This comes from a previous post but I didn’t want to go too far off on that post, so I decided to write a completely different post for this one. For me, the meaning of life comes down to doing something where you consider that activity greater than your own life. To put it another way, it’s where you use yourself as a means to further some other end. Socrates died for Philosophy, Bill Gates is dedicating his life to computers (and now to charities), and terrorists are killing themselves for some cause that they consider greater than themselves.
For example, my friend does computer programming and programs video games. I’m sure he considers that as a full meaning of life and he’s happy about his prospect where he says to himself, “this is the goal that I want to do with my life.” He uses himself If I was able to do that, it would be cool to know the talent, but I don’t think I could be happy doing it for my whole life. For me, playing games is what I do to pass the time, something to do while hanging out with friends, or simply to have little pleasures in life. I can’t see myself doing that as the end result of my whole life.
Now with me, I dedicate my life to philosophy and wisdom. I love learning about new ideas and what the world looks like with these ideas, or perhaps what the world should look like. I use myself (I’m a means) to reach out some goal (toward an ends). I can say to myself, “I am happy by doing this for the rest of my life.” With other people that I meet, these are the responses that I usually get:
- “That seems hard.” They see philosophy as something that is too challenging for their life and so they don’t want to think about. I call these the philosophical lazy people.
- “I’m afraid I might lose my faith in. . .” They see philosophy as challenging common held beliefs like religion or the external world. I call these people the philosophical cowards.
- And perhaps the common answer: “It’s fun, but I don’t think I could do this for the rest of my life.” They see philosophy as something to pass the time, something to do while you’re socializing with friends over coffee or alcohol, and not something that you do academically. I call these people pleasure philosophers.
Now they all don’t see philosophy as the meaning of their lives. In the same way, I can’t see myself making video games as the meaning to my life. (I’d probably be in the third category when it comes to video games.) But that’s ok. I would rather have people do something for the rest of their life being fulfilled at whatever they do; it’s something where they can say to themselves, “Yes, I can see myself doing this for the rest of my life.” But more than that, it’s where you dedicate your whole life towards it. In a way, it’s a form of immortality. We all know Plato, regardless if you’ve studied philosophy or not because he dedicated his whole life to philosophy. If I write a book, then I will be immortal, in a sense, because my “footprint” or “stamp” is left on the world. With my video game friend, his “footprint” or “stamp” is left on the world when he dies, and thus he’s leaving a part of him behind as well.
So to sum up, if someone asks me what I consider the meaning of life, my answer would be something like “it’s where you do some sort of activity where you consider that activity greater than your own life.”
Or perhaps as an alternative: if you’re doing some activity and you say to yourself, “is this all that life has to offer?” then you are not fulfilling your meaning of life. It’s where you can be proud of leaving your “footprint” or “stamp” behind when you die.
I realize there can be many replies to this, but I wanted to see what everyone else thought and perhaps give some responses to this. Any thoughts?