What is the purpose of life?

The question of the purpose of life has preoccupied philosophers, poets, thinkers and the like, for thousands of years. Clearly, it’s a tricky one. It is surprising that pharmaceutical companies have not addressed this issue… yet… 🙂

From the materialistic/atheistic/evolutionary perspective, the answer to this question is clear: Since the universe and life are the products of purposeless, random processes, life itself has no purpose or meaning either…
While materialists could argue that it is still possible to find some kind of meaning in life, in the end there doesn’t seem to be an ultimate purpose in life without some kind of hope that theistic supporters look forward to…

However, while researching the subject of the meaning/purpose in life, I found it quite astonishing that the great majority of theists ascribe meaning/purpose in life mainly with the afterlife, whatever that could be… What I mean by that is the great majority of religions today, especially Christianity and Islam, teach that the ultimate purpose/meaning of life is to live with goal of afterlife in heaven or different dimension, where the ultimate meaning or purpose should be often associated with endless happiness… That is where the need of immaterial soul that survives death come in…

Personally, I think that if the universe and life were purposely designed by ID/God, then there has to be at least some purpose to our lives…

Everything humans design and produce has a purpose (at least it should have a purpose, otherwise why bother) WHY the design of the universe and life, human life especially, would be any different?

127 thoughts on “What is the purpose of life?

  1. Kantian Naturalist: Reid thinks that the constitution of our nature is a pragmatic foundation for our beliefs that cannot itself be called into question.

    Reid was a Christian who thought that the constitution of our nature was a gift from God. The reason he did not call Common Sense into question was because he understood it to be a sort of universal revelation. The foundation was God

    He was not a presupositionalist per say but he definitely understood the importance of presuppositions

    quote:

    All reasoning must be grounded upon truths which are known without reasoning. In every branch of real knowledge there must be first principles whose truth is known intuitively, without reasoning, either probable or demonstrative. They are not grounded on reasoning, but all reasoning is grounded on them.

    end quote:

    He understood that without sufficient grounding final our conclusions are worthless

    quote:

    “In every chain of reasoning, the evidence of the last conclusion can be no greater than that of the weakest link of the chain, whatever may be the strength of the rest.”

    end quote:

    he also understood the futility of unaided human effort in understanding the world

    quote:

    “For, until the wisdom of men bear some proportion to the wisdom of God, their attempts to find out the structure of his works, by the force of their wit and genius, will be vain.”

    end quote;

    Kantian Naturalist: That seems really different from the presuppositionalist project.

    Different in focus perhaps, Reid was addressing different difficulties.

    Instead of the mindset that builds elaborate mental conjectures on foundations of air. He was facing those who would deny the validity of real foundations and retreat to radical skepticism aka Hume.

    Peace

  2. Kantian Naturalist: Different conceptual frameworks will generate conflicting intuitions about what is self-evident and what is absurd, which means that disagreements between different conceptual frameworks cannot be rationally resolved by appeals to what is self-evident or absurd.

    This is where presuppositionalism is so handy.

    It proposes that we judge conceptual frameworks on internal consistency and utility to do what is demanded of them.

    That is just what the doctor ordered

    peace

  3. graham2:
    KN raises the obvious first question: which meaning of the word ‘purpose’ does J-mac have in mind ?

    I wonder if JM will clarify this for us ?

    Whoever raises the initial question, hopefully after reading the OP, doesn’t deserve an answer…What makes you think you deserve a clarification?
    Just because you have not read both? Or didn’t understand both?

  4. J-Mac,
    I don’t understand why this question ‘doesn’t deserve an answer’.

    Is it offensive ? unclear ? dangerous ?

    Why not give an answer, just out of politeness ?

  5. graham2: I don’t understand why this question ‘doesn’t deserve an answer’.

    It’s a bit disappointing, but not entirely surprising.

    It occurred to me that KN’s distinction of the possible meanings of “purpose” into 1) a motivation or a life goal and 2) the intentions with which a tool or piece of equipment is built tend to run together for theists, since they believe to be created with certain intentions in mind. Several commenters above indeed appear to accept these higher intentions as their personal life’s goals. That’s fine, but I can imagine that it may be responsible for some semantic confusion in this thread.

  6. fifthmonarchyman: It proposes that we judge conceptual frameworks on internal consistency and utility to do what is demanded of them.

    I agree. I think KN’s buddy Sellars would too.

  7. fifthmonarchyman: This is where presuppositionalism is so handy.

    To me, it seems useless.

    It proposes that we judge conceptual frameworks on internal consistency and utility to do what is demanded of them.

    That part sounds like pragmatism.

    I suppose one could say that pragmatism is presuppositionalism, but without the presuppositions.

    Let’s try an update on the old theme:

    Those that can, do (pragmatism).
    Those that can’t, teach.
    Those that can’t teach, teach teachers.
    Those that can’t even teach teachers, presuppose (presuppositionalism).

