Humanism and the Meaning of Life
Humanism and the Meaning of Life
In his piece “What is Humanism”, Fred Edwords explains humanism as a type of philosophy that emphasizes reason, scientific inquiry, and human fulfillment in the natural world, and often rejects the importance of belief in God. He describes the different categories of humanism that are common and the beliefs they hold. In Richard Taylor’s “The Meaning of Life”, thoughts are given on where meaning comes from in life if a meaning is even present. He explores the story of Sisyphus to illustrate how a life could be meaningless and then explores the idea that everyday life today is ultimately meaningless as well.
The degree to which the article by Taylor fits the description of Humanism in the Edwords’ piece is to a pretty good degree. Many of the ideas about humanism that Edwords poses in his piece reflect in the way Taylor explored the meaning of life in his article. Edwords describes humanism with a list of points, the first being that a Humanist isn’t afraid to challenge and explore any area of thought. Generally, the meaning of life is a topic that has the tendency to frighten many people away due to the nature of inquiry required to even scratch the surface of any answer to the question.
Therefore, Taylor fits that aspect of humanism since his goal in his work was to explain his ideas on the matter in a well thought out manner. Edwords’ second point is that humanism focuses on human means for comprehending reality with no claim to have any type of transcendent knowledge, and another one of his points is that humanism is a philosophy of imagination. These points are evident in Taylor’s article as he tries to make sense of life using rational imagination to approach each side of the topic.
Another one of Edwords’ points is that humanism is more concerned with the here and now rather than life after death. Taylor’s main focus was touching on meaningless in life and finding contentment in whatever one finds themselves doing in life. There wasn’t much to say about life after death, so this point stands true in Taylor’s article. Edwords’ summary point in his list was that humanism is a philosophy for those in love with life. The way he described this point is very relatable to Taylor’s article in that Taylor didn’t want to settle with prefabricated answers, but instead dove into the open-endedness that comes with trying to reveal the meaning of life.
Taylor fits into the category of Modern Humanism as described by Edwords. Edwords explained that this section of Humanism “rejects all supernaturalism and relies primarily upon reason and science, democracy and human compassion. ” The points about humanism described in the first paragraph above were labelled as what the Modern Humanist philosophy is about in Edwords’ writing. So throughout Taylor’s article, he showed a good deal of the qualities Edwords described for a modern humanist. Taylor’s positon on the question of the meaning of life does seem like a Humanist-type position.
Taylor explored a broad topic that could have an unlimited spectrum of different answers and wasn’t afraid to dive into the controversial issues associated with it. He was in pursuit of finding new knowledge and sharing it with his readers. He was also very realistic and looked at things from a logical standpoint. Taylor explains that our lives could have meaning if we have a keen and unappeasable desire to be doing just what we find ourselves doing (this is what he says of Sisyphus, which could also be applied to us). Our life wouldn’t be changed, but it would still have a meaning.
He says it is irrational because the desire itself would be only the product of substance in our veins, and not any that reason could discover, but a meaning nevertheless. Taylor also looked into the difference between us and other living beings like insects in New Zealand caves, for instance. He explained that we are conscious of our activity. Our goals are things of which we are at least partly aware and can therefore in some sense appraise. Men have a history as other animals do not, such that each generation does not precisely resemble all those before.
The meaning of life comes from the things to which we bend our backs day after day once we realize one by one our ephemeral plans are precisely the things in which our wills are deeply involved and precisely the things in which our interests lay. The day is sufficient to itself, and so is the life. A human being no sooner draws its first breath than he responds to the will that is in him to live. He no more asks whether it will be worthwhile or whether anything of significance will come of it. The point of his living is simply to be living, in the manner that it is his nature to be living.
Edwords looks at writings from other humanists that explain, for example, that humanism teaches that “it is immoral to wait for God to act for us. ” Humanists believe that the responsibility lies within a person to determine what kind of world they will live in. One must take it upon themselves to act upon what they deem correct and desirable. Edwords essentially said that life could have a type of meaning, and basically pointed towards the meaning of life being whatever you make of it. The meaning comes from your own actions and intents.
You have the right to choose whatever path you see fit and act freely, to open new doors and accomplish great things. Edwords’ description is similar to what Taylor said about the meaning of life. Taylor explained that if you love what you are doing, you will feel like you were made to do that, therefore creating meaning in your life. Edwords explains it in a similar way that meaning in your life comes from your heart basically. Whatever you are passionate about becomes what your life is about, and that is essentially the meaning you will find in your life.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 21 November 2016
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