• TiredThinker
    People often say it is the limit of life duration and health that gives life its meaning. Sure each moment becomes more significant in the relative sense but isn't all meaning created in the mind? In our limited lives it's all a big game about using our time as wisely as possible while still having a certain amount of relaxation away from that duty, and often fail by virtue of a system built on getting a certain amount of resources out of everyone while they're alive. Would life as an immortal real be with less meaning? Can't we just invent it as we go in any event?
  • TheMadFool
    Would life as an immortal real be with less meaning?TiredThinker


    In Greek mythology Sisyphus or Sisyphos (/ˈsɪsɪfəs/; Ancient Greek: Σίσυφος Sísyphos) was the founder and king of Ephyra (now known as Corinth). He was punished for cheating death twice by being forced to roll an immense boulder up a hill only for it to roll down every time it neared the top, repeating this action for eternity. — Sisyphus

    The Myth Of Sisyphus (Albert Camus)

    A mortal life = A meaningless immortal life

  • TiredThinker

    Nobody said we need to make a deal with a Greek deity who are known for their plays on words. Certainly a life of rolling a bolder isn't terribly meaningful. But that doesn't mean we're doomed towards monotony. We can still forget things to a degree and experience them anew. But maybe our attempt at a search for meaning wouldn't always be in such a common direction. Maybe we could create greater varieties in our pursuits to that end? We could even elect to not seek meaning. Just experience all that exists. That much could take 100s of years on earth alone.
  • TheMadFool
    We could even elect to not seek meaning.TiredThinker

    Choice is meaningless without there being choices to choose from. There is no meaning to life. In what sense can I then claim that I chose a life without meaning?

    I was merely pointing out the fact that Camus chose Sisyphus, an immortal being given a pointless task, as the epitome of our, human and life in general, own mortal and meaningless lives? In one sense, Camus attributes our meaninglessness to our mortality and in another sense no, Sisyphus is immortal. Camus is trying to eat the cake and have it too. Right?
  • Tom Storm
    Would life as an immortal real be with less meaning? Can't we just invent it as we go in any event?TiredThinker

    If people were immortal (a horrible idea) it would obviously make life utterly different in every way imaginable from the question of meaning to how often to have a colonoscopy. :joke:
  • 180 Proof
    Even an "immortal" is mortal as well as finite and uncertain ...180 Proof
    Therein lies "meaning" (i.e. the stakes of living).
  • TiredThinker
    Do we currently have an answer to what gives life meaning that we can be sure would be lost if we were immortal? I also mean eternal health so maybe a very rare colonoscopy.
  • Tom Storm
    Do we currently have an answer to what gives life meaning that we can be sure would be lost if we were immortal?TiredThinker

    I think so. We know that things become valuable when they are hard to obtain and rare. Time is limited to humans and thus intensely valuable. A human life is finite, brief - this acts as an aphrodisiac for living. Life is short, use it well, is a common adage - and for good reasons.

    If we were immortal, we may well find other sources of meaning, but what would they be? Once we lose the sense of immediacy and risk associated with mortality, we are likely to lose a capacity to navigate what's important. Relationships, earning a living, perceptions of safety, purpose - all of these would utterly distorted by immortality and likely to be rendered meaningless by our current standards of understanding.

    Learning how to find meaning as an immortal would become a very popular subject. So, I am not saying immortals can't have meaning just that it would require an extraordinary adaptation and transition. Of course this is all nonsense, but it's amusing to speculate.

    "Time is short, life is short, there's a lot to know. So I skip the entertainers in the newspaper now. I just haven't got time."
    - Tom Stoppard
  • the affirmation of strife
    I recently began thinking about it a bit like this: Both "injustice" and "suffering" (in my mind somewhat decoupled, I might elaborate once I've organised my thoughts on this) occur in life. Therefore, the "meaning of life" must somehow explain these two things. Why do we suffer? Why is life unfair?

    Although we now like to say that "life is short, use it well", we also seem to be quite keen on having an immortal "soul". Certainly there are very few religions or historical traditions (that I know of) where some sense of afterlife does not play a significant role. It seems to me that this is often an attempt to justify the injustices of mortal life. I recall a sermon I heard when I still attended mass, the priest said something like "death doesn't seem right, it doesn't seem like the end -- that's because it isn't". I no longer believe, but I can see the appeal there.

    On the other hand, I agree with @Tom Storm that immortals would probably struggle with finding the meaning in life, although I'm not sure if it would be a more "popular" subject. I also agree with the reasoning: I think that the problem of suffering would dominate. In a mortal life, suffering can sometimes be explained as the price of growth or development. Does an immortal being "grow"? If not, then how can they explain suffering?

    So, broadly speaking, maybe mortals struggle to justify "the injustice of life" more, whereas immortals would struggle to justify "the suffering of life" more. After all, there is no injustice in immortality, right? At least, that's what most ideas of the afterlife seem to build on? If I have more apples now, you can always make up for it by getting more apples later. And you have infinite time.
  • Manuel

    It's hard to say. Many intelligent people do argue that it's our temporality that causes us to reflect philosophically. Perhaps. Then again, the mere fact of being alive, might suffice many to ask questions as to why these things happen. Time adds urgency, sure, but it's not clear to me that it's determinate.

