Presentation on theme: "The Meaning of Life L1: Why Dying is Bad Perspective If we can understand why death is bad, it may help us to realise what is good about life, which."— Presentation transcript:
The Meaning of Life
L1: Why Dying is Bad
Perspective If we can understand why death is bad, it may help us to realise what is good about life, which might help us work out the meaning of life NOTE: Most of the arguments from this class are from the first Mark Rowlands reading in the course book
Aside – Why Study Philosophy? You might get to become a philosophy lecturer Which means that your university will pay you lots of money to fly to exotic locations around the world so you can get drunk and discuss the meaning of life with other philosophers
Death is (Sometimes) Good Death in general can be good –I–It prevents overcrowding –I–It ensures genetic variation (imagine if I were king of the universe) Death of specific people or creatures can be good for others –T–The death of Hitler probably prevented some future massacres –T–The death (by heart attack?) of a grizzly bear that is charging at your family is probably good for you
But is Death Good for the One that Dies? Some people think so (in some cases) –S–Some religions think the right kind of death will give you a better ‘life’ –S–Some people in ancient times thought that an honourable death made your life better –S–Someone who is terminally ill and in terrible pain may be very happy to die But usually, death is seen as bad for the person who dies –I–If I were to die right now, most of you would think it was bad for me
Most of Us are Afraid of Dying Would it help if you knew exactly when you’d be kicking the bucket? –h–http://www.deathclock.com/ –h–http://www.canadianbusiness.com/my_money/pl anning/retirement_rrsp/life_expectancy/tool.jsp Would it help if you knew exactly how you’d be kicking the bucket? –h–http://www.gotoquiz.com/how_will_i_die
Why is Death Bad?
What Happens when we Die? Random perspective –h–http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE9vgIuOgoI Your view?
Assume there is no Afterlife If you think there is an afterlife, then imagine a universe in which there isn’t I’m not trying to be depressing… just philosophical And, it should help us work out what’s good about life! What does death rob us of that is so valuable?
What is Death ?
It doesn’t happen in a life… It is the limit of a life A limit of some thing (e.g. a visual field or a life) is not a part of that thing Now we have agreed on this, a year old problem arises…
The Epicurean Argument Death can’t harm us, so it can’t be bad for us P1) We can only be harmed when we are alive P2) Death is the limit of life (it’s not a part of life) C) Therefore, death cannot harm us
Reply to The Epicurean Argument Denying P2 seems impossible Deny P1: We can also be harmed when we’re not alive –B–But how?
Harms of Depravation Some harms are only harms because of their relation to your previous states If I broke your leg right off last year and you now have a prosthetic replacement, then the harm I have caused you is affecting you now because I have deprived you of something you would otherwise have had –(–(Maybe awesome dancing skills?) But, how can being deprived of life hurt us when we are dead?
Death and Possibility Can something that doesn’t happen in our life harm us? Death harms us because it prevents us from realising our possibilities –I–I could have been a star…
Can something that doesn’t happen in our life harm us? Death harms us because it prevents us from realising our possibilities –I–I could have been a star… Possibilities are not going to work There are a lot of possibilities for my future… –d–dying now wouldn’t rob me of those possibilities because nearly all of them would never have happened anyway!
Losing a Future Can something that doesn’t happen in our life harm us? Death harms us because it deprives us of a future –F–Future = experiences, beliefs, desires, projects etc. But how can you lose something that doesn’t exist yet? And if it doesn’t exist yet… isn’t it just a possibility?
