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The meaning of life

Helen's thoughts

Today in my Philosophy class we discussed the meaning of life, brought up by me. All of us have probably thought about it at some point in our life, maybe we're still pondering now. But I thought "Why not bring it up in my philosophy class?" since I've never had a philosophy class before, and I knew it'd be fun to discuss it with my professor, Allen Costell. He's one hell of a guy. It was kind of scary to really think about it though. Most people don't bring up meaning of life as a discussion because it's kind of an unwritten rule that it's sort of something you figure out on your own. Also, what if you don't like the conclusion to your meaning of life? What if it's all pointless? It's a really depressing thought.

For our discussion, we brought up ideas that people have about the meaning of life. What is it? Most people brought up "pursuit of happiness", "work/live", "social/relationships/love". I brought up "preparation for the afterlife". (You can tell I'm really proud of myself for bring up these "edgy" things, right? Lol)
Throughout our discussion, I've noticed that there's really 2 meanings of life that our class seems to have focused on: pursuit of happiness, and preparation for afterlife. It seems we all agreed that so long as we're alive, we should be happy while doing so. But Costell pointed no matter how happy we are in this life, if we're all going to die and cease to exist, none of the happiness seems to really matter. That's how I see a lot of things sometimes, and why sometimes I avoid parties. Because no matter how great time I had at the party, the fact that it'll always end really depresses me. Now I either don't go to parties, or I try to stay low at the party. There are of course exceptions to this, especially depending on the people I'm with, but I'm sort of a glass-half-empty person. Anyway, I digress.

Costell then told us that because the thought that everything ceases after death is rather depressing, the preparation for afterlife has a great amount of appeal to people, and seems to make sense. Preparing for the afterlife makes this life seem more bearable, and more worthwhile. We then kinda got into discussion about what kind of afterlife to believe in: the Western afterlife (based loosely on Christianity, heaven/hell, etc) or the Easter afterlife (based loosely on Hinduism, Nirvana, reincarnation,etc). Most of my class argued more from the point that there's no afterlife, but you can still live happy lives, knowing that it'll end. Carpe diem, basically. I pointed out that you can live both happy lives, at the same time prepping for the afterlife. For example, Christians are promised a fulfilling life that would pave their way to an even better afterlife, and I think that struck a chord with some of my classmates that might not have thought of it.

What I thought was really interesting though, was discussing Pascal's Wager. Basically, a philosopher named Pascal made a case for believing in God. Basically, there's 4 outcomes for whether or not you believe in Him, and whether or not He exists:
1) You believed in God and He exists: heaven for you! Eternal youth, riches, gates and roads paved with gold!
2) You didn't believe in God, and He exists: fire and brimstone for you! Eternal torture!
3) You believed in God, and He doesn't exist: Nothing. You cease to exist. There's no afterlife. There's no more "you".
4)You didn't believe in God, and He doesn't exist: Nothing. You cease to exist. There's no afterlife. There's no more "you".
Given these 4 outcomes, it only makes sense to believe God, because if He does exist, you have everything to gain. It's like preparing for the worst case scenario.
It makes sense to me, and I actually do this without knowing what it was called to begin with. But Costell pointed out that there are flaws to this argument as well. Firstly, who says it's gotta be God? It could be Zeus, for all we know (at which point we began joking about how Thor would smite us for believing in the wrong god, lol). Another point was that if you believed in God and lived in the Christian lifestyle that's actually outlined in the Bible--which is actually pretty harsh and tough, btw--but God doesn't exist, then you've wasted all your life pursuing an end that does not exist. I pointed out though that if that was the case, since you cease to exist anyway, you wouldn't know that you wasted your life. Costell agreed and joked "But that's such a cosmic injustice!"

I'm really glad I brought up this discussion in my class. We actually had a really meaningful discussion, and it actually reaffirmed my belief in Pascal's Wage (that I should believe in God because I have everything to gain if He does exist. Doesn't mean I'm a "good" Christian by any means, just that I should continue to try.)


 Anyway, my dear readers: what do you think is the meaning of life?

4 comments:

{ CandleintheDark } at: November 30, 2010 at 7:37 PM said...

I'm not a big believer. I think if you aren't sure then why waste your life? I say god probably doesn't exist, so just enjoy your life. Just live your life within your own decent moral code and even if there is a god, he's got to be a giant fucking asshole to damn a good person to hell for eternity.

So don't worry bout it. I'll probably blog a bit on this too someday. Check out mine

{ Butters } at: November 30, 2010 at 10:10 PM said...

Aaah philosophy class sounds so depressing lol.

I believe in God and Heaven so I do try to live without sinning too much, but I'm one of the lucky ones who isn't hindered in happiness by following the strictness of Catholicism. I can live my life to the fullest and be a typical "good girl" :DDD

{ HSP } at: December 2, 2010 at 4:35 AM said...

The meaning of life is what you make of it. Life on Earth is far too insignificant in the wide scale of the universe to be thinking about some invisible, omnipresent being lording over.

I don't know if this was brought up by your professor, but apart from the flawed argument as to whether God is the Christian one or some other deity mentioned in myths of the past - it's not just a matter of which god. What makes you think that this god is one that humans would expect? Would it be God as you read in the Bible or your school textbooks? The thing about all these gods is that they exhibit very human traits. They are all modelled after us in some way or another. Besides, God could be some bastard waiting for us to die so our spirits can become his slaves, regardless of how good we were before the afterlife.

I would've been happy to call myself agnostic a couple of years ago but the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that a god exists. Whether he does or not also matters little.

{ AverageChad } at: December 2, 2010 at 8:18 PM said...

I personally have a belief that a greater power put us here but I am not so sure he is watching his children anymore. But the meaning of life would definitely have to be that life keeps going weather you live in it or you live with it. It will leave you behind if you sit down so never sit down and always keep walking is my meaning of life.

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