When is life meaningless?

If mechanistic theories are true, then there is no meaning or purpose to either the universe or anything in it. Though we can individually or collectively attribute meaning to something, or purpose to do something, these notions are functions of intelligence and emotion, and are merely phantoms. The fact that we can imagine something gives no substance to it. This is inescapable given the premises of a purely mechanical universe.

Humans have consistently, however, attempted to find meaning in the process of life. To that end, they have constructed philosophies and systems of ethics which maintain (for instance) that it is wrong to take a healthy, living human’s life because the mere fact that that individual human desires to live gives that life meaning or purpose, and thus, value.

Almost all such philosophers or moralists will agree that to take a life when the possessor of that life desires to keep it is wrong. We call that murder. But can it be wrong if life is truly meaningless? The answer must be "No". The temptation here is to say that "Ultimately, it is meaningless", which implies that there is meaning in the now that is somehow lost when the life ceases in an unnatural manner. How can this be, though, if there is no meaning to begin with? Let’s work this problem out to see just when a murder might frustrate meaning in a universe without meaning.

If one were to brutally torture and murder a young child, would the manner of the child’s death have any meaning? Could it rationally be described as "right" or "wrong"? Not if the life of the child was actually meaningless.

One might say, "But the manner of death mattered to the child". True, but the child is dead, and so the manner of the death no longer has meaning to the child. Hence, the manner of death is meaningless to the one most concerned with it.

We might ask, "But what about the dreams and aspirations of that child?" Again, the child is beyond caring, so the fact that future dreams were denied has no effect on the child whatsoever, and so the question is meaningless.

Did those things have meaning when the child was alive? Again, no. Since the child was going to die, its dreams and desires could not have had any true meaning or value, else they would have survived the child. Hence, they were equally meaningless while the child was alive. If one argues that the meaning may somehow live on in the parents, siblings or acquaintances of the child, then does it follow that when all people who knew the child die the matter is finally meaningless? If so, then by killing all of these people as well do we hasten the moment when we might we say that the child’s life was finally rendered meaningless? No? Then the life must have been meaningless all along.

The same is true of any and all aspirations, dreams, desires and plans in a mechanistic universe. They have no meaning, and, should your life end before you envisioned - by whatever means - there is absolutely no meaning in your failure to attain them.

The fact is: If mechanistic evolution is true, your life is meaningless now. Whether it continues or ends before you finish reading this sentence is meaningless now. It was meaningless before you were born; it will be meaningless when you die; it is meaningless now.

If you feel that this is incorrect (and I would agree), then perhaps your fundamental premises are incorrect, and it is time to re-examine them. Other resources on our site might help you in that process.

grbar2.jpg (1626 bytes)

Back to FGM Home

Last Updated 07/16/99