What is the Purpose of Life?
Posted by Jerry on August 25, 2005
What is the purpose of life? Why live?
Every instance of contemplation begins with the acceptance of the fact that one lives. The fact that we have life is a default. Philosophically and physically, the fact of having life is an irreducible axiom. One does not question axioms, unless one wishes to get into supernatural speculation. Thus, the question “why do we live?” is a moot question similar to asking why is a circle round.
So, beginning with the default that we possess life, the question comes, what do we do with it? Ultimately, you have two choices to pick from: you continue living OR you choose to terminate your existence. We all begin with the default physical property of life. But every self-aware moment of living requires the deliberate decision to choose to continue living. Thus, life is a process of volitional maintenance of existence.
If one chooses to die, then there is no need to talk about a purpose for life (because the choice being made is already a negation of life and everything related to living).
If one chooses to CONTINUE living, then one begins to wonder WHY continue living. The choosing of LIFE, however, requires some very specific acts to achieve some specific goals. There are certain actions which will necessarily result in death. Thus, in our process of integrating new information and beginning on the journey of life, we learn what (or who) is a threat to the choice we made to live, and what (or who) is an instrument to protect the choice that we made to live.
Based on those assessments, we begin to understand that certain modes of behavior lead to self-destruction and certain modes of behavior lead to self-enhancement. Of course, these modes of behavior are not often readily apparent, and could require complex integration of knowledge with real environments.
Thus, now that we understand some basic concepts of self-enhancing behavior and self-destructive behavior, we come to realize that:- based on our choice to live, we must act in ways CONSISTENT with our choice to live. Hence, we must CHOOSE to do and act in ways that will make our choice of living, a positive and fulfilling choice. Doing otherwise is acting in contradiction to your own choices. Thus, choosing to live and wanting to live but acting in a self-destructive manner is making choices that are in CONTRADICTION to the most fundamental choice that you have made (which is to live). Inconsistent choices leads to a confused, frustrated, and dissatisfied living experience that raises doubts on the virtue of living and dimishes one’s own self-assessment on the worth of living.
Now, choosing to act in consistency with one’s ultimate choice to live, also means the salient perception of the fact that life is a PROCESS of maintaining existence. STAGNATION is NOT an option if one chooses to live. Life ALWAYS requires deliberate ACTION — whether that action is self-generated or is derived from someone else’s efforts. In order for a person to live, the person must either make their own efforts at living, or must tap into someone else’s efforts and derive the benefits of their action.
Now, at this point we enter the area of morality: in what situations is self-generated action moral, and dependent/derivative inaction immoral. In other words, WHY should an individual choose one form of existence over the other, i.e choose the self-generating existence over a parasitic existence?
It should logically follow from the statement that life is a process of maintaining existence that either the self or someone/thing else does the ACT of maintaining existence. These acts include, among other things, the satisfaction of basic needs, the fulfillment of higher needs, and the achievement of various goals.
Now, people have differing needs and goals. Each individual has certain needs that may or may not be shared by other individuals. Thus, the assessment of what can be constituted as “need” for one individual may not apply to another individual, and not even in any varying degrees. Some needs like food and shelter may seem common and universal. However, even the varying degrees of these needs create a slippery slope in assessment. The ONLY proper and MOST accurate method of assessing one’s need can ONLY ORIGINATE within each particular individual themself.
Every individual can only be the most accurate appraiser of his/her needs based on a rational integration of outside information, personal values, and perceived benefits or goals.
Thus, no other person can judge accurately and rightfully the needs of another individual. And therefore, NO OTHER PERSON SHOULD BE REQUIRED to assess the needs or goals of another invidual – and DEFINITELY not be OBLIGATED to meet self-made needs for that other individual.
So, in a situation where every individual assesses his/her own personal needs and goals for themselves, they are best equipped to conceptualize, formulate or calculate methods and means to fulfill those needs and achieve those goals. This can be done in three fundamental ways:
1) fulfill your personal needs by forcefully robbing someone else of the values you seek
2) fulfill your personal needs by trading your values with someone else in exchange for something of value that you want which they have.
3) Devising ways of producing, discovering, creating, or inventing your own objects of value inorder to fulfill your own needs.
Option 1 is an irrational method that does not work in a philosophy of life based on rational ethics. In order for your own values to be protected, you must agree to respect the values of others. You cannot bear any expectation to protect your values if you refuse to accept others’ equal expectation to protect their values.
Option 2 is a rational and moral method of fulfilling needs. However, this method is very limited since there are only limited resources to be traded. You can only buy or sell that which already exists to be bought or sold.
Option 3 is the BEST, rational and most moral method of fulfilling needs. This method forms the foundation upon which one can also practice option 2. The creation, invention, or discovery of new resources is the only most effective way to meet the increasing needs and wants of human life. It is an economic principle that human wants are plenty but the means to satisfy them are scarce. Thus, production of those resources is the only most effective way to meet the plentiful needs.
Now, given that Option 3 is the best option, notice that it REQUIRES self-generated ACTION in order to maintain the process of existence and enhance the condition of existence. Option 3 constitutes all those modes of behavior that is the MOST moral and most CONSISTENT with the ultimate choice of living. The most consistent behavior with the choice to live would only be to extract the most advantageous scenario given that choice.
This brings me to the answer of the question: What is the purpose of living?
The answer is, the purpose of living is to achieve happiness through productive activity! Life is a default. What does one do with it? Your purpose in life is to create for yourself all the conditions necessary for you to be able to enjoy to the fullest extent possible and to your ability (in a rational sense) the default fact of your existence.
In one of my other blog-posts, I wrote:
“Life should be enticing. Life must have some texture. You must feel your life; feel that you’re living. You must be seduced and intoxicated by your life. It is only the irregularities of anguish and happiness, pain and joy, contentment and desire that creates the texture of life. Like scrubbing off your dead skin cells in the shower, so should the texture of life rub against your being and reveal the emergence of a newer, more livelier being.
This is what life ought to be.”