• Chris Liu
    Like many people, I'm always obsessed by a philosophical question - what is the meaning of life?
    After years of thinking, I recently got some thoughts on that.

    I write down my coarse thoughts below and would like to hear your ideas.
    What philosophical tradition these thoughts are related or belongs to?
    Has anyone proposed similar ideas to the public? Who if yes?
    What flaws do you see in this essay?

    For anyone replies the questions, I really appreciate your help.

    Here is goes:

    On the Meaning of Life

    Lives exist in the universe. What is the meaning of them and what should they do to fulfill that? This question is important since it guides everyone's everyday behavior. This essay tries to give an answer.

    Darwin's discovery of evolution showed us a seemed meaningless universe. It excluded gods and universal objective moralities from the account of life's meaning. But when we examine wild species, we found all of them struggling, suffering and yet striving, without a single exception. Surely they are pursuing something and seem to have found their meaning. The evolution theory already gave the answer - continuation of existence itself is the only and ultimate goal. For better illustration, consider this: for anything that lives do, reasons can always be found. For example, why humans cooperate? Because they can do more. Why they want to do more? Because they can have more resources for their existence. But as for why they want to continue existing, there is no why. It's just that if they don't they don't and the universe is left to those who do. In that sense, lives achieve much more than non-living matters since they preserve, further or reinforce their existence (through metabolism, response to stimuli, reproduction and evolution etc.). In other words, lives found meaning by themselves in this seemed meaningless universe - to continue existing, to perdure.

    So lives join the race of continuation from the very beginning and developed many different forms of it. By 'the form of continuation', it means the physical form, the behavioral model, the environments of residence, the artificial objects built and used, the minds, the beliefs shared, the organizational structure and system (if any), etc., i.e. all the things that is critical to the continuation of existence of the physical being in question. Many species and sub-species on earth are forms of existence. They have many common components. For example, reproduction is a component of most forms of existence. It continues the existence as well as reinforce it by spreading instances. Evolution, which enables lives to improve their forms of continuation, is another common component itself. On one hand, evolution finds better forms of continuation, such as to develop a powerful brain for better coping with the world. On the other hand, evolution also enable lives to diverge to explore different forms of continuation. That is how so many species come into being. This diverging also has the effect of not 'putting all eggs in the same basket'. Because you will never know what event will cause some species to stop continuing.

    So forms of continuation are not static. They are evolving and diverging, which is good in the sense of its quality, which is measured by the possibility of continuing infinitely. For example, although insects and germs have larger quantities and can exist in much harsher environments than human. Human's form of continuation is still better. One reason is that humans are already developing the ability to escape from earth to avoid extinction caused by great catastrophe, which is bound to come even if the ecosphere is lucky enough to escape asteroids and super volcano etc. since the earth and the sun have lifespans.

    During the development of forms of continuation, some lives joined together to form bigger and stronger forms of continuation. For example, cells joined together to form more capable multi-cell organisms. Sexual reproduction joined genes of individuals of a species together to form a shared and more vigorous gene pool. So the scopes of forms of continuation are also changing along with evolution, from a single molecule that copies itself, to a cell, to an individual, to an internally mating group. The components within a form of continuation work together for its continuation, since no separate part of a form of continuation can achieve the goal alone. If it can, the separate part becomes a form of continuation itself. There are also conflicts and competitions within a form of continuation. Such as competitions between genes and individuals in a sexual-reproduction species. This is also a component of its form of continuation and is good for keeping better genes in the gene pool.

    So every life should strive for ever better form of continuation in order to achieve the goal of perdure, forever. That's the only meaning of life, if any.

