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Why should life have a meaning ?

  1. May 30, 2007 #1
    Some people ask about "the meaning of life".

    But what does it then mean that one's life or "anything" has a "meaning" ?

    But what is then the meaning of the meaning, and why is meaning such a good thing to have ? Why isn't the condition of "no meaning at all" bether than the condition of "having a meaning" ?

    What is then meaning ?

    Nietzche speaks about the new meaning about everything and why values have to be reorientated and rechoosed or reevaluated, but I can not see that he give any arguments why there should be a meaning at all ?

    What is "meaning" and why is "meaning" such a good thing, and why is not "meaningsless" or "freedom from meaning" a more preferable condition ?

    If "meaning" should be something importent or preferable is it then a good idea to live ones life without knowing what meaning is, or why it is important ?
    Last edited: May 30, 2007
  2. jcsd
  3. May 30, 2007 #2
    I think the question "What is the meaning of life" is not meant to be asked directly as a philosophical inquirey. I prefer the question "What is the purpose of life".
  4. May 30, 2007 #3
    Then you obviously misunderstood Nietzsche. His entire philosophical (prophetical) repertoire is a response to the loss of meaning he experiences in his life and in others.
  5. May 30, 2007 #4
    Meaning and purpose may be considered two different things. Purpose could apply to all living things. Meaning applies to us humans, individually. How I've reconciled a meaning is different from another's. But the purpose of human existence would remain the same.

    Afterthought: I think of meaning as a consequence of our evolution. I suppose of human thought.
    Last edited: May 30, 2007
  6. May 30, 2007 #5
    For a lot of people but probably not all, either meaning or purpose are just a way to ask for a reason to get up in the morning. It can be merely a sign of disinterest or depression from people looking for motivation, for a pep talk that rejuvenates them and gives them new energy to carry on. When "what's the point" can be given a satisfying answer then life becomes interesting again, people are happier and become more productive. The answer doesn't even have to be correct or relevant, it only needs to be acceptable by the one who asks the question in order to produce the desired effect. That's one reason why religion works so well for so many people.

    So why should life have a meaning? Not out of metaphysical necessity, just to be happy.
  7. May 30, 2007 #6
    I think that asking 'What is the meaning of life' assumes that the answer is going to be something that affirms that there is a meaning of life. This is just an assumption without evidence.
  8. May 31, 2007 #7
    Existentialism (Nietzsche) proposes that there is no innate purpose or goal to life, except that which we give it. There is no 'essense' to things. Nihilism is the first step. He goes further, and says that as humans we define ourselves as we go, give ourselves, our lives, meaning, based on our actions, based on what we do. We really can't avoid giving life meaning, but strong people make their own path.

    The meaning of our lives is based on how we choose to exist, not divine purpose or 'human nature'. To truly be what we are though, we must overcome what we are, our nature and that of others. Morality is artificial and weakens us. He advocates that we take control of our lives, use our will-to-power, or fully express ourselves and not live in fear, or out of weakness follow the dictates, of others.
  9. Jun 3, 2007 #8
    Could the answer to this question:

    "Why should life have a meaning ?"

    be as simple as

    "Well most people thin that life should have a meaning, so it is just a part of the human nature" ??

    But then there is one other interresting question:

    "Why is a part of the the human nature to ask for a meaning ?"

    Why did this Nietzsche, just as an example, think that it was important to ask for this meaning at all, so that he had to invent it ?

    Wouldn't a more logical conclusion for him be something like this: "Fine, there is no meaning, so there is nothing to worry about, and no books to be written".

    Why did Nietzcshe have all this longing for this "meaning" so he had to write all these books ?

    Did he believe in a God or something that asked him to find this meaning ?
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2007
  10. Jun 3, 2007 #9


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    Why should it not?

    Meaning is in the mind of the beholder/thinker.
  11. Jun 3, 2007 #10
    Nietzsche was an atheist. If you are really interested, wikipedia has a nice little article on him. And like I said, as far as existentialism is concerned, its not about 'finding' meaning. Its about giving meaning. Its an important distinction.

    But I'm starting to get the impression all your many questions are rhetorical, so I'll leave you to believe what you like.
  12. Jun 3, 2007 #11
    Well, I think I have read some books written by Nietzche since I read him first time for some years ago.

