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TOPIC: What's It All About? by Julian Baggini

What's It All About? by Julian Baggini 27 Jul 2014 16:01 #207

Let's continue the discussion about Julian Baggini's book here. The book is What's It All About?: Philosophy and the Meaning of Life. Here are some relevant ideas we discussed at our Barnes & Noble meeting last week.

Before we can have any hope of answering the question, what is the meaning of life, we need to be clear what we mean by the question. What do we mean by "meaning"? It seems there are two very different ways to look at the question. One way, perhaps the most common way, is to interpret the question as, what is my purpose? This presupposes there is a purpose already in existence and it is our job to find out what that purpose is. The idea is that the answer is somewhere "out there" to be found. One can try to figure it out rationally, like trying to solve some great intellectual puzzle for which we assume there is indeed an answer. Also we can try to find the answer by searching what we believe to be authoritative sources such as religious writings or scientific writings or in literature and art. Whatever the method, assuming there is an answer "out there" can take us on many different paths in our quest. Some people may feel they have found their answer this way. Others may become disillusioned. Still others may find the search itself meaningful.

This brings us to the second way to interpret the question, what is the meaning of life? I remember in my life this was a big aha moment. My approach for many years had been one of trying to answer the question as a great intellectual puzzle to be solved, as mentioned above. Then someone explained to me their definition of "spirit". They said spirit was "that which gets you up in the morning." That is when it hit me. The meaning of life is not something to figure out intellectually. It cannot found by reason. It must be found by discovery. Furthermore, it cannot be discovered "out there" in religion or art (paths I had already rejected). It could only be found by looking inward. What gets you up in the morning? What makes life meaningful for you? The meaning of life is that which gives life meaning. So to answer the question, one has to look inward. Who am I? What have I discovered about myself, that tells me what I live for? What are the things I value most? What goals are most important to me?

For Baggini, it seems being "authentic" was the most important goal. I believe this is just one of many chief motivations that one can find in oneself. For others, it might be being helpful or being wise or being at peace or any number of virtues. For those of you familiar with the enneagram, you might recognize the 9 personality types in the enneagram as each being associated with a chief virtue. So the key to discovering the meaning of life may just be found in that ancient Greek maxim often quoted by Socrates, "Know thyself".

Is there anything you would like to add? Any new insights you would like to discuss? Feel free to reply to this post to continue the discussion.
Last Edit: 29 Jul 2014 11:18 by Steve Donaldson. Reason: added bolding
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What's It All About? by Julian Baggini 27 Jul 2014 16:40 #208

Here is a little background on Julian Baggini clipped from his TED talk page:
Julian Baggini is the author of several books including Welcome to Everytown: A Journey into the English Mind, Complaint and The Ego Trick, as well as the recent Really, Really Big Questions about Faith. He has written for numerous newspapers and magazines including the Guardian, the Financial Times, Prospect and the New Statesman, as well as for the think tanks The Institute of Public Policy Research and Demos. He is founding editor of The Philosophers’ Magazine. He has been writer-in-residence for the National Trust at the White Cliffs of Dover and philosopher-in-residence at the Cheltenham Literature Festival and Wellington College. He has also appeared as a cameo in two Alexander McCall-Smith novels. (http://www.ted.com/speakers/julian_baggini)

You can watch his TED talk here:
He challenges the notion that there is a "real you", an essence if you like, apart from simply the sum of your subjective experiences. How might this impact our quest to "know thyself"?
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