Due to the nature of my previous prose piece of a similar title, I will attempt to make a formal logical argument. If you want a narrative, emotive piece – please see that post. This should be straight clean logic.
Proposed Answer: Life is meaningless.
1. having significance or purpose
2. A Purpose beyond mere existence, lasting a significant amount of time, and impacting the Universal system in a significant and lasting way.
3. ‘meaning is a relationship between two sorts of things: signs and the kinds of things they mean (intend, express or signify).
1. Limited for the purposes of this debate to Higher Life forms, composed of self-awareness, sentience, rationality, will, and other such energies captured in a corporeal body, which it can self-motivate to a definite end, and proceed to (when matured), independently take care of certain functions necessary for it’s own survival. Rocks have none of these capabilities. Trees have some, but not all, ergo not higher forms. Certain animals and robots seemingly fulfill these criteria. However, for our debate we will limit the scope of the argument to the average human life.
Qualifier 1. Meaning does denote value. To say that Human life has no meaning is saying that human life has no significant value.
Qualifier 2. Meaning, in this sense, is an absolute meaning, impacting every human life everywhere, as opposed to local, or individual self-created meaning.
Supporting assumption to Qualifier 2. The crux of this statement does not encompass Individuals creating their own personal meanings.
1. Supporting Proposition: Life is temporary. Meaning should have eternal ramifications. If not eternal, than long-lasting impact noticeable in the entire system.
Corollary 1.B. The proportion of time lived by even the oldest human, when compared to the age of the universe is negligible.
Proof of Corollary 1.B. The longest unambiguously documented human lifespan is that of Jeanne Calment of France (1875–1997), who died at age 122 years, 164 days. [Whitney, Craig R. (5 August 1997). “Jeanne Calment, World’s Elder, Dies at 122”. The New York Times. Retrieved 2 March 2008.] The current age of the Universe, according to NASA, is 13.75 ± 0.13 billion years since the Big Bang. This means that the ratio of the longest human life to the age of the universe is 1: 8.87272727×10-9 .Put another way, Since the dawn of time, 932,377,049 Jeanne’s could have lived and died, never overlapping a day, in the time the universe has existed. Now, the average human life is significantly shorter than that, though in the USA, we all anticipate roughly 80 years +/- 5. This means that the average human life length is, for all practical purposes, a negligible unit of time. Nearly everything else in the universe lasts far longer: Stars are anywhere from 1 to 10 Billion years old. The Earth is 4.54 billion years old. The Solar System is slightly older at 4.6 Billion Years.
Conclusion of Corollary 1.B. Human Life lacks value to the Universe, because it lacks comparative individual longevity.
Counter Argument 1 to Corollary 1.B. Preponderance of Human Life is a significant amount of time.
Counter Argument 2 to Corollary 1.B. Length does not denote meaning, any more than it denotes value.
Counter Question 1: What qualifications bestow meaning at an absolute level?
Supporting Assumption 1 to Counter Question 1: Assuming freewill (opposed to determinism which we will ignore based on Heisenberg’s Uncertainty principle, theoretical probability, and indications by theoretical physics that pure chance and pure randomness actually exist in our system due to acute understandings of entropy), Individuals can choose their own personal meaning and reasons for existence, which is not necessarily impacted by a absolute meaning, and has little or no necessary effect upon said absolute meaning. Individual meaning can exist completely separate from any real or imagined absolute meaning.
Supporting Corollary 1 to Supporting Assumption 1 to Counter Question 1. Imagined or real Absolute meaning can directly impact human A’s personal meaning, provided they are aware of the Meaning, assuming freewill.
Supporting Corollary 2 to Supporting Assumption 1 to Counter Question 1. Imagined or Real Absolute meaning can indirectly impact human A’s personal meaning via social contact, environment, and instilled worldview assumptions.
Supporting Corollary 3 to Supporting Assumption 1 to Counter Question 1. Imagined or Real Absolute meaning can indirectly impact human A’s personal meaning via other human actions (Human B) and interactions with human A, based on Human B’s own unique understandings of meaning, and his social context.
Response to Counter Question 1. There are only a handful of possibilities that can bestow a perceived Absolute meaning of any sort: The Universe itself, or a God-being. Either we have to have significance in the self-contained system, or if the system has a non-selfcontained origin, than we must matter to it. If we don’t matter in the system, or to the creator being, then we have no meaning.
Other than being possible perpetuation of probability, which makes us a curiosity, and/or a possibly unique existence, we have no inherent value to a self-contained universe.
Here I will divulge from the aforestarted format and resume prose.
If God exists, and he created the life, and it is important to him, then he would have the prerogative to set the “purpose” or meaning of his creation. Now for some speculation into the possible mind of God. This purpose could be an aesthetic generality: God created complex creatures, and there is beauty in the complexity. Ergo, Humanities purpose is the same as Art. According to Oliver Wilde, all art is essentially useless. What he means is that when art has a purpose, it ceases to be art. Art is the creative expression of a creative mind. It must simply be. Ergo, if humanity is simply the creative expression of a creative mind, then Humanity can have no purpose. It must simply be. If humanity has a God-given purpose, then life can’t simply be art. It must be functional. This purpose could be amusement for the God-being. In this case, humanity’s purpose is the same as toys in a chest: to entertain and delight. It could be as a science experiment, or a social experiment, or some other experiment. Whatever his intent, if he exists, and if he created humanity, then our purpose must be found in his intent.
