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what is the meaning of life?

 
 
LibertyD
 
  1  
Reply Wed 28 May, 2003 07:41 am
anastasia wrote:
Why do people ask this question? I mean, is it innate in humans to look for deeper meaning - or is it something we're trained to do?


I tried to find any anthropologic information on whether non-westernized, "primitive" cultures had been asked what they thought the meaning of life was, because I think that would be the only way to find out whether the tendency to ask that question was inherent or learned, but couldn't find anything. I did find something I thought was interesting enough to share, though:

"The following research conclusions are the most profound insights I have found from the 60 plus near-death experiences I profile on this website. If the near-death experience is a real afterlife experience as they suggest, these insights may be the most important truths ever documented.

The near-death experience reveals the true meaning of life and it is this: we are here to learn to love. This world is part of a divine "university" of higher learning where learning to love is what life is all about. The near-death experience suggests that life and love itself is what many people identify as "God". Love is the power that holds all things in the universe together. Love is where we came from and love is where we will return. Love is the law of the universe."


(http://www.ntskeptics.org/news/news2001-04-28.htm)


But back to the question, I think it would be inherent, simply because it is a global question. Art throughout the world tries to answer that question in many ways in many different cultures. It seems that if it were learned, that only certain types of societies would be asking it.
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anastasia
 
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Reply Wed 28 May, 2003 08:21 am
I don't know ... although I do see your point.

When I was teaching in Bratislava, I came across your anthropolgic info in an activity book, believe it or not. <giggles>

It was a reading piece about a man from some pacific island, and the gist of it was, "When the white man sees a mountain, he asks, "What's on top?" When the island man sees a mountain, he sees a mountain"

As far as "I am love and love is in me" - I agree with this philosophy ... I think, though, that "love" is kind of too general a term ... and "divine source" is too wacko. <giggles>

I think maybe asking "what is the meaning of life" is something we're taught - in different ways in different cultural systems - people who speak different languages have different ways of seeing it, I think ...

It would be an interesting cultural study - From which countries have no philosophers come from ... and why?
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sozobe
 
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Reply Wed 28 May, 2003 08:47 am
I think our brains are developed to look for cause and effect. We're predators, and it helps. If you stab a saber-toothed tiger in the leg, it will just get mad. If you stab it in the chest, it will die. Etc., etc. We're cultivators too. If there is a lot of rain, the plants thrive. If there is not, they die.

So, once our brains are doing that, it's hard to stop. Rain makes the plants thrive. What makes rain? What makes sun? What makes the earth?

And then we get theology.

I think "What is the meaning of life?" is the most all-encompassing version of this.
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cavfancier
 
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Reply Wed 28 May, 2003 08:55 am
Self-knowledge is both our greatest gift and our greatest curse...
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cicerone imposter
 
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Reply Wed 28 May, 2003 09:15 am
Animal instincts will win out all the time. c.ii.
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LibertyD
 
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Reply Wed 28 May, 2003 09:28 am
anastasia wrote:
It was a reading piece about a man from some pacific island, and the gist of it was, "When the white man sees a mountain, he asks, "What's on top?" When the island man sees a mountain, he sees a mountain"




I like that one!


As far as which societies have no philosophers, do you think it's possible to have no philosophy? For example, storytelling is a form of philosophy, even if it isn't formalized in the way that the stuff taught in college classes is -- and that form of thought and teaching is at least as old as speech itself. Even in cave art, there could be philosophy in the stories it tells.
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cavfancier
 
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Reply Wed 28 May, 2003 09:36 am
c.i., we agree on a lot of things, but this time, I think you are mistaken. If that were the case, we would have no law, philosphy, arts, etc. We are capable of expanding ourselves beyond our base animal instincts (although those are really nice sometimes, heh), which is what distinguishes ourselves from the animal kingdom, for the most part. Most animals wage war, as do we, but none engage in reasoned debate, which I consider different from arguments over food, territory and mates. Wink
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Piffka
 
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Reply Wed 28 May, 2003 09:47 am
"What is the meaning of life?" is a deep question and a contradiction too, since it is both the punchline to many jokes and unanswerable. We don't know. How could we? The answer -- 43 -- may be as good as anything. There are many possibilities -- great religions have been founded in the hopes of explaining our existence, yet none has any proof to their claims. Is it Turtles All The Way Down?

The question is a contradiction because it is possible to live a full life without even considering the answer, yet it seems possible to drive oneself mad trying to solve it. I think everyone has to come to terms with their life, even if in the most hand-to-mouth, subsistence-level way. In the end, if we live self-examined lives, some basic belief will become the foundation for our daily lives, whether it is satisfying one's God, hedonism and satisfying oneself, gathering knowledge to be passed on to future generations, or just gathering more toys.

For me, it is most important to gather knowledge and pass it on to my children in hopes they can do the same. However, the reason for this becomes cloudy. The world as we know it will fail one day, our sun will burn out -- this much, our knowledge has given us. I have no reason to assume that what we've gathered will be of any use except to enrich the short lives we have.
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CodeBorg
 
  1  
Reply Wed 28 May, 2003 10:24 am
Pick any object or idea in the universe.
What is the meaning of it?

If you can't clearly define the meaning of one simple object,
how can you tackle the meaning of life?

