The purpose of life

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The purpose of life

Postby Whut on February 23rd, 2012, 4:24 pm 

What is the purpose of human life?

I know... it's a cliché question! The reason I'm pondering it at the moment is I've been reading into virtue ethics, and one of the things every virtue theory needs is some sort of teleological goal. (Eg. The purpose of a knife is to cut. Therefore: sharpness would be a virtue, bluntness would be a vice.)

Aristotle proposed that the Eudaimonia was the proper goal of human life. Eudaimonia translates as something like 'well being' or 'happiness', basically it characterizes the 'well-lived life'. So a virtue would be something that helps one towards Eudaimonia. Some other popular answers to the question are things like:

> to chase your dreams, to become the person you've always wanted to be.
> to survive or live as long as possible.
> some biologists conclude that if there is a primary function to life, it is the replication of DNA and the survival of one's genes.
> 42!
> to seek wisdom and knowledge, to try and understand the universe
> to seek spiritual enlightenment
> to make the world a better place
> there is no purpose

Now, I'm aware that everyone creates their own purpose, and that there isn't something we could really say is an intrisic purpose to life. However, I don't think it's a completely arbitrary question either. For instance, it's very possible to rule out what definately isn't the purpose of human life, i.e anything that is beyond human capability. So we know the purpose of life lies within human capability (I know, not exactly a profound realisation, lol :P)

I want to create a virtue theory for fun, so first I need to think of a teleological goal. I spent a little time trying to write one. here's what I got so far:

The purpose of life is to strive for your ultimate potential. Guided by your capacity for understanding and feeling, one should act towards a fulfilling life. To experience satisfying fulfilment and sustained well-being, and to create that: which best reflects your ultimate potential.

Any thoughts or criticisms? Anything that you think is worth adding? I tried to be as flexible with it as possible, so it could apply to anyone, not being to specific, though it might be to ambiguous.

My main idea was something like: the purpose is in aiming for the best you can be, your ultimate potential, something that's impossible to fully grasp, in a way it is "infinite" I was thinking about defining that "ultimate capability" as the the 'True Self', it's the capacity which encompasses you, whereas your current Self, is the form of being which defines you. So it's all about trying to define yourself as close to your ultimate self as possible.

I added "and to create that: which best reflects your ultimate potential." because our ability to create all sorts of things is one of the distinct aspects of human capability, I think. And the closer you get to your ultimate potential, the better quality your creations will be, sort of by default.

Is there any, more recent, teleological goals that philosophers have used in virtue theory that work well? I've been searching for things regarding the purpose of life etc. but I keep getting things like "the meaning of life", "the meaning of existence" and all the baggage that comes with that, not really what I'm after.

What do you think is distict when it comes to human capability? Any thoughts regarding any of this are welcome really, just milling over ideas at the moment :)
Last edited by Whut on February 23rd, 2012, 5:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby Watson on February 23rd, 2012, 4:55 pm 

[So a vice would be something that helps one towards Eudaimonia.]

Isn' it a virtue in this case?
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby Whut on February 23rd, 2012, 5:05 pm 

Watson wrote:[So a vice would be something that helps one towards Eudaimonia.]

Isn' it a virtue in this case?


lol woops, edited!
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby wuliheron on February 23rd, 2012, 9:58 pm 

Whut wrote:What is the purpose of human life?

I know... it's a cliché question! The reason I'm pondering it at the moment is I've been reading into virtue ethics, and one of the things every virtue theory needs is some sort of teleological goal.


That's a tautological argument for teleology. Perhaps if you just accepted that any answer is tautological to begin with you wouldn't be so confused. Personally I like Emerson's answer. To paraphrase:

Virtue is its own reward, to have a friend you must first be a friend.
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby Whut on February 24th, 2012, 12:03 am 

wuliheron wrote:That's a tautological argument for teleology.Perhaps if you just accepted that any answer is tautological to begin with you wouldn't be so confused.


Hmm? I don't follow, sorry.

Personally I like Emerson's answer. To paraphrase:

Virtue is its own reward, to have a friend you must first be a friend.


How can you determine what is a virtue and what isn't, without first establishing a goal/purpose?

Are you saying friendship/getting along with people should be the goal?
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby Watson on February 24th, 2012, 1:14 am 

I would have added more earlier but didn't have time.

