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Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

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Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

Old 05-05-15, 11:46 AM
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Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

Why was humanity put on this earth? Was there a divine reason? Were we planted here by a more advanced entity, whether God or some race of beings passing themselves off as God? Or are we just an accident (happy or otherwise) based on the collision of cosmic forces and the rise of evolutionary biology? The biological imperative is to reproduce and survive. Is that all there is to it?

What do philosophers say about all of this? Has anyone ever compiled the declarations by philosophers that might answer these questions and put them into either a book or a college course?

I was sort of compelled to write this after reading David Brooks' column in the New York Times today entitled "What Is Your Purpose?," which is more about one's individual purpose in life and the journey one takes to discover it. Not that I know many people, if any, who've actually undertaken that journey. Most people just get on with the business of daily living.

Here's the link to Brooks' piece. As usual, the comments are the best part:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/05/op...dayspaper&_r=0

Any thoughts?

Thanks.
Old 05-05-15, 11:50 AM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

Eat, fuck, make kids etc.

As a species, we're the most worthless contribution to the land we live on. We destroy more than we create.

I don't believe in a deity, the concept has never made sense to me based on how the world has come about. So biologically we're just the smartest beasts w/ the least contribution to the planet.
Old 05-05-15, 11:52 AM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

I think it's all just a strange coincidence. We are born, we live and we die. Nothing else, that's it.
Old 05-05-15, 11:53 AM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

It's just our time. The universe will end our time in short order and then it'll be something else's time. We're just a step on an infinite ladder.
Old 05-05-15, 12:05 PM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

Who gives a shit? Seriously, people tie themselves in knots over this ridiculous question. Enjoy yourself - life is short.
Old 05-05-15, 12:17 PM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

Yes, obviously to enjoy ourselves to the fullest extent that we can. What other purpose could there possibly be?
Old 05-05-15, 12:20 PM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

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Old 05-05-15, 12:22 PM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

We are self-aware beings (to an extent) by chance.

We made a bunch of neat stuff to give us purpose.

We will die and probably be nothing. In an off-chance, we will die and be something else.
Old 05-05-15, 12:22 PM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

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Old 05-05-15, 12:28 PM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

I read a lot of philosophy, both secular and spiritual. Man, it is a fantastic ride.

Here is what I have learned. It seems obvious to me now and I wonder how we don't all see it clearly. Our minds (or souls, if one prefers) have the capacity for both intelligence and wisdom, and despite what most people think, they are not the same thing. We have simply forgotten about wisdom (essentially), even though we may say that a very intelligent person is wise, we don't mean it in the correct way, generally. We can all think of people we know that are incredibly brilliant yet seem to have little common sense.

So why did we choose intelligence over wisdom? Intelligence is an incredible servant but a terrible master. Intelligence gained in our society generally turns into monetary rewards (or did back when college degrees meant more) and our society says to go out and get material stuff, get a new iphone each year, get a bunch of dvds, get the biggest and newest thing, etc. So seeing people "succeed" in life (in a very material way) lead others to also pursue intelligence over wisdom because of the personal gain. The change for intelligence over wisdom in the US is best seen between the WWII generation and the baby boomer generation. It was the baby boomers that went to college at a much higher rate than their parents, and a college degree was the key to a good job and good pay.

So what have we lost in our pursuit of intelligence over wisdom? We are the richest nation in the world. Our poor have far more than the poor in most counties. And yet it does not satisfy us. But our intelligence says that stuff is what will satisfy us, so we go into debt to get more stuff which will surely satisfy us, but it isn't long lasting. So we go into more and more debt. Yep, without wisdom in the culture you end up with a country that is so incredibly rich, but also so incredibly unsatisfied that they are also the most in debt. When you truly think about that, it is obvious that material goods are not the key to happiness and in fact there are many people in cultures with far less wealth who are happier than we are, because they have the wisdom to understand that happiness is being satisfied with what you have, not with getting what you want (or think you want).

So just how much do we pursue knowledge over wisdom? This isn't the best metric for a number of reasons, but it shows the point. If you go on reddit you will find over 8 million subscriber to /r/todayilearned. By comparison, if you go to /r/wisdom you will find 184 subscribers. Effectively, we "worship" at the alter of intelligence and ignore wisdom.

And wisdom is so fucking awesome. I've been searching it out wherever I can find it for the past 3 years or more. And it takes you to a lot of places you aren't comfortable with, but then you grow....or go back to sleep. And if you are looking at wisdom you will undoubtedly find things that seem religious, though generally from a more universalist standpoint. Here is one of my favorite poems by Rumi, who was a 13th century Muslim mystic.
I died as a mineral and became a plant,

I died as plant and rose to animal,

I died as animal and I was Man.

Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?

Yet once more I shall die as Man, to soar

With angels blest; but even from angel hood

I must pass on: all except God doth perish.

When I have sacrificed my angel-soul,

I shall become what no mind e'er conceived.

Oh, let me not exist! for Non-existence

Proclaims in organ tones, 'To Him we shall return.'
Here is another poem: From a Norman Crucifix of 1632

I am the great sun, but you do not see me,
I am your husband, but you turn away,
I am the captive, but you do not free me,
I am the captain you will not obey.

I am the truth, but you will not believe me,
I am the city where you will not stay,
I am your wife, your child, but you will leave me,
I am that God to whom you will not pray.

I am your counsel, but you do not hear me,
I am the lover whom you will betray,
I am the victor, but you do not cheer me,
I am the holy dove whom you will slay.

I am your life, but if you will not name me,
Seal up your soul with tears, and never blame me
So many people think that the point of life, or the answer to why we are here, is to accumulate stuff, get conquests, etc. But to me it is obvious that the real point is to be joyful and be happy. Instead, we continually chase that which we have shown over and over only brings limited happiness and then it is gone and we go pursue the next thing we think will make us happy. Let's face it, we are on this earth for essentially the blink of an eye. Do you want that time to be filled with work to buy stuff you will quickly grow tired of, or do you want to fill your life with joy? I'll go with joy.
Old 05-05-15, 12:30 PM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

I figured we ruined another planet somewhere and we were dumped off here to do the same.
Old 05-05-15, 12:30 PM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

The newspaper column asks why there aren't sages in the popular press telling us what's right and what's wrong. It's an interesting question. But I think it's based on a wrong premise. The sages may not be published in the New York Times anymore, but Joel Osteen has had several bestselling books.

As to why we're here, the answer varies by religion.
• If you're Christian, it's obedience to God's word and to spread the faith, and you'll be rewarded in heaven.
• If you're Norse, it's to fight and win, and you'll be rewarded in Valhalla.
• If you're Buddhist, it's to follow some basic precepts, and you'll be rewarded in the next life by keeping the progress you made in this life.
• If you're a hedonist, satisfying yourself is the highest goal, and there is no afterlife.

Naturally, each of those systems seems bizarre to people following another rule set.

Last edited by Nick Danger; 05-05-15 at 12:37 PM.
Old 05-05-15, 12:33 PM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

I take the basic Christian worldview that we are spiritually fallen, physical beings made with a spark of divinity, and this enables us to act much better than or much worse than dogs. We inherently have a partial and flawed comprehension of good and evil, and we naturally gravitate towards sin.

This explanation seems to me to comport well with both myself, and the history of mankind.
Old 05-05-15, 12:34 PM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

For arguments sake, say we are all just a happy accident of biology. Then what is this petri dish we call the universe? Is it a smaller slice of some even greater forum? Why do molecules and elements and other sciencey things needed for random biology even exist in the first place? Why isn't there just nothing? It makes my head hurt.

Old 05-05-15, 12:46 PM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

Originally Posted by astrochimp View Post
I figured we ruined another planet somewhere and we were dumped off here to do the same.
So we're like.... an Engineer's Xenomorphs?
Old 05-05-15, 12:48 PM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

Originally Posted by rocket1312 View Post
For arguments sake, say we are all just a happy accident of biology. Then what is this petri dish we call the universe? Is it a smaller slice of some even greater forum? Why do molecules and elements and other sciencey things needed for random biology even exist in the first place? Why isn't there just nothing? It makes my head hurt.

If there is something beyond this petri dish we call the universe, it's unknowable. Your only choices are to take an answer on faith, or to abandon the question.

The question "Why is there something instead of nothing" bugged me for a while. After a few years I abandoned that question too, and decided to enjoy what I have. Voltaire called it tending your own garden. Life is good.
Old 05-05-15, 12:54 PM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

Originally Posted by rocket1312 View Post
For arguments sake, say we are all just a happy accident of biology. Then what is this petri dish we call the universe? Is it a smaller slice of some even greater forum? Why do molecules and elements and other sciencey things needed for random biology even exist in the first place? Why isn't there just nothing? It makes my head hurt.

