• runbounder
    7
    I'm definitely not depressed. I have no desire for any kind of self harm. This argument I'm about to make is not a function of feelings, but of logic. I'd also like to be wrong. Trying to avoid a TLDR here. But, long story short, I've been interested in metaphysics and the meaning of things ever since I was a kid. This is the conclusion I've seemed to have drawn with regards to my own existence.

    Of course, trying to operationalize individual existence is a bit of a mire. Does it involve your memories? Your personality? Simply your self-awareness and sentience? We don't just exist in a vacuum, but relationally. Where does the self end and the other begin? You can define it many ways, but virtually every definition has some form of continuity of the self. So a christian might live on in "heaven" with all their dead family and friends. A buddhist might live on in a relatively more abstract way dictated by karma. However, you define it, the point is that I'm trying to contrast existence (in some form or another) versus simply existing no more.

    You're born, you live, you die. You don't really know where you came from, and you don't really know where you're going. Sure, everyone has ideas, but nobody really has the "answer". However, I don't think that matters much either because every possibility falls into one of two categories.

    Nothing. This is all you get folks. You come from nothing and you return to nothing when life is over. So it goes. This can be a bit problematic as you entire existence is a drop in the bucket in a larger existence that (in all probability) will also eventually cease. Mankind will probably eventually destroy itself, or the sun will implode and we'll probably haven't licked space travel, or eventually the universe succumbs to heat death and there's nowhere to hide from that one. Pick your poison.

    Something. You get heaven. Or hell. Or reincarnation. Or something else entirely. Whatever. In some way, shape or form, you get to continue to exist. Congratulations. Problem is you now have what I've called the near-infinite prison dilemma. Imagine yourself immortal but stuck in an empty 8x8 cell. You'll eventually go stir-crazy. Let's change that cell to a 5000 sqft facility with a variety of things to do, entertainment and whatnot. You'll still go crazy, it'll just take longer. You can expand it further to almost infinite options, but the problem is no matter how big the "outside" is, you're still trapped with "you" and that will eventually drive you nuts. You'll probably be wishing for oblivion at that point.

    In any event, the conclusion I've drawn largely based on this is that, on a long enough timeline, your actions have absolute no consequence to both yourself and the world around you. The end result is the same. As such, if an act has no real effect, and if all roads lead to the same destination, that logically undermines any motivation to do anything. Nothing is ultimately worth the effort because any particular action and even no action all have the same ultimate effect.

    Like I said earlier, I want to be wrong. I still likely have a lot of years to live. The problem with my logic is that, while it is seemingly sound to me, it is also quite boring. Additionally, this leaves me with the feeling that everything I am doing is just a waste of time. And that bothers me, a lot. I'm fine with the ultimate nothing/something dichotomy. Whichever way that goes is simply what it is. However, the idea that nothing can be meaningful because of it really bothers me. Which is why I want to be wrong. Can someone break my logic?
  • Echarmion
    1.2k
    In any event, the conclusion I've drawn largely based on this is that, on a long enough timeline, your actions have absolute no consequence to both yourself and the world around you. The end result is the same. As such, if an act has no real effect, and if all roads lead to the same destination, that logically undermines any motivation to do anything. Nothing is ultimately worth the effort because any particular action and even no action all have the same ultimate effect.runbounder

    I don't quite see how that follows. For yourself, that may be true. But actions could still have consequences, and those consequences could be permanent.

    However, the idea that nothing can be meaningful because of it really bothers me. Which is why I want to be wrong. Can someone break my logic?runbounder

    The question is, can "meaning" or the absence of it really be established by logic? What conditions do you think are required for actions, or life in general, to have meaning?

    I'm definitely not depressed.runbounder

    That's good. What's your secret?
  • BrianW
    964


    First, there is no 'nothing' because every way it is defined, it is always related to 'something'. Sometimes the 'nothing' is the source, cause of 'something'; other times it contains potential, capacity, etc for 'something'; and, lastly, it is also considered as the end of 'something'. Therefore, it is simpler to just call it 'something' since it is the undeniable common factor. ('Something' is what is known about 'nothing'.)


    About being trapped in the infinite prison, I think you've already found the answer = Going Crazy!!!
    It seems crazy :wink: but one of the fundamental defining factors of craziness/madness is a certain degree of lowering/lessening of inhibitions. How trapped can anyone be without inhibitions? That's the freedom we instinctively strive to seek from within.

    Long story short, the many paths and ideas to enlightenment and freedom are just ways to go crazy consciously, deliberately and definitively. It's quite the trip! :wink:
  • runbounder
    7
    I don't quite see how that follows. For yourself, that may be true. But actions could still have consequences, and those consequences could be permanent. — Echarmion

    I suppose I am coming from a somewhat selfish perspective here. But, I'm also not just concerned about myself. Instead, I'm thinking of all of our selves. In other words, one possible answer is that my individual self does not have any meaning, so why not live a selfless existence? Well, if my self doesn't have meaning, than neither does anyone else's, so that would be a pointless venture.