[The purpose of life is to strive for your ultimate potential. Guided by your capacity for understanding and feeling, one should act towards a fulfilling life. To experience satisfying fulfilment and sustained well-being, and to create that: which best reflects your ultimate potential.]

Even as a general statement personal desires would play an important part in what the ultimate potential is, and what determines a fulfilling life.
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby wuliheron on February 24th, 2012, 5:51 am 

Whut wrote:
wuliheron wrote:That's a tautological argument for teleology.Perhaps if you just accepted that any answer is tautological to begin with you wouldn't be so confused.


Hmm? I don't follow, sorry.

Personally I like Emerson's answer. To paraphrase:

Virtue is its own reward, to have a friend you must first be a friend.


How can you determine what is a virtue and what isn't, without first establishing a goal/purpose?

Are you saying friendship/getting along with people should be the goal?


Its called metaethics, and a friend is defined as:

"a person attached to another by feelings of affection or personal regard.
a person who gives assistance; patron; supporter: friends of the Boston Symphony." (Dictionary.com)
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby Whut on February 24th, 2012, 2:02 pm 

Watson wrote:Even as a general statement personal desires would play an important part in what the ultimate potential is, and what determines a fulfilling life.


Yeah, desire falls under feeling in that sentence. I've started writing something which elaborates on the original paragraph. I'll post it when I've finished.

I'm also going to split the virtues into three catagories:

1) Emotional Virtue

2) Behavioral Virtue

3) Mental Virtue

wuliheron wrote:Its called metaethics


I'm aware of metaethics, but I'm not sure how this relates, or what your point is? In virtue ethics, without some form of teleology (in this case the purpose of human life) it's impossible to establish factual virtues. You need an assumed premise before you can objectively define what is virtuous. The "purpose of life" would be sort of like an axiom that the rest of the theory is based upon.
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby wuliheron on February 24th, 2012, 2:35 pm 

Whut wrote:
wuliheron wrote:Its called metaethics


I'm aware of metaethics, but I'm not sure how this relates, or what your point is? In virtue ethics, without some form of teleology (in this case the purpose of human life) it's impossible to establish factual virtues. You need an assumed premise before you can objectively define what is virtuous. The "purpose of life" would be sort of like an axiom that the rest of the theory is based upon.


My point is a metaethical analysis of virtue ethics describes it as a tautology and you are asking us to make value judgments about how to make value judgments! Some people might insist being compassionate is the "best you can be" and your "true self", while others have very different ideas and there is no way to know what you are asking for exactly.
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby Whut on February 24th, 2012, 2:43 pm 

wuliheron wrote:while others have very different ideas and there is no way to know what you are asking for exactly.


What do you think is distict when it comes to human capability?
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby wuliheron on February 24th, 2012, 3:12 pm 

Whut wrote:
wuliheron wrote:while others have very different ideas and there is no way to know what you are asking for exactly.


What do you think is distict when it comes to human capability?


Nothing. We are capable of more abstract thought then animals, but chimps are capable of abstract thought. We are capable of compassion, but even a rat is capable of compassion and elephants will circle their dead and dying for days crying tears. We can eat a larger variety of things then a pig, but its just a difference in degree.
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby Watson on February 26th, 2012, 1:44 am 

1) Emotional Virtue

2) Behavioral Virtue

3) Mental Virtue


Which is the strength of order? Mental Virtue-recognizing good/right would be first? Emotional Virtue-subjectively desiding subjectively? Behavioral Virtue-Mental+Emotional Virtues would dictate behavioral Vice/Virtues?

Is this going off topic?
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby mtbturtle on February 26th, 2012, 8:50 am 

How did Aristotle divide it up? What virtues did he suggest?
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby Whut on February 26th, 2012, 8:00 pm 

mtbturtle wrote:How did Aristotle divide it up? What virtues did he suggest?


In Nicomachean Ethics he divides them in two categories: moral virtues and intellectual virtues. He characterizes moral virtues as a Golden Mean between two other vices, it’s like a spectrum of different behaviors; the virtuous behavior lying in a sweet spot, or "goldielock's region"

Moral virtues:

(1)Courage (to do with fear and confidence)

Excess vice = being rash/foolhardy

Deficiency vice = cowardly

(2)Temperance /moderation (to do with pleasure and pain)

Excess vice = dissipation (an unrestrained indulgence in pleasure)

Deficiency vice = insensible (this vice is seems unclear IMO, I think what Aristotle means is taking pleasure in pain e.g. a sadist.)

