• Bartricks
    2.4k
    Imagine you're in prison and you ask your cellmate "what's the meaning of us being here?"

    If your cellmate is in any way philosophical, they'll ask you to clarify your question, as it is not entirely clear what you're asking. You're probably not, for instance, asking for the meaning of the words 'us being here'.

    Let's say you attempt to clarify by saying "I mean, why are we here?" Well, the answer to that one is going to be quite straightforward: "we've all been found guilty of a crime".

    Perhaps you want more, though. You ask "but what's the purpose of this - the purpose of our being here?"

    Well, to this the answer is a little more complex, though not much. There are three purposes served by your being in the prison. First to protect innocent others from you. You're dangerous. You've proved that. Hence you need to be in the prison. Second, retribution. You did wrong of your own free will and thus you deserve to suffer the company of other wrongdoers. Third, rehabilitation. They're called 'correctional institutions' for a reason: part of their rationale is that by being in them one can learn the error of one's ways, reflect on it, and resolve not to behave in such a manner in the future.

    I think the cellmate's answer is also the answer to the question "what is the meaning of life?"

    First, if you ask this question, what exactly are you asking?

    Well, if asked to clarify you will probably say "I want to know why I am here?" However, the answer "your parents had sex" or 'your parents wanted a child, and so they had sex and here you are" will not satisfy you, will it? I mean, no one disputes these things, yet we still wonder "why are we here?"

    So, the question presupposes a grander purpose than whatever your parents were trying to achieve. The purpose of you being here is not, then, conferred by your parents, but someone else. And so to wonder why you're here, is to acknowledge at some level that someone - someone a little grander than your parents - has put you here for some end.

    If we assume that the person who has put you here for some end is a good person - and I think they demonstrably are, but for now let's just assume it - then we can safely assume that the end for which we have been put here is a good one.

    Yet clearly the world is a dangerous place full of dangerous people. Why on earth would a good person put innocent people in it? Well, "they wouldn't!" is the obvious answer. So they haven't. But a good person has put 'us' here. Conclusion: we're not innocent. Good people do put people in prisons when justice calls for it. And wouldn't it be just to put dangerous people who have done wrong in a world along with other dangerous people who have also done wrong? I mean 'we' think it is just, because that's precisely what we do to people who freely do grave wrongs. We lock them in prison. We surely don't think that reflects badly on us? On the contrary: it is a good thing to do, for it protects others from those folk, it gives those folk what they deserve, and it may operate to help them mend their ways.

    So, those who ask "what is the purpose of us being here?" already assume a divine purpose. And if they assume - as they should - that the god who confers purposes on our being here is good, then the divine purpose our being here serves can safely be concluded to be a good one. And I think it is a safe bet that it is justice.

    And thus that, it seems to me, is the best and most plausible answer to the question "what is the meaning of life?" The purpose of your being here is threefold. A) it is to protect innocent others from you. B) it is to give you your just deserts. C) it is to rehabilitate you.

    Meaning of life: done.
  • Outlander
    1k
    Meaning is not potential. Fool.
  • Possibility
    1.9k
    So, the question presupposes a grander purpose than whatever your parents were trying to achieve. The purpose of you being here is not, then, conferred by your parents, but someone else. And so to wonder why you're here, is to acknowledge at some level that someone - someone a little grander than your parents - has put you here for some end.Bartricks

    This doesn’t follow necessarily.

    Purpose:
    The reason for which something is done or created, or for which something exists.
    A particular requirement or consideration, particularly one that is temporary or restricted in scope or extent.


    The purpose of you being here may simply be conferred by... the conditions of you being here. There need not be a particular end, nor someone who confers it on you. These are assumptions that any reason must be intentional, or pre-determined by a reasoning mind. But there’s no evidence for this.
  • 180 Proof
    2.3k
    "What is the meaning of life?" (not this shit again :yawn: )

    Well, for me, human life's "meaning" (or purpose) seems to consist in some combination, or progression, of ...

    Aboriginal dreaming

    Laozi's wu wei

    Hillel the Elder's "What is hateful to you, do not do to anyone."

    Epicurus' ataraxia & aponia (re: "Tetrapharmakos")

    Seneca the Younger's apatheia (via aretai "wisdom" "courage" "justice" "temperance")

    Spinoza's scientia intuitive ("blessedness") ...

