we are doing with our telos.

1

The heart of the problem is that you are equating meaning with purpose.

For some reason, people seem to have forgotten Aristotle's distinction between actions that are done for the sake of something else and actions that are done for their own sake. This is the opening of the Nicomachaean Ethics.

In modern times, the phrase "intrinsically worthwhile activities" is used to refer to these. Examples would include the arts (Music, Dance, Visual Arts, Performance Arts), theoretical activity (such as academic work in general and philosophy in particular), and sports and games in general.

Many people talk about "creativity" in this context and many "creative" activities do fall into the category of the intrinsically worthwhile. But music and dance, for example, are intrinsically worthwhile even if they are not, in the usual sense, creative. Playing music that is written by someone else, or dancing a dance that has fixed steps, is also intrinsically worthwhile.

There is very little philosophical discussion of this. What there is, is mostly confined to the philosophy of education. See, for example, SEP - Philosophy of Education

The concepts of "play" and "pleasure" are related to this idea. Discussion of play is also a major topic in philosophy of education - see, for example Froebel Institute - Play For pleasure, see SEP - Pleasure.

The Froebel Institute's discussion of play illustrates one very common issue about these activities. For some reason, it is commonly believed that an activity can only be justified if it has a purpose. So many discussions of these activities proceed by providing a purpose. Aristotle's discussion recognizes this; he gives the example of playing music to entertain an audience, as sometimes distinct from playing it for its own sake. I'm afraid I don't know a reference for this discussion, though I think clarifying the confusion inherent in it is important for understanding the meaning of life.

The issue is important in one mainstream issue, Bentham's remark that "push-pin is as good as poetry". See Wikipedia - Push-pin

So, this answer cannot provide an actual answer to your question. But it does, I think, show where to look for an answer.

-1

In ancient Greece the Stoics maintained health and suffering to be irrelevant to living out ones life according to nature. Meaning and purpose may have had multiple layers, but most importantly was that of civil duty. In other words, meaning isn't about a single person so much as it is about the overall whole community and you can live a good life by living out your duty to the whole.

My own personal view on meaning is a inherent meaning in all things. That is to imply a simple essence. It is very easy to confuse inherent meaning with external values. External values may negate an inherent meanings truthfulness, something I believe is fundamentally in error however logical it may be.

2
  • "The person you are matters more than the place to which you go; for that reason we should not make the mind a bondsman to any one place. Live in this belief: ‘I am not born for any one corner of the universe; this whole world is my country.’” -Seneca, 28th letter to Lucilus. Your 2nd paragraph seems confusing. Inherent meaning, is essence, but external values are another kind of truth about things? I didn't downvote. It'd be great if you were clearer though.
    – CriglCragl
    Oct 26, 2022 at 21:05
  • "we denounce with righteous indignation & dislike men who are so beguiled & demoralised by the charms of pleasure of the moment, so blinded by desire, that they cannot foresee the pain & trouble that are bound to ensue; & equal blame belongs to those who fail in their duty through weakness of will, which is the same as saying through shrinking from toil & pain. These cases are perfectly simple & easy to distinguish. In a free hour, when our power of choice is untrammeled &when nothing prevents our being able to do what we like best, every pleasure is to be welcomed & every pain avoided."Cicero
    – CriglCragl
    Oct 26, 2022 at 23:58

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