I'm currently enrolled in an Advanced Placement Literature class at my high school and yesterday we had a discussion on the ultimate goal of life. Our teacher asked us to interpret this quote to begin the discussion.

The unexamined life is not worth living. - Socrates

Most of us interpreted this quote to mean that a life without purpose has no meaning. The teacher then asked us what the ultimate goal of life is. No one answered for a while, and then I said maybe death. The class looked at me like I was suicidal. Then my teacher said that death is after life so that could not be a goal of the living. From different philosophical views, what is the ultimate goal of life?

  • 2
    The issue has been debated since some millenia .... Having said that, you can see e.g. The Meaning of Life and Existentialism, as well as Afterlife. Sep 15 '16 at 11:46
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    I receive my degree after my studies, therefore it cannot be their goal?
    – user2953
    Sep 15 '16 at 11:48
  • Meaning and purpose are mental constructs, necessarily, therefore I would propose that the purpose of life, as Socrates is eluding, is defined by merely seeking meaning in life and without doing so life has no meaning. Sep 15 '16 at 13:23
  • Also note the implications of this: the conclusion you come to is irrelevant. Sep 15 '16 at 13:26
  • you could've replied 'dying' !! socrates seems to be making a claim about value not meaning. these are different, in as much as we can value something greatly which we barely understand. the actual question, at the end, is too broad to answer except for a particular tradition of philosophy. would you like a reply from socrates? i'd guess something like duty, but i have no idea really
    – user6917
    Sep 15 '16 at 14:10

You may find someone who will tell you the answer is X, and another that tells you it is not at all X, but Y. who is right?

Someone may tell you that there is no absolute goal of life — that each of us needs to define our personal goal and give meaning to our life.

Someone else may tell you that is nonsense since evolution compels us to believe that reproduction is the goal of life. Should we believe him because he is a scientist? but what if he is a bad philosopher?

A philosopher may tell you that many philosophical questions have no definite single right answer, and their value is in thinking about them rather than finding a final answer.

Yet another philosopher might argue that is is a nonsensical question, the result of a psychological compulsion to abuse language and concepts like life and meaning in ways that they are not actually used in everyday language.

Someone else may tell you that the goal of life is realizing the existence of God. Should we listen to him because he is old and wise? because he seems to be an authority?

Someone else may say that there is no purpose to life.

Finally, someone may tell you that there does not seem to be an absolute answer to this question. Should we believe him because it is all indeed very confusing?

Who is right? all of them? neither one?

Nevertheless, it is a question that we can continuously think about and examine, just like Socrates preached examining life itself.

Your teacher may knows all this, but I think he was wrong in rejecting your proposal as he did. If someone believes in the afterlife, preparing for it seems like an arguably reasonable purpose in life. And even without an afterlife, coming to terms with the inevitability of our death and preparing for it psychologically may be a purpose of life.

Here is Woody Allen's funny take on this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MsuqvLIttk

And here is another less gloomy version in which he essentially preaches life should just be lived and enjoyed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYZsApGC0BE

  • +1 for the Woody Allen reference since it lets me recall my favourite WA gag. It's from Take the Money and Run. They interview the WA character's cello teacher who declares of his character : "It was clear to me that he knew nothing about the cello as an instrument. He was blowing into it." I still cry with laughter when I think of that gag. It is such a perfect comic image. The one about his pocket watch is another killer.
    – nwr
    Sep 18 '16 at 5:08
  • I really like your answer. Basically, individuals define their own goals, and I'm okay with that.
    – Philip
    Sep 18 '16 at 21:10

It is satisfaction regardless of being a believer or not, the satisfaction is what seems to be the ultimate goal. I am talking about the satisfaction that lasts forever. If you are a believer, then pleasing God will return you as a satisfaction by earning the heavens or His happiness over you. Once He is happy, you will be happy because either getting bounties in return or seeing someone whom you love so much. Everything you get is for satisfaction. Freedom, money, heavens, etc. are for our satisfaction both mentally, physically, spiritually. We want to feel complete.

Our current problems are due to our unsatisfied desires. No matter what we do, earn, or have does not satisfy our desires for a long time, and therefore, we look for a change, a change in our thinking, our environments, sometimes friends, etc.

What's beyond satisfaction? It is satisfaction again. You get more satisfied by being satisfied, and that way you attain a satisfaction that lasts forever.

