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Thread: The Purpose of Life

  1. #1
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    The Purpose of Life

    A co-worker lend me this book called "The purpose Driven Life" by Rick Warren. The book is based on Christian teachings, with core point that in order to find your life's purpose, you need to start with God.

    IMO, most self help or philosopy books will tell you to search within yourself to find the answer for the Q "Why Am I Here?". As Existentialism stated, we exist first then we find our reason to be here, not the other way around as the above book said. Or maybe the need to reason is very much related when you belief in superior beings, which has power to control your existance (past, present, and future). As Betrand Russel said (which quoted form the book), "Unless you assume a God, the question of life's purpose is meaningless".


    What is the purpose of your life? How do you know/find it?

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    Maybe it is better to have a mutable purpose, one that is forever changing or changable. For me personally, the question of purpose should be preceded by the question: does there have to be a purpose to life? if there is no purpose, would this make a big difference to how you see yourself or how you live? Can a purposeless life be worth living?
    Faith is believing what you know ain't so - Mark Twain

    The preachers deal with men of straw, as they are men of straw themselves - Henry David Thoreau

    The way to see faith is to shut the eye of reason - Benjamin Franklin

    The teaching of the church, theoretically astute, is a lie in practice and a compound of vulgar superstitions and sorcery - Leo Tolstoy

  3. #3
    somewhere else Helga's Avatar
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    I agree with AP, I think you should find your own purpose and look within, but it just seems a lot easier to think that God is what gives you purpose and he has laid a path for you. I have no faith and I think I should be able to find the reason why I am here and if life matters at all if you have no purpose without looking for faith to tell me these things. They say that 'what goes around comes around' and I think that makes a lot of sense and Karma is even worth looking into I think. I spent most of my teenage years wondering what I am doing hereso I'm gonna take a brake now and try to make sense in my head before I try to make sense in the world. If that makes any sense!
    I hope death is joyful, and I hope I'll never return -Frida Khalo

    If I seem insensitive to what you are going through, understand it's the way I am- Mr. Spock

    Personally, I think that the unique and supreme delight lies in the certainty of doing 'evil'–and men and women know from birth that all pleasure lies in evil. - Baudelaire

  4. #4
    somewhere else Helga's Avatar
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    I was thinking about this thread at work today and I realized something.

    I work at an old folk home. As I was watching them I didn't see a purpose in anything we do if it will end like this. Alzheimer, Parkinson I these people aren't happy. A woman who has Alzheimer asks the same questions every 3 minuets. She asked the woman sitting next to her in a weelchair, what her name was. That woman has Parkinson and can't talk or control any of her movements. It's tragic to end your life this way. I don't see the reason why you should live when this is the end.

    If anyone can brighten up my thoughts, that would be nice
    I hope death is joyful, and I hope I'll never return -Frida Khalo

    If I seem insensitive to what you are going through, understand it's the way I am- Mr. Spock

    Personally, I think that the unique and supreme delight lies in the certainty of doing 'evil'–and men and women know from birth that all pleasure lies in evil. - Baudelaire

  5. #5
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    The meaning of life..."why?" Why is it that we're here? What are we doing here? Why are we alive? Why does the universe exist? Why are we as we are? Why is there so much poverty in the world? Why are some better off than others? Why do we die? Why do we live?

    The list goes on and on. "Why" is perhaps the most fundamental question of philosophy. It is different from science's "how." How did life evolve. How did we come into being. How did the universe come into existence. Science explains how things work; philosophy tries to answer the "why" question.

    "What is the meaning of life" is beyond rational thinking. Can you ask such a complex, philosophical question and answer it from pure logic? With logic we may be able to decipher many, many wonders, but unfortunately, never "why" we're here.

    Is there a purpose to life? Is there a point at all? Or are we perhaps here just on the whim of some giant grandfather? Or even due to a fluke universe that just happens to contain conditions perfect for life to develop?