    Whether or not consequences can be permanent is up for debate, but even if they are, I will never have to face them since ultimately I'm destined for oblivion or insanity either way.

    The question is, can "meaning" or the absence of it really be established by logic? What conditions do you think are required for actions, or life in general, to have meaning? — Echarmion

    That's a good question, and my answer is sorta I don't know. I seem to have trouble operationalizing meaning in a meaningful way. The eye cannot see itself, I guess. I actually don't think pure logic is possible for a human as our entire existence is so subjective. However, logic tends to be the most compelling approach for me, even if it is partially subjective.

    I don't think any of us come into the world with any kind of tools for finding or even defining the real meaning of it all, and there are no apparent answers while you are here. So what even passes muster for meaning is anyone's guess. That's kind of a drag, if you ask me.

    Without any explicit direction, my sense is that the observable is all we get. This would mean that it all ends with heat death anyway. What a bummer.

    That's good. What's your secret? — Echarmion

    I think it's the notion that this scenario is a problem and I need to solve it keeps me from getting depressed. I know that I'm just human and plenty fallible. I think I would be depressed if I felt like I was the center of (my own/the) universe. Even though this is my perspective, I am aware I could easily be wrong, and there's likely someone out there who is smarter and wiser than me that can explain how I am wrong.

    So, I guess, in essence, I have hope.
  • ChatteringMonkey
    389


    The fault in your logic is that you didn't show why there can only be meaning if actions have impactfull consequences eternally, or on at least on some very long timescales.

    If I have a headache, it seems meaningfull to me to try to reduce the pain i feel, even if the pain would go away without intervention eventually or even if i'm going to die ultimately anyway.

    Why can't things be meaningfull if they are impermanent or temporal?
  • Michael Lee
    52
    I have felt exactly the same way you do and you do not have to stay there.
  • runbounder
    7
    Why can't things be meaningful if they are impermanent or temporal? — ChatteringMonkey

    I guess what I'm wondering is how can things be meaningful if all things are impermanent or temporal. I think an "easy answer" is to just always live in the moment, but there's an element of this that feels like one is putting on blinders to the bigger picture. To be aware of this, but ignore it, leads me to think that doing anything in the present moment is disingenuous. Or, something might be meaningful limited to the scope of the moment, but if you're aware that the moment won't last and we will soon/eventually be in a state where that meaning becomes irrelevant regardless, then was there any point to creating that meaning to begin with?

    A think a better metaphor than the headache example is building a sand castle. You put all that time and effort building a thing that eventually just becomes a part of the beach like it never was there. The only real value of it was the entertainment of the process and product while it existed.

    That being said, it almost seems that the logical course of action is to optimize for impermanence. That is, not try to create anything meaningful or lasting, but instead try to be a meaningless as possible. I'm not exactly sure what that would look like, but I can see how being unmotivated for action could be a part of it. Or, maybe some kind of solopsistic hedonism? I don't know...
  • Michael Lee
    52
    how can things be meaningful if all things are impermanent or temporal.runbounder

    Stop complaining about the temporary nature of life as if it were a bad thing!
  • ChatteringMonkey
    389


    Why not something in between the fleeting moment and eternity? That seems to be the timescale that is relevant for us human beings anyway. There's no need to go to the extremes I don't think.

    We have a capacity for language, which allows us to abstract from mere experience of moments and to think ahead in time. And this is where meaning comes in, we like some things more than others, and can figure out how to get more of what we like in the future... Living in the moment is disingenuous because you are giving up on a part that is essentially human. But this part can also be taken to far to eternity and beyond, which philosophers are prone to do. I'd say the space in between is where it's at.
  • runbounder
    7
    Stop complaining about the temporary nature of life as if it were a bad thing! — Michael Lee

    I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but impermanence makes many (perhaps all) of the constructions of meaning actually meaningless. Knowing that would make me think that anything "meaningful" I would attempt would actually just be a waste of time.

    Why not something in between the fleeting moment and eternity? That seems to be the timescale that is relevant for us human beings anyway. There's no need to go to the extremes I don't think. — ChatteringMonkey

    I don't think adjusting the timescale changes the situation, and it almost seems arbitrary and not really meaningful to do so. I'm trying to consider all possibilities, not just limit myself to those that are comfortable. I'm not looking for a timescale in which to narrow my focus, I'm saying that, considering all timescales, this is what existence looks like to me.
  • Michael Lee
    52


    Seneca had a friend named Marcia who lost a young son and became overwhelmed with melancholy; she wished not to live anymore. Seneca came to her aid by taking her on a brief tour of the troubled Earth before she was born, with its beauty and horror, and asked her to weight up whether she would want to step into such a life.

