Life Purpose

Please Note: This Page Is In Progress

This means, among other things, that:

  • Some of the content is not fleshed out, so you should not read more into things than exactly what is there.
  • Some sections might have things marked as “TODOs” (e.g., questions or things that must be done). These TODOs should not be taken to be representative of truth in any respect, and indicate areas that need more research and thought. If you have particular knowledge in things related to these, you can help! (Please see: contribution guidelines).
  • There probably will not be any section that pulls everything together in an easily understandable way.

This does not mean that:

  • I am not firmly convinced of the veracity of all the content currently published. If I am not sure of something, I don’t push it to the website. (This doesn’t mean that I won’t ever change my positions if I come to learn that I am in error, but that I strive, as much as possible, to only push content to the website if I am absolutely certain that it is true).
  • This page cannot be helpful to you in its present form. If you are aware of the limitations of the current state, you may find this page helpful long before I officially publish it.

Argument 1: Objective morality exists

Strict materialists often argue that existence is actually futile and that the meaningfulness of life is a charade that we keep up to numb ourselves to the coldness of reality. Under such a supposition, morality is seen through a subjective lens, a human construct propogated by the weak to keep the strong from ruling them absolutely. There is no right and wrong because the universe is governed by uncaring natural laws and humans are merely strings of predictable biological cause and effect drifting to and fro by chance.

I will argue in no uncertain terms that this particular position (i.e., a rejection of objective morality) is incorrect. This does not ipso facto disprove strict materialism, but it does demand an explanation for why objective morality exists. (In other words, strict materialism is not inherently incompatible with objective morality, but the latter does not obviously flow from the former, and thus its origin must be explained). The interaction between strict materialism and objective morality is ultimately a separate issue from whether or not objective morality exists in the first place.

The argument:

  1. If objective morality does not exist, then no actions are worse than any other actions.
  2. Some actions are worse than other actions.
  3. Therefore, objective morality exists.

Propositon 1: If objective morality does not exist, then no actions are worse than any other actions

In propositional logic, the first proposition is what is known as an implication. If we let o = “objective morality exists” and w = “some actions are worse than other actions,” then proposition 1 can be written out formally as “¬o implies ¬w” or “¬w is necessary for ¬o.” Here is the truth table for this particular implication:

o w ¬o ¬w ¬o → ¬w
T T F F T
T F F T T
F T T F F
F F T T T

If the implication holds, then any time ¬o is true, ¬w must also be true (hence why we say that ¬w is necessary for ¬o). To argue that the implication does not hold would require some basis other than morality for evaluating things as “better” and “worse.” In fact, many philosophers have attempted over the years to convince us that behavior can be classified as better or worse using ethics without any moral judgements of right or wrong being necessary (for example, actions that maximize the pleasure and minimize the pain of the most people are “better”). By engaging in a healthy amount of sophistry and redirection, sometimes it appears that there are no moral underpinnings to such arguments. However, morality is inescapable. Why should pleasure be maximized instead of pain? Is it not because maximizing pain for the most people is “wrong” while maximizing pleasure for the most people is “right”?

Proposition 2: Some actions are worse than other actions

Proposition 2 can be shown to be true using a simple reductio ad absurdum argument:

  1. If no actions are worse than any other actions, then [insert terrible action] is no worse than saving starving children.
  2. Therefore, some actions are worse than other actions.

Here’s some examples to put in the [insert terrible action] slot:

  • Torturing puppies
  • Killing people for sport simply because they are different than you (in race, religion, etc.)
  • Raping and murdering pregnant women
  • etc.

I leave the ultimate determination of this argument’s validity and soundness to the reader. Some individuals would argue that emotional responses to, for example, the murder of innocent children is a sociological defense mechanism so that humanity does not annihilate itself. I do not have a logical refutation to such a line of thought, but I note that this does not make it true in and of itself.

In short, this reductio ad absurdum argument rests upon an individual examining his or her innate reactions to events classically considered evil. For some individuals, this will be an insufficient epistemic base (it is not logically deterministic, after all, but depends upon subjective experience). Such individuals are free to disagree if they so choose, and may safely ignore the rest of this page’s arguments. I won’t pretend that this reasoning is fully deductive when it is not.

I would suggest, however, that any such individuals examine themselves closely, and proceed to actually live by their logic. For while I have met many individuals who choose to pretend that objective morality does not exist in their speech to others, I have yet to meet anybody who remotely convinced me that when it was their wife getting raped, their daughters sold into sexual slavery, their neighbors and countrymen tortured and lynched without cause, that they would be able to say that evil is just a societal construct.

For the sake of the people close to them, I hope the reaction in any such hypothetical situation is a little bit stronger than observing that a stronger individual has made use of their power, according to the way the universe “actually” works. Whatever that means.

Conclusion: Objective morality exists

The conclusion follows because we have established that a) the implication holds, and that b) w is true (i.e., “some actions are worse than other actions”). If you look at the single row in the truth table for which the implication holds and w is true, ¬o is false, and o is true. In other words, objective morality exists.

Argument 2: It is possible to have a life purpose

Before the argument for this can really get underway, it is necessary to do some groundwork:

  1. Right actions and wrong actions exist if and only if objective morality exists
  2. Objective morality exists
  3. Therefore, right actions and wrong actions exist

The first proposition is true by definition. The second proposition was proved in argument 1. The conclusion follows modus ponens. This conclusion is a necessary precondition to the following (main) argument:

  1. Knowing right is a necessary but not sufficient condition for having right intent
  2. Having right intent is a necessary but not sufficient condition for doing right
  3. Doing right is a sufficient condition for having a life purpose
  4. Given that the above implications hold, it is possible to have a life purpose (i.e., if propositions 1-3 are true, the statement “I have a life purpose” can be true)

To put this into propositions, if

  • k = “I know right”
  • i = “I have right intent”
  • r = “I do right”
  • l = “I have a life purpose”

Then

  1. i → k
  2. r → i
  3. r → l
  4. (i → k) ∧ (r → i) ∧ (r → l) ∧ l is not a contradiction

To show that a proposition is not a contradiction, all that is necessary is to show a single case in which the proposition is true. This can be easily done for the proposition (i → k) ∧ (r → i) ∧ (r → l) ∧ l using a truth table:

k i r l i → k r → i r → l (i → k) ∧ (r → i) ∧ (r → l) ∧ l
T T T T T T T T
T T T F T T F F
T T F T T T T T
T T F F T T T F
T F T T T F T F
T F T F T F F F
T F F T T T T T
T F F F T T T F
F T T T F T T F
F T T F F T F F
F T F T F T T F
F T F F F T T F
F F T T T F T F
F F T F T F F F
F F F T T T T T
F F F F T T T F

Proposition 1: Knowing right is a necessary but not sufficient condition for having right intent

This implication (and the following implication) deal with a branch of normative ethics called deontology, specifically, the idea that the morality of an action depends upon intent as well as the action’s actual consequences. This is in opposition to strict consequentialism wherein an action is deemed right or wrong only based on the action’s actual consequences. I say actual consequences to distinguish between the outcome of an action (i.e., what did actually happen) and the intended outcome of an action (i.e., what the agent doing the action intended would happen). For clarity’s sake, I will call the consequences associated with an intended outcome “intended consequences.”

TODO : Finish filling out argument and explaining



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