• tim wood
    9k
    It’s often said – not in so many words – that there exists an X such that 1) X provides purpose in the world, and 2) if there be no X, then there is no purpose, that the world is without purpose. By purpose I tentatively mean, subject to adjustment, that which gives ultimate underlying meaning and significance.

    I do not here mean any sort of instrumental purpose, either as a cause or any kind of interim goal. Determining the exact boundaries of this limit not-so-easy. Nor ethics/morality in itself, absent content being merely the raw material of a framework by which purpose might be expressed. Of course there are beings for whom dinner is their “purpose,” and perhaps necessarily so, but that takes us into hierarchy-of-needs psychology, which is not where I wish to go.

    The usual suspect in my neighborhood, the sine qua non of purpose, is God, telling us how and why to live, and also, eo ipso, if no God, then no purpose. And how exactly does this work? God is approached through faith and belief: does that mean that ultimate purpose is determined through faith and belief, and particular ones at that? Plato’s Meno and Euthyphro come to mind, here, about virtue and reverence, their essential natures and origins.

    The questions here are, then, what is purpose (in itself), where does it come from, what is its ground? Or, what exactly gives it all meaning, makes it all worthwhile?

    My own answer, briefly, is that the lights come on when mind is. No mind no world. And purpose comes with – or is invented by – mind. Bottom line, purpose is boot-strapped. And for most people that never being an adequate account, they invent something, usually, G/god/s, but maybe also technology and science meet the need for purpose.

    A corollary question: is Kant’s three-fold categorical imperative invented or discovered?
  • Vera Mont
    3.8k
    The questions here are, then, what is purpose (in itself), where does it come from, what is its ground? Or, what exactly gives it all meaning, makes it all worthwhile?tim wood

    Purpose is a property of life and becomes a concept when intelligent minds recognize it.
    Every snail crawling up a wall has a purpose: to find algea that may be clinging there, to find shelter from the drying sun, or dampness a hiding place from birds. The underlying purpose of all these short-term goals is to prolong and improve its life.
    However complicated the mind and the life-form to which it belongs, it has short term goals to serve an underlying purpose: to prolong and improve its life.
    But only humans have the audacity to project the need for a purpose on the world, even the universe.
    Ultimate underlying meaning and significance is something only humans demand of anything.
    They seek it in vain, so they make something up.

    No mind no world.tim wood
    Exactly the reverse.
  • Max2
    8
    I am skeptical that there is any one ultimate "purpose" which is the sole source of feelings of meaning and significance in our lives. It seems to me that there is a plurality of factors - friends and family, love, personal projects, beauty, knowledge, sports, etc. - that contribute to the flourishing of a human life which we might very well not be able to ground in some ultimate purpose in a way that is not trivial.

    Now given that we recognize this plurality of values, there are a couple of things one might ask. First, one might inquire what is the source of our association of values with these experiences or activities and I think this question is one that might be most aptly answered by some evolutionary account. Further phenomenological analyses might also bring light to what it is exactly that we value about different experiences.

    Secondly, someone who is currently feeling down and unable to find value in their own life might hope for an answer or medicine for their plight. These people I would first and foremost refer to psychotherapists and other experts who might best be able to diagnose their particular problems and help them solve their own problems. It is also possible that these people might find solace in some life philosophy, such as stoicism or existentialism, but I find it equally likely that the key to their lock might be found in a number of different activies like painting, running or reconnecting with nature.

    Thirdly, one might ask the properly philosophical questions "But what really makes for a meaningful life?" or "How should we live?". The answers to these questions might identify ways to live that differ in significant ways from the previous list of experiences and activities that we find valuable. For example, an extreme utilitarian might possibly think it appropriate to devalue their families and commit their lives to producing "the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest amount of people". Nevertheless, I personally find that the most convincing answers to these questions are ones that, in addition to perhaps offering some ethical imperatives, recognize what we already find valuable and offer us ways to better manage these sources of value, as I find the case to be with Aristotle's works on ethics.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    And purpose comes with – or is invented by – mind. Bottom line, purpose is boot-strapped.tim wood

    I think we can say with some certainty that whatever purpose is, it is not bootstrapped. It is something that precedes and goes before us; something that transcends us; something that beckons to us; something we participate in. It is not something we invent or produce; it is something we discover or encounter.
  • unenlightened
    8.9k
    A purpose is somewhat like a row.

