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Papers >> College Admissions >> Logic and the Meaning of Life

In approaching the meaning of life we have to examine the nature of meaning itself. Meaning is by definition the point, or the intended goal. Consider the point of humans and the universe as seen from monotheistic religion. If life and the universe is some sort of toy or form of entertainment for some prime mover, his point, his own entertainment, would then be the meaning of humans and the universe. Consider the goals of the deities of various cultures. Some strive for a balance between the forces of ‘good’ and ‘evil’. This balance seems to simply be a choice of the deity, the way he thinks it ought to be. The concept of a prime mover as a source of the meaning of life is flawed, because in talking about an actual point to absolutely everything, we are simply considering the goals of a being more powerful than ourselves who has chosen one of many possible goals that humans can conceive of. This is to say that, if a god like this exists, his goal for life and the universe is not necessarily valid as a meaning of life, the universe, and himself. For instance, the Bible claims that the Christian deity created the universe and placed humans in it that they might be in awe of his power. If this is so, why is worship the correct response? The meaning of the universe as created by God is the entertainment of God, but what is the meaning of the larger system containing God and his creations? We could conceive of an even ‘primer’ mover, but that simply takes us all the way back into the wall of infinite regression.

When I first read the Bible, it struck me as neutral on the idea of worship. The Bible flat out tells you that God created humans so that they would be in awe of him, which amounts to saying God created us to inflate his ego. We are to God as our pets are to ourselves, sources of unconditional love. In the book of Job, God essentially makes a gentleman’s bet with Satan that Job’s worship is genuine and not inspired by God’s kindness. In other words, you throw a rock at my dog and I’ll swing my arm so it looks I threw it, and we’ll see if he still comes when I call him. In the end, Job is not simply the dog, because he questions God’s throwing of the rock. God’s response is consistent with his goal of inspiring awe. Even though the idea of a bet with Satan is well within Job’s grasp, God claims that his purpose was inconceivable to Job. God is simply fortifying the concept that is critical to the continuance of human worship: that with inconceivable power comes incredible intelligence and unknowable purpose. The narrator of the Bible, which is supposedly God himself, speaking through humans, never directly says that he should be worshipped. This is merely the interpretation of humans, who may be created in God’s image with one crucial difference, the need to worship.

Perhaps then, God is after the meaning of life. Imagine a being so powerful as to be able to create and mould the universe, who, like Roman and Greek gods, is only marginally more intelligent than his creations. Perhaps God, in all his ridiculous power, cannot change himself. In order to find the meaning of his own existence he creates the human race so that we might evolve to an intelligence greater than his own, in much the same way that a computer programmer wishes to create true AI, an intelligence greater than human, which might ‘evolve’ within a computer. We are given the title of pet and the instinct of worship while the creator waits for a companion in the search for meaning.

Of course this is wrong, or I would have been struck by a lightning bolt during that last sentence and brought to God’s side. Or perhaps God is not aware of his own success yet, or perhaps I am not the first to uncover God’s purpose, and my predecessor is debating meaning with God as we speak. Or perhaps I am intended to continue to search from the perspective that has proved so useful.

In any case, this may amount to Christianity being a giant misunderstanding. At the very least, it means I can walk up to a Christian, tell him I believe in God and everything in the Bible, and ask him what the candles and the cathedrals are for.

Back again to the one and only point: if a meaning exists it is not necessarily the purpose of our creation or existence. It has a larger scope, and can refer to the meaning of the existence of the being or force creating us, if such a force exists. So if we now define ourselves as being after the meaning of all things, and not necessarily after the purpose of our creation, we must decide what exactly could be the ‘meaning of life’.

Back again to the word ‘meaning’. To discuss the idea of a meaning, purpose, goal or intent is to suggest the existence of a larger stage to whatever we speak of. In other words, for there to be a goal to something, there must be a creator, for the goal must have been conceived by some kind of entity. Since we now see that a creating entity’s goals apply as a meaning only its creation, we can either here stop and accept our role in the universe ( this all assuming there is a creator and we know his intent ), or attempt to conceive of a meaning of the creator’s existence. And so we loop back to the word meaning again. To conceive of a meaning to the creator’s existence is to imply a creator for the creator, and to conceive of a creator for the creator is to ask what this secondary creator’s meaning is, and to examine his creator in turn. Somewhere along this chain, we are forced to accept that the universe is meaningless as far as the actual definition of the word ‘meaning’ goes.