Some Concepts of ‘Future’ 1) Minimal future: –E–Everything that exists has at least a minimal future unless it is instantaneously destroyed 2) Being-towards-a-future: –H–Has future-oriented mental states: desires, goals and projects that can be satisfied or thwarted –S–So we all have a future in this sense (while still being alive) –T–Two versions of this type of ‘future’
Three Concepts of ‘Future’ (Cont.) 2A) Being-towards-a-weak-future: means having non-conceptual future-directed states –O–Or goals about the future that you can hold without needing a concept of the future –E–E.g. I want an ice cream 2B) Being-towards-a-strong-future: means having conceptual future-directed states –O–Or goals you hold about the future that you need a concept of ‘the future’ to make sense of –E–E.g. I want to pass the PHIL105 exam so I can become a philosophy lecturer in a few years and go to those meaning of life drinking conferences
We are All Being-Towards-a- Strong-Future So many of the things that we do are based on the fact that we have future goals (that we know cannot be realised right now) –J–Just about every time you pick up your coursebook or come to a lecture or refrain from drinking at lunch time is because of your future goals (e.g. getting a job after uni)
Death is Bad Can something that doesn’t happen in our life harm us? Death harms us because it deprives us of a future –F–Future = experiences, beliefs, desires, projects etc. Death harms us because it takes away the future that we would have otherwise had (which thwarts our weak and strong future- directed mental states)
Death is Bad (Cont.) Death harms us because it takes away the future that we would have otherwise had (which thwarts our weak and strong future- directed mental states) The strong future-directed mental states such as life plans are more important… they are a bigger loss if they are thwarted So, is Epicurus’ argument resolved?
Is Epicurus’ argument resolved? P1) We can only be harmed when we are alive P2) Death is the limit of life (it’s not a part of life) C) Therefore, death cannot harm us Deny P1: Death harms us because it takes away our future (which thwarts our weak and strong future-directed mental states)
Death and the Meaning of Life 1 Death harms us because it takes away the future that we would have otherwise had (which thwarts our weak and strong future- directed mental states) Since death harms us, being a being- towards-a-future must have value So, perhaps what is valuable about life is bound up with being a being-towards-a- future – especially in a strong way
Death and the Meaning of Life 2 The value of our life seems connected to our being a being-towards-a-strong-future… We think its sad when people die young/before completing their goals But what does this mean for the meaning of life? Is life meaningless without future plans? What about living in the moment?
Death and the Meaning of Life 3 Maybe if we thought we were about to die, we would better understand what is valuable in life…
Take-Home Lessons Death takes away something important, something valuable… maybe even something meaningful Death is bad because it deprives you of future philosophizing Don’t make future plans when you know you are about to die Buy more crappy stuff while you still can!
Next Time Read The Mark Rowlands chapter excerpts –p–p of the coursebook Get ready to discuss The absurdity of life
The Meaning of Life L2: The Absurd and the Meaning of Life
Last Time Perhaps what is valuable about life is bound up with being a being-towards-a- future –especially in a ‘strong’ way We think its sad when people die young/before completing their goals So, maybe our desires, plans and projects are important… even meaningful
Last Time 2 But what does this mean for the meaning of life? Is life meaningless without future plans? What about living in the moment? Is pursuing our goals what makes our life meaningful or are our goals absurdly insignificant?
So, Our Plans are Meaningful? Maybe not… maybe the best way to understand the relationship between our plans and even our very existence is to see it as absurd! NOTE: Most of the arguments from this class are from the second Mark ‘the rock star’ Rowlands reading in the course book
‘Absurd’ in the Ordinary Sense A noticeable difference between what someone intends or claims and reality
A noticeable difference between what someone intends or claims and reality A clash between the internal and external perspectives –G–George Bush doesn’t think he’s a kitten-eater, but… –E–Everyone else knows that he is
Absurd to Philosophers The dramatic difference between: –O–Our (internal) perception of the significance of our lives –T–The objective (external) perception of the significance of our lives It’s absurd because, from the external view, our lives have only a tiny fraction of the significance that we feel and act as though it has
Our Significance from the Inside Every event in the universe is viewed by its actual and likely impacts on us Events are only significant if they are likely to or actually do significantly affect us –T–The universe revolves around us We are all like this to some extent, but some people don’t realise that this is the same for other people! –Y–You may know people like this
Our Significance from the Outside 1 Each and every one of us are completely insignificant to % of what exists –W–When heat death kills the universe, our plans would seem beyond insignificant to anything left to observe –H–How big are we? (Not very big) –H–How long do we live compared to the universe? (Not very long)
Our Significance from the Outside 2 Even if we do have free will, so many of our ‘choices’ are still the result of our prior causes –W–Why will most of you vote for the same political party that your parents do? –W–Why are you (and not all the other try-hards) so individual?