    Sometimes, it is possible to get your ducks in a row. But when your ducks are in a row, you do not have your ducks and a row.

    there exists an X such that 1) X provides purpose in the world, and 2) if there be no X, then there is no purpose,tim wood

    There is no X such that X provides the rowness to the ducks, rather it is the relations between the ducks that sometimes has the form of a row; it is not an extra something in addition to the ducks.
  • tim wood
    9k
    Ultimate underlying meaning and significance is something only humans demand of anything.
    They seek it in vain, so they make something up.
    Vera Mont
    Should I understand from your reply that you hold that there is no "ultimate underlying meaning and significance"? I happen to think there is, but only as a product of mind, thus not a thing in itself, and as product subject to refinement. And at the moment, probably a long moment, the refinement being the movement away from religion and into structures based on ethical considerations. Bad influences of science and technology, mixed with a limited utilitarianism, being imo a very great hazard.

    Now, no doubt you do many things because you have to or want to, as do we all. And the question that flows from that is, is that all you've got?

    No mind no world.
    — tim wood
    Exactly the reverse.
    Vera Mont
    Oh, I agree the universe was there before there were minds to consider it, but that wasn't what I meant by world. My bad if you thought it was. But at the same I suppose you would agree that our descriptions/understandings of the universe, that we - I - call the world, is no part of the universe itself, meaning that the universe is indifferent to meaning and understanding, being itself just that that is.

    If the point matters, then you might expand? By "reverse" I do not know if you mean: "If world then maybe mind," which would be trivial, or, "If world then mind," which would not be trivial, but that I might ask you to support, somehow.
  • tim wood
    9k
    I am skeptical that there is any one ultimate "purpose"Max2
    Me too. I take it to be a work-in-progress, and maybe it shall always be.
    Nevertheless, I personally find that the most convincing answers to these questions are ones that, in addition to perhaps offering some ethical imperatives, recognize what we already find valuable and offer us ways to better manage these sources of value, as I find the case to be with Aristotle's works on ethics.Max2
    I've just ordered Nicomachean Ethics for a re-read after many years. Terence Irwin's 3d ed. gets the nod on reviews - we'll see. As to what we "already find valuable," I don't question for a minute that we do find things valuable, but I am at the moment digging to find out what that means, and what the foundations are.
  • tim wood
    9k
    I think we can say with some certainty that whatever purpose is, it is not bootstrapped. It is something that precedes and goes before us; something that transcends us; something that beckons to us; something we participate in. It is not something we invent or produce; it is something we discover or encounter.Leontiskos
    Please make your case. Or, of your certainty, such as it is, if it is, may I have some? Or if you mean psychologically, then, absent further argument, I don't think it's a useful point. I'm old enough to have encountered and discovered value(s), but 1) those are particular, and 2) I don't see how to either generalize or abstract from that experience to purpose in itself.
  • tim wood
    9k
    Sometimes, it is possible to get your ducks in a row. But when your ducks are in a row, you do not have your ducks and a row.....
    There is no X such that X provides the rowness to the ducks, rather it is the relations between the ducks that sometimes has the form of a row; it is not an extra something in addition to the ducks.
    unenlightened
    Are they in a perfect row? Or an imperfect row? And we'll set aside for the moment whether they're ducks.

    It's possible you mean something like, "They're ducks to me, and the formation they're in is what I find useful and call a row." And no law against that, but seeming not itself useful beyond your own specific and particular needs.
  • Vera Mont
    3.8k
    Should I understand from your reply that you hold that there is no "ultimate underlying meaning and significance"?tim wood

    Correct. Purpose requires will - either that of the living entity with internal goals, or an external entity that has power to exert its will over that of the subject. Inanimate objects have no desires, no will or aims, but they can be purposed to the aims of life-form that can exert its will upon them.
    A pebble has no purpose of its own, but a crow can use it as a tool. Life-forms can also be used by an external will with the power to override their own. The purpose of a pig is to keep living and produce offspring. Man re-purposes pigs for his food.