    Nietzsche's amor fati (the challenge of "eternal recurrence")

    Zapffe/Camus' revolt (sisyphusian defiance-integrity)

    Gramsci's "losing one's illusions without becoming disillusioned" (i.e. revolutionary solidarity against hegemonic forces)

    Albert Murray's "struggling to give lasting form, however fleeting, to formlessness" (e.g. blues aesthetic)

    Clément Rosset's jouissance, or beatitude ("approprobation of the Real")

    Thomas Ligotti's "Nihilism is as dead as god"

    I.G. Good's "intelligence explosion" (i.e. technological singularity)

    John M. Smart's transcension hypothesis ...

    :death: :flower:
  • Bartricks
    2.4k
    well done for not addressing the OP. Not one for philosophical reflection are you?
  • Miguel Hernández
    65


    When you're in jail, a good friend will be trying to bail you out. A best friend will be in the cell next to you saying, 'Damn, that was fun.' Groucho Marx.
    If you have a good friend, you don't need to ask about the meaning of life...
  • Nikolas
    85
    Perhaps you want more, though. You ask "but what's the purpose of this - the purpose of our being here?"Bartricks

    This question is better avoided. It is both disruptive and corrupts the youth of Athens. It is asking why we are in Plato's Cave. It is too insulting to even consider much less ponder. It is better to imagine a glorious future of world peace. It avoids conflicts.
  • Possibility
    1.9k
    er, what?Bartricks

    You’re going to have to be more specific...
  • Bartricks
    2.4k
    specifically, what did you mean?
  • Bartricks
    2.4k
    It's the question at the heart of philosophy and you think it's best avoided. Good job!
  • Bartricks
    2.4k
    well that's clearly false.
  • litewave
    464
    The purpose of your being here is threefold. A) it is to protect innocent others from you. B) it is to give you your just deserts. C) it is to rehabilitate you.Bartricks

    If we are assuming an intentional purpose of an otherworldly origin, two more possibilities come to mind:

    1) The purpose of you being here is to do a job. Some jobs are dangerous, e.g. those of soldiers, relief workers, firefighters, missionaries, explorers...

    2) The purpose of you being here is to do something you enjoy. That may include some dangerous jobs as well as dangerous hobbies or pleasures - running the gamut from well intentioned to innocent to perverse to harmful...
  • Nikolas
    85
    ↪Nikolas It's the question at the heart of philosophy and you think it's best avoided. Good job!Bartricks

    Of course. Most questions invite all sorts of BS to avoid controversy and invite peace and love.. Seriously discussing the implications of Plato's Cave can even get you killed. Stick with BS. It is safer. From Plato's Cave allegory

    [Socrates] And if there were a contest, and he had to compete in measuring the shadows with the prisoners who had never moved out of the cave, while his sight was still weak, and before his eyes had become steady (and the time which would be needed to acquire this new habit of sight might be very considerable) would he not be ridiculous? Men would say of him that up he went and down he came without his eyes; and that it was better not even to think of ascending; and if any one tried to loose another and lead him up to the light, let them only catch the offender, and they would put him to death.
  • 180 Proof
    2.3k
    ↪180 Proof well done for not addressing the OP. Not one for philosophical reflection are you?Bartricks
    ... asks a Dunning-Kruger sophist with all "the answers" to anachronistic pseudo-questions. :sweat:
  • ArguingWAristotleTiff
    4k
    The Meaning of Life
    Wow! I do believe it has been over a decade since someone has asked the question in a thread!
    :cool:
  • Miguel Hernández
    65

    You don't know what friendship is.
  • Bartricks
    2.4k
    Those options don't seem likely though. If it was a job aside from the one expressed in c, then we'd expect clear instructions. The purpose of our being here would be clear. Yet it isn't. And there is also the problem of evil to contend with. The same points apply to your other suggestion. This doesn't seem like a playpen world. It's a dangerous place full of flawed people. The prison thesis seems much more plausible in light of this.
  • Bartricks
    2.4k
    I didn't ask it. I offered an answer.
  • litewave
    464

    And if the Earth was a prison or a rehab facility, wouldn't it be clear why we are being isolated, punished or rehabilitated here? What have we done? I don't remember anything from before my birth.

    I didn't say this is a playpen world. I talked about dangerous jobs, hobbies and pleasures.
  • creativesoul
    9.7k
    The meaning of life is that life is used as a jail...

    ...used by some judge or another for punishment of our actions, protection of others from our actions, and for our own rehabilitation.

    This all presupposes that the actions we're being punished for, that others are being protected from, and that we're being rehabilitated for, were taken - somehow - prior to life itself.

    Gibberish.
  • T Clark
    4.2k


    At some level, when someone asks what something means, they're asking what it points to, e.g. "moon" points to that big round thing in the sky. That's the test I use. What does life point to? I can think of two choices 1) nothing and 2) itself. Either is fine, but let's go with 2 - the meaning of a life is the experience of that life.
  • Possibility
    1.9k
    The question ‘what’s the meaning of us being here?’ does not necessarily presuppose that someone has put us here. Neither does it presuppose that the answer is either intentional or predetermined. These are teleological assumptions - conditions that you’re imposing by your interpretation.

    What the question presupposes is that we are here, and that we are searching for meaning.
  • Bartricks
    2.4k
    And if the Earth was a prison or a rehab facility, wouldn't it be clear why we are being isolated, punished or rehabilitated here? What have we done? I don't remember anything from before my birth.litewave

    No, I don't see why one would expect it to be clear that we are being punished, or clear why. Ignorance of why exactly we are here is plausibly part of the punishment. To be punished one does not have to know 'why' one is being punished. And we - that is, we humans - sometimes punish people in a relevantly similar way. They used to give prisoners pointless tasks to do, for instance, and used to make sure the pointlessness was apparent (shot drill, the treadmill, etc.). Of course, it was not entirely pointless - the point of giving them pointless tasks was that by making them expend energy on something obviously pointless they would be harmed more than if they thought their activities were serving some purpose. Ignorance of why we are here could very plausibly function in the same way. Indeed, it is hard to think of another function for it that wouldn't imply a less than perfect purpose giver.
  • Wayfarer
    11.3k
    A) it is to protect innocent others from you.Bartricks

    Where and who are these ‘innocent others’? In the case of jail, they’re the people who are not in jail. In the case of earth, they must be people who are not on earth. So - where are they?
  • Bartricks
    2.4k
    The question ‘what’s the meaning of us being here?’ does not necessarily presuppose that someone has put us here.Possibility

    I didn't say that it did. The question, as it stands, is vague and ambiguous. Hence the need to ask for clarity. But if it turns out that the questioner is asking - as they almost certainly are - what the 'purpose' of their being here is, then their question most certainly does presuppose that someone has put us here. For it is persons and persons alone who can confer purposes on things.

    And because the answer "whatever purpose your parents were pursuing by trying to create you" is so obviously not going to satisfy the questioner, we can see that their question presupposes some kind of a divine purpose giver.

    I could make the same point another way. I could just say "If God exists, then most likely the purpose of our being here is to protect others from us, to give us our just deserts, and to give us some chance at rehabilitation".
  • Bartricks
    2.4k
    You've answered your own question. Not here, that's where.
  • Bartricks
    2.4k
    I don't see that. It's just not clear what someone is asking, hence the need to ask for clarification. After all "what's the meaning of life?" could be an inquiry about the meaning of the word 'life' (to which the answer would be 'it means the state of being alive').

    They are probably asking a bundle of closely related questions, one of which is a question about the purpose of our being here. It is that one to which I am providing a plausible answer to. The only plausible answer, I think.
  • Wayfarer
    11.3k
    ‘Not here’ is not an answer. There are definitely people outside of jail, but where are the ‘innocent others’ who are ‘being protected’ from us living beings?
  • Possibility
    1.9k
    I didn't say that it did. The question, as it stands, is vague and ambiguous. Hence the need to ask for clarity. But if it turns out that the questioner is asking - as they almost certainly are - what the 'purpose' of their being here is, then their question most certainly does presuppose that someone has put us here. For it is persons and persons alone who can confer purposes on things.

    And because the answer "whatever purpose your parents were pursuing by trying to create you" is so obviously not going to satisfy the questioner, we can see that their question presupposes some kind of a divine purpose giver.
    Bartricks

    So you ARE interpreting the question to presuppose an arbitrary assumption that someone has put us here, thereby limiting the scope of the question as stated.

    But who says that purpose must be conferred by a person? There doesn’t appear to be any evidence supporting this. It’s simply how you’ve chosen to define ‘purpose’.

    As an observation, given that the highly improbable event of us being here has occurred, it seems strange that you continue to appeal to probability, or what is ‘most likely’, for an answer as to why.

    I could make the same point another way. I could just say "If God exists, then most likely the purpose of our being here is to protect others from us, to give us our just deserts, and to give us some chance at rehabilitation".Bartricks

    Sure. But there are more assumptions here that you’re reading into it. You’re assuming that ‘others’ exist, that God intentionally chose ‘here’, that we’ve somehow already done something ‘wrong’ prior to being born...

    This whole argument just seems straw-like to me...
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