The Meaning of Life: A Philosophical Perspective
What is the meaning of life?
According to Hegel, life may not only be meaningless considering everything (and the universe we exist in) but also absurd. Given that mortality is inevitable and death is certain (in that we only exist for a period of time) the question raised is whether life has any meaning. For instance, Hegel notes that "Looking at it from the outside, it wouldn't matter if you had never existed. And after you have gone out of existence, it won't matter that you did exist" Some of the reasons that are often given to give life meaning including achieving personal goals, bringing happiness to self and others and to fulfill the purposes of God among others. Leaving the God argument aside, given that Hegel feels it presents its own problems, life as a whole seems to be meaningless given that we, as well as our accomplishments and those around us only exist for a specified period of time and then pass not to be remembered. While this may sound like a good point in that we ultimately pass away, I disagree with Hegel and argue that life does have meaning.
Meaning of life
While it is true that we only exist for a period of time (ourselves and those we care about) for the little time that we exist alive here on earth (whether or not there is an after-life) our actions matter and have consequences. As human beings, we are always trying to improve our lives and make it better towards increasing happiness and minimizing pain and suffering. For utilitarians, this is the right thing to do, which can be said to be the meaning of life. The world we live in and the life we live is full of challenges. This is not only among human beings, but also other animals. At the same time, most, if not all our efforts are directed towards making it better to towards minimizing, and ultimately eliminating such challenges and suffering. This is the meaning of life. According to Cyrenaics, the meaning of life is pleasure in the moment; that is to say directing efforts towards pleasure while we are still alive. By doing this, for ourselves and others, then life has meaning given that efforts are being directed towards something of value (life). According to Kant, life in itself is valuable, which is why he against using others as a means to an end. By directing human efforts towards more happiness and reduced pain, the meaning of life is enhancing the quality of the said life.
Cynics have also argued that the meaning of life involves living a moral life or a moral existence. Here, it can be argued that it is through this that happiness can be increased. By understanding what is right and wrong, people would gradually avoid what is wrong and do what is right thereby gradually reducing wrongs that result in suffering and pain and towards what is right and good that enhances happiness. For Hegel, the universe will ultimately collapse, which is one of the reasons life is meaningless. According to Hegel, this is one of the reasons has no meaning. However, considering that human beings are in the future likely to venture in to other system in space and travel far, then it can be said that life does have meaning; one of which may be for the human race to explore and learn about the entire universe and even probably find other life. Considering how big our universe is, it would simply be wrong to suggest that life is meaningless especially when we do not yet have all the answers.
For this reason, I have to take a stance against Hegel’s argument that life may be meaningless. As a species (human race) we are yet to learn and understand all about the universe. In the event that we had all the answers, then it can be argued that life is meaningless. However, coming to the conclusion that life has no meaning simply based on our limited knowledge would be misguided. With the advancements that we have made as a species, it will be possible to cure chronic diseases, improve the quality of life and explore our universe. All these are activities that the human race will undertake with time. As such, all these give human life a meaning as we look towards the future.