WHY WE WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND THE MEANING OF LIFE
Professor David Glyndwr Penderyn Bevan Richards, University of Mynydd
No matter how old we are and how wise we become, you and I and the rest of the human race will never understand the 'meaning of life'.
Let us understand why:
Our first task will be to define the statement 'the meaning of life'. To
do this, we need to define the individual words 'the', 'meaning', 'of', and
' life' and we will do this using a commonly accepted defining tool, the
Oxford Popular English Dictionary:
Definition of 'the' - the = serving to particularize as needing no further identification.
Definition of 'meaning' - mean = to have as one's purpose or intention (Oxpop 495) meaning = what is meant
Definition of 'of' - of = with reference or regard to (Oxpop 566)
Definition of 'life' - life = being alive, the functional activity and continual change that is peculiar to animals and plants (before their death) and is not found in rocks and synthetic substances.
If we accept that 'life' is the keyword in the phrase 'the meaning of
life' then we should begin with what we know about life. We can only be
sure about two things, we, that is you and I exist, we are alive and
that one day we will die, we will be dead. The great thing is that if
you are reading this article or you are watching it on a video then you,
thankfully are alive and that is really good news. The great French
philosopher René Descartes summed up life nicely when he said 'I think,
therefore I am'. So we should search internally for a personal meaning
and what is the meaning of our life.
We should start at the beginning and in the beginning we are conceived
in an interaction between our parents, and although we have gestated for several months inside our birth mother we are still part of
them and we have no control whatsoever with our life.
Eventually we make our entrance into the world and we start our singular existence,
our life on the day when we are born.
From that day onwards, our life is governed by a series of actions undertaken by ourselves and by those people we come into contact with. The final push at our birth is an action by our mother. the first thing we do is breathe and this is an action, crying for food is an action as is the feeding of a baby by a parent. At the end of our time, we could be shot and killed and the last action that had any meaning in our life was
that of another, the action of the person who pulled the trigger. Fingers crossed we will be lucky enough to remain healthy and live to an old age and die a natural death
when the last action we make will be the same as the first, a solitary breath.
It must be considered therefore that the meaning of a single human life is related to the actions that pertain to that particular
person because let's face it, if we didn't take such actions as eating
and drinking we would not survive:
THE PURPOSE OF AN ACTION
Back to the beginning again, we are born and then our lives are governed by the actions we make, the actions of others undertaken on our behalf for example by our parents, or actions directed towards us by others, for example educators, policemen, government officials.
Every time we make an action or another makes an action towards us, it
will have purpose and I believe that the purpose of
all actions made by ourselves and by others towards us will fall into either of the following two categories, or a combination of both:
Survival or Reward
SURVIVAL ACTIONS: We need food, water, air, shelter, sleep and security. These are our
REWARD ACTIONS: We interact with other people socially and involve ourselves in leisure and recreation activities. These actions create chemical and electrical reactions within our body
that make us feel good,
the result of these actions could be considered a reward. I will call
these reactions, body function rewards.
DUAL PURPOSE (SURVIVAL & REWARD) ACTIONS: A good example of dual
purpose actions are the enhancement of food and drink. We may only need
basic food and drink to survive but we can eat out at restaurants and
other establishments to reward ourselves with nicer tasting food and
drink. Another enhancement to these survival actions could be the
accompaniment of a partner or group of friends. The consumption of this
food and drink are dual purpose actions. We need the food and drink for
survival yet we are gaining rewards from the enhanced taste and the
THE PURPOSEFUL DIRECTION OF ACTIONS
PERSONAL ACTIONS DIRECTED TOWARDS OURSELVES - Our primary actions will involve survival; as babies our actions are driven by the
sub-conscious, we cry for milk, suckling on a breast or a bottle, this creates a feel good factor that will eventually evolve into an additional series of
body function rewards when we come into contact with our mother or carer for feeding. When we are toddlers, once our survival needs are met, as part of our evolution to adulthood we will automatically make actions which in their purpose tend towards creating chemical and or electrical reactions within our bodies. The purpose of these actions are to reward us with positive
learning outcomes and body function rewards. As adults we reward ourselves with
things like holidays, entertainment, nice clothes, nights out etc. that stimulate a chain reaction of chemical and electrical rewards
for our actions.
The purpose of every action we make directed towards ourselves will be for survival or reward or a combination of both.
THE ACTIONS OF OTHERS DIRECTED TOWARDS US
Actions directed toward us will have an intended survival, reward or
combination purpose for the person making the action.
The purpose of the action that another person makes toward us will
consequently aim toward a survival, reward or combination outcome for
This outcome will have a positive, neutral or negative effect on us.
POSITIVE - As babies we are reliant on the actions of others toward us that support us before we are able to fend for ourselves. As children and young adults we can be supported by the actions of adults with good moral values that support your personal positive survival or reward outcomes.
NEUTRAL - Neither positive or negative, having no effect on our lives.
NEGATIVE - The purpose of other peoples actions can destroy or end lives. We can be in daily contact with people whose purpose of action intends to create a positive survival outcome or reward for themselves by creating a negative outcome for others. These actions may force the recipients into actions whose purpose is survival.
OUR ACTIONS DIRECTED TOWARDS OTHERS
Likewise our actions directed towards others will have the same
possible outcomes for others and they will be for survival, reward or a combination of both.
Based upon the above theoretical evidence and the definition of the
keyword life 'being alive, the functional activity and continual change that is peculiar to animals and plants (before their
death) (Oxpop 459)'
I would suggest that the.........
THE MEANING OF YOUR LIFE
..........is the collective survival actions taken by you and directed by others towards you during the course of your life.
THE MEANING OF HUMAN LIFE
..........is the collective survival actions taken by all human beings during the entire existence of the human race.
THE MEANING OF LIFE
.........is the collective survival actions taken by all living creatures during the entire existence of life
in the universe.
This being the case we will never know the meaning of life as long as
animals and plants live and you personally will never know the meaning of your life, because that meaning cannot be calculated until after your
death which hopefully is a long, long, long way away.
THE MEANING OF LIFE
is the collective survival actions taken by all living creatures during the entire existence of life
in the universe.
Further to this theory, it could be argued that reward actions could be included in the meaning of life, however I have based the 'survival' only actions and I
would also include actions that have dual purpose for their survival
content. Even those that may have a small percentage of survival purpose in them
that are undertaken mainly for
reward. These should count towards the meaning of life based upon 'being alive' and in particular the definition of functional (definition: of or serving a function designed or intended to be practical rather than necessarily attractive or pleasing) in the Oxford Popular English Dictionary (Oxpop 318), the term pleasing suggesting 'reward'.