Friday, September 24, 2010

What Gives Meaning to Human Life?

I want to revisit an idea from one of my earlier posts, on materialism. Theists and anti-Atheists argue that materialism implies:
  1. There is no ultimate meaning.
  2. Human lives are meaningless.
This argument is fairly common, so I do not feel the need to provide a number of links and references. I hope that one link will suffice, to the ID website Uncommon Descent. Several comments in the linked thread give one or both implications I identify above.

Returning to the two implications, we see first that the exact claim of #1 needs clarification and second that claim #2 seems obviously to be false.

With #1, I do not see the direct implication of materialism and the absence of ultimate meaning. With # 2, I think it’s obvious that people can themselves determine a meaning or multiple meanings for their lives. Example meanings might include family, occupation, knowledge, and wealth. People can and do live with a sense of priorities and obligations, and these are the hallmarks of meaning.

To clarify #1, we might use the claim in a simple syllogism:
  • If materialism is true, then there is no ultimate meaning to human life.
  • Lack of ultimate meaning is undesirable.
  • Therefore, it is undesirable that materialism would be true.

I think this is a valid argument, but it is unsound. I disagree with the second premise and cannot tell whether the first premise is true. So, although we understand the function of the premise, we’re back to my original confusion. Let’s back into another syllogism by making the premise into a conclusion:
  • If materialism is true, then X.
  • If X is true, then there is no ultimate meaning to human life.
  • If materialism is true, then there is no ultimate meaning to human life.

Our syllogism has succeeded in allowing us to define what we need to understand. Some property of materialism, X, precludes the existence of ultimate meaning such that X and the existence of ultimate meaning cannot both be true. In any case, the syllogism seems to indicate this preclusion. I think it's more prudent to see if we can understand X before assessing the validity of the claim that X and the existence of ultimate meaning exclude each other.

To understand what X is, then, we need to ask and understand what gives meaning--and then ultimate meaning--to human life. In a future post or posts, I hope to explore what specifically might fit into this X position.


  1. NEW GAME WITH YOU LITTLE F*CKERS - SPEAK N DIE. Come see the latest DM videos for your viewing pleasure!


    And the Pope is 100% correct: The Nazis and the atheists both wish to ABOLISH FAITH....


    hawking is WRONG

    science cannot explain NOTHING!



  2. Wow, I first-class nutbag commenting here. How nice.

    Now fuck off.


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