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Author Topic: To encourage the PHILOSOPHY part of this board...  (Read 11725 times)
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Zsu-Zsu
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« on: May 10, 2008, 09:02:03 »

Seems to be packed full of religious debates; I'm more concerned with philosophy.

In the past few days I've been having discussions with people about the ultimate purpose of human beings. I know that Milky thinks it's to reproduce, whereas I'm an existentialist so I think we all make our own purpose because there is no universal human nature, we're all driven towards and by different things; talking to my mum about it in the pub this afternoon I didn't actually grasp what exactly she believes but it was something vaguely Daily Mail Reader-ish, but laced with reason and rationality, which struck me as a peculiar combination. But meh.

Anyway, thoughts?
And if possible, can we try and keep religion out of it - I realise that it provides a purpose to a lot of people, and if it does then that's fine - do share, and whilst debate brings us together and takes us forward (My hero, J.S. Mill: "debate = progress"), I think this board is full enough of religious debates and attacks. If someone says that their meaning is religion, can we respect that and not shoot it to pieces, no matter how much we may disagree, please? Thank you. Smiley Onwards!
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« Reply #1 on: May 10, 2008, 09:22:11 »

If Mill's ya hero, why aren't you a member "I'm Saving Myself For John Stuart Mill" Facebook group, huh?

(I've not got time to post a proper response.)
But I love Mill.
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« Reply #2 on: May 10, 2008, 09:43:28 »

OK, I promise that I won't attack Matt if he posts here saying that the point of life is to serve God. I'll just say now as politely as I can that, being an atheist, I do not agree with this.

To me, there is no real purpose to life, beyond passing on your genes. You're born, you grow up, if you're lucky you go to school for a bit, you spend most of your life working, if you're lucky to live in a country whose population has a decent life expectancy then you'll retire, then eventually you'll die and become either fertilizer, an organ donator, or most probably a bit of both. That's it. Depressing and all, but then whoever said that life had to be worth living?
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« Reply #3 on: May 10, 2008, 10:41:12 »

If Mill's ya hero, why aren't you a member "I'm Saving Myself For John Stuart Mill" Facebook group, huh?

1. Didn't know it existed,
2. Can't really be saving myself - that ship has sailed
3. He's dead. Unfortunately.

I will post a proper reply to you Steka, but later (or possibly tomorrow); I'm off to watch a film and it must be finished by the time the repeat of Peep Show and Derren Brown are on E4+1 so I have to start watching now.
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« Reply #4 on: May 10, 2008, 14:12:37 »

Hmmm.

I've not read much Mill for a while other than some of his Utilitarianism stuff and that was a lot of nonsense.

'Daily-mail' philosophy stikes me as a greatly amusing concept.

Personally I think the make babies idea is closest to the point of human existance, but it depends what you mean by "the point of human existance". Purpose within nature is to make babies. But humans have strange properties like rationality. It's a question I don't think there is a simple answer to that everyone could agree on. Everyone decides what their own purpose is. I guess that could be something like what you were getting at Zsu.
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« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2008, 03:43:12 »

Yeah, whilst I don't profess to know very much about it, I think Existentialism is the system for purpose which makes most sense.
Perhaps it's just something about me and my almost total lack of maternal instinct that makes me extremely reluctant to accept that our "purpose" or ultimate aim for life is simply to reproduce. If that's true then to follow it to its logical conclusion; you come again to the question "what's the point?"
If we're supposed to simply continue the species then what happens when it comes to the end of the world, or some other great and world changing event (it's difficult to pinpoint exactly what kind of thing I mean here - the end of the world is the only sort of thing I can think of to begin to explain what I mean - perhaps, if you believe in that sort of stuff, some form of religious end to the world; the revelations or whatever; I don't know, I've sort of read most of the Bible, but I gave up at the Revelations) and we've achieved nothing more than having produced a race of people who, granted, will have come a long way from the organisms we first evolved from, but if there's no-one there to pat us on the back and say "well done, you've evolved a long way over a number of millions of years", then what's the point? 

It's when I come to this argument that I think how much easier it would be to solve this block in explaining it all if I actually did have a religion; and for this reason I can see why people might find it comforting to follow religion as it gives you purpose beyond just having a child to continue yourself (as most other people I've spoken to seem to believe is the ultimate aim). Unfortunately for my argument though, my reason won't allow me to believe in any kind of higher being.

