• intrapersona
    555
    Is that not begging the question? Is this sound and valid?
  • Terrapin Station
    3.7k
    Well, sound and valid are moot points, because I wouldn't say it's an argument. It's not as if there are premises and a conclusion there with an implication that the conclusion follows from the premises. So question-begging is irrelevant, too.

    You're probably reading it too literally, rather than understanding the spirit it was meant in.
  • Rich
    3.2k
    I think it is a quote, but incomplete. It doesn't address the question of why there is the question . Still it is up to each individual to give meaning to life.
  • intrapersona
    555
    Well, sound and valid are moot points, because I wouldn't say it's an argument. It's not as if there are premises and a conclusion there with an implication that the conclusion follows from the premises. So question-begging is irrelevant, too.

    You're probably reading it too literally, rather than understanding the spirit it was meant in.
    Terrapin Station

    The quote can be put into syllogism format if you wish.

    P: The meaning of life exists
    P: We can give our own life meaning by ourselves alone
    C: Therefore, The meaning of life is to give life meaning.

    What I don't like about the quote is that it assumes there is a meaning or meaning/s that you can place on life if you choose to do so, when in actuality nobody has any meaning to place on an explanation of existence at all (your kids and wife don't fucking count).

    I understand the spirit it was meant in, almost as if to say "you control your own destiny, you can make life great if you choose etc." but I wanted to actually analyze it logically to see if it holds up. If an explanation of life doesn't hold up to reason then it is worthless.
  • Terrapin Station
    3.7k


    I wouldn't say that your suggestion for a logical argument version of the quote at all captures what the quote expresses.

    First, the quote exploits some wordplay ambiguity. On one level, it's saying that the only sort of x to be had is this specific sort of x, where that works rhetorically as it does because there's irony in it due to misconceptions about x. On another level, it's equivocating the term it's focusing on (where that's not a flaw--again, we're dealing with wordplay) to note that the one overarching drive or goal that people have in common, when there's some overarching drive or goal present to consciousness, is to frame things in a way so that they have a lot of significance for one, so that one has guiding goals/credos/etc., and so on.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.5k
    "The meaning of life is to give life meaning"intrapersona

    I've said that. Life has no inherent meaning, no meaning ordained by God. The universe doesn't provide us meaning. If we didn't exist, meaninglessness would not be a problem. We do, however, exist and we need meaning. Therefore, if there is to be meaning, we create it. We give life meaning.
  • Terrapin Station
    3.7k
    I've said that. Life has no inherent meaning, no meaning ordained by God. The universe doesn't provide us meaning. If we didn't exist, meaninglessness would not be a problem. We do, however, exist and we need meaning. Therefore, if there is to be meaning, we create it. We give life meaning.Bitter Crank

    ^ This

    I agree with everything Bitter Crank said there.
  • intrapersona
    555
    We do, however, exist and we need meaning. Therefore, if there is to be meaning, we create it. We give life meaning.Bitter Crank

    But what is this meaning that is self-created? It seems that anyone can pick up an object, even a brick, and call it the meaning of their own life. How can we tell what is valid as a self-chosen meaning of which we give our lives? Why is "helping people" any more valid than "a brick" or "a statue" or "my bicycle"? I don't see how "helping people" can be a meaning for existence. Verily, it is a reason of how to act in existence, but a meaning for it? If someone asked you what is the meaning of an apple and you responded "to help people", isn't that a bit ridiculous? So if the meaning you place on life isn't "helping people" what is it? To love your wife and kids? To enjoy pleasures? It just seems like a nonsensical pattern of misplacing objects/processes as a source explanation for larger things in existence/existence itself.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.5k
    It just seems like a nonsensical pattern of misplacing objects/processes as a source explanation for larger things in existence/existence itself.intrapersona

    Apples don't ask themselves why they exist, for what purpose, or in what meaningful sense. The same can be said for bricks. They don't ask. They exist.

