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What's the problem with humanity?

  1. May 20, 2014 #1
    I might be considered a crackpot for asking this question, so please don't make jokes out my question.

    I simply don't understand why people run after success, be it success in their professional lives, personal lives or spiritual concerns. Why do humans want to exist? What is the point in living? What difference does it make if at this very moment, all of human civilisation drops dead? We're only a speck of dust in the grand scheme of things and the universe will continue on its course without us, and even if it doesn't, what difference does it make? Why bother with ethics and all that stuff? Why do we want to exist?

    If it were me, I'd argue that I have strong social ties and fear of physical pain, which bars me from wanting to die. If those were taken away, I'd be afraid of the afterlife (if there is such a thing), but otherwise I don't see any reason to exist.

    Life seems pointless, to be honest. Doing what others do - get a degree, get a job, marry, have kids, grow old and then die - for the sake of acceptance into society and the pursuit of pleasure when all this gets us to nothing in the end.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 20, 2014 #2


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    Well first of all most people believe in life after death.

    Aside from that, most people have children which can be seen as an extension of themselves.

    ... and maybe humans don't mean anything in the grand scheme of things. So what? Neither do badgers, but you don't see them getting worked up about it.
  4. May 20, 2014 #3


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    I once saw a comic drawing, showing a sad face saying "life is pointless" and a happy face saying the same. The first was captioned "nihilist" the second "existentialist".

    The point being, once you realise there's not much of a point to our existence, there's no grand scheme of things with a role for you to play, you may feel betrayed, robbed and aimless. That's the nihilist face.

    The first question to ask yourself then, is who has ever told you it was otherwise, and why did you belive them. What made you so invested in the narrative, that you miss it so much now.

    Perhaps you'll realise then that the new knowledge is liberating - you're no longer in thrall to other people's baloney, and are free to find your own purpose in life. Whatever it might be, however you want to define it. That's the existentialist face.

    You say the things in life give us nothing in the end - I disagree. Moments of pleasure, happiness you bring to yourself and others around you, little and great achievements, contributions to the society - all those things have the potential of being made only more important and fulfilling in your mind by being so ephemeral. Everything you do, everything you feel, every moment in your life is unique and won't be repeated in the exact same configuration ever again.
    It's something to cherish and take comfort in.

    But since this is a science forum, I feel obliged to include the naturalistic explanation for the will to live:
    People, and other organisms(including badgers), keep on living, because lack of such will decreases evolutionary fitness. Those who don't feel like dying just yet will have on average more children, who are likely to inherit their propensity for life. After a few generations you end up with a population consisting almost entirely of such individuals.

    Is that a reason in the sense of "what is it for in the grand scheme of things"? No. It's a mechanism by which the trait is maintained. There's no more of a deeper reason behind it than there is behind our ability to feel pain. It's just evolutionarily useful.
  5. May 20, 2014 #4
    You start, like myself, from a perspective of nihilism. But unlike myself you view on that with a degree of cynicism! Why? Sure life might be meaningless, so on so forth, and we might lead "meaningless lives" where in the effort to live we live only the effort, so on so forth, but why do you view all of this pessimistically?

    And you will not be laughed as a crackpot because it is the condition of humans to think, and some have that faculty higher trained than others, and you must accept that your questions have been well investigated by other philosophers, scientists, thinkers, or whatever it is you might call them. You most certainly are not a crackhead; rather those who have never asked questions of this kind are more vulnerable to being crackheads.

    I will tell you how I personally feel even though I do not believe in after-life nor am I tied down by duties (no kids of my own, etc).

    To me the pursuit of truth is the most noble thing man can do. It is the reverence towards the cosmos, the conviction to seek the truth that justifies all the frivolous motion of life. Living for only those few moments of enlightenment is worth it. Even if its 80 years of trivia, and 1 minute of rapturous intellectual thought, I would hands down accept it.

    This spirit is captured in vision of Gene's Star Trek, and Sagan's philosophy, and I find ineffable joy in the very existence of life, universe, and truth.

    You then ask, why people aim for successes, when after all things are ultimately pointless. Well certainly there are many who desire such things purely out of ego, of the "unclean" kind, where man is possessed by greed. In the case of many people, they do not control a dollar, the dollar controls them, and so people might act in ways to optimize the trivial comforts.

    But among the noble men of our world, the scientists, thinkers, political activists, etc, there are those who strive for success not out of greed, but out of need. To further the horizon of knowledge, not for personal glory, but for the furtherance of the field. To solve world problems, not for obtainment of power, but for the betterment of humanity.

    I believe it is in the condition of all humans, at least those raised by this philosophy, to improve themselves in whatever categories that most appease them.

    You say that it is pointless due to our finite span of life. But even if we have mastered our bodies enough to make us immortal, there is still a futility to existing that can be regarded as the futility of anything for everything. It is characterized by the ultimate meaninglessness there is, and while the nature of all things might be such, we do not have to live looking poorly on things.

    We can choose how to live. So how will you choose?
    Last edited: May 20, 2014
  6. May 20, 2014 #5
    That makes me think of a very interesting cartoon called "Horton Hears a Who!" (by Theodor Seuss Geisel). I have ever seen the movie twice and thought about its significant carefully. Especially,I often dissolved in tears when I heard the voice "We are here! We are here!" from the speck of dust.

    Many a time, "we want to exist" may not be from "wanting to exist",but the universe needs us humans to push its evolution. What is the objection of the universe's evlution ? This is another profound philosophical proposition. We don't know clear about its intention but we need to assist the universe with its own path.
  7. May 21, 2014 #6
    All it takes is five seconds to look up the etymology of "to badger somone" to see that the phrase itself results from their constant state of agitation over their meaningless lives, which leads them to pester anyone who will listen to their deepest fears.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I have to take a nap; those spiders aren't going to swallow themselves.
  8. May 21, 2014 #7


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    We are wired by evolution to want to live and procreate. As for the rest of your post, I find it disturbing and suggest you talk to a counselor about it.
  9. May 21, 2014 #8


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    Staff: Mentor

    Sorry, no philosophy.
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