Anyway, my point is this: how can our purpose be to continue the species when ultimately there is no point right at the end of that? When it all ends, what do we have except for a bunch of people (or whatever we might have evolved into by then)?
We clearly all have different concepts of success - for some it's money, for others it's family, and for some it's something completely different, or a mix of the lot of them - purpose is relative; depending on location, society (there's no point in money being your measurement of success in a society without capitalism), and all sorts of factors. It's fine if individuals think that their purpose is to reproduce (perhaps they have nothing more to do with their lives), but it's when people apply that to everyone that it confuses me.
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« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2008, 03:43:48 »

P.S. "Daily Mail Philosophy" = contradiction in terms.
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« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2008, 05:52:47 »

I agree that ultimately, reproduction is pointless. I don't see this as the purpose of my life either. But then I don't think that there's really a purpose to life. When people discuss the meaning of life, they talk like there has to be one. Whoever said there did? Whenever somebody asks me "What is the meaning of life?", I just give them a dictionary definition of 'life'. It's a bit depressing to realise that there isn't much point in being here, but tough.
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« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2008, 09:46:23 »

Gah I have to run off soon so I'll put a rather basic point rather than an exciting, elaborate and intelligent one  wacko

What's this obsession with 'purpose' anyway? What are humans for? Seems like an extraodinarily strange question to me. It makes sense to look at an object like a spade and say "What is a spade for" and it's obvious that a reply could be for digging holes. That's it's general function (though it can be used for other things obviously, a handy weapon for conking someone over the head for instance upsmiley)

When you get to people the question has to be answered "to make babies". It's what the body does.
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how can our purpose be to continue the species when ultimately there is no point right at the end of that?
One way of looking at it is the (admittedly a bit dodgy) spade analogy. When you're not using it it's pretty useless isn't it. When the spade isn't digging a hole it's not fulfiling it's purpose. If purpose is entirely to reproduce then it is reproduction in and of itself that is the functional purpose.
Of course that leaves us with the rather depressing notion that we're useful for about 18 months (taking the average child being two). But that's great for the girls, a guy's useful for the 30 seconds at the end of sex. Woop woop.

That's not the end of it though, producing the child isn't enough, you've got to get it to the point where it can make children too. Yes cliche as it is "children are the future" and so raising them to get to the best possible outcome, best able to find a good mate, best able to ensure that their children are going to find a good mate and so on and on. Getting a good mate is about being a generally being able to provide, good job, good personality, good looks.
Once your children have children you can help even more by helping those children develop into fine examples of baby machines, giving further purpose to your life.

So reproducing can be a final purpose, why ask what's the purpose of reproducing? It's just what we do, it's what our bodies are geared to do. It's just how the universe works, it's how nature works.

By purpose though we often aren't talking about physical function when we talk about people, we seem to be trying to assign some kind of cosmological significance, which leads to some grand nonsense on stilts about destiny and higher purpose.

There is no grand point to life, there's no great scheme, there's no wonderous answer.

Isn't that fantastic! Isn't that a good thing? Without some "purpose" trapping you, you are free to basically do what ever you like. In fact, the whole reproduction thing can go out the window too if you want. Because the great thing about having no purpose is that you can have any purpose.

Like Steka said where on earth do we get this notion that there has to be some big answer, are with that self centered? The only reason we want it is for some approval, some assurance that everything we do is all good and great and look at us we're fulfilling our purpose, our lives aren't useless after all. Hurrah!

That thinking leaves me empty. People are a purpose on their own. People are valuable for the simple sake that they are people. They're stupid, their awesome they're useless and incredibly useful. I think too that other people can bring purpose to each other.

And wow that was far longer than I thought it would be.