    So what should humans do according to this meaning of life? Somethings are obvious. For example, humans should colonize outer space and to diverge into multiple forms of continuation in order to change the current status of 'all eggs in the same basket'. Another example, an extremely happy, peaceful and delightful paradise world should not be the ultimate goal since it is static, only reflects the adapted psychological needs of past and conflicts with forever searching of better form of continuation. Somethings are not obvious and need deeper research. Such as, should human create artificial super-intelligence? Should human manipulate their genes? What social system should be adopted? These questions should be carefully studied and tested before taking action since, if not done well, it may incur catastrophe like fascist did. When studying and testing them, the meaning of life is the tool of judging good from bad.
  • leo
    Interesting, indeed continually trying to find the best way to perdure might keep us busy forever. That includes finding ways to keep wanting to perdure. Although it's hard to say if some activity that we judge to be useful now might not turn out to be catastrophic much later through its consequences. Some people will believe they know the best way and will try to impose it on others, who might think differently, and then they will fight, and it's not necessarily the most useful beliefs that will perdure but those for which people fight the hardest. Competitive evolution will select the beliefs that people fight for the most and share in great number, even if these beliefs eventually prevent us to defend ourselves from some existential threat.

    It's not necessarily the beliefs that would allow us to survive beyond the death of the Sun that would allow us to survive on the short term. With a common goal given as the meaning of life, if people disagree on how to reach it they will fight to death. It all seems to be an intractable problem.

    For instance we all want to survive (else we would have killed ourselves already), and yet we wage wars, we can't even agree on the fact that we would all be better off if we cared for each other instead of fighting each other. Many people feel better when they prove to themselves they are better or stronger than others, not when they help others. So we're stuck in this pointless competition for survival, and it's not clear our species will even make it past the next 1000 years, except maybe for a tiny minority. I surely don't think we are smart enough as a whole to prevent the collapse of civilization. Some people will spend their lives looking for solutions though, good for them I suppose, it seems useless when most people don't want to listen and don't care about anything but themselves, they are probably the ones who will get to decide the fate of humanity through their sheer number.
  • Anthony
    In what sense, I wonder, does the lifestyle of the average person gear toward survival in an honest, ontologically direct way in human society today? Self-preservation, it seems, hinges upon manipulation of symbols in between human life and what upholds it; most occupations have nothing to do with survival. Symbology, then, precedes life...money and the marketed man has become so associated with life, it's hard to tease the ontologies apart, and yet such decoupling is an absolute requisite to the sincerity and authenticity of meaning. The ontologies are completely unrelated. One is survival, the other is like playing a board game. If an individual human being is mechanically dependent on others for his survival...guess what...he is literally exactly like an ant and nothing like a higher life form. Algorithms have been developed from watching the movement of ants for something like handling internet traffic...so here we have a case of algorithm mania which tends to cloud judgment on a question of whether technology is related to any kind of higher faculties or meaning, or honest perdure IF it makes us admire lower life forms that have no privacy, autonomy, or self-regulation at the individual level.

    In the age of automation and algorithms, can you honestly say perdure has any bearing on the meaning of life? Haven't we long passed a stage of appropriate technology and symbolic logic as it is sincere and ontologically associated with the kind of survival where a higher organism can care fore itself, that is keep itself alive? What lasts won't be what man believes will last, he is far too egocentric and superegocentric. The collective self of man has been thoroughly blurred together with collective other. As long as this is the case, the usual definitions of status quo today simply don't apply to any discussion of the meaning of life. Unless one is okay with living an untrue life according to false ontology, entirely dependent on the human system and with no relation to anything beyond it that will outlast all human "civilization," this isn't really that moot of a topic even.

    Actually, few automated beings survive with much hangover of meaning; because they are so dependent on others of their kind, a human is a baby animal, which will die if not coddled by parents. Other people, within the market society, are like the parents of a baby to a supposed mature adult. Then why not ask what the meaning of life is to a baby beyond his ability to be fed by his mother's teat? All the hard work done for symbols and numbers is the equivalent of a baby's crying for milk in terms of self-sufficiency. Unless, of course, the individual's work is taking care of himself without the mother (other people/superego mind control).