(3)Generosity (to do with spending and receiving)

Excess vice = wastefulness (giving to people without thought, e.g. giving money to a homeless person even if they might buy drugs or something)

Deficiency vice = stinginess

(4)Magnificence (to do with spending and receiving again, but on a greater scale. I think this mostly concerns the very wealthy, but in many ways applies to everyone, it’s to do with the reasons we contribute things)

Excess vice = tastelessness (e.g. building a statue of yourself just so people look up to/worship you, as opposed to building a hospital because you genuinely want to help the sick)

Deficiency vice = paltriness (this one is rather odd, basically not being able to contribute, through fault of your own (I think), Aristotle says this vice isn’t as bad as others, as it doesn’t harm anyone)

(5)Magnanimity/"Greatness of soul" (to do with honour and dishonour) Personally, I don't understand this one that well, and have a hard time seeing how it fits in, it's the first one he says is comprised of other virtues.

Excess vice = vanity

Deficiency vice = smallness of soul

I don't know how to explain these TBH. He describes some general characteristics of someone who has a "great soul", such as: they don't take trivial matters seriously, they don't beat around the bush, has something to do with the way they carry themselves, along with many other things. To me it seems like he's describing the type of characteristics he just personally respects and why, I dunno though.

(6)Proper ambition (to do with lesser honour and lesser dishonour ) I'm not sure about this one either.

Excess vice = over ambitious

Deficiency vice = lack of ambition

Has a lot to do with the reasons we are ambitious, and where our ambitions are (I think), e.g. a drug dealer might be ambitious but his ambitions are not in the right places. Seems like too big a grey area for me.

(7)Anger (to do with patience)

Excess vice = irritability (getting angry when it's not necessary/over reacting)

Deficiency vice = spiritlessness (never getting angry, even if they should be, unable to defend yourself)

He comments that this is one of the harder virtues to get right, also says anger shouldn't be on impulse, but controlled and subject to reason.

(8)Friendliness (to do with social conduct)

Excess vices = (a)obsequiousness (being a send-out/slavish) (b)flatterer (butt-kissing)

Deficiency vice = quarrelsome/cantankerousness

(9)Honesty about oneself (to do with truth, modesty)

Excess vice = boastfulness (big headed)

Deficiency vice = self-depreciation (too modest)

(10)Witty or charming (to do with sense of humour)

Excess vice = buffoonery (over the top, no restraint. E.g. MTV Jackass)

Deficiency vice = boorishness (lacking a sense of humour)

He comments that there is no rules for what's funny or not, again it's a grey area.

Intellectual virtues:

(1)Art (craftsmanship)

(2)Knowledge (could be considered as believing in empirical evidence, I think)

(3)Practical judgement (having sound judgement from an over-all perspective)

(4)Intellect (using sound reason)

(5)Wisdom (I think Aristotle would consider someone who uses reason and empiricism a lot as wise. Like, if you study a subject, and use these skills in it a lot, the over-all product of what you have learned would be considered wisdom. For instance: if a biologist was explaining natural selection in a way that anyone could understand, that would be them sharing wisdom)
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby Whut on February 26th, 2012, 8:58 pm 

Watson wrote:Which is the strength of order? Mental Virtue-recognizing good/right would be first? Emotional Virtue-subjectively desiding subjectively? Behavioral Virtue-Mental+Emotional Virtues would dictate behavioral Vice/Virtues?

Is this going off topic?


No, not off topic, main purpose of this thread is to generally flesh out my ideas really, any thoughts or questions are welcome!

I don't think the categories would have strength of order (I'm undecided, though. Thoughts may take priority over emotions in many situations, because thoughts have the ability to take the future into account, one can imagine how one would feel in the future). One of my main ideas is that it's all about a balance, that's one of the key things. Though I am considering some virtues as being their in their own group, or the most important (arch-type virtues, or something) such as integrity, because the point of virtue ethics is like, behaving in a way that's virtuous is practice to becoming a virtuous person, you have to be consistent. Think about anything you're good at... why are you good at it? Besides talent, it's because of practice, consistently doing it and getting better at it/more used to it. That's why integrity is so important IMO.

