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The Meaning of Life (Part One)

Posted by spritzophrenia on June 3, 2010

Post number 56! It’s about time I said more about this book I’m supposedly working on. Haven’t got too far with it on paper yet, it’s all in my head. I’m a little distracted with ideas for novels, too, whereas this will be non-fiction. As I’ve said, Spritzophrenia is to help flesh out ideas for my writing among other things. Your comments will help a lot with this.

A major theme will be the “meaning of life”. Cue all the humorous lines from Monty Python and The Hitchhiker’s Guide. While genuinely funny, what these works do is display an underlying cynicism; they suggest the question is absurd and unknowable, therefore the quest is laughable. But I digress.

Of course, the number one question readers will want answered is this: Yes, I do think I’ve discovered the meaning of life. I do believe I have a satisfying answer for the big question. That’s for another time. For now, some thoughts around the topic.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide is right in one major respect: The question itself needs some unpacking first. What do we mean when we ask “what is the meaning of life?” I think meaning must be distinguished from purpose. The problem is, “what is the purpose of life” is much easier to talk about than the “meaning”. The purpose of life is either “there is none” or “what the creator intends”, depending on one’s religious point of view.

Meaning of Life

However, the “meaning” of life is something felt personally, it’s something that I think must be apprehended or ‘felt’. By analogy, if I’m shown a mountain view and have the concept of beauty explained, I won’t really understand until I feel or experience beauty for myself. Meaning is the same, it’s something that has to be felt. This is not to say meaning is irrational or has no logical base. Far from it. However, the logical side of meaning doesn’t truly satisfy, it’s the personal experience of meaning that we seek when we seek the meaning of life.

I have much more on this, but will let it out in small doses. I’m a little concerned that unpacking the question in good ole philosophical style will be dull and beyond many people. Guess I’ll have to deal with that when the time comes. What do you think? Will the general reader sit through this kinda stuff?

What do you think?

6 Responses to “The Meaning of Life (Part One)”

  1. Cristine said

    I agree! people confuse the “meaning” and “purpose” of life frequently. It is not the same and your life can have and should have several purposes. anything that mentions “Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy” will never bore me 😉

  2. Well, Jonathan it’s a huge endeavor. My dad tackles many of these ideas in his book or should I say ‘tomb.’ The meaning of Life – decide who your audience is. If it’s academic, it should be a thesis. If not, than pop it. Douglas Adams does this well. I find it all very interesting but I’m an anomaly.

  3. Iain said

    Being a philosopher, I may represent an unfair vote on the subject, but I look forward to more irrespective of how philosophical you get.

    I personally can’t see the difference between meaning and purpose of life.

    Perhaps that is because i know something interesting, or perhaps that is because it reveals something about me!

    If our meaning or purpose is not set externally, for example by some divinity, then in my thinking my life’s own purposes become the source by which I find meaning. For me, they intertwine in a way that I can’t really comprehend having a purpose with no meaning or meaning but no purpose. I think if I were purposeless then i would feel very empty and lacking significance (and hence meaningless).

    • Heh. I can appreciate your interest in philosophy Iain. I did half my undergrad degree in it, but don’t regard myself as particularly strong there. Please have patience and feel free to correct me if I make obvious mistakes.

      I like your thoughts on the impossibleness of disconnecting meaning and purpose. Will credit you 😉

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