    I happen to think there is, but only as a product of mind,tim wood
    If there were gods, they could find uses both for animate and inanimate objects; if the gods were powerful, they could override the will of intelligent life-forms. If they were powerful enough and wished to, they could find uses for the universe.

    By "reverse" I do not know if you mean: "If world then maybe mind," which would be trivial, or, "If world then mind," which would not be trivial, but that I might ask you to support, somehow.tim wood
    Simply: No world, no mind(s).
    But then, I'm no longer sure that you refer to "the world" not as the universe, but as some image or model that doesn't exist.
    I mean that minds are minuscule ephemeral sparks in a vast cosmos of billions of suns. Minds are dependent on the bodies that contain them and those bodies are dependent on their ecosystems which are dependent on their planet, which are dependent on their sun. Minds are trivial.
  • Tom Storm
    8.7k
    The questions here are, then, what is purpose (in itself), where does it come from, what is its ground? Or, what exactly gives it all meaning, makes it all worthwhile?tim wood

    Isn't purpose contingent on culture and language - an indication of worldviews and values and how we like to privilege our time? I've generally held that there is no intrinsic meaning or purpose and that purpose can be found in destruction as much as creation. No doubt there are evolutionary advantages in many forms of purpose (social cohesion, reproduction, survival, wellbeing) and perhaps people often follow a purpose they are not fully convinced of, but undertake that path out of obligation and enculturation. I don't think purpose is necessarily rewarding or worthwhile to the person pursuing it.

    Where does it come from? Being human, the act of making sense and having to make choices.
  • Janus
    15.9k
    But then, I'm no longer sure that you refer to "the world" not as the universe, but as some image or model that doesn't exist.
    I mean that minds are minuscule ephemeral sparks in a vast cosmos of billions of suns. Minds are dependent on the bodies that contain them and those bodies are dependent on their ecosystems which are dependent on their planet, which are dependent on their sun. Minds are trivial.
    Vera Mont

    That is one way to think about it. The other is that absent minds the Universe is 'blind'—there is nothing that can experience anything—there is no beauty, no poetry, no compassion, no love and also no ugliness, no doggerel, no cruelty, no hatred. In a way the mindless universe would be as good, or bad, as non-existence.
  • tim wood
    9k
    Simply: No world, no mind(s).
    But then, I'm no longer sure that you refer to "the world" not as the universe, but as some image or model that doesn't exist.
    Vera Mont
    Well, it exists, not as a thing but as an idea. Consider your experience/understanding/use/description of a tree. And what is that to the universe? All this is being just the point/problem of Kant's thing-in-itself-as-it-is-in-itself.
    Purpose requires willVera Mont
    Does it? It may require will to act on it, to actualize it. Unless purpose and action are indistinguishable - but that seems untenable.

    Let's suppose you have neighbors that offend you. Why don't you shoot them? And I think there are most broadly two differing answers. The first that it would be wrong; you should not do it. And the other that shooting them would likely cause you more inconvenience than not shooting them, a very utilitarian, or pragmatic, calculation. I assume your answer would be the first, and there are lots of facile answers as to why. (And religion provides a convenient list and short-hand of such answers.) But how would that answer reconcile with "purpose?"

    It seems to me your "purpose" is a mix of teleology, comprising both desires and will to actuate choice. If purpose implies choice, I don't think telos has much to do with it, as telos combines mainly final and formal causes - the what-it's-for and the "plan-to-get-there."

    When I attempt to think about this, I come up with the imperative to do the right thing, as simply as possible. And the value of that? That one may achieve a kind of clear, consistent, and simple perfection that is, to my way of thinking, the best a person can do - and thus a peculiar kind of immortality, even as the actuality is not more than a moment. Purpose, then, the imperative to do the right thing, as best I can figure and do.
  • tim wood
    9k
    Isn't purpose contingent on culture and language....
    Where does it come from? Being human, the act of making sense and having to make choices.
    Tom Storm
    Do you think the notion of purpose arises out of culture and language - and in terms of refinement it may well, or do you suppose that there might be something primordial, in the sense of an idea and not necessarily temporally, on which purpose is founded and out of which it arises.

