I propose that the meaning of something is "all of the information related to it", and thus that the meaning of life is "all of the information related to life" - all of the causes and effects of life.

My derivation, using human analogies, is as follows:

We consider trying to answer "What is the meaning of life?". First, we argue that "the meaning of your life right now is everything that results from it in the future".

Imagine a hypothetical scenario where you are 19-years-old, working 3 minimum wage part-time jobs to support yourself. Your life feels painful and exhausting, causing you to constantly wonder what meaning there is in your life. As a coincidence, there happens to be a 19-year-old girl who also works at all 3 of these jobs, meaning that you see her every day. Fast-forward 7 years into the future, you are now happily married with said girl. You look back and think to yourself, that all of the hardships were worth being able to meet her and marry her. This is a cliché "all of the years of [some hard situation in life] was all for the sake of this moment".

The point of this example is to show how humans perceive the meanings of events in the results that follow from the events, and shows how the meaning of your present life lies in the future that results from it - (the future)

We now argue that "the meaning of your life right now is everything that caused it"

This one I have a simpler demonstration of. Imagine you see someone with smiles and laughing. You would say "Them being happy means that something made them happy". Or for example, "if someone is crying, then it means something made them sad". This shows how the "meaning" of something is also related to everything that caused it - (the past)

By contradiction, the meaning of something cannot include things that are completely unrelated/independent to it (obvious - "meaning" defines a relation between two things).

However, this doesn't imply that everything related to an event contributes to its meaning, and it seems at first to be the case:

As a concrete example, consider the hypothetical scenario where "Bob is crying because he lost his job". You're walking home when you see Bob crying. However, as a stranger, you can only conclude that something bad happened to Bob, namely "his crying means something bad happened to him" - he could have lost his entire family for all you know.

If on the other hand, you happen to be the person who fired Bob, and you see him crying, then you can correctly say "the meaning behind his crying is because he is sad over losing his job".

In fact, this example shows us an important piece of the puzzle:

"meaning" is relative

Just like everything else is. So we must distinguish between the "real" meaning of something and the "perceived" meaning of something. In our previous example, the "real" meaning of "Bob crying" is because he "lost his job", and the "perceived" meaning of "Bob crying" from the stranger's point of view is because "something bad happened to him" - things among which "losing his job" could be one of.

What this means for the meaning of life

The meaning of life is all of the causes leading up to, and all of the effects from it - i.e. all of the information related to it. In practice, a human's ability to derive the meaning of life is limited by the extent of their perception, and relative to their bias.

The meaning of life you perceive is changes depending on factors including where you look, how closely you see, and what biases you have.

As an example, imagine your everyday office worker. On a local scale, the meaning you see may be an office worker keeping their company running smoothly. On a global scale, you may see millions of office workers in thousands of companies keeping a complex economic system running - and so this is (one of) the meanings of their existence. On a universe scale, imagine a hypothetical scenario where planet Earth is an experimental simulation by an advanced civilization some light years away in order to research biological evolution - so the meaning of the existence of Earth and life on it becomes "to research biological evolution".

The "meaning" of something is all of the information related to it. However, as we are all observers, the "perceived meaning" becomes "all of the information we derive from something". Logically, my proposal equates the "perceived meaning" with the "implies/material conditional (-> operator) in logic".

My questions are:

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1 Answer 1


Your argument does seem familiar but i cant put a name to it.

I think it falls down though in that when we ask "what is the meaning of life?" the appeal is not to understand the fact of life, but to question whether doing one thing is any better than doing another.

For example I could ask "What is the meaning of this political movement?" I don't want to know what its history or future state is. I want to know its goals or reason for being. "Its meaning is to free all slaves!" or whatever.

#When we ask the question about life, we are just recursing on the same question multiple times. "OK, but whats the meaning of freeing the slaves?", "to make them happy", "whats the meaning of happiness?" etc etc.

By its very nature the question wants an answer which is external to "life" or "the real world", So in response to your proposed answer "all the information pertaining to life" I simply ask "ahh by what is the meaning of gathering information??"

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