Can individual lives have meaning even if human life has no purpose?

Submitted on April 17, 2015 as an short writing for a philosophy course at HKU.

I believe it is hard to justify that individual lives will have objective meanings when the entire human race does not have any purpose.

philosophy meaning of life

Photo: WikiMedia.

The meaning of lives is usually associated with the purpose of mankind’s existence. Some believe that the human race is meaningful only if there exists a being that mankind can have meaning to. This is a tough question since mankind is only “tiny specks of the vast universe”, and it can be argued scientifically that mankind will ultimately disappear someday when the Earth (or the universe) collapses. Hence, if one does not believe in the existence of gods, one can argue that mankind only exist for their own sake, and nothing matters anymore if mankind disappears altogether. According to this non-religious view, human life seems to have no purpose.

Under this illustration, it becomes very hard to argue for the meaningfulness of individual lives. Adopting this very non-religious approach, individual lives are cosmically insignificant. The human race lives in this world only on their own, and what we do in our lives will not contribute anything other beyond our own human race. If one argues that a person who only plays computer games does not have a “meaningful life” because he fails to achieve anything, so does a person who devotes a lot of time volunteering in African countries. Sure, the latter individual has helped other human lives – but he also fails to achieve anything to suggest that human life is meaningful. After all, it does not matter whether this individual exists or not, because the human race will eventually extinct altogether. Hence, in this retrospect, individual lives are objectively meaningless, because there is nothing that we can do to give meaning to our individual lives in the objective sense.

By saying this, I do not suggest that people do not try to insert meanings into individual lives. People often argue that one who “does good” and “be moral and virtuous” have a meaningful life. However, I would argue that this constitutes towards the “subjective meanings” of lives. It is people who exercise the idea that “goodness” can give meaning to lives. This is only of mankind’s subjective perspectives. However, from a wider cosmic and objective perspective, what individuals do is meaningless in generating any impacts, and mankind has no purpose if we choose not to believe in the existence of god. Hence, individual lives do not have any objective meanings as well.


Submitted for HKU course: The Best Things in Life: A Philosophical Exploration (CCHU9052).

Copyright © 2015 Eric Cheung. All rights reserved.
Please note that copying without proper acknowledgement (plagiarism) is a very serious offence in the academic world.

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