I'm going to split them into these three categories, because the way I see it, our consciousness or being, who we are, has three ways of expressing itself (so to speak): through thoughts, emotions, and actions.

It's like: a thought arises in your mind, which stimulates an emotion, and it's based on that which action we take next (or if we choose to not take any action)

This is where my notion of balance comes in, I suggest one should seriously avoid what I will call unbalance (by dealing with it head on, not ignorance).

An example of this:

One comes to understand that smoking is bad for your health. One also comes to understand that one wants to maintain their health. (these fall under thoughts)

Though, one might feel like smoking anyway. One might desire a smoke. (these fall under emotions) This is bad. Because ones' thoughts and emotions are out of sync/unbalanced.

Because ones actions are based on ones thoughts and emotions, one is left with a conundrum. How should one act? Many people faced with this problem, will smoke, even though their thoughts tell them they shouldn't. It might be desirable now, but when one thinks about it, it can also lead to cancer, which one wouldn't desire.

Therefore: In regards to smoking: the three expressions of consciousness are unbalanced. One must weigh up their thoughts and emotions. Taking into account not just present, but future emotions aswell.

Based on the "purpose of life" I've come up with so far, and the available information, one shouldn't smoke.

The way one can achieve balance in this situation, is by not smoking. The longer one stops smoking, the more the desire to smoke will diminish. So one should ignore the desire to smoke at first. One shouldn't ignore their thoughts here because that would be ignorance (this will be a mental vice), if one is honest with themselves, the understanding that smoking is unhealthy will never change, based on the available information.

If one is unfit, working out is undesirable at first, but after a while, one gets used to it, and begins to enjoy it more. It's the same with many things that are healthy for you i.e. giving up smoking.

So after one quits smoking, one will understand smoking is bad, one will enjoy being a non smoker, and one won't smoke. In this instance, ones thoughts, emotions and actions are in sync. The three expressions of ones consciousness are now balanced. This is good!
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby sponge on April 2nd, 2012, 3:29 pm 

Could Aristotle’s No. 5 be referring to the generally accepted concept of the Enlightened Soul? The ‘big soul’ of yogi masters, the shaman and other spiritual leaders – the ideal mind that is proud without vanity etc. (As portrayed by the film industry in such offerings as The Karate Kid !!) Sorry, not meaning to trivialize, just a bit of social shorthand to get my meaning across.

If you accept the possibility that this was the personality type that Aristotle was describing, the others in the list seem more understandable too, I think.
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby BadgerJelly on April 3rd, 2012, 4:03 am 

The purpose of life is to figure out the purpose of life for you. If you don't you'll be miserable and want to die.

For me from micro to the macro and from the conscious to the subconscious I find communication internally and externally brings happiness if pursued.

I like to say we are the universe trying to understand itself by repeatedly destroying and rebuilding. Maybe the universe is some kind of experiment. Every human being has the drive to be happy (Unless you're a psychopath) and happiness increases communication because when you are happy you want to share it but problems come when you try and impose your own ideal of happiness on others.

Smile communicate and try and understand views you strongly oppose instead of dismissing them. I believe this to be a good philosophy to have as long as you always have doubt in your own beliefs and want them opposed by others so you can learn more and be more than you are.
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby sponge on April 3rd, 2012, 5:33 am 

To get back to the original question…

Could it be that the purpose of human life lays with the individual only as a component part of humanity as a whole? Much like the individual bee or ant exists essentially as a constituent of a whole being (the hive or swarm).

If so, then all our actions – physical, emotional and mental – could be considered virtuous if directed at the well-being and growth of humanity and non-virtuous if directed towards simple personal benefit.

Could this argument be reinforced by the fact that the most fulfilling and rewarding results seem to come from actions, emotions and thoughts that are directed outwards, towards others, regardless of any return? Some examples that come to mind; falling in love, unconditional love for a baby, charity work, in fact the giving of any gift because we are simply moved to do so.

