3 of 3
3
Meaning
Posted: 16 October 2007 01:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 31 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4052
Joined  2006-11-28

Wow, lots of great stuff! I never knew Einstein was really a buddhist! wink

Doug, I agree with your restatment of the question, in that when people say “meaning” I think they mean purpose, value, best way to live, etc. I do think the semantic issue of “meaning” signifying only representation is a bit of an artifical technical issue since I think the larger sense is the more common among those not formally acquainted with philosophy as you are.  Lots of things are included under the conventional sense of “meaning” in the phrase “meaning of life,” so we are bound to touch on a variety of related but not identical topics, but the word is commonly used in this way, so I think it’s an appropriate one. But as always, we need to start with knowing what the question means, and I think you’re summary of the ideas included in the word is fair. [written while you were posting, so I see we agree]

It sounds like the question is itself meaningless or illusory to some, which I hadn’t thought of before but can see the logic of. To even ask it one must assume that human lives and actions can have a meaning, which is a bit teleological. Still, if one includes the senses of value and appropriate action as well as purpose, then the question is still meaningful. And I was looking specifically at the issue of how religion relates to the meaning people perceive in their lives, since it is usually held up as the source of meaning for the majority, yet it still seems to me in many ways less satisfying than non-religious approaches to the question. I would actually say the religious notion is very similar to what morgantj descriebd as his determinist notion, in that what we are “meant” to do is essentially predetermined and fixed even while seeming to be something we control. The difference, of course, is what determins our actions (physical causes or god’s plan) and the issue of what if any “free will” we have, which I beg no one to bring up in this thread!

As for what I think, I suppose I think there is no meaning in the teleological sense but that we conceieve of purposes and values and moral exigencies that stem from our biology, our culture, and our reason and that these constitute whatever meaning our lives have. The larger universe is, I believe, indifferent to our existence. Now I’m willing to admit I don’t always find this a comforting thought, and unlike apparently most people here I can see why the sense that the master of it all loves me personally would be comforting. But, I can’t see any reason other than comfort to belive it is true, and that’s not enough for me.  In a strictly biological sense, of course, our “purpose” is to reproduce, but I think we all acknowledge that our cognitive apparatus is capable of, and driven to, much more than that, so that level of meaning is real but probably not satisfying to very many people.

[ Edited: 16 October 2007 01:32 PM by mckenzievmd ]
 Signature 

The SkeptVet
The SkeptVet Blog
Militant Agnostic: I don’t know, and neither do you!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 01:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 32 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  573
Joined  2007-08-21
mckenzievmd - 16 October 2007 01:23 PM

In a strictly biological sense, of course, our “purpose” is to reproduce, but I think we all acknowledge that our cognitive apparatus is capable of, and driven to, much more than that, so that level of meaning is real but probably not satisfying to very many people.

I wonder if this will work as an excuse that I can give to my wife to “get it on” every night?

 Signature 

Vi veri veniversum vivus vici

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 02:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 33 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9283
Joined  2006-08-29
mckenzievmd - 16 October 2007 01:23 PM

In a strictly biological sense, of course, our “purpose” is to reproduce, but I think we all acknowledge that our cognitive apparatus is capable of, and driven to, much more than that, so that level of meaning is real but probably not satisfying to very many people.

I wonder if we now have one or two or zero kids instead of twenty, so that we can dedicate a portion of our life to, say, art, or if we purposely have less kids, so that we can discover art, which will add to the quality and the success of our children and our species. If it’s the later, we are back to the meaning of life being nothing more than just life’s continuation.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 02:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 34 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4052
Joined  2006-11-28

I think the sociobiologists go too far when they try to find a reproductive success quotient for all human activities, including things like art. I’m with Gould in thinking that the systems we evolved for survival and reproduction happen to have additional capacities for other things, especially since we’ve so successfully reduced the direct survival activities we engage in daily.

 Signature 

The SkeptVet
The SkeptVet Blog
Militant Agnostic: I don’t know, and neither do you!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 03:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 35 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  472
Joined  2007-06-08

The meaning of life is life.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 04:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 36 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9283
Joined  2006-08-29
mckenzievmd - 16 October 2007 02:26 PM

I think the sociobiologists go too far when they try to find a reproductive success quotient for all human activities, including things like art. I’m with Gould in thinking that the systems we evolved for survival and reproduction happen to have additional capacities for other things, especially since we’ve so successfully reduced the direct survival activities we engage in daily.

I’ll start believing in Nietzsche’s Übermensch the moment I’ll find a painting that’ll give me a greater pleasure than an orgasm. (Can’t be a painting of a naked woman though.  wink )

BTW, check this out.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 05:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 37 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4052
Joined  2006-11-28

Cool video, George!

 Signature 

The SkeptVet
The SkeptVet Blog
Militant Agnostic: I don’t know, and neither do you!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 06:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 38 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  7506
Joined  2007-03-02

Very nice video, George.

 Signature 

Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

Profile
 
 
Posted: 16 October 2007 11:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 39 ]
Member
RankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  121
Joined  2007-09-28
mckenzievmd - 15 October 2007 08:44 PM

So does anyone think human life and acts have any meaning? Just what we choose as individuals and cultures to give them? Can faith really enhance the meaningfullness of lfie or does it take away from the meaning of our acts and experiences? Does anyone who is a commited atheist ever feel something is missing in terms of the indifference of the universe and the arbitrariness of the meaning we assign to our experiences?

For me, the connections we make with each other are what gives our lives meaning.  Perhaps faith gives people this sense of connection to each other (or at least those who believe the same things you believe) or perhaps a connection to something greater than themselves.  When people stop questioning or contemplating their own faith and just accept doctrine as it is spoon-fed each week, it may become rote and meaningless, but for those who are actively engaged or critically thinking about what they believe or don’t believe, faith may aid them in the process of searching for meaning.  Although I’m not religious and I wouldn’t describe myself as an atheist either, I deal with the grand indifference of the universe by thinking about the connections we make during our short lives.  I do think we greatly influence and impact each other and I do think we live on after death in the memory of those whose lives we’ve touched.  For me, knowing that I may be forgotten one day is not a problem or at least it doesn’t detract from the richness of my experiences while I am around.  But not making connections with people would, for me, take away much of the meaning in my life.     

Vanessa

Profile
 
 
Posted: 20 October 2007 11:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 40 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1214
Joined  2007-09-21
erasmusinfinity - 15 October 2007 11:10 PM

One need not have the sort of “meaning” that we are talking about here in order to find direction in life or to take pleasure in it.  It is a mono-theistic fiction designed to scare away individualistic doubt and whip people into the line of authoritarian submission.  I would argue that the illusionary nature of this concocted sort of “meaning” interferes with rational judgment and clear headed ethical decision making.

I realized that this response, of mine, was overly simplistic and did not give due credit to an issue that is of significant importance.  The issue of finding meaning, purpose and direction in one’s life is important, although I do think that the idea of a single grand all encompassing meaning is a monotheistic fiction.  I also think that it is not only unnecessary, but that it gets in the way of a genuine life well lived.

The nonreligious sort of meaning in life, that I am crediting, is defined by what is meaningful to each of us as individuals.  This varies from person to person, but has a function that is worth referring to as within the realm of aesthetics.  I think that when Doug says that gazing into the stars provides him with feelings of wonder and awe, or another person says that they find power in viewing a mathematical equation are making an aesthetic statement.  When we are enamored by a beautiful poem or a beautiful face or a symphony, we are also enamored aesthetically.

The term “aesthetic” is often used as a pejorative amongst physical scientists to distinguish more concrete practical reasons from individual biases.  For example, the cutting down of rain forests can be seen as impractical because it can infringe on our own food chain, ability to find cures to diseases, obstruct our oxygen supply, etc.  Or, it can be seen as aesthetic in the sense that it’s pretty and don’t want to see it destroyed.  In this sense, aesthetics are not as good of a reason as concrete consequences for preserving the rain forests.

However, aesthetics are VERY important for the purpose of creating meanings in our lives.  Integral, I would argue, to a life well lived.  Not only must we find moments of awe, wonder and beauty in order to enjoy the moments of life, but we must find a way of attaining a continuous flow of such experiences in order to continuously enjoy our lives.  I think this steady flow of aesthetic experience is a bit like what Paul Kurtz refers to when he uses the term eupraxsophy.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 21 October 2007 03:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 41 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4052
Joined  2006-11-28

Yes, erasmusinfinity, the idea of meaning in aesthetics is a common scular response to the argument that without religion there is no meaning in human life. I think art/literature/nature are important sources of a sense of place in the world as well as simple joy, and these are important elements to what can be called meaning in life. As is connection to other people, a sense of purpose or goal, and other things that have been suggested here. I think religion lumps all of these under the idea of fulfilling god’s plan or design, whereas we non-believers have to look at different kinds of human needs (social, intellectual, aesthetic) and different sources of fulfillment. I do agree, though, that the idea that something outside of nature being necessary for a meaningful life is a theist fiction.

 Signature 

The SkeptVet
The SkeptVet Blog
Militant Agnostic: I don’t know, and neither do you!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 02 November 2007 02:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 42 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1214
Joined  2007-09-21

I also think that ethics and morality play an important role in establishing purpose and direction in life.  Ethics and meaning are deeply interconnected in the sense that the beliefs that guide us are not entirely separable from our actions.  What we feel to be ethical or unethical effects both what we do and how we feel about ourselves and the world.  Perhaps this point ought to be emphasized even before my point about aesthetics.

Profile
 
 
   
3 of 3
3