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    Contributor DrZoidberg's Avatar
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    The secular meaning of life

    Here's something I snipped up in a conversation with a friend. A throwaway comment that made me think.

    Is the secular meaning of life the inevitable progress of civilisation? So a heritage of the Enlightenment? And are we losing that idea? What will happen when we do?

    Some background. I belong to those who doesn't believe in plain nihilism. We need a goal in life to function. We need a goal for our coming day. I believe that people who say that life is about just finding pleasure and avoiding pain just haven't spent enough time introspecting.

    Both Nazism and Communism are attempts to fix this problem. Communism was born from the insight that life will always be shit for poor people, no matter how much wealth they help create. Which was true in 1848. Nazism is born from Darwinism/social Darwinism meeting the stock market crash of 1929. The insight is that life is a constant struggle. But only if we do [insert utopia] everything will be great.

    If we accept it as true that we need a meaning of life (something more than plain nihilism) and that the belief in the inevitable progress of humanity is dying... what will replace it?

    I think that's why religion is getting a come back

    What do you guys think, and what can we do about it?

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    Veteran Member Lion IRC's Avatar
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    First answer the existential question - is it scientifically valid to view life in terms of "meaning".
    If a coin tossing machine randomly comes up heads, does that have any more "meaning" than tails?

    Does the simple, secular, process of evolutionary time plus chance justify violating Occams Razor by way of introducing a superfluous complication called "meaning"?

    You won't let theists smuggle in teleology.

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    Veteran Member James Brown's Avatar
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    Is religion getting a comeback?

    An ongoing spate of recent studies - looking at various countries around the world - all show the same thing: religion is in decline. From Scandinavia to South America, and from Vancouver to Seoul, the world is experiencing an unprecedented wave of secularization. Indeed, as a recent National Geographic report confirms, the world’s newest religion is: No Religion.

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    Contributor DrZoidberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lion IRC View Post
    First answer the existential question - is it scientifically valid to view life in terms of "meaning".
    If a coin tossing machine randomly comes up heads, does that have any more "meaning" than tails?

    Does the simple, secular, process of evolutionary time plus chance justify violating Occams Razor by way of introducing a superfluous complication called "meaning"?

    You won't let theists smuggle in teleology.
    It fails the first test. Is it a testable hypothesis? If not, it's not science. So it's not science. So it's philosophy. Which is why I posted it in the metaphysics sub-forum. I'd also argue that "what is life" isn't either a scientific question. We need to define what life is in philosophy, and then we can use science to test that. But life in itself is too vague of a concept to be meaningful scientifically.

    Life doesn't have an intrinsic meaning. That's just a fact of life. So we need to give life a meaning. Theists have solved that by inventing a God. I don't really see the point of that, since it's just finding a meaning of life with an added step. Whatever meaning of life belief in God gives you, it'll make no difference if you just jump to the meaning of life step and skip God.

    If your meaning of life is to toss as many coins as you can, then you hit the jackpot with a coin tossing machine.

    If there is a teleology I've accepted that we'll never be able to find out about it. The universe is just too big. There's just no possible way to travel to the edge of the universe and take a peak at what is beyond. If there is anything. Anybody who claims to know anyway is just deluded. Just like we don't take people seriously when they claim they are Napoleon or that their toaster is talking to them... neither should we take people seriously when they claim to sit on some higher knowledge only privy to those in some special club.
    Last edited by DrZoidberg; 07-03-2018 at 01:24 PM.

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    Contributor DrZoidberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James Brown View Post
    Is religion getting a comeback?

    An ongoing spate of recent studies - looking at various countries around the world - all show the same thing: religion is in decline. From Scandinavia to South America, and from Vancouver to Seoul, the world is experiencing an unprecedented wave of secularization. Indeed, as a recent National Geographic report confirms, the world’s newest religion is: No Religion.
    I think it is. It's just new religions coming. The old ones are out of style. The reason I think it is so is because... there's just so many smartphones, fancy watches and boob jobs people can buy before life feels empty. We need to give it some sort of higher purpose. Religion comes with a handy starter kit. Just pick one off the rack and you're ready to go. But secular versions. I think theism is dying. It's certainly coughing up blood

    It's that or utopianism. I sincearly hope utopianism isn't about to make a comeback.
    Last edited by DrZoidberg; 07-03-2018 at 01:26 PM.

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    As with everything, "meaning" is only that which the individual subjectively ascribes or derives. Whether atheist or theist, "meaning" is utterly random and capricious. It's whatever strikes your fancy. Why? Because it is born out of our pattern recognition abilities. You see a bunny in the clouds or a tiger in the grass samey samey. So what you ascribe/derive from that is entirely within that moment and largely influenced by previous experiences (aka, "associations"). Basically our eyes/brains are doing a constant mugshot scan every nano second, with the goal of picking out the predators from the prey. That's where "meaning" comes from.