  8. Neil Rickert: That part sounds like pragmatism.

    It’s pragmatism if one makes usefulness into truth. It’s foundationalism if one utilizes revelation as FMM does. It’s going to be either skepticism or mysticism if one admits that we’re stuck in a categorio-centric predicament.

  9. walto: It’s pragmatism if one makes usefulness into truth.

    Perhaps that’s why the pragmatism coming from philosophy doesn’t seem pragmatic.

    Usefulness should be a criterion for behavior, not a criterion for propositions.

  10. walto: I agree. I think KN’s buddy Sellars would too.

    He definitely would. So, for that matter, would Hegel. Hegel turns Kant’s critique of foundationalism against itself. The result is, as well known, almost unreadable. But he dealt with all these issues: if philosophy has no “foundations”, then how it is possible for philosophy to begin? What is the goal or purpose of philosophy if foundations are incoherent?

    What we learn from Hegel, especially in the more ‘domesticated’ Hegelianism of Dewey and Sellars, is that what is taken as a presupposition is itself a historical contingency of where and when a particular conceptual framework has emerged as the temporary default setting of that particular time and place. (The same point applies to what is taken as “self-evident,” “obvious,” or “absurd”.)

    Since there are no foundations, we have no transcendent criteria by which to evaluate competing conceptual frameworks. The most we can do is assess conceptual frameworks with regards to their internal dialectical adequacy: how well does a conceptual framework allow us to account for our cognitive access to the objects that we conceptualize using that framework?

    What makes me a pragmatist in precisely the tradition of Peirce, Dewey, and Sellars is that I think that post-Darwinian naturalism can satisfy the Hegelian demand.

  11. fifthmonarchyman: Reid was a Christian who thought that the constitution of our nature was a gift from God. The reason he did not call Common Sense into question was because he understood it to be a sort of universal revelation. The foundation was God

    All reasoning must be grounded upon truths which are known without reasoning. In every branch of real knowledge there must be first principles whose truth is known intuitively, without reasoning, either probable or demonstrative. They are not grounded on reasoning, but all reasoning is grounded on them.

    Now we are getting somewhere

    Considering the definition of intrinsic is “belonging to the essential nature or constitution of a thing” it seems Reid is defining these truths as intrinsic to human beings.

    The exchange during you brought up Reid:

    “What he (possible Rum) does is advocate that we all deny those preexisting impressions because he does not think purpose is an intrinsic property (what ever that means).

    We still do not know if purpose is an intrinsic property of things but we do know what you consider an intrinsic property of humans even if you don’t know what it means.

    He understood that without sufficient grounding final our conclusions are worthless

    A sufficient gounding is an unquestionable ,unreasoning impression? Gee ,can’t see any problem with that might lead to.

    “In every chain of reasoning, the evidence of the last conclusion can be no greater than that of the weakest link of the chain, whatever may be the strength of the rest.”

    Reasoning based on the unreasoned.

    he also understood the futility of unaided human effort in understanding the world

    Depends on how you define understanding, we understand the world well enough to send a satellite thru the solar system, hold back the waters of the Colorado River, predict the strata certain fossils would appear in, identifying genetic markers.

    All pretty useful things

    quote:

    “For, until the wisdom of men bear some proportion to the wisdom of God, their attempts to find out the structure of his works, by the force of their wit and genius, will be vain.”

    You seem pretty sure what doesn’t work, any concrete alternative that might accelerate the gaining of wisdom?

  12. J-Mac: Personally, I think that if the universe and life were purposely designed by ID/God, then there has to be at least some purpose to our lives…

    Your OP doesn’t mention a purpose. It just claims that if god-did-it, then there must be one. So, yes, the question as to what you think that purpose and meaning are is a valid question. It’s not enough to keep going at atheists and materialists and your conclusions and aberration towards them, only because you assume something that you prefer not to disclose, namely what you mean by purpose and meaning, and why theism has them, what they looks like, what they are.

    The reason you prefer not to disclose them, I suspect, is because you know they’re as subjective as they come.

  13. Life without any meaningful purpose is purposeless… It seems to me that the purpose in life is related to happiness or contentment in life, at least… I don’t think the amount of money one has is important but some of my very wealthy friends said it is…They say: I would rather be wealthy and unhappy than poor and unhappy”…

    What do you think?

  14. J-Mac:

    I don’t think the amount of money one has is important but some of my very wealthy friends said it is…

    If you want to know how important money is, ask a 79-year-old who sleeps in her car every night:

    “Three straight nights I slept in the front seat,” said Edythe Russell, who is creeping up on 80. “My knees hurt so bad, I couldn’t do a fourth.”

    That’s when Russell scrunched an air mattress into the cargo area of her scuffed-up PT Cruiser and began sleeping there, with one dog on either side of her for companionship and warmth. She avoids liquids in the afternoon to limit the number of times she has to crawl out in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom.

    “I have the worst time trying to get back into the car,” said Russell, who tunnels in with her head against the back window, feet elevated to ease the swelling.