The Human Condition Also known as the Human Situation From the inside, our significance is paramount From the outside, our significance is basically none-existent The Human Condition is being aware of the contradiction between these two points, the absurdity of our situation Humans are thought to be unique in their ability to be aware of this situation
Which Story is True? From the inside, our significance is paramount From the outside, our significance is basically none-existent According to logic, our lives either are or are not significant –I–It’s a logical contradiction to say that our life is both significant and insignificant at the same time So, which one of these ‘stories’ is true?
The Myth of Sisyphus Sisyphus made a deal with the Gods and then went back on it They punished him by giving him a meaningless chore to do for eternity –S–Sisyphus is much like us in this way But Sisyphus defiantly curses the Gods –A–An act that only makes sense if his existence has internal significance
The Absurd and The Meaning of Life Sisyphus’ labour and the way he approaches it might help solve the problem of absurdity Does it matter if our life is objectively meaningless? Perhaps all that matters is that we think our lives are meaningful… But, being happy with the illusion of meaningfulness is not necessarily a very appealing solution!
The Human Condition Revisited From the inside, our significance is paramount From the outside, our significance is basically none-existent The Human Condition is being aware of the contradiction between these two points, the absurdity of our situation So, are our plans significant or not? And can our lives be meaningful?
Take-Home Lessons Don’t drop out of uni or you might end up with a job like Sisyphus Don’t ever let George Bush cuddle your kitten No one likes it when you act like you are the centre of the universe The Human Condition is absurd because we can understand that our lives are insignificant… but we cannot get rid of our self-importance
Next Time Read The Meaning of Life by Richard Taylor –p–p of the coursebook Get ready to discuss The real meaning of life!
The Meaning of Life L3: What Makes Life Meaningful?
Last (Two) Times Death might be bad because our desires, plans and projects are important… even meaningful The Human Condition is absurd because we can understand that our plans (and our whole lives!) are insignificant… but we cannot get rid of our self-importance
Exam Info There is an exam document on Blackboard with the following info on it: Blackboard –Exam date and rooms –Exam instructions –Examinable sections of the course
Warm up This lecture is going to be a bit intense Warm up activity: –Think seriously about how you would answer this question: What would you tell a child if you could tell them just one thing and they would take it on board? –Turn to your neighbour and tell them what your answer was
Let’s Answer the Qn Already! What do you guys think the meaning of life is? Youtube doco –“–“Be happy” –“–“Helping others” –“–“Religious purposes” –“–“Don’t know”
Richard Taylor! Richard Taylor is our guru at the top of the mountain NOTE: Most of the arguments from this class are from the Richard Taylor reading in the course book
Recall The Myth of Sisyphus Sisyphus made a deal with the Gods and then went back on it They punished him by giving him a meaningless chore to do for eternity Nothing comes of Sisyphus’ labours –A–And nothing will ever come of them His existence is meaningless
What if He Wanted to Roll Rocks? Imagine that the Gods changed Sisyphus’ desires so that all he wants to do is roll the rock up the hill He now gets exactly what he wants for all eternity –S–Sounds great! But, does this make his existence any more meaningful?
Taylor on Meaning Meaninglessness is endless pointlessness Meaningfulness is activity with a point, a result, a significant culmination So, which of these best represents all life as we know it? –T–This includes plants and animals
Is Life (in General) Meaningful? 1 Glow worms, cicadas and the meaningless cycle of life The only point of any living thing’s life is just life itself
Is Life (in General) Meaningful? 2 Humans also follow and perpetuate the meaningless cycle of life We imagine that we have goals and plans, but are they really for anything other than surviving and reproducing? Even when our achievements create lasting results, like building a temple, how long will it persist and will it prevent our children from merely surviving and reproducing?