  • Your answer is not wrong, but it has the wrong format. Answers should be stated in an objective manner: don't just claim X, but write "In [philosophical school], someone would claim X, because ...". Could you edit your answer to make it fit?
    – user2953
    Sep 20 '16 at 19:55
  • Thanks but since when we try to be objective in Philosophy?
    – Tarik
    Sep 20 '16 at 19:56
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    See for a discussion Friends, we are not philosophers on meta. This is still an SE site, so it needs to be possible to select a 'best' answer. The OP asked for different philosophical views, so an answer without mentioning a specific view (only providing one), doesn't give the OP pointers for further research and is thus helpful only to a limited extent.
    – user2953
    Sep 20 '16 at 19:58
  • I see. Just wondering, what if this is my own philosophical view that I don't associate with anyone in the history. Don't get me wrong, I am very new here.
    – Tarik
    Sep 20 '16 at 19:59
  • I'm afraid this (this question, that is) is not the place to discuss it. If you're interested in the implications of changes/additions to an existing theory, or of a new theory, and you can ask a well-scoped question about that, that would be a good starting point for a new question. Also, Philosophy Chat is much less restricted of course, because we don't have a Q&A format there, so you might find sparring partners there.
    – user2953
    Sep 20 '16 at 20:02

Ultimate goal of life is not to think about the goal of life. How this is possible? It is possible when life is being fully orgasmic experience for you every moment, then you won't have time to think about life's goal. Again, how is this possible, how can someone on the earth experience such? When you have gotten complete monopoly over your thought constructs. The less thoughts your have in your mind, the more blissful your are! How to have such complete monopoly over your thoughts (see, had you got complete monopoly over you thought constructs such question wouldn't have arisen,). Monopoly possible when either you have answers of all questions (ontological, epistemological, metaphysical etc) or have no questions! Then ripples in the mind ceases to exist. Now this can be happened by meditation! Or razor sharp philosophy & constant contemplation over the philosophy which is giving you all the answers.

My answer was based on Eastern philosophy mainly Buddhism or Advait Vedanta. I'm newbie in philosophy, pardon me if something goes wrong. Thanks


There are two facts which are of relevance to this question;

1.Life (the word used in the question) is a biological construct. 2. Goals (or motives from the perspective of the organism) are contained within the brain which is an organ whose function has been brought about by evolution.

Philosophers prior to 1859 will not have been aware of these facts and yet they describe crucial characteristics of life. Unless these philosophers were magical beings with powers of omniscience or premonition (that's not meant sarcastically, some of our posters here are religious and so may believe this to be the case) then the premises on which they base their philosophies will be either flawed or incomplete

Furthermore, advances in neuroscience resulting from studies of people with brain injury have provided a significant insight into people's "goals" (as defined by that which they show any motivation or enthusiasm for achieving). For this the most accessible author is probably Ramachandran. Such experiments show that goals are relatively consistent within undamaged brains and that damage to particular parts of the brain can significantly affect motivation. Again, any philosophers speculating on the "goal of life" without this information will be doing so with incomplete premises and so will be less likely to have reached a useful conclusion (by useful I mean one which, if applied in any sense to the real world may bring about the predicted or desired result).

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    That life as a biological construct evolves in a direction given by evolution, doesn't mean the goal of a particular life, or even life in general has a goal in that direction. A clock that tells you the year always increases its year-count, but that does not mean its goal is to have a number as high as possible.
    – user2953
    Sep 17 '16 at 5:51
  • @Keelan Please see your own comments below. Just because you think evolution doesn't provide a goal to life doesn't means it's true that it doesn't. You've just done exactly what you criticised the next respondent for doing, presenting unsubstantiated opinion as if it were fact.
    – Isaacson
    Sep 17 '16 at 7:18
  • Besides, if we were to ascribe a goal to something inanimate like the year, then increasing its year count certainly would be the best theory as to what that goal might be based on the evidence we have. Can you think of a more accurate guess as to what the goal of a year might be?
    – Isaacson
    Sep 17 '16 at 7:28
  • Your answer has the same problem as Sonof Thought's one: you make claims, instead of describing them. What I think about those claims, is irrelevant. The analogy with the clock was meant to look at the goal of the clock (not of the year): the goal of the clock is not to have an increasing number, but to tell people what year it is.
    – user2953
    Sep 17 '16 at 8:14
  • That's not the goal of the clock, that's the goal of the person who made the clock. We cannot prove the goal of the clock but our best estimate based on the evidence would still be that it is to increase it's count of time as that is all it demonstrates any enthusiasm for doing.
    – Isaacson
    Sep 17 '16 at 9:43

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