Posted on

Re: Living Life

When I first read this blog post, my initial reaction was frustration at the fact that the topic was the meaning of life. Upon rereading it, I’m finding plenty of other reasons for being frustrated. Not only is the topic of the post comically ambitious, but it is rife with non-sequiturs and logical inconsistencies. Let’s start with the very beginning. Your first assertion “Even if it [life] is truly meaningless, then to live is of little consequence,” is the first of many philosophically confused claims. You set up an if, then argument as if your claim was an obvious logical truth. On the contrary, it conflates the ideas of consequence and meaning. This is a huge mistake. Consequence is a metaphysical question, and meaning can be many different things. Not only that, but even if you concluded that there is no meaning to life, therefore living was pointless, it would be unclear what you mean (haha) by that. Are you talking about purpose, as in having a greater purpose? Being a part of a larger plan? Are you denying objective meaning? Are you denying subjective meaning? It’s hard to tell. Don’t write a blog post about the meaning of life without knowing what you mean by meaning. You take another step from that false start, in the same sentence, to argue that since living is of little consequence, then to live must be a choice. Further, that since living is a choice, then we must designate some purpose or meaning to life in order to continue living. Those two steps in your argument are non-sequiturs. It does not follow that since life is inconsequential (which it can’t be, since our very existence implies consequence. Hell, the existence of anything at all implies some sort of consequence), that living becomes a choice. An obvious counterexample is the material reductionist’s determinism. It could be that everything that happens is predetermined by the laws of physics and chemistry. If that is the case, life would be both meaningless and we would have no choice whatsoever, let alone the option to choose whether we live or die. But if we assume for a second that that was a valid logical step, we would run into the same problem. The fact that life is meaningless and living is a choice does not logically imply that we must artificially give life a purpose, point, or meaning. It is easy to imagine that people can come to grips with the fact that life is meaningless without needing to fill that void. They can choose to live without designating any contrived meaning to their choice. People can live for the sake of living, and for no other reason.

So far in your blog post, we have no clarity as to what you mean by meaning, an unwarranted conflation of ideas, and three non-sequiturs. All of this in only your first true sentence. If I was to look critically at each of your claims in this post, it would take two days and cost me my sanity. Instead, I’ll just point out some of the more egregious problems in your post.

Let’s assume that life is indeed meaningless. And let’s also assume that by meaning, you are referring to an objective meaning (which is still sort of vacuous, but allows us to talk of subjective meanings). You say that you refuse to adhere to “shallow and arbitrary meaning,” but that brings to mind the question of what alternative there is? If there is no big-M Meaning to life, then how could any other type of meaning not be shallow or arbitrary? Isn’t that all that’s left? And what gives you the authority to value one type of meaning over another when all meaning is necessarily arbitrary? Who gets to rank one person’s valuation of virtue over another’s valuation of hedonism on a scale of meaning in a meaningless world?

Another frustrating issue is that you are so intent on discovering what the purpose of life is when your foundational premise is that there is no purpose at all. This comes back to trying to rank values and contrived purposes that are completely subjective. You can’t do that. You can talk about what purpose is sufficient or inufficient for you, but you cannot speak about purpose in a general way (at least without establishing a new metaphysical/ontological framework that would allow you to).

You talk about measuring life in experience, but what does that mean? Do you just have to have experiences? Then the purpose of life would be to be alive as long as possible so you can have more experience. It doesn’t matter what those experiences are. Or do you want to say that it does matter? If so, we are coming back to subjective value judgments. Can you find a way to justify ranking them more objectively? Try it.

The most frustrating thing in this post is your refusal to accept arbitrary systems of value or meaning, yet you doggedly attempt to find the objective among the arbitrary. You say that the purpose of life “lies in the furthering of life and the bettering of ourselves, part of which is objective part of which is subjective,”. I would love some clarification on what the objective part of that is. In fact, I would love it if you could explain any way in which the term better could be used in an objective sense.

Another little nugget in this post is your out of place assertion that there is no free will or choice involved in life. What? Didn’t you say that living itself was a choice? When I first read this, I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt and find a way in which this wouldn’t be a contradiction. Unfortunately I failed. You say “it is uncommon for a person sound of mind to question whether or not they desire to live or not,”. Whoah, man. I’m sure you meant for that statement to be pretty and philosophical sounding, but there are a lot of implications about mental health there that I bet you yourself don’t even agree with. Be careful with your words. Don’t just say shit because it sounds like something Hume or Mill would write.

You end by saying that life is a circumstance, it is inconsequential, it is insignificant, and also somehow “sufficient enough for man not to question whether or not he chooses to live.” What the fuck does that even mean? People do question whether or not life is a choice. You literally just did that in your own post. Also, how is life sufficient? Just being alive is enough? If so, why would anyone search for meaning? Why would you write a blog post in which you try to come up with the meaning of life? Why would people go to churches, mosques, or synagogues? Why would people study philosophy? Why would people try to make any money? Why would people do anything other than eating, sleeping, drinking water, and fucking when necessary? I can see that your post is an attempt to explore the tension between meaninglessness and the human yearning for meaning. This topic has been explored extensively, and if you read any Camus like I told you to, you’d know that the word you’re looking for is absurdity. That is what you are trying to say, though failing at.

And finally, remember when I said we could assume that life is indeed meaningless? Well, you might want to actually justify and/or clarify that claim if you want anyone to take any of its implications seriously. And no, saying that “the lack of priority for meaning in each moment of our lives supplies evidence for the fact that life has no meaning,” does not make any more sense than saying that a six year old’s lack of priority for Vitamin D in each moment of her life supplies evidence for the fact that there is no such thing as Vitamin D.

I know my post comes off as rude, insensitive, over-critical, and me just being a dick. You would not be wrong. But I think it is important for your own growth as a writer to be held accountable for the things you put out there. You can’t just make assertions about the meaning of life without supporting them. At least not without getting an earful about it. You need to read more philosophy before you philosophize about the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. Odds are, other people have already thought what you think, and odds are they did a better job at articulating it. I know you don’t believe me, but you just might have something to learn from them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *