RE: The Quest for the Purpose of Life

From: Phil Osborn (
Date: Sun Jan 27 2002 - 17:54:51 MST

This is so-oo depressing. Like, how many times do we have to keep re-inventing the wheel?

Ayn Rand covered this topic rather well, I thought, and I would have assumed that as astute a group as extropians would surely have absorbed at least the basics of Rand's thought with their mother's milk.

Briefly, the question "what is the purpose of life," contains an error of category. Things only HAVE purposes TO living entities. Purpose to WHOM and FOR WHAT???? Purpose only has meaning with regard to a living entity. To ask then - what is the purpose of LIFE? - is meaningless. LIFE creates and identifies purposes. (This does not mean, however, that all purposes are equally valid. Life itself - and each living entity - has a specific identity.)

Outside of life, what could it possibly mean for something to have a purpose? (Mind you, I'm not restricting "life" to a simple-minded CHO/DNA model. Any entity which has a certain set of system properties potentially qualifies, including virtual models - eg., uploads. As Rand put it, life is a process of self-generated and self-sustaining action. But that's not an exhaustive definition, and without further explication of the term "action," as opposed to simple motion, as well as the concept of a "process," there are still vast potential epistemological pitfalls.)

It is the lack of precision in terms such as "life," "process," "action," "value," "purpose," "moral," "ethical," and a host of similar or related concepts (and include "concept," or course) which enables these endless meandering, largely purposeless opinionfests. Rand by no means completed the job of clarification of these issues, but I suggest that those who are seriously interested in discovering useful knowledge take a look at what she did accomplish. It can really help clear out some of the fog.

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