Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Restrictive Nature of a Meaning to Life

Original Posting

If it were your decision whether or not there was an objective meaning of life, which would you choose? Not which meaning, mind you, that's out of your hands, you only get to choose whether or not such a meaning exists. Would you prefer life with a definite, objective meaning/purpose/end or would you prefer life without such a thing?

I have always figured that life would be better with an objective meaning for us to order our lives, principles, and ethics around, but at the same time just imagine how restrictive this would be. If there is an objective purpose to life, then living our life for any other end or any other purpose would mean living incorrectly (in fact, it would be what made living incorrectly possible). Living for another reason than the proper reason would be akin to playing soccer for the sake of patting your teammates on the ass instead of playing for... whatever the purpose of soccer is.

An objective meaning to life invalidates all other purposes we may give to our life. It means that a man living for the purpose is living an objectively better life than any man who does not.

On the other hand: if we say that there is no objective meaning to life except for the meaning we choose to give it, it becomes impossible to say that anyone is living a poor life. All lifestyles become equally valid: a life spent curing three different kinds of cancer is no better than a life spent trying to capture the flag in Warsong Gulch or a life spent trying to accumulate an impressive collection of pornographic Pokemon cartoons. Once we say that there's no objective meaning to life, any meaning becomes equal to all other meanings as soon as someone esteems it.

On the one hand, it seems wrong to say that the fellow who dedicates himself to Warcraft or Pokemon is living an objectively equally valuable existence as the doctor who dedicates his life to curing cancer, but it also may leave a bad taste in your mouth to think that there's an X out there and whoever lives his life for X is living properly while anyone who prefers to live for T, U, V, W, Y, or Z is living for an inferior, improper reason. In the former instance everything is under our will, in the latter instance nothing is under our will.

Of course, I've simplified things down here. Perhaps there are several appropriate things one may live their life for: we escape the horror of having only one valid thing to live for and we probably escape the horror of saying animated porn is equal in value to curing cancer, although we may become powerless to criticize many lifestyles we may find objectionable. But, the main reason I stripped it down is to show the unsavory things one may be believing if one believes in an objective purpose to life or if one believes we create our own meaning.

Let's return to the question we started with: if it were up to you, would you have a universe wherein life has an objective purpose or a life wherein there is no such purpose?

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