Friday, 15 July 2011

The Meaning of Life

Hello folks.

I have just listened to an audio book called "The Meaning of life" by Terry Eagleton.  To be fair I have not listened to the entire book as yet, but I thought I would mention it today in the blog.  Why should I mention such a book? Well come to think of it, the question "What is the meaning of life" is perhaps one of the most basic, most philosophic questions of all. 

Book Cover
I usually visited a site called Yahoo Answers to answer questions asked to budding armchair philosophers and the question that most pops up within the forum is "What is the meaning of life?".  Well this audio book, or book depending what you get hold of, will help us discover the answers to such a basic question.  Yet be warned. There are many answers to this question and although the audio book is simple in tone, the answers the book gives lead on to more difficult questions.

One might as well ponder if it was even worth asking such a question.

Take heart though, it is always good at some point to ask such a question, because the information we receive lets us ponder over life's questions, which can hopefully lead to wisdom.

Let us now take a deeper look at the first part of the audio book.  The first section is called Questions and Answers. There are other sections, but I have not listened to those yet.

As I have listened to the audiobook around several times, I decided to break down the main answers the audiobook has passed on.

We shall look at around Seven sections.

The question - What is so important about the question of the meaning of life?
The question definition - What does this question actually mean?
The history of the meaning - The questions progression throughout history
What it means to different philosophers - Different interpretations.
It’s Role - How does the question serve us?
It’s Usage - How it is used each time the question is asked?
The Answer - Well, plain and simple, the answers of the meaning of life.

The question

Let us examine briefly how this lovely audio book looks at what is so important about such a question.  The question "What is the meaning of life" actually used to be the most fundamental question asked to philosophers, considering before that, the question used to be "Why is there something, rather than nothing?".

I guess such a question could have been asked to the Greek philosopher Socrates, until he in turn started to ask questions to other people, rather than answering people's questions.  

The book shows us how such a question can twists and turn each time we ask about it, but the thing is such a  question is important, because it gives our lives meaning.  We need to sometimes stop and check if we are not wasting our time. Perhaps we just want to copy what other people are doing with their lives.

The question definition

This is perhaps the answer most philosophers of the modern age will reply to anyone who asks them such a question. Perhaps Wittgenstein turned around and answered that it is not the answer, but how the question is asked.

It might go so far to be said that you will not get a right answer if you ask an impossible question.  Most philosophers these days will look at the structure of the question or go so far to deconstruct the question (break down the hidden meaning of the question). The audio book will help us examine the questions structure

The history of the meaning

It used to be so easy in the early days; it used to be all so easy.  When someone asked such a question, the answer would be "God".  God is the meaning to all life and all our problems will be solved.  This perhaps was the earliest answer to the question one can probe.  You can replace the word "God", with other religious deities, but there is no denying that religion will often point on the responsibility of such an answer to another mysterious force.

Now throughout the ages, people who hit a life crisis, or even just began to seriously ponder to themselves, they just kept asking the question over and over again.  The answer to this question began to change as religion in the west ended up letting people down through corruption, persecution and most often unexplained answers.

(I am not saying that religion is fully at fault, but this is the history of the meaning of life problem)

So in turn people invented their own meaning, perhaps a good era would be idealism, romanticism, enlightenment and modernism, but even those ideas failed, because after the horror of world wars leading to the cold war. We are again forced to ask ourselves what is the meaning to life. 

Now fast forward to the present. It’s not so easy anymore because Postmodernism has crept in and says "We know the answer, but unfortunately there are so many standpoints, there are many answers and perhaps too many answers".  This audiobook will tell us the history of such a question.

What it means to different philosophers

There is not one type of philosopher these days.  If you are a philosopher you might end up being classed in a category of philosophers.  Perhaps you’re a Structualist, a Pragmatists, Rationalist, maybe a Postmodernist or Nilhist, maybe your not in a group of philosophies and follow a major philosopher instead.  What I am trying to say is that you will get a different answer depending on which philosopher you ask.

A nilishist will tell you that there is no meaning to the meaning of life; a deconstructor will ask you 10 questions to your 1 question.  Some philosophers will tell you to think for yourself.  Others will say that that the question has a language problem.

It’s Role

I can guess that the role of such a question is to give our lives meaning.  So the meaning of life is the value or quality that is fed back to our lives or at least what we take from it.  This would be a pragmatists way of viewing the meaning of life.

Yet, oddly enough, the answer to the meaning of life will twist and turn each stage of our lives. To make things worse, as soon as you ask such a question, For example I could ask "What is the meaning of life", then end up asking "What is the meaning of the answer to the meaning of life" or worse "what is the meaning to the question of what is the meaning of life", which is what we are defining now.

So in essence the answer will in turn lead to more questions, but we all have to start somewhere. Don't we?

The usage

One thing about asking what the meaning of life is, that it can be asked even if your not in a crisis.  It is a misconception that those who ask such a question are always depressed. You can actually ask such a question out of some life affirming value.  Perhaps some of us are not too easily satisfied.  Yet those who do not ask such questions might actually be worried the answer, which might make them depressed.

The answer

The meaning of life hopefully aims to push us into viewing the answers of life with profound thought, usually there are no single answers.  Perhaps we can view it as that there is no meaning of life, it could be that the problem is with the question and how it is asked.

It could be counted that it is the questions, not answers which are the most difficult thing.

Yet the good news is there are answers and if you get hold of this audio book, your life will bring onto itself new meaning.  Even if you have to ask new questions.

One last note: Always look on the bright side of life.

No comments:

Post a Comment