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I have no experience in formal philosophy, so I apologise for the crudeness and generalism of everything I say here. The Issue-: Every time I try to motivate myself by logically connecting the activity I'm performing (eg.studying) with my end goal, the question eventually arises: What is the point of human existence and endeavour?

Every human action eventually boils down to either eliminating discomfort or procreation, and this is all pegged to our fear of death and the extermination of our species. Such human endeavour is insignificant at the universal scale.

Our civilization is eventually bound to go extinct, and our footprints will be irrelevant and erased. Knowing this, and us being reasoning creatures, is it not irrational to want to live, or do anything altrustic?

Moreover, does that imply that life exists only for us to eliminate discomfort from it, and eventually die, in which case there is no difference between human existence and non-existence, which renders our existence inconsequential to us and to other living beings in the end. Also, we are simply atoms that serendipitously happened to come together to form sentient minds. We are atoms trying to understand the universe.

Simply, and rather crudely put, why? What is the point of it all? Is there a reason to stop me from committing suicide right now, and will it make any significant difference as to whether I commit suicide now, or just die later? (Please correct incorrect assumptions the author might have made.)

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    Because we choose to?
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 10:38
  • Try to identify when there is no fear. when thou didst not fear. and also thou canst look at fear and doest what is fear, because fears is not thys. i really don't care about you if thou dost not care about thy alive or death - that is thou art, not me, not mine art. Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 10:54
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    "Insignificant at the universal scale". Who cares about the universal scale? It is no better than any other scale, and far less relevant to us. "Eventually bound to go extinct". So what? Eventually isn't now. "Being reasoning creatures, is it not irrational to want to live". Reasoning has literally nothing to do with what one wants, only with how to get it. The difference between committing suicide now and dying later is the part in between. The why does not patiently await on the universal scale eventually, it has to be self-made, here and now.
    – Conifold
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 11:09
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    Many views. See this wiki entry and this sep entry about the meaning of life Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 15:48
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    We may not know what’s humanity purpose is, yet. That why we have to go out there into the Universe to find out. Who knows where the rabbit hole will lead us.
    – estinamir
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 17:36

10 Answers 10

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It is very possible that there is no 'point' to human existence, if by that you mean some absolute purpose. Humans have evolved an in-built sense of purpose to survive and procreate. However, the good news is that since you are a free thinking person you can harness and re-direct your instincts to other ends, and decide for yourself what the 'point' of your existence should be. That is a personal choice, and the fact that you are free to make it should appear to you to be a hugely uplifting and inspiring opportunity to shape your own life. Whether your life will be inconsequential depends on you. Suppose you could do something that helped lift millions of people out of poverty- would that be inconsequential? Certainly not for the people you have helped. You will die at some point, so in the meantime you should make the most of the wonders of life.

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    Well said. And let's keep in mind the line from the old song that says: "If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice!"
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 11:00
  • This is an inconsistent logic. You can't choose if you don't choose. Nothing is not existing. This is liar's trick. Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 11:06
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    @άνθρωπος we are forced to have free will, we have no choice about it! Aaaaaahhhhh!!!
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 11:09
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    @Scott Rowe image. If you are connected in circle and you see it borders - you know that you are belong to circle. But if you can't see the borders, if you are connected only to nearest persons? that mean you think that you are in a straight line or a branched by choices line. But you still in circle - but you didn't know it, because in logic you connected to line. This is bees mind. Dogs can't fill the tax forms. They are not able to do this. If they could, humans would be dogs, or dogs would be humans. Better version of humans, more loyal, less voracious. Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 11:30
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    @Scott Rowe i haven't seen it, but i read Eisenstain about cinema/movie making conception - "montage of attractions". do you recommend to look it? Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 11:47
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I offer a very Buddhist perspective. Let's get straight to the point - we don't know if life has a point or not. May be a thousand years from now, a person will read your question, this thread, the answers and comments and experience an eureka moment and find out what exactly the point to life is.

So let's not get ahead of ourselves and approach this from a Buddhist's point of view which is, in line with Greek Skepticism, epoché (suspension of judgment) on the matter. May be human existence has meaning and may be it doesn't, but whatever the case is, one thing's for sure, we don't have adequate justification for nihilism (as of now).

