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Lecture

The Meaning of Life


Department
Philosophy
Course Code
PHIL 1100
Professor
David Stamos

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Nov.14/11
-begins by pointing out that the question of the meaning of life is so heavily laden with
our emotion and aspiration.
-jokes should be taken in a Freudian manner. Maybe this is why we make jokes about the
meaning of life, it’s a defence mechanism.
-he argues against simplistic answers in the sense of a formula.
-we shouldn’t use these jokes and one liners to seek out the meaning of life
-it will be the result of extensive analysis to understand the meaning of life
-his next section is modes of meaningfulness. He does a typical western thing, he looks at
different senses and kinds of meaning. It is naive to think that there is only one meaning.
Some of these overlap with the analyses done by other philosophers we have looked at in
this course.
-1. Meaning has external causal relationships. The fact that we exist means that we have
parents. It also means that every single one of our ancestors goes far back and has
produced at least one child. If any one of our ancestors had died before adulthood, we
wouldn’t be here. Is this relevant to the meaning of life? Yes because we are highly
contingent. Contingent means could be otherwise. Causal consequence is a factor. Causal
senses therefore lead to the fact that the meaning of life can be a totality. He calls it the
causal web. If we take this to be the meaning of life, our place in a causal web, we can
extend forever on.
-2. The second meaning is meaning as external or referential or semantic relation. There
is synonyms, reference, symbolism. Just as we are able to stipulate, I can make up a word
and stipulate what this will mean. a life can have semantic meaning if it refers to a
property which is objective that the life has. It could refer to the nature of courage itself.
-3. The third meaning of meaning is meaning as intention or purpose. Intending, we do
say things like he meant what. Its legitimate to ask what is the purpose of the play? A
person can mean something by what he/she does, or have a certain purpose for what we
do. This raises the idea that our lives were created for a purpose. Maybe we were created
this way, a conscious intention and a specific purpose. People typically think of God, but
we can also refer to our parents or the mad scientist. He leaves the theological purpose
aside, but he asks whether a person can give their own life intention and purpose. By
giving ones own life certain properties. The strongest form of intention is a life plan. It
doesn’t have to be specific, it can be general. The way we live can be compatible with a
number of life plans, it does not have to be just one. It does not even need to be specified.
He turns to a lot of academics. If you read their works, you will get the impression about
why are they doing this? The post self, what is that? it’s the part of our selves that we
want to leave behind after we die. Academics are often motivated by wanting to leave
something behind long after their death, a way of continuing life after death.
-4. Meaning as lesson. Maybe something is trying to be taught. Maybe something wasn’t
intended to be taught, but there was a lesson aftermath. For example, the Nazi period.
How can people like us, regular people become something like the Nazi’s. Meaning as
lesson is huge here. For example, Ghandi. What’s the meaning of Ghandi’s life? We can
look at it as a lesson. A lesson could be that non-violent resistance can win over violence.
There is now positive lessons and negative lessons. A positive example can be Terry Fox.
A negative one is the case in the media where a guy killed a girl because she wanted to be
more than friends. Did terry fox intend for his life to have such a lesson? We don’t know,
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