Thomas Nagel is a great philosopher who has written many books on philosophy. He was born in 1937 in Belgrade, currently known as Serbia. In his books Nagel tries to explore the philosophy of mind. He asks himself a lot of questions regarding the purpose of life. He goes on and expounds his ideas on the subject matter (Nagel, 722). He seeks to challenge the reader on his or her purpose for life.
Many historical philosophers among them Aristotle and Aquinas have written articles on the subject about meaning of life. Just like Nagel, they tried to answer various questions regarding human life. Nagel asks why our lives are absurd. People view life in different ways; there are those who take life to be like a gift from God while others see it as a journey to another world. In addition, there are those who believe that life has no meaning since we are born only to die after sometime. They argue that once we die we are forgotten and what we had done on earth will not be remembered after some years (Thagard, 74).
Nagel brings out a number of ideas. First, being small or big does not matter. He argues that if at all what we do at our current size does not matter then if we were bigger it still would not make any difference. If the meaning of our lives is negligible over the span of our living then addition of more time on earth would not create any more meaning. It is a fact that we won’t live forever, and if we do not have time to reflect on the good and bad in our lives then we will die without any meaning for our existence. Secondly, Nagel argues that what we do now will be forgotten and thus will have no influence a million years to come, and if that is the case then we human beings would not exist in other peoples’ minds. This is because the value we add to life everyday determines our existence in future. For example, the adverse climatic conditions we have been experiencing over the past few years are as a result of human activities. Emission of greenhouse gases has resulted to global warming which, on the other hand, has influenced the changes in weather patterns. People are dying in countries close to the earth poles because of low temperatures while in Africa lack of rainfall has resulted to hunger. If we do not add value to our lives by protecting our eco-system then the human race might not exist for long. The work done by our ancestors has an influence on our current life. Similarly, how we live today will have an influence on the lives of our future generation. Our ancestors may not be living, but we give them credit by appreciating their efforts to see that we live in peace and unity.
A religious person clearly responds to the question regarding the meaning of life. Religious people believe God created them for a purpose. That purpose is entailed in their holy books. According to them, God’s purpose is for His people to love Him, serve Him and show God’s love to others. They believe after an individual dies he/she either goes to hell or heaven. On the other hand, non religious people lack a definite answer as to the meaning of life. Many non-believers, that Nagel comes across, regard the question as absurd. The scientific view of life does not provide any answer to the purpose of our existence. It only gives details on how we might have evolved. The scientists describe themselves as humanists created by universe and in search of harmony with it until death. They believe once you die you don’t exist anymore unlike religious people who believe of another life after death (Thagard, 135). In the absence of religion the meaning of life becomes absurd. According to the Holy Bible, the book of Job tells us that God created human beings for a purpose. God gave out commandments to be followed by His people; those who love Him and follow the law will be saved when the world comes to an end. Those who do not follow the law will perish and burn in hell forever. Nagel describes religious people as living in fear of religion. According to him, their beliefs are fear driven. Religion followers, basically, do what is entailed in the holy book because they fear God’s punishment if they go against the law. They usually portray a holy picture yet according to Nagel we are all sinners.
However, Nagel does not conclude that life has no meaning. He agrees that there is a hidden purpose for life which is hard to define. I differ with Nagel because I believe my life has a definite meaning. Everyone is born with a purpose in life. Why is it when an individual dies, relatives, friends and workmates mourn their death? It is because the influence that person had in their life and thus they feel they have lost a part of their life. The individual must have had a greater meaning to their lives. What we do during our lifetime determines our perception towards the meaning of life. As long as one positively affects the lives of other people, then one qualifies to have lived a meaningful life. The little things we engage ourselves to during our lifetime will have an influence and may create a lot of meaning to our future generations. The discoveries by scientists have brought many innovations that add meaning to our life (Klemke, 46). The innovations have made it easier to do the work. The development of computers and other technological equipments has made communication around the globe to be localized and this has become a reality. How can we then say that the lives of such scientists were absurd?
To a greater extent, whether a person lived a meaningful life or not, is determined by the views of those left behind when that person dies. What one is remembered for influences people’s perspective on life’s meaning. Looking at my life, can I say I have lived a meaningful life? The answer is yes. This is because if I was to die today I would leave a gap and many people would feel the influence I had over their lives. A lot of things I engage myself in ensuring a better living for all will come to halt. What one thinks about his purpose for living largely affects his esteem of doing things right during his life course. For religious people, doing according to God’s command is their sole purpose for living. It’s a direction they have taken and we should respect it. Whether an individual is religious or not religious the question that many ask themselves is ‘what is the purpose for living?’ People may have different explanations regarding the importance and purpose for their existence, but what is important is that every individual should live well and influence other people’s life and also acknowledge others existence.