    And it strikes me that purpose might arise from negative considerations. I can imagine that both a cave-man and Jeff Bezos might both wonder at their purpose - and that transcending both culture and language.
  • Tom Storm
    8.7k
    ... do you suppose that there might be something primordial, in the sense of an idea and not necessarily temporally, on which purpose is founded and out of which it arises.tim wood

    How might we demonstrate this? My intuition is that the organizing principles organisms employ to survive build purpose and meaning. We seek comfort and sustenance - these are achieved through purposeful goal setting and may eventually becoming culture.
  • Vera Mont
    3.8k
    That is one way to think about it. The other is that absent minds the Universe is 'blind'—there is nothing that can experience anything—there is no beauty, no poetry, no compassion, no love and also no ugliness, no doggerel, no cruelty, no hatred. In a way the mindless universe would be as good, or bad, as non-existence.Janus

    Well, yes. No mind is insignificant to itself, bot neither is any mind in a position to affect the universe much. The universe is whatever it is. I don't know that it's blind and stupid, but I know that we alone care about the things we care about. If our minds didn't exist, who would miss the poetry etc?

    Also, we humans, who think so very highly of the mind don't seem particularly concerned with preserving or supporting even the minds of our own species, let alone all the other kinds.
  • Janus
    15.9k
    Well, yes. The universe is whatever it is. I don't know that it's blind and stupid, but I know that we alone care about the things we care about. If our minds didn't exist, who would miss the poetry etc?

    Also, we humans, who think so very highly of the mind don't seem particularly concerned with preserving or supporting even the minds of our species, let alone all the other kinds.
    Vera Mont

    Are you suggesting that perhaps the Universe absent any and all percipients might not be blind and might even be intelligent? In that case would that not qualify it as being somehow mindful?

    And yes, I agree that we who do understand ourselves as possessing minds are in many ways blind and stupid—far more so than the other animals it would seem.

    :up:
  • Wayfarer
    21.4k
    It’s often said – not in so many words – that there exists an X such that 1) X provides purpose in the world, and 2) if there be no X, then there is no purpose, that the world is without purpose. By purpose I tentatively mean, subject to adjustment, that which gives ultimate underlying meaning and significance.tim wood

    Hi Tim - splendid question. In response to the first part, consider this snippet (originally from David Bentley Hart's review of a book by Daniel Dennett, but serves admirably as a summary of the nub of the issue):

    In the pre-modern vision of things, the cosmos had been seen as an inherently purposive structure of diverse but integrally inseparable rational relations — for instance, the Aristotelian aitia, which are conventionally translated as “causes,” but which are nothing like the uniform material “causes” of the mechanistic philosophy. And so the natural order was seen as a reality already akin to intellect. Hence the mind, rather than an anomalous tenant of an alien universe, was instead the most concentrated and luminous expression of nature’s deepest essence. This is why it could pass with such wanton liberty through the “veil of Isis” and ever deeper into nature’s inner mysteries.

    I think the crucial change to the modern worldview co-incided with the scientific revolution and the advent of Galilean and Newtonian physics. The perspectival shift wasn't necessarily an intended consequence of that, but the world concieved as comprising fundamentally material bodies obeying solely physical laws, discernable by objective science, was a momentious shift in the conception of the Universe (and I won't say 'the Cosmos', because the Cosmos is by definition 'a unified whole', and today's universe is not that.)

    The questions here are, then, what is purpose (in itself), where does it come from, what is its ground? Or, what exactly gives it all meaning, makes it all worthwhile?tim wood

    So, in the context of pre-modern philosophy, it was simply assumed that everything exists for a reason, and that this reason is discernable by nous, intellect. The philosopher, in particular, was one who discerned reason, but in the pre-modern sense, which included the telos of particulars, the reason why they came into being in the first place. Whereas the naturalist account comprises trying to discern only a material causal sequence, leaving out the broader sense of reason as the ancients understood it.

