The Quest for the Purpose of Life

From: Chen Yixiong, Eric (
Date: Tue Jan 22 2002 - 23:05:32 MST

Topic Question: "What is the meaning/purpose of life?"

Unfortunately, due to the limitations of my finite knowledge and existence I cannot answer this question adequately. I had yet to figure out fully what the meaning of life.

The quest for the meaning of life does not seek to discard or to preserve older answers to this question.

It transcends ethics for one must define this meaning to define ethics. It goes beyond religions because it does not have any concept of monopoly. It should not rest solely with science and mathematics because of Gödel's Theorem, which tells us we cannot know everything. It can concern the soul, but should not rely on it for its validity.

It would not provide an excuse for inaction because it should motivate us to do whatever we discovered we should do. It should not have to explain the past (where we have ignorance) but to guide our actions in the present and the future.

Rather than live from day to day without meaning, it asks us to take time to reflect and ask ourselves about the meta-goals and meta-purpose of our lives. Asking this simple question seriously of "Why do I exist and what should I do?" seems like the most neglected activity in modern society.

To keep true to this quest, one should avoid unnecessary associations with previous established schools of thought on this topic nor to assert one's belief of the meaning of life over others.

I have some candidates:

- Knowledge: We exist to learn, both about our inner world and our outer world, even if we could never achieve this goal. We should boldly go where none has gone before. The theory of the Universe as a Computer Simulation seems to imply this.

- Self-actualization: We should strive to maximize our time in the "flow" state where we achieve the optimum level and amount of challenges.

- Subjective: Everyone has their own meaning in life, if they seek it.

Questionable but probable:

- Death: The meaning of life lies with death, for all things that exist must eventually crease to exist. No entity can expect to live forever, and so we should get on with our fear of death and do whatever we think we must do. If so, voluntary dying would help achieve such a purpose.

- Happiness: We have purpose when we have happiness. Taking an emotional altering drug without side-effects might help (like "soma" in the "Brave New World").

- Null: The question has no validity. Life has no meaning. We just exist. This does not answer the question or perhaps it replaces this with another question.

- Serving metaphysical entities: We have to serve certain entities or an entity. Especially when such entities somehow do not directly communicate with us, we might have to ask what the entity/entities want us to do. Even more so, we may wonder why the entity wants us to do these things as we would have to ask about the purpose of its existence (which we would have to help attain). This certainly invites more questions than answers.

- The Quest itself: What if God (if He exists) have a wield sense of humor? We might well find such a question as its own answer!

May the force be with you.

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