Does philosophy ask "why am I here" in the sense of helping us understand how we got here?

Specifically, will philosophy help (I'm sure they won't answer it directly!) me understand why it is that I am here, rather than somewhere else (flying to mars, homeless, whatever)?

If the question is too philosophical broad, I would be interested in existential philosophers.

  • Why am I here, as in what is my purpose, or as in why I am me in particular?
    – Canyon
    Apr 15, 2017 at 23:52
  • the latter, if "me" is inclusive of my situation etc
    – user25714
    Apr 16, 2017 at 0:22
  • @Canyon not sure why you'd think i was asking about purposes when i don't mention, only doing some actions? what's wrong with the question, another downvote, no explanation, no sense that the question is defective at all
    – user25714
    May 9, 2017 at 23:06

3 Answers 3


Philosophers asks those questions because the question seems like it has an answer, but quickly exposes many problems. Trying to rationally answer many seemingly simple questions have problems with robustness. But they stretch us to examine things and think about things beyond our immediate perception.

There are many outcomes that could happen to you as a philosopher asking such questions, some good, some bad. You may :-

  • Get hopelessly lost and struggling to believe we can know anything
  • That you asked the wrong question but it lead you to some better more interesting questions to ponder
  • Adopt a particular idea about why we are here
  • Read forever about other peoples ideas on the subject
  • Answer the question only to ask an even bigger question ( like we are just the byproduct of the universe and have no particular purpose....but... why does anything exist at all?)

So you may go through all of those, none of those, and you may or may not get some kind of understanding of why you are here. But, in exploring this question you will come across other peoples ideas about why they think they are "here". So at the very least, you will learn something.


Maybe because you happen to be?

All current events are caused by antecedent conditions, so at one level of analysis you can reflect back on the vicissitudes of life that brought you here.

But if you're looking for a teleological answer as to why didn't those antecedent conditions play out in a different way out of the infinite possibilities​, you are in for some serious disappointment.

It is you who must first justify the assumption that there should/can/must be a higher or bigger (preplanned?) "purpose" to anything at all.

  • You're here because your mother gave birth to you. And you're HERE because this is where she gave birth to you, or where you've travelled to. Observe ants crawling over each other, why are the ones currently at the bottom of the pile there? Why are't the lions instead?
    – Richard
    May 11, 2017 at 0:36

Your question "Why am I here?" could be taken to mean any number of things, but you appear to clarify (slightly, and rather confusingly) in the first and second paragraphs when you say:

  1. "...helping us understand how we got here."
  2. "...why I am here, rather than somewhere else?"

The first could be taken as a biological question or a religious one. The second might refer to counterfactual scenarios, to a question regarding the extent of human agency, or perhaps to an inquiry into the question of why a person makes one set of decisions rather than another (if the latter is true, then it's likely a psychological question).

The danger I see is attempting to answer a biological, psychological, or religious question in a manner that is uniquely philosophical. Of course, that's not always an easy boundary to discern, but it often amounts to a person conducting some ill-formed study of life (for example) from the armchair. I don't think anyone will get very far if he intends to gather knowledge of mitochondrial DNA or the history of the cosmos by means of pure speculation.

I assume that many immersed in the philosophical tradition would classify topics such as counterfactuals and human agency (especially if the latter amounts to a question of freedom of will) as being properly philosophical. David Lewis and Saul Kripke (contemporary professors of philosophy) wrote quite a bit about counterfactuals, and countless philosophers had something to say about the determinism debate (Hume in the 18th Century, and Mark Balaguer this century). Additionally, if your question is related not just to agency in terms of outward action but also to freedom of belief (doxastic voluntarism), many others have commented on the topic: Dion Scott-Kakures, William Alston, and Robert Audi come to mind.

Final note: Philosophy does not ask questions, people do. However, I understood what you meant.

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