On Purpose in Life

Faisal Amir: It keeps badgering me that existentialists, etc. set out to find a purpose. Even when they can't, they find one. It's like they were finding an excuse for living. Like if life was something sacred and they were to preserve it. Why not say so then? Why do you not make it your premises?

Me: Existentialists did not set out to find a purpose. They set out to explore the human condition and they found themselves face to face with an utterly indifferent meaningless absurdity. But in this absurdity, they realized their immense freedom, the freedom to define themselves, to live however they choose to, because there is nothing to dictate them. What would be the point of dying? It would be no less absurd. If there is no reason to live, then there is also no reason to die. To live, to die, to rebel, it is your choice now, your individual choice that you have to make on facing this absurdity.

Faisal: I am sorry I shouldn't have included existentialists. They make my point shallow. Consider it as just aimed that finding a purpose in life. It relates to the search of purpose in absence of metaphysical meaning. I know it's very complicated with suicide and meaning etc. But to simplify consider just the process of finding a purpose. Don't you think its circular process with end determined before beginning? I think the best solution is that a person consciously and knowingly commits himself to either finding the purpose or just the process of following the purpose as his "purpose" in life. But he should know this along the way that this is what he's doing.

Me: I think the issue here becomes muddled by language. When a person recognizes that there is no metaphysical meaning, he recognizes that there is no purpose of life. When he says next "I will create my own purpose", he is not referring to the 'purpose of life'. What he means is that he will decide himself how he can make his individual life meaningful to himself. This is a response born out of the pre-existing desire to live meaningfully. If a person has no desire to live meaningfully, he obviously wouldn't strive to live meaningfully. A person who recognizes absurdity has already given up the search for 'meaning of life'.

Faisal: Of course you're right. It was in a sense what I meant. But I guess you missed the point that the problem still is circular even now.

Me: You missed my point that the circularity of this response does not render it invalid.

Faisal: Nice. But this makes it really vulnerable when a person realizes or takes it into head that all purposes, all emotions, all desires are nothing. They're just vanity. Even our thought is. I guess you must be acquainted with likewise thought in Buddhism.

Me: Buddha thought so because he believed human desires and attachments are the root cause of suffering. You think so because you are a rigid materialist and determinist who doesn't believe in free will :)

Faisal: Yes. Different paths, same destination. But I've a feeling that as time goes on more and more people will think like this :)

Me: The trend is changing actually. Even philosophers who believe in determinism now lean towards compatibilist free will.

Faisal: We'll see!!

Me: Yes, we'll see :)


Awais Aftab said…
Note: I remained on purpose within the Absurdist context during the discussion, but it is not necessarily the view I subscribe to.
Komal said…
I think materialism is declining. I certainly hope it does.
Ahish said…
What view do you subscribe to? I don't remember you blogging about it.
Awais Aftab said…
@ Ahish

I intend to explore my views on the topic in the next few posts.