Wednesday, November 26, 2014

CityLit Philosophy course confronts 'The meaning of life' question - a commentary

City Lit Philosophy Key Themes continues and after a struggle to reach the venue caused by disruptions to the Piccadilly line I was wondering what was  'The Meaning of Life' which coincidentally was the reading in the Nagel book 'What Does it All Mean?' that we'd be trying to get a grip on.
Leaves on the street, pebbles on the beach..

Here is a revisit of the notes I took from what I found to be a strangely worthwhile discussion ..

Well to help us look at the issue of the meaningless of life (as some polled in the class described it) Scott (the course tutor)  presented us with 3 possible scenarios as a starting point:

1) Placetious (a made up word according to Scott) - which I suppose we might ascribe meaning to.

2) Moves in a Game  - like chess, Scott described how his niece when playing said she  'didn't care who won' which might be thought to remove the purpose  from the game, like a depressed person in life.

3) Confession - as in the Catholic church , forgive me father... the responsibility is removed to a higher body

For me, I was not someone of the group who considers that life has no meaning (although I certainly don't know what it is) but if it hasn't or you don't believe that it does (at some level) we're troubled like Macbeth's speech on his wife's death realised by Shakespeare .

Scott then spoke about someone who might spend their the making a Matchstick Model of a great Cathedral and speaking about The Death of Ivan Ilyich (Tolstoy) who had thought he was having a good life but saw it disintegrate as he moved towards death.

Some of the class reverted (again) to the explanation of the Darwin inspired idea that evolution might answer the question.

There was discussion too of the 'quest' for  meaning in life as an 'affliction', would it be better to be in a position to be too busy to ask oneself the difficult question? - Perhaps we'd be happy if we as Nike would say - Just do it?

If one takes life (as we really should until we have some evidence of other) as being finite and Science increasingly indicates that the planet Earth will indeed fail at some time by the sun burning out if nothing else then we need to realise that our own limited existence is a small pinprick in something far bigger.

Some might think that religion answers this point or that alternatively it could be that it points to the search for religion as a fallacious pursuit.

The point that Nagel makes in the book, which I did not fully comprehend at reading is the point of the standard metre in Paris which is an end  in itself (to measurement) and which an explanation of is summed up by  Wittgenstein in Certainty as Allow justifications to come to an end here so in fact if you're life is about Horticulture (or you believe it to be)  and that is what gives it meaning that's (perhaps) enough.

What I got (I think) is that we get meaning from the lives we lead and the search we make, should we choose to make it is part of this.

Somewhat intriguingly Scott also floated the concept that he sometimes applied  - 

'Is it worthy of a human being?' which seems a little to me a little like 

'What would Jesus do?' but that's a whole other can of worms, anyway certainly plenty of food for thought for me from the course to date and next week it's 'Suffering and salvation' which sounds about right.

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