Meaning: Part I

When we speak of the meaning of life, we need in the first instance to consider the meaning of existence. For the ultimate question that lies behind this discussion is the why and wherefore of anything at all. Leaving life aside, why is there any material existence here or anywhere else in the universe? The easiest answer is to posit the existence of God or some other prime mover. The problem with this is that there is always the question of where this individual or power or force came from. So that brings us back to the first question again. This is essentially the question that I ask when I hear about the Big Bang theory. The Big Bang theory started everything. Yet of course it didn’t at all. It merely brought together pre-existing materials in such a way as to cause a gigantic explosion for which we are all thankful.

Now the meaning of life question simply adds a new layer to that of the meaning, or rather reason for, existence of any kind. Given certain pre-biologic materials and certain environmental conditions (temperature, mass. etc), it has been assumed that biological forms emerge more or less automatically. From this point we can sketch an exceedingly gradual and then accelerating biological evolution.

At some point, consciousness emerged in within biological forms. Initially, this was not reflective consciousness. It was, for example, the painful feeling that we imagine an animal suffers when it is injured in combat. On the positive side, most forms seem to enjoy eating or taking nourishment, or at least most animal forms do. Then at some point, this kind of consciousness evolved into a reflective consciousness, a form ascribed to human beings, but not necessarily only to human beings. This is the consciousness that allows one to think about what he’s been thinking about, or, for example, to think about the future of his family and the inevitability of death.


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