• Noah Te Stroete
    2.1k
    This is something my wife, Crystal, and I discussed yesterday. What is it about people these days that gives rise to questions such as, What is my purpose for living? Or, What is the ultimate point of this or that activity? Why should I do this or that activity? My wife and I believe it is a combination of being several steps removed from the necessities of life from division of labor, and, for many activities, not seeing a lasting finished product.

    Take for example, a bookkeeper. The bookkeeper is not building a house, growing food, making or mending clothes, or making anything useful like tools. She or he is many steps removed from these purposeful activities, and just how many steps removed depends on the particular business. He or she also never has a finished product that s/he can point to and say, “I did that.” If one is a thoughtful bookkeeper, one might ask, “Why am I ultimately doing this job?”

    Another example is a manager, a thankless job. A manager doesn’t make anything and only gets noticed when shit goes wrong. That seems like a shitty deal, especially when one isn’t paid particularly well.

    A social worker or psychiatrist never gets to see a finished product, and many of them become disillusioned and depressed because so many patients or clients regress. A thoughtful social worker or psychiatrist might ask herself, “Am I really helping people?” “Is anyone or any social issue ever really fixed?”

    I think it is the lack of meaningful purpose and lack of lasting accomplishment and being so far removed from the necessities of life that results in there being so few mentally healthy people these days. Mental health is a spectrum from fulfilled and healthy to somewhere in the middle to mentally ill. There seems to be a lot fewer mentally healthy people and a lot more mentally disturbed people, and I think a leading factor is the nature of modern civilization or society.

    What do you all think? Thank you for your consideration.
  • ssu
    1.5k
    The purpose for life is an eternal question. It isn't linked to how advanced or simple the society is where one lives or, in the end, to the role one has in it.

    A subsistence farmer, someone who grows crops for personal use and to feed his or her family, isn't at all closer than a bookkeeper to a purpose for life. A bookkeeper (meaning an accountant, yes?) has an obvious function and plays a crucial part in a modern society to keep the complicated system functioning. Bookkeepers were one of the earliest professions in history and are essential even in a quite rudimentary and far less advanced society than we have now. So being an accountant is important to other people, even if you aren't treated as a hero by your society. Or put it this way: Would you have more purpose for your life, if you quit your accounting job and would voluntary seclude yourself (and perhaps your family) from the society and become a subsistence farmer and hunter/fishermen? To buy a real estate that would have fish an wild animals around has to be big, hence you ought to have been a very successful accountant, actually. Would you truly have more purpose or would it be an escape that a rich accountant can make?

    Feeling the lack of meaningful purpose and/or the lack of lasting accomplishment usually tells that a person is simply unmotivated in his or her job and/or worries that he or she hasn't lived up to his or her potential. We are, starting from childhood, bombarded with the notion that we have to chase our dreams and that we can be anything we want to be. And that dream isn't to be an low level poorly paid accountant is, if not said, subtly hinted. This basically makes some persons feel that they have wasted away their life in a lousy job, which they aren't proud of. In the end they will be among the vast majority of human kind that become totally non-existent to history and future people once they die and once closest people to them (their children, their friends) have died too and nobody remembers them. So if you'd only done this or that, written that novel you thought about earlier in life, it truly would have touched the huge masses of people in the future and you would have had a purpose by creating so much joy or excitement. But now... nothing.

    Yet is this really about a purpose or is it more about other things like fame or appreciation of others, hedonism or celebrity worship or the simply the collective idea that "You've made it in life when x"? That's the question.
  • Wayfarer
    8k
    One of my ways of thinking about this is that it's 'the shadow of the Enlightenment'. I mean, I believe in Enlightenment values - progress, science, democracy, and technology. But it's a big mistake to think that any of these are ends in themselves. Really, individuals have a great deal of work to do in the process of 'individuation', which is, figuring out what they ought to do.

    In pre-modern times, and many places still today, this was never a question - you did what you were told, followed the hereditary occupation and place in society that you were born into. For that kind of life, the question of 'what life is all about' doesn't even come up. It's about harvesting, or whatever it is that you've been assigned.

