What is the meaning of life? This statement presupposes that there is meaning to life, which is a question with in itself. Accepting the notion that there is meaning to human life, thus denying the philosophical concept of Nihilism. The fundamental belief of Nihilism is that the world, especially human existence, is without meaning, truth, or value. I have no qualms with removing this philosophy from the discussion, much like Friedrich Nietzsche who is commonly associated with the theory but fundamentally disagreed with its values.
“A nihilist is a man who judges of the world as it is that it ought not to be, and of the world as it ought to be that it does not exist. According to this view, our existence (action, suffering, willing, feeling) has no meaning: the pathos of ‘in vain’ is the nihilists’ pathos-at the same time, as pathos, an inconsistency on the part of the nihilists. ” I agree with Nietzsche, I can not accept nihilism due to the basic paradox that it presents; stating that “truth does not exist” is itself a truth.
Nietzsche is superficially associated with nihilism due do the misinterpretation of his famous quote from The Gay Science “God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? That which was the holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? With what water could we purify ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become gods simply to be worthy of it?
” This quote is not to be taken literally like many of Nietzsche’s works including referring to himself as the “antichrist”, rather these statements are criticisms of Christianity and religious believe in general. This brings me to my next concept of the meaning of life, theistic beliefs. There are numerous religious beliefs with many different values and practices, but the essential meaning of life in a theistic sense is to live a good life based on the “golden rule”, “Love your neighbor as yourself” -Moses, “Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you. ” -Muhammad, “What you do not wish upon yourself, extend not to others.
” -Confucius, in the hope of entering Heaven (for lack of a more universal term) in the afterlife. Religion undoubtedly has given the majority of mankind a meaning in life. I believe that religion guides the modern man to live a good life as well as being the catalysis of countless wars; this is the double edged sword that theology carries commonly called Faith. I was born a man of reason, inspecting the world and life rationally so faith is a rather foreign concept to me. I once again agree with Nietzsche on the ideal of faith, “Faith: not wanting to know what is true.
“Sigmund Freud offers his own theory on mans need for a Higher Power in The Future of an Illusion. “When the growing individual finds that he is destined to remain a child for ever, that he can never do without protection against strange superior powers, he lends those powers the features belonging to the figure of his father” Freud states that man’s view of God is a reflection of man’s concept of a good father. Once grown a man enters the world, leaving behind the protection of his father, and so to overcome this feeling of helplessness he finds protection in a Higher Being created in the image of his father.
He goes on to say, “Religious ideas have arisen from the same need as have all other achievements of civilization: from the necessity of defending oneself against the crushingly superior force of nature… the urge to rectify the shortcomings of civilization which made themselves painfully felt” This is Freud’s interpretation of the “golden rule”. It is a source of protection from his fellow man, creating theological restrictions more powerful then any law, if one finds their meaning in life through the eyes of God.
I have drawn many conclusions about modern religious practices from ancient religious beliefs that seem to have fallen to the wayside as there ideals of explaining the unknown have been explained through scientific principles. I can not help but believe that one day the three major monotheistic religions will be studied the same way modern civilization studies the beliefs of ancient Greece or of the Native American societies, purely to understand there culture not to explain the meaning of life.
Science has uncovered many of mysteries of the world, so is it only a matter of time until science uncovers the meaning of life? Science gives us many biological, psychological and sociological insights on life. How we physically live, why one may live the way one does, and possible purposes for life though the advancement of the sciences. But in no way can science interoperate the human soul. Yet again I turn to Nietzsche who beautify describes how everyman feels exceptional from any broad scientific definition of the self and in turn the meaning of life.
“At bottom every man knows well enough that he is a unique being, only once on this earth; and by no extraordinary chance will such a marvelously picturesque piece of diversity in unity as he is, ever be put together a secondtime. “Nietzsche’s individualist point of view on the human condition is a classic example of existentialism. Existentialism is a philosophical movement that discards the belief that life has an innate meaning, instead each entity must create there own values based on the world around them.
“Existence precedes essence” Jean-Paul Sartre gives us the bases of Sartrean existentialism, the antithesis of the Aristotlean belief that essence precedes existence, a belief that most religions are founded upon “God’s plan”. This Sartrean concept describes man existing without purpose finding himself in a world not created for him, defining the meaning of his existence. Or in the words of Simone de Beauvoir a life long friend and colleague of Sartre, “It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our lives that we must draw our strength to live and our reasons for living.
” The philosophy of existentialism explains that each man is responsible for his choices and to deny that responsibility is to live in bad faith subjecting one to feelings of suffering and despair. The accumulation of ones choices and the awareness of being conscious to one’s surroundings create ones personal identity. I find the existential ideal on the meaning of life to be the most fitting to my view of the world. I embrace the existential philosophy of existence preceding essence.
I strongly agree that the meaning of life is a personal ideal expressed by ones actions through out life. Although existentialism is fundamentally opposed to the western rationalist views of man being a primarily rational being, a concept that I feel very connected to due to my personal thought process. I look at my definition of myself being a rational man using reason as a source of knowledge and apply that to the concept of living in “good faith”. Can’t a rational man live in good faith?
I fail to see why I can not encompass both ideals into my meaning of life. This contradiction between these two philosophies that I willingly accept to create the meaning of my life seem to be a classic example of the dualistic nature of the human condition. In closing to my search of the meaning of life through the works of these renowned 20th century philosophers I see the seeds of today’s secular society where planted by works of Freud, Sartre, de Beauvoir and Nietzsche.
I ponder who will be the gardeners of future societies and how will the media based culture of modern first world counties effect the meaning of lives to come? Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Will to Power. Section 585. 1894Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Gay Science. Section 125, 1882. Leviticus 19:18Muhammad. The Farewell Sermon. Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Anti-Christ. 1888. Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. 1927Freud, Sigmund. The Future of an Illusion. 1927. Jean-Paul Sartre. Being and Nothingness. 1943. Simone de Beauvoir.