On the purpose of life


 In order to clearly understand the purpose of life, it is necessary to examine what life is and why man has a unique place in it. Life can be described as any organic entity that consumes food to survive and has the ability to reproduce. However man has one unique quality that sets him apart from all the other life forms on the earth. He can reason.. 
 Since man's earliest development his intelligence has been steadily increasing. Along with his intelligence has been this ability to reason. For example early man lived in caves which during the nighttime hours were cold and dark. After man discovered fire he saw the fire was both a source of heat and light. Taking this fire back to his cave made it warm and light. This early example of mans ability to reason is very basic but it already shows how man was already becoming the dominant species on the earth.
 From the earliest philosophers up until the present day, man has striven to understand his place in the cosmos. Has he been the product of a random series of coincidences, culminating in a biological chain reaction over millions of years? Or is there some higher purpose to his existence as yet undiscovered. As mentioned earlier, over the past three thousand years or so, man's place in the universe has been a source of conjecture and debate. However it is only man himself who assumes that there must be a higher purpose to his existence, in his position as the dominant species his arrogance has made him blind to the fact that there may be higher purposes for all of the earths species. After all what is the purpose of life if it does not pertain to ALL life.
 If there is a higher purpose to life then there are two main schools of thought. The first is that there is no purpose at all. Man is purely a biological entity. He is the product of millions of years of natural change, brought about by his environment. There is no "purpose" as such to his existence, he just is. The second theory is that he was placed here by a superior being. Who this being is, is open for debate. God, aliens, or something yet to be discovered. Whatever the theory, it basically assumes that man has been placed here for a purpose and it is up to us to ascertain what that purpose is.
 Reading between the lines we can see that the two schools of thought are science and religion. We can also see that neither side can prove that there is a purpose to man's existence on the planet. Science says there is no purpose so why do we need to look for one. Religion says there is a purpose and that we should actively seek it, but they have no proof to back up any religious claims that they make. 
 This then brings us back to the question of is there a purpose for man being here? Perhaps man should now take a different approach to this question. Life, ultimately, is a journey. From the moment of our conception , until the moment of our death. Man is traveling down a road toward his final destination (whatever that may be). From the time of Socrates we have been attempting to become closer to whoever sent us on this journey. Perhaps now should be the time, not to discover who sent us on our travels, but just to enjoy the ride.

I don’t really think that’s so much a fact as it is a failing argument.
Just kidding.

What the majority is doing right now is what they were “meant to do”.
Overpopulate, just like any other animal that is left unchecked.

Human reason and human intelligence don’t make humans all-out superior to other animals, in the same way as an eagle’s eyes do not make it all-out superior to humans.

Each expanded organ/sense is just a survival tool; that’s it.

A man’s life is just as meaningful as the life of a bacteria, but there is a difference:
One practices a much more complex dance of life then the other.
Ultimately, if humanity goes extinct [& is already extincting many other species & destroying nature] humanity proves to be the most inferior form on life on the entire planet, when we take into account ecology and sustainability.

I’d like to argue that humans are more meaningless then bacteria, though both are alive.

Dan~. Surely bacteria are more important to us than we are to them.


Most philosophers only think about life , they dont live it


Heh, you make it sound like thinking is not a part of it. You also say ‘philosophers only’ - quite a dim imagination, no?


The quote I was commenting on itself was intended to mean I believe , that thinking too much is counter productive , I assumed he had felt that in particular many philosophers have been guilty of thinking their life away , since he addresses folk in a philosophy forum . I was only agreeing


There is an obvious connection between thought and action.
One could say that to act is a mode of thinking and to think is a mode of acting.
Thing is existence is the perpetual state of acting/thinking and being acted upon.
To be alive is to be in constant action.

The issue, for me, boils down to the direction this acting/thinking is focused on or what is meant by the word “act”.

To act is most often defined as the thought that is directed towards the other(s) and in so doing it is the placing of one’s self within the world of otherness. It is to become involved and to create for others and towards others.
It’s relationship to theatrics is obvious. To act is to present a persona towards the world, to wear an identity in relation to that of others.
Most people find the act so directed as the only act worth doing. That is the act gains its value by how another appreciates it.
The self, then, acts upon the world and for the world and in return attains identity and self-worth from it.


This is the irony , a world full of academics stating there is no purpose , yet analyzing life to absurd levels . Atheist scientists and philosophers are themselves one of the most convincing arguments for God , its amusing


I’ve never heard this argument for god. Could you elaborate more?

“academics stating there is no purpose.” Academics will dismiss most claims about what life’s purpose is, but I don’t think they will label life as anything.

oldphil wrote:

That sure seems like what the top 20% or so of humanity who can afford to party is doing. The rest don’t seem to be enjoying the ride. What the hell eh? It doesn’t matter any way. Party on!!!

oldphil, hi. I have some old philosophy for you.

You want a reasoned but non-skeptical explanation for life. This is neither comtemporary empirical science no r religion. You need classical philosophy.

So I recommend you find a copy of Aristotle’s Nichomachian Ethics (there’s probably one online), and read at least the first book or two where he argues to the reason for human life. In fact, any classical ethicists will give you a better-reasoned argument on life than contemporary thinkers.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” – Plato
“Party on!” – Bill and Ted

life is the irreversable progress of physical experiance(some conscious some unconscious) the purpose of life is to arrive a goals.
goal # 1 is survival(all life forms do have this in common)
goal # 2 is pleasure(humans and a few other species(dolphins come to mind) strive for pleasure.

pleasure can be broken down into 2 types; the first is physical(sensual) pleasure, we have this in common with dolphins as ive read somewhere. the second is a solely mental and human pleasure, it originates out of a sense of competetion.

all humans strive for success, our motivation for success is a product of how we define success for ourselves. one man may be happy with a one bedroom apartment a job at a call center and a geo metro, while another may be happy with a penthouse loft, a BMW in the driveway and a six figure salary. that said evey human also has a potential, when we try to learn/ do anything there are certain limitations we as humans have to deal with.

these limitations are both mental and physical. some people are smarter than others and some people are more handy with manual labour/ physical skills. knowing our limitations and trying to exceed them are a result of the competetive nature of humans paired with our memory(which records our knowledge and experiance) . most people regardless of the role in society, will try to better themselves, some people will not. when we realize our limitations we become more effective people(as we don’t waste time on meaningless activities.

what we all have in common as human beings is that we have a purpose, the diverse range of possibilities set in front of your average man when held in conjunction with our freedom to define success for ourselves sets a many a trap for failure and opens a many a door for success. what seperates the successes from the failures is knowledge. if you know what your limitations and your goals in life are, you have a step on the competetion.
the driving force behind all human motivation is the knowledge of our limitations and our desire for success. that said there is no sole purpose to life (considering that we all define successs for ourselves) unless the purpose of life is to have a purpose.

Trevor, I like a lot of what you said about differing ends for different people – we do find differrent ways of fulfilling ourselves. But I have a quibble with a few things that do not exclude that.

As Aristotle also argues in his Ethics, pleasure is consequent with our ends, but the end is something different from the pleasure. Sometimes pleasures are matters of taste, as the taste of food can differ for a healthy and a sick man, and we can will that which is of physical distaste.

As for acting for survival, note how many pleasurable ends are linked with either our survival or growth as humans. As the medievals would say, the end of life is to become good and to have our goodness overflow onto others – like unto a tree bearing fruit.

It seems like parts of your post would go better with a deterministic view of man, seeking whichever pleasure comes upon him. But don’t we experience the ability to choose a moral pleasure over a physical pleasure?


i agree that pleasure is a consequent of some physical actions, as is pain. I also agree that depending on the state of your body your taste can change, just like plato said through socrates " wine doesn’t taste the same to sick socrates as it does to healthy socrates". also its quite obvious that we can aquire a taste for something that we might not have liked before out of familiarity with it (like vegtables to alot of children).

As for survival, (assuming survival of the species too) the most pleasurabe act on the planet is also the most useful to the species(sex/reproduction) though in modern time sex is more for pleasure than anything else (contraception), also there is food and drink which offer us a broad range of possibilities for pleasure and the same while keep us alive. breathing air(the most natural and common action of all land animals) is not as much a matter of taste than necessity.although someone who live in mexico city would rave
about my air(cape breton in canada) as there is no smog or vast ammounts of pullution(disregarding the tar ponds).

i would not consider myself to believe that everything is pre-determined (as I have the freedom to choose what i do most of the time) but there are certain aspects of life that i can’t change by simply deciding to do so.
I can choose what food and drink i consume(but its a necesity for me to eat/ drink/ breath/ if i want to survive. I can choose to buy whatever I want(from retailers, as slavery/buying stolen items are illegle) but i have to have money to buy these things and thus its a necessity to have to work or inheret money from some other means/lottery ect.) there are lots of thing i can choose and there are a lots of things that are predetermined, and that is why i dont think purely “free will” can exist (because the will can’t be free from consequences) or that everything is predetermined (because i have my preferences). as regards your question of choice between “moral pleasure” and “physical pleasure” i start by saying that i assume by “moral pleasure” you mean one applying to the mind moreso than the body(as the body is still present in thinking), and “physical pleasure” as pertaining to the senses. we have the ability to choose alot of things , we can choose to believe or question, “do” or not “do”, the end result of our choice is always action(whether its the mental act of deliberation/belief or the physical action of spatial movement through our environment) and the fact is we can only know for certain things of which we have experiance, that said I think the most improtant skill we as humans have is our thinking as it allows us to undertand our limitations and thinking in conjunction with memory gives us the ability to learn. knowledge is what allows us to become effective people when we decide to act on any impulse, we may have an impulse that we know is illogical (pick up that shady looking hitchhiker, while driving alone in the countryside) or (try to pick up that girl that is standing by that lumberjack looking guy at the bar) but that said the end result of any action is always pleasure/pain success/failure. I told my fried once, that we make a million decision in our lifes but the good part is that we only need to get the big decisions right. aka alot of our decisions are trivial. the important ones are the decisions which we have to pay more attention to. thats why knowledge is the most improtant persuit in human life, it prepares us for our big decisions. but back on topic , the purpose we have is our own to make and only after we act on a priori assumptions do we find out for certain if they were right. alot of “assumption” can be “known” before we act through the process of communication; communication allows us to learn from others actions(as long as we trust the source)