What is the meaning of life? By Félix de Azúa

This post is also available in: Spanish

The question has two parts. One, personal convictions, which are not relevant but which may have some interest in order to understand why I’ll say the following: my personal opinion is there’s no meaning, not in the Universe, not in humans or in societies. The problem of meaning is a problem of linguistic interaction and, thus, of social creation, but there’s no meaning above the pure constant creation of meaning. This as a personal conviction. What I often say is that the great meaning-creating machines that we humans have built, which are Religion and Philosophy  (I don’t distinguish between Philosophy and Science, I always put them together because they seem to be the same to me) and Art. These three. And I don’t see any others which can produce meaning. They’re three great machines which have been losing strength, slowing down and they’re on the verge of stopping. Religion, for obvious reasons. Bear in mind, though, that I’m always referring to Western society and advanced countries. Religion has disappeared, it has a private function. A private function, almost like sexuality. That is, people should not care about whether someone is a homosexual, zoophile, coprophile, etc. In the same way, people should not care about whether someone is a Buddhist, a Muslim, etc. Religion has disappeared from reality, from the impact it may have on reality. It hasn’t disappeared from Muslim countries or Israel, where the religious element still has a legislating function, it is present in society. In our societies that doesn’t happen anymore. Thus, the first great meaning-creating machine is not useful anymore as a mechanism of meaning creation. The second one, Philosophy-Science: on one hand Philosophy, properly called, is also disappearing, in the sense that nowadays we have Philosophy teachers, but not philosophers. There are universities, which serve as warehouses that sell the “Philosophy” product, but that doesn’t mean that is Philosophy. Even the last philosophers, like Heidegger, reject the word “philosopher”. Heidegger said he didn’t want to be called philosopher, but thinker. Science? Science, what can I say, has become some kind of investment-attracting effect through enormous companies. What works as science, Hawkins, etc., are just mass-media phenomena. If we speak about real and true Science, in the classic sense of the word, we must conclude we don’t know if there’s any. It’s almost impossible to coordinate the different departments to create unitary visions. And Art is going down the same road. The road not only to disappearing but even to become the representation of its own disappearance. If these three mechanisms end up stopping, we will be living for the first time in a society which has no resources for meaning. That’s when things become really interesting. The experiment of living in a society which not only has no meaning, but which in a certain way is built on that, a society which assumes itself to be nihilistic, is a fantastic experiment. We will not see it, but I think it’s really interesting. I don’t speak about these things with nostalgia, not at all. I don’t know how it will be, it will be a very hard world, without a doubt, but it will be very interesting. You’ll remember that it was Nietzsche who said that the thought of the disappearance of meaning is the heaviest one. The one which can end up crushing you. That’s the challenge now: can we or can we not survive on our own, without external help?

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