If we are products of the Universe, then our meaning – if it exists – must be found in the scope of the universe, but as I mentioned earlier, in an impersonal universe, we are merely curiosities arisen from the anthropic principle of actualized probabilities. We matter, because we are one of the many culminations of probability. We matter no more than stars, or trees, or the dodo bird, for we are all just expressions of probability, and our very existence is enough for that slight meaning. In that understanding, the actions that preserve complexity and states of an even less probability are the only actions that matter, which lends itself to an extreme form of environmental conservatism, and genetic manipulation for reaching and actualizing human and animal evolutionary potential.
What has meaning? What really matters? Sex? Money? Power? Fame? Fortune? Happiness? Sadness? Tragedy? Murder? Disaster? Creation? The problem with each of these is that they don’t really matter, because when we die, and everyone who ever knew us is dead, it will be as if it never happened. If you spend your life building a company, and that company becomes highly successful, is that meaningful? You will soon die, and what good will it do you? Let’s pretend that it was a company that created a service that enriched the lives of many, and lets also suppose that 50% of the net profit was given to charity. Will that company have mattered? I will argue no. First, everyone that the company helps will soon die. Maybe tomorrow, maybe 70 years from now, but they will all die.
You will then attempt to argue quality of life, and the company’s massive contribution to quality of life. Who are we to say that one form of existence is truly better than another? How is wealth and luxury any better than poverty and misery? In the end, everyone dies naked and alone. I submit to you that a child in Africa with HIV and Malaria is in an equal existence to a healthy child attending prep school. We all die. It doesn’t matter whether or not you played with corporations, or sticks, luxury cars, or taped up soccer balls. Education, and jobs, and ladder climbing, and money: what does it lead to? More stuff, new and different forms of stress, and concerns that never existed.
It can lead to higher appreciations of beauty and complexity, or toward facilitating systems and states of a higher statistical improbability. In this, those things could matter, minutely. But for the vast majority of people who have no chance nor the capability of facilitating greater significant statistical improbability, there misery means no more than the wealth and comfort of the better off.
Why is a concern free life preferred to one that has no concerns? It stems from laziness, and aversion to conflict, coupled with an evolutionary desire to live as long as we can. We don’t like to be uncomfortable. This is our fundamental axiom on which our whole value system has been erected. Comfort. Ease. Comfort is easier, requires less effort, and less focus. They are “lower forms of energy expenditure”. Entropy. It is entropy that dictates that luxury, stress/worry free life is preferred. It is entropy that dictates that health and wealth is preferred to sickness and poverty. Happiness is easy, effortless. Stress/Misery are painful and ergo require higher energy states. So the pursuit of happiness is a bit of a conundrum: lifelong energy expenditure at a high level in pursuit of a nearly unreachable low energy expenditure state: happiness.
Contentment, or lack of desire is truly the quickest way to be happy. When you have no expectations, except to expect what happens, and you do not care for wealth, power, glory, status, power, etc only then can you be content and truly happy. Desire is the root of ambition. It is the root of all motivations. When you desire something, you move to higher energy states in pursuit. This causes suffering and pain. Most of us would agree that the pain of striving toward a goal is a good pain. If there can be good pain, why can’t all pain be good? Rather, why can’t all pain be neutral? There is no good pain, or bad pain. It merely exists, and that is all we can say about it. Suffering should be a motivator to elevate oneself out of there misery. Or one can accept the suffering, and be content in their lot, and try to live out there days in contentment at their status. They will experience misery in their suffering, only suffering. That is the human condition. Some live in constant pain, with constant want. Others live a pain free life, and want for nothing. Most fall somewhere in between. None are better than the others.
Going back to the question of meaning: So your life made other’s lives less painful. So? Why does this matter? In 80 years it will all be gone. Nothing you do or say lasts. Nothing you do or say makes an impact of any lasting significance.
Ergo, Some will argue the inverse: Anything that makes anyone’s life better has meaning and significance. Every single positive act has meaning. But again, in the end, it all disappears. It is all erased. It mattered for an instant, to those who it meant something, but the rest of humanity, yea the Universe little knows nor cares.
Thus we enter relativistic meaning. Things only mean something to those that they mean something to. We then must become unconcerned with ULTIMATE meaning, for we realize that there is none. The maximum amount of impact we can hope to have is a few thousand years, if we do something big enough and profound enough like start a religion, or conquer a continent, or build some great work, knowing that in a few hundred thousand years that nothing you built will remain, and nothing you dream will survive, and no nation you lead will likely exist. In short, it means nothing outside of the time in affects, and due to the nature and age of the universe is not comparatively long, nor significant. The most significant thing possible would be to create a new universe, or destroy the current one, and even that would not ultimately matter, as the universal present is the only real measure of meaning, as that golden measure slowly advances like the rising tides, smearing the footsteps in the sands, until the currents erase them completely.
In short, nothing matters, because Death puts a great big period at the end of everything. Death becomes that punctuation of finality.
These are some places I stole the photos from: