The Meaning Of Life

If life is meaningless and pointless, then why were we born at all? That tremendously complex and expensive enterprise? The only conclusion is that life is not meaningless and pointless.

If all life starts, exists, ends. Whether short, long, simplex, complex; whether it lasts one minute long or as long the universe; even the universe itself, dies eventually. Does that make a short life inside it pointless? We die eventually; does that make the life of one of our cells pointless?

The refutation of nihilism rests upon the definition of meaning. What does it mean for life to have meaning and purpose?

Take two lives, one with meaning and purpose, and one with none. How are they different? Perhaps they are identical. Perhaps the life without meaning feels more sad because it feels its life is meaningless! - a circular argument!

Let's take a counter argument, that life lasts forever, that history will be preserved, that entropy does not always increase with time and that humanity and the universe was eternal. Would that be more a comforting universe than the opposite? Is immortality itself more comforting and meaningful than a mortal life, or less? Or the same?

We exist because we observe that we exist, and by extension the meaning of life is defined by our belief in it. This is not a trick or self-delusion; we create meaning by belief in it exactly because meaning is a very personal expression and conclusion. It can't be given, and is never certain or completely provable.

This is true for all life-forms and information systems. Meaning and belief are conclusions that result from every sense input, it is an identification of pattern, and because every information system and being has different inputs and information storage and processing systems, the pattern is unique for each of us, is inherently so.

The purpose of life then will fundamentally always be different to each of us. The best we can do is recognise and tolerate that fact.

This has implications for truth of any sort which has the same limitations. Whatever a fact is, at best we can only glimpse part of it via our imperfect senses and make a personal conclusion based on that image. It's always possible that some parts of the truth are invisible, and we can never know which parts or how vast or tiny or significant those parts are.

Mark Sheeky, 8 March 2014