    An anticipation of this distinction can actually be found in the Phaedo:

    One day...Socrates happened to hear of Anaxagoras’ view that Mind directs and causes all things. He took this to mean that everything was arranged for the best. Therefore, if one wanted to know the explanation of something, one only had to know what was best for that thing. Suppose, for instance, that Socrates wanted to know why the heavenly bodies move the way they do. Anaxagoras would show him how this was the best possible way for each of them to be. And once he had taught Socrates what the best was for each thing individually, he then would explain the overall good that they all share in common. Yet upon studying Anaxagoras further, Socrates found these expectations disappointed. It turned out that Anaxagoras did not talk about Mind as cause at all, but rather about air and ether and other mechanistic explanations. For Socrates, however, this sort of explanation was simply unacceptable:

    "To call those things causes is too absurd. If someone said that without bones and sinews and all such things, I should not be able to do what I decided, he would be right, but surely to say that they are the cause of what I do, and not that I have chosen the best course, even though I act with my mind, is to speak very lazily and carelessly. Imagine not being able to distinguish the real cause from that without which the cause would not be able to act as a cause. (99a-b)"
    IEP

    And in much ancient philosophy, it was taken for granted that there was, as Hart says, a kind of sympathy between nous and Cosmos. Again, the particular ability of the philosopher or sage was to discern this relationship. It is, of course, vastly different when mind is regarded as a consequence or output of the very material processes which it is seeking to discern - it reverses the perspective, which creates 'the hard problem'.

    My own answer, briefly, is that the lights come on when mind is. No mind no world. And purpose comes with – or is invented by – mindtim wood

    However, you also ought to consider that purpose or intentional action also comes into existence with the very most primitive organisms, which act with purpose to preserve their existence. This is one of the insights of biosemiotics, and (from phenomenology) the idea of the 'lebenswelt' or living-world of organisms: their world (and ours) comprises lived meaning, which are neither precisely 'in' the world or 'in' the mind but arise as an interplay of self-and-world. Whereas, the objective stance naively assumes that the world really exists as no mind perceives it - the so-called 'mind-independent world' - and it is the sciences' task to ever enlarge the understanding of that, not seeing the hidden metaphysical flaw that this entails. (Although as noted, biosemiotics, and also phenomenology, are aware of that, an awareness which is gradually expanding.)
  • Vera Mont
    3.8k
    Well, it exists, not as a thing but as an idea. Consider your experience/understanding/use/description of a tree. And what is that to the universe? All this is being just the point/problem of Kant's thing-in-itself-as-it-is-in-itself.tim wood
    Huh? My understanding of a tree has no influence on the universe or the existence of trees. Does thing-in-itself-as-it-is-in-itself mean anything?
    Does it? It may require will to act on it, to actualize it. Unless purpose and action are indistinguishable - but that seems untenable.tim wood
    You need a body to actualize the purpose of the will.
    Let's suppose you have neighbors that offend you. Why don't you shoot them?tim wood
    How does that come into it? If I have neighbours who offend me, there is a huge range of possible reactions that don't involve shooting. How doe this relate to a purpose?
    But how would that answer reconcile with "purpose?"tim wood
    Whatever my feeling was about the neighbours, I would then have to formulate an appropriate response. I'd have to decide what I want (will), then devise a plan of action to achieve what I want (purpose).
    If purpose implies choice,tim wood
    It doesn't imply. It is simply the aim or goal to get or accomplish something desired. Purpose, aim, goal, intent, plan all precede action. A purpose may also be conferred upon implements made or co-opted to achieve a goal, aim, plan or intent.
    Purpose then, the imperative to do the right thing, as best I can figure and do.tim wood
    Whatever the "right thing" is in any situation is a reasonable purpose to have. I'm also reasonably sure it is not a universal imperative.
  • Vera Mont
    3.8k
    Are you suggesting that perhaps the Universe absent any and all percipients might not be blind and might be intelligent? In that case would that not qualify it as being somehow mindful?Janus
    Probably. I don't claim that the universe has a mind of its own; I just don't know that it doesn't.
    If it does, it's as unlikely to care - crave or miss - our poetry and cruelty, as we are unlikely to crave or miss the cultural touchstones of Centurian termites.
  • tim wood
    9k
    How might we demonstrate this?Tom Storm
    I think the method is to keep asking until the answers hit an end or a loop. But not to be satisfied with easy first answers that any child knows can be overturned with a succession of whys. Have you ever had any moment of the kind of perfection, that you recognized as such, in which you knew there was no how or why or what for beyond it? Not necessarily any big deal, nor to be examined or analyzed, but simply to be remembered, appreciated, and as appropriate, enjoyed.
  • Janus
    15.9k
    Probably. I don't claim that the universe has a mind of its own; I just don't know that it doesn't.
    If it does, it's as unlikely to care - crave or miss - our poetry and cruelty, as we are unlikely to crave or miss the cultural touchstones of Centurian termites.
    Vera Mont

    If the universe has a mind of its own, might that mind not be vaster, more capacious, more compassionate than our own. If it were aware of our poetry and our cruelty, might it not value the former and lament the latter, far more so than we do ourselves?