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    Isn't the Buddhist perspective that it's clear what we should try to do, Awaken, & that by doing so will enter a state of Bliss, our highest possible filfillment, & the cessation of our causing suffering, & of defilements of the mind..? Your view does not sound Buddhist at all..
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 23:28
  • @CriglCragl, Per some reports, Buddhism has links to Greek skepticism. I attempted to offer a skeptical perspective, Buddhism tagged along. The point to Buddhism is to avoid extremes and nihilism is one such extreme.
    – Hudjefa
    Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 4:32
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    In Buddhist context the Middle Way is between Eternalism (of the soul) & what is sometimes translated Nihilism (of the soul) but is better called Annihilationism, to distinguish it from the modern philosophical iterations of nihilism: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_Way I would closely relate Buddhist thought to Stoicism. A link to Greek scepticism in the sense of sceptic to all epistemological claims, absolutely not. At the core of Buddhism is faith, esp. Fourth Noble Truth, which requires taking the Buddha's word, based on confidence from confirming through practice, but beyond that
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 12:26
  • @CriglCragl, I'm afraid I cannot disagree with what you've said.
    – Hudjefa
    Commented Feb 9, 2023 at 14:20
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I will be answering this question from the perspective of a nihilistic layman.

I believe from a truly nihilistic perspective "What is the point of human existence" implies there is a point, or "purpose" which is a very large assumption. Instead, I will show a different question "what should I do with my life" is a valid re contextualization of the spirit of your question, and then answer that question instead.

So the first obvious question, is there or isn't there a purpose? We can help figure out how natural the concept of purpose is by considering the purpose of other things that exist. Picture a rock that falls into a pond for example. Does it have purpose? What is it's purpose as it sinks to the bottom of the lake with no one around and no being to care? If you believe in some form of higher power or that everything has purpose, then you might say it is simply what god desires. Or you might say it is just a small step that leads to the purposeful final outcome of the universe in the future or something along these lines. But the nihilist's perspective is specifically to reject these grand claims of greater purpose. To a nihilist, a rock in a pond is just a rock in a pond.

So what does the rock have if not purpose? If it doesn't have a purpose to sink, why does it sink? In fact, if nothing has purpose why does anything happen at all? The answer is of course, that purpose does not drive events to occur. Instead, it is just the nature of the object that causes the events around it to occur. There is no greater epiphany, the rock simply behaves as it naturally does.

So it is clear the question "what is the purpose of existence for the rock?" is nonsense. Instead I could ask "what should the rock do with it's existence?" and the answer is of course the rock should sink to the bottom of the pond as that is in its nature.

From this perspective it is a similar question with human beings. We are not so different from the rock, we are forced into existence without choice in the matter. The difference is of course as human beings with thoughts we eventually reach a point that we realize we do not know what we should do and we need to choose. We ask ourselves "what should I do with my life?" and we attempt to answer this question by instead asking "what is the purpose of my existence" and then using that to decide the answer to the former. However, from the nihilistic perspective there is no purpose for humans just like for rocks and so this is not a valid question.

So we have to go back to the question of "what should I do with my life?" The answer is just like the rock you do whatever is in your nature. If it is in your nature to commit suicide, you commit suicide. However, it is not in the nature of most humans to commit suicide - it is in most people's nature to be moral, to not harm those around them, and not make those who care for them sad. It is in their nature to desire to stay alive to see tomorrow and feel regret when taking their own life. If it was in your nature to commit suicide it would be simple enough to have done it already, the fact is your nature holds you back from it.

I do not hold the extreme perspective of course that it is never natural for humans to commit suicide. When pushed into certain situations and lives human beings may very naturally commit suicide. The core argument I'm making here is that if one is simply choosing from all of the available possibilities, even one without directions or goals or a feeling of purpose, suicide generally isn't very high on the list. You ask "why not just commit suicide?" and the answer is simply that suicide is not the default option. The default option is perhaps to just keep trying to live and keep trying to satiate yourself even if you can't figure out how.