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« Reply #9 on: May 12, 2008, 19:39:42 »

Just a few observations to throw in here.
It is unfortunate that (apparently) many of you have set "religion" on the side, because this discussion about "purpose" has been discussed "philosophically" on our other threads at quite a length. 
Basically, and philosophically if "life" came into being by some random accident and it continues by the same processes, then I propose that the only logical (philosophical) conclusion anyone can come to is "Live this moment to the fullest" and for all YOU can get out of it. The natural philosophy that must accompany natural science is an utilitarianism that says in general it is the survival of the fittEST and that is dictated by a law of tooth and claw.  Therefore my purpose is to either kill or be killed.  If for some time it benefits me to co-operate with the clan to extend the clan's survival then that has some merit, but there is no reason to extend that beyond my immediate territory.  As a product of the survival of the fittest, best adapting to my environment then it is up to me (and mine) to claim whatever territory will give me the best resources (with the least amount of effort.) War and elimination of all threats to that is expected, unless I want to recruit slave labour to do the work for me, but there is always the danger of an uprising from the "mass" forces.  Therefore it follows that it would be better to depend less on slave labour and just settle for less work being done.  (Less resources used up also.)
The "fallacy" of reproduction being a sufficient reason to exist is that once fertilization functions cease, or egg production comes to an end, it really expedites the situation to "remove" the unproductive ones. 
Reason would seem to suggest that the weak and deformed, any that are less than MY standard of perfection, should either be eliminated or "top themselves" because otherwise they are only putting off the inevitable.  And furthermore, if reproduction is the only purpose for existing, then all forms of birth control should be outlawed, and any who practice any cessation of the process ought to be considered as advertising for their own demise.  They become a blotch on the human factory. 
If there is no "purpose" apart from this imagined "for the family name" or whatever, or for "leaving a legacy" why continue?  And if it is for "leaving a legacy" then the question has to be, "legacy for whom" and why? 

A certain wise man contemplating all these matters raised the issues of sexual pleasure, wealth and even wisdom and he concluded that it all was "emptiness".  The only conclusion he came to was "live life to the fullest this hour, this day for tomorrow you may die." 

Philosophically this concern I hear in times like cyclones and earthquakes, or in the face of poverty and so called suffering really sounds quite ridiculous does it not, when you line up the statements already made about purpose?  Isn't it the ones "taken" that are released from the emptiness of life and the grind just to get to the next day?  Released into nothingness and "all de troubles of de world" will soon be over. 

The best picture that the non-theist acts out every day, but doesn't apply to their own life is this.  Male plus female make a union.  An "accident" occurs. There is no intention behind the accident and no "purpose" for its existence.  Therefore it can be "eliminated" as soon as its presence is discovered.  So why do we reason differently just because the accident took place several billions of years ago?  No intention behind the original "accident" that brought forth the first 'organic" bit of matter, and no purpose for its existence, so why not set about eliminating as much of it as possible so that the terrestrial ball can go on unpolluted by the evolved creature that destroys every natural resource it comes upon? 
Who needs religion to discuss something as basic as "purpose" or lack thereof?  A freak beginning of something tells you there is NO PURPOSE either in the past or the future.  So why do most "professors" of this faith still hang around?
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« Reply #10 on: May 13, 2008, 02:57:33 »

I agree with the vast majority of what Matt said. Except for a couple of minor(ish) points. Firstly, if life is ultimately pointless, then what reason have we to try to survive, whether at the expense of others or not? Why not just give up and top ourselves, if those who're dead are the lucky ones, rather than killing others to extend our own lives?

Secondly, Anubis and I already agreed that ultimately even reproduction is pointless, so I disagree with banning contraceptives. Even if reproduction IS the purpose of life, contraception, when used to space pregnancies, improves the mother's health, and therefore increases her chances of surviving childbirth, thus increasing the potential number of offspring she can ultimately produce.

Apart from that, I agree with everything Matt said. The reason that us non-theists still hang around is that we haven't yet come up with a painless way of topping ourselves. Therefore, at present, for the majority, the pain of dying far outweighs the pain of living. If you can come up with a painless (and cheap) method of committing suicide, then I'd be happy to test it for you. But so far, you haven't. Lot of help you are.
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« Reply #11 on: May 20, 2008, 15:10:01 »

Do we have a purpose? What is it? It depends on your concept of purpose. If purpose implies design then I guess we just have to trust that there's someone out there who knows what they're doing. However, I think it's possible that we mould and shape our own purposes, our own destinies.

As a race, we have been evolving significantly since the first proto-human first became consciously aware. Not just biologically, but culturally we constantly eclipse ourselves in our levels of understanding, of creativity and of ordering the world around us. Moulded into conscious philosophers by nature, we then moulded nature with our philosophies; filling the skies with Gods and Angles who gave us reason to get up in the morning. Now we are moulding everything around our pursuit for greater levels of integration and communication, after all, as was quoted before; "debate=progress".

