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Your complimentary articles. You can read four articles free per month. To have complete access to the thousands of philosophy articles on this site, please. Life is the aspect of existence that processes, acts, reacts, evaluates, and evolves through growth reproduction and metabolism. The crucial difference between life and non-life or non-living things is that life uses energy for physical and conscious development. Life is anything that grows and eventually dies, i.
Can we say that viruses, for example, are cognizant? Yes, insofar as they react to stimuli; but they are alive essentially because they reproduce and grow. Computers are non-living because even though they can cognize, they do not develop biologically grow , and cannot produce offspring. It is not cognition that determines life, then: it is rather proliferation and maturation towards a state of death; and death occurs only to living substances. But I think that the meaning of life is the ideals we impose upon it, what we demand of it.
Most of us would avoid murdering; and most of us would refrain from other acts we find intuitively wrong. So our natural intuitions determine the meaning of life for us; and it seems for other species as well, for those intuitions resonate through much of life and give it its purpose.
The ceramic artist Edmund de Waal places an object in front of him and begins to tell a story. Even if the patina, chips and signs of repair of the inanimate object hint at its history, the story is told by a living observer.
A living thing is an object that contains its story within itself. Maybe other ways for memorising the story may be discovered, but in environments subject to common chemical processes, common methods are likely to emerge.
Although we have only the example of the Earth, it shows that life will evolve to fill every usable niche, and to secure and further diversify those niches. This should not be thought of as purposeful. Inanimate processes can be cyclic but not iterative: they do not learn from past mistakes.
Life exists at many levels. Life is also a process through which energy and materials are transformed; but so is non-life. The difference is that the process of life is intimately linked to story it contains, whereas non-life is indifferent to the story we impose upon it. Yet life is only a story, so it can act only through matter. Therefore life is by nature a toolmaker. Its tools are potentially everything that exists, and its workshop is potentially the whole universe.
So why do humans risk undermining the life of which they are part? Because they try to impose upon it a story of their own making. First the technical definition. Life is self-organising chemistry which reproduces itself and passes on its evolved characteristics, encoded in DNA. In thermodynamics terms, it has the ability to reduce local entropy or disorganisation, thus locally contravening the third law of thermodynamics.
But what is life really about , if anything? The current state of life is as yet too unstable and undeveloped for it to be the end. If therefore the universe itself has a purpose, it seems most likely to be to explore what the outcome of the evolutionary experiment would be.
But what will be the outcome? If, as many physicists now believe, the universe is only information, then harnessing all the resources of the universe in one giant evolutionary process could plausibly provide a useful outcome for a species clever enough to create the universe in the first place.
On this interpretation, life will ultimately organise all the physical resources of the universe into a single self-conscious intelligence, which in turn will then be able to interact with its creator s. Life is the embodiment of selfishness!
Life is selfish because it is for itself in two ways: it is for its own survival, and it is for its own reproduction. Anything that is not itself is the other; and the collection of others constitute its environment.
The organism must destructively use the other to satisfy its reproductive desire, but on achieving this, it produces an additional other — but now one that also embodies its own selfish aim and the means to satisfy this aim.
Therefore, even by an organism satisfying its desire, it makes the continuing satisfaction of its desires ever more difficult to achieve. A partial solution to this dilemma is for genetically-related entities to form a cooperating society. The underlying mechanism of evolution is therefore the iteration of the embodied desire within an ever more complex competitive and social environment.
Over vast numbers of iterations, this process forces some life-forms along a pathway that solves the desire for survival and reproduction by developing ever more complex and adaptable minds. This is achieved by supplementing their underlying cellular embodied chemistry with a specialist organ although still based on chemistry that we call its brain, able to rapidly process electrical signals. However advanced it might be, an organism is still driven by the same basic needs for survival and reproduction.
The creative process, however, leads the organism towards an increasingly aesthetic experience of the world. This is why for us the world we experience is both rich and beautiful.
After all, it is their subject matter. This kind of definition might serve the purposes of biologists, but for me, it has five deficiencies. First, any definition of life by biologists would have little utility outside biology because of its necessary inclusiveness. We humans would find ourselves in a class of beings that included the amoeba.
Second, the scientific definition of life is necessarily an external one. I think that knowing what life is, as opposed to defining it, requires knowing it from within. Non-sentient organisms live, but they do not know life. Third, in the scientific definition, there is no place for life having value.
However, many would say that life has value in its own right — that it is not simply that we humans value life and so give it value, but that it has value intrinsically. Fourth, there is the question of life as a whole having a purpose or goal. This notion is not scientific, but one wonders if the tools of science are fit to detect any evolutionary purpose, if there is one.
Fifth, for the scientists, life is a set of biological conditions and processes. However, everywhere and always, people have conceived of a life after biological death, a life of spirit not necessarily dependent on the physical for existence. The scientific definition of life is valid in its context, but otherwise I find it impoverished. I believe there is a hierarchy of living beings from the non-sentient, to the sentient, to humans, and perhaps up to God.
I want to know what life is at its highest form. I believe life at its best is spirit: it is active, sentient, feeling, thinking, purposive, valuing, social, other-respecting, relating, and caring.
