Nathanael Garrett Novosel, May 6 2020

The Existence of Intrinsic Meaning in the Universe

Many people ask about the intrinsic meaning of life and the universe.  Here, we're assuming that they mean inherent purpose or significance.  This is a difficult question since if they mean it literally (i.e., literally in the universe), then the answer is no.  If they mean ingrained in all living organisms (i.e., in all life), then the answer is yes.

The universe just exists.  Nothing without intent, such as a rock, a mineral, water, or the universe, has intrinsic purpose.  The purpose of an inanimate object can only be given by an organism with intent.  So if I use my cell phone to make phone calls and you use it to take pictures, then that same device holds multiple purposes depending on the user.

However, no one can dictate your purpose unless you agree to it (via free will or via some sort of coercion).  This is why looking outside yourself for meaning is only useful insofar as you find goals to pursue or things that interest you.  People looking for a higher power for the meaning itself are either looking for guidance on what they will find fulfilling (which is logical and is like asking people you trust for ideas or advice) or erroneously looking for a meaning regardless of whether they like it (which is not logical since if they asked their parents—their direct creators—and were ordered to go be a doctor, they would ignore the advice if they really didn’t want to be one).

So inanimate objects like the universe can’t have intrinsic purpose, but life forms can.  While humans all have different specific purposes in life, all life shares an intrinsic purpose: growth.  The purpose of all life on Earth is growth.  It grows through experience.  It’s guided by desire and sustained by beliefs.  It has emotions that provide feedback as to how it’s doing, and it followed ethics and secures support to maximize growth and minimize harm.  Ultimately, its purpose and destiny is a series of choices made throughout its lifetime.

The beauty of this answer is that it unifies all philosophies (i.e., while they don’t all agree on the details, they do generally agree on the relevance of the above eight concepts to meaning) and can be scientifically proven through psychological studies and empirical study of the most successful and admired people in the world.

In short, there is no intrinsic meaning or value in inanimate objects due to the lack of intent.  Because life forms have their own intentions and can give value and significance to things (and they all value themselves), there is intrinsic purpose and value in life that begins with growth.

Written by

Nathanael Garrett Novosel


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