    To ask the meaning of life one has to define life itself. What is life, after all? I know; something that moves, respires, grows, reproduces, reacts to environmental stimuli, etc. But is that all? A virus, for example, does not fit into the definition of life. It does not grow and does not require food. It reacts with its environment but, it reproduces, but...is it alive? Not in the traditional sense, perhaps; but in some different way...in its own way...it is alive.

    Now, if viruses are alive, then what of the other wonders of the microcosmos? What of atoms, antiparticles, quarks, superstrings, molecules, virtual particles? Are these also not, in some sense, alive?

    We now come to the point. If the microcosmos is alive, then the world we know...inanimate objects - umbrellas, chairs, rocks - they would be alive too. Well, if we did not move, did not reproduce, did not respire, in all external appearances, and yet if inside us our cells were still alive, reproducing, moving...would we not also be alive?

    But why, why, why? Why life? What is life good for? And why are we alive? Why do we suffer, why do we rejoice, why do we weep? Why are we even here at all? Science tells us we are here from natural selection, from evolution - but what started life off in the first place? And furthermore, why did the universe come into existence? Why does the material world exist at all? Because if nothing existed...what would happen if nothing existed? How could nothing at all possibly exist?

    Why, why, why. Is there a purpose, a meaning? Perhaps. Or are we merely a cosmological blunder, a fluke. New physics shows that there are multiple histories of our universe; some with life, some without...the ones without obviously only without because they cannot support it...or some different form of life, totally unkown to us?

    After all of this questioning, I must conclude that I think we will not ever be able to answer that question, or at least not altogether satisfactorily. We may be able to find some reason that fits, but will it ever be complete? We are tiny specks of dust with brains...how can we understand the meaning of it all. It's a wonder that we can understand anything.

    But whether it is impossible to answer the question of life or not...we should never stop asking. It would be a drab world if we did not wonder, if we did not aspire to know that which is perhaps beyond the limits of thought.

    Loki
    Through the deep wood, the slanting sunlight
    Casts motley patterns on the jade-green mosses.
    No glimpse of man in this lonely mountain,
    Yet faint voices drift on the air.


    ~ Wang Wei

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    {I can't be bothered reading this whole thread so sorry if I restate things which someone has already written or fail completely to contribute to a constructive discussion. Gimme a break, I'm tired.}

    I think on the subject of existentialism, someone (frankl?) said that we should not ask the world what the meaning of life is: it is a question to ask ourselves (something along those lines) I think that's pretty well right.. if you're looking for a meaning to your life, you have to give yourself one. And of course it's a very human trait to presuppose we even have a meaning. We could very well have none at all; something which perhaps people don't want to have to confront for fear of dealing with the fact that; wait a second --- I was a MISTAKE.. my life is MEANINGLESS....... (at least we can say we have a purpose as organisms to reproduce...)

    The meaning of life, yes. I've thought about this question long and hard. And I have an answer. forty-two. exactly forty-two.
    Don't part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.
    (Mark Twain)

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    Well Helga, I admired your patience in doing the job . With reason of my impatiency (not to mention I'm an angry pants), I wouldn't dare to do your kind of job.

    Why you choose the job Helga? I mean is it only a part time job or is it something that you really want to do?
    The thing is no one can really predict his/her future. When you're young you could do anything, eat and drink anything..You're so healty and stong...But you don't know whether these strenght and healt last till you're old. If you want to keep them, best thing you can do is exercise, eat healty food, don't smoke, etc..But even when you're so healty, you could get involve in car crash which make you paralzy (sp) for the rest of your life.


    Personally, I think of everyone has a purpose in life, whether they realize it or not. Even people who don't study philosophy, at least once in his/her life ask that Q "Why am I here, why am I living"? Some choose to dig (like the philosophers and us now )...and some choose to ignore it and take it for granted, seize the day



    Quote Originally Posted by Helga
    I was thinking about this thread at work today and I realized something.