    In any case, 'purpose' is something you have to discover, create and build. It might not come naturally, but it can be learned. I think having meaningful relationships, meaningful interests in life, and being physically fit helps a lot. A lot of modern junk culture - computer games, social networking, and so on - doesn't help that at all, it's corrosive and decadent.

    A really good 20th c writer on this topic was Erich Fromm, particularly Man For Himself and Escape from Freedom. He had an acute sense of these kinds of questions. Victor Frankl was another. But they're all sixties people. (Although maybe, this is what a lot of youth are now looking to Jordan Peterson for.)

    I don't think it is healthy to say in advance that any kind of occupation, be it manager or bookkeeper or whatever, is intrinsically meaningless. People can find meaning in many things. I have struggled with this myself, because I've made a career in a pretty dull technological area ( technical writing, documenting computer systems) and have often been stuck behind a desk for months or years at a time doing pretty mundane chores. Sometimes it is a struggle, but then I try to keep a lot of interests, I try to stay physically fit and pursue other life-goals around it. And it's been decently paid, which helps.

    But - where are life-shaping skills taught nowadays? How do people get to explore these questions? I have been lucky - although maybe it wasn't luck - to enroll in various kinds of 'awareness-training' centres over the years. That definitely helped me a huge amount. But they're not on the curriculum in schools. Maybe if you're lucky you will encounter a really good teacher in the school system, but I never did, with one or two exceptions. But this is one of the meanings of culture, and it's essential that culture and education contribute to this kind of training.
  • Noah Te Stroete
    2.1k


    I think both of you missed my point entirely. My point was that before there were modern cities, when people were living in small tribes and everyone in that tribe had a place, knew everyone else, and were indispensable to that tribe; I doubt very many people asked or thought to ask, “Why am I doing this?” I believe philosophical thinking is a product OF civilization. Without civilization, no one asks what their purpose is. In tribe life EVERYONE has a purpose. People aren’t disposable in a tribe or clan.

    Farmers know what they do has value. Or at least they should know. Carpenters know that what they do has value or creates value. But enter modern civilization with its global markets. Tariffs for the American soybean farmer have made it so that no one is buying their product, and many farmers are becoming depressed and suicidal. What they produce has been removed from the people who would buy it. Modern civilization has removed their purpose. This is just one example.

    Now, I’m sure there are many bookkeepers who enjoy their occupation and feel like they have value to their companies and their families. But I’m also sure there are even more bookkeepers who question their value to companies when they don’t get credit for a job well done and only get noticed when they make a mistake. How many mentally and spiritually healthy bookkeepers do you know? The ones who are healthy probably have to look outside of their occupation to find meaning.

    This having to look outside of one’s occupation for meaning is unique to civilization and not something you would find in an indigenous tribe. That is my thesis.
  • Noah Te Stroete
    2.1k
    IOW, without civilization there would be no philosophers.
  • Wayfarer
    8k
    People aren’t disposable in a tribe or clan.Noah Te Stroete

    It’s a highly idealised view. From what I’ve read violence was endemic in many hunter-gatherer cultures. You seem to be reciting Jean Jacques Rousseau’s ‘myth of the noble savage’. I do however agree that philosophy is a product of civilization.
  • alcontali
    280
    It is possible to discover the meaning of life in the ancient scriptures. But then again, it will only work for those who believe that it is possible.

    It is obvious that unbelievers cannot find meaning or purpose in that what they do not believe. According to the scriptures, that is the reason why the unbelievers will fail to find meaning and be unable to fulfil their destiny.

    Second-temple Judaism successfully evolved out of Moses' congregation. It judiciously faced off the Hellenic-Seleucid threat. It turned out later on, however, unable to handle the looming threat posed by the Roman empire and its imperial cult.

    Even before the inevitable calamity struck, and even before second-temple Judaism imploded completely during the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, several of its offshoots frantically sought to survive.

