Thursday, October 3, 2013

Life Purpose

Many people have this purpose for their lives: "I just want to live a good, decent life, leave something good to pass onto my kids, and then pass away."  As a Christian, I know this is an insufficient way to look at life, and yet how can I powerfully argue that his view is deficient, lacking?


Anonymous said...

You might not be able to show them that their life is missing something. That sentiment might be more dependent on their life circumstances or their mood. However, you could start with something more concrete. For example, you can ask, "Then what do you think happens after you pass away"?

If they answer, "I think death is the end", you could ask, "Why do you believe that's true?"

Daniel Kim said...

I think one powerful way to engage someone in a conversation about this might be to consider what the "good" thing might be to leave behind for their children.

Most often, when people say this, they are thinking "good stuff" = money and assets.

I would start to challenge that notion by saying: "So when you say you want to live a decent & 'good' life and leave something 'good' for your children.. does it boil down to you want to live getting a decent amount of money and leave that money to your children? Is that pretty much your purpose?" If the person says yes that's what they mean, then I don't know what to say, except to say that even animals do that, and even KKK parents and Nazi parents do that.

But most people, when they hear it that way, they would say that their purpose also encompasses some kind of moral "good". Then I think we can talk about that moral good. If your children see that your purpose in life is to make money to leave for them, what's the moral lesson there? Why would they think that's a morally good thing? If you saw someone who spent all of his resources / energy / talents to just care for his own nuclear family, would you say that that was a morally beautiful or inspirational thing?

These are some of the questions you could ask. Of course, these things don't get us to the topic of considering the ultimate purpose of life or anything, but all I would try to get to is for them to consider whether or not such a lowly life purpose is actually satisfactory even for them. Most likely, they had higher aspirations, but they sort of "settled" on this lowly purpose (even common among animals).

So I think the whole question (in the previous post by Anonymous) about whether or not they believe that death is the end sort of get at this. If we are just animated molecules, then it's no problem that we have as our ultimate purpose a mere survival of our genetic information. But if that seems unsatisfactory to you, then we must start asking some higher questions.