I mean "good" broadly speaking. That could mean anything. It seems like we are bombarded with people who live, at least overtly, moral lives but who are somehow fake. The word "result" reminds me of an English language translation of "karma".

I think that Kant said that a heaven was necessary to understand morality. And although this often is a motivating factor to being good, motivations can be mistaken.

Is moral behaviour without a future heaven futile? Some philosophers claim that we need an immortal soul in order to live a meaningful life:

Tolstoy argues that for life to be meaningful something must be worth doing, that nothing is worth doing if nothing one does will make a permanent difference to the world, and that doing so requires having an immortal, spiritual self...

Life seems nonsensical when the wicked flourish and the righteous suffer, at least supposing there is no other world in which these injustices will be rectified, whether by God or by Karma....

The best justification for thinking that one must have a soul in order for one's life to be significant seems to be that significance comes from uniting with God in a spiritual realm such as Heaven, a view espoused by Thomas Aquinas, Leo Tolstoy (1884), and contemporary religious thinkers (e.g., Craig 1994).

But maybe these philosophers aren't concerned with how the meaninglessness of all life might undermine morality.

  • i think that the reward, if you can call it that, of ethical behaviour, is being more able to understand the behaviour of others
    – confused
    Nov 11, 2018 at 1:56
  • I made some edits which you may roll back or continue editing. Welcome to this SE! Nov 11, 2018 at 2:36
  • 1
    strange to close this, it seems like a question a philosopher might answer
    – confused
    Nov 11, 2018 at 13:19
  • I voted to leave it open on the review queue, but questions can be closed when five people vote to close. I hope you keep asking questions here. If you click on some of the tags you are interested in you might find a set of questions you would like to answer as well. Best wishes! Nov 11, 2018 at 13:23
  • maybe it will be reopened @FrankHubeny i think the people that voted were in a bit of a rush, and the question can easily fall under the scope of philosophy after some editing
    – confused
    Nov 11, 2018 at 13:32

1 Answer 1


Eknath Easwaran quotes Mahatma Ghandi in his translation, The Upanishads, as saying: (page 53)

"If all the Upanishads and all the other scriptures happened all of a sudden to be reduced to ashes, and if only the first verse in the Ishopanishad were left in the memory of the Hindus, Hinduism would live forever."

This is the first verse in Easwaran's translation which he reduces to three words "renounce and enjoy":

The Lord is enshrined in the hearts of all. The Lord is the supreme Reality. Rejoice in him through renunciation. Covet nothing. All belongs to the Lord.

A further quotation from Ghandi is provided by the Blue Mountain Blog (January 22, 2017):

“By detachment I mean that you must not worry whether the desired result follows from your action or not, so long as your motive is pure, your means correct. Really, it means that things will come right in the end if you take care of the means and leave the rest to Him.”

This seems to be an affirmative answer to the OP's question:

Is the best answer to this question to live in the present and be less concerned about payback in the future?

If they are right this would be the opposite of alienation.


"Easwaran on Gandhi and the Bhagavad Gita". Blue Mountain Blog. January 22, 2017 http://yameditation.org/blog/2017/1/22/easwaran-on-gandhi-and-the-bhagavad-gita

Easwaran, E. (2007). The Upanishads:(Classics of Indian Spirituality). Nilgiri Press.


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