    The following three offshoots managed to overcome the challenge and survive. In chronological order: the Ebionite (=Islam), Pauline (=Christianity), and Rabbinic (=modern Judaism) offshoots. This chronological order is indeed a paradox:

    Hans Joachim Schoeps observes: "Thus we have a paradox of world-historical proportions, viz., the fact that Jewish Christianity indeed disappeared within the Christian church, but was preserved in Islam and thereby extended some of its basic ideas even to our own day. According to Islamic doctrine, the Ebionite combination of Moses and Jesus found its fulfillment in Muhammad."

    In the scriptures you will find the most straightforward answer as to the meaning of life:

    Quran 51:56: We have created jinn and human beings only that they might worship Me.

    Hence at the highest level of meaning, one can fulfil his destiny by praying to God, and keeping his law. Still, we have also been tasked to sexually reproduce:

    Genesis 1:28: Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

    We will do that, because we are predisposed to do so:

    Fitrah. According to Islamic theology, human beings are born with an innate inclination of tawhid (Oneness), which is encapsulated in the fitra along with compassion, intelligence, ihsan and all other attributes that embody the concept of humanity.

    Hence, the reason why we axiomatize these beliefs, is because they are part of our blueprint:

    Quran 30:30: Set thy Face to religion as a Hanif in the primordial nature from God upon which originated mankind. There is no altering the creation of God. That is upright but most mankind know not.

    Therefore, the job you do, such as bookkeeper, manager, social worker, or psychiatrist, and the tasks you carry out in secular, worldly affairs are insufficient to give meaning to your life. Even helping other people, is insufficient to fulfil your destiny. You will still need to pray, keep God's law, and sexually reproduce to find fulfilment.
  • Hanover
    4.8k
    This having to look outside of one’s occupation for meaning is unique to civilization and not something you would find in an indigenous tribe. That is my thesis.Noah Te Stroete

    This assumes meaning is found in one's occupation and that an occupation is not simply a means to an end. I suspect you find meaning in life with your interactions with Crystal. Your job, whatever it may be, and however you might enjoy it, is a means to building a life with her.

    Your primitive man account is obviously purely speculative. That question is empirical though, answered by interviewing primitive society members.

    Here's an account of an ancient society from 3000 years ago:

    “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
    “Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”

    3 What do people gain from all their labors
    at which they toil under the sun?
    4 Generations come and generations go,
    but the earth remains forever.
    5 The sun rises and the sun sets,
    and hurries back to where it rises.
    6 The wind blows to the south
    and turns to the north;
    round and round it goes,
    ever returning on its course.
    7 All streams flow into the sea,
    yet the sea is never full.
    To the place the streams come from,
    there they return again.
    8 All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
    The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.
    9 What has been will be again...

    Ecclesiastes
  • frank
    3k
    3000 years ago:Hanover

    2400 years
  • Noah Te Stroete
    2.1k
    It’s a highly idealised view. From what I’ve read violence was endemic in many hunter-gatherer cultures.Wayfarer

    I was thinking of the plains Native Americans as an example. Hunter-gatherers undoubtedly settled some disputes through violence, though.
  • Noah Te Stroete
    2.1k
    Therefore, the job you do, such as bookkeeper, manager, social worker, or psychiatrist, and the tasks you carry out in secular, worldly affairs are insufficient to give meaning to your life. Even helping other people, is insufficient to fulfil your destiny. You will still need to pray, keep God's law, and sexually reproduce to find fulfilment.alcontali

    Thank you for reminding me of what I once gained through prayer. :smile:
  • Noah Te Stroete
    2.1k
    Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
    “Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”
    Hanover

    Sounds like a philosopher to me. :wink:
  • Wayfarer
    8k
    Sounds like a philosopher to me.Noah Te Stroete


    It's a translation of Ecclesiastics 1, usually given as 'Vanity! Vanity! All is vanity!' Which I think is quite comparable with the Buddhist teaching of 'the emptiness of all things'. But it doesn't mean that everything is meaningless, rather that the things we attach importance to, and labour for, are ultimately transient.

