What Is A Human Being Philosophy
The song Skin and Bones by the band Motion City Soundtrack explores the often raised question of the meaning of life. Throughout history, society has always wondered if mankind came to existence for a specific purpose. Is there a deeper meaning behind our existence? Or are we simply just "carbon based" or "pixie dust," as the lyrics to the song state? Descartes' famous phrase "Cogito Ergo Sum - I think therefore I am" states that if one questions his own existence, that itself is proof that he does exist. But what remains unanswered is the next step: I exist, but so what? For what reason would there be to live if we exist to "just simply turn to dust"? Many people fear that their life is meaningless, and that all of their actions are ultimately insignificant, absurd, and inconsequential. Meaning itself is a core aspect of who we are as human beings; what we believe to be the meaning of our lives greatly influences our principles and daily decisions. As a result, man would be inclined to believe that there lies significance to his existence rather than believe that "there's nothing more to us" in life and that our actions are meaningless. In this essay, we will examine how man comes to find meaning in life.
Religion has been one of the longest-standing means through which people finding meaning in their lives. The very idea of a magnificent and noble end in which a supreme being created the universe and man endows in people a sense of purpose. Take, for example, Christianity, a doctrine that states that mankind is a creation, a divine artifact, molded by God's hands, with a purpose or task assigned him by his maker (Baier). According to Christianity, since the fall of Adam and Eve, man has been destined to undergo hardships and suffering during his life on earth. However, a divine afterlife awaits him after death where he can enter a perfect sanctuary for eternity. In other words, to Christians, the meaning of our lives is to endure so that we can gain admission to the holy realm of God for eternal glory. The majority of dominant religious doctrines, such as Christianity, have an overarching theme of some sort of transcendence of the body. The Buddhists believe in Nirvana. Hinduists believe in reincarnation. Muslims believe in spiritual paradise. These doctrines certainly guarantee a meaning for every believing person, but requires the acceptance of the supernatural, which is not necessarily a truth for everyone. Furthermore, meaning through these principles emphasize the afterlife and would imply that our lives on earth are meaningless. How then is it possible to experience a meaningful life on this earth without acceptance of the supernatural?
The world of science is an area of knowledge where the supernatural's role in life is seemingly nonexistent. As a result, if it were true that the meaning of life depended on transcendence of the body, then that would implicate that those who solely accept science as a truth have no way of attaining meaning in their lives. It has often been said that the acceptance of a purely scientific world view automatically strips one's life of any significant meaning because it requires that we search for natural explanations for everything. This, as a result, leaves no room for personal relationships and ideals. All the ideals of religion come crumbling down and we're left with simply what we have to empirically observe in this world. Man was not handmade by God, but as a mere part of the long chain of evolution, nothing short of an ape. Today, science has grown and established its roots so deeply within society that it has gained an immensely greater measure of understanding of and control over, the universe more than any other way. It has helped us to know and understand this world, but what meaning can it find in it?
When taking into consideration the scientific viewpoint, it would appear as though there is no greater purpose for man's existence, hence no meaning behind it. We simply seem to exist to "just grow up to fade away." Through the scope of a naturalist perspective, man exists simply just for the sake of existing, serving no specific purpose but to function within nature. However, we cannot attribute to the human life a purpose in the sense that we attribute purpose to a scientific gadget or tool. As Kant would say, you would be treating one merely as a means to our ends, not as an end in oneself. People mistakenly conclude that life is meaningless because there can be no purpose in life due to the fact that there is no purpose of life. We come to this conclusion because the naturalist perspective merely asks, "what is man here for?" rather than "why is man here?" The science world picture portrays life to be meaningless because life itself is without purpose. On the other hand, the religious perspective, as stated earlier, provides life with the significant purpose because it states that life has meaning beyond man's earthly existence, which is that man's soul will transcend from the physical body and go on to serve a greater purpose. Does this then leave the non-believers, those who have not accept these supernatural preconditions to accept religious meaning, unable find meaning in their lives? I disagree.
It is often mistaken that meaning is something that must be found. We seem to come to this conclusion because we observe religious people finding some sort of significant meaning such as reincarnation or nirvana through the acceptance of supernatural principles. However, what I believe is that we do not find meaning, but create it. "Man's search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a secondary rationalization of instinctual drives. This meaning is unique and specific that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance which will satisfy his own will to meaning." What we personally perceive to be significant is what we instill meaning in. Let us take for example the experiences of Victor Frankl, an Austrian holocaust survivor. In his book Man's Search for Meaning, Frankl describes a hopeless scenario in which he and the rest of his inmates were denied food and forced to starve. However, despite his situation, the Frankl informs the readers of his efforts to maintain a general mood of hope amongst his the inmates by stating aloud trivial, but encouraging proclamations such as how their suffering was a sacrifice worth living for. Frankl goes on to state that "the purpose of my words was to find a full meaning in our life, then and there, in that hut and in that practically hopeless situation. I saw that my efforts had been successful. I saw the miserable figures of my friends limping toward me to thank me with tears in their eyes." Frankl's experiences at the concentration camp goes on to show that we do not find meaning, but create it. We can see powerful meaning being created and instilled within trivial words, which illustrates how meaning is created when man seeks for something his own personally fulfilling and significant. Taking this into account, I believe that religious people are not finding meaning through their belief of the transcendence of the soul, but they are putting personal meaning on transcendence itself to fulfill themselves.
What should considered is that to create meaning in something, it is not necessarily required that the scenario must be life-changing. We sometimes mistake that one can only find a life meaningful through actions that are highly significant and valuable, deserving of admiration and respect on account of the contributions made. However, the truth is that any degree of meaning can created and attributed to something. It is relatively subjective. For instance, I enjoy waking up every Saturday morning to a cup of coffee and read a newspaper. Is this necessarily deserving of admiration and respect? No. Do I find meaning in it? Yes. We personally put meaning onto what we regard as fulfilling. Even the atheist who firmly believes that there is no meaning beyond life finds meaning in his firm decision to believe so. Most importantly, these decision neither have to serve a function scientific purpose nor does require one to accept any supernatural elements, demonstrating that meaning can be found in almost anything by anyone. We do not have to search for meaning because as human beings we create and imbue meaning.
The meaning of life can be interpreted in various manners and will always be open to debate. But what can be known for sure is that the search for meaning is not a black and white subject. As opposed to how many people seem to believe it, religion is not the only means through which meaning in life can be found. If this were true, then everybody who has not accepted the supernatural principles that accompany religion would be unable to find meaning in life. Furthermore, though the science world picture portrays life to be meaningless because life itself is without a functional purpose, it does not necessarily imply followers of the science world picture will never be able to find meaning in his life. The fact of the matter is that every man creates his own meaning based on what satisfies his own will of meaning. Taking this into consideration, it becomes evident that science has not prevent us from having any meaning, but it has endowed us with greater power to open up more doors and opportunities for us to create meaning in new ideas. Therefore, it is left an open question for the individual to decide whether or not an his life has meaning to it.
Baier, Kurt, "The Meaning of Life," Klemke et alii, Philosophy: The Basic Issues, 1st ed., pp.
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