    How would we possibly assess the likelihood of either possibility? As to us valuing or caring about termites, it would seem that it is not outside the realm of human possibility.
  • Tom Storm
    8.7k
    Have you ever had any moment of the kind of perfection, that you recognized as such, in which you knew there was no how or why or what for beyond it?tim wood

    Not that I recall.

    So, in the context of pre-modern philosophy, it was simply assumed that everything exists for a reason, and that this reason is discernable by nous, intellect.Wayfarer

    But was the assumption warranted? Was it not simply a stage of culture? Obviously there are some nostalgic, romantic projects that wish to overturn the modern world and its perceived bereftness but I think a good argument for this seems to be elusive. It all generally coalesces around the idea: "Oh, isn't the modern period hideously ugly and consumerist.' No doubt the premodern period was hideously ugly in its own ways, transcendent meaning or not.

    Whereas the naturalist account comprises trying to discern only a material causal sequence, leaving out the broader sense of reason as the ancients understood it.Wayfarer

    But what's the case that this is warranted? Why does it matter what the ancients thought?
  • tim wood
    9k
    In the pre-modern vision of things, the cosmos had been seen as an inherently purposive structure of diverse but integrally inseparable rational relations — for instance, the Aristotelian aitia, which are conventionally translated as “causes,”
    Hi. When I saw your byline I knew work was ahead. I'm inclined to think your citation of Dennet, without knowing his purpose or agenda, is a lurid "loading" of his arguments, the propositions of which are all at least, it seems to me, debatable. Anyway.
    So, in the context of pre-modern philosophy, it was simply assumed that everything exists for a reason, and that this reason is discernable by nous, intellect. The philosopher, in particular, was one who discerned reason, but in the pre-modern sense, which included the telos of particulars, the reason why they came into being in the first place.Wayfarer
    Would you agree with me that teleology is an ancient attempt to make sense and that it is not of any great use today, nor since, say, Christians persuaded the world that God made nature? Or at least since Galileo?
    However, you also ought to consider that purpose or intentional action also comes into existence with the very most primitive organisms, which act with purpose to preserve their existence.Wayfarer
    And if I call this an anthropomorphic attribution? The question is whether purpose across species is simply a matter of degree, being the same for all except perhaps in degree, or if a plain difference in kind. Even something as seemingly fundamental as hunger I would hold to be fundamentally different in lower and higher level living things - wouldn't you?

    Maybe we should attempt, imitating the practice of good mathematicians, in finding a question somewhat difficult to pin down and answer, to take on a simpler version of it. Above I tried to say that my purpose is to be good (and not bad) and to be as perfect as chance will allow. But even with that, I have the question as to why that would become either a purpose, or even my purpose, thus strongly implying something primordial even to that. Suggestions?
  • tim wood
    9k
    My understanding of a tree has no influence on the universe or the existence of trees. Does thing-in-itself-as-it-is-in-itself mean anything?Vera Mont
    I think we're at cross purposes due to having different ideas of "purpose." And that would be again my bad. Maybe something more simple seeming. If not yourself, likely you can imagine someone wondering what the meaning and purpose of his or her life is, or life in general. To the degree they ask, they're asking for something, and when they stop asking, a reasonable conjecture is that they stopped because they no longer had a need to ask. What do you suppose they were asking for, and having stopped, what do you suppose they got?