    I know that he claims to be an ateist, but my point is that what Nietzche say, and what he does is in some way a contradiction. He says that he is a ateist while he behaves like a religious believer.

    Thats my point. And my point further on is: Why does he do that ?
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2007
  13. Jun 3, 2007 #12
    Another interesting thing about Nietzche is if you try to discuss his works, you will normally or at least quite often be met with the argument:

    "No, Nietzche he did not mean that he wrote in his books, not at all, Nietzches opinions those were something like the oposite of what he actuelly wrote down. If you just understand him the right way, he ment something completely different"

    Is it for sure Nietzche wantet to be undestand as a person with the oposite meanings and opinions compared with what he actually did write down ?

    Is it unthinkable that Nietzsche actually could have some believe in those things he were writing, in such a way that it is not required to give it a new meaning, so it could be red and understod as it is ?

    Would Nietzche like the new verson of "the not so dangerous and a bit nicer Nietzche" ?

    Did he actuelly say anything about that certain problem ?
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2007
  14. Jun 3, 2007 #13
    Lots of people have opinions on what Nietzsche 'really meant'... and his sister contributed to the confusion by publishing under his name. 'Twilight of the Idols' is a good primer on his philosophy.

    I find his writings for the most part consistent. You seem to be relying mostly on secondary source opinion of him, more so than what he wrote.

    If you want to characterize him as religious, you should give an example, from what he wrote. I have no idea what 'he intended' beyond that and I don't know what you mean by the 'nicer nietzsche'. If you want to talk about a relgious existentialist, Kierkegaard is the better example, and he wrote quite a lot of stuff he didn't mean in an attempt to educate his readers.
  15. Jun 3, 2007 #14
    Were "Thus spoke Zarathustra" and "Ecce Homo" workes made by Nietzche ?


    When it comes to Kierkegaard, quote:

    "..Kierkegaard is the better example, and he wrote quite a lot of stuff he didn't mean in an attempt to educate his readers."

    Did he say that ?
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 22, 2017
  16. Jun 3, 2007 #15
    Yes, but most people find Twilight of the Idols an easier and more concise read. "Will to Power", the book, not the concept, was created by his sister.

    Yes he did, in "The Point of View of my Work as an Author"
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 22, 2017
  17. Jun 3, 2007 #16
    Not Nietzche, but his sister ?? :


    When Zarathustra arrived at the nearest town which adjoineth the forest, he
    found many people assembled in the market-place; for it had been announced
    that a rope-dancer would give a performance. And Zarathustra spake thus
    unto the people:

    I TEACH YOU THE SUPERMAN. Man is something that is to be surpassed. What
    have ye done to surpass man?

    All beings hitherto have created something beyond themselves: and ye want
    to be the ebb of that great tide, and would rather go back to the beast
    than surpass man?

    What is the ape to man? A laughing-stock, a thing of shame. And just the
    same shall man be to the Superman: a laughing-stock, a thing of shame.

    Ye have made your way from the worm to man, and much within you is still
    worm. Once were ye apes, and even yet man is more of an ape than any of
    the apes.

    Even the wisest among you is only a disharmony and hybrid of plant and
    phantom. But do I bid you become phantoms or plants?

    Lo, I teach you the Superman!

    The Superman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: The Superman
    SHALL BE the meaning of the earth!
  18. Jun 3, 2007 #17
    I never said Zarathustra was written by his sister.

    But since you brought it up, how is that quote in any way religious?
  19. Jun 3, 2007 #18
    I did not say that, or at least I did not intend to say that.

    .. But as you mentione it, this Zarathustra "thing" really has something religious attached to him ..

    When I was thinking "you are actually more religius than anyone else" were when I was reading the book "Ecce Homo".
  20. Jun 4, 2007 #19
    Some more quoting:



    By our best enemies we do not want to be spared, nor by those either whom
    we love from the very heart. So let me tell you the truth!

    My brethren in war! I love you from the very heart. I am, and was ever,
    your counterpart. And I am also your best enemy. So let me tell you the

    I know the hatred and envy of your hearts. Ye are not great enough not to
    know of hatred and envy. Then be great enough not to be ashamed of them!