    Granted, there are some professions which are far more meaningful to perdure than others: say, carpentry and advanced gardening/permaculture; something like a clerk of at a department store is purely infantile in perdure value. Isn't this an honest perspective, or am I being dishonest somehow? Think of the concept of retirement for second. Once marketed man is put out to pasture, he essentially goes into a human landfill of capitalism, the same destination of consumer goods; once the goods and dependent human are consumed, they go into landfills of retirement. He is of no more use to the market society and resembles a neonate, which can even live in an automated home with a robot that feeds him and wipes his ass.
  • hachit
    Reinhold Niebuhr
    Every Time I Find the Meaning of Life, They Change it
  • Judaka

    The thing with nihilism, in general, is that it is a rejection of this notion of an objective meaning of life. Interpretation creates meaning, everyone has access to it and there are no limitations. The problem is that people want a meaning that unifies and is shared and that is really a cultural thing. They seek all kinds of legitimacy that aren't needed, that's the problem.
  • TRUE
    life before creation
    life can do anything and can never lose. Life is alone . who is life going to lose to ?
    life starts a realm of duality
    the purpose of duality is to..... not........ be able to do anything but in the form of an .> illusion

    now life can do anything including win lose or draw ?....

    darwin has it backwards

    humanity devolves into apes , not evolving from them

    heres what i mean

    white has zero density
    black is solid density

    the spectrum of light is


    blue green red make white and yellow magenta cyan
    yellow magenta cyan make black and blue green red

    black comes from white between

    you cant get black without white

    red /cyan

    life knows everything and the purpose of duality is to " not know" everything .

    when we play games against each other its actually ONLY life playing games with itself

    How are you going to play a game if you can always win ? or have no opponents ? you create duality which in turn gives life millions of winning and losing opponents but its still only one player and the illusion of many..


    Duality IS the illusion and it can be found in objective and subjective reality and illusion

    peace !!
  • Chris Liu

    With a common goal given as the meaning of life, if people disagree on how to reach it they will fight to deathleo
    That's true. An extreme example of such is the cold war. It had some good effects though. It proved the Soviet Union's way was not the best. Such competition is a mechanism to weed out bad solutions and is a component of current human's form of continuation. In that sense the movement originated from Russia the last century is an important experiment to the evolving of human's form of continuation. This mechanism will continue to work in the form of competition between countries.

    it seems useless when most people don't want to listen and don't care about anything but themselves, they are probably the ones who will get to decide the fate of humanity through their sheer number.leo
    This really is a problem that need to be dealt with. Although the competition mechanism above helps to deal with this problem, education is also very important. After all, memes (not the internet thing) is also a very important component of human's form of continuation.
  • Chris Liu

    I'm not satisfied with nihilism. I'm looking for an objective interpretation. I think Darwin has shed light on that.
  • Terrapin Station
    I'm not satisfied with nihilism. I'm looking for an objective interpretation.Chris Liu

    I'm just curious if you have any insight why (you're not satisfied with nihilism)
  • Judaka

    A belief that an interpretation can be objective in of itself is a rejection of nihilism. I do not enjoy debates about nihilism, I do not think there is any real counterargument to it and people just throw assertions at me without thinking them through.

    Your essay describes your own interpretation, that is all you will ever have access to and you will either learn to be satisfied with it or become a bigot who aims to subjugate other interpretations as lesser or wrong with whatever reasoning or argumentation you have at your disposal.
  • Chris Liu

    My argument is like this: Nihilists say why bother to try so hard to continue existing? Indeed there is no why. It's just that if they don't they will be gone and the universe is left to those who do.
  • Terrapin Station
    Nihilists say why bother to try so hard to continue existing?Chris Liu

    I'm a nihilist on many things, including the meaning of life, and I don't say anything at all like "Why bother to try so hard to continue existing." You bother because of reasons that originate in you.
  • Judaka

    I call that dark nihilism because basically nihilists only say "there is no objective meaning to life" and now you have to determine what that means. Does it mean there's no reason to live? Does it mean you should live how you want to live? What does it mean? Dark Nihilists say, well there's no point to anything then.

    For me, nihilism means there is no higher meaning than personal meaning, which means that all that's left for me to do is deal with my own interpretations and using pragmatism as a guide, determine where to go based on what is working and what is not working.

    Dark nihilism is a contradiction to me, you've said there's no objective meaning so that means there's no reason to do anything but you've taken the lack of objective meaning as meaning there's no reason to do anything. That must be your own subjective interpretation, if it can make you feel so strongly in that negative way, then why are you against one causing you to feel positively about life?

