In the last article of the Philosophy series we’ve established that whilst there is a chance that there is something like inherit meaning to human existence and existence in general we have to assume that there is none. This leaves us in a pretty difficult situation . If there’s nothing like God or fate how do we know what to do? How do we determine how to spend our time if nothing matters anyways?
The first action is to take a step back and reevaluate. That existence in general might be the luckiest coincidence in the history of literally everything doesn’t mean that we have to take this grand perspective. Everything that truly matters are only the things that affect what we consider ourselves, and this can naturally only happen during our lifetime, as our conscious most likely dies when we do. In essence this means to only focus on the events within our lifetime and how we can influence them, as everything in the past is definitely out of reach and everything in the far future probably is, too.
This brings us back to our needs, which we have to accept in order for us to live a happy life, with the most important being self-actualization. Fulfilling this need can proof to be tricky, however, as knowing that existence is most likely pointless makes it difficult to find meaning in anything. A point that I’ve made previously, is, that if nothing has meaning inherently, we are free to give it to everything as we please, which is one of the fundamental thoughts of existentialism. But if we do this there are two dilemmas to consider:
- What do we give meaning to?
- How do we justify giving meaning to something in the first place?
Let’s discuss point number two first, as if we can’t solve this dilemma, number one doesn’t make any sense at all. Knowing, that nothing has inherent meaning and then giving meaning to something you deem worthy yourself sounds rather hypocritical. So hypocritical, in fact, that you might as well come to the conclusion, that you’ve just created another illusion for yourself, just as religion or spiritualism or dogmatic teachings of all kinds offer already. Haven’t you just overcome these illusions? But exactly this is of the utmost importance in this particular case. Because you have overcome the dogmas of the past you can now use your own mind to make up your own understanding of the world, based on what you know to be true or most reliable according to your own knowledge in this particular moment, at the least. If science discovers something new that challenges this newly constructed world view of yours, you just adapt, which is the main difference between the previously mentioned dogmatic ways of life and your own, knowledge-based world view.
This doesn’t solve our first problem, however: How do we decide, what to give meaning to? In the end, everyone will have to decide for themselves and I can imagine, that some people will find it satisfying enough and even freeing to essentially be able to to whatever they feel like doing. Bur for others, who might feel like the meaninglessness of existence has left a gap it might help to consider one’s own inherently human nature. We all have needs and interests to be satisfied. To reevaluate where they come from and if they’re necessary for your own existence in the set time frame which is your life, will be the first task at hand. This will require defining what human nature itself is, what needs are and how they correspond to interests and what’s truly necessary to live a happy life. The concept of self and the question whether it actually exists, at least in the way we like to think of it, is another issue, that will have to be dealt with.
To summarize, meaninglessness gives us the opportunity to decide for ourselves what we give meaning to and why. For some, this might come easier than for others, depending on what kind of person one is. One can either literally just do what one feels like doing or question why we feel these feelings, needs, urges and interests in the first place and whether they are worth keeping or not. In order for us to find an answer to this question we will have to try to get to the bottom of human nature itself and whether there actually is a thing like it.
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