    And if ye cannot be saints of knowledge, then, I pray you, be at least its
    warriors. They are the companions and forerunners of such saintship.

    I see many soldiers; could I but see many warriors! "Uniform" one calleth
    what they wear; may it not be uniform what they therewith hide!

    Ye shall be those whose eyes ever seek for an enemy--for YOUR enemy. And
    with some of you there is hatred at first sight.

    Your enemy shall ye seek; your war shall ye wage, and for the sake of your
    thoughts! And if your thoughts succumb, your uprightness shall still shout
    triumph thereby!

    Ye shall love peace as a means to new wars--and the short peace more than
    the long.

    You I advise not to work, but to fight. You I advise not to peace, but to
    victory. Let your work be a fight, let your peace be a victory!

    One can only be silent and sit peacefully when one hath arrow and bow;
    otherwise one prateth and quarrelleth. Let your peace be a victory!

    Ye say it is the good cause which halloweth even war? I say unto you: it
    is the good war which halloweth every cause.

    War and courage have done more great things than charity. Not your
    sympathy, but your bravery hath hitherto saved the victims.

    "What is good?" ye ask. To be brave is good. Let the little girls say:
    "To be good is what is pretty, and at the same time touching."

    They call you heartless: but your heart is true, and I love the
    bashfulness of your goodwill. Ye are ashamed of your flow, and others are
    ashamed of their ebb.

    Ye are ugly? Well then, my brethren, take the sublime about you, the
    mantle of the ugly!

    And when your soul becometh great, then doth it become haughty,
    and in your sublimity there is wickedness. I know you.

    In wickedness the haughty man and the weakling meet. But they
    misunderstand one another. I know you.

    Ye shall only have enemies to be hated, but not enemies to be despised. Ye
    must be proud of your enemies; then, the successes of your enemies are also
    your successes.

    Resistance--that is the distinction of the slave. Let your distinction be
    obedience. Let your commanding itself be obeying!

    To the good warrior soundeth "thou shalt" pleasanter than "I will." And
    all that is dear unto you, ye shall first have it commanded unto you.

    Let your love to life be love to your highest hope; and let your highest
    hope be the highest thought of life!

    Your highest thought, however, ye shall have it commanded unto you by me--
    and it is this: man is something that is to be surpassed.

    So live your life of obedience and of war! What matter about long life!
    What warrior wisheth to be spared!

    I spare you not, I love you from my very heart, my brethren in war!--

    Thus spake Zarathustra.


    Did Nietzche actually say something like:

    "Everybody should be nice to each other and find their own little meaning of life."
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2007
  21. Jun 4, 2007 #20
    Like I said before, there is no 'meaning' to be 'found', as far as Nietzsche is concerned. Its about creating meaning for yourself, on your own terms. Until you understand that difference, you won't understand what he was trying to say.

    Sure, he was full of bluster and rhetoric in alot of what he wrote (which is why he is so easily abused by fascists) but that's his style, not his substance. He thinks of his overman as heroic, but not in the christian way, of defending the weak.

    His heroism is about defining oneself and blazing a new path. Some people are sheep, the herd, who only want to follow blindly and be taken care of by others... either by government or gods. Nietzsche is not addressing these people, they don't concern him.

    Now, you may not agree with him, for the most part he expects that, but there is a difference between that and saying he contradicts himself.

    What part of Ecce Homo do you believe makes him religious?
  22. Jun 4, 2007 #21
    I do understand the differece, but I do not think I agree, that it is correct to claim that there is such a diference.

    It's a bit time since I red Ecce Homo and I don't have it here (I believe :-) so I can not give the complete refferece at the moment. (But look at the way that he argue "why I'm so smart", "why I'm so wise", etc.)

    But all in all, isn't Nietzsche quite much more a kind of religious believer or a kind of fundamental idiologist than really a philosopher ?

    As an example:

    As you have stated he says something about that there is no meaning and that humans have to create meaning themself, but does he ask the question at all ?

    Isen't what Nietzche actually does to give a series of answers without even asking or even discussing the questions ?

    What reason does Nietzche have to claim that he have to create a new meaning exept for that he refers to a dead God.