    I work at an old folk home. As I was watching them I didn't see a purpose in anything we do if it will end like this. Alzheimer, Parkinson I these people aren't happy. A woman who has Alzheimer asks the same questions every 3 minuets. She asked the woman sitting next to her in a weelchair, what her name was. That woman has Parkinson and can't talk or control any of her movements. It's tragic to end your life this way. I don't see the reason why you should live when this is the end.

    If anyone can brighten up my thoughts, that would be nice

  8. #8
    somewhere else Helga's Avatar
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    I do enjoy this job a lot, but it is not something I plan to do forever. This has been a part tie job except in the summer, I will work full time during my summer 'vacation'. Somebody told me that it's not the result it's the journey, but I don't want to end my life like this...
    I hope death is joyful, and I hope I'll never return -Frida Khalo

    If I seem insensitive to what you are going through, understand it's the way I am- Mr. Spock

    Personally, I think that the unique and supreme delight lies in the certainty of doing 'evil'–and men and women know from birth that all pleasure lies in evil. - Baudelaire

  9. #9
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    A.Miller "Prophecy" (no philosophical book, but still a great short story)

    "'Then what's the point in living?'
    'Because we must live. That is all.'
    'I wouldn't call that much of a point.'
    'Maybe there isn't much of a point.'"
    In dreams begin responsibilities.

  10. #10
    Wow,

    There is a lot here. If you will permit me, I would like to respond to several of you. It’s not that I am trying to answer all the questions, but I would like to interact with as much of this topic as I can.

    As for the member who said:

    "To me the philosophical pursuit of the meaning of life is as radiculous as the philosophers themselves."

    That is ridiculous. It’s a common attitude, but it only displays a COMPLETE lack of knowledge as to the academic history of the world. Do you realize that every hard science we have was born out of philosophy. It’s too many to list, but I will through some out there:

    Mathematics: Pythagorus (Remember the therum?), Euclid (Euclidian geometry), Newton (Calculus), Descartes (Cartesian Geometry)… etc…

    Logic (which you have to thank for the computer your using): Aristotle, Leibniz, Boole…

    Science in general: Bacon (scientific theory!!!), Khoon, Popper.

    Biology: Bacon and Dawin.

    Chemistry: Hayyan…

    We have government from Marx, Engel, Economics from Adam Smith …

    Astronomy!!!!: man NASA would not be here if it where not for Copernicus, Galileo, Newtone, Kepler…

    All these people are in this list for only one reason. They asked why and found some answers that worked well with our surroundings. Do you realize how grossly short this list comes of naming everyone? And all of them can rightly be considered philosophers.

    You see here is the problem. A thought will start in philosophy, and as it is formed and nurtured, it becomes accepted as fact or science. Then it is no longer philosophy. Philosophy is like the neglected mother of many brilliant children. As far as we know the philosophy of life has just as much potential as the philosophy math--we just haven’t gotten there yet.

    So, sorry I have to take extreme objection to what you are saying. The fact that you are posting on this board is conclusive proof that you owe your way of life to philosophy.

    To Helga:

    It's tragic to end your life this way. I don't see the reason why you should live when this is the end.
    You asked basically, "if this is the end, then what is the point?" Well I think that for a person like Warren, a beliefe in God is inextricably tied with the beliefe in the eternal soul. That would meen that the reality of man is not the bodies you see wasting away at you job. But instead, the thing about those people you work with that is realy real, is a soul. An entity that their infirmities cannot touch.

    For Warren, what you are seeing is most definently not the end.

    atiguhya padma:

    does there have to be a purpose to life?
    In my opinion, a person will not be content without a purpose. As to "life," I think that we can agree that the question is refering to human life. I know a lot of people who live without purpose, so obviously there does not have to be one. But... I think that man needs purpose, for what ever reason. I do not think he can be satisfied with lving if he does not have one.

    And to go at the original question:
    What is the purpose of your life? How do you know/find it?
    Well... The second question is easy. You can't. We are rational creatures, but all that means is that we can know things conditionally: If this is true, then we can know this is true...

    We can never be assured of the truths to our premises. Because of that, all things must be taken on faith.