Different objects remind me of different things,
and reflect on the values and experiences that I personally find important.
Life is also subjective that way, whatever you yourself
interpret and think about life.
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cicerone imposter
 
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Reply Wed 28 May, 2003 10:39 am
cav, Some people abide by man-made laws, and some don't. As the only animal able to create language and communicate through several mediums. we're all still animals. Maybe the most intelligent, but that's questionable too! We all still live by that old axiom; survival of the fittest. LOL c.i.
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anastasia
 
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Reply Wed 28 May, 2003 10:59 am
liberty - yers, I think there are cultures who don't ACTIVELY have a philosophy.

I don't know, though. But I think, if it's possible to be a philosophical society, then it must be possible NOT to be one.

Or maybe not ... maybe - well, PHILOSOPHY, per se, is what I'm talking about - philosophy as a profession ... I think analysis and retrospection and learning from experience don't (maybe - although I don't know that reality, so I can't say for sure) spend too much time THINKING about it ... their "philosphy" is to live life.

maybe.
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anastasia
 
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Reply Wed 28 May, 2003 10:59 am
sozobe - GREAT explanation - makes a lot of sense. <nods> thanks
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Craven de Kere
 
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Reply Wed 28 May, 2003 01:46 pm
To me there is no meaning for life. It's grand enough not to need such simple definitions.

But if people define a meaning to their life I say it's right, for them. If forced to define a meaning for my life I'd say it's to have fun, 'tis but a vapor anyway.

Just because life has no meaning does it have to be meaningless? :-)
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twyvel
 
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Reply Wed 28 May, 2003 01:51 pm
"What is the meaning of life"



There has to be meaning to life to ask the question.

What is the ultimate meaning to life, i.e. is there meaning to this life that transcends it?

If we create meaning, manufacture it, then 'meaning' resides in our creations. If we manufacture meaning we manufacture our "self", and our 'world' as a matrix of concepts.

So , Is there a 'self' and a 'world' apart from our concepts?

Who's the 'we', the " I ", the " self" that manufactures the meaning, and that of necessity exists prior to the creation of meaning?

If I existed prior to the creation of meaning then I am something in addiction to the meaning that I assign to myself and this life. I am beyond meaning, beyond value, beyond signifiers, beyond thought, etc.

So who's asking the question? Who wants to know?

Thought?

And who's not asking the question? Who doesn't care or want to know?


I am that. I have no meaning,.........I don't need a mirror.
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acepoly
 
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Reply Thu 29 May, 2003 04:40 am
Anastasia, things are getting compicated when you are asking why we ask that question because I 'd like to ask why we ask "why we ask that question, that is, what is the meaning of life?"

I better go to see a psych...
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sozobe
 
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Reply Thu 29 May, 2003 07:28 am
Smile

See my quote, acepoly...

OK, I'm going to take things in a more pragmatic direction, related to what I said already. (Glad that made sense to you, Anastasia!) I think it might be instructive to recast the question as "What is my function?" CodeBorg (CodeBorg?) mentioned the silliness of asking the meaning of various objects, but it isn't silly to ask the function of various objects.

This goes back to what I said earlier. "What is the function of rain?" to provide water for plants and living things. "What is the function of the sun?" to provide light and warmth for plants and living things. "What is the function of a saber-tooth tiger?" to keep the ecosystem in check by eating a lot of smaller animals that would otherwise proliferate, to occasionally provide food and clothing for humans. "What is the function of humans?" to keep the ecosystem in check.... "Wait, so we're no different from those dumb beasts, the saber-tooth tiger?" well no, humans do lots of other things too, like... "So that's our function, those things that separate us from the dumb beasts?" Well, there are lots of different functions for different people... "So what's MY function?"

Et voila.

In terms of philosophy, I'd wager that those who are furthest removed from clear cause-and-effect functions think about this the most. A farmer who has to do 500 specific tasks to keep the farm going and his family fed probably thinks about this less than the person who, what, is sitting in a toll booth for hours on end.
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LibertyD
 
  1  
Reply Thu 29 May, 2003 07:58 am
That makes sense to ask function rather than meaning, which is far too subjective to be applied to something as abstract as life.

"In terms of philosophy, I'd wager that those who are furthest removed from clear cause-and-effect functions think about this the most. A farmer who has to do 500 specific tasks to keep the farm going and his family fed probably thinks about this less than the person who, what, is sitting in a toll booth for hours on end."

I think that's a good point -- but if true would it be because the farmer has 500 things to do and thus not much time to think about those kinds of things or because he inherently knows what his function in humanity is? Or maybe because the dicipline of Philosophy wasn't in his school curriculum?

Another thought -- do we ask the meaning of our lives because there are so many different options available to us today? Like, does the toll-booth operator wonder what the meaning of that job (and his life) is because he's thinking of what's obviously meaningful in the life of a farmer or a teacher or artist? Maybe we're all just too close to our own situations to be able to really see our function or meaning in the same way that we can see the meanings of others?
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anastasia
 
  1  
Reply Thu 29 May, 2003 11:57 am
Maybe he doesn't ask those things because he FEELS inherently comfortable with his place/function in society. Maybe the fulfilled farmer is less inclined, even, to ask those questions, than the one who hates being a farmer.

or something?
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LibertyD
 
  1  
Reply Thu 29 May, 2003 02:06 pm
yeah.....(shrug) :wink:

Life is beautiful
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cicerone imposter
 
  1  
Reply Thu 29 May, 2003 03:16 pm
What you see is what you got. c.i.
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