    Couldn't it be said as simple as: "I have this faith in this dead God, so therefore it is my religious faith that there is no meaning, so that we all have to create some meaning."

    Where does Nietzche discuss if there a connection between "meaning" and a dead or living God at all ?

    Isn't what Nietzche actually something like this: I have my little belief, I will tell you about my belief, but I will not ask any questions, and I will not discuss any thing at all, I will only tell you about my ideologic or religious belief.

    (Far me the faith in the dead God is as good as any other religious belief.)

    Why should Nietzche be considered to be a philosopher at all and not a some kind of a semi religious idiologist ?

    The reason that I mentioned Nietzche at all were that I saw it as a point that even Nietczhe with that kind of strange ideology think there should be a meaning of life. -

    Then my original question is: Why should there be a meaning of life at all. Is this, as well, when all comes to all, just another belief ?
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2007
  23. Jun 4, 2007 #22
    Meaning is an illusion. I would say, meaning is in the eyes of the beholder. Does a rock have a meaning by itself? I don't think so... But if someone picks that rock and use it as a weapon (for example), well, than the rock has a meaning.
  24. Jun 4, 2007 #23
    Then you are not an existentialist. The difference is essential to understanding his philosophy or even the philosophy of a religious existentialist, like Kierkegaard. It really has nothing to do with whether one is religious or not.

    Well I think you are going to have to define the words: religious, and philosopher, because Nietzsche is very much a philosopher in the tradition of Plato, Descartes and such... and he was very anti-religious.

    That's what philosophers do. The ask questions, and think about the answers and then when they think they have the answers or some of them, they publish them. All philosophers do this. Publishing a book of questions would be ludicrous. My impression is that you don't agree with the answers he came up with, so you want to imply he hasn't really thought things through. But the fact is Nietzsche's whole philosophy is grounded on questioning dogma and traditions and building your self from the ground up.

    That is close to what Kierkegaard says, NOT Nietzsche. Nietzsche doesn't believe in gods and when he says god is dead, he means humans have no further use for gods and that the Christian church/faith is bad for people.

    Read or reread: Twilight of the Idols and The Antichrist.

    Not being religious is not being religious.
    A lack of belief is not a belief, any more than "no-apple" is a type of apple.

    He stared back. “Evening,” he said, cheerfully.
    A voice from the creature, smooth as buttered oil. “He-llo,” it said. “Ding-dong. You look remarkably like dinner.”
    “I’m Charlie Nancy,” said Charlie Nancy. “Who are you?”
    “I am Dragon,” said the dragon. “And I shall devour you in one slow mouthful, little man in a hat.”
    Charlie blinked. “Er. You’re bored with talking to me now, and you’re going to let me pass unhindered,” he told the dragon, with as much conviction as he was able to muster.
    “Gosh. Good try. But I’m afraid I’m not,” said the dragon, enthusiastically. “Actually, I’m going to eat you.”
    “You aren’t scared of limes, are you?” asked Charlie, before remembering that he’d given the lime to Daisy.
    The creature laughed, scornfully. “I,” it said, “am frightened of nothing.”
    “Nothing,” it said.
    Charlie said, “Are you extremely frightened of nothing?”
    “Absolutely terrified of it,” admitted the Dragon.
    “You know,” said Charlie, “I have nothing in my pockets. Would you like to see it?”
    “No,” said the Dragon, uncomfortably, “I most definitely would not.”
    There was a flapping of wings like sails, and Charlie was alone on the beach. “That,” he said, “was much too easy.”

    - Anansi boys, Neil Gaiman
  25. Jun 4, 2007 #24
    I think you're contradicting yourself, just because meaning is in the eye of the beholder, doesn't mean its an illusion. An illusion is something that isn't what it appears. So if meaning is subjective, as long as one knows this, then it is what it is. The illusion would be seeing things as having 'objective meaning' when in reality its only in the eye of the beholder.
  26. Jun 4, 2007 #25
    I see. Then to be an exstentialist is to have some faith in some dogmatic thruts about exitentialism.

    If I have faith and believe in my own dogmatic truth:

    "Holy truth, I know I have to make my own meaning of life !"

    While entering the dogm as a truth, I will be an exstentialist.

    But what will then be the advantage of beeing an extentialist ?
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