    All — All worldly things; is vanity — Not in themselves, for they are God’s creatures, and therefore good in their kinds, but in reference to that happiness which men seek and expect to find in them. So they are unquestionably vain, because they are not what they seem to be, and perform not what they promise, but, instead of that, are the occasions of innumerable cares, and fears, and sorrows, and mischiefs. Nay, they are not only vanity, but vanity of vanities, the vainest vanity, vanity in the highest degree. And this is redoubled, because the thing is certain, beyond all possibility of dispute. — Benson Commentary
  • Hanover
    4.8k
    It's a translation of Ecclesiastics 1, usually given as 'Vanity! Vanity! All is vanity!' Which I think is quite comparable with the Buddhist teaching of 'the emptiness of all things'. But it doesn't mean that everything is meaningless, rather that the things we attach importance to, and labour for, are ultimately transient.Wayfarer

    Not to get too far afield from the OP, but the actual word used is the Hebrew הֲבֵל (pronounced hevel) meaning vapor or breath. This term is obviously metaphor, so it leaves it open for considerable interpretation. Reasonable interpretations include yours or things like impermanence.

    But to the OP, I do believe it does shows ancient societies were just as worried about meaning and purpose as today, possibly more given their non-scientific teleological bias. Existential doubt (which we can probably agree is generally thematic to Ecclesiastes) is part of the eternal human condition, not a new problem brought about by modern decay.
  • Anthony
    147
    My wife and I believe it is a combination of being several steps removed from the necessities of life from division of labor, and, for many activities, not seeing a lasting finished product.Noah Te Stroete
    Yes, because in an honest human system, the finished product is the payment. You get to keep the result of your labor, after which you are responsible for its lasting. Your labor isn't tied to the clock or a global economy, it's task oriented, you can work like hell one day to take the next day off...so long as you're making progress toward the finish line. There is a finish line/a terminus (a completed "to do" list) in the truth context; there is no terminus in economic fundamentalism, there's a runaway thing called "bills" which are the sticks and carrots in the future which never comes. Living to pay bills assumes you know what the future will bring...do you know what the future will bring?

    Behaviorism is the main cause of lack of purpose in life. Allowing oneself to fall to stimulus-response, conditioned responses, or operant conditioning...all which feeds the monkey mind, all of which betrays the reality we are thinking animals. It's not a fancy answer here, a little banal, but essentially being compelled to live for profit is the core behaviorism of which I speak; you could add compulsory education or any compulsion stemming from any fundamentalism.

    Money has no qualitative relation whatever to the product of labor. Otherwise intelligent people (who would call it comparing apples and oranges in another context; that is, exchanging labor for something other than what was done) accept this for rather cryptic reasons, or unlike terms. Pavlov's bell has nothing to do with meat. Unless...it is an unthinking animal..which of course, can't see through this artifice. Man's extragenetic information has led to a mismatch between biological and cultural evolution. Now it appears there are those (the majority) who believe man can evolve apart from evolution. Living in conjunction with our master, evolution, instead of rebelling against it, would probably iron out some of these problems of purpose/meaning. Then the human system would dissolve: there is no human system apart from the supreme systemic network, it is a mirage.

    It's shocking so few people feel infantile they can't take care of the needs of living. This, being dependent on others for subsistence, does in fact make me feel impotent. And the more
    "successful" and "independent" one is reliant on the principle of exchange in economic fundamentalism, in truth, the more dependent he is (this being a central irony of the human system, it makes people feel more adult and mature the more dependent they are on the system). So the Noble Savage thing is true for me; in any supposed higher species, an individual must be dependent on nothing in between him and the work of living; in other terms, self-reliance/mental and physical autonomy, necessitates a first-order, or direct ontological orientation. What would you do if you had to actually take care of yourself and meet the needs of living? I'm not sure if a solitary, self-reliant animal, like a raptor, a falcon say, isn't more advanced than the average human.
  • schopenhauer1
    3.2k
    It's shocking so few people feel infantile they can't take care of the needs of living. This, being dependent on others for subsistence, does in fact make me feel impotent. And the more
    "successful" and "independent" one is reliant on the principle of exchange in economic fundamentalism, in truth, the more dependent he is (this being a central irony of the human system, it makes people feel more adult and mature the more dependent they are on the system). So the Noble Savage thing is true for me; in any supposed higher species, an individual must be dependent on nothing in between him and the work of living; in other terms, self-reliance/mental and physical autonomy, necessitates a first-order, or direct ontological orientation. What would you do if you had to actually take care of yourself and meet the needs of living? I'm not sure if a solitary, self-reliant animal, like a raptor, a falcon say, isn't more advanced than the average human.
    Anthony