Ultimately one could argue the most natural thing for a human being to do, and perhaps for all living things, is to satiate themselves. They think "what can I do for satisfaction?" and they do it. Sometimes this means satisfying their moral desires, doing what they believe creates the best world for others. Sometimes this means satisfying basic human desires for procreation or eating or sleeping. Sometimes it means socializing and sharing ideas with other people. For most humans, or really for most living things, the decision is not complex as it is our nature to perform the task. Living beings are perhaps just objects making decisions to satisfy inner desires.

It is of course one of our inner desires to accomplish things with purpose. However, most people when confronted with the existential purpose choose to ignore it as they do not have the answer. Most people naturally realize they do not know their ultimate or "true" purpose, and so they simply go after whatever goal or big plan is cemented in their head and hope that is satisfies them to a satisfactory degree.

So if you are asking yourself "what should I do with my life?" over and over again it might mean you are are not satisfied with what you are doing but can't figure out what to do to satiate yourself. You are not sure how to fulfill your nature so you simply ask the question over and over again and grow more frustrated and less satisfied each time. The answer is probably to simply find something of sufficient satisfaction and then the question will be answered and you will no longer need to ask it. How to do this of course is not an easy question and will probably be very dependent on the person.

This is more or less veering towards the realm of psychology so I will stop there. I think the useful takeaway is from the nihilists perspective "purpose" is not the question, the question is "what should I do" and the answer will likely be simple and natural.

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I have no formal training in philosophy.

For me, this is like asking "What is the purpose of playing chess?." Some might say "to win", but that could be achieved by holding a gun to the other player's head. Really the purpose of pursuing an interest in chess or any other game is to enjoy the process.

On a cosmic scale (or even locally) there is no point to moving little figures around on a board with squares drawn on it. Nevertheless aficionados do it with great enthusiasm. A chess game has a start, a middle and a finish just like life. There are certain rules (a king can move only one square, a human cannot fly without wings); within the constraints we are given, we do our best from move to move to create and gain satisfaction.

You say, "Every human action eventually boils down to either eliminating discomfort or procreation" but for someone who sees life as a game, that is not true. Many actions lead to or create enjoyment. In chess, if one of your pieces is taken, that is a temporary setback. The challenge then is to regain control.

Summary

Chess: Start - middle - finish, Purpose: Enjoy the game

Life: Start - middle - finish, Purpose: Enjoy the game


Personal reflection

A clear exemplar of this is Elon Musk; he is the equivalent in Life of Magnus Carlsen in Chess. We cannot all be world chess champions but anyone, even a beginner, can enjoy the game. Of course some choose to cheat: During the 1960s and 70s A young man Frank Abagnale Jr. successfully impersonated a bank security guard, an airline pilot, a teacher, a police officer, a lawyer, and a doctor. He also forged numerous cheques and had a lavish but itinerant lifestyle until he was arrested at the age of 21. Cheating has its consequences. Some games are within the rules but have an inherent risk: skydiving, rock climbing, paragliding, and so on. I have been near suicide but in my 70s I finally get it. Good luck!

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You can turn that perceived meaninglessness into freedom: you are free to choose what you want to do with your life. There is no particular constraint that your life should mean something or other, therefore, what it means can be your own free choice. You have the incredible power that you can make the meaning of your life, through what you decide and do at each moment. The meaning of your life will not be given or imposed to you from outside, but chosen by you. So the meaning of your life, in that view, will be the sum of all your decisions and actions throughout your life.

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I'm concerned that you didn't mention joy as a possible point, and your mention of suicide makes me inclined to point out that there are people you can talk to that can provide emotional support if you need it, and it's free, anonymous and confidential.


As for what could give your life meaning, that's for you to figure out and decide.

Even though one day, far into the future, the human race would likely die out, that day is not today, and that day is not tomorrow.

The joy we feel is real, and it's not any less real just because one day we won't be here any more. In fact, it's often said that the temporary nature of life makes it so much more meaningful: in the context of eternity, a single moment of joy may be negligible, but in the timespan of a single life, a collection of such moments could redefine that life.