Even then, I suppose, I’m leaving the question open – what’s the purpose of humanity?
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby BadgerJelly on April 3rd, 2012, 10:09 am 

The purpose of humanity is to survive. It is an undeniable primal drive not just of humans but everything. Why? May as well ask why we breath. We have no choice other than death so the result is death for the individual but we can maybe be optimistic and assume that we are meant to evolve and grow bigger into something else that understands more then ask this question again?

Why survive? Back to the universe again ...
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby Whut on April 3rd, 2012, 7:44 pm 

sponge wrote:Could Aristotle’s No. 5 be referring to the generally accepted concept of the Enlightened Soul? The ‘big soul’ of yogi masters, the shaman and other spiritual leaders – the ideal mind that is proud without vanity etc. (As portrayed by the film industry in such offerings as The Karate Kid !!) Sorry, not meaning to trivialize, just a bit of social shorthand to get my meaning across.


That's an intresting thought, I might look into it some more and see what parallels can be drawn.

BadgerJelly wrote:The purpose of life is to figure out the purpose of life for you.


In a sense, life creates itself. And human life creates purpose. So, yes, it's up to life to create it's own purpose. Is this what you meant?

sponge wrote:Even then, I suppose, I’m leaving the question open – what’s the purpose of humanity?


If I interpret Aristotle correctly, then I agree with him. Eudaimonia [happiness, welfare - perhaps most accurately understood as "human flourishing"] is the telos proposed in Aristotle's virtue ethics. This is to say, that the purpose of human life is to flourish, to thrive... to fulfill it. To take ideas about one's higher potential and to embody them. Simply put, eudiamonia is the highest human good.

So then, what is human flourishing? That which exactly constitutes human flourishing is hard, if not impossible, to put a finger on - human beings are the most biologically complex thing we know of, after all. So first, what counts as a plant or animal to flourish? to thrive? A flower is a fitting example in this case.

If a seed is planted with the capacity to flower, and it begins to grow, yet, some problem hinders it's growth and thus subsequently it doesn't flower, it can be noted that the plant didn't 'flourish' - the plant did not fulfill it's potential.

What it comes down to, I think, is life fulfillment - fullfilling the capability one is offered in life. Think of it like this: a human has a brain, and one of the capabilities our brains give us is the faculty to reason. To fulfill one's potential, then, one should make proper use of it; to not use it falls short of embodying one's potential - much like the plant that did not flower. Another example: humans evolved as social creatures, we are genetically 'hard-wired' to socialise, work together, and enjoy it - much like the plant is 'hard-wired' to flower. And so it follows, that people who don't socialise, or work together, or help each other; are not maximizing their potential to flourish. I think this speaks directly to your point of "individual" being part of a "whole." If we think in terms of the potential of humanity as individuals and as a whole, it might be worth considering this quote from Haidt: "once they were all in the same tribe, they could keep the benefits of cooperation locked inside, and they unlocked the most powerful force ever known on this planet, which is human cooperation - a force for construction and destruction." And so the potential we have as humanity cannot be fulfilled by individuals alone.

Now, since humans are so complex, we simply can't put a finger on one thing and say "that's flourishing" like we can with the flower. The limits on human flourishing and capability, infact, seem somewhat 'limitless' which is unlike any other creature due to the level of intelligence/flexibility that we have evolved.

However, while we might not be able to simply point to the human "flower", there is another angle we can take here. What does it take a plant to flower? The plant has needs that must be met. Sufficient water, sunlight etc.

And so, what we can put a finger on, are the human needs. There are many universal human needs fundamental to life fulfillment/flourishing. Base needs such as food, clothing, shelter, health. Social needs such as a sense of belonging, feeling that one relates with those around oneself, to love and to be loved. Mental needs such as feeling certain about one's surrounding or situation - a need for understanding. And higher needs such as having a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence, and contribution.

However, there are also many needs, or wants, unique to each individual, as each individual is unique. Unraveling these needs is something each individual must deliberate on, come to know and feel for themselves. (Hence the stressed importance of practice in virtue theory, one needs to actually experiment with it for themselves.)

