Meaning of life

Ali asked:

A man can produce more than 70 millions of children in just 1 ejaculation. So many children & crowds of people can exist in the world if man decides to. How is it possible for billions of unwanted species to be given souls in a moment. Is god or life or anything waiting for men’s sexual intercourse to give them free souls?

Is there such a thing as soul or its injector (god) at all? If it is done by mere accidents therefore our lives is meaningless & worthless; If god gives souls whenever men get hard-ons, so it is based on men & men decide to produce men (so many souls too!) not the peeping god!

Enlighten me please! So much thanks & excuse the angry language of the questioner. No one has ever given a satisfying reply to the puzzled questioner!

Answer by Jürgen Lawrenz

I hope you are aware, Ali, that your question demands a history of all religions and philosophy on one page? Can’t be done; and in any case every answer can only reflect the prejudices of the writer. No-one ever had a solution to these problems that could be accepted by everyone as the whole truth and nothing but.

My point of view is that only one road leads to something near a relevant conception, which is trodden by philosophy and biology jointly. Obviously I must curtail it to a few paragraphs, but I hope you get something from them.

Humans are animals. If we are ensouled, then all animals must be ensouled. Evidently there are qualitative differences among the species, shown by the fact that only humans can express themselves in speech and thinking and possess a highly developed consciousness of selfhood.

But as all other life forms (including insects, plants, microbes) exhibit intentional forms of behaviour, it is likely that souls are the common property of all, again with qualitative differences. This implies that ensoulment is identical across all life forms, in fact a default definition of life.

The qualitative aspect results from individuation at or after birth. Its degree may be determined by the give and take with the habitat and the survival needs of species. Now this seems to be the real gist of your question — is a god needed to endow creatures with individuated souls?

I’m inclined to doubt it. Although there are many ontological proofs, not one of them succeeds in demonstrating the absolute necessity of such a being. As it happens, the scholastic thinker Ockham said 800 years ago: Don’t overload your theories with unnecessary hypotheses. Meaning: if any occurrence is repeatedly the same, there is no necessity for assuming that a creative act must be associated with each. Thus, to stay with animals: Life is transmitted from mother to child; there is never a ‘new’ life created in any birth, only a new body. After birth, the child acquires its individuation during the growth of what Kant calls ‘the unity of apperceptions’. In humans, the individuation is largely assisted by education. No god needed for this.

And so, finally: Where does value enter this picture? Is life just a meaningless accident? Questions like this point to the psychological need of humans to find value, which historically has been satisfied by our many religious doctrines. But the fact that there are so many, shows that ultimately none ever satisfied us completely. In our present scientific culture we make do with the idea of an ultimate cause. But a cause cannot confer value either. So we are stuck with the only possibility left over, which is that we ourselves are responsible for creating value and giving meaning to life.

How? I’ll repeat here a dictum that I’ve put into one of my books: That life is a privileged state of existence; and that self-reflexive consciousness adds a new vantage point from which to inject value and meaning into our existence. This should be understood in the context of an overwhelmingly lifeless universe, of which in every other respect it could be said that it makes no difference whether or not it exists. It is this privileged state of existence represented by living creatures that confers value and meaning; and as its (current) flag bearers, we humans have that opportunity and privilege to make something of it.

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