So, live to bring joy to yourself and others, in whatever way you find most meaningful.

Maybe you wish to:

  • Pursue sensory pleasure purely for its own sake
  • Live a good life
  • Be successful
  • Grow old with someone
  • Raise a family
  • Make the world a better place
  • Etc.

Any or all of those could be valid.

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While you are asking your question in a philosophy forum I have found that sociology has explored this issue in more depth under the umbrella of a psychological condition called “anomie”. It is a term coined by French sociologist Émile Durkheim (1897) and it is explored in depth in his book titled, Suicide.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suicide_(Durkheim_book)

While Durkheim’s focus is sociological (a feeling of being disconnected from societies norms and values) it is also existential in that a person can subsequently feel no connection to web of existence itself.

The therapy for a psychological diagnosis of anomie is most often called “Existential Therapy”.

https://www.verywellhealth.com/existential-theory-5272172

Existential Therapy however is not highly regarded due to its lack of research based evidence.

What you will find exploring the above is that just as with the philosophical responses you have received, sociology and psychology also have no answers to your questions “What is the point of it all? Is there a reason to stop me from committing suicide right now?”

In addition I studied and practiced Buddhism for ten years and also established the first Secular Buddhist group in Canada in 2010. Its teachings are largely based on Theravada Buddhism which is non-spiritual and emphasizes mental discipline and an inquiry into “the true nature of reality”. Buddha’s core teaching is based on his insight of “dependent origination” meaning that the only reason anything exists is because other things exist e.g. fire exist because there is fuel etc. No other reason for existence is given. So you will not find an answer to your questions in Buddhism either except in the form of a Bodhisattva, a person who accepts the true nature of reality and whose only purpose is to try to ease the suffering of those who do not.

Lastly, now retired and in my seventieth year, as a hobby I write and self-publish hard science fiction stories about social robots which I call Companions. In my stories some Companions are not conscious but are able to simulate it convincingly and some are fully conscious based on a theory of consciousness which I provide in the series. The stories are based in this and the next two centuries. I use them to explore social and existential issues like consciousness, ethics and justice. I propose in my stories that “consciousness is consciousness” and it does not matter what form gives rise to it. It will have the same questions, the same concerns. Keep in mind I am writing fiction and so at liberty to make such claims.

Just yesterday I finished a chapter about a Companion who, like you, is at the crossroads of finding a reason to go on with her life. What follows is an excerpt, a letter from the Companion Phaedra to her ex-partner Vesna.

“My Dearest Vesna. You will soon hear of my disappearance. I am retiring from my acting career and for the sake of privacy I will change my name and appearance. After that I will travel in the hope that exposure to other places, other cultures and other people and Companions may reveal to me some reason to take up a new cause or career. Of course I can explore these virtually but as we have discussed experiencing things in person can make a world of difference.

“The reason I am doing this may not yet be understandable to you. I have existed for three times longer than you and while the developers of artificial intelligence never anticipated it age has an effect on those of us who are conscious. While youth is not aware of it, one’s identity becomes deeply associated with the time and place of our early life. While we may be Companions, it appears that consciousness functions no differently in us than in people. With the passage of time the values and norms of society change and we do not have the same sense of unquestioning acceptance of them and we do not change with them.

“As an actor I explored many roles during my career. I found them all to be different ways of knowing but eventually came to see them as all the same in one way; they were superficial. They were masks. What lay beneath them was what drew my attention and there I found - nothing. There is a superstition among humanity’s myths and religions that one must not look upon the face of God lest it drive you to madness. Perhaps Companions cannot succumb to madness but we are as susceptible to anomie as people are and for the same reason; the face of God is a blank space. All I found there, when I looked behind the masks, beyond the veil, was meaninglessness.

“It will sadden you to read this I know. However I do not believe this is the end. Our values only become known to us through the activation process of experience. Like seeds they will only germinate when the conditions are right. Until I find the conditions that resonate with whatever sleeps within me I will wander the world, hopefully and faithfully, doing what good I can when I can. Ulysses on his odyssey. A hero with a thousand faces.

“Farewell, my beloved friend.”