And so, held back only by our divisions and our conflicts, we work laboriously but progressively to intelligent singularity. When number became too big for us, we created machines to deal with them instead. Now we are developing the programming of those machines to manipulate not only data, but information as well; perhaps igniting a spark of consciousness and creativity as we inject semantic reasoning into the web. Maybe computers will surpass and replace us, but if we are made in God's image then the computers will carry on, like their makers, striving for understanding.

And what does all this mean? It means that, if I'm thinking along the right lines, it is entirely possible to surmise that our "purpose" is to attain all knowledge and reach ultimate levels of understanding. Of course, our knowledge and understanding cannot be empirically proved unless they pertain to matter, forces and energy, within the observable universe. And so, the scientists who look, and theorise and test, leave the un-falsifiable to philosophers and priests (except for string theorists who are deluded witch-doctors). As a result, we are striving towards knowledge and understanding of the universe and from this will come control. Then, and only then, can we, as a race, transcend the physical plane and try to "understand the mind of God" to quote Einstein.

Do we need to have a purpose? Well, I think it depends where you're looking from. I would suggest that a man who knows his place in the world and is content with it needs no other purpose than to continue with what he is doing (I could have reworded that into a paradox, but I'm too tired). On the other hand, the more we try to think and rationalise about our place in the world, the more our very existence can seem minute and futile. I know that in the past, I have thought and thought and been unable to justify my existence. I wasn't a happy kid.

But purpose and warmth and acceptance can be found through tiny mediums, small acts of kindness and small rewards in life that keep us searching and keep on fuelling our fires. The man who truly believes, with fervour in his heart, that he saved through Jesus Christ, is the same as the man who, with fire in his belly, raves at the Gods for not existing. They are both powered on by something, and I'm buggered if I can tell if it's really two different things and whether one is healthier than the other.

But I know one thing, if we are to have a meaning and a purpose and if we are to carry on in this odd and enthralling world then we need one thing. Hope. Without hope there can be nothing, without hope we are cut off from those who could otherwise help us. At any time a sinner could cry out for redemption, but his lack of faith holds him back.



Anyhoo, I've rambled on for a while and I'm quite tired now.
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« Reply #12 on: May 20, 2008, 15:19:11 »

I am, therefore I think Smiley
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« Reply #13 on: May 20, 2008, 15:26:41 »

I swam therefore I sink.
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« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2008, 15:36:24 »

When asked by an American reporter asked Oscar Wilde why he thought America was so violent, he said that it was because their wallpaper was so ghastly.

It was a statement that was taken as a joke at the time, but if you think about it it's right.

If someone is surrounded by an ugly surrounding then they are going to act in an ugly behaviour to other people.


The only ugly things in the world are man made things, so if things that are made by us are ugly then we are going to act in an ugly manner in response to it Smiley
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« Reply #15 on: May 20, 2008, 15:42:06 »

Metaphorically yeah. Certainly if we're surrounded by kind and happy people we're more likely to be kind and happy ourselves. And likewise if we're surrounded by a bunch of mardy wankers then we're not going to be all sunshine.

"Someone asked me yesterday why I liked their cat so much. 'Cos it shags better than your wife', I said" - Attributed to Oscar Wilde. ie made up by me
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« Reply #16 on: May 20, 2008, 17:35:12 »

Oscar Wilde was brilliant. He was the king of conversations Smiley


He only became a 'philosopher' as it were after he died and his plays were dissected and chopped up to fill quotation books.


Alot of them are much clearer if you have them in context Smiley
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« Reply #17 on: May 21, 2008, 01:42:47 »

I still don't accept that anyone could believe that such a butch, manly, sexist womaniser was batting for the other team.
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« Reply #18 on: May 21, 2008, 03:33:23 »

I always call my mate Rob gay, and when he uses the old "But I have a girlfriend" line, I always say "Yeah, but Oscar Wilde was married with 2 kids"


He is defeated Smiley
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« Reply #19 on: May 21, 2008, 03:38:45 »

Clever clever.

“Most of the time there's room for just one more on top...”

    ~ Oscar Wilde on Oscar Wilde Quotes
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