I listen enthralled to scientific debate on what, how, when and where life was created. However, questions remain which may never be resolved. In this vacuum, philosophers and religious thinkers have attempted to give meaning to life by suggesting goals: Plato suggested the acquisition of knowledge, Aristotle to practice virtue, and the Stoics, mental fortitude and self-control. Perhaps the hypothesis upon which Ivan Tyrrell and Joe Griffin have based their therapy could help see Human Givens , They describe that we are born with evolved needs that seek satisfaction from our environment.
These are physical and emotional needs, which, when enough of them are met, ensure the health of the individual, maximising his or her ability to achieve meaning in life. Griffin and Tyrrell have proven empirically that when sufficient needs are met an individual will enjoy mental and physical health, unless there is damage or toxicity in the environment. Meaning becomes difficult, if not impossible, to achieve if these needs are insufficiently satisfied.
Unfortunately, modern society seeks meaning to life through materialism, to the detriment of our biological needs, leading to dissatisfaction and a consequent inability to find meaning.
The result is an exponential increase in mental ill-health. Sadly, then, many of us will not experience the satisfaction of a meaningful life journey. Life is the eternal and unbroken flow of infinite rippling simultaneous events that by a fortuitous chain has led to this universe of elements we are all suspended in, that has somehow led to this present experience of sentient existence.
Animal life excluding that of humans shows that life is a simple matter of being, by means of a modest routine of eating, sleeping and reproducing.
Animals balance their days between these necessities, doing only what their bodies ask of them. The life of vegetation is not far from that of animals. They eat and sleep and reproduce in their own way, for the same result. So life is a beautiful and naturally harmonious borrowing of energy.
Yet we have taken it for granted. We have lost the power to simply be happy eating, sleeping, reproducing, believing we need a reason to be alive, a purpose and a goal to reach, so that on our deathbeds something we have been made to fear we can look back and tell ourselves we have done something with our lives. Life has lost its purpose because we have tried to give it one. The truth is that we are no more significant than the sand by the sea or the clouds in the sky.
No more significant. But as significant. No matter what your race, religion or gender, when you first step outside your door in the morning and feel the fresh air in your lungs and the morning sun on your face, you close your eyes and smile.
In that moment you are feeling life as it should be. No defining, no understanding, no thinking. Just that feeling of pure bliss. For that is what life is. Everyone has a story. Failure can bring crushing disappointment, or you can try and make a new plan. But who wants to waste that much time regretting? Life has happy surprises, small moments to cherish. It is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing.
In September , Viktor Frankl, a prominent Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist in Vienna, was arrested and transported to a Nazi concentration camp with his wife and parents. Three years later, when his camp was liberated, most of his family, including his pregnant wife, had perished -- but he, prisoner number , had lived. In his bestselling book, Man's Search for Meaning , which he wrote in nine days about his experiences in the camps, Frankl concluded that the difference between those who had lived and those who had died came down to one thing: Meaning, an insight he came to early in life. When he was a high school student , one of his science teachers declared to the class, "Life is nothing more than a combustion process, a process of oxidation. As he saw in the camps, those who found meaning even in the most horrendous circumstances were far more resilient to suffering than those who did not. Frankl worked as a therapist in the camps, and in his book, he gives the example of two suicidal inmates he encountered there. Like many others in the camps, these two men were hopeless and thought that there was nothing more to expect from life, nothing to live for.
Your complimentary articles. You can read four articles free per month. To have complete access to the thousands of philosophy articles on this site, please. Life is the aspect of existence that processes, acts, reacts, evaluates, and evolves through growth reproduction and metabolism. The crucial difference between life and non-life or non-living things is that life uses energy for physical and conscious development.
In this chapter, it is argued that meaning in life is an important variable for human well-being. Literature supporting this contention is reviewed, and complexities regarding defining meaning in life are discussed.
Home: www. Gilgamesh and Death. Sisyphus and Futility. Boethius and Cosmic Insignificance. Job and Suffering. Ancient Greek Solutions.
Life , living matter and, as such, matter that shows certain attributes that include responsiveness, growth , metabolism , energy transformation , and reproduction. Although a noun, as with other defined entities, the word life might be better cast as a verb to reflect its essential status as a process. Life comprises individuals, living beings, assignable to groups taxa. Each individual is composed of one or more minimal living units, called cells , and is capable of transformation of carbon -based and other compounds metabolism , growth, and participation in reproductive acts. Life-forms present on Earth today have evolved from ancient common ancestors through the generation of hereditary variation and natural selection. Although some studies state that life may have begun as early as 4. But this is life as a whole.
Most people, including philosophers, tend to classify human motives as falling into one of two categories: the egoistic or the altruistic, the self-interested or the moral. According to Susan Wolf, however, much of what motivates us does not comfortably fit into this scheme. Often we act neither for our own sake nor out of duty or an impersonal concern for the world. Rather, we act out of love for objects that we rightly perceive as worthy of love--and it is these actions that give meaning to our lives. Wolf makes a compelling case that, along with happiness and morality, this kind of meaningfulness constitutes a distinctive dimension of a good life.
People are more likely to thrive when their work has clear purpose and meaning. Why do we do what we do?
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meaning in life and Why It matters lectures I & II susan Wolf. The Tanner Lectures on Human Values. Delivered at. Princeton university.Reply