    The battery of her Chrysler conked out in the parking lot of the Carlsbad Senior Center, where Russell dropped anchor almost three weeks ago. The gas tank is flat empty. One tire is low and the air mattress leaks. Russell falls asleep hoping she’ll be safe through the night, and trying to figure out how to get back to the life she had.

  15. Money is obviously important. The only question is how quickly its marginal value falls as you accumulate more of it. I suspect that varies quite a bit from person to person.

  16. J-Mac: Life without any meaningful purpose is purposeless… It seems to me that the purpose in life is related to happiness or contentment in life, at least…

    I would have probably given a similar answer when I was in my teens or even early 20’s. After spending a lot of time smoking cigars on the front porch pondering endlessly, I would have a hard time giving a simple answer to the question now.

    I’m not sure what makes me happy on any given day. Sometimes watching the sunset feels profound and satisfying. Other times I feel most happy when I just finished a particularly grueling physical workout. Often times I can’t even identify what factors are causing me to feel happy or unhappy.

    At bottom, my instinct tells me that I’m a typical mammal in that most of my effort from day to day goes toward attracting a suitable mate (or more accurately keeping the one that I have) and ensuring access to shelter and food. All of the other considerations seem to me to just be window dressing.

  17. RoyLT: I would have probably given a similar answer when I was in my teens or even early 20’s.After spending a lot of time smoking cigars on the front porch pondering endlessly, I would have a hard time giving a simple answer to the question now.

    I’m not sure what makes me happy on any given day.Sometimes watching the sunset feels profound and satisfying.Other times I feel most happy when I just finished a particularly grueling physical workout.Often times I can’t even identify what factors are causing me to feel happy or unhappy.

    At bottom, my instinct tells me that I’m a typical mammal in that most of my effort from day to day goes toward attracting a suitable mate (or more accurately keeping the one that I have) and ensuring access to shelter and food.All of the other considerations seem to me to just be window dressing.

    Don’t you think that if life was purposely designed, there should be some kind of purpose, meaning to it?

    Everyday high moments are not the same thing as an inner, persistent contentment…

    If materialists are right, then even contemplating about the purpose/meaning is pointless….

  18. J-Mac: Don’t you think that if life was purposely designed, there should be some kind of purpose, meaning to it?

    Sure. What is it?

    J-Mac: Everyday high moments are not the same thing as an inner, persistent contentment…

    Go tell it to the starving.

    J-Mac: If materialists are right, then even contemplating about the purpose/meaning is pointless….

    If we’re wrong your god is a shit. Not me saying it, it’s the starving multitudes.

  19. J-Mac: Don’t you think that if life was purposely designed,there should be some kind of purpose, meaning to it?

    Maybe for the designer, not necessarily for you. So what? Why should the designer’s purpose be our purpose , our meaning ?

    Everyday high moments are not the same thing as an inner, persistent contentment…

    If the contentment comes from someone else telling you what the meaning of your life is, you are in luck. There is no shortage of those folks out there.

    If materialists are right, then even contemplating about the purpose/meaning is pointless….

    You are so confused, In case of the designer being the source ,meaning and purpose is foreordained. You are given your meaning and purpose thru the lens of some authority. Often to question that authority is condemned. Contemplating your fate is pointless.

    Materialists create their own meaning and purpose. Contemplation is the road to discovering what is meaningful and the purpose is the means to achieve it.

  20. J-Mac: Don’t you think that if life was purposely designed, there should be some kind of purpose, meaning to it?

    If there is a purposeful design, it is not at all obvious to me what that might be. Pure survival and reproduction is the only thing that I see the overwhelming majority of life on Earth striving for each day.

    J-Mac: If materialists are right, then even contemplating about the purpose/meaning is pointless….

    I think that they are right. Regardless of how much I contemplate, the Universe is expanding toward an imminent Heat Death at which point I and the rest of the life on Earth will cease to matter at all.

    But I really like cigars, so I’ll probably keep just contemplating for the time being.

  21. J-Mac,

    If materialists are right, then even contemplating about the purpose/meaning is pointless….

    What you’re really saying is that if you were a materialist, then you would have trouble finding meaning and purpose in life. That’s probably true, but it’s a reflection of your own personal deficiencies, not those of materialism.

  22. newton: Maybe for the designer, not necessarily for you. So what? Why should the designer’s purpose be our purpose , our meaning ?

    When was the last time you designed something without purpose, newton?

  23. keiths:
    J-Mac,

    What you’re really saying is that if you were a materialist, then you would have trouble finding meaning and purpose in life.That’s probably true, but it’s a reflection of your own personal deficiencies, not those of materialism.

    I used to enjoy reading your lies… Your contradictions are not my favorite…
    Too bad you can’t go back and change your comment…

  24. RoyLT: If there is a purposeful design, it is not at all obvious to me what that might be.

    Well, you might be right about this one…

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