    Don't get me wrong I am not saying that truth does not exist. I am just saying that I do not believe mankind has the ability to obtain it through reason. Because I take it on faith that what my mind is telling me about the things I hear, see, taste, touch and smell, are true--all things I can know are conditionally based on faith.

    So it is faith that delvers us the truth, not reason. If Russell knows the truth, then it is his faith that holds him to the belief, not reason. And if he claimed to hold it through reason, he would be lying.

    Any way... I would say that this my 2 cents... but it looks more like a buck fifty.

    Thanks for reading if you did,

    Jeremy
    Last edited by Jeremy H; 05-10-2005 at 07:46 AM.

  11. #11
    unidentified hit record blp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by atiguhya padma
    Can a purposeless life be worth living?
    A contemplative one can and in contemplation the purposeless/purposeful binary seems to collapse in on itself. Just been reading a little about Sufism, the governing idea of which seems to be that the face of God is everywhere and everything, including your own thoughts, feelings and perceptions and the purpose of life is to surrender to this joyfully. I was interested because there was a documentary about Iranian filmmakers on TV here last night and one of them mentioned Sufism. Almost all of them talked about the need to negate the role of the director or the importance of listening and looking in their work and the films themselves are very contemplative. An American woman interviewed at a screening said something like 'I was aware of myself thinking about the film during the film and that's a real luxury.' Much of the world's great cinema has done this. It's the cinema's great hidden capability, the space it can create for contemplation, hidden by the demands of the entertainment market. When you do become quiet enough inside to see and hear, things become beautiful. This state of peace gives way or gives rise to action and one's purpose, always provisional, becomes whatever germinated and took root during the state of rest. Most of the great mystical traditions seem to teach a version of this and the idea that the face of God is in everything is an attempt to explain it.

  12. #12
    Hmmm,

    well I have always seen a proscribed purpose in Sufism. As you yourself noted in your post:

    the purpose of life is to surrender to this joyfully
    You see even in pure contemplation there is a purpose for man to conform himself to. The thing is, is man has these dual characteristics that war inside him. he both needs a purpose, and resist being conformed completely to any purpose.

    Because of that, if a person says 'live your life to surrender to the joy of seeing the face of God in all things..." well that is great, but it will be a daily struggle. It will give him a purpose though.

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    Saying that the face of God is in everything seems rather distasteful to me. I used to think that holism was a really great idea. Then someone asked me if I really liked the idea of being one with Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot.
    Faith is believing what you know ain't so - Mark Twain

    The preachers deal with men of straw, as they are men of straw themselves - Henry David Thoreau

    The way to see faith is to shut the eye of reason - Benjamin Franklin

    The teaching of the church, theoretically astute, is a lie in practice and a compound of vulgar superstitions and sorcery - Leo Tolstoy

  14. #14
    unidentified hit record blp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeremy H
    if a person says 'live your life to surrender to the joy of seeing the face of God in all things..." well that is great, but it will be a daily struggle. It will give him a purpose though.
    I'm not advocating Sufism or any other mystical tradition. I don't believe that the face of God is in all things, I said I thought that was an attempt to explain the effect of contemplation. I agree that attempting to surrender to that would become a daily struggle. Religion seems constantly to become arduous after initially promising liberation. I also don't think that the purpose of life is to be always contemplative. You can't end action, but contemplation is rest and you need that too. You could say then that contemplation has a purpose, even if it's to become temporarily purposeless. Fine. We're talking here about the purpose of life and my point was that this question diminishes in importance or collapses in on itself in the moment of contemplation.


    Alike for those who for TO-DAY prepare
    And those that after some TO-MORROW stare
    A Muezzin frome the Tower of Darkness cries,
    Fools! Your Reward is neither Here nor There.

    - Rubayat of Omar Kayam

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    unidentified hit record blp's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by atiguhya padma
    I used to think that holism was a really great idea. Then someone asked me if I really liked the idea of being one with Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot.
    Again, without wishing to advocate a position one way or the other, just because you don't like it doesn't philosophically invalidate it.

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