    There are several things I agree and disagree with here. First, I agree that the economic-system you describe is depersonalizing. I use this computer right now, but I had no contribution to the components, or ideas that went into this computer. In fact, a person who doesn't work with computers may not even know the first thing about what makes a computer work, and all its various components, and how these technologies work together.. But even knowing that isn't enough..There is the physical nature of the components, that even the computer people might not know..the plastics, the copper, the diodes, the resisters, the semiconductors, and how all those are made.. Then there is the aspect of mining, manufacturing, compiling all the raw resources into secondary ones, into finished products that can be assembled..It is mind-boggling endless, and our only contribution to it was to consume the product and make those involved money.

    What I disagree with you about is that there is some sort of better life at the end of the tunnel.. The life of the falcon, the life of the noble savage, the life of the solitary hermit. These are just hope-notions we put onto life because it is harder to accept that life itself is the problem. It is better never to have been born in the first place. What is the point of all these "tasks" and survival? It is only because we know no other way. There is suicide as the only other option at this point and we usually fear the unknown and uncertain pain. Thus, tasks are simply manifestations of our boredom, discomfort, and desire to survive, and nothing more reified and exalted than that. There is no nobility in any task- whether in a depersonalized economy, or a one-man, self-reliant economy. It is simply the de facto things we must do to cope, deal with, and get by, from being born in the first place. There is no progress, there is no "true form of living", there is flourishing, there is no rainbow sunshine at the end of a concerted effort. There is just existence and our wills which require us to do certain things to satisfy our boredom, discomfort, and survival needs and wants.
  • Noah Te Stroete
    2.1k
    But to the OP, I do believe it does shows ancient societies were just as worried about meaning and purpose as today, possibly more given their non-scientific teleological bias. Existential doubt (which we can probably agree is generally thematic to Ecclesiastes) is part of the eternal human condition, not a new problem brought about by modern decay.Hanover

    To my point, Ecclesiastes describes life in a city-state as far as I know and not life in a tribe or clan like the plains Native Americans.
  • Noah Te Stroete
    2.1k


    A happy day for me when someone sees things the way I do. :wink:
  • schopenhauer1
    3.2k
    To my point, Ecclesiastes describes life in a city-state as far as I know and not life in a tribe or clan like the plains Native Americans.Noah Te Stroete

    I guess we can do the Sun Dance:

    Those who had pledged to endure the Sun Dance generally did so in fulfillment of a vow or as a way of seeking spiritual power or insight. Supplicants began dancing at an appointed hour and continued intermittently for several days and nights; during this time they neither ate nor drank. In some tribes supplicants also endured ritual self-mortification beyond fasting and exertion; in others such practices were thought to be self-aggrandizing. When practiced, self-mortification was generally accomplished through piercing: mentors or ritual leaders inserted two or more slim skewers or piercing needles through a small fold of the supplicant’s skin on the upper chest or upper back; the mentor then used long leather thongs to tie a heavy object such as a buffalo skull to the skewers. A dancer would drag the object along the ground until he succumbed to exhaustion or his skin tore free. Among some tribes the thongs were tied to the centre pole, and the supplicant either hung from or pulled on them until free. Piercing was endured by only the most committed individuals, and, as with the rest of the ritual, it was done to ensure tribal well-being as well as to fulfill the supplicant’s individual vow. — Brittanica.com, Sun Dance
  • Noah Te Stroete
    2.1k


    The Sun Dance with self-mortification sounds like splendid fun. :grimace:
  • schopenhauer1
    3.2k