    Iow, there can never be any one grounded base "meaning" to measure everything else by. It's not possible in the same sense that a married bachelor isn't possible. It's a category error. Even for theists who insist that their derivation (aka, "meaning") is grounded in God, this is quite obviously nonsensical wishfulment at best as not a single theist can ever define what God is, other than "the ground of all meaning." Its circular sophistry.

    To ask, "What is the meaning of life" is really to ask, "Why have I put up with all of this suffering? What is my reward for not just killing myself?" So the question too is a category error. A binary one at that. There are all kinds of "meaning" to all kinds of events/experiences. Hell you can watch the same film a hundred times and find (derive) a thousand different meanings each time you watch it, so, ironically, "meaning" doesn't mean anything while at the same time it means everything.

    Iow, it means exactly what you want it to mean--associate--at any given time. That's why it's so elusive. We want there to be a 1 when its nature is a 0.

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    Contributor Speakpigeon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James Brown View Post
    Is religion getting a comeback?

    An ongoing spate of recent studies - looking at various countries around the world - all show the same thing: religion is in decline. From Scandinavia to South America, and from Vancouver to Seoul, the world is experiencing an unprecedented wave of secularization. Indeed, as a recent National Geographic report confirms, the world’s newest religion is: No Religion.
    That's my impression, too.

    Going into churches here in Paris just to feel the presence of God, I find invariably that the pious are very, very few. Usually, there are more visitors like me than worshippers. Often, the only signs of any religious fervour are the slow-burning candles in front of (the statue of) Marie. Only fifty years ago the churches were still full on Sunday mornings everywhere in France. Nowadays, on Sunday mornings, people just sleep late.
    EB

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    Contributor DrZoidberg's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Koyaanisqatsi View Post
    As with everything, "meaning" is only that which the individual subjectively ascribes or derives. Whether atheist or theist, "meaning" is utterly random and capricious. It's whatever strikes your fancy. Why? Because it is born out of our pattern recognition abilities. You see a bunny in the clouds or a tiger in the grass samey samey. So what you ascribe/derive from that is entirely within that moment and largely influenced by previous experiences (aka, "associations"). Basically our eyes/brains are doing a constant mugshot scan every nano second, with the goal of picking out the predators from the prey. That's where "meaning" comes from.

    Iow, there can never be any one grounded base "meaning" to measure everything else by. It's not possible in the same sense that a married bachelor isn't possible. It's a category error. Even for theists who insist that their derivation (aka, "meaning") is grounded in God, this is quite obviously nonsensical wishfulment at best as not a single theist can ever define what God is, other than "the ground of all meaning." Its circular sophistry.

    To ask, "What is the meaning of life" is really to ask, "Why have I put up with all of this suffering? What is my reward for not just killing myself?" So the question too is a category error. A binary one at that. There are all kinds of "meaning" to all kinds of events/experiences. Hell you can watch the same film a hundred times and find (derive) a thousand different meanings each time you watch it, so, ironically, "meaning" doesn't mean anything while at the same time it means everything.

    Iow, it means exactly what you want it to mean--associate--at any given time. That's why it's so elusive. We want there to be a 1 when its nature is a 0.
    But do we? Do we pick it as individuals, or do a lot of secularists happen to pick the same meaning of their lives. Why that one/ones? That would be interesting

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    Veteran Member PyramidHead's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lion IRC View Post
    First answer the existential question - is it scientifically valid to view life in terms of "meaning".
    If a coin tossing machine randomly comes up heads, does that have any more "meaning" than tails?

    Does the simple, secular, process of evolutionary time plus chance justify violating Occams Razor by way of introducing a superfluous complication called "meaning"?

    You won't let theists smuggle in teleology.
    I agree with the direction of these questions, but from a negative perspective rather than the positive one you are apparently suggesting with your last comment.

    All meaning (in the sense of significance, value) is part of the project humans must initiate as a reaction to the absence of any meaning or value to life on its own. The creation of meaning is always at the expense of others, who are trying to create their own meaning while occupying the same space. The OP makes some concession to this fact in passing:

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Zoidberg
    Both Nazism and Communism are attempts to fix this problem. Communism was born from the insight that life will always be shit for poor people, no matter how much wealth they help create. Which was true in 1848. Nazism is born from Darwinism/social Darwinism meeting the stock market crash of 1929. The insight is that life is a constant struggle. But only if we do [insert utopia] everything will be great.
    The baseline fact of the matter is that life is a constant struggle, especially for the poor but for everybody to some extent, so we are obligated to enact policies to defend ourselves from life's inherent harshness. But obviously, as history shows, no attempt to mitigate the basic problems of humanity can proceed without stepping on the toes of actual humans, in a small or a big way. It's not that the particulars of the movement are wrong, in the sense that replacing a communist government with a democratic government (or vice versa) will solve everything, it's that all human acts are situated in a crowded, interconnected zone where harm to others is inevitable. Social and economic movements are palliative measures that proceed within the confines of this structural unfairness, which we inherit at birth.

