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What Is Life For?

 
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Mats
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PostPosted: Thu 10 Jan, 2008 1:56 pm    Post subject: What Is Life For? Reply with quote

This may be the most pompous of my posts yet (be warned!). I have made many assumptions in my life; the primary of these has been that "all will continue as it is". This is obviously untrue, yet it is a comforting illusion. So, when something like "going to the parents for Christmas" suddenly disappears, it is jarring, to say the least. Adjustments can certainly be made - but it raises an Alfie sort of question -"what's it all about?". Should one strive for a significant achievement (write music or a book, "save" lives, just be kind, cook a great meal, pay all bills, experience "thrills", etc,) or just "live" until death? Well, I gave warning that my post would be ponderous!


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David
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PostPosted: Fri 11 Jan, 2008 1:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

My friends and I used to stay up late debating "the meaning of life" in our late teens without ever reaching a consensus. My own view has constantly evolved as I was influenced by new (to me) philosophies ranging from Star Trek to Buddha.

I'd like to think that I'll eventually settle on my own version of "truths" but I still find myself conflicted by such arguments as "hedonism is bad" vs "life is a journey, not a destination".
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Mats
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PostPosted: Wed 16 Jan, 2008 11:03 am    Post subject: hedonism bad? Reply with quote

Hedonism http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedonism being bad ? This cannot be so as its goal is pleasure - surely pleasure cannot be anything but good!?


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ejm
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PostPosted: Wed 16 Jan, 2008 1:08 pm    Post subject: Re: hedonism bad? Reply with quote

Just pulling my head out of the sand for a second here (I'm really quite shallow and haven't done much speculation at all about what life means. Is the answer "C"?)

Isn't the definition of hedonism "pleasure for the sake of pleasure at all costs?" (as in the 'end justifies the means'?) That would make it not good, wouldn't it? There is no balance.



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Mats
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PostPosted: Wed 16 Jan, 2008 2:49 pm    Post subject: Not Quite Reply with quote

The definition of hedonism doesn't include the phrase "at all costs". That would place in league with nazi goals; it's merely that pleasure in life is an OK goal. In my original post I just asked the question "Since we live for a relatively short time, should our aim be to do "good" or to enjoy life while we can. It is not a ridiculous question, as we all die sooner or later. The question was a reaction to my father's death last year. He made a goal of amassing money. I often asked him what it was for; he wanted to "pass it on" and no amount of "I don't need it ; spend some on yourself" would cut any ice. It made me think that the idea of living to create a "legacy" is foolish. All here may not agree.


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Barbara
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PostPosted: Wed 16 Jan, 2008 3:47 pm    Post subject: Re: Not Quite Reply with quote

MEF wrote:
The definition of hedonism doesn't include the phrase "at all costs". ... it's merely that pleasure in life is an OK goal


Answers.com http://www.answers.com/hedonism&r=67 gives this as one of the definitions of hedonism.
Answer.com wrote:
2. Philosophy. The ethical doctrine holding that only what is pleasant or has pleasant consequences is intrinsically good.

"... only ... is intrinsically good ... " at least somewhat implies "at all costs". It does seem to imply something stronger than pleasure being an OK goal (among other goals?).

The discussion on the Answers.com page above under the "The ancient Greek legacy" heading is interesting. It starts with "Hedonism's history is bedevilled by two false and damaging assumptions ... ".

I never considered the goodness or badness of hedonism before; I just thought it was "bad", like "gluttony" is bad. I nodded in agreement when David said that one of his conflicting thoughts was "hedonism is bad".


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Mats
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PostPosted: Wed 16 Jan, 2008 5:36 pm    Post subject: Forget Hedonism Reply with quote

I now realize that using the word "hedonism" has obscured the intention of my initial question. I was struck by the question of "what to live life for". I agree that "hedonism" has come to mean selfish, "bad" living. Forget the word. My initial posting was prompted by observing a complete life (my father's) being reduced to a small box of ashes and asking what it was for. He was a wonderful person; perhaps that is what we should all try to be and not worry about what we "leave behind".


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ejm
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PostPosted: Thu 17 Jan, 2008 11:36 am    Post subject: Re: Not Quite Reply with quote

Pulling myself for a moment out of the shallows...

blm wrote:
I nodded in agreement when David said that one of his conflicting thoughts was "hedonism is bad".