    The point is we are all screwed and human in our vanity doing things out of mainly boredom, discomfort, and survival, mediated through the medium of our society/culture. This is no different for the plains Native Americans or the city-state dweller.
  • Noah Te Stroete
    2.1k
    The point is we are all screwed and human in our vanity doing things out of mainly boredom, discomfort, and survival, mediated through the medium of our society/culture. This is no different for the plains Native Americans or the city-state dweller.schopenhauer1

    Yeah, maybe, but I think the plains Native Americans believed there was purpose in what they did. It seems like existential meaninglessness in that culture wasn’t as prevalent. They had shamans, not philosophers. Pick your poison, I guess.
  • Hanover
    4.8k
    To my point, Ecclesiastes describes life in a city-state as far as I know and not life in a tribe or clan like the plains Native Americans.Noah Te Stroete

    You're making an impossible distinction here. Obviously different tribes behaved differently across continents, but trying to distinguish them into terms of how primitive they were is hopeless and I seriously doubt you have any knowledge of ancient Native American religions that enables you to comment upon their existential views.

    If you are actually aware of a consistent absence of angst in the ancient world across diverse tribes (an absurd notion), point to your evidence.

    The best I can say regarding your OP is that it hints at Marxist notions of alienation, and now you're trying to argue that pre-civilized man was free of such pain.
  • ZhouBoTong
    388
    Another example is a manager, a thankless job.Noah Te Stroete

    Well, surely, they are 'thanked' a good deal more than those who are managed?

    I think it is the lack of meaningful purpose and lack of lasting accomplishment and being so far removed from the necessities of life that results in there being so few mentally healthy people these days.Noah Te Stroete

    First off, is there evidence that people are mentally unhealthy at higher rates than in the past? I am not saying there is not, but it seems very complicated.

    I tend to disagree with the general thesis (disagree may be too strong...question its applicability?); but more importantly, if you are right, what is the solution? Go back to living off the land?

    If we gave people less education (or a more limited scope), wouldn't that solve your problem as uneducated people generally don't ask about things like 'purpose'?

    What if we just have a lot of parades where we celebrate all the individual 'cogs' in society. Wouldn't this add value to their work and make them feel useful?

    I have seen this, 'people feel detached as they never see the finished product' argument before, but I never really saw the point of it.

    Shouldn't people just learn to find value and purpose OUTSIDE OF WORK? Isn't the attachment of my personal self-worth to my job the REAL mental health problem?
  • Noah Te Stroete
    2.1k
    Shouldn't people just learn to find value and purpose OUTSIDE OF WORK? Isn't the attachment of my personal self-worth to my job the REAL mental health problem?ZhouBoTong

    Yes. Guidance counselors in schools across the country tell students to “shoot for the stars” implying that if they land the job of their dreams everything will fall into place for them mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. That’s what it seems like to me, anyways.

    So, I guess the solution would be not to put so much stock in your occupation as a source of fulfillment. That goes against the American educational system’s propaganda, though.

    The fact of the matter is that mental illness diagnosis is on the rise. However, this could be better diagnosing, more pressure from pharmaceutical companies, more actual mental illness due to alienation, or some combination of the aforementioned.
  • Noah Te Stroete
    2.1k
    Well, surely, they are 'thanked' a good deal more than those who are managed?ZhouBoTong

    Depends on their boss and how they treat their own workers, of course.
  • Noah Te Stroete
    2.1k
    The best I can say regarding your OP is that it hints at Marxist notions of alienation, and now you're trying to argue that pre-civilized man was free of such pain.Hanover