    I'm going to take his argument one step further. Suppose you did actually have that choice, but I add the condition that once you step into it, there will be no end to it. You will live forever! Now would you choose to be born?
  • Relativist
    1.3k
    impermanence makes many (perhaps all) of the constructions of meaning actually meaningless.runbounder
    Having an impact that is beyond our individual selves gives us meaning, unless you think our families and societies are irrelevant.

    Sure, it's transient - the human race will eventually disappear. Contrast this with a scenario of an eternal afterlife: is there anything we can do on earth (to give us meaning) that will have a long term effect on that eternal state of affairs?
  • ChatteringMonkey
    389


    I don't know what's arbitrary about the timescales, you only live like a 100 years or so. It almost seems like the type of being you are shouldn't matter is what you are saying?
  • ChatteringMonkey
    389


    You are quoting the wrong person.
  • Michael Lee
    52
    I apologize for the confusion.
    Living in the moment is disingenuous because you are giving up on a part that is essentially human.ChatteringMonkey

    Narrowly viewing Seneca's philosophy and advice as simply "living in the moment," is disingenuous. How should it matter if your plans and hopes for the future are satisfied or ends suddenly today by an untimely death?
  • Pop
    121
    @runbounder

    You seem to be reflecting on the difficulties of your consciousness.
    I would suggest you will not find solutions by fixating on its detail.

    For instance - meaning. Meaning is a human social construct, likely developed some ways along the road of our evolution. It dose not exist in nature. What use for meaning dose a bird have?

    Imagine you lived on a deserted island and you knew you could never be rescued, what use would you have for meaning? I think to continue life would be meaningful and not much more beyond that.

    Of course, in another sense, you are already living on a deserted island with no hope of rescue.


    Buddhism is the only complete philosophy of consciousness. They have been dwelling on this stuff for 5000 years .There is a secular variety.
  • Frank Apisa
    1.5k
    Is a meaningful existence possible? — Runbounder

    Mine is...so obviously it is at least "possible."

    Perhaps you are defining "meaningful" too harshly.

    If one defines a "meaningful" life as a satisfying one...

    ...BINGO.
  • runbounder
    7
    I'm going to take his argument one step further. Suppose you did actually have that choice, but I add the condition that once you step into it, there will be no end to it. You will live forever! Now would you choose to be born? — Michael Lee

    I honestly don't know. I would have to exist to make the choice whether or not I want to exist. I also don't see how living forever would solve anything.

    Having an impact that is beyond our individual selves gives us meaning, unless you think our families and societies are irrelevant. — Relativist

    On a long enough time frame, sure.

    For instance - meaning. Meaning is a human social construct, likely developed some ways along the road of our evolution. It dose not exist in nature. What use for meaning dose a bird have? — Pop

    I wonder about this. If meaning is created by humankind, what put within humankind the desire to have meaning. In an otherwise cold, dead, universe, it has no value or purpose. In fact, if anything, it's detrimental to us being a symbiotic part of the natural world. Yet we seek it. I have no idea why.

    Buddhism is the only complete philosophy of consciousness. They have been dwelling on this stuff for 5000 years .There is a secular variety. — Pop

    I do tend to lean towards buddhist teachings. They tackle this subject much better than other faiths. Not to mention, my main spiritual mentor is a buddhist. I haven't come across any readings/teachings that cover this exact topic, though.
  • Relativist
    1.3k
    Having an impact that is beyond our individual selves gives us meaning, unless you think our families and societies are irrelevant. — Relativist


    On a long enough time frame, sure.
    runbounder
    Consider the alternative of an eternal afterlife. How can anything you do in THIS brief life have a meaningful impact on that which exists eternally?
  • runbounder
    7
    Consider the alternative of an eternal afterlife. How can anything you do in THIS brief life have a meaningful impact on that which exists eternally? — Relativist

    Theoretically, your actions in this life set the stage for the next one, but that's not the point of this inquiry. Even if there is an afterlife, you're kinda doomed, trapped with "yourself" for eternity. I think we've strayed far from the original discussion.

    Afterlife or not, what's really the value of doing anything in the grand scheme of things?
  • Pop
    121
    I wonder about this. If meaning is created by humankind, what put within humankind the desire to have meaning. In an otherwise cold, dead, universe, it has no value or purpose. In fact, if anything, it's detrimental to us being a symbiotic part of the natural world. Yet we seek it. I have no idea why.runbounder

    The culture you grew up in.
    Not a dead / live or otherwise universe - a nothing universe - very nice place to be in.