Me three.

To get back to the initial question:
MEF wrote:
Should one strive for a significant achievement (write music or a book, "save" lives, just be kind, cook a great meal, pay all bills, experience "thrills", etc,) or just "live" until death?


I find myself wondering about this from time to time too. A couple of years ago, a colleague mentioned that when he lived in France, during introductions, people would ask what he did. He would say what his work was and they would look confused and say, "No not what your profession is. What do you do?" As in what is your hobby, your passion, your reason for living? What makes you, you?

I liked that idea. It's not that I dislike my work - I quite like it. But now when someone asks me what I do, I think of this colleague and realize the answer is that what I do is "bake bread, eat dinner". Which may be considered rather hedonistic (sorry, MEF, it's hard to forget the word) but in my rather long-winded way, I'm trying to answer the original question by saying, yes, I think we should strive for significant achievement by living rather than just existing until death.

And in the living, keep one's affairs as tidy as possible (she said as she swept aside a very very large stack of papers that require sorting for taxes, pushing them over onto the array of books and ever growing pile of mending that should have been done long ago. Never leave for today what could be put off for tomorrow. That's how the saying goes, isn't it?) and try not to rock the boat.



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David
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PostPosted: Fri 18 Jan, 2008 4:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

After my mother died, my father told me that he'd make sure that he'd leave my sisters and I a good inheritance. I think his upbringing meant that he thought it was expected of him. I don't think he expected all of us, independently, to tell him spend, not save his money. He wasn't convinced easily, but when I told him that he could come and live with me any time he wanted, he came round to our point of view. We were delighted when retired at 60, remarried and for the past 17 years has taken 3 foreign holidays every year. Seeing him so changed in his attitude to life has affected me too. Although I need to be careful with money because I have dependent children I am becoming more of a "carpe diem" person. That's probably why I retrained as a teacher when I did, rather than waiting for my children to leave home as I thought I would do. I do find myself finding more enjoyment in the interactions I have with other people, be they family, friends, colleagues or students. One of the greatest pleasures I have is greeting someone with a smile and receiving an instant, honest, smile in return. If ever I write my own "meaning of life" it will probably have less about seeking pleasure or seeking enlightenment and more about spreading happiness.
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Mats
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PostPosted: Fri 18 Jan, 2008 4:50 pm    Post subject: Ach, but you do write good Reply with quote

David, you are a person on the right track.


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Lawless in Lotusland
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PostPosted: Fri 18 Jan, 2008 5:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

David wrote:
If ever I write my own "meaning of life" it will probably have less about seeking pleasure or seeking enlightenment and more about spreading happiness.


And the question may now become "what is "happiness" and how does one spread happiness, all the while living in the moment? Why do we tend to amass "treasure on earth" -- is it in part to spread happiness to our kids after we leave this earth? Or it may be a way to provide for them after we are no longer here to do so. Now that my kids are older and may never become financially established, it seems important to continue to try to provide for them later. But this is not exactly "living in the moment." Which moment? Does the imagined moment later count as "the moment"? I'm imagining it now, after all. Even going shopping might fail to be "live in the moment" as we don't plan to eat the food until later. And why does one want to seek meaning in life? Seems to be a pretty common desire -- if not a need! People without meaning tend to die. All this is particularly relevant, because I foolishly agreed to give a talk on "what gives me hope" which I see as quite closely related to "what gives me meaning," but hope focused not on the moment but on the future. Most people in the world may not want the current moment to go on much longer! They hope for something better!

I agreed to do the talk Monday. Sigh... better get to it!


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David
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PostPosted: Sat 19 Jan, 2008 3:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Although not designed for that purpose, I look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs and imagine the triangle labeled with scale indicating "0% happy" at the base and "100% happy" at the apex. If I accept this model, it means that by help others to meet their needs they are moving upwards in Maslow's Hierachy of Needs and also on David's Happiness Scale. This also moves me upwards on both scales.

Giving a talk on "What gives me hope" sounds both fun and scary. I suppose what we're talking about is optimism and believing that a better future is possible. I might apply Maslow to this too although perhaps only loosely.
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