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Entertaining and thought provoking philosophy
on 23 January 2011
According to Jean-Paul Sartre: ''Purpose and meaning are not built in to human life, we ourselves are responsible for fashioning our own purposes. It is not that life has no meaning, but that it has no predetermined meaning.''
Which to many might ring a bit hollow: ''Ok, we can't see any meaning out there, so we are just going to make one up for ourselves....'' Really, is a made-up meaning a real meaning at all?
Yes, according to Baggini, assigned purposes are not inferior to predetermined purposes! He thinks that we should ''grow up'' and accept that there is not some hidden or secret purpose that we have not yet discovered.
Instead, our decision making should be based on what is out in the open for everyone to see: ''The whole problem of lifes meaning is not that we lack any particular piece of secret information ... It is rather to be solved by thinking about the issues on which the evidence remains silent....''
So what could life's purpose then be? Some might claim that life is all about having a good material standard of living or becoming successful someday in the future. Others claim that life is about helping others, serving humanity, being happy, enjoying each day or freeing the mind. According to Baggini there might be some truth in these answers - but not the whole truth.
The rest of the book (an entertaining and thought provoking journey) walks us through some of these ideas that people have (on lifes purpose). Trying not to be dogmatic, he doesn't reject anything completely, but does point out weak spots in a lot of the reasoning. In the end the reader should decide for himself, as long as he makes a ''Moral'' and ''Ethical'' choice....
In the end the reader should not think that he will really ever be any wiser. Indeed, we might end up wanting more knowledge and more input.
But Baggini doesn't think it will change much. Instead we should ''confront and accept the limits of human understanding'' - Thats the mature approach according to Baggini. And with that Baggini closes the book.
At least this reader isn't completely satisfied with this....
Well, well - maybe we don't know anything, and maybe we are really reptiles from Tau Ceti inside some virtual reality gear that makes us think that we are earthlings - Then surely the Buddhist are wise to state that reality is a fuzzy thing, and that we should keep working to improve our minds - maybe there might even be some purpose in that. And surely Baggini will agree that it will be ok for us to decide our own purpose, as long as we don't hurt anyone else in the process.