    "Helping people" might be a good meaning for life. "I am here to help people." You could do worse. Or, "Finding pleasurable experiences gives the meaning of life." Or "Learning about the natural world makes life meaningful," Or "Becoming an expert in Anthropology makes life meaningful." Or "Fixing up old cars is the meaning of my life." Or "Growing oats for horses and oatmeal is the thing that makes my life meaningful." and so on. People are the only creatures that ask and answer this question. The rest of creation gets off scot free. They can just exist to their hearts content. So could you, of course, but you would find it more difficult to merely exist than a pear on a tree would.

    The "Meaning of Life" is a theoretical overlay which we place on top of our animal existence. We can do that. Bears, pears, and mares can not. There are, of course, ready made meaning-of-life overlays on the shelf. You can go into the closet and look through the available models and try one out. If you don't find it satisfactory, you can try a different one.

    Vestis virum reddit, sed homo vestimenta sua. Clothes make the man, but man makes his
    clothes. Acerba Vectem, famous Latin Philosopher.
  • Noble Dust
    3.1k
    "Helping people" might be a good meaning for life. "I am here to help people." You could do worse.Bitter Crank

    So why, presumably, would "killing people" not be a good meaning to give to life? The problem for me with the idea that meaning is only something we assign to life is that I think meaning and ethics are aspects of one metaphysical reality (for lack of a better term), and so they can't be separated. For us to assign life a meaning, the meaning has to pass some sort of general consensus of being a decent choice. There's still an ethical litmus test at play. That's not at all to say that we don't assign our own meanings to our lives. We certainly do. I would even go so far as to agree that at least almost any meaning we ascribe to our lives is just "a theoretical overlay" as you say, but the problem here for me is that we create an unnecessary dichotomy between subjective and objective. It's true that we subjectively project meaning unto our lives, but this in no way excludes the possibility of a transcendent meaning also existing. The reason I think we do this is because, historically, for most religions, a transcendent meaning was assumed, and now the idea that we project meaning has historically grown out of the old understanding. A teenager may wake up one day and realize she doesn't have to follow her parents rules. She very well has the capacity to do as she likes, she can, in a sense, make her own set of rules for herself. The parents may punish her for this, she may disobey in secret, or the parents might just not care, but regardless, she now has this power. And she may, years later, realize that at least some of her parents rules would have been beneficial to follow. In my view, the whole process is necessary: the initial rules that govern the raising of a child, the rebellion from the rules, and the closure of looking back and seeing value in some, not all of the rules she rebelled against. And with a mature view, she can also realize the benefit of her rebellion as well.
  • Terrapin Station
    3.7k
    But what is this meaning that is self-created? It seems that anyone can pick up an object, even a brick, and call it the meaning of their own life. How can we tell what is valid as a self-chosen meaning of which we give our lives? Why is "helping people" any more valid than "a brick" or "a statue" or "my bicycle"?intrapersona

    Yes, one's "meaning of life" could be anything. None of them are more or less "valid." Validity is a category error for this.
    If someone asked you what is the meaning of an apple and you responded "to help people", isn't that a bit ridiculous?intrapersona

    It would be ridiculous because non-sentient objects do not have meanings in this sense of that term.
  • lambda
    76
    Life has no inherent meaning,Bitter Crank

    Prove it.

    no meaning ordained by God.Bitter Crank

    Prove it.
  • Terrapin Station
    3.7k


    Prove that he should prove it.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.5k
    So why, presumably, would "killing people" not be a good meaning to give to life?Noble Dust

    Although we are not born into life with divinely assigned meaning, we are not blank slates either. By the time we are old enough to think about the question of life's meaning, our basic human nature has been formed, and (perhaps surprisingly) "killing people" is not what most people reach for first when they cast about for life's fundamental meaning. A few do find some sort of satisfaction in killing people -- some psychopaths for instance. Psychopaths are people who do not feel guilt, people who are not warmed by the milk of human kindness. They do not "cathect" with other people (bond, make connection with).

