Meaning of Life
What is the meaning of life according to Decalogue X?
- It’s not in property.
- But there is such a thing as beauty--in moderation.
- And persons. But what if they are like the stamps, material and evanescent?
- "His scorn of the gods, his hatred of death, and his passion for life won him that unspeakable penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing."
- What does that mean? Think of a life aimed at survival, without any deeper religious meaning. The whole being is exerted toward what?
- (Think also of a person who thinks life is meaningless except to reproduce.)
- The tragedy is in Sisyphus' consciousness of futility.
- "The lucidity that was to constitute his torture at the same time crowns his victory. There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn."
- But if there is no meaning, how can there be meaning in scorn?
- "Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth. They are inseparable."
- "For the rest, he knows himself to be the master of his days."
- But if there is no freedom of action, is there freedom of thought? (Think of materialism and determinism.)
- "That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving; that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man's achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins--all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand."
- Really? How to find evidence that the causes were all random and unplanned?
- Freedom "to examine, to criticise, to know, and in imagination to create". Freedom of thought.
- We cannot stand the randomness of the world, and so we suppose the idea of a hidden order, a hidden harmony of the world with a divine plan.
- Why would we have such a deep desire for harmony? Do we have natural desires for things that aren't possible?
- We must resign ourselves to our fate.
- But we can then "transform and refashion the unconscious universe" by projecting our thoughts on it. " In all the multiform facts of the world--in the visual shapes of trees and mountains and clouds, in the events of the life of man, even in the very omnipotence of Death--the insight of creative idealism can find the reflection of a beauty which its own thoughts first made. ... Of all the arts, Tragedy is the proudest, the most triumphant; for it builds its shining citadel in the very centre of the enemy's country...."
- This makes us forget about shallow stuff.
- "To abandon the struggle for private happiness, to expel all eagerness of temporary desire, to burn with passion for eternal things--this is emancipation, and this is the free man's worship."
- "United with his fellow-men by the strongest of all ties, the tie of a common doom, the free man finds that a new vision is with him always, shedding over every daily task the light of love. ... Be it ours to shed sunshine on their path, to lighten their sorrows by the balm of sympathy, to give them the pure joy of a never-tiring affection, to strengthen failing courage, to instil faith in hours of despair."
- Russell's ideal is less solitary than Camus'. But once again, the most we can do, banding together, is to reconceptualize what we're facing. But is that not an illusion? And why should there be meaning in our minds, if these minds are but the purposeless collocation of atoms?
- Russell is clear that there is good and evil. But is there room for that in a materialist metaphysics?
- Russell mentions Platonism in his 1929 remark (discuss). But why should the physical world have any tie (participation) to a supernatural realm of Forms?