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Death and the Meaning of Life

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I have been struggling with the idea that since everything dies and ceases to exist, how can there be meaning or purpose to life or any action for that matter. I have actually been struggling with this issue most of my life, which is one reason I became a fundamental christian at an early age. I have since left that way of thinking and gravitated toward objectivism.

Is there any objectivist thinking that addresses this issue?

I have been searching the forums and could not find any posts addressing my question, but if there are some, please let me know.

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Essentially, doing things you like (getting and keeping values), ie. the search and attainment of happiness, is what gives life meaning. Otherwise, life just "is." It's just there, in the universe, like everything else.

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If you are not familiar with Objectivism, I would recommend checking out any of Rand's fiction or non-fiction. For starters, you could read the article The Objectivist Ethics. You may also benefit from Tara Smith's Viable Values or Craig Biddle's Loving Life.

A simple answer to your question is that all of Objectivism addresses this issue. Regarding traditional answers to the question of the "meaning of life" - Objectivism fundamentally identifies why questions that try to assign a "higher meaning" to life beyond the self are irrational and not based in reality.

Many of the answers (and questions) that philosophers have presented over the centuries in attempts to needlessly assign meaning to life (or take it away) are simply misguided or wrong. Tara Smith's book goes into a lot of detail on this.

Edited by brian0918
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You might find this somewhat helpful:


I think it's important to remember that the "purpose" or " meaning" of your life is not to be separated from what kind of being you are (a rational one) and the conditions in which you exist, and how you must act given those facts. You will find that to achieve long-term happiness, one needs to choose a productive purpose to pursue, because this will allow one to organize all of one's other values and give one's life a basic, solid structure.

A little more discussion on the above, here: http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/purpose.html

Finally, the source of values, which are the what gives rise to "meaning" in the context you are using it, is the fact that life is indeed conditional, and that death is possible. In other words, it is only to living beings that the concepts of purpose and meaning can apply (in the above sense, purpose only applies to humans, but other animals can have goals in the sense that they have needs that require action in order to be met). A rock or a drop of water or a dead tree branch cannot have values, there is no fundamental alternative that they are facing...their matter will continue to exist, but in different forms, whereas a bird or a bear or a human faces the alternative of existence or non-existence with each passing moment.

For discussion on that, read this: http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ari_ayn_rand_the_objectivist_ethics

I hope this helps.


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Steve Jobs - how appropriate considering his passing.

Thank you all for the comments and links. I'll check them out.

I want to go into a little more detail.

I discovered Atlas Shrugged in 2008 and have been devouring as much of objectivism as I can. It has been very liberating. I love my life, I am very happy and I have a strong sense of meaning and purpose.

But... I still have this lingering thought in the back of my mind that its all going to end, so what is the point. I have searched through much of what objectivism has to say, and I can not find a satisfactory answer. Perhaps there is none.

And I should specify that when I say meaning, I am talking about meaning to me, not to some future generation. I am not talking about my legacy or something. Once I no longer exist, I don't think I'll care much about my legacy, or anything else for that matter.

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In a rare moment of subjectivity, Rand said "When I die, the World will end".

Her small joke, maybe, but it has some truth.

It doesn't matter, that it 'ends' - it matters that we have life, now.

Elton,do you know how much can happen in only one minute?

Whether internal experience:introspection, thought and emotion; or externally?

Of course you've experienced this, now just think of the huge number of minutes left for you.

Life is longer than we think, particularly when we are focused.

Consciousness - now that you can learn from Objectivism.

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