    The problem with not dying (age wise, but we could kill ourselves, this scenario is what I have in mind) , as I see it, is that I think boredom will eventually become an issue. Maybe a few people will always find a way to be entertained or manage to maintain curiosity, but I suspect that, after X amount of time happens, things just lose meaning.

    But, as it stands to reason, we'll never know.
  • the affirmation of strife
    Camus is trying to eat the cake and have it too

    You might be onto something there. "We must imagine sisyphus happy" always struck me as a bit abrupt, and it's even harder if, at some point, the poor bloke kicks the bucket and nobody is left to roll his silly boulder around. I need to read more Camus, but there are a few things I find weird with his ideas. First, the line he draws at where things start to get weird is the atomic model, of all things. Like, Newton was OK but once we're at electrons its suddenly "poetry", despite being just as rational. That's less of a gripe, because I think what he wanted to shoot at was the lack of normative guidance as to what we should do with all this bloody rationality, hence "the absurd". Second, he's not very clear about how sisyphus could be considered "happy" -- is he content only in the comfort of an "eternal bliss"? Third, the image of sisyphus is lacking in that he is alone, isolated. What if he had a brother, complete with his own hill and boulder. And what if that brother was not granted immortality, and died. Would he still be happy? The myth of sisyphus doesn't tell us about how Camus views the problem of justice/fairness... I probably just need to read more though.
  • Ø implies everything
    I think an immortal life would be meaningless, if we assume the person's memory is immortal.

    What is the meaning of your life? Well, that depends on how you can describe it. A person who lied on the couch watching TV their whole life; their life would be summed up as so. There is not a lot of aesthetically pleasing content to unpack from that description, nor is there a lot of (good) impact, and thus, their life could be described as rather meaningless. A person who spent much of their time working on a cure for cancer however, would have a life whose description could be unpacked for ages. All of the lives prolonged, all of the lives created, all of the events and emotions permitted to come about, all because of the life-saving medicine they created. There is so much to unpack from this life; thus, it is meaningful.

    If you life forever however, something strange happens. Look at the full breadth of your possible actions; there are diametrically opposed actions you could commit, but one (or both) of them are extremely unlikely. Across eternity however, the probability that you'll commit any one possible action goes to 1. So, in your infinite life, you'll be everything from a savior to a genocidal dictator, and at the limit at infinity, I suspect the interference of all your actions would be completely destructive. That is, the valence of your impact would be 0.

    So, could your immortal life be meaningful when you'd know that all that you do will be undone by yourself? Well, maybe the breadth of all your possible actions isn't as big as I believe; maybe it is biased towards good, meaning your impact will be positive. Or, perhaps what you will do and have done is irrelevant; perhaps meaning only lies in the present?

    It's a difficult topic, but I think my suspicion could be summed up like this:

    A finite life has finite meaning, and thus a meaning. An infinite life has infinite meaning, and thus no meaning? To be everything is to be nothing? What is the meaning in to be or not to be when you will always choose both?
  • Vera Mont
    Sure each moment becomes more significant in the relative sense but isn't all meaning created in the mind?TiredThinker

    Of course. Only a mind can conceive of a thing having a symbolic significance other than simply being itself. There is no compelling reason for an individual to ascribe meaning to life in general or to assign a meaning to their own life; it's a choice usually made sometime in a human's late adolescence or early adulthood.

    Of course, what kinds of meaning they can choose from depends on their circumstances and capabilities.

    If an individual decided to dedicate their mortal life to some finite achievable task - raising offspring, finishing a symphony, inventing a more efficient hot-air balloon, restoring a dethroned king to power - then their life would be devoid of meaning as soon as the task was completed and for the remainder of it, the individual would either have to conceive a new meaning or do without.

    If the individual had an indefinite lifespan (since 'forever' is not defined in any comprehensible terms), only normal human abilities and they insisted on it having a meaning, they would have to take up one cause after another, pursue each to a conclusion, then set another challenge. If the immortal had superhuman abilities, they could dedicate infinite life to an infinite task: counting all the stars or the eradication of suffering, or keeping a torch alight in every dark cave - in short an undertaking that cannot be completed because it renews itself continuously.

    Maybe an immortal would end up doing something like that. When they become bored and lonely enough, I suppose even attempting suicide once a day can be a meaningful activity. (But I hope they have some meaningless cosmic fun before that happens.)

    If all humans are immortal and omnipotent, of course the universe would be consumed before the species finally died out and there would be no context in which anyone or anything could have meaning.
  • Gnomon
    Would life as an immortal real be with less meaning? Can't we just invent it as we go in any event?TiredThinker
    Yes. The meaning of immortality would be just the sum of meaningful experiences of the observer. Yet the perspective of infinite experiences might eventually merge into a single undifferentiated blob of memory. But, is the whole more than the sum of its parts? Wait and see. :smile:

    PS___ Meanings are mental, not physical ; internal, not external. The Meaning of Life is what you read into it.

    In her Marginalian essay on Borges, The Mirror of Enigma, Maria Popova quotes :
    "Borges recognized this, closing the essay by acknowledging “it is doubtful that the world has a meaning… even more doubtful that it has a double or triple meaning.” " . . . . or infinite meaning.
Add a Comment

Welcome to The Philosophy Forum!

Get involved in philosophical discussions about knowledge, truth, language, consciousness, science, politics, religion, logic and mathematics, art, history, and lots more. No ads, no clutter, and very little agreement — just fascinating conversations.