RE: The Quest for the Purpose of Life

From: Chen Yixiong, Eric (
Date: Sun Jan 27 2002 - 07:42:21 MST

> Obviously the intent of you asking these questions is very serious, which is
> appreciated in a community such as this. But my opinion is if you want
> serious answers, then ask the question(s) seriously, being specific, and
> preferably one question per conversation thread to start with.

Thank you for your advice, and the references provided by some others. I will attempt to read on them, but for the moment, I would
like to continue this thread before it dries up.

I had attempted to do the best of my abilities to ask people to consider this question: "Why do we live, and continue living?" From
the looks of the responses I think I had failed.

I ask more probe-questions in the second mail because it seems like my main question cannot get through, and one should not construe
them as separate questions. I ask probe-questions not as implied goals but as questions. I want to know why and how, but so far I
had received unsatisfactorily answers.

No matter what, I don't necessarily demand absolute answers. I would like people to consider this seriously, and not dismiss it with
the flick of the finger citing inconsistency, impossibility or perhaps just plain dismissal due to personal belief.

If we do not have meta-goal type thinking to guide us, then how do we do things like formulating ethics and devising philosophy? I
would like to know this very much. Why do we do what we do, and what guides us to do so? What makes of think of "right" and "wrong",
"acceptable" and "unacceptable" and many other things?

If we consider everything relative, then we can never condemn Hitler for gassing Jews nor praise Mother Theresa for helping the
unfortunate. So, why do we believe in progress, in freedom and in perusing the unknown? How can two nulls make a one?

I wonder that perhaps here, we would encounter Gödel's Theorem again. How do we know that "something is preferable over nothing
including even the experience of nothing"? I don't want to know that we wish to survive, but for what reason do we even bother to
survive? I don't want to know about freedom, but why do we even survive and how do we know we should desire freedom. It seems like
when we have ignorance we have confusion, but when we have knowledge we have delusions. How do we transcend this?

Taking the cue from, why do we get up in the morning? If we do so to experience
happiness, to increase knowledge and to contribute to altruism, which will lead to a better universe, then how do we know we have a
better universe. How would such a universe differ from our own? Why would we decide that we should target this "better"?

Would a sentient intelligence do better than us even if it converted the entire universe into computing substrate? One day it would
have to stop existing, even if we put the day of reckoning away by migrating to other universes accidents can still happen, and
given eternity, the probability of any improbable event happening will eventually go to one.

Knowing our long-term mortality, what do that do then? If we will have to die some day, then why do we live? [Please avoid viewing
this from a "pessimistic" point but maintain a neutral one.] Does our happiness, knowledge and other things really matter? Do we
really have freedom?

Why should we seem to fear unfamiliar thinking like this? Surely, we would like to boldly go where no one has gone before. Why do
some of us dismiss the possibility of existential meta-goals? Did we ever consider why we "should" to progress, to live forever, to
build sentient computers and millions of other possibilities that we can barely catch a glimpse that future technology allows us?

Maybe my writings still cannot convey my question adequately. For that I offer my apologies. I hope someone can help clarify in such
a case. Meanwhile, I would like to advise on avoiding making personal attacks on this potentially sensitive topic.

I hope this helps.

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