    I do tend to lean towards buddhist teachings. They tackle this subject much better than other faiths. Not to mention, my main spiritual mentor is a buddhist. I haven't come across any readings/teachings that cover this exact topic, though.runbounder

    The issue of consciousness is what Buddha tackled
  • runbounder
    7
    The culture you grew up in.
    Not a dead / live or otherwise universe - a nothing universe - very nice place to be in.
    — Pop

    But culture itself is a mere subset of the human experience, not something that transcends it. It seems odd to defer to something less than ourselves.
  • Possibility
    1.1k
    I suppose I am coming from a somewhat selfish perspective here. But, I'm also not just concerned about myself. Instead, I'm thinking of all of our selves. In other words, one possible answer is that my individual self does not have any meaning, so why not live a selfless existence? Well, if my self doesn't have meaning, than neither does anyone else's, so that would be a pointless venture.runbounder

    The idea that ‘meaning’ is individual is a misunderstanding. My individual self has negligible meaning on its own, in isolation. All meaning is derived specifically from relations - that’s where the term itself comes from: ‘mean’. The more that one relates to the world, the more meaning is derived from their existence. The more we relate to each other as humans, the more that humanity means something. And the more we try to isolate an individual sense of meaning, the less meaning we appear to have.
  • Possibility
    1.1k
    A think a better metaphor than the headache example is building a sand castle. You put all that time and effort building a thing that eventually just becomes a part of the beach like it never was there. The only real value of it was the entertainment of the process and product while it existed.runbounder

    It appears as if the sandcastle was never there only from your perspective, because to you, every grain of sand looks the same. But your building that sandcastle has moved many grains of sand to new locations, and in contact with water molecules and other grains of sand they may never have had contact with without your interaction. The entertainment of the process and product while it existed was its value to you, but to each grain of sand in that castle, their whole world was changed forever.
  • Frank Apisa
    1.5k
    I honestly don't know. I would have to exist to make the choice whether or not I want to exist. I also don't see how living forever would solve anything.runbounder
    I just wanted to agree with that last point...and add: I also don't see how "living forever" has the attraction it has for those who suppose it will happen."

    The notion of eternal life is the second biggest turnoff of religion; the notion that the "eternal life" will be lived in the presence of a god is the biggest.

    Think of the most know-it-all person you've ever encountered and multiply it by a thousand...and then imagine being confined to a room with that person for a full day. Then think about what the word "eternity" means.
  • Noah Te Stroete
    2.6k
    I think your problem is not one of meaning, but of value. You don’t value life it seems. That’s sad. I’m sad for you.
  • schopenhauer1
    4k
    Like I said earlier, I want to be wrong. I still likely have a lot of years to live. The problem with my logic is that, while it is seemingly sound to me, it is also quite boring. Additionally, this leaves me with the feeling that everything I am doing is just a waste of time. And that bothers me, a lot. I'm fine with the ultimate nothing/something dichotomy. Whichever way that goes is simply what it is. However, the idea that nothing can be meaningful because of it really bothers me. Which is why I want to be wrong. Can someone break my logic?runbounder

    My reaction to this is, "Yep, you got it". People tend to try to kick this feeling by distracting with novel experiences, but it just becomes chasing a high of sorts. Everything eventually becomes routine. The best you can do is sustain a low level tolerance of time and actions. Survival, comfort/maintenance and entertainment-to-avoid boredom are the three basic ways we waste time. All of this takes place in a physical world in a social context. I think of something like fretting over which shoe size really fits best. It is not hunting to survive, it is not boredom really.. Just silly tedious maintenance of something that is contingently due to Western civilization's quirk that we have various size shoes which, if one is enculturated to wearing shoes, one gets used to wanting them to fit right.. But here we are, complexities of inanities, of things. Don't let the complexity of these venues confuse you as to what we are doing- survival,comfort/maintenance, entertainment-to-avoid-boredom. Don't forget contingent suffering. We often suffer from things outside of our own restless nature. We never seek out disease, illness, and disasters, but those like to also make themselves known. There's also shame, embarrassment, low-level discomforts of all sorts to deal with.

    The main advice here would be acceptance. The other is rebellion. I prefer rebellion.
  • Noah Te Stroete
    2.6k


    How exactly are you rebelling?
  • schopenhauer1
    4k

    Pissing off the acceptance folks by outwardly pointing out stuff (complaining) and antinatalism :wink: .
  • Noah Te Stroete
    2.6k
    Everybody complains. Also, a lot of people are happy to be alive.
  • schopenhauer1
    4k


    Everybody complains. Not nearly as much as they should then :joke:.

    Also, a lot of people are happy to be alive.Noah Te Stroete

    Then we are in two different worlds. You are in reflection hindsight mode (or you are in a good mood right NOW), I believe I am in the one closer to reality for everyday living. I give specific examples, and give reasons. Even if we disagree, you can't say I'm just throwing up statements without reasons or explanation. If anything people are tired of my explanations and reasons.
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