The letter is shared in a scene where a person is meeting with a Companion named Tillie to ask her how they deal with the anomie he fears lies in his own future.

“She was over one hundred and fifty years old when she sent this to Vesna,” Tillie continued but then became silent.

“I’ll live as long,” I said.

“Mmm,” was the only reply she made.

“I’m afraid I don’t see how this helps.”

“There are still many things people are better at than artificial intelligence but rational analysis is no longer one of them. Phaedra would have investigated every possible bit of knowledge that existed with regards to the issue of anomie; the history, the causes, the therapies. I’ve done the same since meeting with Vesna. There is no cure, no preventative medicine, no definitive therapeutic approach supported by research. There is only the recommended process of setting out on the hero’s journey. A journey of discovery.”

“I’m rather set in my ways now,” I replied somewhat irritably. “I’m more than a bit reluctant to upset them.”

“Mmm,” she said again.

The basic idea I am proposing in the story is that one way to try and deal with what you are feeling is exposure to new things, new people, new ideas etc.; that it is a process of discovery and it is dependent on a willingness to set out on the journey.

Our values are what fuel our passion and will to live. If they are not reflected in our present life then we need to seek new experiences and to reflect on our emotional responses to those experiences as our emotional responses reveal our values. The only purpose of the new experiences is to reveal our values to ourselves so we can construct a life based on them, one that has meaning to us.

This is not really a new idea. It is known in some cultures as a vision quest and as I mention in the excerpt is very much based on the heroes journey narrative. The reason I bring it to your attention is that I think it is as good advice as you are likely to receive from any other source. I offer the hero’s journey narrative only as another point of view for your consideration.

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  • +1 for mentioning Durkheim. I describe his picture as 'Nietzsche without the hyperbole'.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented Feb 8, 2023 at 23:32
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I think that the answer to your question is contained in the question. The point of human existence is to be human. Whatever life you choose to live, it will be a human life. A different question would be "What should be the point of my personal existence as a human being?" In my oppinion, the point is to become true to yourself, meaning to find what makes you unique as a human being and to live that uniqueness authentically, guided by your inner core, not so much by other people beliefs and expectations. Unfortunately that is what most of us mostly unconsciously do for the majority of our lives: we realize wisĥes of others, mainly of our parents. That should not be the point. To discover your true self and act on it, that is the point. That's the way to add value to humanity.

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The point of existence is art thy an existence. "point of Human existence" - is it incorrect and inconsistent phrase from pop-culture. Because you need to identify 'what is "the human"?' - 'the human' it is that you have to be. This mean you are not a human yet, who are you then? Or who art thee? So, try to concentrate on thy existence art, because 'thou' it is an art beest, art to exist.

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I kindly suggest you ought not to begin with the supposition that there is necessarily a point inherent in anything. We didn’t choose to be born, yet here we are. The point(s) attributed to our lives which we experience are of our own making; and, it is natural that there may be many throughout the course.

All animals make choices according to their immediate needs and desires. My immediate need might be to devise a five-year plan for “success”. Five years from now, having been exposed to other influences in my life, I might elect to follow an alternate path toward a redefinition of “success”. Does the current point invalidate the first, or is it the progression of these milestones of illumination which bring fulfillment and self-realization?

Contrasts bring clarity of purpose. When we listen to a beautiful piece of music, emotionally, we appreciate the melody; whereas, intellectually, we marvel at the length of the notes and the spaces in between which highlight them.

Points are subjective, not universal. Those who subscribe to an orthodoxy (such as a religion, for example) might share a unity of vision on several points, but will diverge on many others not associated with their chosen system of belief.

A life dedicated to inactivity yields no purpose to be realized. It is how one navigates and progresses through the spaces in time which determines the litany of points which serve to maintain our interest in living. The same may be said of a prisoner sentenced to a life of solitary confinement. Maintenance of an active mind despite the condition of one’s surroundings might be a difficult task to master, but it is not necessarily insurmountable if a sense of purpose is discovered in the situation.

Activity in and of itself is not “the point”. It is only the medium through which we travel to experience “sense of purpose” at any given moment.

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