    I know that the disparity between my own interpretations surrounding the lack of meaning in life and other nihilists mean that there's very little connection between me and other nihilists. The choice of what to do with the acknowledgement of nihilism is yours.
  • Bitter Crank
    perdureChris Liu

    Congratulations are in order. You appear to be the first person to have used the word "perdure" in The Philosophy Forum. Also, welcome.

    Perdure entered the English language in the late 15th century: from Old French perdurer, from Latin perdurare ‘endure’, from per- ‘through’ + durare ‘to last’. As words go, it's doing well. Here's a Google Ngram of its usage in recent print:


    Peak perdurage seems to have occurred around 1979.

    There. It may not have done much for you, but I feel much better.
  • Bitter Crank
    Darwin's discovery of evolution showed us a meaningless universe.Chris Liu

    Darwin investigated the mechanisms of nature. That fact that life in the universe changes over time need not lead us to the conclusion that the universe is meaningless. It might be meaningless, but at least one species spends a lot of time generating meaning.

    So what should humans do according to this meaning of life? Somethings are obvious. For example, humans should colonize outer space...Chris Liu

    And, actually, we have. Our planet is in outer space, out on the edge of our galaxy, and we have colonized this planet. There are inordinate difficulties in colonizing distant planets; like, they're not at all suitable for us or they are just too far away.
  • Chris Liu

    Thanks a lot. Now I have better understanding of nihilism.
    I thought nihilism has fundamental contradiction with pragmatism and secular humanism. It seems not from your words, right?
  • Chris Liu

    Thank you very much. I do searched a lot before I chose the word perdure.

    That fact that life in the universe changes over time need not lead us to the conclusion that the universe is meaningless.Bitter Crank
    Right. Maybe I should change it into "Darwin's discovery of evolution showed us a seemed meaningless universe."

    There are inordinate difficulties in colonizing distant planets; like, they're not at all suitable for us or they are just too far awayBitter Crank
    It IS difficult. But humans' technologies are developing fast. Elon Musk has actually started to do it. Humans have years to go to make it practical.
  • Bitter Crank
    Elon Musk has actually started to do it.Chris Liu

    How about NASA, ESA, the Russian space agency, Chinese space Agency, etc?

    Musk? Elon Musk and 50¢ won't get you a cup of coffee.
  • julian kroin
    Maybe we ask the wrong question. How about what is the meaning of the universe (less arrogant)? Does it have a purpose and perhaps we are just performing our part in that. If not a purpose, perhaps a direction. Is direction purpose? There definitely seems to be a direction. In the evolution of living things, we see a progression of what we call the 'simple' (algae, one celled creatures) evolving to more complex 'tissues' that give up immortality (thru direct connection to the environment) to becoming complex organisms where each tissue (organ) becomes specialized and now depends on the whole organism for survival. Here mortality is introduced. This complex organism develops 'consciousness' (a whole other conundrum) which enables it to manipulate 'nature' (or so it believes).' I once heard it said that the purpose of 'consciousness,' is for the universe to wake up and admire itself. That tickled me. I've come to believe that 'consciousness' is a latent/inevitable property of matter. Perhaps the answer lies in entropy, going from the more organized, high energy, to dissipation. If the universe has laws, that appears to be one of them, though I doubt it or there would be only one universe, one time. So if we figure out what's up with that, maybe there are some answers there. If the universe began with a big bang (low entropy), is this the first time? If not, is there a collapse in store and an infinite universe perpetual motion generating machine? It seems to be expanding and faster. Is that even consistent with physics? Enter dark matter/energy, stage right or left. Life appears to be small packets of highly organized things (low entropy) that eventually (70-90 years) give way to dissolution, like all things, but moves the ball forward. That may be the genius of evolution. This is different from the usual Fri. cafeteria lunch conversation I sit thru consisting of 'how's the fish today?' Thank you for being here. And now, back to my home planet...
  • Txastopher
    Life has no meaning, but the search for meaning is what makes life interesting.
  • Banno
    So every life should strive for ever better form of continuation in order to achieve the goal of perdure, forever. That's the only meaning of life, if any.Chris Liu

