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Many of the topics we have discussed relate somehow to the meaning of life: Is life meaningful if we live in a simulated world (e.g. the Matrix)? Is the.

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Presentation on theme: "Many of the topics we have discussed relate somehow to the meaning of life: Is life meaningful if we live in a simulated world (e.g. the Matrix)? Is the."— Presentation transcript:

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2 Many of the topics we have discussed relate somehow to the meaning of life: Is life meaningful if we live in a simulated world (e.g. the Matrix)? Is the meaning of life related to living a virtuous life ? Can life be meaningful if we have no free will ? Is the meaning of life related to consciousness? What sorts of things can have meaningful lives (e.g. robots, animals, people) Is death necessary to make life meaningful ? What kinds of things are still meaningful in various types of situations? That depends, of course, on what, if anything, is meaningful.

3 The Meaning of Life Theories about the meaning of life can be divided into two types: subjective and objective 1) Subjective To have a meaningful life = to feel that one has a meaningful life In other words, what is valuable/meaningful is one’s own personal happiness or a sense of fulfillment or psychological health. 2) Objective Meaning exists outside of ourselves. Some things are have value beyond how they benefit us or how they make us feel.

4 Examples of subjective theories: 1) Eudaimonia 2) Positive Psychology 3) Daoism and Buddhism 4) The meaning of life is the search for the meaning of life

5 Aristotle The function of a human being to is obtain eudaimonia through the use of reason Eudaimonia: “The good life” To obtain excellence (in action) through the use of reason To be virtuous: honest, courageous, kind, temperate, just, generous, etc. To have good fortune: family, friends, wealth, power, etc.

6 Emphasis on human flourishing Maslow's hierarchy of needs Top tier, self-actualization, requires a sense of purpose and perhaps a belief in the value of something outside of yourself. Belief in the meaningfulness of your activities becomes a tool with which to obtain happiness/self-fulfillment. Happiness/self-fulfillment implicitly regarded as valuable/meaningful

7 Daoism: the purpose of life is to live in conformity with the Dao. Buddhism: to escape suffering, to achieve nirvana Zen Buddhism: to live in the moment, to find nirvana in this world in everything you do The Daoism and Buddhism ideas regarding the meaning of life can be interpreted subjectively or objectively. Subjectively: to follow the Dao or find nirvana for yourself Objectively: to help everyone or all living creatures to follow the Dao or find nirvana, spreading happiness or peace to others

8 The meaning of life is the search for the meaning of life Technically a paradox. “Searching for meaning is a meaningful activity” is not a paradox. Can be interpreted as subjective: we feel that searching for the meaning of life is meaningful, but actually the feeling of meaningfulness is what is meaningful. Or can be interpreted as objective: searching for meaning in life is meaningful, but it is not the one and only meaning of life. E.g. the meaning of life is the search for truth and the progress of human understanding and knowledge. Searching for the meaning of life is one way to add to this project.

9 2) Objective theories of the meaning of life Depends on some external value, i.e. in the belief that certain things are valuable whether or not we benefit from them, or even know about them One way to look at this idea, is to ask if there is something, anything, that you would rationally sacrifice you life for: 1) would you die to protect your family 2) would you die to make the world a better place 3) would you die for everlasting fame 4) would you die to save the rest of the world (if the alternative was living a comfortable and interesting life, e.g. with an alien life-form) The determination of an objective value can still be a subjective determination. i.e. I can decide that x is objectively valuable and you can decide that y is objectively valuable. Maybe there is no matter of fact to determine who is right. Nevertheless, if I decide that x is valuable, I will find my life meaningful insomuch as I help to further or promote x. I do it for the sake of x and not because it makes me happy or fulfilled to do so.

10 Examples of objective theories: 1) Otherworldly religion 2) Utilitarianism 3) Environmentalism 4) Family 5) Human Progress 6) The present moment

11 1) The meaning of life is to serve God’s purposes (or, perhaps, to keep the universe in order) Question: is God having a purpose for your life the same as the purpose of life to you? 2) The purpose of life is to follow the laws of religion so that you can be rewarded in the afterlife. Implication: only eternal life can be meaningful.

12 The greatest good for the greatest number. The only valuable thing is happiness and the absence of suffering (or perhaps the fulfillment of human preferences – or possibly also the preferences of other intelligent beings). A meaningful life is one that promotes the welfare of others or of future generations.

13 The meaning of life is to promote the welfare of the earth as a living system or to restore the balance of nature or to live in harmony with nature or to promote the welfare of all living things.

14 A theme in Confucianism, but not limited to Confucianism. As individuals we are part of a bigger system, the family, which precedes us and outlives us. When we contribute to our family’s future welfare, and when we pay respects to our ancestors, our lives become meaningful. Note: it is easy to feel this way when you have children. Your children will (hopefully) outlive you, and if they have children who have children, your actions in the present will have ramifications far into the future. The logic of family need not be limited to literal families. The concept of “family” cqn be extended to any kind of social group, and even to all of humanity.

15 The meaning of life is to make a contribution to the ongoing projects of mankind, e.g. 1) Contribute to scientific or philosophical understanding 2) To create art, literature, music, structures or other enduring works that can be enjoyed by future generations 3) To improve the human condition through medicine, social welfare, etc. To “make a mark on the world” (preferably in a good way) Underlying philosophy: as individuals are lives are short and unimportant, but as a species we have value and making to make contribution to human flourishing is to make a contribution that will live on through the ages.

16 Da Xue Chapter of the Book of Rites Confucian classic The right way to live is to: 1) Cultivate oneself 修身 2) Bring harmony to the family 齊家 3) Bring order to the state 治國 4) Bring peace to the world 平天下 The purpose of life is to make the world better starting with an individual life and expanding outward to eventually include the whole world. 大學 禮記

17 Mentioned before under Zen Buddhism. Also related to existentialism. If there is no God, and life is short, we have only a series of moments. If there is any value in life, the value must exist in the moments that make up life. So the only way to find meaning in life is to imbue the present moment with meaning. The best way to do that is to value the joy and beauty in what is around us and in what we do at every moment of our lives.

18 Nihilism: there is no meaning of life Existentialism: there is no meaning of life other than what we choose to imbue with meaning. Every individual has the right and the responsibility to decide for themselves what is meaningful.

19 Thomas Nagel (1987),What does it all mean?, Chapter 10: “The Meaning of Life”, at: 300/name/What+does+it+all+mean+-+Nagel.pdf Albert Camus (1942), “The Myth of Sisyphus”, at: n1/lit/msysip.htm


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