    Of course people will kill. They will kill out of rage, out of greed, and if they are in the army, out of need. But, you know, they come home from the war and they go back to being carpenters, clerks, engineers, and teachers.

    I don't know much about "transcendent" meaning. Religion is in itself an overlay that is quite rooted in this world and doesn't transcend anything. That doesn't mean it's not good. Lots of stuff in the religious overlays are quite worthwhile.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.5k
    Prove it.lambda

    Lambda, dear, you know damn well there is no proving or disproving these kinds of statements. If you think God ordains meaning, fine. Stick with that. I was stating what I think, and I'm sticking with it. Neither of us can prove God exists, or doesn't, and even less can either of us prove what God thinks.

    The important issue isn't whether God provides meaning, or whether you cook up a meaning yourself. What is important is the quality of meaning that you think life has. "The meaning of life is to fuck as much as possible then die" is not a very elevated meaning. Some severe cases sound like that is what they think the meaning of life is. Maybe for sewer rats, it is. I think they could aim higher for people. The Chinese adage that "Getting rich is glorious" as a meaning for life isn't very elevated either. One would think the ideological descendants of Karl Marx could come up with something higher and deeper than that.
  • Noble Dust
    3.1k
    What I was trying to point out is that there seems to be an ethical element to assigning meaning. The meanings we assign to our lives don't exist in a vacuum; they affect other people. This is why there is an ethical constraint in play. And that to me is why ethics and meaning are aspects of the same thing. Which is why I don't think the notion that "there is no inherent meaning and we assign it ourselves" holds up. If meaning is subjective, then ethics are too; yet ethics are what constrain meaning.
  • Nerevar
    10
    Life has inherent (permanent and essential) meaning (definition, explanation, connotation).
    However, meaning is not always known. In fact, life begins in an apparently meaningless sea of appearances. Life is ultimately inexplicable, therefore ultimately meaningless, as long as it is assumed that appearances (rather than life) are real. Appearances are deceiving, life is true.

    Since life has inherent meaning, it is unchangeable. Therefore, it is not up to you to give your life meaning, but rather to discover the (unchanging) meaning of life.
  • Noble Dust
    3.1k
    Since life has inherent meaning, it is unchangeable.Nerevar

    But if meaning is unchangeable or static, how can freedom exist? Again, to me these dichotomies between subjective and objective meaning are unnecessary. It's perfectly plausible for mankind, endowed with freedom of will, to dynamically create or cause meaning, which we subjectively experience, which at the same time could teleologically evolve into a unified transcendent meaning.
  • Nerevar
    10
    The full meaning of life is unchangeable and static, but full knowledge of this meaning involves full knowledge of all experience, which is infinite appearances. For example, if you are acutely aware of death in your life, life can become much more precious, much more meaningful. You do not simply assume that life is a given. The light is brighter because of the darkness, essentially.

    Freedom is a somewhat different issue, in that it exists when imagination exists. Imagination is the opposite of assumptions, for if you just assume certain things to be true, you will not think, not imagine ways in which things could be different. If you look at life from a variety of viewpoints, then you have greater experience, and therefore greater meaning in your life. In fact, freedom increases with knowledge of the unchangeable meaning of life. Nobody can have the full meaning of life, since it is as infinite as the number of possible experiences one can have, but the more you find this meaning, the more it is synonymous with freedom.

    In short, the meaning of life isn't some tiny definition that boxes humans into their bodies and makes them unable to act - rather it illuminates the truth that bodies and the universe are merely appearances, and life transcends these appearances.
  • intrapersona
    555
    "Helping people" might be a good meaning for life. "I am here to help people." You could do worse. Or, "Finding pleasurable experiences gives the meaning of life." Or "Learning about the natural world makes life meaningful," Or "Becoming an expert in Anthropology makes life meaningful." Or "Fixing up old cars is the meaning of my life." Or "Growing oats for horses and oatmeal is the thing that makes my life meaningful."Bitter Crank

    Ha, it sounds like a bunch of humans who realize they are in a meaningless existence and so therefore mistake processes and objects in their life to give their life meaning.