    Some background. I belong to those who doesn't believe in plain nihilism. We need a goal in life to function. We need a goal for our coming day. I believe that people who say that life is about just finding pleasure and avoiding pain just haven't spent enough time introspecting.
    Another manifestation of the compulsory value-creation I mentioned is the tacit agreement among ourselves that investigating the root causes of our predicament as humans is only worth doing if the answer is consistent with a preordained, uncritical favoring of life's perpetual forward movement. There can be no anti-vital truths, nothing that threatens the underlying goal of flourishing, expanding, multiplying, renewing, advancing, and we should dismiss as nihilistic (even cowardly) any fact about life that compels stasis, monotony, vacating, withering, emptying, withdrawing, allowing to expire, concluding. If this is philosophy, and philosophy is the disinterested pursuit of truth, and truth is not subjected to the a priori condition that it must cohere with a life-affirming ethic, then it cannot be assumed at the outset that the result of "introspecting" will not be nihilistic. Because we are so addicted to the enterprise of creating meaning in the world, we place a stigma on all philosophical conclusions that are uninteresting or banal, leading nowhere, as if built into reality were some metaphysical necessity that truth always be a refreshing and fertile thing. Why can it not be the case that we spend time "introspecting", radically and without prejudice, and the fruit of our introspection is something that terminates rather than spurs enthusiasm, something that is not emotionally satisfying but troubling, something incredibly boring and simple, not invigorating?

    I am not suggesting that nihilism is true, or that any specific view is true, I am just pointing out the curious and underhanded way that certain views are disqualified as simplistic, not because of their content but because they do not support the overarching "progress of civilization", which never itself needs justification for some reason.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DrZoidberg View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Koyaanisqatsi View Post
    As with everything, "meaning" is only that which the individual subjectively ascribes or derives. Whether atheist or theist, "meaning" is utterly random and capricious. It's whatever strikes your fancy. Why? Because it is born out of our pattern recognition abilities. You see a bunny in the clouds or a tiger in the grass samey samey. So what you ascribe/derive from that is entirely within that moment and largely influenced by previous experiences (aka, "associations"). Basically our eyes/brains are doing a constant mugshot scan every nano second, with the goal of picking out the predators from the prey. That's where "meaning" comes from.

    Iow, there can never be any one grounded base "meaning" to measure everything else by. It's not possible in the same sense that a married bachelor isn't possible. It's a category error. Even for theists who insist that their derivation (aka, "meaning") is grounded in God, this is quite obviously nonsensical wishfulment at best as not a single theist can ever define what God is, other than "the ground of all meaning." Its circular sophistry.

    To ask, "What is the meaning of life" is really to ask, "Why have I put up with all of this suffering? What is my reward for not just killing myself?" So the question too is a category error. A binary one at that. There are all kinds of "meaning" to all kinds of events/experiences. Hell you can watch the same film a hundred times and find (derive) a thousand different meanings each time you watch it, so, ironically, "meaning" doesn't mean anything while at the same time it means everything.

    Iow, it means exactly what you want it to mean--associate--at any given time. That's why it's so elusive. We want there to be a 1 when its nature is a 0.
    But do we?
    Yes.

    Do we pick it as individuals, or do a lot of secularists happen to pick the same meaning of their lives.
    We always pick everything as individuals. Even if that pick is "I'll go along with the herd" it's still ultimately an individual choice.

    Why that one/ones? That would be interesting
    Not particularly. We first learn from our parents and then measure everything against that standard for the rest of our lives. The most important years are our formative ones, which is why cults always include instructions to "suffer the children unto me" and the like. And why we put our kids into indoctrination camps as early as 4 and 5 years old to last them until just before their brains finally finish maturing (i.e., at 25). It's the most vulnerable and most susceptible period of their lives and what is taught/experienced in those years is what dominates everything that comes after, either positively or negatively.

    We are programmed first; then it's up to the individual to deprogram, which is what "enlightenment" actually entails. And once you reach the stage of "the now" and understand that there is no such thing as "meaning" in an objective sense (and never could be), that's the abyss. You either look into it and go, "Hmm" and walk away or you fall into it and never come back out.

    If you're one of the few to walk away, then you realize it's all subjective and always has been all subjective and that's great. It means you're a free agent and thus things like "Morality" and 'Philosophy" finally have true meaning; the meaning you ascribe/derive.

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