So the fault is within the phrase ‘the meaning of life’. Really when most people use this phrase they do not mean the dictionary definition of the word meaning, and they do not specifically refer to life as we know it. The word life can be easily replaced by the word ‘existence’ to at least come closer to the connotations that have evolved around this phrase as a whole, but the word meaning has no obvious substitute. What is really meant by this phrase it seems to me is some kind of cosmic order. A way, perhaps, that things ought to be, a path that is favored by the universe? Examine some of the theories people have for existence that do not involve deities or creators.

Examine the concept of karma, and imagine a universe where every being who was aware had a karma. To add the workings of karma to the universe really is not to give any meaning or order to our existence. Although karma is often perceived as being a part of ‘good’, a retribution and reward system for the naughty and nice, karma at its core concept is completely neutral. Karma makes no claim as to whether good or evil is the right path, but simply makes sure that if you do unto others, that will be done unto you. Many people have clouded karma with benevolence in the same way we cloud happiness with ‘goodness’. Karma will return to you what you have done, and whether this makes you happy or tortured is irrelevant, karma is only a law of the universe just like a physical law, and if gravity makes you happy, that is not because there is a core of benevolence to it. So adding the idea of karma to the universe does not establish an order, or even a right and wrong, but simply adds another set of laws to the universe to match the sets of physical laws studied by chemistry and physics.

As each possibility for a meaning drops away we are left asking what it is we want, and what it is that will qualify as a meaning for existence. What we want, it seems clear, is a set of ‘real’ values, and a path to follow that is ‘right’. Is there necessarily going to be such a path? Does there need to be a meaning of life? Can the universe be completely neutral, in fact just be? And if the universe simply exists and nothing more, what should we be doing?

Clearly that situation invalidates all normal goals. What good can the helping of others or the following of a moral code be in the face of a neutral universe. What good, in fact, is one’s own happiness, what good is anything? And so, what is next, suicide? This is as pointless as any other endeavor, and so is getting depressed. What should we be doing? If we create a point for our lives, give ourselves a meaning and follow its course, have we no more wasted our lives than has the next man, since all is valueless?

From the perspective of a being in this world, the universe seems a moot point. Having found ourselves in a universe with no creator and no goal, we have a reflex to seek power and happiness. This really is a reflex, and is in fact an instinct. We search for happiness because we are programmed to, because those who have good survival traits have a happy and successful life culminating in reproduction. Do we then need to seek an even more impartial state than that which can be reached by careful thinking?

The doubting of the observer. If we consider our own awareness to be fundamentally true, we still have to doubt our style of thinking. We cannot prove the viability of logic, since this is using logic to back up logic. The best way to go about doubting our own thinking, it would seem, is to examine that structure in the brain which deals with logic ( if it is not the entire brain, and if logic is not a part of our awareness itself, and thus separate from the brain ). Since logic seems to allow us to understand the universe, this section of the brain might have some fundamental structure to it that mimics the order and chaos of the universe: this structure might be the embodiment of truth itself. If not, then the structure which allows us to think must mimic the universe in full, and be in fact a simulation of all the laws of the universe. If this is so, logic is an illusion, and conclusions are reached by experimentation and simulation.

One guess at the nature of logic. Evolution has created all things through sheer probability. Every gene that creates a human happened to happen, and this is not amazing, but in fact has a certain inevitability to it. Given time, probability can do almost anything. Perhaps in fact, logic itself is probability. The incredible neuron network simply a random-impulse generator? Screened perhaps by some sort of memory device that remembers what ideas led to what happiness, and so slowly works out the ‘logical’ ideas from the rest? This theory in no way explains awareness or even necessarily gives a working model for the nature of logic and the mind, but it does at least fit evolution’s ‘style’, and a few other things…

Like why people can become so stagnant. If you don’t beat at your head to clear the clog against ideas that haven’t led to happiness, you end up having the same ideas over and over. Or LSD. A drug that lifts the viel for a moment so that you can have ideas you otherwise wouldn’t have. If this is so, and hallucinations occur with the use of this drug, are we to understand that people, really, literally, only see what they want to see?

In any case, it would explain perfectly why people’s thinking meshes with the universe so well, and even explain why we have so much trouble thinking about things that we have never actually encountered, like infinity. Any other theory of logic will either place it in the awareness ( leading to several other conjectures ) or claim that there is some kind of logic circuit in the brain that emulates the universe. If this second theory is true, then this structure in the brain is truth itself, defined, the pattern of the universe, and we need search no further than ourselves.

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