THREE ESSAYS ON THE MEANING OF LIFE
You cannot swim for new horizons until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.
- William Faulkner
What is the meaning of life?
Traditionally, this has been the most common question asked of philosophy.
Now, however, in this post-philosophic age (wherein philosophy has become the handmaiden of our physical sciences) this important question is commonly answered by academic philosophers with an insouciant shrug, a condescending smile, and the assertion that there can be no “meaning of life” because we are just our animal bodies – entirely physical matter; chemically alive; biologically evolved.
Physics, chemistry, biology know it all – combined, their Theory of Everything leaves us with no ultimate purposes beyond those of our selfish genes – should we be so weak as to need the comfort of imagining that there is meaning to our existence, then we must find/construct our own.
These three essays examine the evidence behind this disbelief of any special meaning of life beyond our personal meanings, then explore for any evidence to the contrary – that our lives may, in fact, have an ultimate purpose beyond the ultimately meaningless animal purposes of our physical bodies – which purpose may allow our existences to have special meaning?
Why search – why not just get on with life?
Fine, good question, we should indeed get on with our lives, but it is observable that too many of us are presently having a struggle with that.
Instead of flourishing (Aristotle’s meaningful purpose of life) too many of us are floundering – in a sea of meaninglessness. Such floundering is evidenced by the increasing number of us with drug, alcohol, and mental problems. Further (and equally observably) too many of us are not just floundering, but drowning – evidenced by our ever-increasing rates of suicide, especially among the young.
Humanity finds itself in this situation not just because of philosophy’s dereliction of duty, but because of religion’s dereliction as well. Philosophy has succumbed to academic/political correctness and religion to Book-based fundamentalism/evangelicalism.
We are drowning in our sea of meaninglessness because it is bounded by two hostile shores – “hostile” because neither allow us safe landing from our predicament. I speak of the shores of the opposing lands of belief and disbelief – one land dominated by the House of God and the other by the House of Disbelief.
The House of God is hostile to meaning, firstly: because it is home to the incredible Abrahamic “g” god of the ancient Hebrews (“incredible” because male, sexist, jealous, parochial, needy, brutal, and ethnic cleansing) and, secondly: because it is home to an equally incredible meaning and purpose of life (a once-only test for an eternity in either heaven or hell). The House of Disbelief, is hostile to meaning because it denies such outright, firstly: life itself is just the chance product of an accidental universe and, secondly: we are just a machine and there is no “ghost” – no self, soul which could allow special purpose/meaning to our existence.
Thus we are caught in our sea of meaninglessness – between an incredible god and no God; between an incredible purpose/meaning and none; between two hostile and hopeless shores. It is increasingly obvious that it is time to take Faulkner’ advice, above, and have the courage to “swim for new horizons” beyond sight of these our present hopeless lands, to search for a land which may allow us the safe landing of some credible ultimate purpose to our lives, which purpose may allow special meaning to our existence.
This is a work of three essays, the first two will examine the above assertions about House of God and the House of Disbelief, then the third essay will attempt to swim for, and explore, new horizons.
Those who feel they are close to drowning should skip the essays and paddle straight to the conclusion wherein they may find some hope? If unconvinced, then they are sentenced to read the essays which contain arguments from evidence for that conclusion.