Do you watch the Simpsons? There's an episode where Lisa puts soda and a tooth in a petri dish to see how badly the tooth will decay. After a few weeks she sees that a civilization began growing in the petri dish and she was their God. (it was a parody of a Twilight Zone episode)

Anyway, that's pretty much the gist of what's going on with us.
Old 05-05-15, 01:06 PM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

Happy accident, unusually smart animals, treating others well allows us all to survive as long as possible, then we die. Simple.
Old 05-05-15, 01:09 PM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

We are the science fair project of an alien teenager and it is going to get a D-.
Old 05-05-15, 01:15 PM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

Originally Posted by Solid Snake View Post
So we're like.... an Engineer's Xenomorphs?
Nope, we're Ark B.
Old 05-05-15, 01:17 PM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

Originally Posted by stvn1974 View Post
We are the science fair project of an alien teenager and it is going to get a D-.
The Dome by Stephen King. Close, anyway.
Old 05-05-15, 01:22 PM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

Originally Posted by Draven View Post
Happy accident, unusually smart animals, treating others well allows us all to survive as long as possible, then we die. Simple.
This is what I think as well.
Old 05-05-15, 01:45 PM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

Originally Posted by kvrdave View Post
I read a lot of philosophy, both secular and spiritual. Man, it is a fantastic ride.

Here is what I have learned. It seems obvious to me now and I wonder how we don't all see it clearly. Our minds (or souls, if one prefers) have the capacity for both intelligence and wisdom, and despite what most people think, they are not the same thing. We have simply forgotten about wisdom (essentially), even though we may say that a very intelligent person is wise, we don't mean it in the correct way, generally. We can all think of people we know that are incredibly brilliant yet seem to have little common sense.

So why did we choose intelligence over wisdom? Intelligence is an incredible servant but a terrible master. Intelligence gained in our society generally turns into monetary rewards (or did back when college degrees meant more) and our society says to go out and get material stuff, get a new iphone each year, get a bunch of dvds, get the biggest and newest thing, etc. So seeing people "succeed" in life (in a very material way) lead others to also pursue intelligence over wisdom because of the personal gain. The change for intelligence over wisdom in the US is best seen between the WWII generation and the baby boomer generation. It was the baby boomers that went to college at a much higher rate than their parents, and a college degree was the key to a good job and good pay.

So what have we lost in our pursuit of intelligence over wisdom? We are the richest nation in the world. Our poor have far more than the poor in most counties. And yet it does not satisfy us. But our intelligence says that stuff is what will satisfy us, so we go into debt to get more stuff which will surely satisfy us, but it isn't long lasting. So we go into more and more debt. Yep, without wisdom in the culture you end up with a country that is so incredibly rich, but also so incredibly unsatisfied that they are also the most in debt. When you truly think about that, it is obvious that material goods are not the key to happiness and in fact there are many people in cultures with far less wealth who are happier than we are, because they have the wisdom to understand that happiness is being satisfied with what you have, not with getting what you want (or think you want).

So just how much do we pursue knowledge over wisdom? This isn't the best metric for a number of reasons, but it shows the point. If you go on reddit you will find over 8 million subscriber to /r/todayilearned. By comparison, if you go to /r/wisdom you will find 184 subscribers. Effectively, we "worship" at the alter of intelligence and ignore wisdom.

And wisdom is so fucking awesome. I've been searching it out wherever I can find it for the past 3 years or more. And it takes you to a lot of places you aren't comfortable with, but then you grow....or go back to sleep. And if you are looking at wisdom you will undoubtedly find things that seem religious, though generally from a more universalist standpoint. Here is one of my favorite poems by Rumi, who was a 13th century Muslim mystic.


Here is another poem: From a Norman Crucifix of 1632



So many people think that the point of life, or the answer to why we are here, is to accumulate stuff, get conquests, etc. But to me it is obvious that the real point is to be joyful and be happy. Instead, we continually chase that which we have shown over and over only brings limited happiness and then it is gone and we go pursue the next thing we think will make us happy. Let's face it, we are on this earth for essentially the blink of an eye. Do you want that time to be filled with work to buy stuff you will quickly grow tired of, or do you want to fill your life with joy? I'll go with joy.
Thank you, kvrdave! This is about as good an answer as I could have hoped for--from this board--especially as I embark on retirement in a few months and give up the daily grind.

Last edited by Ash Ketchum; 05-05-15 at 02:33 PM.
Old 05-05-15, 01:52 PM
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Re: Philosophical question: Why Are We Here?

People aren't wearing enough hats.
Old 05-05-15, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by Draven View Post
Happy accident, unusually smart animals, treating others well allows us all to survive as long as possible, then we die. Simple.
Great. I think I'm going to go stick my head in the oven now.


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