    Maybe the word you are wanting to use here is "purpose" as in a farmer would say my weekly purpose is to sow my crops. But that would not be an absolute purpose for why humans exist in totality. It is only a small directional purpose of how that farmer is to conduct his time until he

    A) finds some absolute purpose or meaning for that matter

    B) Dies

    But to say that the farmers life meaning is to sow crops is just ridiculous. You might as well say that the meaning of his life is to crunch sticks together and beat his left thumb for 15.4342 hours every day. In other words, that process just mentioned doesn't give any more meaning (description) to why he is alive.
  • intrapersona
    555
    Apples don't ask themselves why they exist, for what purpose, or in what meaningful sense. The same can be said for bricks. They don't ask. They exist.Bitter Crank

    You mistook what I said, I wasn't saying apples exist and therefore need to seek meaning. I was saying it is foolish to call an apple or a brick the source of meaning of ones life.
  • intrapersona
    555
    Yes, one's "meaning of life" could be anything. None of them are more or less "valid." Validity is a category error for this.Terrapin Station

    Well if that's true then ANYTHING can be a source of meaning for ones life, which plain ludicrous. Meaning comes from definition and explanation. Having 1500 barbie dolls in your room doesn't explain any more of why you exist than you stark naked in your room with nothing at all.
  • intrapersona
    555
    I don't know much about "transcendent" meaning. Religion is in itself an overlay that is quite rooted in this world and doesn't transcend anything.Bitter Crank

    That is quite true but you won't deny we can have experiences that certainly transcend this world and can seem spiritual
  • intrapersona
    555
    "The meaning of life is to fuck as much as possible then die" is not a very elevated meaning. Some severe cases sound like that is what they think the meaning of life is. Maybe for sewer rats, it is. I think they could aim higher for people. The Chinese adage that "Getting rich is glorious" as a meaning for life isn't very elevated either.Bitter Crank

    They arn't sources of meaning for ones life because they are circular.

    "The meaning of life is to fuck as much as possible then die"

    Why fuck? To procreate

    Why procreate? To keep species alive

    Why keep species alive? So that we can FUCK... Yeeaaah!

    My point is that a meaning for existence has to have reason behind it and can not be self-justified in the process of doing that action itself alone.
  • intrapersona
    555
    Life is ultimately inexplicable, therefore ultimately meaningless, as long as it is assumed that appearances (rather than life) are real. Appearances are deceiving, life is true.

    Since life has inherent meaning, it is unchangeable. Therefore, it is not up to you to give your life meaning, but rather to discover the (unchanging) meaning of life.
    Nerevar

    How can you prove life is ultimately meaningless? Granted sensory perception does not accurately reflect reality and our interpretations are also flawed but who is to say ultimate meaning is not attainable?

    I like you spin on the interpretation of the quote in the op that it is up to you to discover the (unchanging) meaning of life. But isn't this task ultimately fruitless if that is impossible to do as you said in your first paragraph? I also believe life has inherent meaning outside of brains and interpretations but discovering that seems like a hamster wheel race unless we are to talk of something beyond reason like buddhist meditation (samadhi etc).
  • Nerevar
    10
    I don't believe that ultimate meaning is unattainable. I'm just saying that the complete meaning of life, or complete Truth, is dependent on being aware of the totality of the opposite of life, which is falseness and appearance.

    Consider a person blind from birth, who was never told that they were blind. Such a person could say "I am blind!", yet while this statement is factual, it is all but meaningless coming from them, for they do not have a memory of sight with which to compare their blindness. Alternately, if a sighted person were to suddenly become blind, the exclamation "I am blind!" would have enormous meaning to them, since they know full well the gravity of their loss.

