Re: The Quest for the Purpose of Life

From: Samantha Atkins (
Date: Wed Feb 06 2002 - 15:34:08 MST

Emlyn O'regan wrote:

> I understand completely what you are saying here. How can you make a
> difference, when all you can really do is to be born, rearrange atoms for a
> time, then die?
> It seems that, when we decide that we exist in a universe with no objective
> "purpose" built in, we have no foundation for any choice of moral criteria.
> There is no point to anything in such a scenario, by definition.
> People have been claiming that you can just draw a line in the sand...
> choose your own axioms for systems of purpose, morality, etc. This had been
> my position until recently too, and I guess it still defacto is, given that
> I have nothing to replace it.
> Unfortunately, that seems to be a house of cards. The problem is that you
> can change your mind about your fundamental axioms, and are ignoring the
> question "how do I choose my axioms? Why?". This underlines the fact that
> these so called "chosen axioms" are not axiomatic after all, and are in fact
> derived from somewhere else. Where? Probably an heterogenous mishmash of
> prior social programming, lurking under the covers. Unsatisfactory. And when
> we try to apply a structured system, like scientific inquiry, to the task,
> no headway is made.

Well, it is a sort of bootstrap problem. You define the best
goal-structure you can from where you are if you are to keep
moving and simply not lay down and die or merely survive.
Hopefully that goalset includes enough growth, experience,
self-examination and (for extropians especially) expansion of
abilities and working intelligence that you can later on
re-analyse your drivers, motivations, goals and where they come
from and create a more refined set. Of course there are no
guarantees up front that the process doesn't break down sooner
or later. There never are in any process that may be referred
to as life.

> People dismiss this question in general, I think, because it is very very
> hard, upsetting to contemplate, and has no real impact on day-to-day life
> (or so they like to delude themselves).

It has tremendous impact actually. Or it does for me.

- samantha


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