The Meaning of Life is Life Itself? This answer is not very satisfying Many people have religious beliefs that centre around a departure from this meaningless cycle –G–Going to heaven –B–Becoming enlightened, etc. But which religion is right? Are there any good reasons to believe in one over another?
What Does ‘What is the Meaning of Life’ Mean? 1 What does life mean? (Not interesting) –T–To us, it means not being dead or lifeless –T–To a God, it might mean amusement or experiment –T–To a plant, it probably doesn’t mean anything What is the purpose for life? –V–Various religious purposes –T–To continue the cycle of life –T–There is no purpose for life –B–But, if there is a purpose for life, then life is meaningless!!
A Purpose for Life Makes it Meaningless P1) If life has an ultimate purpose, then it must be either possible or impossible to fulfill that purpose P2) If it’s impossible, then life is cruel and meaningless P3) If it is possible, then –n–not fulfilling it would make your life meaningless –a–and fulfilling it would also make your life meaningless (because then there would be no more point to it!) C) Therefore, if life has an ultimate purpose, then life is meaningless
What Does ‘What is the Meaning of Life’ Mean? 2 So, perhaps the best way to understand this question is taking it to mean: ‘How can we make our lives meaningful?’
How Can We Make Our Lives Meaningful? 1 The answer should be objective –W–We should all be able to follow whatever the answer is and be able to make our lives meaningful Follow religious guidance (and make sure you pick the right one) Taylor: Simply understand that the meaning of life is to live in the manner in which it is our nature to live –T–The glow worm does what is in it’s nature
How Can We Make Our Lives Meaningful? 2 Taylor: For humans, then, the meaning of life is living as we will to live This might make you dissatisfied with our lot, but remember – if there were a purpose for life, then life might be cruel and meaningless! Taylor: So, the meaning of life comes from within us – living in accordance with our will is how we can achieve meaning in our lives
What Does this Mean for Us? Taylor: So, the meaning of life comes from within us – living in accordance with our will is how we can achieve meaning in our lives We are beings-towards-a-future Our plans are the only significant thing we have – only the pursuit of them brings meaning to our lives These plans are absurdly insignificant from the outside, but not so from the inside – thank goodness! Without the subjective importance of our own plans, our lives might truly be meaningless
The Moral of the Story Whatever your dreams and goals are – you should live them as only you can… like this guy
So, now you know the meaning of life, you can pursue your other goals
Taylor on TMOL: Recap Taylor is basically saying that: –t–the meaning of life is the same for all life –t–the meaning of life is to live in accordance with your nature –f–for humans, that is to use our will – to make plans and follow them through –t–this means that for humans, to make our lives meaningful, we should make plans and take them seriously (as though they are very significant) –S–So the meaning each of our lives have for us, is very significant for us (thank goodness!)
Objections? But, what do you guys think of Taylor’s objective, naturalistic, internalist account of the meaning of life?
Dealing With Doubt But, what do you do if you have a bout of feeling that life is meaningless? Watch a child play and see how the tiniest idea or object can mean so much to them And remember, the fact that your experiences feel real to you is enough to give life meaning And that the same is true of others as well So, make some plans, do something fun, or just do something that will make someone else feel good!
Take-Home Lessons If you really want to roll a rock up a hill, then just do it With the power to wear a Spiderman costume, comes the responsibility not to do it in public The meaning of life is the same for all life Taylor: The meaning of life is the meaning that each of us continuously experiences in our lives through the act of living
How to Find Out More Enroll in more philosophy courses and try to reconcile your findings about ethics, free will, time, biology, what it means to really know something, consciousness etc. And/or just think and talk about it Visit me in my office hour: MY715 Thur 2:10-3:00pm And…