    In the same way that the blind person can state a meaningless sentence while they do not know the opposite state of blindness, so too can a person feel that life is ultimately meaningless if they assume that all which exists is appearance. I claim that nothingness is true, and something(ness) is false, yet for someone who believes that things, or appearances, are true, life lacks ultimate meaning. They look around and see a world of things, and believe that they themselves are one thing among these things. There is no contrast in such a world, no place of separation or division where a dichotomy may exist. They are merely one collection of particles interacting with a much greater collection of particles. There is some definition to be had here, but it is extremely limited. However, if they did not assume that they were a collection of particles, but were rather Life (nothingness) itself, then they would begin to make some progress in finding meaning. Note that this isn't a substance duality, since I am merely illustrating the difference between something and nothing.

    There is infinite meaning in the difference between something and nothing. Something has dimension, it changes, it is complex, it has form, it has weight, it is limited, etc. Nothing, however, is dimensionless, unchanging, simple, formless, weightless, limitless, etc. This is why I say that Truth is unchanging; because it is nothingness. But notice that the words dimensionless, unchanging, formless, etc are dependent on things for their meaning. I must be aware of dimension if I am to comprehend its absence, for example.

    This brings me back to the supposedly unattainable meaning of life. Since life (nothingness) is without limitations, it can actually be aware of infinite falseness, and in so doing, have a complete definition of Truth, also known as life. For this it would have to abandon all limitations, all mere appearances, so it wouldn't be merely human. It may in fact be something akin to the omnipotence and omniscience of what religions call God, of which the human mind is only a tiny part. All of this probably sounds quite Buddhist.
  • Bitter Crank
    6.5k
    It is only a small directional purpose of how that farmer is to conduct his time until he
    A) finds some absolute purpose or meaning for that matter
    B) Dies
    intrapersona

    Purpose, meaning...

    If the farmer's life is given meaning by tilling his crops until he dies, why should you complain? I said I didn't think there was any god-ordained meaning to life. There is no "intrapersona-ordained meaning" either. We all do the best we can to get through life, birth to the grave. There will be a mix of meanings from high to low, practical to abstract.

    You don't know what an "absolute purpose or meaning is" any more than anyone else does, so why expect this farmer to come up with one?
  • Bitter Crank
    6.5k
    ↪Bitter Crank What I was trying to point out is that there seems to be an ethical element to assigning meaning. The meanings we assign to our lives don't exist in a vacuum; they affect other people. This is why there is an ethical constraint in play. And that to me is why ethics and meaning are aspects of the same thing. Which is why I don't think the notion that "there is no inherent meaning and we assign it ourselves" holds up. If meaning is subjective, then ethics are too; yet ethics are what constrain meaning.Noble Dust

    I agree with you that there is an ethical element inherent in assigning meaning to our lives. Meaning is, most likely, at least somewhat subjective, and ethics are also somewhat subjective. Just because they are subjective doesn't mean that it doesn't matter what they are, or whether meaning and ethics have no connection. I might say "For me, the meaning of my life is to live ethically." How could that not be subjective?
  • Terrapin Station
    3.7k
    Well if that's true then ANYTHING can be a source of meaning for ones life, which plain ludicrous.intrapersona

    Whether it seems ludicrous to you or not, it's true.

    Also, you seem to be conflating different senses of "meaning." The sense of "meaning" used in "the meaning of life" isn't the same as the sense of "meaning" used when we say "what is the meaning of 'sidereal time'?"
  • DenwaDenwash
    1
    It is not life, that creates meaning. It is meaning, that creates life.

    Therefore "The meaning of life, is to give life meaning" is most probably saying that
    "nothing" didn't mean "anything", until there was "something",
    "something" meant "nothing", until there was "anything", this all created "everything"

    Don't look at it as if "life" is controlling word of the saying, it is "meaning" that has the true power.
  • Cynical Eye
    30
    "To live is to suffer, to survive is to find some meaning in the suffering."
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