Martha Nussbaum is a modern philosopher that uses something similar to Aristotelian virtue ethics. She argues for the Capability Approach, which she claims is univeralist. Basically, this approach values certain capabilities, also called substantial freedoms, that are seen as being essential parts of human development. There is a big list, and even Nussbaum admits that its a working list and that arguments have to be made for every item included. But the important part is that she is aware that any of these has to be cross-culturally examined. One way this is done is through a sort of translational process, but that is getting more into the details than is necessary.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Capability_approach

The capability approach (also referred to as the capabilities approach) was initially conceived in the 1980s as an approach to welfare economics.[1] In this approach, Amartya Sen brought together a range of ideas that were hitherto excluded from (or inadequately formulated in) traditional approaches to the economics of welfare. The core focus of the capability approach is on what individuals are able to do (i.e., capable of).


I for one really like the idea of using an Aristotelian framework for applied ethics, and Nussbaum's work has added a lot to the international human rights debate.
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby sponge on April 4th, 2012, 7:16 am 

Thanks for putting me onto this theory by Martha Nussbaum. I’ve had a (very quick) skip through it so I hope I’ve understood it enough to make a few comments – put me right if not.

My take on its general principles is as follows:

1. Promotes freedom to develop and use personal capabilities, both innate, as a human and individual, dependent on personality.

2. Advocates political and educational encouragement of these capabilities.

3. Ideally, the whole population of any country state or group should attain a minimum level of achieved capability by training, education and availability of state institutions and help.

I’m never sure about social engineering as a valid political tool but, from a purely philosophical point of view, I do like the idea that we should measure a person’s fulfillment (contentment) by the extent to which his capabilities have been expressed by his life, rather than the mundane modern measure of ‘how happy he is.’ A child would be happy eating sweets instead of nourishing food. Happiness in itself proves nothing.

This measure by achieved and expressed capability certainly seems like a contender for defining 'the flourishing of humanity.'
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby BadgerJelly on April 4th, 2012, 10:32 am 

In a sense, life creates itself. And human life creates purpose. So, yes, it's up to life to create it's own purpose. Is this what you meant?


From our human perspective yes that is what I meant.

The actual purpose of "life" though is relative to what you mean by life? Is the "life" of a galaxy the same thing as the life of a star? Is the "life" of bacteria the same as the "life" of flame? Is the "life" of a human the same as the "life" of humanity?

Basically by this I am kind of turning your question around and inside out and asking if biological "life" which most people men by life came from a non biological state and all we think we know says all this stuff came from one point at the beginning of "time" then is the universe itself not effectively "alive" and just evolving/devolving into whatever it was originally?

Also consider that there may be another temporal dimension or multiple temporal dimensions. What if the universe is a "canvas" and time is an illusion? What if when you move your hand through the air its just an illusion like on a TV screen? Say the universe was just a pixel that broke up and divided over and over?

Are the possibilities really endless? Isn't it amazing we can even conceive of asking these questions?

I think I know what life is for but I have no clue as to the why? behind it. To me it seems there was a purpose to diversify through communication with our surroundings and this goes down to the subatomic level. It seems to me the universe is a like a thought process that already knows the answer to the question but we are just a piece of the process so struggle to see the question or the answer.

Makes you think eh? :S
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby Eclogite on April 5th, 2012, 3:34 am 

The question seems to me to have as much meaning as that asked by my son when he was very, very young. "Dad, why is yellow?"
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby neuro on April 5th, 2012, 5:48 am 

I should imagine that "the purpose of life", in the most general sense and framework, simply is to live.

Life is a feature of biological systems which appears to be specifically aimed at (and organized for) absorbing energy from the ouside in order to preserve and reproduce itself.

Curiously enough, this general paradigm can be pursued by means of incredibly diverse (and more or less complex) strategies.

For humans, the paradigm appears to include, in addition to physiological and homeostatic mechanisms, a series of capacities and activities (understanding, rationalizing, socializing, loving, seeking love, creating, desiring, solving problems, enjoying harmony and beauty).

These aspects, which somewhat correspond to what has been referred above as "flourishing" for a human being, are so-to-say pre-wired in the human being as a biological system, in that all these capacities and activities are able to elicit pleasure in the appropriate circuits of our nervous system.

So, in my opinion, the biological purpose of life for humans is to flourish (as nicely illustrated by Whut above), i.e. to give way to all the capacities and activities that participate in the overall strategy mother-nature has designed for us as a way to sustain and reproduce life.

