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Finding Purpose

November 17, 2013

In former eras I think we may well have been suffocating with the weight of too much purpose to our existence. But in this era, we seem to have gone to the other extreme. We are taught from a young age that there is no purpose to be found in the universe. That it is a purposeless machine, following blind causal patterns, arbitrarily and randomly. That we are the result of chance collisions of matter banging into each other thoughtlessly and aimlessly. We are also expected to believe in the conceptual paradox, that out of randomness, something magically replicated itself, and that out of nothing there was a big bang.

Too much emphasis here is placed on the inhuman levels, as if these are primary and the human level is just an after thought. But we are human after all, so surely the human level should have a bit more priority than this? The problem is that science doesn’t like the human level. It is complicated, specific, unique, it is a level they are embroiled in themselves in ways they would rather keep “private”. They want simple generalisations, grand theories.

This whole attitude has gone too far in my view, and needs to be corrected.

Just because science teaches us that the universe as a whole does not have a meaning subservient to human purpose, just because mankind is not the final goal and destiny of the universe. As we can learn from a basic study of physics, astronomy and biology. Just because there is no human purpose here, does not mean human purpose is obliterated altogether, and neither does it mean the universe doesn’t maybe have some higher purpose than humanity of which we are yet to be aware. Maybe we are a step on the road to a species that is the final purpose and summation of this universe.

We should not feel closed off from a whole avenue of enquiry just because science is singularly touchy about it. I think it is a dangerous miss-education of the next generation to suggest there is no purpose to their life. And to sugar coat it with some apologetic talk about free-will and humans being self-aware is simply not good enough. Great! The universe is purposeless, my life is purposeless, but hey, I am self-aware of this and have free-will to kill myself or others if I like! Cheers, thanks for the education!

This will not do. Purpose is not an after thought, it is not a condolence for the  childish, weak-minded and their wishful thinking. It is an ever-present and real aspect of human life. It is not some mystical thing, it is simply a form of enquiring guided by means-end reasoning. We see the parts as dependent on the whole in some way. The whole provides some sort of end that makes the whole system coherent. Rather than the whole being reducible to the parts, and the coherence of the parts being merely a result of blind chance. All we are doing is seeing a relationship between parts prior to the parts coming together, based on some intuition of the purpose of the whole.

This is a perfectly legitimate means of enquiry, provided it is conducted with the same rational forbearance as other types of rational enquiry. It is trial and error, there is no jumping to conclusions or grand generalisations. And always we must bear in mind the anthropomorphic error of seeing the whole universe as somehow subservient to human purpose. For pointing out this error we have the sciences of physics and biology to thank, particularly the work of figures such as Galileo, Newton, Einstein, Darwin and Mendel.

Life goes on, and whether we create it or not, purpose is present, and since we are real, so are the purposes we get entangled in. Even if they may only be of local and short-term significance. Better to accept this than stick our heads in the sand. For this latter is a serious disservice to future generations.

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