Wednesday 10 February 2016

A meaning for life - what are the pre-requisites?

For mortal human life to have meaning it seems that there must be both permanence and personal relevance for some things in that life.

If everything is washed away at death, then there can be no meaning - everything is just a momentary spark of sensation - a brief sensation, which might well be a delusion.

If all that is left is located in biological memory, then this depends on brains which are fragile and temporary, and memories are fallible and may be false.

So (for mortal life to have meaning) there must be some realm or place or time in which at least some thing are 'stored' permanently (some kind of 'Platonic' realm of true reality, beyond the changes and decays of mortal life).

And this must have memories which are true, real, accurate and valid - which means that there must be a possibility of direct, unmediated transmission of information or knowledge.

(Because any 'normal' material processes - working by means of the usual perceptions and senses and the usual modalities such as light, sound and touch - must be incomplete and distorted, and indeed may be wholly illusory.)

But an accurate and true reality 'somewhere' is not enough - that reality must also be linked to us as individuals, and to our specific mortal lives - or else mortal life is meaningless.

(Some religions, some types of Christianity, are like this: mortal life is rendered pointless and functionless by comparison with the perfection of Heaven - except, perhaps, that evil choices in mortal life are able/ likely to wreck our chances of reaching Heaven. This does provide a kind of meaning for mortal life - albeit entirely negative.) 

All this (and more) is implicit when we feel that life has meaning: that at least some of the things that happen in our lives are significant, and recorded in a true and permanent way that also has continued personal relevance to us - so an afterlife is essential as well.

It is clear from the above that some kind of religion - and not just any kind of religion, because some religions are inadequate - is necessary for there to be meaning in life.

Thus meaning in life is not 'given' - nor is it natural - but it requires some kind of revelation.

Lacking which, we will have the background awareness that life is ultimately meaningless, and what we do during it is merely a series of momentary distractions: in a world, nihilism.

The possibilities are therefore nihilism or religion (but only some religions). 


Bruce B. said...

In ancient times, didn’t the Jews believe in a sort of corporate continuity/permanence despite not believing in individual permanence?

Anonymous said...

I’m going to speculate here to demonstrate what I might the case – that scientists (proper ones, and therefore the most influential) may be moving towards belief in the divine, albeit clumsily. “Clumsily”, because they have been trained from an early age to distrust intuition, calling it mere imagination, and, therefore, not real (as if a brilliant imagination were not necessary for the best science). Reason is their thing. Great, I am all for reason, but not on its own. I agree with a friend of mine, who said,

I stir my mind,
This barrel of tar,
With the paper spoon of reason.

Why they distrust intuition, and leaps of faith I just don’t get. Surely, every theory is a leap of faith, with a basis in the combination of reason and intuition?

Back to the main point of this post - science says no information can ever be lost, then this must apply to our every action - every breath - every thought. This seems to me to be in accord with the idea that God knows everything that we do and think. If I can make this connection, then so can brilliant scientists.

Science is also theorising the holographic universe, where somewhere on the edge of the universe is a 2D information store, which projects the material universe into what appears to us to be a 3D material reality. The 2D store is supposed to be the real, and the 3D is the image, or the unreal and transitory. This projection, which is the material universe, comes from the information store.

The image in my head is of a trip to the cinema as a child – I saw up above the motes of dust floating in the strong beam of light wide and faint where I sat, narrowing and strengthening the nearer it was to its source, the hole in the wall, behind which wall sat the projectionist. The light hit the screen, and suddenly there was a riot of colour and noise, and a story unfolded in real time. When the film ended, the camera, the film and the projectionist remained, behind the wall. I could not see them, but I knew that they were there. This is how I understand that the scientists see their holographic universe. This theory seems to me like,

“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”

Again, If I can see the obvious, so should brilliant scientists.

Continued in next post


Anonymous said...

Assuming that information can never be lost, If the information that is our lives is ‘out there’, is it stored as a whole, or is it created in a linear sequence (time bound)? If it is time bound and linear, then perhaps the information is simply a record of what has been. This might be enough in terms of what God needs to make a judgement of our actions and behaviour, whilst alive in the projected image. However, if the image is time bound, then does it not follow that it is material, and subject to corruption, like a degraded recording? A 2D reality of information that is outside of time would resolve the problem or corrupted information. It would remain pristine forever. But it brings another problem – surely a timeless 2D set of information would need to exist in its entirety. This brings in the age old question of free will and pre-determination that philosophy and religion have been arguing for millennia. I don’t want to argue that point here, but simply say that if these thoughts have entered my very ordinary brain, they must have entered the brains of proper scientists.

Most of science is populated by careerists and mediocrities, just like all other walks of life. However, there are the golden boys and girls out there still. Those people can make a difference in an atheistic world if anyone is going to. When an Archbishop of Canterbury confesses to the world that he has doubts, it seems to me that he should resign on the spot, not carry on dishing out bland messages like liquid lard to a world that isn’t listening. He certainly is not the man to initiate a mass Christian revival.

The scientist who says loudly, and publicly, that scientific theory, and divine interpretations of creation may not be so far apart, and outlines why, is much more likely to awaken at least the feeling for the divine in the mass of people than the princes of the Church.

Adam G. said...

Very good. I agree wholeheartedly.

Bruce Charlton said...

More on this at: