We're all just atoms interacting, there is no supernatural, free will is either invalid or an illusion, depending on how it's defined. There is no purpose to our lives, it really makes no difference to anything if we live or die. Earth could implode tomorrow and the universe wouldn't care.

Given the near certainty of that, what rationalizations exist for us to motivate ourselves? Hedonism seems the only vaguely definable thing to optimize in our life, but that's assumptive – it assumes pleasure is an intrinsic good. But there are almost certainly no intrinsic goods.

Is it necessary to assume intrinsic goods to be able to rationalise motivation? Without that assumption, do there exist remotely valid rationalizations?

If a philosopher were to rationalize their motivation for what they do in life, what would that rationalization look like?

  • You are aware of Absurdism, right?
    – labreuer
    Feb 6, 2014 at 20:51
  • 2
    Based on your view, how are you able to ask this question / what does the question mean?
    – virmaior
    Feb 6, 2014 at 22:35
  • The philosopher's rationalization for their motivation would look like a philosophy book in Amazon.com. Mar 24, 2014 at 15:46

4 Answers 4


I think you need to get underneath your assertions a little. While all of your ideas about 'life, the universe, and everything' are philosophically acceptable ideas, they bare no resemblance with your experience of life.

You don't experience your life as being just a cluster of atoms interacting; nor do you experience your life as having no purpose - you might not experience some profound meaningful purpose, but you experience purpose in your everyday actions, e.g. catching the bus on time; getting something to eat; getting an A on a test, etc.

Even the notion of searching for a rationalization for our motivation implies we freely choose to enter into motivated states, and that we fully understand why he have chosen to do so. If we are just chemical sacks, then why not just say that the particular chemical sack called a person by the other person-shaped chemical sacks exhibits behavior that the other chemical sacks define as 'motivation'.

Even the view that the universe is devoid of meaning, random atoms interacting, infinitely large and uninterested is still a view. Its not wrong - but its not right either - it just a view.

So your question can only answered from within the narrow framework of a particular set of beliefs. Since no person experiences life as you describe it, then all were dealing with is a set of philosophical ideas - and while those ideas may make up the particular stance that a person chooses to take - if that person tries to answer the question from within that viewpoint, they aren't answering as a whole person; they're answering from an idea as an idea.

The question can only be answered as an abstraction within an abstract context rendering it fundamentally meaningless outside of a perversely narrow scope. In other words, its like a crossword puzzle.


From an empirical view motivation is nothing but a dopamine injection generated by a prediction for a reward, and it really is. source:



What kind of motivation are you referring to?

  1. motivating one's self to do something
  2. something that will motivate someone because it is something that is motivating

Because there are some things that many people believe in, such as consumption of foods and other necessary things for the body that will give you energy to complete a task that you may have given to yourself.

You might rationalize to yourself, that I may need to complete this task if only for my own selfish reasons, but for that I need to eat/drink, read a certain book to give me knowledge. This is not assuming that you believe the task as intrinsically good to need motivation to do it.

Sorry if this doesn't help.


Lifeforms are hardwired to make sense of their environments to survive, and this is the universal source of their basic motivation. That is, the motivation to live, to make sense of things, (even to ask your inquiring question, notwithstanding your being atoms interacting), and from this gained understanding comes the capacity to control one's environment for survival.

I have previously addressed this issue here : Fundamental Questions of Contemporary Philosophy

This life drive exists in both plants and animals, even at the cellular level. For example, cells are hardwired to organise molecules; people are hardwired to organise their thoughts, etc.

This hardwired tenacity to make sense of things can overflow too, and because it is so deeply hardwired it manifests as repetition compulsion (OCD). (Difficult to control because it comes from such a basic drive.)

My post in the aforementioned link is not for beginners. A good place to start would be Freud's 'Beyond the Pleasure Principle', where he discussed basic life drives beyond pleasure seeking.

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