Interestingly enough, this would point to the fact that the purpose of life, for humans, is different from the purpose of life for other organisms, and this difference precisely consists in all these extra activities (philosophy, empathy and love, creativity, defining aims and strategies, pursuing the beauty of art and the harmony of ethics), that we are built to perform.
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby BadgerJelly on April 5th, 2012, 6:03 am 

Eclogite wrote:The question seems to me to have as much meaning as that asked by my son when he was very, very young. "Dad, why is yellow?"


Maybe you should listen to your son more he asks some intriguing questions I guess that baffle you.

To answer his question yellow is yellow because when he learnt to speak the concept of colour switched from one side of his brain to the other. "Colour" doesn't actually exist so to speak it is just a construct in our brain to express a certain "shade" of light.

What was your reply?
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby BadgerJelly on April 5th, 2012, 6:13 am 

Interestingly enough, this would point to the fact that the purpose of life, for humans, is different from the purpose of life for other organisms, and this difference precisely consists in all these extra activities (philosophy, empathy and love, creativity, defining aims and strategies, pursuing the beauty of art and the harmony of ethics), that we are built to perform.


Nah! Everything up from the sub atomic world is trying to bond and find the "perfect" state.

I like the analogy of the universe being like a small sheet on a large bed. It started out perfect but was highly unstable then PING! like an elastic band it snapped and everything came into "existence" as we know it. I look at energy almost as a "condensation" on the ether. If the universe keeps expanding then it will eventually hit the perfect state and start over ... that's a BIG assumption though considering we don't know where have the stuff we think exists is though?

I see us now as organic life as maybe the peak or somewhere before the peak. Our simple ability to ask why? is kind of the give away and to me seems just a progression from oxygen bonding with hydrogen. The universe seems to be run by entropy as is everything and if entropy exists then there is most probably some order or pattern some where to it all. If not then why do we see patterns?
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby Eclogite on April 5th, 2012, 8:05 am 

BadgerJelly wrote:Maybe you should listen to your son more he asks some intriguing questions I guess that baffle you.

Yes, imposing our own perception of the world on observations and reading into questions meaning that is not there are common errors made by humans who are not alert to the danger.
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby sponge on April 5th, 2012, 11:28 am 

BadgerJelly wrote:
Eclogite wrote:The question seems to me to have as much meaning as that asked by my son when he was very, very young. "Dad, why is yellow?"

To answer his question yellow is yellow because when he learnt to speak the concept of colour switched from one side of his brain to the other. "Colour" doesn't actually exist so to speak it is just a construct in our brain to express a certain "shade" of light.



You mean it’s not so we can tell where egg yolks start and finish?
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby BadgerJelly on April 5th, 2012, 1:35 pm 

That is my main use for Yellow. :D

I love eggs. MMmmmmmm!
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Re: The purpose of life

Postby Whut on April 5th, 2012, 8:56 pm 

sponge wrote:I’m never sure about social engineering as a valid political tool but, from a purely philosophical point of view, I do like the idea that we should measure a person’s fulfillment (contentment) by the extent to which his capabilities have been expressed by his life, rather than the mundane modern measure of ‘how happy he is.’ A child would be happy eating sweets instead of nourishing food. Happiness in itself proves nothing.


It's not actually social engineering per se. The argument, in essence, is that the way we should measure human development for different nations is by the human capabilities that they offer [not if the capabilities themselves are fulfilled]. This as opposed to using a simple metric like GDP etc. Nussbaum makes the point that if people want to live an unhealthy live, or even fast for example, that this is perfectly fine, but that people should atleast have the possibility to live a fulfilling life. There are examples of nations with decent GDP, but have poor education standards compared to some nations with relatively low GDP... what this approach does, however, is directly address the capabilities like education, among many others such as being able to play, and being able to be treated as a dignified being whose worth is equal to that of others.

As it goes, I just found a series of Yale lectures which are pretty relevant to the thread.

http://oyc.yale.edu/philosophy/phil-181

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature pairs central texts from Western philosophical tradition (including works by Plato, Aristotle, Epictetus, Hobbes, Kant, Mill, Rawls, and Nozick) with recent findings in cognitive science and related fields. The course is structured around three intertwined sets of topics: Happiness and Flourishing; Morality and Justice; and Political Legitimacy and Social Structures.
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