    This looks to be an example of the Naturalistic Fallacy - deriving an ought from an is without due diligence.
  • Metaphysician Undercover
    So every life should strive for ever better form of continuation in order to achieve the goal of perdure, forever. That's the only meaning of life, if any.Chris Liu

    This is actually flawed at the base level. Each living being dies, and that's a fundamental discontinuity in life. Evolution, which is a changing of the existing forms of life, as time passes, is dependent on this fundamental discontinuity. So your assumption of continuity is discordant with this fundamental principle.
  • Judaka

    No, I disagree that nihilism is in contradiction with pragmatism or secular humanism, though dark nihilism is. Nihilism mostly has implications for things besides objective meaning such as objective morality, religions such as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and more, the validity of obligation and responsibility and other such things, which some might argue hold greater authority than a nihilist can accept due to the rejection of objective meaning.

    Of course, nihilists can interpret all kinds of things from nihilism and even what I've listed, you might find nihilists who don't agree.
  • Devans99
    It's all down to dopamine and similar reward chemicals in the brain.

    Meaning of life = high dopamine levels.

    Or just do what makes you happy. If doing what you are doing makes others unhappy, they will make you unhappy so you will stop. So it should all just work out automatically.
  • Herve
    Life is a human concept. The meaning of life is what is life, it is not where does it come from, because it comes from a human being. Life anticipates death, that is the only meaning of life. Your question is not the meaning of life, but the meaning of being.
  • nsmith
    I wrote this speech to share in my senior year of high school, the topic was "What is the meaning of life?" Its not the best piece of work so I'll put it below but essentially it states that the meaning of life is to help others, one primary reason being because humanity cannot thrive individually. Meaning of Life

    The meaning of life is at the epicenter of our lives. It has been the topic of much discussion ,will be the topic of much discussion, and It is a question that must be answered in order to obtain satisfaction in life. A question that has been asked for centuries by humanity.
    Humanity, we see it in movies all the time, an alien race from outer space tries to attack us, tries to destroy us, but humans are special. Humans have something about them that allows us to overcome anything. I want you to ask yourselves, what makes us special, what makes us different from any other living thing? Ladies and gentlemen, it is the ability to form communities, and it is through looking out for others that those communities can continue to function. When I was a kid, I’d fall and my parents would be there to pick me back up, when I broke my arm on my birthday, I felt alone. I felt alone until I heard a knock at my door and my friends came bursting through that door with chicken nuggets and butterfingers. I felt amazing, I felt love, and I saw what humanity is capable of. The philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau was famous for his belief that humanity is inherently good. To be honest, It took awhile for me to believe that. There’s so much evil in the world, so much hate, so much selfishness, how could the world ever be inherently good? As I grew up, and life threw more and more trials at me, more and more people came to help me get through them. The harder the trial, the more support I got, and I started to realize that I wasn’t facing life alone, I never was.
    History is important to look at when trying to unravel the meaning of life. As long as the modern man has existed, communities have existed as well and that is because without communities, humanity would crumble. Starting with hunter gatherer civilizations people found their place in their tribes, whether it was hunting, creating shelter, or medicine. Ever since then we have seen an endless amount of different communities, from Native American Tribes, Scottish Clans, and even the Boy Scouts. in the history of humanity, we see not only the death, destruction, and wars, but we also see groups of people. Communities can only exist through one thing, and that’s caring for others.
    We are different in so many ways, we have different tastes, different jobs, different races and different backgrounds, but as different as we are, we are just as united. We are all human, we all have potential, we all are capable of good. And we all have the same meaning of life.I think that the biggest misconception about the meaning of life is that is the meaning of YOUR life, that its special to you. it’s not the meaning of your life. Every single person is born with the responsibility to help others, just not in the same ways. Some people are born in a way that they may not be able to carry you across a finish line when you break your leg, but if you try hard enough they will bring you joy and if there’s somebody that you can’t see any good in, then you’re not looking hard enough.
    One of my greatest fears is that someday, something bad will happen, and I won’t be able to do anything about it. I will have to watch while someone gets hurt while I sit helplessly thinking about what I could have done. That’s something that every single one of us will have to deal with at some point but that is why humans exist in groups, because while we may not be able to do something by ourselves, I truly believe that together, not as conservative and liberal, not as black and white, but as humans, there isn’t a single thing that we cannot achieve. Right now, we are not as united as we could be, but I know that someday, if we continue to work towards helping those around you, we will start to change, we will grow closer, and we will be able to do amazing things.
    Some of the most important questions that we have in life are how questions. “How does this change anything?” unless you take the steps to improve, and make a commitment to change, then nothing will change at all. “How can I change?” take a step back and make a plan. Take a moment and look at who you have become. Notice the parts in you that you don’t want to see in others and make a plan with an end goal. “How can I change my surroundings?” Be a good example, as Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change that you want to see in the world.” If you can’t change yourself, how can you expect others to change?
    Ladies and gentleman, There are monsters in the world, and these monsters are mortal men, men are born but monsters are created, created by hatred, created by disgust and unacceptance, if we want to get rid of these monsters, we must help those around us, help them to smile, and help them to live, this is the meaning of life, and this is how humanity will survive, this is how humanity will thrive, not through war and hate but through love and kindness. You cannot stand in a dark room and expect light to come out of nowhere. You must be the one to flip the switch and bring light in, and if there’s no electricity then light a candle. Help others, this is the meaning of life.
  • Louco
    Meaning is something which only makes sense as a property of something that is communication. For instance, a hunk of metal has no meaning. But if we shape this hunk of metal, we can give meaning to it: it becomes sculpture.