    As to the existence of trees, I claim there is no such thing as a tree, although there are plenty of things that appear to correspond to our categorical ideas as to trees, that we call trees, and those ideas efficacious (and deceptive) in terms of getting the world's work done. As to the universe, however, what is the tree but an temporary agglutination of a small amount of matter and a good deal of energy.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Please make your case. Or, of your certainty, such as it is, if it is, may I have some? Or if you mean psychologically, then, absent further argument, I don't think it's a useful point.tim wood

    Haven't I offered just as much "further argument" as you have? My primary point was that your claim flies in the face of general consensus. Claims that do that require more "further argument" than claims that don't.

    What I would say, though, is that if you talk to anyone who is reputed to know about purpose, and how to help people find purpose, they will not follow your lead of "bootstrapping" or conjuring up purpose ex nihilo. The phrase itself is informative, "I am having trouble finding purpose," not, "I am having trouble making purpose."
  • tim wood
    9k
    Not that I recall.Tom Storm
    You would recall it. But maybe you have it misfiled. I was a not-very-good hockey player, but I remember very well a quick basic play, a pass off the boards, I made that no NHL all-star could have done better: two seconds if that, almost half a century ago. So I invite you to think again.

    Life provides these moments as opportunities, but I think in each is also a lesson.
  • tim wood
    9k
    What I would say, though, is that if you talk to anyone who is reputed to know about purpose, and how to help people find purpose, they will not follow your lead of "bootstrapping" or conjuring up purpose ex nihilo. The phrase itself is informative, "I am having trouble finding purpose," not, "I am having trouble making purpose."Leontiskos

    Good point, well said! But if not boot-strapped, then from what? Religion? Faith? Belief? Knowledge? Hope? Reason? That is, I disagree, and "finding" one of the great deceptions, often from those selling something. Purpose, then, has to be made, but no easy way to figure out how, or exactly what. . Ex nihilo because there is no other possible source - or do you know of such a source?
  • Vera Mont
    3.8k
    If the universe has a mind of its own, might that mind not be vaster, more capacious, more compassionate than our own.Janus
    Or cold, mean and indifferent. It doesn't matter which, unless and until the universe reveals its preference and purpose in action - and we probably wouldn't recognize its intent even then.
    As to us valuing or caring about termites, it would seem that it is not outside the realm of human possibility.Janus
    We might care about the Earth ones. I did say Centaurian termites: we don't know whether there is any such thing.

    I think we're at cross purposes due to having different ideas of "purpose."tim wood
    Oxford's idea is: 1. "the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists."
    2. "have as one's intention or objective."
    3. a person's sense of resolve or determination.
    I usually just go by the dictionary meaning; otherwise, it's a guessing-game.
    If not yourself, likely you can imagine someone wondering what the meaning and purpose of his or her life is, or life in general.tim wood
    Lots of people do that. I suppose they're hoping to be significant, important, and they want an outside authority (God, Fate, Destiny, The Great River...) to imbue them with that significance. It's a whole lot easier than finding your own.
    To the degree they ask, they're asking for something, and when they stop asking, a reasonable conjecture is that they stopped because they no longer had a need to ask.tim wood
    That's a reasonable conjecture, assuming you know that they've stopped asking. It's possible that they found their purpose. Another reasonably conjecture is that, having received no answer, they gave up. Or became convinced that there isn't one. Or invented a purpose for themselves. Or somebody with a stronger will imposed one on them.
    Very few questions of psychology have only two possible answers.
    As to the existence of trees, I claim there is no such thing as a tree,tim wood
    Nevertheless, I suggest you don't stand under the figment of one during the figment of a thunderstorm.
    It's a collective term by which we refer to not specifically named members of a category of things. Language is fun to bend and twist for poetry, not so much for intelligible communication.
  • Leontiskos
    2k
    Good point, well said! But if not boot-strapped, then from what? Religion? Faith? Belief? Knowledge? Hope? Reason? That is, I disagree, and "finding" one of the great deceptions, often from those selling something. Purpose, then, has to be made, but no easy way to figure out how, or exactly what. . Ex nihilo because there is no other possible source - or do you know of such a source?tim wood

    I think the fact that it cannot be made is what makes it elusive. If purpose could be made then it would make sense to ask for the recipe.
  • Vera Mont
    3.8k
    If purpose could be made then it would make sense to ask for the recipe.Leontiskos
    Then you're still asking someone else to determine your purpose. You're asking to be the means to an end: a tool - or a meal.
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