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?” – the question most commonly asked of Philosophy. However a question most commonly answered these days by academic philosophers with an insouciant shrug and the condescending assurance that there is no “Meaning of Life” – we can only find personal meanings.
Philosophy, for so long a “footnote to Plato”, has become (in this age of dazzling scientific advances) rather the handmaiden of physical science – resulting in its domination by fundamentalist materialism: everything is just matter/energy; life arose chemically; we evolved mechanically – all in a universe which accidentally occurred (from nothing). Thus there is no agency higher than blind chance, we can have no purposes beyond those of our selfish genes, and we must find our own meanings.
But too many are having trouble with that, finding themselves floundering in a sea of meaninglessness – and too many of those drowning because they find said sea is bounded by two hostile shores, neither of which offer them any safe landing from their predicament.
These are the shores of two diametrically opposing lands: one hosting the House of Disbelief, the other hosting the House of God – the former “hostile” to meaning because it hosts the above fundamentalist materialism – the latter “hostile” to meaning because it hosts an incredible meaning and purpose of life (a once-only test for an eternity in either heaven or hell) and an equally incredible, very human “g” god.
That too many of us (especially among the young) are not only floundering, but drowning in a sea of meaninglessness is evidenced by our endemic drug and alcohol problems and our high and growing rates of anxiety, depression – and suicide. Before too many more of us drown in our steadily deepening sea, perhaps it is time to take the challenge expressed in Faulkner’s above quote and muster the courage necessary to swim beyond sight of our present hostile and hopeless shores – for “new horizons” – perhaps of a land which may host credible meaning and purpose to our existence?
This work of three essays and a conclusion will attempt just that. The first essay examines the House of God and the second examines the House of Disbelief to see why they both are unsound and discomforting places to dwell, then the third essay will attempt to swim beyond sight of their shores in search of some new horizons to explore – specifically for Truths of the human condition – which Truths may allow our existence special meaning and ultimate purpose. Our working definitions being: “special” meaning – a meaning that all our lives share (above and beyond our personal meanings); “ultimate” purpose – purpose offered by life to us all (above and beyond the ultimately meaningless survival and genetic purposes of our mortal animal bodies); “T” Truth – that which is true for everybody, all the time (above and beyond our personal “t” truths).
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.