    Humankind, understood as the set of all humans who lived and will live, has no meaning. The essence of it - if there is such a thing - would be the set of biological mechanisms which have lived. Again, they have no meaning, except as being an object of the biological science.

    That being said, we can interpret non-meaningful things as having meaning. It is the power of imagination. We can say that clouds have shapes of animals. In the same vein, we can consider human life (or life in general) as a narrative, and then attribute meaning to its elements within the broader narrative.

    What is the story of life? It came about, it will end.

    Therefore, we must search for the meaning of life in its finitude: we die, the Sun will swallow the Earth, the Big Crunch will end it all.

    When we search for the meaning of life, we impose something which comes from consciousness (meaning) unto something which is temporary existence. We humans, the universe knowing itself, believe in something greater than ourselves: meaning to our brief existence.

    Personally, as an atheist, I find that this line of reasoning reeks of spiritualism. And therefore I content myself in attributing no meaning to life, although as an anthropological insight, it seems to me that those who see meaning in life are affirming some sort of spiritual reality.
  • Chris Liu

    Musk? Elon Musk and 50¢ won't get you a cup of coffee.Bitter Crank
  • Chris Liu

    How about what is the meaning of the universe (less arrogant)?julian kroin
    To me, asking the meaning of the universe is more arrogant, since we know little about the fate of the universe and nothing about what's before or after (if any) the universe or what's outside the universe.
  • whollyrolling
    Reading all of your poor grammar was not at all worthwhile. You spewed a bunch of bad ideas with no reasonable explanation in order to carry yourself to an ultimately bad idea. This is redundant, and the word pedantic would come to mind if I thought for even a split second that this was based on education. Sycophantic, that's the word, talking to hear yourself but with no destination. To even pose a question of the meaning of existence is narrow-minded, but to spend so much time beating around the bush to arrive at a place where all anyone can hear is a resounding whistling of wind in arid earth--there is no meaning. There is no meaning to life. You had me for a second, for a split second when you mentioned reproduction, and I was thinking to myself "maybe he'll say the only point of existence is to propagate existence", but you had to mention good and evil as if it's a struggle that actually exists innately. Humans are derived from basic organisms who think nothing of murder, nothing of morality, nothing of rape, nothing of inclusivity, nothing of religion. What drives human beings is incomprehensibly simplistic, feral, vacuous.
  • Noah Te Stroete
    Haha! :grin: Where have you been? Crawled out of your cave to rip people new ones? :lol:
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