    Thank you for your gracious generosity, but I would argue that Marx was onto something about alienation due to division of labor. That’s why so many people have hobbies outside of work. They find meaning in their hobbies that they don’t get from their occupation. I think that is a symptom of civilization that couldn’t have been prevalent in ancient tribes and clans due to the inherent structure of the social units involved.
  • Ines
    6
    I think the biggest reason as to why people feel a lack of meaning in their life is due to us being pushed into the idea that life has to be in a certain way in order to have a purpose. I think it's more about the relationship between purpose and the action of fulfilling the purpose that makes us question our life's meaning. If we were to treat the purpose of our life and our reaction to knowing our purpose as two separate things we would feel content regardless if we achieved our life's purpose or not, because then we would feel safe in the notion that our life has a meaning, but it's up to us if we want to pursue it or not. And this is, of course, a consequence of societal norms.
  • Noah Te Stroete
    2.1k
    I think the biggest reason as to why people feel a lack of meaning in their life is due to us being pushed into the idea that life has to be in a certain way in order to have a purpose. I think it's more about the relationship between purpose and the action of fulfilling the purpose that makes us question our life's meaning. If we were to treat the purpose of our life and our reaction to knowing our purpose as two separate things we would feel content regardless if we achieved our life's purpose or not, because then we would feel safe in the notion that our life has a meaning, but it's up to us if we want to pursue it or not. And this is, of course, a consequence of societal norms.Ines

    This may be true. If my purpose is to provide for my family, and I fail at this, then I still know my purpose even though it is not accomplished. I’m not sure I was getting at this in my OP, though. I think existential meaninglessness comes from having to do a lot of activities in modern society that can seem pointless, but this has a lot to do with how sensitive one is and their personal disposition. Civilization breeds philosophers.
  • ssu
    1.5k
    I think both of you missed my point entirely.Noah Te Stroete
    I do think I got your point. Perhaps you didn't get my answer. I'll try to make it from another angle.

    My point was that before there were modern cities, when people were living in small tribes and everyone in that tribe had a place, knew everyone else, and were indispensable to that tribeNoah Te Stroete
    Actually, people weren't indispensable to a tribe, quite on the contrary: if you had a group of hunter-gatherers, having too many mouths to feed would be a major problem. You have to understand it's not about before there were 'modern' cities, having cities at all is already a clear sign of specialization of work and of a complex culture.

    The fact is that a more complex society is often too difficult for many to understand how it functions. That agriculture, the specialization of work, tools and machines, markets and institutions creates the possibility of a society where indeed there can be philosophers or pet psychologists or simply those who don't do anything, don't even work. There being career philosophers and artists and these living in prosperity shows even today the wealth and functionality of the society and it's economy. This is most clear when you simply look at the existence of large cities. The population of Rome is a perfect indicator of what happens when globalization in Antique Times came to a halt and how long it took for the city to recover. Just look at what year the population of Rome surpassed the population of Imperial Rome at it's height.

    5437156_orig.jpg

    This having to look outside of one’s occupation for meaning is unique to civilization and not something you would find in an indigenous tribe. That is my thesis.Noah Te Stroete
    And just how much meaning is there more if you are tasked to gather firewood and haul water from distant wells? Sure, everybody would notice this by evening meal if you would not have performed this task, especially if only you would have been given this mission. Yet is that purpose for life? It's more about clarity or simplicity. I would even put it totally the other way around. True purpose rises from things that you as a human being can perform that is something totally else than what an animal does: gathering food, taking care of your children (or making them) and sleeping. Like discuss philosophy with absolute strangers to you living in other continents over a communication network that few can clearly fathom how large it is and how it actually works. If you learn something or improve your writing skills, wouldn't that be great.

    If my purpose is to provide for my family, and I fail at this, then I still know my purpose even though it is not accomplished. I’m not sure I was getting at this in my OP, though. I think existential meaninglessness comes from having to do a lot of activities in modern society that can seem pointless, but this has a lot to do with how sensitive one is and their personal disposition.Noah Te Stroete
    The feeling of meaninglessness starts from the fact that you don't have fight every day for your own survival. Your not even so crucial to your family either, that if you die, your family unlikely won't end up in utter poverty begging in the streets and facing hunger. Might have been in an earlier time a possibility when that glamorous 'purpose' was so clear and everything so simple.

    Of course then there's the other thing that if especially you are an American, people there tend to work extremely long hours, yet aren't at all more productive. Many have said it here who have worked with American companies. Hence likely working time is simply wasted in the altar of simply 'working'.
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